Once our dinner was ordered I walked over to the window staring out at the city street below us trying to force my brain to remember something, anything. I felt like I was failing both Sookie and myself for not having the answers to my past. While my memory loss was nothing new at this point, the reality of it sunk in even deeper when we were lying in bed after the most amazing sex of my life (with or without my memories, of that, I was sure) and it occurred to me that we’d had sex without using any protection. I’d been so caught up in the moment that the only thought I’d had at the time had to do with Sookie’s naked writhing body in front of, and then underneath, me. I thought she would surely get upset, if not with me, than at least at the situation, but she surprised me with her response. I should have known better because her response to every situation we’d been in from the moment we met had surprised me, so this shouldn’t have been any different.
I walked into the bedroom to put on a shirt after getting Sookie to agree to a post-dinner bath and searched through my closet looking for a t-shirt to wear. I found them in the back of my closet and after straightening out a few hangers I went back out into the living room to wait on our dinner. I had been sitting for only a few minutes when I heard a knock on the door so I checked the peephole and opened the door after seeing an Asian guy standing there holding what appeared to be our dinner.
“Could you just leave it there?” I asked, pointing at the kitchen counter as I turned to get my wallet from the duffel bag. He stepped inside and as I was turning I caught his reflection in the window. He put the bag on the counter and then reached inside his waistband pulling out a gun as he turned to face my back.
“Northman.” As the words left his lips I was already spinning and I kicked out behind my body hitting his hand holding the gun causing it to drop from his grasp and slide underneath the coffee table. No sooner had the gun dropped from his hand than he had pulled out a couple of switchblades holding one in each of his hands.
My body reacted without me having to consciously think about what I was doing as I dodged, blocked, and spun away from his every lunge towards me until I was close enough to grab a knife from the butcher’s block on the kitchen counter. My longer arm span allowed my first swipe across his front to make contact leaving a shallow 4 inch gash across his abdomen, but it wasn’t deep enough to slow him down very much.
In the back of my mind I knew Sookie would be getting out of the shower any minute and I wanted him subdued before she came out so she wouldn’t get hurt. He made another lunge forward earning him another gash to his forearm as I spun out of reach of his other hand.
I knew that less than a full minute had passed and yet it was as if everything was happening in slow motion. I was able to predict each of his next moves just by looking at him. It was almost like watching a television that had a picture-in-picture option. His body filled my entire visual frame, but my brain was able to focus and zero in on each little nuance, like the tensing of his biceps or the flicker of his eye giving away his next move, while maintaining the overall picture as well.
I probably could have ended our fight at that point, but once I realized what my brain was capable of I wanted to test it out a little more. Another minute or two went by as we continued on and I had to admit that he was worthy opponent, but I knew I was better. It wasn’t until I heard Sookie coming down the hallway that I decided to end it having a feeling that she might be apt to jump into the melee without giving any thought to her own safety. The fact that she’d not only saved me when she first found me while refusing to notify the authorities, she also blindly took off with me on this deadly and dangerous quest to find out who I am. To me, it was proof that her self preservation instincts were severely lacking. It also proved she was kind hearted and loyal as well, but I still hoped I could keep her safe in spite of herself.
I saw my best opportunity to take him down when his foot slipped on the blood he’d spilled onto the floor and I grabbed the wrist holding the knife he’d lunged forward with and spun around behind him yanking down as I went dislocating his shoulder with a loud pop. The knife he’d held in that hand fell to the floor as he cried out in pain while I dropped my own knife and swept his feet out from under him. He landed on his back pinning his own limp arm behind him while I grabbed his other wrist and forced the tip of the blade over his own heart while straddling his body on the floor.
I pressed the tip down, just piercing his chest, while he futilely tried to force the knife upwards and asked, “Who are you? Who sent you?” He was our one shot at getting any answers and while I waited for him to respond another part of my brain was cataloging my own body’s injury status which seemed to be none. My heart rate hadn’t even elevated very much unlike earlier when it was threatening to pound out of my chest while I was in bed with Sookie.
