Everyman

“Hello, Ms Adina, please have a seat.”

“Thank you, Director Bennett.”

“Please, call me Graham.”

“Only if you call me Mallory.”

“Okay, Mallory. Tell me, is working for the CIA everything you thought it would be?”

“I don’t think I can answer that question in a meaningful way. I have no idea what I expected. My only life experience outside my parents home is college and I came here the week after graduating. I guess I thought, since with the CIA everything is secret, it would all be a surprise.”

“How long have you been with us?”

“Almost a year now.”

“And already supervising recruitment evaluations. That’s pretty quick, must have handled the surprises well.”

“I thought so until I got your email. I’m told being called into this office even once a year is too much.”

“Ouch. Blunt. I like that. Let me be direct as well. I have been hearing disturbing things about one of our recruits, I believe you call him the ‘Dissimulator’.”

“If by disturbing, you mean about half the evaluators think he should be imprisoned or disposed of, then yes there are disturbing things being said.”

“Why did you decide to nickname him the Dissimulator? My thesaurus tells me synonyms for dissimulation are feigning, concealment, and hypocrisy. My dictionary tells me dissimulate means to conceal one’s true motives, thoughts, etc., by some pretense. Sounds like the makings of a good spy to me.”

“Well, first of all, I didn’t come up with the nickname, but it certainly fits. He dissimulates as naturally as you breathe. He was essentially a different person to each of us as we interacted with him. Whatever we wanted him to be, he was. It’s hard to explain.”

“I must say I would have gone with ‘Everyman’ as a nickname, much catchier and I didn’t need to look it up in the dictionary. Why would this freak people out so much they suggest he be eliminated?”

“Oh, it’s not the dissimulation that makes some of us nervous. You’re right, that’s a useful ability for a spy.”

“Well, I see he scored 186 on an IQ test. That’s, what, the 99th percentile?”

“Actually, 99.9, and he scored a 1590 out a possible 1600 on his SATs.”

“So, he’s smarter than all of us. I still don’t get it. This file I’ve been given doesn’t have his full background. Fill in the holes for me.”

“Yes, Sir. I won’t have to consult any notes. He’s been a pet project for me.”

“So, a surprise then. That should be pleasing for you.”

“No, Sir. I’m firmly on the ‘put a bullet in his head’ side of the debate.”

“Give me facts. Leave out your opinions.”

“Yes, Sir. He’s 5-11, 185 pounds, medium build, wiry strength that belies his size and has reflexes quicker that any ever tested; some of the testers describe his reflexes as ‘supernatural’.

“His eyes are light brown so contact lenses can render them dark brown, light blue, or startlingly green with equal ease. His skin tone is light enough to appear Scandinavian with blond hair and dark enough to appear Middle Eastern with black hair.

“He’s so average looking it dumbfounds the senses; he’s taller than short and shorter than tall, thinner than stocky and thicker than slender. He’s an everyman, the guy about whom the bystander/witness says, ‘There was also another guy standing over there, but I can’t remember what he looked like.’

“His name, John Johnson, was given to him as a joke by his mother, a Texas whore.

“His background is like a description of a laboratory experiment in creating an operative for the clandestine service. He lived his first 5 years with various pimps and was mistreated in unspeakable ways. His mother eventually dropped him off at a Baptist church. They took him to Child Services where he was put into the foster care system. Since he had a knack for running away, he lived the next 13 years in 6 different states with 17 different foster families, learning the hard way to trust no one, ever.”

“Whoa, take a breath, Mallory. You weren’t kidding when you said he was your project, were you?”

“No, Sir. He scares the shit out of me. You want the rest of it?”

“Certainly. Continue.”

“He learned to adopt the accent of whatever new region he moved to and to emulate any accent after hearing it for only a few minutes. He was so extremely paranoid that any foreign languages commonly spoken around him he studied and learned so he knew what those around him were saying.

“His natural dissimulation gave him the ability to act commonly normal and friendly, so he would express interest in the language of a schoolmate and they would end up teaching him. He learned Spanish in Texas and Southern California, Japanese in San Jose, Cantonese in San Francisco, French in New Orleans.

