AN: Obviously, this is a work of fiction, so although I’m trying to portray things realistically, I am also taking creative liberties with how this scenario would really go down. Also, in an attempt to “keep it real” there is a lot of psychobabble jargon, but hopefully it makes sense within the context of the story.
Thanks for all the reviews on the first chapter! I appreciate the feedback.
Looking up at the early morning sunlight beaming merrily upon the imposing facade of the Orleans Parish Prison, Sookie couldn’t help but shake her head at the visual dichotomy the scene created. She took several deep breaths to lower her heart rate. No matter how often she visited jail inmates, she tended to experience anxiety before and during her visits. The inescapable nature of a correctional facility, no matter how new or “progressive,” engendered a hopeless and claustrophobic climate. Always.
To make matters worse, it was likely she would not be able to finish Mr. Northman’s evaluation in one day given the extensive testing requested by the court, which meant she would no doubt be coming back. Ugh.
She popped open the trunk of her Volvo XC-90 and took out a rolling cart. She began stoically loading her psychological test kits and briefcase on it and then secured it all with a bungee cord before locking up her car.
She rolled the cart behind her and trudged up the walkway to the front entrance. Glancing up at the sun wistfully one last time before she entered through the glass doors, she sighed and immediately regretted it when the strong smell of antiseptic cleanser and musty air vents assailed her.
A humorless looking female corrections officer was sitting at the front desk. She was heavy set, and her poorly dyed hair was pulled back into a severe knot at the back of her head.
“Hi there. I’m Dr. Stackhouse.” She put on her no-nonsense business persona. Being a petite blonde woman required such a demeanor so that people (including other women) would take her seriously.
The woman nodded. “Yeah, the DA had called and said you’d be coming today. Psych evaluation on Eric Northman, right?
“Here’s your visitor pass. I’ll call ahead and let them know to bring him down to one of the interview rooms. He’s on the 4th floor Ad Seg so it may take a while to get him.”
Sookie frowned. “Ad Seg? Has he been violent?”
The guard shook her head. “Nope, not that I’m aware of. I heard he’s been a model prisoner. It’s more to protect him from the rest of the inmates. You know, since he’s a child killer.” She shook her head. “Prison code don’t care if you rape and kill women but they care if kids are hurt. Plus, everyone’s heard how rich he is. That alone makes him a target.”
Sookie nodded and kept silent since she didn’t want to comment about the case with anyone except the DA or the judge. She took the pass, which she clipped to the lapel of her suit jacket. She winced internally, knowing it was going to leave a mark in the fabric but she never wore a lanyard to clip badges on in a jail setting, since it could be used as a garrote. You had to think of these things when working with criminals. Even something as innocuous as a pencil could be lethal…and Northman was accused of the most violent and serious of crimes. She would have to be especially vigilant today.
The woman pressed a button that allowed her to enter further into the facility. The door clanged behind her as she made her way inside. She walked over to a glass enclosed station where two corrections officers sat watching video monitors. One, a twenty-something man with a short military haircut, spoke to her through the intercom.
“You the psychologist here to the eval on Northman?”
“All right, I’ll buzz you in.” Sookie walked in and handed the jailor her keys, which he put in a small plastic bin.
“We’ll put you in the interview room directly across from our station. If you have any hint of threat from him, please leave the room immediately and call out. We’ll be watching closely and can get to you asap.”
“She knows the drill, J.B. Dr. Stackhouse is an old pro, isn’t that right?”
Sookie smiled at the other guard. “Hi Sam. Good to see you.”
Ever since she had been coming here to do forensic evaluations, Sam had been friendly and helpful. She suspected he might have a little crush on her, but he had never worked up the courage to ask her out. She was relieved, actually. She hadn’t dated in a while and it suited her fine since she did not have the emotional energy necessary to put into a romantic relationship. Yeah, she needed a vacation…
Sam grinned. “Always glad to see you too! I haven’t seen you in a while…thought we’d run you off.”
Sookie feigned insult. “What? And miss all the fun?”
“Yeah, zoos are entertaining, aren’t they?” he joked.
He walked up to her and put his hand on her shoulder. The smile melted off his face as he continued. “But in all seriousness, doc, be real careful with this one. You know why he’s here. He’s a bloodthirsty rapist killer. And you fit his victim profile, blonde and real pretty.” He blushed for a minute before he hurriedly muttered, “No offense, Dr. Stackhouse.”