“Who are you? Who sent you?” I asked again. I pushed the knife down another fraction, but all he did was smile and I saw his decision register as a slight flicker in his eyes a split second before he did something I wasn’t expecting. Instead of pushing against the knife he pulled it down while pushing his body up effectively impaling himself as I held onto his wrist. He slumped down onto the floor and I watched the life drain out of his body not only in his rapidly vacant stare, but in the blood pooling on the floor around him as I let go of him.
“Shit!” It was my own damn fault for playing with him instead of just subduing him earlier.
“Eric? Are you okay?” Sookie asked as she ran over still holding the gun in her shaking hands. I stood up and carefully took it from her so she wouldn’t accidentally squeeze the trigger and wrapped my arms around her trying to calm her frazzled nerves for the second time tonight. My touch seemed to soothe her instantly as her body became still in my embrace and a part of me took the time to rejoice in that fact knowing she had the same effect on me as well.
“I’m fine,” I whispered into the hair on top of her head. I was afraid that with everything that kept happening to us she would eventually reach her limit and leave me. I wouldn’t blame her one bit, but I hoped I would find a way to put an end to it all before that happened. I couldn’t imagine trying to go on without her by my side and just the very thought of it was capable of bringing me to my knees. In an effort to avoid that scenario altogether it only steeled my resolve even more.
She took a deep breath and asked, “What happened? Did you not give him a tip?” She half sobbed and half chuckled as she clutched me tighter and I felt relieved knowing that if she was able to make a joke then she was still okay, at least for now.
“I’m not really sure. I thought he was delivering our dinner,” I pointed at the bag on the counter, “and when I turned to get my wallet from the duffel bag I could see him pulling a gun out of his waistband in the reflection in the window while my back was turned. It kind of escalated from there.”
She pulled back far enough to look up at me and asked, “He just attacked you? Did he say anything?”
“Northman. That’s it.” Shit, we needed to get out of the apartment. “Sookie, we need to leave. Whoever ‘they’ are, they know where we’re at.” In what was now becoming our daily routine we quickly bagged up everything that could be of use to us, including the papers from my desk and more clothes from my closet. Both of us changed into jeans and t-shirts and seeing her practically naked again wasn’t helping my focus at all. I shook off my lustful thoughts and we were down on the street within three minutes of making the decision to leave. Even though we were both starving we left the food on the counter not trusting it to be safe to eat.
I’d made sure to check the dead guy’s pockets, but all I found was a cell phone and some cash. I turned it off in case anyone was tracking it and stuffed it in my pocket while we walked a few blocks making sure we weren’t being followed. There were more than a few people out walking at nine o’clock at night so we blended in easily with the citizens of the city that never sleeps. When I felt certain there was no one following us we ducked down into the subway and hopped onto the first train that pulled into the station. We exited the train two stops later and went back up onto the street where we took a cab to JFK International Airport.
Sookie and I didn’t talk very much, but our hands had remained clasped together from the time we’d left the apartment. We seemed to be subconsciously taking turns rubbing soothing circles on each other’s hands with our thumbs while lost in our own thoughts with my own volleying back and forth from the surprise attack to lamenting over missing out on soaking in the tub with Sookie.
Twenty minutes later the cab driver took the exit for the airport and I pulled out the cell phone I’d taken from the mystery attacker. Turning it on, I wrote down the numbers in his call history noting he’d received a call at practically the same time I had placed our dinner order. I recognized the number as the same one for the emergency contact on my apartment lease supposedly belonging to a William Compton. I wondered who Compton was to me and how he was associated with the man that was now lying dead on my living room floor. I assumed this Compton, or whoever ‘they’ were, had my phone in the apartment tapped which was something that should have occurred to me earlier. I know at the time I was still caught up in the moment from being with Sookie for the first time, but it was an almost fatal error. I couldn’t afford to make another one knowing our lives were literally on the line.
I told the driver to let us out at the International Departures area and Sookie and I walked, still hand in hand, like we were any other travelers. I made sure that we stayed as far away from the surveillance cameras as possible without drawing any undue attention to us and hit the send button calling the last number the phone had received a call from, which according to my lease was from William Compton.
