I stood there watching Sookie flirting with Compton and had to swallow the growl building in my chest. I knew it was all an act on her part, but it was definitely being well received by him and the sight of his eyes travelling across her form made my hands clench into fists. I attempted to calm my caveman instincts as they continued to make small talk in the doorway and took a moment to replay the day’s events in my mind.
I’d finally said it, that I loved her, and by some small miracle she loved me too. I didn’t really have any doubts that she did, but hearing her say the words and seeing the truth of them in her eyes made my heart skip a beat. We should be celebrating right now. I’d meant it when I told her that I didn’t care if my memories never returned. We’d built a wonderful life together over the previous seven months and there wasn’t a single thing that I could think of that I might be missing out on if we never left Bon Temps again.
I wanted to argue with her; to refuse to seek out Compton and everything that single action would bring with it because I loved our life. I didn’t want to risk everything changing because I had everything I wanted and needed. I had Sookie. But after getting to know her over the previous seven months one of her strongest traits was her stubborn streak. I could tell by the look in her eyes that she wasn’t going to back down so I resigned myself to following through.
My full attention was brought back to the present when I heard Compton invite Sookie inside of the house and I stayed in the tree line until I could see both of them standing alongside Octavia in the living room. Once they all took a seat I knew I’d have some time to go through his car so I darted through the shadows of the yard to the driveway and quickly disengaged the alarm before popping the lock on the passenger door.
Once it was open I turned off the interior light and quickly opened the briefcase he’d left sitting on the floorboard. There were a couple of flash drives inside along with receipts for hotels and the like indicating he’d most recently stayed in Las Vegas having checked out that morning. But what I saw next made my mouth gape open.
There was a file of nothing but me. My mind memorized everything that my eyes flew across in an effort to read as much as I could while listening for signs that anyone was about to open the door. A picture of me was affixed in the top left corner of the first page, the same one that had been used in my passports, with my name underneath as well as several aliases including the ones listed on the passports as well as a few others. It seemed to be a fact sheet of me, or the person I had been prior to losing my memories.
Apparently I worked for The Lex Talionis Alliance, country of origin – United States, and had been recruited almost eight years earlier. I knew lex talionis was Latin for the law of retaliation, or eye for an eye, so it only gave credibility to my earlier notions that I had been a hit man, albeit a government sanctioned one. A list of my skills, both combat and linguistic, was listed bullet style at the top of the page, but my attention was drawn to the bottom.
My last known whereabouts started with the time I was in Saint Thomas back in May. I’d been sent there to assassinate Felipe de Castro, which Sookie and I had already guessed at the time, but everything after that was pure fabrication. The synopsis read:
Northman is currently underground and believed to be subversively employed by Felipe de Castro. His credited kills include: Samuel Merlotte – Civilian, May 15th; Thomas Mickens – Civilian, May 16th; Kazuhiro Chow – LTA Japan, May 18th; Appius Ocella – LTA Italy, Aug 3rd; Sean Clancy – LTA Ireland, Nov 4th. Northman’s knowledge of the Alliance is believed to have led to the deaths of undercover operatives: Charles Twining- LTA UK, May 16th; Jessica Hamby – LTA US, May 16th. Threat remains high. Orders are shoot to kill on sight.
My mind was whirling with everything before me, but I continued to flip through the remaining pages and felt only relief when I saw Sookie’s name wasn’t mentioned anywhere. Nothing I read jogged my memory however it did shed some light on my life before Sookie, but other than Chow I knew I had nothing to do with the deaths listed. It didn’t make any sense to me other than I was being framed. The question was by whom? I returned the file to the briefcase and glanced at an e-ticket indicating Compton would be flying out of Shreveport the next morning en route to Washington D.C. so I had no idea if he would plan on staying here or leaving for Shreveport tonight since it was a relatively short drive from Bon Temps.
I patted down the pockets of his jacket and was shocked to find his cell phone in one of the pockets. I put everything back the way I’d found it and quietly shut the door before glancing through the front window. Sookie and Compton were still sitting in the living room talking with Octavia pouring everyone a cup of coffee so I knew I still had some time to spare. I figured Sookie was safe for now since she wasn’t alone with Compton, so I sprinted back to the farmhouse and darted inside to grab a couple of things I’d picked up a few months earlier.
