AN: Yeah, yeah, I know. Another multific WIP! Sorry, but this plot bunny has been hopping up and down and won’t leave me alone, so putting it on paper is catharsis…I doubt if this story will generate much of a fan base, but I am really writing it for my own amusement if nothing else (in spite of the dark content). Hopefully a few of you out there will find it entertaining as well…
“Freeze! Place your hands on top of your head and kneel on the ground!”
Eric blinked rapidly and shook his head. He was dazed, unsure of his surroundings. He looked down at his hands, which were covered in blood. Slowly, he raised his head and stared at the scene in the bedroom. What he saw made him scream. He continued to scream as the policemen wrestled him to the ground and cuffed him. By the time they placed him in the patrol car and Mirandized him, he had stopped screaming though his shoulders shook with silent sobs.
Three weeks later…
“Dr. Stackhouse, this is Stan Davis. Thank you for returning my call. I assume you got my message?”
Sookie sighed. “Yes, I did, but I’m afraid I am reluctant to take on such a high profile case, Stan. The media frenzy surrounding the murders and long hours that I would be spending in and out of the courtroom are not…appealing to me.”
She had recognized the signs of burn out years ago but kept soldiering on despite her weariness and dislike of the job. She was actually thinning out her private practice appointments and was primarily focusing on her contractual obligations to the Louisiana Department of Corrections, doing routine psychological intakes on parolees. The contract was actually due to expire soon but she doubted she would sign on for a renewal. She needed an extended vacation. Badly.
Stan continued. “I understand. But you’re the best forensic psychologist in the state of Louisiana, if not in the country, particularly when it comes to violent sexual predators. And you’re one of the few with neuropsychological training. We’d be willing to double your typical IME rates.”
Sookie paused. Holy shit! Her Independent Medical Examination rates were already at the high end of the spectrum to begin with. The Orleans Parish DA was pulling out the big bucks for this one.
“Well, let’s say I agree to take on the case. Who’s the defense attorney representing Mr. Northman?”
There was a pause on the line. “Pamela Ravenscroft.”
Sookie smiled to herself. Pamela Ravenscroft was a well-known criminal attorney who had won several high profile cases, including one in which she represented a Texas politician who had been accused of murdering his wife and children. He had been acquitted despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt, including eyewitness testimony and DNA evidence. If Eric Northman had retained Ravenscroft, then he had a damned good chance of winning. But he would have to pay dearly for his freedom. She didn’t work cheap.
“Hmm. Well, no wonder you’re willing to pay out the wazoo. Say hypothetically I agree to take this on. What will the contract entail?”
“A full neuropsychological evaluation as well personality assessment.”
That caught Sookie’s interest. “Neuropsych? Why? I doubt if there is a question of low intellectual functioning or brain damage…I mean, after all, he is a relatively young man and the head of a huge business empire. Unless there’s something I don’t know?”
“Well, first of all, the judge has denied bail pending the outcome of the psych assessment. And even then it’s iffy, and it will be high, though we all know Northman can pay it. Also, Northman told police investigators that he had no memory of events of the night in question when he was apprehended at the victim’s home. He’s also denying any knowledge of assaulting the other victims though he has been linked through various sources to them all, either through his businesses or social circles.”
“Ah, I see. Yes, a full neuropsychological evaluation would be appropriate. I will be sure to include malingering measures in my assessment, since there are certainly secondary gain incentives for him to be lying.”
She could almost hear the attorney smiling on the line. “So you’re in then?” Sookie rolled her eyes and shook her head.
“Yes. But I’m holding you to your offer. Double my usual IME rate.”
“Wonderful! We will Fed Ex your contract over to your office. As soon as we get it back, I’ll have my assistant bring over the files.”
“You do know that the defense is going to hire their own psychologist? I have a hunch who it might be.” Bill Compton was a forensic psychologist based out of Baton Rouge who had a lucrative practice but was not well liked by his peers. He was deemed unethical, the psychologist’s analog to a whore, whose “expert opinion” could be swayed for the right price.
She heard Davis take a deep breath. “Compton. Yes, rumor has it that Ravenscroft has already made him an offer to take on the case.”
“Well, you know damn good and well he’s chomping at the bit and has already signed on board. He’ll eat up the publicity the case will bring him. He’s a narcissist and I guarantee he will try to discredit me on the stand. We’re not exactly friendly with each other and have gone head to head before in court, you know.”
“Yes, well, he doesn’t stand a chance against you. He hasn’t ever discredited you, to my knowledge, and in fact, I remember how you spanked him down and made him look like a blubbering idiot at the Bellefleur trial.”
“All the more reason for me to be especially on my toes with this case. And FYI, I will be doing all of the psych testing myself. It’s too important to have minor errors committed by my graduate level psychometrists…You know, by the time I’m done, this is going to be a very expensive case for the state.”
“You’re worth it.”
“Yes, well…let’s just say that I plan on taking a long vacation once the trial is over.”