It only rang once when someone answered with, “You were supposed to report back an hour ago. Was the target eliminated?” It was a man’s voice and he sounded as though he might have originally been from the south, but tried to lose his accent. I felt better hearing him say ‘target’, not plural, and hoped like hell they had no idea Sookie was with me or even that she existed at all. When I didn’t respond he said, “Chow?”
I waited for the noise to abate from a plane taking off above us before asking, “Why are you after me?” With the attacker dead, apparently named Chow, I figured I had another shot at getting some answers.
“Northman. I suppose I can assume you’ve killed another one of your brethren since you’re calling from Chow’s phone. You need to come in. Now.” At least one question was answered now that I knew whomever it was I was talking to knew me well enough to know who I was from the sound of my voice.
I didn’t want to give away the fact that I had lost my memories so I tried to keep my end of the conversation vague while keeping track of the time spent on the call. “Technically, he killed himself. What do you mean ‘another one’?”
“Don’t be coy Northman,” he scoffed. “DeCastro lives, you fall off the radar, your not-so-secret Swiss account is flushed with ten million dollars the morning after you disappear, and suddenly the others are dropping like flies. Not to mention a few civilian casualties too. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out you’ve gone rogue and sold out not only your fellow soldiers, but your country as well.” He sounded like a pompous ass making me hope like hell he wasn’t a former friend of mine because I would have to question whether or not I was normally a prick too to have considered having someone like him as a friend.
My mind quickly ran through everything he’d just said looking for more insight and my brain settled on, ‘Fellow soldiers? Sold out my country?’ I could hear him scrambling in the background while he spoke as well as a female’s voice practically growling “Give me the phone!” I knew they were tracing the call so I said, “I need some answers before I agree to come in. I’ll call you back,” and hung up.
I left the cell phone powered up, wiped it clean, and at the first opportunity I saw I dropped it into an unsuspecting traveler’s bag. Hopefully they were headed far away and it would throw off whoever was after us. Sookie gave me a look that said she wanted to know what he’d said, but I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone else around and just shook my head saying, “Once we’re on the road.”
She nodded her understanding and we quickly made our way to the ‘Arrivals’ area where we hopped onto the shuttle for the long term parking lot. We found another SUV and I instantly felt the loss as we broke our physical hold on one another for the first time in over an hour. We were back on the interstate heading south ten minutes later and as soon as we were alone in the car I filled Sookie in on everything that Compton told me.
“Did you say Compton?” Sookie asked.
“I assume it was him,” I replied. “It was the same phone number that was listed on my apartment lease under the name William Compton. Why?”
“What are the odds?” she mumbled almost to herself. “Back home in Bon Temps our neighbor across the cemetery from us is named Jessie Compton. He never married or had any kids of his own and he was forever bragging to Gran about his nephew Bill. Bill Compton. You don’t think it could be the same guy do you?”
It seemed like a long shot to me, but other than the phone number we really didn’t have much else to go on and I did detect a faint southern accent from him. “Maybe. What types of things did he brag about?” I asked.
“Oh, just about everything. Mostly how smart he was and how he’d gotten into Princeton on a full scholarship. I never really paid too much attention.”
I could tell she was sifting through her memories so I waited a few minutes before asking, “Do you know anything else about him like what he looks like, or where he could be now?”
She sat there in quiet thought for a moment before saying, “Yes, I met him once when his family had come to visit Mr. Compton.” She scrunched her nose up in disgust before saying, “He’s about three years older than me with brown hair and walked around with his nose in the air and a stick up his ass looking down on us backwater hicks.” A noticeable shiver going through her body before she said, “He had a black heart.”
I looked at her confused thinking I might have heard her wrong and asked, “He had a what?”
Even in the dark interior of the truck I could see the blush bloom in her cheeks as she said, “A black heart. I have a really good sixth sense about people and no matter how big his smile was or how polite his southern gentleman manners were, he was evil on the inside.” She looked embarrassed at her admission in believing her ‘sixth sense’ and it made my mind momentarily wander off topic.
