Chapter 37: A Cry in the Dark

ch37_BotP

“I don’t want you to do this,” Sookie said firmly.

“I know,” Eric said for the thousandth time. “I don’t want to do it either, but I have to.” He sighed. “I could be wrong—you know? This feeling that I have—it could be nothing. Grace could be sincere.”

Sookie shook her head. “Or she could be baiting you with promises of acceptance; it could be some kind of trap—emotional or otherwise,” she said, stroking his cheek with her fingers.

“I know,” he said.

The couple was a block and a half from the home that had belonged to the Northman family since the 1880s. Agent Batanya had given them a moment of privacy in the back of the FBI van that was acting as the command center for the operation that was about to occur.

As a precaution, Eric had already been fitted with a wire and a bulletproof vest. When he’d gotten off the phone with his grandmother the night before, he’d been hopeful for a reconciliation. However, he’d woken up during the early hours of the morning due to Johan’s loud crying and yelling. His son had never cried like that before—never. It had taken Eric more than two hours to calm him down—so long that he’d thought about calling the doctor. However, Johan had had no fever.

He’d seemed physically fine. If anything, it seemed as if the tiny child had been awoken by a nightmare. As Eric had walked him around the house over and over again, his own mind had revisited his phone conversation with his grandmother. And as he’d replayed it again and again, something began to nag at him: possibility.

Appius used to lure him in—to control him—with the possibility of love and acceptance. And Eric had always gravitated toward that possibility like a moth to a flame. Could Grace be doing the same thing? Could she be trying to manipulate him—to hurt him emotionally and/or physically? Could her promises of reconciliation and love be as toxic as his father’s had been? Could she be as lethal—as suicidal or as homicidal—as he had been in the end?

Or was she being sincere?

He sighed. His grandmother had spent years showing him nothing but coldness and derision. He wanted to believe—desperately wanted to believe—that she was contrite.

And that she loved him.

However, as he worked to calm Johan, he recalled his own recent nightmares, which involved memories of his father holding his child and his wife at gunpoint. They involved searing pain from gunshot wounds tearing through his flesh—tearing through their flesh.

By the time Johan had settled down, Eric knew two things for sure. First, he was going to give Grace a chance—even though she didn’t deserve his forgiveness. He needed to do it for himself more than for her. Second, he didn’t trust Grace; he wouldn’t trust her.

For hours after the child had finally drifted back to sleep, Eric had held Johan in the rocking chair he’d built with his own hands.

And he’d let his mind drift.

The previous Sunday—the day after the NP party—he and Sookie had visited the MET. Since Bill had been spotted in the area the night before, they’d left Johan with Mormor and Niall, who were still staying with Claudine. But they’d not wanted to skip their Sunday, and they’d slipped into the museum unseen thanks to Ben. Miranda had shadowed them, and Ben had sent a guard to do the same.

Their gallery for the week had been number 231, which was full of Japanese art, including many prints.

Gallery 231
Gallery 231

Eric had liked the clear lines of the art, while Sookie had enjoyed the whimsical nature of some of the pieces. Their favorite piece had been “Various Moths and Butterflies,” a woodblock print by Kubo Shunman.

Various Moths and Butterflies by Kubo Shunman
Various Moths and Butterflies by Kubo Shunman

Since they didn’t want to risk being out in the open in the park, Ben had let them eat lunch in an empty gallery, where they shared what they knew about the differences between moths and butterflies. Sookie knew that moths tended to be nocturnal, while butterflies were diurnal, meaning that they were active during the day. Eric knew that moths tended to spread their wings while at rest, while butterflies normally rested with their wings folded together. Using their phones, they’d read more about the differences between moths and butterflies. Sookie had giggled when Eric told her that he thought she was a butterfly, while he was a moth.

Sitting with Johan and looking out the window toward the Hudson, Eric felt acutely like a moth. He’d always left his wings open—left himself exposed to the volleys of his enemies. And Grace had been his enemy—just as much as Appius had—for more than a quarter of a century.

