He moved her picture away from Bill back into the centre and flipped it over leaving only the faces of Bill, Lorena, Sophie Anne and Hadley facing upwards.
“Payday,” he said gesturing at the remaining faces. “To the victors go the spoils.”
“This can’t be true,” Sookie said with tears hot in her eyes before continuing indignantly, “I can’t believe you!”
Her tears were convincing in her denial but she knew he was telling her the truth no matter how ugly it was. When her friends and family had told her things of Connor she had recognised them as lies motivated by disapproval. They had been demanding she make choices on their emotions but this man held none for her situation. He had nothing to gain from revealing this and in her sobs she couldn’t help but ask why he would.
“If I show you something on my phone to prove it to you do you promise not to call the police?” Eric asked breaking through her continuing sobs. He hated crying women he had yet to see anything good come from them.
She took him in sceptically but nodded nonetheless. He handed her his phone where she looked down at the Google home screen. “What am I looking at?” she asked with an indignant huff.
“Type in William T. Compton.” She eyed him warily but did as instructed and gasped at what she saw; the photographs of him with who she could now identify as Lorena Krasiki, Cherry Wood House, the lineage of the Comptons of Carolina.
“This only proofs he lied to me about his name,” she returned with a weakness belying her convictions. “If what you have told me is true. As far as I’m concerned that’s a very big if. How could they possibly get away with it? Why haven’t any of these girls reported them to the police?”
Her eyes were wide with plea. She just wanted to hear from him that he was lying even though she knew he wasn’t. All she wanted was to hear the words so she could breathe again like a normal member of the human race.
He swiped his fingers over the touch screen till it settled on a photograph of a group of men in front of Cherry Wood House. “These are the men that write, execute and protect the laws that should protect the woman from that abuse. The law does not apply to them and they protect those who facilitate it whether it be by choice or blackmail.”
Sookie sank down into the wooden kitchen chair beside her as she recognised a Supreme Court member, the Chief Justice and her own state’s Senator. Other faces seemed familiar but she couldn’t put a name to them. They were all men of power and their faces sickened her to her core.
“Are you a cop or something? Do you need me to help expose them?” she asked meekly. The thought of being almost married to such a fraud had her willing to do anything to have his evil schemes exposed.
“I am definitely not a cop,” he spoke with that smirk that was really beginning to grate on her.
“What are you doing here then?” she sighed out left utterly confused at his willingness.
“For you Sookie are Plan C.” He placed her photograph back, face up into the centre where it had originated. “You see you interrupted the system. You made Bill Compton forgo his mission. He fell in love with his charge and his mother was less than pleased. She does not wish to share his affection.”
He walked to the fridge where the doctored photo of her was hanging on a magnet. Removing it from the fridge he placed it on top of her other picture. It was identical apart from the rose and blood tear. “You were to be a lesson.”
She took the picture in her hands and turned it over to read the inscription that she had glanced when he held between his hands.
It’s true. You’re in love. That’s so tragic, it’s funny.
“You were sent here to kill me,” she spoke ever so quietly the situation dawning upon her.
“Hide my body so he would never find it?” A nervous gulp send shivers of fear down her spine as she continued to stare down her would be assassin.
“A gift from his mother?” she asked tapping her index finger on the white rose in the picture.
“My friends and family would assume I left as scheduled to Arlington never to be heard from again. Connor…” She sucked down a breath as she corrected herself to the truth she was finally beginning to accept, “Bill wouldn’t involve the police.”
“Why am I not dead?” she asked for the first time looking into his eyes without fear or fire.
“Circumstances prevented it,” he said with a shrug.
“Are you still going to kill me?”
“Why not?” she asked twisting away at the ends of her hair.
“A dud?” She was sincerely beginning to question those sleeping pills. This had to be the weirdest conversation she had the memory of having.
“Russell will understand the significance,” he supplied though it gave her little to go on.
“The man who was originally supposed to kill you,” he replied whilst starting to neatly stack all the papers and photographs back into the folder. He turned his back to her so he could reattach the doctored photo with a magnet to the fridge.
“You’re just the substitute?” she asked incredulously.
“Are you questioning my efficacy?” He was now facing her again and the significant height difference to her seated position had her quite intimidated. It would have been regardless if she had been standing or not.
“What? No!” she poured out in fluster, “I am quite satisfied with your performance since I’m alive and all. I’ll be happy to tell Russell you did an excellent job.” Her rambling was cut short by his extended index finger landing on her lips and the second shush of the evening. This one was far less threatening in contrast and accompanied by that infuriating smirk.
“Sorry,” she mumbled against his digit, which he decided to remove from her mouth at that point. It tickled.
“So what happens next?” she asked after the silence had lasted too long for her comfort. He seemed to have no issue with the endurance of it.
Eric sank down in a kitchen chair across from her where he ran a hand through his slicked back hair.
“I’m not sure,” he admitted. Her eyes widened at that admission but she kept her surprise to her ever quiet self.
Several scenarios were running through his head as he tried to calculate the best possible outcome. He looked over the petite blonde in front of him wondering why he even cared. Why had he allowed this pixie to interfere with his timeline? If he had any sense in him he would just snap her neck and be done with it all and proceed as planned.
