Unfinished Business: A story teaser

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Beth laughed to herself a bit nervously as she parked her car.  It wasn’t dawn yet, but she could see the foreshadowing along the horizon.  He had chosen a waterfront warehouse because it was…prosaic.  And he knew Beth would think so as well.  Unfinished business, That is what he had said on the phone, his accent thicker than she remembered.  Meeting him was probably not wise, but after all this time, curiosity had clouded her judgment.

What makes a sociopath exactly?  After reading several books and studying the subject at length, Beth still felt as if there was a crucial piece missing from her understanding.  Movie and television portrayals were so two-dimensional and predictable.  And one cannot interact with a television screen.  However, Eric was not only a sociopath but a highly intelligent one.  It was too good an opportunity to dismiss.  And despite the coldness in his voice on the few occasions when she had poked a bit too closely at the hornet’s nest, Beth felt certain he would not harm her….physically.  The other types of harm had already been done.

Eric wasn’t yet at the designated meeting place, but then she had known he would not be.  It was not in his nature to be the one waiting; that was Beth’s job.  It stung a bit, this knowledge that he again had her waiting, but she was not really surprised.  He would control the outcome. That would be essential.  Especially since Beth knew that her understanding of who he was – and wasn’t – had surprised him.  He did not like surprises.  She wasn’t certain how long he would have her wait, so she took out her iPod and placed one of the buds into her left ear.  And then, instinctively, Beth scrolled down to the song that made the most sense.

“Hello belle,” Beth heard the voice before she saw him.  He was standing casually at the corner of the warehouse, smiling just slightly.  And even though she knew to be guarded, she was struck again by his presence, and it surprised her.

He wasn’t all that intimidating or even overly handsome, objectively speaking.  About six feet tall, lean build, not muscular, his brown/gray hair cut very close and slightly receding.  His ever-present sunglasses were perched on his somewhat sharp nose.  Just the hint of unshaven jaw line, something he knew Beth liked.  And yet she always felt something in her heart drop to her stomach when she saw him.  For a moment – and only a moment – Beth felt that familiar Ping-Pong in her chest.  Then she remembered what had brought her here, and her gaze became as cool and detached as his was.

“Hello Eric, and my name is Beth.”  She walked past him into the empty warehouse and sat down on a discarded wooden box.  ”So why am I here again?”

Eric walked in and pulled an old folding table over next to her.  Leaning against it, he lit a cigarette.  For a few minutes, neither of them spoke.  Beth wrinkled her nose at the smell of the smoke even though he was polite enough to blow it away from her.  ”Ah yes,” he smiled, “You do not appreciate this habit.  I had forgotten.”  He dropped the cigarette onto the floor and extinguished it with the toe of his shoe.

“Very charming, as always,” Beth remarked.  ”But you didn’t forget.  And I have other places to be today.”

She saw the flash then.  That bit of ice from his eyes that managed to make Beth shudder for just a second or two before he recovered himself and smiled again.  He stood then and offered her his arm.  ”Walk with me.  The fog on the water is lovely.”

“Eric, I am not walking with you.  I am not riding with you.  I am only here out of curiosity.  You will say what you need to say, and I will go about my day….and my life.  And you will not be in it.  Neither will the rest of them.”

At this, his smile disappeared, and he grabbed Beth’s arm, pulling her up roughly to face him.  ”I am afraid that is not how this day will go for you, belle.  And as for the others, you have nothing to say to them, nor will you.  Because you will not be leaving this waterfront.”  He paused and chuckled a bit at her expression.  ”I’m disappointed, Beth, that you did not see this coming.  Did you really think that I would let you live?”

This is an opening for a long-ago abandoned work-in-progress about a charming sociopath who overplayed his hand in real life. Maybe one day I’ll finish it…

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