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.
They were sitting in a diner across the storage lot finishing up their breakfast; a proud stack of pancakes for her and a breakfast sampler for him. Sookie had now successfully demonstrated her ability on two separate waitresses.
One waitress confided how she had hidden a pregnancy when she was a teenager and upon giving birth to it, she left it behind in an alleyway behind a fast food restaurant. She never even knew the sex. The other waitress confessed her suspicions that her husband was the Chastity Killer, a serial killer making headlines for killing girls who had disavowed their abstinence pledge.
Eric observed her skill, which was completely undetectable to those without a discerning eye. She was a natural investigator, possessing skills he took years to acquire and some he would never obtain. She lead the conversation without pushing and the confessor was completely unaware. Even her suggestive tone was persuasive enough for the waitress to call upon the police and report on her suspicions despite her reservations.
“You’re like a cross between a hypnotiser and a human lie detector,” he observed as she was drowning her pancakes in syrup.
“I wouldn’t put it like that, maybe a confident,” she mumbled shyly as she speared her fork into the fluffy pancake and wiggling it through the lashing of syrup.
“Don’t underestimate yourself. Those women couldn’t stop themselves from spilling their guts. She,” he pointed with his knife to the wife of the possible serial killer, “is calling the cops on the man she loves because you told her to do so. Have you ever tried to cultivate your ability?”
“Nope.” She said popping the ‘p’ as she wielded her hand across the table attempting to rob him of a piece of crispy bacon.
“You have your own,” he warned as he intercepted her hijinks at her wrist.
“Pretty boys always get the best bits,” she pouted whilst batting her eyelashes.
“Until pretty girls steal it from right under their noses,” he responded as he released her wrist. As soon as the piece of bacon disappeared into her mouth he was rewarded with a triumphant smile.
“Do you always order this much?” she asked as she snaked a piece of hash brown from his plate.
“Do you always order too little so you can pillage your tablemate’s plate?”
“Maybe,” she offered noncommittally. “You should really use some hot sauce.” His large hands interrupted her trajectory before she managed to get her insistent ones on the bottle.
“Stay back woman,” he warned with a low growl. “That battery acid has no place being near anything edible.”
She huffed and sank back into the booth deflated with her arms firmly crossed over her chest. “So you seriously eat like a logger?”
“No I always fast before a mission. Keeps the mind focused,” he tapped at his head to emphasise his point. “This is the first thing I’ve eaten in the past 36 hours.”
Her gulp was just shy of being audible as she remembered this was the man who was supposed to kill her. Sookie’s stomach felt instantly heavier with that knowledge and it had nothing to do with the giant meal she had just consumed.
“What will they tell Hadley?” she asked with a softer tone.
“They will inform her your recruitment was a misfire.” He had yet to hear a more accurate half-truth.
His plate had joined her empty one as he proceeded to pay the bill from his bundle of cash and they headed across the parking lot to the storage rentals. They knocked on the thin metal door of the doublewide trailer that occupied the front yard. The clearly just roused proprietor stared at them with beady eyes. He had obviously indulged in some heavy drinking the night prior as he stood before them in a soiled white wife beater and polyester bell bottoms that hid nothing of his protruding midriff. On his head rested a black coiffed wig set askew. His entire body appeared to be covered in cat hair. Eric refrained from breathing through his nose as the fumes wafted out with the man standing in the doorway.
“Bubba,” he introduced himself. Sookie responded with a polite howdedo but Bubba only seemed to be able to produce grunts in response to her niceties. The hangover he was carrying was clearly a painful one.
“We’re looking for a storage unit,” Eric enquired.
“Sorry bud. We’re all filled up.”
Eric looked towards Sookie questioningly although she had no idea how she was supposed to remedy the situation this was the only storage place she knew of.
“No pending evictions?” he asked hopefully.
Bubba seemed to be attempting some sort of mental inventory in conjunction with his moving fingers. It was all tediously slow.
“Actually I do,” he finally said with some excitement in his eyes. “Follow me.” They did as asked accompanying Bubba across the lot to one of the generic storage units. He pulled a key from his overflowing chain and opened up the unit to them. It was filled to the brim with an assortment of boxes and home furnishings.
“Tell ya what,” Bubba said to Eric. “Clean this out and I’ll give ya the first three months for half price.”
“Six,” Eric responded evenly sticking out his hand to shake on it. Bubba reluctantly took it as they agreed to the terms.
“Bubba do you have some sort of transport vehicle for rent?”
“Yes, sir. We do, follow me.” They trailed the man who vaguely resembled the man from Memphis to a box truck once more. “Will this do?”