Sookie and I had gone shopping in Shreveport over the summer and we came across a spyware shop. I picked up a few items including a SIM card duplicator, which was what I wanted now, as well as a device that would allow me to then listen into all of his incoming and outgoing calls in real time. Once I had it and my laptop I sprinted back to Compton’s house and after making sure they were all still seated in the living room I quickly went back to his car and retrieved his phone. After copying his SIM card I quickly copied all of the files on his flash drives onto my laptop and put everything back before locking the car and re-engaging the alarm.
It seemed like hours had passed since Sookie first went inside, but in actuality it was less than 30 minutes. I went back into the tree line to wait for her and breathed a sigh of relief when she walked out the front door 10 minutes later. Shadowing her every step, I remained under the cover of the trees, while she walked towards the farmhouse and as soon as we were out of sight of the Compton residence I came up to walk beside her earning a me a startled jump from Sookie.
“Jesus! You scared me!” she whisper yelled making me chuckle and easing the tension I’d been feeling since reading my file.
“Sorry Lover. So what did he have to say?” I wanted to find out what she managed to learn first in case we needed to be ready to follow Compton soon while still trying to process everything I’d discovered which I wasn’t ready to share just yet.
“Well for one, he’s a pig. He talked to my chest the entire time even with Octavia right there! And while she never said a word, you can be rest assured that you have a fan in her because she was giving me the stink eye whenever I flirted with him. I just hope that I can explain it to her one day so she doesn’t hate me for it.”
“So, he’s a pig and she’s a fan. Anything else?” I hadn’t expected him to just open right up to her, but she’d been in there for a while. Were they flirting the whole time? I felt my fists clench again just thinking about it.
“He’s an all around asshole. He was there to tell Octavia that he plans on moving poor Mr. Compton into a home in Monroe and sell off the house so he ‘doesn’t have to deal with the hassle’ anymore since he’s his last surviving relative. Jessie Compton has lived in that house literally from the time he was born! You’d think he’d let him die there instead of some unfamiliar sterile room.”
She was really getting worked up over it all, but knowing how much she’d loved her Gran I figured the whole concept of shipping away your elders was repulsive to her so I took her hand in mine and rubbed small circles on her palm trying to soothe her. She physically shook herself before continuing, “He was there to get a look at the house to have an idea of what it’s worth before heading out to Shreveport tonight. The only thing he said about himself, when I asked, was that he was a business manager and that he travelled a lot, but I didn’t want to dig too deep. He didn’t even ask Octavia how Mr. Compton was doing. I don’t know what he’s got going on after that because I hightailed it out of there when he started making suggestions that I join him. OW!”
I didn’t realize I’d squeezed her hand tightly when she’d said he wanted her to join him and I immediately relaxed my grip. “Sorry,” I mumbled.
“What about you? Did you find anything in the car?” she asked.
“Did he say when he was leaving for Shreveport?” I still wasn’t sure how Sookie was going to react when I told her everything I’d found out since I didn’t know what to think about it all myself.
I could feel her staring at me, but I kept my eyes ahead of us and heard her say, “Probably soon. He’d told Octavia that he would be out of her hair as soon as he took a look around the house to see if there was anything he wanted to keep. Jerk.”
“Well then we should hurry up.” We were walking up the porch steps by then and we both threw what we might need into a duffle bag and grabbed the one we kept on hand with the cash and weapons inside. I made sure we had the device to listen in on his phone calls and I brought everything out to the car while Sookie locked up. I stared up at the house I’d come to see as my home feeling as though it might be the last time I ever set eyes on it. I had a really bad feeling that something profound was going to happen once we left here tonight and hoped I was wrong. Somehow I didn’t think I was.
I set up the cloned SIM card in the device to listen to all of Compton’s phone calls and after Sookie got in the car we parked near the end of the driveway with the lights off. A few minutes later Compton’s car drove by headed towards the interstate and I pulled out behind him a few moments after that. I stayed back far enough that he shouldn’t have suspected anything and once we got on the highway we were able to blend in with the rest of the traffic.
“So Mr. Change-the-subject, what did you find in his car?” Sookie asked breaking the silence.
How was I going to tell her that I was an assassin? It was one thing to speculate, but to have confirmation of it was something else entirely. Would she think any less of me? I opened my mouth to just blurt it all out when the SIM card device lit up indicating Bill was getting a call. I turned up the volume so we could listen in.
“I know…I called you,” said the snarky female on the other line.
“Pamela, what can I do for you?”
“That’s Ms. De Beaufort to you. And you can tell me why you have my people chasing Northman’s ghost instead of trailing de Castro. We had credible information that Victor Madden would be rising up from the bowels of Hell for the first time in over a year but we’ve got no operatives within 500 miles of the target area in New Orleans.”