“In high schools in three different states he took Italian, German, Russian, and French. The well-meaning French teacher his senior year encouraged him to take SAT tests and IQ tests in an attempt to earn a scholarship to a good school.

“With help from his teacher he was offered and accepted a scholarship to the University of Texas. He took Portuguese his freshman year, Mandarin his sophomore year, and Arabic his junior year which is what attracted our attention.”

“Take another breath, Mallory. Here, let me get you some water.”

“Thanks you, Sir. I don’t mean to obsess.”

“Drink this and take a moment.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Better?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Okay, now talk to me about your reservations. Why does he disturb you so much?”

“Well, Sir, he would obviously be most useful specializing in ‘wet work’, going into the most dangerous of situations with no oversight over methods, only expectations of results. The word autonomous comes to mind.

“Moral judgment comes into play, and the battery of psychological tests we administered found he is basically a sociopath; he went through exercises intended to exert tremendous emotional and psychological stress with barely a raised heartbeat.

“He has a moral code he lives by, but it is only his and comes from no one else. For example, he is extremely loyal to anyone who does him a favor. However, he has no qualms whatsoever about terminating a human life.”

“Okay, I get the picture. What about weaknesses?”

“He is heterosexual and his biggest fear — he thinks we don’t know — is a fear of intimacy with the opposite sex. The sexual act is no problem for him, he enjoys it and could use it as a tool in his work. But, deep in his soul where no others are allowed, he believes he is unworthy of love. Any woman who expresses interest in more than his body will be rejected, rudely if necessary.”

“That doesn’t seem too bad as weaknesses go.”

“Well, his biggest weakness, as far as his work was concerned, is associated with one of the facets of his own personal moral code. He can’t abide cruelty toward the helpless. Oddly, this man who has no problem with the God-like decision that another human being should die, can’t seem to walk away from the all-too-common situation in which a sadist is victimizing a helpless innocent. I am certain it will be this weakness to cause him to make a fatal mistake if we allow him in the field, Sir.”

10 years later

Hello, my name is Franziska Mueller. I am a native of Frankfurt, Germany and a fashion model. I have been asked by the police to write this. They wish me to detail the events of yesterday evening which occurred in the Library of the Hotel des Balances in Lucerne. They have asked me to write this twice, both in my native German and in English as well. I think they want this because they do not believe me and want to catch me in a lie. I keep telling them that the events happened very fast and were very confusing. I am telling the truth.

I was only at the reception because my agent asked me, and two other girls, to come “for the exposure”, as he put it. Everything was going just fine until I met the tall cruel man. I have since learned his name was Otto Sundstrom, but he only introduced himself to me as Otto. He had very cruel eyes and I wanted nothing to do with him the minute I met him. I have since learned also that he was the son of the Swedish businessman who was having the party, Alberik Sundstrom, but as I say, I did not know him before he approached me at the party.

When he came up to me and introduced himself I tried to politely excuse myself as though I saw someone I knew across the room, but he grabbed my arm and practically dragged me across the room. He kept telling me that I thought I was too good for him and that I had no idea how important he was. This part of the evening I remember very clearly. I am not lying about the rest because it happened very fast and is all very confusing, but this part I remember clearly. He said he was going to “teach me a lesson in manners”.

We were interrupted by a nice looking couple just arriving at the party and I thought I would be able to get away. But it was not to be. Otto said hello to a tall blonde he said was his sister and an American man she introduced as Eric. They shook hands but Otto told them we were “going to have some fun”, grabbed me by the back of the neck, and walked me toward the Library room. I know you don’t believe me but I am telling the truth and I remember this part clearly. His grip was very tight and it hurt a lot. It is only the part in the Library where it all happened so fast that I have trouble remembering clearly.