Upon Eric’s curt nod they proceeded back to the trailer to settle up the formalities.
“I’m paying you a year’s rent up front. Any issues with cash?”
“Nope. Cash is king,” Bubba smiled gleefully highlighting his missing front tooth.
When all the paperwork was filed Eric and Sookie headed over to their newly acquired unit. Sookie looked upon the daunting amount of boxes that signified someone else’s life.
“What are we gonna do with all this stuff Eric?” she asked as the whites of her eyes expanded to take it all in.
“This is a windfall Sookie. Don’t you see?”
Sookie was convinced they were clearly looking at two completely different scenarios. Perhaps Eric had watched one too many episode of Storage Wars. At her incredulous look he offered her an explanation, “Switch and bait.”
“Switch and bait?”
“We’ll switch out these boxes for the ones in your home. Bill will get rid of them thinking they’re yours to cover his tracks. We’d be spending the rest of the day at charity shops filling boxes if we didn’t stumble upon this.”
“That’s not really the definition of bait and switch.”
He shrugged his shoulders, “English is not my first language, it sounds right to me.”
“Right,” she spoke with a sideways glance. “Bill will recognise this isn’t my stuff. I think your plan might be flawed.”
“Russell is known for taking souvenirs, he has a flair for the dramatic,” Eric explained. “This is something he would do. He’s been known to steal an antique or two from a job.”
Figuring Eric was better equipped at the secret stuff she simply agreed. They spend the rest of the morning loading and unloading and repeating the process at her former home. Sookie looked around her home one last time as her eyes rested on the photograph attached to the fridge.
“What’s the message Eric?”
He stood beside her as he caressed her hair on the photograph with his gloved finger. She noticed he had meticulously sheathed his hands in the gloves whenever he entered her home. “The rose is Lorena’s signature. When she wears it in her hair she is signalling to all prospective clients a new bloom is emerging soon. A cherry ripe for the picking.”
Her stomach turned at the thought of it, to be traded like a commodity. His finger travelled further south over the picture to the red stained tear.
“This is Russell’s calling card. Bill will recognise it and he will not dare seek revenge in fear of the repercussions.”
“Russell is that scary?” she asked looking up into his eyes.
“Yes, Russell is that scary,” he replied with a small smile.
“I feel sweaty and disgusting,” Sookie complained as they left the bank that now housed her grandmother’s jewellery in a safe deposit box. Thankfully Eric seemed to carry an infinite amount of aliases on his person to deal with all the various administration requirements.
“I’d like to get on the road to make some headway, at least as far as Jackson the farther the better.” The narrative he had established for this mission was solid. It had to remain intact in case Bill ever did bother to investigate. They had already agreed to hit the road onwards as soon as they finished up at the bank in Monroe.
“If you’re happy residing in my stink I’m fine with it,” she announced with an exaggerated wink. Which only invited him to stick his nose in the crook of her neck and sniff audibly.
“Ah, peaches.” She yelped in response to his playful assault of her body. Diving back into the passenger seat of her car to release herself from his grasp. He chuckled as he inserted himself in the driver’s seat, which only continued when she pointedly lowered her window.
“As long as you don’t release the ammonia assault of this morning I think we’ll be fine,” He retorted starting up the car.
Her face burned up at the memory of her lack of bladder control. Her body doubled over herself in an attempt to hide in the confines of the cramped cab.
Good god her humiliation was complete.
“If it makes you feel better I had the same reaction when it happened to me.”
“Really?” She murmured as she dared move her head sideways to look at his face.
“Yes. A little more than that too actually,” he spoke his eyes remaining firmly on the road ahead as they pulled out.
She scanned his face for any tell-tale sign of dishonesty. She gasped as she flung her upper body back onto the seat as the realisation hit. “You shit yourself!”
He made a small grunting noise that she took as an acknowledgement of her statement.
“Thank you, that actually does make me feel better,” she beamed at him.
They actually made it as far as Meridian, Mississippi before Eric pulled over in search for a bed for the night. Sookie had passed out an hour ago and he left her sleeping soundly whilst he frequented the local Wal-Mart. He quickly brought a change of clothes for the next couple of days, some snacks and toiletries. Upon finding a suitable hotel he gently nudged her awake.
“Wakey, wakey,” he repeated the words he had spoken to her in the early hours of that morning.
“Not again,” she groaned.
“Don’t worry you didn’t piss yourself this time.”
“Not funny,” she mumbled with furrowed brows.
“I need you to check in under your name.”