I risked a glance at Sookie when my name came through the speaker and saw her eyes were wide with fear. I’d definitely have to tell her everything I found out once the call ended.
“Ms. De Beaufort,” he spat out, “I personally checked out the tip in New Orleans and it was a bust. You’ll have my full report on your desk when I return to Washington tomorrow.”
“And why am I just now learning of your trip? As your superior, in EVERY way, don’t you think it would be wise to inform me of your whereabouts? You’re not an operative Mr. Compton and YOU work for ME. You need to remember that or the next thing you’ll know I’ll have you relocated to Elmendorf AFB Alaska where you’ll spend your remaining years watching moose fuck and driving dog sleds. Maybe you can move next door to Sarah Palin and see Russia from your house!”
We could hear Compton take a deep breath, undoubtedly biting back his initial response, before replying, “I was merely taking the initiative to be proactive. I felt the information on Madden was negligible at best and believe Northman should remain our top priority.”
“I’m well aware of your stance where Northman is concerned. Where are you now?”
He hesitated before replying, “New Orleans.”
A lie since we were just about at the exit for Shreveport and I hoped it would lead to something we could use.
“Make sure you see me as soon as you’re back in the office. We need to come to an understanding of EXACTLY what your role is.”
She hung up and the device fell silent once the call was disconnected. We remained silent in our own thoughts before Sookie asked, “Why are they looking for you? I can tell that you found something so tell me.”
I sighed before confessing to everything I’d come across in the car. She listened to it all without interrupting with the exception of a hitch in her breath when she learned that Sam was dead and once I was done she remained silent until the anxiousness got to be too much for me to bear and I asked, “What are you thinking?” Thinking what a huge mistake you made in saving me? Thinking you’ve spent the last seven months living with a killer? Thinking you wished I’d never come into your life? Thinking you could never love someone like me? Thinking maybe you’d be better off without me? I was starting to wonder about that last one myself.
“I think it’s all a bunch of hooey!” was her reply.
I wanted to smile at her turn of phrase, but I couldn’t find it within myself to do so given our topic of conversation. “I’m not too sure about that,” I reasoned. “It explains how I can do everything that I can.”
“Maybe, but you couldn’t have killed those people. I was with you the whole time. Sam and Tommy were alive when we left them so I know they’re wrong. Someone is trying to frame you, but why? For what? You’ve been ‘a ghost’ for over seven months and they’re still actively seeking you out. Someone is still out there murdering people and blaming you. Those are the questions we need answered.”
I was stunned by her acceptance of it all, but then I remembered how she lacked any self preservation skills where I was concerned. Everything she’d had to do or deal with from the moment she found me floating in the ocean until we reached Bon Temps should have had her running in the opposite direction, but instead it only made her cling more tightly to my side. I was and am grateful that she did, but a part of me worried that she could end up being seriously hurt because of me. I couldn’t bring myself to go any farther down that train of thought knowing I couldn’t imagine a world without Sookie in it.
I noticed Compton’s car signaling to take the exit for Shreveport and as I started to move over into the right lane, several car lengths behind him, the SIM card device became active again with the light indicating he was making an outgoing call.
“Yes.” The greeting was tersely made by a male.
“I’m taking the Shreveport exit now,” said Compton.
The call was disconnected with nothing further said and I could feel the adrenaline starting to course through my body instinctually in preparation for what was to come.
We followed Compton through the city to a nondescript building in an industrial park full of warehouses. It seemed deserted at this time of night, but I was sure he was meeting someone here so I parked the car far enough away from him to not be noticed but where I could still see him exit the car and enter the building in front of him.
I quickly armed myself with a 9mm Beretta holstered at my back and a dagger sheathed on each of my ankles before turning to Sookie and said, “I’m going to follow him, but I want you to stay in the car.” The look on her face showed she was about to gear up for an argument so I silenced her with a kiss before continuing, “Please Sookie. I need to be able to focus in there and I can’t do it if I’m worried about you. We don’t have time to argue about it.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and huffed out saying, “Fine. But promise me that you’ll be careful.”
I breathed a sigh of relief and kissed her again saying, “I promise,” and then I ducked out of the car before she could change her mind.