Once we were in the Library, he tried to kiss me and to paw at my breasts. When I declined his advances, he hit me. I remember this part clearly. He hit me twice and ripped my dress, saying how much “fun this was going to be”. That is when another man entered the Library whom I later learned was Alberik Sundstrom, Otto’s father. This is where my memory gets fuzzy, probably because he had hit me in the head but also because it all happened very fast and they spoke in a language I do not know. I have since learned it was Swedish but all I knew is I could not understand the words, only the emotions. I am telling the truth. I will say it as best as I can remember.

Alberik approached him and yelled at him, obviously angry he was abusing me. Otto yelled back at him and pulled a gun, what I think you call a pistol, from his pants. He pointed it at his father and they both screamed some more. Then Alberik picked up something — I think an ashtray — and hit Otto on the head. Otto fell back near the fireplace. He must have hit his head on it, I think. I am not sure as it all happened very fast. Alberik then seemed upset at what he had done and kneeled down next to his son. That is when I heard the gun go off and Alberik fell forward onto his son.

I screamed and I heard others outside the room screaming too. The police have kept asking me if there was anyone else in the room, but there was not. Then several people from the party ran into the room and began yelling and asking what happened. One called the police while another screamed for a doctor. The ambulance came and a doctor examined me and the police began to question me and asked me to write this. I am sorry that my memory is not more clear but it all happened so fast and is very confusing. That is the best I can remember. I am telling the truth.

~ ~ ~

Otto was enjoying himself immensely even before he met the incredibly beautiful German model. The latest deal he and his father had brokered with the Arabs was going to profit them handsomely, over 100 million in profit. This was the first deal Otto himself had setup and it was just the beginning. As soon as he has done a few more, it will be time for the old man to step aside. His father did not see it that way he was sure, but that would not matter. Otto felt invincible.

Then he met the incredibly beautiful German girl. She was small, maybe 5’ 3”, with gorgeous black hair and green eyes. She was quite possibly the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. When he approached her she tried to brush him off like she was too good for him.

“Please leave me alone, I am not interested. I am only here to work.”
What an infuriating statement. Who did she think she was? He grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her across the room to the entrance to the hall leading to the Cigar Room. They called it the Library now, but he knew it as the Cigar room. He had sat in it watching as his father brokered many deals.

“You think you are too good for me, slut? You are just a fancy whore, paid to prance around in that skimpy dress showing off you wares.”

“I am just a fashion model and this dress is what can be bought, not me!”

He slapped her lightly across the face. She was so small her head whipped around like he had really struck her hard. This was going to be so much fun. Then he was interrupted. It was his bitch of a sister, Annika. She had some guy on her arm dressed in a cheap suit, out of place in such an opulent setting. They had obviously seen him slap her and she wanted to interrupt, the bitch.

“Otto, this is Eric. Eric, this is Otto, my older brother.”

“Glad to meet you, Otto.”

The buffoon was American by the sound of his provential accent. He was the most unimposing and forgettable clown Otto had seen in a long time. This would be fun. As Otto took his hand he slipped his plan deep into the web of the American’s hand to gain leverage and began to squeeze. It had to hurt a lot but to the American’s credit he did not show it very much. But, the coward looked at the floor, obviously intimidated. Annika could really pick some losers. Otto let go of the American’s hand and grabbed Franziska by the back of the neck and applied enough pressure to cause pain and give him control.

“Sorry I can’t chat, we’re gonna go have some fun.”

He turned and led Franziska down the hall to the Cigar room. It was a large room, maybe 40 feet to a side, covered mostly in luxurious leather chairs with small tables used to hold ashtrays. All four walls were covered with bookshelves. There were a couple of massive desks in one corner used by the “librarians”.

When they entered he eased his grip on her neck and she immediately forgot her place. She began to ask him to leave her alone. This sheer gall she had. He struck her, this time with force. She fell against one of the desks, dazed and glassy-eyed. When he began feeling her tits, the crazy bitch still resisted. He struck her again and while she was dazed, ripped her fancy dress down the front and almost free of her body.

That was when he heard the door open. He turned to see the American buffoon enter the Library.

“Get the hell out of here or I’ll kick your ass, Yankee, this is not your business.”

