Disclaimer: Red Eye is not mine. I write this for fun, and because I can't get the idea out of my head.
There had been a part of her that always expected him to come back someday.
The feeling had been aided, of course, by the fact that Jackson Rippner never actually made it to trial. He had been taken to the hospital, alive—barely, but alive—and then one day, just before he was to be released into the hands of the law, he had simply disappeared. No one had been hurt or killed, oddly, and there had been officers on duty at the time. It was as if he'd just opened up a rift in space and stepped through, leaving nothing behind but an empty hospital bed and a half-eaten tray of food. The police were stumped, the FBI claimed they had no leads, and after a while, his presence in Lisa Reisert's life was reduced to seeing him on the occasional Post Office 'wanted' posters.
She had a breakdown shortly after her harrowing encounter with him, a few days into her emergency time off from work. At her father's insistence, she finally joined a group that supposedly helped victims of crimes deal with the trauma in their lives. She walked out during the third meeting, partly because she didn't think she was really cut out for group therapy, but mostly because she had an epiphany.
She had survived.
Not only that, but she had survived twice. First her rape—God, but it was hard in the beginning to even speak that word aloud—which had made her retreat into herself for two years, and then the fateful flight from Texas to Florida, seated beside a madman who threatened everything she loved.
So now, here she was, alive, whole, scarred but healing. She had gone home the night of that last support meeting and fixed dinner, eaten, turned on the television to watch whatever was on. Fifteen minutes into that, she broke down for the last time. Lisa wept loudly, angrily, unabashedly for the pain she'd suffered. For a solid hour she sobbed, drenching her sleeve and a throw pillow from the couch.
But when she was done, she was done. The movie was still on; she watched the rest of it without seeing or hearing. She would never be able to recall later just what it had been about, but she did come out of that night with a single thought:
She had won.
The next day, Lisa got up, took a shower, dressed comfortably, and called the hotel to announce that she was quitting. She would not, could not let herself fall into the old routine again, would not bow and scrape to abusive guests, would not deal with the myriad problems a highly-rated hotel managed to have, all while keeping a smile on her pretty face. That same day, she contacted Charles Keefe's office in Maryland and applied to work on his staff. He spoke with her himself and hired her before the end of the phone call.
It had been hard, leaving her father, her hometown, for the far colder, far older city of Annapolis. Still, she realized that she needed a true new start. Miami would simply not do. There were too many things that would remind her, weaken her, when what she really needed was a way to put it all behind her for good. Then, and only then, would she return to the place she'd been born, stronger, sturdier, more able to face her demons.
Two months passed, then five, then nine, then suddenly it was a year, two, three. Lisa returned to Miami from time to time, visited her father and had lunch with Cynthia, caught up with them and then went back to work up North. She turned twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty, spent her birthdays in different places, with different people; her father, her mother, her job.
That last birthday, it had been necessary for her to stay in Maryland. Keefe had become very popular in his time as Director of Homeland Security; somehow he had become nominated to run for President. His party supported him wholeheartedly, and he was usually found somewhere at the top of the pre-campaign polls as the top pick for the upcoming race. Lisa went from coordinating his office and staff to coordinating dinners, speeches, public appearances. She would smile to herself from time to time as her skills in hotel management were translated into soothing ruffled feathers of disgruntled lobbyists, visiting dignitaries who barely spoke English, and endless media personnel. Instead of draining her, however, she loved the job. She felt like her presence on the team of hundreds actually made a difference, both to Keefe and to the world. After all, she was coordinating the campaign for the race to America's highest office. His success would be her success.
In the years since her breakdown, Lisa ceased to think about Jackson Rippner entirely. Her life was too full, her work too busy, her time to precious to waste on self-pity and worry. In fact, she might have gone through the rest of her life without ever thinking about him again, save for one very big, very terrible event that threw a wrench into her new plans for her life.
Her father was found in his home, murdered.
Lisa came very close to losing it once more. Instead, she channeled her grief into anger, fury at the people who would do such a thing to such a good man. She allowed herself to cry, to be upset, but only for a moment. Once the police who had come to give her the bad news had left, she began to pace the floor of her living room, thinking of what she would have to do next.
She would need time off from work, that much was a given. She would fly down to Miami, meet her mother for the funeral, would have to go through his house—her house, she realized. The thought nearly sent her back over the edge into despair, and it was only by the strength of her will that she held it together.
As she packed, she went over things in her mind, her hands almost absently reaching into her closet and neatly folding her most somber clothes into her suitcase. Someone had murdered Joe Reisert quite deliberately; a single shot to the back of his head and a complete lack of any sign of struggle confirmed that he had been taken by surprise. It was the theory of the police that the killer was a professional. There were no traces of who it might have been.
And that was what brought her to think of the only killer she knew, the one who was still at large, the one she had forced from her mind for the past three years.
The phone rang, and she jumped. She recognized a little twang in her heart that it would not possibly be her father calling as he usually did, every day. Pushing down that piercing sadness and feeding it into the incinerator that was her fury, she crossed the room and picked up the handset.
She had barely drawn breath to say 'hello' when a voice she acutely remembered spoke first.
"I didn't do it, Leese."
Lisa felt her grip tighten on the phone as though it was his neck. "How dare you—"
"It wasn't me," he repeated calmly, interrupting her. His breath rasped, a reminder of what she'd done to him. "I didn't do it, Leese, but I know who did."
The fire in her heart flared, then cooled at his last statement. He seemed to be waiting patiently as she pulled herself back into shape, staring sightlessly at her own eyes in the mirror. "Why are you calling me, then?" she said at length. "If you're not guilty of it, why not just stay away?" To herself, she silently added, from me?
"Leese, Leese." He chuckled, and she hated him for gaining some perverse pleasure out of her ordeal. "Why don't you meet me in Miami? You are coming, aren't you? We'll get coffee, talk about old times, catch up, share info. Sound good?"
"I would rather—" she stopped herself. What if he was telling the truth?
He seemed to read her mind. In a graver tone, as if she'd struck a nerve, he said quietly, "I can't lie to you, Leese. Never have been able to manage it completely. I mean it." He took a long, wheezing breath and went on with more of his original smooth, cocksure tone. "You have caller ID; use it. Call me on this line when you get in, and we'll talk."
"You bastard, you—" She swore to herself. He had hung up before she could respond at all. Suddenly, she couldn't bear to look at the phone in her hand any longer, and she hurled it across the room. It hit the wall and the battery panel broke off, ricocheting in the opposite angle from the rest of the handset. Lisa remained where she was, seething, appalled that she might possibly need the help of someone she had worked so hard to forget.
Then her anger, too, was quenched. She had a flight to catch, a funeral to arrange and attend, and an adversary to meet. She retrieved the broken phone and replaced the battery cover, then checked the LED panel for the number he'd used. With it safely transferred to her cell phone, Lisa finished packing and forced herself to keep going.
After all, where else could she go but forward?