“None taken. I doubt that there will be any behavioral concerns from him, especially since it’s in his best interest to be cooperative. But I appreciate you guys keeping a close eye on me.” She meant it. She had never had any overt physical aggression exhibited towards her. But…there was always the possibility of potential violence when doing these types of assessments. That fact she never forgot, and one that had motivated her years ago to pursue martial arts training.
The younger guard buzzed the heavy metal door open. As Sookie rolled her cart through, the door clanged after her. She nodded questioningly towards the closest interview room and Sam gave her the thumbs up.
She went into the small windowless cell (that’s what it felt like to her), which held two battered wooden chairs, one on either side of a small table. She glanced down at it. Several initials were scratched into the surface, as well as a jagged “FUK U.”
She rolled her cart to the right side of the room and leaned it against the wall. She undid the bungee cord and put it inside her briefcase. While waiting for her client to make an appearance, she pulled out a yellow legal pad, pen, and small digital recorder.
She didn’t have to wait long. When she heard heavy footsteps echoing down the hall, she went to stand in front of the open door. She watched as two officers escorted a tall, muscular blonde man who was forced to shuffle due to the cuffs around his ankles. His hands were also cuffed in the front. He was wearing a bright orange jumpsuit and she briefly wondered how they were able to find one available in his size, but dismissed the thought as they approached.
Eric Northman had a grim expression on his face, although it didn’t mar his beauty. He was even more handsome in person. He dwarfed the two corrections officers, who were both large men.
He appraised her coolly and didn’t speak.
She took control immediately. “Mr. Northman, I am Dr. Sookie Stackhouse. I am the psychologist retained by the state to perform the forensic evaluation requested by Judge Beck. Are you agreeable to undergo this assessment?”
Eric looked at her for several seconds before he begrudgingly nodded.
Sookie had a hard time holding his gaze. His ice blue eyes were intelligent and perceptive. She mentally shook off the discomfort his stare produced. She was already letting him rattle her. She needed to keep the mental edge here and not allow him to have the upper hand.
Sookie turned to the guards. “This assessment is going to take several hours. I want to make sure that Mr. Northman is provided lunch.”
One of the men nodded. “Yeah, we can bring him a sack lunch.”
“That will be fine. I brought mine as well. In the interest of time, we can both eat in the exam room. If that is acceptable, Mr. Northman? Or would you prefer to eat in the jail cafeteria?”
Her courtesy to him was rewarded with a terse response. “Eating here is fine. Thank you for asking and thinking of my needs, Dr. Stackhouse.” He sounded sarcastic.
One of the guards snorted. “Well, Northman, you make sure to be on your best behavior. We’re watching you.”
“He’s going to need his hands free during the assessment.”
The guard raised his eyebrows but didn’t argue as he unlocked the handcuffs.
Sookie gestured for Eric to enter the room and indicated that he should sit with his back facing the wall. He sat slowly and looked at her as she closed the door (leaving it open a crack, enough to muffle noise outside but still allow her to open it easily). She lowered herself to the chair and grabbed her notepad and pen.
“You’re smart.” His deep baritone startled her.
She looked up at his smirking face. “What makes you say that?’
“You had me sit with my back against the wall and gave yourself access to the door in case you needed a quick getaway.”
Sookie looked at him with a blank expression on her face though her pulse quickened.
“It’s interesting you would comment on that, Mr. Northman. Any reason why I might be needing a “quick getaway” during the evaluation?”
He shook his head but kept the smirk. “No. Not on my account.”
She could feel her heart pounding. “Fuck this,” she thought to herself. “This cat and mouse banter ends now.”
She addressed him in a terse, no bullshit manner. “That’s good to hear. Now, before we begin, I want to inform you that your attorney has requested I record the assessment.”
“Yes. Ms. Ravenscroft told me and I am fine with it.”
Sookie nodded and pressed play on the recorder, which she placed on the table between them.
“This is doctor Sookie Stackhouse. I am beginning the court-ordered forensic evaluation with Eric Northman. I first want to go over the limits of confidentiality and terms of the evaluation with you. Typical patient-doctor confidentiality does not apply in this case. Since Judge Beck ordered this assessment and the state is paying for it, they are technically my clients in his situation. So, the results of the assessment, my report, and everything you say to me can be disclosed to them. Please keep this in mind. Copies of the report will be supplied to the court, the prosecutor, and your attorney. I am not interested in hearing about the details of the crimes you are alleged to have committed with the exception of how it pertains to your reported memory deficits. Any questions?” She pushed the informed consent and limits of confidentiality forms towards him and gave him a pen.