As he advanced across the room smoothly, the American said, “I just needed to ask you a question.”

What an odd thing to say when challenged. While his brain was still trying to process it, the American became a blur and suddenly Otto could not breath. He put both hands to his throat but that did not help. His throat was on fire and he could not breath. The American put both hands over Otto’s ears. As Otto glanced up he looked into the coldest eyes he had ever seen. That was the last thing he saw.

~ ~ ~

John awoke that morning disconcerted and off balance. He and Annika were out very late and returned to a long night of love making. They were staying at the Hotel des Balances in beautiful Lucerne, Switzerland.

Annika — a beautiful Swedish blonde and daughter of a Swedish industrialist — was probably both the most beautiful and most intelligent woman he had ever known. She owned her own security analysis firm that specialized in digital security.

She was quiet and reserved. During the previous evening John noticed she never spoke first. She spoke with intelligence and insight when responding to anything he had said, but never initiated.

That was also true in their physical relationship. So many modern women were aggressive in bed, seeking the physical release of orgasm with abandon. Annika simply waited. She waited for him to touch her, and as he made the move toward contact, her obvious excitement exited him. Her heart beat faster, her breathing became ragged, and her skin was flushed a beautiful pink as she waited for his hand to arrive. Her feminine passiveness was so erotic that he moved his hand more and more slowly to drag the moment out. The love making was the best he has ever experienced, all initiated by him.

John was disturbed by the feelings she engendered within him for two reasons. First of all, he was unused to the deep feelings she caused. He was used to enjoying sex without emotional connection and this was something much more. Secondly, his mission would only be completed when her father was dead.

She did not even know his real name. She knew him as Eric. John worked for the CIA and had made Annika’s acquaintance solely for the purpose of getting close to her father.

When they awoke she had immediately started trying to convince him that they need not attend the reception which followed the $1000 a plate dinner her father was hosting that evening in the hotel’s magnificent Grand Ballroom.

John had only initiated the torrid two-week affair with Annika to get invited to the reception. He expected the security at the reception to be lax and her father’s death could be made to look like an accident.

She and John had what amounted to their first argument over it. For some reason, Annika was quite adamant they should skip the reception but John needed to attend to complete his mission so he acted hurt.
“I can’t believe you don’t want to go to the reception. You’re ashamed to be seen with me in front of all your rich friends.”

“That is not true. I just think it will be boring. Daddy won’t really care whether I’m there or not. He probably won’t even acknowledge my presence. It’s all business for him.”

“Maybe it’ll be boring for you but I’ve never been to anything like it. But if you’re ashamed to be seen with me…”

He actually felt bad about laying the guilt trip on her, and that bothered him a great deal. He had let her get inside his feelings.
“Oh, alright, we can go but please let’s not stay late.”

He was fairly sure that Annika knew that her father was an arms dealer. The man sold weapons of all types to the highest bidder, many of whom were terrorists. He had the feeling she hated her father but could not get out from under his thumb, but he could not broach the subject openly because he was supposed to just be an American businessman on vacation.

His feelings of letting things spiral out of control increased as he realized he now wanted to make sure the “accident” occurred in such a way that Annika did not realize he caused it. He should not be feeling these feelings, it made things unnecessarily complex.

As they entered the Grand Ballroom Annika suddenly jerked as if slapped. Her breath expelled forcefully and she veered to the left toward a couple standing near a side hallway. John had studied the plans of the building thoroughly and knew it led past a Library and then had a side corridor that went past some meeting rooms and rejoined the Grand Ballroom at the far corner.

The two people standing near the hallway were not getting along. The man had just slapped her lightly across the face. John tried to control his rising anger.

The man was tall, about 6’ 2”, and athletic. He had blonde hair and ice blue eyes just as Annika. When Annika called out to him it was obvious why they looked so much alike.

“Otto, I would like you to meet my new friend. Otto, this is Eric. Eric, this is Otto, my older brother.”

“Glad to meet you, Otto.”