After I chewed on her words for a minute I was almost afraid of the answer to my next question. “And what does your sixth sense say about me?”
She reached over and laced her fingers through mine once more with each of us sighing in relief as soon as our skin made contact before saying, “Your heart is full of light. It wasn’t as bright when you first walked into the shop, but it’s practically blinding now.”
Logically it all sounded a little ‘hocus pocus’, but I believed her nonetheless and it made me feel a little bit better about myself thinking that maybe I wasn’t normally a prick like Compton.
Sookie broke through my silent musings by asking, “He called you a soldier, like maybe you’re in the military?” I figured I must have had some sort of military-type training given everything I could and knew how to do, but I figured my hair would’ve been shorter if I was in the military and told her so.
We sat in a comfortable silence for a while driving with no destination in mind when she asked, “Did he say anything that triggered any memories for you?” When I said no she continued saying, “I know the name DeCastro is pretty common, but I wonder if he meant Felipe DeCastro.”
“Who’s that?” The name didn’t ring any bells, but then again, virtually nothing else did either.
“I only know what I’ve read about him in the gossip magazines the boys kept around the shop, but from what I gather he’s just a wealthy business man that likes to hang out with celebrities.” She gasped and turned to face me saying, “He was on St. Thomas when you were there. Laf and Jesus heard through the grapevine that he was there celebrating his birthday and was going to throw one of his legendary parties on his yacht. They were trying to come up with a way to crash it,” she ended wistfully.
I knew she was still hurting over losing them so I tried to keep her mind off of it by saying, “Well, odds are he’s the guy Compton was talking about.” When Sookie mentioned he was celebrating his birthday the image of the birthday hat from my nightmare flashed through my mind and I knew it couldn’t have been a coincidence.
“He said ‘DeCastro lives’ as if you were the reason for that and that it wasn’t a good thing he was still alive.” Her voice lowered into a whisper when she asked, “What do you think that means.”
I didn’t want to admit it even to myself much less to Sookie, but it was becoming painfully obvious that I was some sort of gun for hire. “Given the course of events over the past few days and the condition in which you found me along with the rifle you found on the boat I can only assume that I’m some sort of scumbag hitman.” It worried me to realize that I must not be a ‘good guy’ if that was the case and I was concerned that sooner or later Sookie would realize that too and want nothing more to do with me.
I knew my worries were unfounded for the time being when I saw Sookie was already shaking her head ‘no’ while I confessed my thoughts and she said, “No. He called you a ‘soldier’ and accused you of betraying your country, so if anything whatever your profession is, or was, it was more than just being a gun for hire.”
Her words made me feel marginally better, but not too much when I took into account with her seemingly poor self preservation skills. I chose to follow her point of logic for the time being knowing there was no way of knowing for sure short of my memories returning or until we found out the truth some other way. “Let’s assume that’s true and I’m some sort of government sanctioned assassin for my country. Why would the United States, or any other country, want him killed if he’s just a wealthy business man that likes to get his picture taken with celebrities?”
Sookie looked just as stumped as I felt when she admitted, “I don’t know.” If he was, in fact, the target of an assassination there had to be something pretty sinister going on with him for the government to want him dead. There were far more questions than we had the answers to and it frustrated me to no end.
We sat there in silence when a thought finally hit me. “Does Jessie Compton still live next door to where you grew up?” Maybe there was a way we could find out some information on one William ‘Bill’ Compton from him. Hopefully he still liked to brag.
“As far as I know. I haven’t been back there in a few years, but I’m sure Tara would’ve said something in passing if he’d moved or died. There’s not a lot going on in Bon Temps so that would’ve been news worthy gossip. Why?”
“What do you think about going back home for a visit?” It was worth a shot and at this point we didn’t have any other leads or anything to lose.
I could see the wheels spinning in her head when she finally made the connection and she smiled brightly while taking out the GPS and programmed her home address into it saying, “I think that would be a very good idea.”