He picked up the pen and looked up at her. His eyes hardened. “No, no questions. But off the record, I have absolutely no recollection of any of the atrocities they accuse me of. I would never do something like that…I am not a violent man. It is totally against my character to harm women, or God forbid, children.”
Sookie returned his stare. “My role in this case is not to determine your guilt or innocence. In fact, I have not yet reviewed the case records the DA sent me, since I want to stay as free from bias as possible during the evaluation. As I mentioned before, anything you tell me here is potentially “on the record.”
They stared at each other for several seconds. His pale blue eyes, so alike to hers, seemed to be challenging her. It was as if he was assessing her character, trying to figure her out. Finally, he nodded once, indicating his understanding.
For the next hour, as Sookie interviewed Eric Northman, she inadvertently found herself becoming more fascinated by him. And aside from his initial surly demeanor and hints of narcissism, she found no blatant evidence of personality disorder or psychopathy.
His parents were immigrants from Stockholm, Sweden and he was born in San Francisco. His father was an imminent cardiac surgeon and researcher at UCSF and mother was a concert pianist. He reported a close relationship with both parents, as well as his two siblings. He denied any history of physical or emotional abuse. He described himself as a fast learner, and much like herself, graduated early from high school and received a full scholarship to UC Berkley, where he was a computer engineering major. He obtained his MBA at Harvard and ended up making his initial millions in technology development as a relatively young man before investing in other industries. He married his college sweetheart but the marriage dissolved when he discovered her infidelity. Since that time, he reported having two other serious relationships, but the most recent one ended approximately three years ago. He had no children, which was something he said he regretted. He denied any history of head injury or psychiatric issues. He reported excellent health and no issues with substance abuse. He reportedly only drank on rare occasions since his brother had struggled with alcoholism.
As far as his memory lapses, he stated that he had near perfect recall up until the past few months, during which time he had experienced several “blackouts.” There were no identifiable precipitating factors or auras prior to the amnestic events. The only pattern he noticed was that the lapses all occurred at night when he was alone. He would be doing mundane activities, such as eating dinner or working and then the next thing he knew he would “wake up” in various locations around his home, including his bathtub, car, and back porch. He had no recollection of how he got there or what had transpired. The time span of the blackouts varied but sometimes lasted for several hours. He didn’t recall the specific dates on which the incidents occurred, with the exception of the night he was apprehended (which was the only time he had found himself in an unfamiliar location). But he did volunteer that the incidents had started around the time the rape-murders began getting press.
So all in all, a privileged, near spotless background with no hints of darkness within…up until the nights of the murders, that is. He appeared to be forthcoming and did not come across as deceitful. It seemed as if he truly believed what he was telling her. However, Sookie knew that beneath “honest” and calm surfaces, monsters could lurk in the darkness. Plus, repression and denial were powerful defense mechanisms, especially in cases where someone had engaged in ego dystonic behaviors (such as rape and murder, in his case).
After the interview, she began the neuropsychological portion of the evaluation. He flew through the tests without difficulty, including the malingering measures. At lunchtime, Sookie stopped the recorder and stood. She gestured to the officers in the guard booth. She needed a bathroom break and she assumed that her client did as well.
Sam came and escorted Eric while she was buzzed back out into the visitor area. She used the facilities and washed her hands in the utilitarian sink. She looked at herself in the mirror, having a surreal moment as she pictured herself straddling Eric, her head thrown back in ecstasy as he thrust into her. Her breath hitched in her throat. Oh shit…Okay, she realized she was intensely attracted to her client. Countertransference. Yes, she recognized it for what it was, but she shook her head and admonished herself nonetheless. He was a client. A client accused of heinous crimes. Atrocities. And here she was, having sexual fantasies in the jail restroom! Well, regardless of her attraction to him or his guilt or innocence, she was here to do her job, and that was to provide a sound, objective, forensic evaluation. She glared at herself in the mirror as she adjusted her suit.
She walked out back towards the booth and raised her hand, waving to the guards, who buzzed her back in. As they prepared to admit her through the second door, Sam spoke to her through the intercom. “You sure you want to have lunch in there with that scumbag, Dr. Stackhouse? You can come eat with us if you’d like.”