“Is there a storage facility nearby?” he finally asked after establishing the best development for both of them.
“Off the I-20 on the exit to Monroe,” she answered after wracking her brain for a bit. “Why?”
“You will need a place to store the items you can’t bear to leave behind.”
“Leave behind? I’m not going anywhere,” she retorted defiantly. There was only so much she was willing to take from this night time intruder and his promise not to kill her again had fuelled her with more bravado than the situation would otherwise allow.
“Yes you will,” Eric said succinctly leaving no room for negotiation. “You need to disappear before either Bill or Lorena find out your little heart is beating as strong as ever.”
“Bring it! They have no use for me in their perverted sex club anymore anyway.” Her insolence was fuelling the adrenaline through her body making her slightly breathless in the process as her chest heaved in protest.
“You really think Lorena is going to let you live?” he spoke at her as his right eyebrow rose over his forehead. “The dud will only safe you from Russell and I. If my hands don’t kill you the next ones will be successful. Your luck won’t safe you twice let me assure you of that.”
She gulped audibly at the implication and started counting the eggs in her basket. In the process of bidding to his will she was getting a little annoyed with all the dud talk that still left her positively confused.
“How long?” Sookie finally asked. Eric was glad to see she was bargaining if she were compliant to her situation they would be speeding out of Louisiana sooner than he anticipated.
“Six months at minimum, a year would be best,” he offered with a more soothing voice than she had encountered from him before. “Bill will move onto his next project. Lorena will be assured things are as they were. Bill doesn’t seem to have any ties to the area. You could return here perhaps start fresh. Keep your head down assume a paper identity.”
“You will help me with this why?” she asked wondering why the man would flip his assignment in the span of minutes.
“It’s in my interest for everyone to assume I performed my job as expected.”
She sighed sinking her heavy head in her hands profusely rubbing at her temples.
“Ok,” she croaked out.
Eric lifted himself out of his chair and moved out of the kitchen. He hovered over the end table in the front hallway picking up her car keys as she wordlessly followed him out after slipping into her flat white sandals.
Eric had squeezed himself into the small yellow hatchback and was cursing the seats inability to move back any further. He contemplated the rental car but he had strayed too far from the original plan as it was. He could not afford any more deviations.
Sookie tried desperately not to laugh but the situation was so absurd, the adrenaline that had been coursing through her veins finally found a release as she laughed maniacally with tears sprouting from her eyes.
“I’m glad I can amuse you so,” he spoke dryly when she had managed to calm down somewhat wiping away her tears. She grabbed onto his hand that rested over the shift stick as he was getting ready to put in to gear.
“I’m sorry. This is just all so insane.” A small giggle escaped her lips in lieu of an aftershock. “I’m sorry, I just really needed that.”
His hand shifted with the stick the movement forcing her to retract her hovering hand.
“Happy to oblige,” he offered with a sideways glance. To her annoyance the smirk was on in full force.
It had been silent in the car for quite a while as they had been travelling down the I-20 at speeds Sookie was unaware her beat up car was capable of. She broke the trance hoping to quench her curious thirst.
“Can you explain the dud for me?”
“A dud is an ammunition round or explosive that fails to fire or detonate, respectively, on time or on command,” he answered as if it were the required answer to an oral exam.
“I’m not asking for Wikipedia’s definition Eric. I grew up in the South I know far more about firearms than I’m comfortable with.” She swore she heard him chuckle although she saw no evidence of it. “I’m asking for the significance of it.”
She saw him clench down on his jaw tightly taking an elongated breath through his nose.
“The dud is the reason why you and I are both living and breathing right now.”
Sookie kept quiet hoping to coax more out of him.
“When I was thirteen I was roused from my bed in the middle of the night by a masked man. Tie grips bound my arms together as he dumped me with the rest of my family in the family library,” Another breath was inhaled audibly before he continued as his eyes never wavered from the midline of the road. “He shot my baby sister first who was hysterically crying at this point. He then proceeded to shoot my mother and father before either had registered what happened.
“I had scurried myself into a corner with all my might but it was a futile attempt. If an assassin wants you dead there is no escape from it. So imagine both our surprises when no bullet protruded from his firearm after pulling the trigger.”
“A dud,” she spoke knowingly having lived the same situation only hours earlier.
“Russell is a cocky bastard as well as a superstitious one,” he continued as she took in the name Russell again. “Cocky because as highly trained of an assassin that he is, he loads his gun with the exact number of hits. He’s never missed a mark.”
“Except me.” He nodded as he continued, “Russell grew up in the superstitious South so he took it as fate that I was to be his successor. He took me under his wing brought me here to the States and I’ve been under his employ ever since.”
“You work for the man that killed your entire family willingly?” Her tone was sharp but the question was soft. He held her sympathy.
“Willingly is a strong word.”
He glanced sideways at her once more wondering for the nth time what had overcome him to share this all with her.
“The first years with Russell were tough,” he said with a sigh recounting his flailing beginnings. “I tried desperately to escape, to get someone to believe what happened. I quickly found I stood powerless, Russell is as keyed up as the Comptons albeit it in a different arena.