John stuck out his hand. He was so angry it was hard not to stare at the creep, so he looked down and appeared as non-threatening as possible. Otto began to crush his hand. John stiffened his hand just enough to avoid damage and feigned humiliation.

“Sorry I can’t chat, Yankee, we’re gonna go have some fun.”

Otto grabbed the pretty girl he was abusing by the back of the neck and turned and led her down the hall toward the Library. John noticed the telltale bulge of a pistol riding in the waistband of Otto’s pants under the $2000 suit he was wearing. Most people would not have noticed, but John was not most people.

A plan began to form in John’s mind. Although he was wearing his Glock 9mm subcompact in the hidden holster riding over his crotch, it was not silenced and was only for emergencies. His plans had been to find an opportunity to dispatch Annika’s father with his hands in a way that looked like an accident. John was very skilled at such things. Now he thought he saw a better, more satisfying way.

Turning back to Annika, he said, “I know you don’t want to be here and you don’t want to introduce me to your father. Why don’t you go get us a drink and I’ll go introduce myself. I won’t even mention I know you.”

“OK, don’t be long. These people are incredibly boring.”

“I promise I won’t be long.”

As soon as he was convinced she was not going to look back, he turned and swiftly made his way to the Library. When he entered, Otto was across the room and had the girl pinned against a huge desk. Her dress was in tatters. Otto turned toward him, obviously upset by the interruption.

“Get the hell out of here or I’ll kick your ass, Yankee, this is not your business.”

John kept his weight on the balls of his feet and his center of gravity low and tried to appear as harmless as possible. He was almost within range. He wanted Otto to be thinking, not acting, so he said the first innocuous thing that entered his mind.

“I just needed to ask you a question.”

Otto looked confused by the question. John made a wedge fist and drove the point of his wedged knuckles into Otto’s larynx with enough force that he felt it collapse. Otto looked very surprised and grabbed his throat with both hands. John put both hands over Otto’s ears, stepped close for leverage, and looked into Otto’s eyes as he twisted violently. Otto’s neck snapped like a twig and he went limp.

As Otto was beginning to fall John grabbed a big green ashtray from the table to his right and smashed it into Otto’s temple. Otto had fallen near a brick fireplace. John scooted him a couple of feet and placed him over the bricks. He grabbed Otto’s ears and smashed the back of his skull on the bricks.

He turned to the girl who was standing frozen, eyes as big as saucers. She stared at him like he was from another planet. Now for the tricky part of his plan. It depended upon her doing as he asked. First he needed to calm her down.

“What is your name?”

“Franziska.”

“You know I could get in trouble for helping you, right?”

She just nodded her head with a vacant look.

“Franziska, I am going to go get someone who can help us out of this mess. It’s important you do not move a muscle, just stand as you are. Can you do that for me?”

He received another vacant nod and turned and exited the Library through the back. Moving very swiftly, he ran down the hall past the meeting rooms and entered the Grand Ballroom in the back left corner. His luck was holding, he spotted Alberik Sundstrom only a few feet into the ballroom and he was just finishing a conversation with someone who was turning away. John rushed up to him and touched his elbow.

“Mr. Sundstrom, you don’t know me but I know your son and he has really messed up now.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“If you want to avoid embarrassment for both yourself and your son, you need to come to the Library and help me sort this out. Come alone and we can probably make this go away.”

John turned and moved very quickly, not running but getting away from Sundstrom as quickly as possible so no one would remember John being seen talking to him. John motioned with his hand for Sundstrom to follow as he disappeared into the hallway.

He ran back down the hallway and entered the Library. Franziska was standing just as he had left her. He moved to Otto’s body and knelt down. He reached under the body and removed the pistol from John’s waistband but did not pull it out so it was visible.

“Franziska, just stand there and don’t say a word and we’ll make it out of this just fine. You’re really handling this well.”

When Sundstrom entered the Library, John said, “He’s hurt and he’s asking for you.”

When Sundstrom knelt to look at his son, John pulled up the pistol and shot him twice in the heart. John then reached under the collapsed body of the arms dealer and put the gun into the hand of Otto. He only had seconds before others arrived.