Davis laughed. “You’ll deserve it! Someplace exotic, right?”
“You bet…Okay, Stan, you’ve got your hired gun. I’ll be waiting for the contract and I’ll get it back to you asap.”
“Thanks a lot Dr. Stackhouse. Talk to you soon.”
Sookie hung up the phone and turned in her leather chair to stare out her office window. She had a pleasant view of the office park courtyard. The late afternoon sun lit up the trees and landscaping in a warm amber glow. She enjoyed the scenery until she thought about the ordeal she just agreed to subject herself to. She rubbed her temples. A headache was starting to flirt with her, likely stress induced.
She had followed the case in the newspaper with detached interest since it had been the center of the local news media’s attention. She knew that Eric Northman was a business mogul who had initially made his millions though speculating in semiconductor and emerging technology research. He also had his fingers in oil and mining operations, as well as ownership of several retail and restaurant chains. To say that he had limitless funds at his disposal was an understatement. He was going to need his riches to hire the very best to save his ass given the nature of the crimes…
A series of brutal sexual assault murders had plagued New Orleans for the past several months. All the sexual assault victims were young women, usually blonde. Some had been mutilated but all had been exsanguinated, which the media had had a field day with, dubbing the crimes as the “Louisiana Vampire Murders.”
In addition to the female victims, there were also other people murdered, including a husband, parents, and children who were unlucky enough to be at the various scenes at the time. Police believed that these victims were collateral damage: obstacles to be disposed of so that the murderer could focus on his true target. None of the “incidental” victims had been reported to be sexually assaulted; only the young women.
All in all, a very messy, high profile case. And now, an interesting twist was Northman’s “amnesia” on the nights the crimes occurred.
She turned from the window back to her desk. She Googled “Eric Northman,” which yielded over ten million hits. She clicked on the “News” link and scrolled through a few articles, which primarily focused on the salacious details of the crimes and his background as fallen New Orleans mogul. It was all information she had either heard or read before. She then clicked on the “Images” option and looked at different pictures of him, in both formal wear and business casual (often seen sporting his cowboy boots). There were also multiple frames of his infamous mug shot, which showed him with blood shot eyes and beard stubble on his handsome face.
She shook her head. It was always a surprise to see a cold blooded killer peering out from behind a beautiful façade. And how could such a brilliant mind be so savage? True, there was a chance that the man was innocent, but based on the media leaks, the evidence against him seemed pretty damning, especially since he had no reported alibi.
Regardless of his guilt, or whether her findings could be used in favor of the state’s case or not, she would report the truth as she saw it. That was one reason why a straight shooter such as Stan Davis sought her out: not only was she good at what she did, she also wouldn’t lie. No matter her findings, it sounded like Stan was banking on having an ironclad case against Northman anyway.
She closed out her Internet browser and sat back in her chair. It was five pm. Relatively early for her to close shop for the day, especially since she had several reports to finish up and a stack of files she needed to double-check. Although her two graduate student interns were pretty sharp, she still caught occasional scoring mistakes on the various psychological tests.
She smiled ruefully when she thought of her two interns. Both of them, Jessica and Hoyt, were full of energy and enthusiasm for the field. Not bitter, jaded, and burned out at age 35 like herself.
She had attended state college at age 17 on scholarship and earned her doctorate in clinical psychology by the age of 26. She then moved to New Orleans, where she completed a two-year forensic psychology residency, which also had a heavy emphasis on neuropsychology.
She had never wanted to stay in New Orleans, but she made strong professional contacts during her residency and the job market was booming. Despite her success, she desperately wanted to return home to Bon Temps, where her Gran still lived. Adele Stackhouse was in her late 70’s and while she was still spry, she was getting frail and beginning to have more health issues. Although Jason lived in Shreveport, which wasn’t far from Bon Temps, he didn’t visit Gran often due to his long work hours. Granted, New Orleans wasn’t that far away, but she hated that she couldn’t get to her grandmother immediately in an emergency situation. And…she just plain missed her.
Maybe this case was a sign for her to move closer to Bon Temps. Maybe she should just let her contract with the Department of Corrections run out and move her practice. Yes. She would make some much-needed changes in her life. After this case, she would turn her life around. Maybe she’d change fields, get out of forensic psychology and start doing individual counseling. Or hell, maybe she’d take some art classes at the community college and pursue her long buried dream of being an artist.
She turned off her computer and stuffed some files into her briefcase (the ones whose reports were the most pressing) and headed out of her office, not before turning one last time and looking wistfully at her diplomas on the wall. It was funny how proud she was at one time to receive them! Funny to think about how hard she worked, how she had a burning fire in her belly at one time in her life. Funny how those framed pieces of paper didn’t mean shit to her anymore…
She sighed while she cut off the light and locked the door.
AN: If any of you readers are attorneys or have legal expertise and catch factual mistakes in my story, please let me know!