Sookie smiled. “It’s okay, Sam. I’m actually planning on having him work on a personality test, so we’ll be staying busy through lunch.”
He raised his eyebrow at her questioningly.
“No, really Sam. It’s okay. And Mr. Northman is agreeable to the arrangement.”
Sam sighed and shook his head reprovingly but released the lock on the door to let her in the corridor. Eric was already waiting for her in the Spartan room, a sack lunch in front of him, which consisted of a sandwich (on white bread she noted), apple, bag of chips, and soda. The guard who was standing outside the room nodded to her as she went in and closed the door. She smiled to herself when she saw Eric looking down at his lunch with a bemused expression.
He looked up at her and caught her smirk. He mock frowned at her. “Don’t laugh. This is actually preferable to the “hot” lunch they typically serve here.”
She chuckled. “I’m sorry, Mr. Northman. I wasn’t making fun. I usually don’t eat much of a lunch, so…” She shrugged as she pulled out a granola bar and bottle of water out of her briefcase.
He looked at her and shook his head. “Wow. You weren’t kidding. I’d starve to death if that were all I ate. I’m hungry here all the time as it is.”
“I usually eat just a yogurt for breakfast, something like this for lunch, if I eat at all. I eat a serious meal at dinner, though.”
He smiled at her. “Serious. I always thought dinner should be enjoyable.”
She smiled in return but sobered as she reminded herself of her reason for being there and the crimes he was accused of committing.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I was thinking we could start on one of the measures while you eat? It’s a true/false questionnaire. Is that ok?”
“Yes…you’re giving me the MMPI?”
Sookie nodded. “Actually, the MMPI-2? Are you familiar with it?”
“I’ve heard of it.”
“Ah, yes. Well, have you ever taken it before?”
“No. No reason to.”
She began audiotaping again. “Well, the instructions are here on this booklet. Let me know if you have any questions.” Sookie pushed the test and a pencil to him. He stared at her for a few moments. His eyes were so damned…piercing. When he scrutinized her as he was doing now, she felt vulnerable and naked. It made her uncomfortable but also was…exciting?
She averted her eyes and reached for her granola bar. She grabbed the WAIS-IV protocol so she could score the IQ test as she ate.
He was motionless for several seconds as he continued to watch her. Sookie was relieved when he began eating his lunch and filling out the questionnaire. They both worked silently for some time.
After about an hour (she was tracking the time on her watch and annotating it as she went for documentation purposes), she could feel his eyes on her once again but she refused to look up. Finally, she lifted her head and returned his gaze.
“Is there a problem Mr. Northman?”
He continued staring at her and pushed the completed test towards her. He reached over to the digital recorder and shut it off.
She looked at him with suspicion. “What are you doing?”
“Dr. Stackhouse. I have consented to this evaluation today because I recognize that despite my wealth I will likely spend the rest of my life behind bars. That is, if I don’t get the death penalty. This is Louisiana, you know.” He smiled weakly but it did not reach his eyes.
“My attorney is good. The best money can buy, but really, you’re my only chance…”
There was a pregnant silence. She could literally hear the blood pumping in her ears given how fast her heart was beating.
“No, that is where you are wrong. As I told you, I am a neutral par-”
Without warning, he slammed his fists on the table. “That’s bullshit and you know it! I’m no killer!”
Sookie startled and rose quickly, with the intention of backing out the door.
He lunged across the table and grabbed her wrist.
“No! Please don’t leave…I’m sorry.” His handsome features were distorted into a rictus of passionate remorse.
Sookie narrowed her eyes and hissed under her breath, “Let go of me immediately, Mr. Northman. If I call out, the guards will be here in a heartbeat. Don’t give them an excuse to beat and cuff you.”
She used an old trick she learned early on in her martial arts classes, twisting and pulling her wrist down against his thumb, which caused him to lose his grip.
He let out a groan and slumped back in his chair. He threw his head down on the table.
His voice broke as he muttered softly, “I apologize Dr. Stackhouse. I…can’t stand this. I know I’m not capable of murder. I swear to God that I honestly do not remember what the hell happened…it’s like my mind has these holes in it. That night they arrested me…it was like I was coming out of a fog, like I’d been heavily drugged or something. I remember staying late at my office. I was catching up on some emails…and the next thing I know I’m in some stranger’s apartment, with blood on my hands.”