Had she stopped being an enemy? Eric realized it didn’t matter.

Regardless of Grace’s motives, it was time for him to close his wings—to protect himself and to enfold his family in safety. It was time for him to snuff out the flame, instead of to touch it.

That realization had led him to call Kate Batanya at 4:00 a.m., and that call had led Sookie and him to where they were now.

Sookie squeezed his hand. “I don’t want you to go in there,” she reiterated. “I can’t lose you.”

He sighed and laid his hand against her cheek. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen. But this all needs to end—one way or another. I don’t want us to be afraid for the rest of our lives. I don’t want Bill Compton to hang over us like a specter. And if my grandmother is helping him—though God knows I hope she’s not—then that needs to end too.”

“I almost lost you once,” Sookie whispered. “I won’t do it again. I can’t.”

“That’s why I have this on,” Eric said, tapping the vest that was concealed under his suit. “And that’s why Kate has agents watching the house from all angles.”

“I know, but,” Sookie stopped for a moment and stifled a sob, “what if Grace does something to hurt you before Kate can get inside? I need you. Our son needs you.”

“And you’ll have me,” Eric promised. “Anyway, this might be much ado about nothing—just my overactive imagination.”

Sookie shook her head. “I don’t think that’s true.”

“I don’t either,” he admitted. “The only thing that’s been too good to be true in my life is sitting in front of me.”

Sookie leaned forward and kissed him as if it might be the last time she would ever see him.

For a fleeting moment, Eric wondered if it would be. When they finally pulled away from each other, he just looked at her, wondering if he should take the risk at all. But seeing his wife’s beautiful face looking at him with fear-filled eyes, he knew that the risk was worth taking. Whatever happened to him, he needed to be assured of one thing: that neither Grace nor Bill nor anyone else could purposely harm Sookie—or their child.

Eric closed his eyes. Grace had wanted him to bring Johan. Thus, if harm was her intent, then his tiny son had been one of her targets. And if that was the case, then Eric was determined to take the bitch out of the equation once and for all! Or—if Grace had, indeed, changed her ways—then he owed it to his child to heal the remaining rifts in their family.

“I’m going to be okay,” he promised his wife, trying to will truth into his words. “Miranda and Milos are going in there with me, and Kate will be only a heartbeat away.”

Sookie pulled his hand over her own heart. “You aren’t a heartbeat away from me, Eric,” she said. “My heart is you.”

“As you are mine,” he whispered, placing her other hand over his heart. “It will be okay, Sookie. I’m not going to leave you or Johan.”

“Okay,” she whimpered. “Just be careful, and if your phone buzzes,” she started.

“I’ll duck and cover,” he said, trying to smirk.

“You’d better,” she ordered.

“I will.”

As Eric left the van, Sookie closed her eyes and prayed that no lives would be lost—that Eric would be safe. That Grace was telling the truth and meant them no harm.

She had no way of knowing that it was already too late for God to answer her first prayer. And—in mere moments—her second prayer would be denied too, for Grace did mean him harm and her husband would be anything but safe.


There were 86,400 seconds in a day—86,400 moments in which a life could be taken. On Tuesday, January 14, 2014, six entwined individuals took lives. Two killed out of loyalty. One killed out of duty. Two were motivated to kill out of hatred. And one killed for love. However, no matter how pure or impure the motive, it didn’t change the fact that six people stopped breathing that crisp January day.

The first died at second number 57,900.

The second was lost at second number 65,460.

The next was gunned down at second number 65,463.

Another died at second number 65,821.

The fifth was killed at second number 65,890.

And the last fell dead onto the cold marble floor of Grace Northman’s foyer at second number 65,941.


A/N: Well, dear readers, things are about to come to a head in this story. And—yes—you read that last part correctly. Before I’m done, six people will have been killed. Care to guess who will die? And who will kill them?