“Wasn’t I supposed to disappear?” she whined a little as her hands rubbed at her eyes.
“This is a paper trail for your friends and family if they ever decide to investigate. As far as Bill is concerned this is Russell covering his tracks.”
Understanding she agreed and went to check in. Taking the plastic key cards she found Eric lingering by the side entrance holding her travel bag. He followed her into their room depositing the bag on the flimsy baggage rack before he collapsed on the armchair by the window. Sookie was looking for a change of clothes when she came across the shopping bags stuffed on top of her clothes. At the sound of the rustling shopping bags and Sookie’s confused expression he supplied, “I went shopping.”
She nodded wondering when that had happened in the whirlwind of the past day. She placed his bags on the desk as she dug out a comfortable pair of pyjamas and headed into the bathroom.
By the time Eric had finished his routine in the bathroom Sookie had already slipped into the bed nearest the window leaving him to the other bed. She seemed to be fast asleep; he turned out all the light except the one by his nightstand. He sat up against the headboard as he started breaking the spine on his newly purchased paperback, Naked by David Sedaris before his lids grew heavy and he fell into a heavy slumber.
It wasn’t until a full hour after Eric had fallen asleep that Sookie allowed the tears to flow freely as she ingested them with a quiet sob. On the second night of their travels Eric heard her silent grief. He didn’t make a noise or attempt to console her. He may never have suffered a broken heart but he knew loss. He also knew he wanted nothing to do with it ever again.
They arrived in Arlington in the early afternoon. Sookie wore a baseball cap by the slim chance she would be recognised. Eric had helped her and her stuff out of the car in a park down the road from Tray Dawson’s salvage yard where Pam would pick them up within the hour. Whilst Eric disposed of her car she leafed through the books Eric had bought her, a Swedish language book and a manual on hypnosis and advanced interrogation techniques.
Her concentration escaped her, as she was quite melancholic over the loss of her car. It was her first car and it had taken her many long nights of slinging beer to the punters at Merlotte’s to afford it. Eric didn’t help matters by his continuous chastising of the ‘little yellow rust bucket’. Regardless it had seen her through many stages of her life.
“It’s gone.” Eric spoke bringing her out of her stupor as he seated himself beside her on the park bench. She detected a hint of glee but she couldn’t confirm it.
“Here,” he said as he placed a round object into her hands. She looked down and saw it was the gearshift knob of her now deceased car. She fondled it contentedly her eyes set upon the road before them.
“What kind of car does Pam drive?” she asked her gaze unmoved.
She shifted her head to face him. “Seriously?”
He simply nodded with a straight face. Eric had shared some bits of information about Pam. He was reluctant to share on his ‘adoptive’ sister. Sookie’s questions were often answered with the argument that it was Pam’s story to tell. What she did know of Pam was that a minivan would be the least likely car she would expect her to show up in.
“She’s a walking contradiction,” he shrugged.
It didn’t take long for the sky blue minivan to pull up to the curb with said walking contradiction appearing before them. Her hair was styled like a soccer mom with an Alice band the picture of innocence. Her makeup was more like a Goth teen, dark heavy eye makeup and a strong burgundy lip. Her clothing was similarly disjointed; a black velour tracksuit with pink gemstones and little black bows.
Pam raised her eyebrow mimicking her brother at the sight of the blonde in the baseball cap. She simply received a reply of ‘later’ in return as Eric introduced Sookie to Pam who insisted on being called Raven. Once everyone and everything was piled into the minivan they set off to Bethesda to Eric’s apartment.
The apartment was in a word bare. The magnolia coated walls were obviously chosen by the developer as was the all present beige carpet. The kitchen and bathroom were clean but hardly looked lived in. The living room contained a single black leather sofa, a foldout chair and an oversized entertainment module. The bedroom was a bare box spring and a bed light. The closet was filled with identical items; dark jeans, dark shirts and an assortment of similar black leather boots. The only other room was empty except for a flimsy bookcase filled to the brim with paperbacks with tortured spines making the titles almost illegible.
Eric had left with Pam to settle out business affairs leaving Sookie alone to explore. She was quickly finished as she sat on the leather sofa nursing a cup of coffee with the TV on as background noise. It was the first time Sookie had been by herself since discovering the deception by her former fiancé. Her ring had been monumentally tossed into the Mississippi as they had crossed it. It had felt cathartic at the time but now she was confronted with a bare hand that had been so contented to carry the glistening stone.