“When I turned fifteen I made a decision. I would gain Russell’s trust play the prodigal son. That night I set up my first dossier collecting all the leads I could find in order to find why my family was a target. I have been working on that diligently for well over a decade now. When all the ties find each other I will take out every single person who had anything to do with their deaths saving the final bullet for Russell.
“After my first hit I took the money and bought a silver bullet for the occasion; it’s been waiting for Russell ever since.”
“Wow,” Sookie breathed out taking it all in as she replaced her hand over his again as the speed they were travelling remained constant. She needed to feel that he was real that this wasn’t all an imagination a round of sleeping pills had induced.
“Do you believe in the supernatural?” she asked making him wonder how she had leapt onto this topic as a conversation deviator.
“No. I’ve seen too much shit to know it is all human from here on out.” After some contemplation he continued, “I won’t defiantly stare down fate in the eyes though. You and I are a testament to that after all.” He supplied it with his now customary smirk the offensiveness of it had dissipated with his revealing story of his past.
“I can help, but you have to be open minded,” she said with a serious look on her face. Very few had taken her serious in her life and for some reason she needed him to be one of them.
“You really are one of Lorena’s Lambs so quick to offer yourself up,” he spoke absently.
His comment stung and she pulled her hand from atop his but he pulled it back before she managed to. Her hand was now sandwiched firmly between him and his knee.
“I’m sorry,” he said realising the insult he had directed her way. “Please continue.”
“I have an ability,” she started timidly. “It’s hard to explain, but people tell me things. Whether they want to or not.”
“So what’s the ability?”
“It’s just that. Let me ask you a question.” He cast another glance to the side in response as he reluctantly let go of her hand to allow him to shift gears as they were leaving the highway on the exit Sookie had indicated.
“Ask away,” he offered with the requested open mind.
“How many people have you told your story to?”
“No one,” he spoke almost inaudibly.
“Were you looking to unload that story?”
“So why did you?”
“You asked. I don’t know… how does it work? How did you do it?” He looked upon her with wonder as the car had come to a standstill in the parking lot beside the storage lot. She shifted in hear seat as she unfastened the seat belt so she was turned towards him. He mirrored her position after taking in the time. It would be another half an hour before the storage lot would be open for business.
“I’m not really sure it’s been like this for as long as I remember. I’ve gained some control over it my childhood and teenage years were a nightmare.” She continued after he asked her why, “When you are the town’s keeper of the vault of secrets people stand well to avoid you, I was considered the town freak. Some thought I was telepathic or psychic they quickly glossed over the fact they themselves were the source of knowledge.”
“Was my story the worst you ever heard?”
“Not by far.” She grabbed back at his hand contemplating that she was fast becoming the poster child for Stockholm syndrome if she continued these needy grasps at physical contact with her assailant/kidnapper/assassin or whatever he was to her. “When I was seven my great uncle confessed to me how he was attracted to little girls, like my cousin Hadley. In great detail he explained what he wished he could to them, to me. He never acted on those urges but that scars you.” She had been looking at their joined hands when she finally raised her eyes to his face.
It was the first time she truly took in his face as the sun had started cresting over the horizon. It was a face of an angel marred by years of loss. She recognised it as her own features had sported similar ones whenever she looked upon her own reflection in a mirror.
“Your story is just one of sadness,” she said as she felt it as her own. “Yet you’ve taken control of it, you seek to change the tone. From loss to gain, it’s why I will help you find out who wanted your family dead. Not because I’m a martyr but because I want to do the same as you. I refuse to let Bill Compton turn my life into a lost one.”
“I apologise for my earlier comment again.”
“Don’t,” she replied holding up her other hand to him. “It doesn’t suit you. Once was enough.”
He nodded in acquiescence.
“Can I ask how Bill circumvented your truth serum?”
“I never suspected him of ill will. Frankly I didn’t want to know about the skeleton’s residing in his closet,” she explained. It had been a point of contention with her and her friends and brother. She felt her fiancé deserved to keep the same amount from her as any other person. “Like I said I have some control over it now. Anything you tell me from this point onwards will be on your own accord.”
“Promise,” she said earnestly. “Seriously Eric I’m really not interested in hearing your teenage exploits of excessive masturbation and fender benders.”
He bellowed in laughter at the thought and she joined him easing the tension between them. When the sounds had died down he continued his questioning of her.
“How do you control it?”
“It’s vague I know but I turn up the dial I guess. The best description I can relate to is one made by one of Marylin Monroe’s former friend. She said she was really shy in real life, Marilyn was more like a secondary extravert persona to Norma Jean. She demonstrated this to her friend on the streets of New York. No one was paying them any mind she just told her friend to just watch. Something changed and all of sudden the entire street saw Marylin and they flocked upon her.”
Eric remained looking upon her sceptically. Could she really be this special? Her deduction that she was the first he ever told had been correct. He didn’t share anything about his life with anyone not even Pam. He wasn’t one to simply open up like that.
“Would you like a demonstration?”
“One that doesn’t involve me?”
She nodded in response.