Chapter One Hundred and Twenty Eight
Hy and Libby Narlock and the diminutive Merry Dixon all stood in a formal manner when Eric and I entered the office. Merry was wearing her typical dowdy suit, the skirt was baggy in the seat and the hem starting to come out on the side. Hy and Libby wore very neatly tailored navy blue and dark grey suits with snow white blouses and a minimum of make up. All the Narlock women were pleasant to look at but not great beauties.
"Oh, y'all don't have to do that," I said, feeling embarrassed at being treated differently now that I was in my robes.
"Yes, we do," Merry Dixon said firmly. "You are the Pythoness, all proper respect must be shown, Your Honor."
She used my title to get me used to it.
I sat down at the meeting table and everyone sat down after I was seated.
"Can I ask some questions?" I asked.
"That is why we are here," Merry said with a twinkling smile.
My ring was working great so far. I felt zero undue attraction to the blue elves. I glanced over at Eric. He stood at the door, stony faced. No one was going to come bursting in here with him on guard. He didn't seem overly interested in the elves either. Good.
"I had Hy check, it is illegal to own a human body. Why do I need to rule on this at all?" I asked.
In unison they said, "Human laws are not Vampire laws." I had the feeling this was part of a memorized list they all knew.
"Where are the Vampire Laws written or kept?" I couldn't get a straight answer when I had asked Hy about them.
"They are written in the sands of time," Libby said poetically. "They are the result of long tradition and mutual agreement. They are commonly known."
"Hasn't mainstreaming changed the rules?"
"The number one rule is that Vampire requirements always supercede human wishes," Merry Dixon said. This was another version of something Eric always used to say, "Vampires First."
"But it isn't in the interest of Vampires to antagonize humans. It is only in the interest of Miss California," I pointed out.
"An excellent and insightful legal point. The good of most supersedes the good of one. However any King or Queen may ask to be heard by the High Court and present their case. You are required to hear the case, though the time frame is up to your discretion. Most monarchs settle their issues outside of the High Court because of the risk," Merry set her lips primly when she was done speaking.
"Risk?" I asked.
"If the case is deemed frivolous the monarch may well forfeit their life," Merry told me.
"You mean if I rule against California it could result in a death sentence for her?" I asked, appalled. I had already decided I was never going to sentence anyone to death.
"If the audience demands it, yes," Libby said.
"And how is the death sentence carried out?" I asked after clearing my throat, fearing I already knew the answer.
"Why, the bailiff, of course," Hy said, glancing at my formidable husband. He looked armed and loaded, ready to dispense whatever justice the High Court deemed fair. I hoped his duties didn't drive a wedge between us. He knew how I felt about killing people.
A knock at the door gave me a few seconds to ponder this. Eric checked who was at the door and let in two glamoured human men, my dinner. The three elves left the room while I fed, then Eric called a vampire named Clarence to the door to escort the donors out and pay them. I was good for hours now.
The three elves returned and stood just inside the door.
"If you are ready to hold court, Your Honor, everyone is seated," Merry said.
"Could you be sure to mention that I am just the Interim Pythoness," I asked her, my voice a little squeaky.
I was checking my compact and reapplying my red lipstick. I was now a lovely pinkish color from my meal. Hy came up behind me and smoothed my lace collar which had gotten a little twisted during feeding. I think my nervousness might have caused me to be a tad more hungry than usual.
She turned to Eric and he gave a nod.
"The bailiff will announce you as such," Merry said.
"Is there some special wording I should use?" I asked, feeling a little panicky at being so unprepared.
"Not at all," she assured me. "You express yourself very clearly."
In a row like ducklings we marched to the front entrance of the hall.
Eric went in first and said in a loud deep voice, "All rise for the Honorable Interim Pythoness, Judge Sookie Stackhouse."
I heard the faint rustle of a large group of people standing up. Merry gave me a little encouraging smile and a sign with her hand I should go in. As a vampire I might be able to run through fire, survive a bullet or walk on the bottom of the ocean. But that didn't prevent me from having a whole field of butterflies fluttering around in my innards as I thought about facing the room.
I walked in as straight and stiff as a board, purposefully looking only right ahead and not looking at the audience for a moment. I walked behind my desk and glanced at my seat, a comfortable tufted leather chair that both swiveled and leaned back slightly.
I sat down, my feet dangling. It was set for someone taller than me. I got back up and looked on as Clarence adjusted the seat so my feet would rest comfortably on the floor. Then, before being seated, I looked up and out towards the sea of white faces.
Vampires are unlike humans in that they can stand absolutely still, their faces a neutral mask. The people there that night might have been wax sculptures they were so immobile. I tucked my robes underneath me and sat in the chair, which had, indeed, been adjusted exactly right for me.
"All will be seated. The Honorable Interim Pythoness Sookie Stackhouse presiding," Eric announced as if he had been doing it all his adult life. I made a mental note to tell him he didn't have to say the thing about me being the Interim Pythoness everytime he spoke.
Silently the two hundred or so vampires sat down. I saw curiosity in some of their eyes as they waited for me to sign to Eric to call the first witness. Off to the right Madison Dole, the were-monkey, typed silently on a strange looking keyboard. Since she was in her human form it obviously wasn't a full moon. In my nervousness about the trial I had forgotten to look. She looked up and winked at me. I liked her already.
Eric read from a sheet. "This case is brought by California in the matter of her deceased human escort Flash Nelson. Will California please come and take the stand?" Eric indicated a bright red chair similar to mine that was set up next to the court recorder.
A buxom woman with a messy mass of over bleached blond hair stood up in the back. Before she could walk to the front a man's voice from the other side of the rear of the audience rang out loudly.
"I demand a hearing. My claim for a hearing was first. This is a travesty of the court system."
I looked to see where the voice was coming from and zeroed in on the speaker. Oh cow flop! It was Augustus, arms folded across his chest, looking stubborn and irritating.
Instantly Eric was back there. Without warning he picked the much smaller Augustus up and whisked him out the swinging rear door. Someone giggled, a rare thing for vampires. A few seconds later Eric was back, smoothing back his wild hair and going to escort California to the red chair.
She leaned on his naked arm and smiled at him showing a perfect set of snow white teeth. Obviously she didn't know who Eric was or that he was married to the judge. She might have toned her smile down a few watts if she had known.
As soon as she was settled she began talking a mile a minute in a nasal sing song kind of way that grated on my nerves. Her sentences were interspersed with giggles and flashy looks at Eric to see how he was reacting to her tale of woe. Eric looked completely impassive, staring straight ahead. I wondered what he had done with Augustus.
The Queen droned on. I listened but I knew the story, my briefing had been excellent. I knew what her request was, and I knew my answer. The audience could not have been more bored or indifferent. Boring a vampire was a terrible thing to do.
When she stopped talking it was time to give my verdict. I hoped I would be able to save her silly life.
more to come .....(Wonderful Wednesday everyone! Z .. I SO SO hope you are feeling better!! I hope everyone else is doing good too. See you Saturday with the next chapter!)