Hmmm?

LONG RANT ALERT! I got quite a few “guest” reviews after the last chapter. More than one person indicated that if I let Eric get hurt in the confrontation with Grace, they would stop reading. Part of me “gets” this inclination. I know that Eric’s already had to survive the violence of his father, but I would hope that people who’d read for 2 parts, plus 37 chapters of the 3rd, would go ahead and finish—would give me the benefit of the doubt that I have a satisfactory ending in mind—since there are only 3 more chapters + an epilogue. But your choice to read is always that—yours. And I respect that.

Much more head-scratching for me were the TEN LONG anonymous reviews (probably written by the same person) which condemned Eric for being a “pussy” and me for “de-balling” the character of Eric worse than Charlaine Harris ever had. This reviewer also shared that he/she couldn’t believe that he/she had continued reading this “never-ending” story for this long. Again, you are the one choosing to read, so you’ll get no pity from me on that point. LOL! What I will argue about is the notion that Eric is somehow weak because he wants love from his grandmother. Geez! We ALL know that Grace, even if she were being sincere, doesn’t deserve a chance to reconcile with Eric, but this is NOT for Grace. It’s for Eric. And in my world, the ability to forgive when forgiveness isn’t deserved is a sign of strength—not weakness. Is Eric weak because he wants his grandmother to love him? NO! I think he’s pretty brave! Moreover, in the last chapter we were witnessing Eric’s initial reaction to his grandmother’s call.

I know from personal experience that the first reaction of an adult who has survived childhood abuse is often to “go back” to the reaction felt as a child. As a child, Eric longed for love and acceptance. The adult Eric, who has been in therapy with Claudine and who has become a husband and father, STILL wants love and acceptance. But he’s also learned that he cannot sacrifice himself to get it! It just took him a while to get to that realization. As someone who was mentally abused as a kid, I can tell you that my “default” reaction to any kind of denigration is to “shrink until I feel two inches tall.” But then I take a moment to remember that the scars of my abuse can be just that—scars instead of open wounds. I take a moment to consider my response—to take all that I’ve learned about my strengths and weakness since my abuse ended. And then I remember that I can change my outlook and control my further reaction. But the initial reaction? Well—I’d imagine that many survivors of abuse can tell you that that’s hard to stifle or to change.

Anyway, we see in this chapter that Eric’s realized that caution with Grace is needed. To me, this is another sign of his strength—another sign that his recovery from his childhood abuse is still going strong. For those who still consider him at weak? I can only say that you and I have a VERY different definition of weakness—which is your right. But—please—stop with the dumbassery of anonymous reviews (unless—I suppose—that’s how you deal with your own anger issues). You are—at this point—writing in a vacuum. After reading a fraction of the first LONG diatribe, I deleted the subsequent ones after “recognizing the gist.” Your words aren’t going to see the light of day on ff.net. They have already been deleted. And, honestly, they aren’t flattering—for you.

RANT OVER,

Kat


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35 thoughts on “Chapter 37: A Cry in the Dark

  1. You tell ’em Kat! If they’ve bothered to read this far, why start having a go now! I know everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but there’s ways of putting it (and I don’t mean 10 differently worded versions of the same thing!!)

    Also I think people forget that each writer’s imagination is different, and it’s imagination that creates these wonderful stories. Perhaps your anonymous reviewer is just jealous their own imagination isn’t clever enough to come up with stories as good as yours……😉

    Personally, I’m loving this story; I was convinced there was more trouble to come and it looks like I was right 😪

  2. I have to say here that I am the worlds worst at leaving a review. I get too engrossed in the story and am too consumed with reading more that to stop and leave a comment derails my reading. That being said this story has made me laugh and sob (proper snot sobs!!(yeah nice!!). It has moments of total despair and yeah I have wanted to shake them both lol! I have enjoyed the cast of characters too – its made visualizing the characters easier as I am reading. To be honest I tend to comment when Bill meets a squishy horrid demise and then its Yay!!