I stayed in the shadows listening for signs of anyone nearby as I made my way towards the warehouse. Hearing none I slid inside of the door Compton had entered and made my way down a darkened hallway. The building appeared to be abandoned with empty beer cans and graffiti littering the floors and walls. I could hear a muffled conversation taking place ahead of me and silently rounded the corner where another darkened hallway awaited me. There were four doors on either side and all of them were open with the exception of the last door on the right. It was closed and the light from inside of the room spilled out underneath the door illuminating the hallway floor in front of where an emergency exit sat at the very end.
I quickly swept through each of the open rooms, checking for others, while making my way towards the end of the hall. Crouching outside of the closed door, I listened in to their conversation.
“She needs to be handled. She’s not going to let go of the idea that you’re still alive, nor is she going to drop everything to find Northman because she’s never really bought into the idea that he’s a traitor. I only hope that your men find him first or else everything is going to unravel. Quickly.”
I recognized the speaker to be Compton and I could only assume that he was talking about the Pamela de Beaufort woman he’d spoken to earlier on the phone. I liked her without even knowing her because she obviously disliked Compton just as much as me.
“Are you suggesting we kill the Deputy Director of the Lex Talionis Alliance?” came the reply. I was sure it was the same man he’d called a few moments earlier.
“Are you AFRAID Victor? I doubt Felipe would appreciate your cowardice and with that bitch out of the way I’ll be next in line to take the position. Nothing could stop us then.”
Victor Madden, last known whereabouts residing in the bowels of Hell. I assumed Compton and Madden were both working for de Castro and I made a mental note to pull Pamela de Beaufort’s contact information from my copied SIM card to somehow let her know what I’d learned.
I’d guessed Madden didn’t like being called a coward because I heard the distinct sound of what I assumed was a punch to the gut due to the wheezing for air I could hear coming from the room. The sound of it muffled the extra few seconds I would have needed to hear the approach coming from outside of the building and was caught by surprise when the emergency exit door opened as what must have been hired muscle came walking through the door. As soon as he saw me he lunged forward in an attempt to grab me, but I was quicker and spun just out of his reach while landing a kick to his stomach which caused him to fall backwards through the door and into the room with Compton and Madden as splintered wood flew in every direction.
I grabbed my gun from its holster and trained it on the three men inside as I came into the room, turning so my back wouldn’t be exposed to the open hallway while noting there was another door on the back wall but no windows.
“Northman!” Compton sneered. “How nice of you to come to us. It’ll make our jobs a lot easier.”
“I don’t see how since I’m the one holding the gun,” I replied. Now that I was seeing him up close, he did seem familiar and my mind started racing trying to make the connection.
The man that had to be Victor Madden shook his head in disgust at my attacker as he gingerly stood up and gave a calculated look towards the open door. I thought he might have been thinking of bolting from the room when I heard footsteps coming down the hallway, so I backed further into the corner of the room to keep the three of them and the doorway in my line of sight. My heart dropped in the next second as I heard, “Let me go!”
She appeared in the doorway with a gun pointed at her temple held onto by a man twice her size. He bore a striking resemblance to the other hired hand so I assumed they were brothers and I figured them to be German when he opened his mouth and said, “Found her outside.”
I watched Compton openly leer at her from the corner of my eye as he said, “Why Miss Stackhouse, what a surprise seeing you here. Did you come all the way from Bon Temps just for me?”
Sookie’s eyes met mine so I could see the tears welling inside of them and my heart broke with her silent apology. But this was entirely my fault. If only I’d left her at home or sent her away once we got back to the States she wouldn’t be in this position.
Compton noticed our silent exchange and drew the correct conclusion when he said, “You two are together?” The prick smiled and continued, “Well isn’t that interesting. Tell me Northman; just how tight is that little piece of southern ass?”
My gun and glare trained on him instantly and he laughed saying, “Maybe I’ll just have to see for myself. Now drop your gun or else your little white trash honey gets her brains blown away.”
I had no doubt that he meant what he said. I could easily kill him, or the one holding Sookie, but not before he could possibly get a shot off. The risk was too high and I heard Sookie say, “Eric, no!” as I dropped my gun to the floor.
“Kick it towards me,” Compton demanded. I complied and his eyes never left me as he bent over to pick it up while I ran through different scenarios in my mind to get us out of here.
Sookie’s captor lowered his gun and pushed her further into the room and stood off to her side while Compton smiled, lifting my gun towards Sookie as he said, “I lied.”
Everything slowed down as I saw his finger squeeze the trigger and I leapt towards Sookie to shield her from the oncoming bullet. I saw her eyes grow wide. I heard the sound of the gunshot. I felt the bullet burn a path across my temple and everything went black.