Sookie looked at him with a mixture of alarm…and pity?
“Mr. Northman. Please stop. I told you that we are not to-”
He continued as if he hadn’t heard her. He lifted his head, his eyes bloodshot and tear-filled. “And oh God, that woman…her throat and eyes were torn out…her body was mutilated. I…” He hung his head in silence.
Sookie sat back down and allowed him to grieve. After a few minutes, he impatiently wiped the tears away with the heels of his hands and sighed.
“I look like a basket case now, huh? I suppose you’ll report my behavior to the judge.” He shook his head. “Deservedly so.”
Sookie scrutinized him. Here was a man on the edge, whose former life was completely shattered. All his riches, education, good looks, and reputation were meaningless here in jail.
She cleared her throat. “I’ll say that you became tearful during the evaluation but I will leave out the part where you grabbed my wrist…that’s with the understanding that you do not do that again. I’ll chalk it up once to emotional distress, but if it happens again I won’t hesitate to call the guards and note in my report that you are impulsive and aggressive.”
He gave her a weary nod and said, “Thanks. It won’t happen again.”
Sookie glanced at her watch. “Why don’t we call it a day? We can finish up tomorrow.” Since he had completed the cognitive tests so quickly (he was actually the fastest she had ever encountered), there actually wasn’t that much of the assessment left to complete.
“All right. I’ll be here and on time. I’m a captive audience, right?” He gave her a small, crooked smile that actually panged her heart.
She smiled back at him. “Yeah, right.” She stood and gestured for him to stand.
He rose up to his full height and reached out his hand to hers.
“It was nice to meet you, Dr. Stackhouse. Thanks for being so understanding.”
She hesitated for a second but then reached out and allowed her small hand to be engulfed by his. She immediately jumped from an electrical charge that shocked them both and hastily pulled her hand away.
“I’m going to call the guards to come get you, all right?” She turned quickly, her face flushing. She didn’t want him to see the effect he had on her.
Sam saw her come to the door and immediately stepped out of the guard station, talking into a walkie-talkie as he approached.
“You okay Dr. Stackhouse?” He looked worried when he took in her harried expression.
“Yeah, Sam. Everything’s fine. We’re just finishing up early for the day. I will come back tomorrow to complete the last part of the evaluation.”
Sam nodded his head and signaled to the guards who approached the exam room. Sookie stood to the side as they re-cuffed Eric.
He turned to her and softly said, “It was nice to meet you Dr. Stackhouse.”
She nodded and held his heated gaze briefly before answering. “See you tomorrow Mr. Northman.”
She turned and went back into the exam room to pack up as the guards escorted him back to his cell.
After she got home, she went straight to the bathroom, stripping down and stepping out of her suit, leaving it in a discarded heap on the floor. If she was able to, she always showered after a jail evaluation: a symbolic cleansing to wash away the sense that filth and doom were clinging to her. She cut the water on as hot as she could tolerate and hung her head under the spray while bracing both hands against the tile. As she let the hot water and steam do their magic, she reflected back on her strange day, focusing in on the handsome and strangely vulnerable inmate. There was something about him…
Suddenly, the thought occurred to her that Eric Northman could very well be innocent despite the damning evidence against him. It was gut instinct, just something she felt in her bones. Since she was a child, she had experienced precognitive flashes that often came true (such as in the case of her parents deaths). It had served her well as a psychologist, as she often had “insights” that were often on the mark. True, after all of her training, part of it was her knowledge of human behavior as well as her innate ability to empathize with others. But part of it was…something more? The empiricist in her snorted her disapproval while her spiritual side tapped her toe with her eyebrow raised.
With a herculean effort, she forced all thoughts of Eric Northman out of her mind. She finished her shower and dressed in her favorite old threadbare robe that Gran had given her years ago. She decided to stay in and relax given the high tension she had been under all day. She had a feeling she would need to be well rested for the second part of the evaluation tomorrow.
After rummaging in the kitchen for a few minutes, she decided to pour herself a glass of wine and make some microwave popcorn. She then went into the living room. She popped in one of her favorite movies into the dvd player (the 2002 version of “The Count of Monte Cristo”) and settled into the couch for the rest of the afternoon. After quickly finishing her wine she lay down and pulled her old knit throw over her legs. Before she knew it, she fell asleep right after the part where Dantes discovers he has been betrayed by his “friend” Mondego.
AN: Thanks for reading!