    Can I leave a note to the “Guest” reviewers?? You are nasty insignificant trolls. If something offends you – STOP READING bugger off and find something else to moan at. I am not saying that if you are genuinely offended by something then you shouldn’t say anything, say something but it doesn’t have to be horrid. However, if you do, take the pills and Man the Eff up – sign in. Hey newsflash I have signed in but you STILL don’t know me!!
    Sorry Kat – I appreciate that this isn’t the forum for this and my rant is over but these people annoy the heck out of me, and too many of my favorite FF writers are being hounded by someone hiding behind a guest review and are taking it as a license to be nasty.

  3. First guest reviewers that are trolls suck Bills balls. I am not going to get this right Grace, Michelle, Bill and both Berts and the FBI agent. I think that Eric and Sookie have come a long way from their childhoods and are anything but weak. Eric showed this by being proactive before seeing his grandmother.

  4. I find Eric is getting stronger. He’s not just running over to his grandmother. He told Sookie and the FBI. So he is thinking before reacting. Little Johan was crying to let his dad think about it all. Is the baby a psychic?
    OMG 6 people. Hmm, Bill, Grace, The Butler guy. Some of the stake out cops maybe. Please not Eric or his friends.

  5. What a cliffie!
    Bill is hopefully dead ! Grace?The butler? some FBI agents?…I’m so anxious to know who died and exactly WHAT HAPPEN in that house!
    Looking forward for the next chapter

  6. That ended way too soon. We already know that Grace has ordered several people killed, including some who won’t be missed. I’m hoping Eric’s guards survive. I can guess who dies in Grace ‘ s foyer, but I’d rather not.

    It’s amazing to me when someone tries to dictate what an author writes. Only with modern communication has it been possible to have so much interaction with our favorite writers. Whether we like the way a story is going or not, we have no business telling a writer what to write. Hoping and guessing are okay though. Sorry you have to deal with reviewers like that.

  7. Curse you and your penchant for cliffhangers! 😛
    Great chapter as always though and I love how strong Eric is being ( you hear that trolls!)
    I will never understand anon trolls.If you don’t like a story stop reading or post some constructive criticism instead of acting like a spoilt brat who’s toys were pushed out of the pram!

  8. Your Erics always have a sensitive undertone that need a guarded exterior with good reason, which a lot of men often put up because of the intolerance like this guest reviewer expresses. There’s a lot more honour and pride to be found in forgiveness and understanding than the simple act of coldly eliminating a threat. An AH story needs that nuance to give it that humanity. What most people don’t understand about abuse is that the mental after effects carry far more impact and linger longer in the psyche than the moment in which it occurred. That is the debilitating effect that sufferers of abuse continue to carry long after the fact. Eric’s problems with Appius didn’t die with him, they will most likely continue to haunt him till he can fully reconcile with that past and accept his inability to change those events no matter how hard he tried. It’s a very understandable desire on his part that he sought to repair that relationship with Appius through Grace posthumously. The fact that he recognises the possibility of good and bad intentions on her part for which he took the necessary precautions shows how far he’s come and that is carrying him from strength to strength.

    It’s a sad thing to read and find you at the end of this person’s tirade. Like most things spoken in anger they reveal far more about the angered party than the one at the receiving end. This person obviously was triggered by something and instead of internalizing that and pulling their own lessons from that they targeted what they consider the source of that anger, but it belongs with them and really that’s where it should remain.

  9. 1. CK, YOU haven’t mase Eric a “pussy”. The reviewer has by their reaction and attitude. You have created a character, a person, some I recognise myself in. I was emotionally abused throughout my childhood so I understand Eric. The truth of the matter is, imo, Eric is actually a hell of a lot more emotionally healthy than he should be! Abused kids react one of two ways. They are become obsessed with finding love so seek it out in all the wrong places, eventually leading to abusive adult relationships and or drug / alcohol addictions. The second is they become extremely distrustful and have trouble letting anyone in. I am the latter unfortunately. Eric, is a wonderful abnomally. I’m loving that he is as strong as he is.