Allowing herself thirty minutes to wallow and indulge in her personal pity party her face was properly bloated and stained red from the effort. Three firm knocks and the sound of keys moving within a lock caused her to jump from the sofa spilling the cooled coffee over her and the carpet.
“Shit,” she muttered under her breath as she looked down the hallway expecting to see Eric but finding Pam.
“Raven. Hi,” she said frazzled running into the kitchen pulling out cleaning supplies from underneath the sink.
“Sookie,” Pam greeted not exactly sure what she was witnessing until she saw the incriminating dark brown spot by the sofa.
“Relax already,” she admonished while Sookie attacked the offending stain with ferocity. Sookie looked up at her completely bewildered at her unimpressed attitude.
“Look,” she offered pulling back the sofa revealing a similarly deprecating brown spot, “You’re not the first to mar the prince’s pristine palace.”
“This is your doing?” she gestured at Pam who gave her a shrug. Sookie subsequently spent the next twenty minutes scrubbing at both stains until she was satisfied nothing detectable was left. Pam meanwhile lounged on the sofa amusing herself with another mindless game on her smartphone.
When Eric arrived with pizza boxes in hand it was quite a bizarre sight to come home to: Pam reclining like the Queen of Sheba and a Sookie scrubbing away on all fours.
“She had a whoopsie,” Pam explained as if it was the most intelligible clarification in the world. Eric restrained himself from taking another dig at Sookie’s bladder, she still seemed a little sensitive about that. Besides Pam was present, this could end up biting him in the ass if it was revealed how well his bladder and bowels held up.
“Finally found someone else to clean up your messes?” he smirked knowingly whilst setting down the pizza on the kitchen table. If it wasn’t work Pam was incredibly lazy.
“Sookie any tips on blood stains?” Pam enquired as she watched her gather all the cleaning supplies and giving the floor a satisfied once over.
“Sea salt and ammonia,” she quipped.
“Pamela,” Eric warned for her to tread carefully.
“It’s ok Eric. I know how you two earn your living,” Sookie said as she joined them both at the kitchen table.
“You seem awfully accepting,” Pam observed as she dug into her first slice of pizza.
“Eric, I…. Thank you.” He looked at her confused not sure what exactly she seemed to be thanking him for but before he managed to respond she stopped him. “Just let me get this out, please.”
He motioned for her to continue.
“Whether I would be six feet under right now or sitting right here. You saved me Eric,” she said looking him in the eye earnestly. “You saved me from a fate worse than death. I don’t think ‘thank you’ will ever be enough but it’s all I have to offer right now so thank you.”
“Yeah Eric, thanks,” Pam supplemented giving him a rare smile.
Sookie looked over at her thoroughly confused. She was fairly certain Eric had informed her on the cliff notes version of events in her absence. Had she really no idea what she was piggyback riding along on?
Understanding her confusion Pam offered with a shrug, “Plan B girl.”
“You were in love with Bill too?” Sookie asked incredulously.
“The wet blanket?” she huffed. “No. Lorena lured me in. They have more than one set of playbooks. They have centuries of experience to rely on.”
“I’m so sorry for what happened to you,” Sookie said as tears were shed from her eyes at the horror Pam had to have experienced. Suddenly being plan C didn’t seem as horrendous any more.
“Don’t be,” Pam returned tossing a napkin Sookie’s way to dry her eyes. She took it with a mouthed thank you as she dabbed at her eyes. “It’s in the distant past. I’m glad to be sitting where I am.”
“Me too,” Sookie agreed wondering how distant this past was. Pam was barely nineteen years old.
“So how did you meet Eric?” Sookie asked hoping to delve into a less emotionally charged dinner topic.
“Well he found me rummaging through his dumpster,” Pam continued indifferently. “He took me in and after a week he was so annoyed with me he dropped me off at Russell and Talbot’s and the rest as they say is history.”
Sookie had flinched at the mention of Russell as Pam spoke so warmly of him. To her he was a man who killed infants without a thought and abducted teenage boys. To Pam however, he was a saviour after a long hard life.
“You’re an assassin too?” Sookie asked as if it were the most banal question in the world.
“No debt collecting mostly. I make sure the perps bleeds dry till they pay up,” she said with a menacing smile.
Sookie wondered if she spoke figuratively or literally. Probably a bit of both she concluded and truthfully she didn’t want to know more. The rest of the evening was filled with as mundane of conversations that could be expected between an assassin, an underworld debt collector and a human lie detector.
A/N: Thanks for reading. For those of you haven’t seen it yet I dropped a new story on Sunday, It’s Already Gone to relieve some of the wounds season 7 is inflicting.