He stood and moved close to Franziska, drawing her eyes away from the horror she had just witnessed. Now her eyes had the expression of someone looking at someone from another planet who eats people.
“Franziska, I don’t have much time. You know I helped you and saved you from rape, right?”

“Y..Yes.”

“Here’s what I need you to do so we both get to walk away from here free. People will be rushing in here in a few seconds. You need to tell them Otto’s father tried to stop the rape and Otto shot him.
Say things happened fast and were very confusing. Stick to that, things happened very fast and were confusing. The police will ask you the same questions repeatedly, but you just say the details are fuzzy because things happened very fast and were very confusing. I’m counting on you for my freedom.”

Hearing a crowd approaching the Library, he bolted from the room and ran back past the meeting rooms to the Ballroom’s back corner. As he entered all the people were streaming toward the Library hallway at the front corner, heading toward the direction of the sound of the gunshots.

It appeared to have worked. It depended on Franziska being able to stick to her story. He slowly followed the crowd down the Library hallway and entered the Library.

An ambulance had already been called. Someone was calling the police. The crowd had pulled back to allow Annika access to the slain family, but she was not looking down at them. She was scanning the faces of the crowd.

She turned and saw him and stopped scanning. Her eyes bore into his. As he tried to put on the appropriate expression of horror and concern, her eyes stopped him. She knew! Her eyes were knowing, not accusatory but knowing, and they burned into his. He stood, helpless, unable to look away.

As the crowd turned to see what she was staring at, Annika exclaimed, “Eric, thank God you’re here”, and ran into his arms. She sobbed fake sobs and cried fake tears. John could not pull away. He was in deep trouble and he knew it, he could not walk away from her. These were uncharted waters.

~ ~ ~

Annika awoke that morning contented in a way she had never quite experienced. After returning from a late night out, she and Eric had a long night of love making. They were staying at the Hotel des Balances, one of the most luxurious hotels in Switzerland.

Eric was blonde with a neatly trimmed goatee. He we not as tall as many of the men she had been with, but he was tall enough. She was an excellent judge of people and he was quite the enigma.

She had noticed that he appeared to have contacts that changed his eye color. He appeared totally non-threatening but she knew different. She could not quite put her finger on how she knew, but there was no doubt in her mind that his past contained violence, perhaps military training.

Most men would be proud and show their strength, but Eric acted as though he was not strong. But the love making gave it away. She did her normal feminine passive waiting game and his response was unlike any man she had ever been with. His strength was intoxicating. The love making was patient and considered. It made her wet now just remembering.

She sensed that he was going to be trouble. His secretiveness was so pronounced she knew when he finally realized she saw through his charade it would not be a good moment for him. It scared her but she could not turn off that part of her that was so very perceptive to human nature.

She would let him come to her in his own time. She dearly hoped he would be able. She had genuine hope that it might happen because he was so incredibly strong. If ever there was a man who should be able to face his demons, it was Eric.

She had promised him that they would attend her father’s reception at the Grand Ballroom tonight, but now she didn’t want to go. On the surface it was because she wanted to spend more time with him, but the reality was she was nervous because of the way he insisted. Something was not quite right. She always knew these type things even if she could not quite define how she knew.

It led to their first fight, if it could be called that. He pretended that he was hurt because she thought him inferior. What nonsense, she knew he was pretending, but she couldn’t say that.

“I can’t believe you don’t want to go to the reception. You’re ashamed to be seen with me in front of all your rich friends.”

“That is not true. I just think it will be boring. Daddy won’t really care whether I’m there or not. He probably won’t even acknowledge my presence. It’s all business for him.”

“Maybe it’ll be boring for you but I’ve never been to anything like it. But if you’re ashamed to be seen with me…”

“Oh, alright, we can go but please let’s not stay late.”

She let it pass but she was worried. She was not ignorant about the business dealings of her father and now her brother, Otto. She knew they sold illegal firearms and explosives, even missiles, to very bad people. They were responsible for much of the world’s misery and it shamed her.