    2. I struggled very much with the angst but it was my choice to read. When it got to much, thats when I PM’d you. Opinions can be expressed without being rude.

    3. I Love this series now. Eric is amazing. Sookie is lovely. I wanna adopt mormor…… And I want to run Grace over with a bus, reverse then do it again.

    1. Eeep. Pardon the spellos. I should also mention within pint one that part of seeking out love can also end in the abused becoming the abuser. Eric is fricking awesome for trusting, loving and being as gentle as he is

      1. P.P.S. Ok, typing on an iPhone keyboard is killing my spelling heart. *sigh* Oh well. Hmmmmmm. 6 dead people?

        1. Bert #1
        2. Bert #2
        3. Michelle (coz the b**** probs couldn’t stay away and hopefully gets killed)
        4. Bill (coz he is a moron)
        5. Freyda (coz she also couldn’t stay away. Somehow escaped and made her way there).
        6. Nora (just coz)

        OR! Instead of Michelle, Jason. So the b**** can sit in jail mourning the one kid she did care about. But I hope not Jason. He’s a cruel p**** but away from his mother he may have a chance to get his head out of his butt

  10. OMG such a bad place to leave us!!!! Sigh, but I know the wait will be worth it. It always is in your stories.
    It’s sad that you have to deal with those readers who feel they can try to demean you but hide behind their opinions anonymously. Seriously, just don’t read it if you don’t like it! It’s not hard to close a story you don’t like especially since its a free story! It would be wrong even if they had paid for it

  11. Ok can we please have more!!!!!!! Love this story:). Let’s see who gets bumped off: grace, bill, Michelle, Jason, Kate, and Miranda?

  12. Goodness! Six to be sent out into eternity….. I was concerned over Eric’s happiness at seeing his grandmother; thinking he was so naive that her attitude would change so faster after the death of her son –a death she would have laid at Eric’s feet. But..he smartened up, got cautious and he has backup and is not taking Sookie or Johan with him. He’s not only confronting his grandmother, but confronting his demons; those that always screamed at him that he was not good enough to love. He’s taking a giant step into the unknown and it makes him anything but a “pussy”. Screw your “guest” reviewer and the horse she road in on……this is a dynamite story!
    Pat

  13. Great chapter. Very well done. Let’s see who stops breathing finally. My guess is both Berts, Bill, Grace, an FBI agent and the butler. Maybe Michelle but I think she will have to delt with separately.

  14. Write your story as you see it..I worked for someone who retired a few years. We got an “anonymous” complaint letter about our department (figured it was a disgruntled employee). He told everyone that unsigned complaints would be placed in file 13 (the trash can). I loved that. Anyone who isn’t willing to sign in before posting something like you described is a gutless wonder and not worth even thinking about. I will keep my fingers crossed that everyone we care about survives what is coming..

  15. When I got to the end of the chapter and realized you left us with the mother of all cliffies, I yelled, “WHAT???” The embarrassing part is that I’m in my SUV in the middle of a parking lot waiting for my daughter (sluggy) to finish her guitar lessons. LOL!

  16. Evil evil lady leaving a cliffie like that lol. Definitely can’t wait to read the next chapter. Loving this story.
    Some people really amaze me how they can sit there and criticize your story so harshly especially after they have followed this story for so long to start now. Seriously they need to get a life and if they believe the story is so bad stop reading, it’s really only common sense, but I guess bullies don’t really use common sense do they.
    I myself love everything you write and I just want to say thanks for giving up your time and sharing your stories with us.

  17. Okay sitting in the airport waiting for my flight. Read the chapter awesomeness.i don’t want to speculate who dies, just want 2 gone, bill and grace. Thanks for the great chapter as, always. Screw the guest reviewers. By the way an oops .you have them at the Met on a Saturday. You first mention Sunday then saturday. Sorry can’t work We and email at the Same time on my phone. Hugs Ky

  18. First: your stories are amazing!! Second: I´ll never understand why people try to manage other people´s lives. Keep writing, be happy!! And thank you for sharing this stories with us!!

  19. I will not understand grumpy anonymous reviews. If you don’t like it you have the option not to read. Don’t try to ruin if for everyone else. Constructive criticism is one thing but a diatribe about hating something you have read this far is ridiculous. You have no one to blame but yourself for continuing to read.

    As for the chapter – just a tad mean for leaving us there but you probably figured that already. I have my ideas and will be waiting to see how right or wrong I am. Do you know if we will get one more of this before you switch back?

  20. 2 Berts, Michelle, Bill, the butler & Grace. No more innocents should die for Appius’ lunacy. I don’t think Grace can be saved at this point.

    Although, the butler could probably be interchangeable with one of the FBI agents.

    Love it all! Let the haters hate!

  21. That was an awesome cliffy! And I hate cliffys so that is a big compliment! 😉 now I have this murder mystery pinging around in my brain and I’m constantly trying to figure out who and in what order they die.
    I love your writing. All of it. I will admit to leaving a couple of anonymous reviews early on in my reading of fanfiction but they were always nice. My momma taught me to not say anything at all if you didn’t have anything nice to say. Some people need to learn that. I love how your Erics have a gentle side and I think that makes they stronger not weaker. This particular eric has been through the ringer and has come out the other side with some scars that still need healing but he’s getting more confident and stronger all the time.
    Keep up the great work. Write for you and the rest of us here will just love on ya!

    1. My current guess is Michelle and then we next two are so close together I’m thinking the berts. Then I’m kinda at a loss as to what order. Maybe fbi then bill and I think grace is last. If you’re not counting Michelle in this cause she was killed offsite by the berts, or at least they were told to do that then my first guess changes to the butler. Of course I’m sure I’ll change my mind before you post the next chapter.

  22. Another Awesome chapter! I am glad that Eric got over his reaction of wanting to be loved and decided to protect himself and his family and alert the FBI.
    I love the length of your stories. I love the detail. That is one problem I have with some other stories, things are over to quickly for you to enjoy the characters and the problem solving and the actions everyone takes. I love the detail. That person must be one of the worst examples of the “want it now generation”. Well reviewer, did you ever hear the best things in life are worth waiting for? The build up adds to the enjoyment of the story? I just don’t get some people.

  23. Anonymous reviewers who post a bunch of hate are just cowards and you don’t need ’em. I love this story with all of its angst and love…it’s fantastic!

  24. Hmmm

    Possible killers. The Berts (loyalty & duty) and Bill (hatred) are on the schedule… Michelle could be other Hatred. I’m guessing there is a double up of motivations, as there were 7 reasons…. but doubling both Berts with loyalty and duty leaves me one short 😦

    Let’s not discount Grace herself (hatred), or her manservant (loyalty).

    Then again Duty could be why the agents get their guns out…

    And then the reason of love. Either Eric or Sookie.

    I know you have already written it, so here are my predictions. Some I’m confident in, others, not so much lol.

    16:06 Michelle kicks it – a Bert

    18:11 & 18:11:03 bodyguards and or Berts

    18:17 & 18:18 – I hope one of them is Compton.

    18:19 Struggle over the gun… Eric kills Grace

  25. wow, another awesome chapter!……hope grace is among the dead, she’s as evil as her son was!…….as for the ‘guest reviewer’ i believe this problem could be dealt with very easily by ‘wordpress’ – they should simply disallow anyone making anonymous comments…..more importantly – thank you for sharing your talent, can’t wait for more! x

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