As they entered the Grand Ballroom Annika suddenly jerked as if slapped. Her breath expelled forcefully and she veered to the left toward a couple standing near a side hallway.

It was her brother Otto and a rather striking young woman. Otto was in true form, having just slapped the young woman. Her cheek was red with the shapes of Otto’s fingers.

Annika felt an increased tension in Eric’s demeanor, but saw no outward signs of it. She could sense an intense righteous anger from him although she was sure Otto just thought he was looking at a weakling.

“Otto, I would like you to meet my new friend. Otto, this is Eric. Eric, this is Otto, my older brother.”

“Glad to meet you, Otto.”

They shook hands. Eric would not look at Otto. Otto was oblivious to the obvious danger that Annika felt. He wasn’t in the mood to visit with his little sister and her unimpressive new friend.

“Sorry I can’t chat, we’re gonna go have some fun.”

Otto grabbed the pretty girl by the back of the neck, turned, and led her down the hall.

Eric looked at Annika and said, “I know you don’t want to be here and you don’t want to introduce me to your father. Why don’t you go get us a drink and I’ll go introduce myself. I won’t mention I even know you.”

“OK, don’t be long. These people are incredibly boring.”

“I promise I won’t be long.”

As Annika made her way toward the bar she looked for her father but couldn’t locate him. She ordered a martini and surveyed the crowd. They were the elite, the privileged. They made her skin crawl.

They epitomized everything she hated about her brother and her father. In their minds these people did not have to justify the fact that they were superior to the rest of humanity, they just accepted that they were. To them it was obvious. She had an uncanny ability to read people and she knew that Eric was from a humble background and he was twice the man of anyone in this room.

She spotted her father across the room sucking up to someone. Her father had that fake plastic smile he wore when he wanted to curry favor from someone.

She could barely see him as she was having to look past a thick white column that supported the building. She felt like a peeping Tom and was about to start toward her father when Eric appeared as if from nowhere and touched her father’s elbow.

Eric did not shake hands or condescend to pleasantries. He just spoke crisply and quickly and walked away hurriedly. Her father frowned and followed. This could not be good. She began to move back the way she had come looking for Eric.

Two gunshots rang out. Two quick back to back reports that filled the room and shocked it to silence. This could not be a coincidence. She was frozen in place fearing for Eric’s safety.

Some people from the corner nearest the main door began to say, “over here” and the crowd began moving that direction. As she approached the Library she could see many people muttering “Sundstrom” and sneaking guilty looks here way, but they would not maintain eye contact as though it would be too intimate.

What she saw when she entered the Library literally took her breath away. She could not draw a breath. She felt light-headed.

She approached the bodies of her father and brother. There was quite a bit of blood spreading from them. A guest, assumably a doctor, was checking them both for a pulse.

She realized that she was not overly upset. Two of the world’s most worthless human beings were dead. The fact that were her kin did not make them nice or valuable to society and did not make her sad.
She found herself only concerned for Eric. Was he safe? Had he gotten away after doing this? There was zero doubt in her mind he was responsible. Her instincts had never failed her and right now they were screaming.

She scanned the faces of the crowd but did not see him. Of course, he would have managed to come in last she realized and turned to discover his face near the door.

Her eyes bore into his. He was trying to make appropriate expressions of shock and grief, but she saw through it. He could see that she knew and she was glad that he could see it.

She suddenly realized that her stare would blow his cover, make him vulnerable. She was being childish, wanting him to know she knew. As the crowd turned to see what she was staring at, Annika exclaimed, “Eric, thank God you’re here”, and ran into his arms. She sobbed fake sobs and cried fake tears. She was very convincing.

She wasn’t sure what the future held for the two of them, but two thoughts crossed her mind as she cried her crocodile tears. First, her father was worth upwards of a billion dollars and Otto was the main heir with Annika only getting what was left over. She was going to be very rich! Secondly, she wanted whatever came in the future to include Eric. This was going to be tricky.

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