Author's Note: I will never cease to be amused that at the Ka-Bar Knives website, they have three sections: hunting/sporting knives, all-purpose/utility knives, and military/tactical knives. "Military/tactical" meaning, of course, "stabbing people." Also, this was written for my friend, worthless-hope (LJ).
Disclaimer: I do not own Red Eye.
In the Kitchen with a Killer
Every so often, Lisa caught glimpses of Jackson Rippner.
Waiting for her non-fat vanilla latte, she thought she saw him duck into the men's restroom. She paused, pulse racing and nails pressing crescents into her palms. She sat down and watched for him, while her coffee cooled and a thin film formed on the top. An hour later, men kept going in and coming out, but none of them were Jackson. Lisa gave her cold coffee to a homeless man as she rushed to her car.
Walking to the video store two blocks away, in broad daylight and surrounded by old couples with their dogs and young people bobbing their heads to inaudible music, she thought she saw his reflection in the side-door mirror of a passing Mazda. She spun on her heel, fist shoved into her purse, pepper spray in hand in an instant. A boy, no older than seventeen, gave her an odd look as he passed. Lisa waited there, and waited, and waited… and called a taxi to drive her home, rather than risk the eight minute walk.
At a baseball game with Cynthia and her boyfriend, she thought she saw him handing cash to a hotdog vendor. Grocery shopping, she thought she saw him scrutinizing the rack of cheap wine. In the doctor's office, bleary-eyed and coughing into her sleeve, she thought she saw him drive by.
Lisa was growing more and more tired of thinking she saw Jackson. It was like a horror movie: the shock was nothing without the endless build-up of suspense. With each almost encounter, her nerves wound tighter into a hard pressed spring, and her frustration and anger at the tiny little flutter of thrill in her stomach had her wanting to throw up.
So one night, she left her door unlocked.
She waited in the kitchen with a cup of coffee and a knife, a gun hidden safely in the nearest cupboard. She drummed her fingers along the wood, only stopping when the pads of her fingertips ached, or when she was drumming so loudly she thought she might drown out the creak of the door opening. When her cup was empty, she filled it, and drank until it was empty again. She never slept, and he never came.
Lisa couldn't stay up every night. She had a job and a life, one she wouldn't let a fear (or anticipation) of Jackson destroy. She unlocked her door on Saturday nights and Saturday nights only, with a fresh pot of coffee brewed, and a knife by her side that she'd never used.
On the fourth Saturday, her head was propped up limply by her hand, her coffee cup freshly refilled. Her eyelids drooped, sticky and dry from too many hours awake. Then the door creaked and they shot open, Lisa's hand moving with a finesse she didn't know she had while her blood was pumping like a fucked up, tuneless symphony in her head, to grasp the knife.
When he entered the room, she stood very slowly. Lisa didn't tremble or shake. The knife was at her side, in the white-knuckled embrace of her fingers.
She hadn't been mistaken. She'd seen him. His hair was the same chocolate brown, his ice chip eyes unforgettably piercing. He was wearing a dark suit, open at the collar to reveal his throat, and a small circle of raised, pale flesh – a scar.
"Took you long enough," she forced out, hardening her voice to the same steel as the blade in her hand.
Jackson smirked. "Your invitation had me musing a while. You know I don't actually need one."
She stared at him, accusing, able to tell he hadn't finished his thought.
He went on, apparently amused that she could still read him after so much time, "Though it was certainly an interesting variable. I know what you're thinking. Would I have come in sooner, or later? Would I have killed you already? Would I have offered you the dignity of a conversation, or crept under your covers while you were asleep and slit your throat?" She ran her thumb along the sleek black handle of the knife; Jackson's eyes followed the movement, darkening ominously like ocean water over a drop-off. The smirk stayed as he continued fancifully, lowly, "Or would I have preferred to hear you scream?"
"You don't know what I'm thinking," she said, observing him again. She was calm but coiled to spring, with shoulders squared and nails at the ready to gouge out his eyes, while he stood there, hands in his pockets, the picture of gentlemanly ease – another perfect mask of his, to hide his assassin's instinct. "I'm not thinking about how you'd kill me. I'm thinking you would have done it already."
Jackson shook his head, laughing lightly. "Just because I like to play with my food doesn't mean I won't eat it after."
"If you kill me," she said slowly, with a mocking intonation, "who are you going to stalk? Who will you watch order coffee and rent movies? Who will live out the completely mundane life of someone who isn't a monster?"
His expression didn't crumble, but shifted quickly from predatory flirtation to annoyance.
"Lots of other people have lives just as boring as yours," he said evenly. "There's plenty out there for me to watch."
"But who's going to watch you back?"
Her lips split into a grin as his expression dropped another notch toward furious. Jackson wasn't as complicated as he liked to think he was, or as untouchable. He wasn't a complete sociopath by design – he still had tattered, worn shreds of humanity in him. Not enough to remake him, but enough to pull on, enough to make him uncomfortable.
After an unsteady, crackling pause he said, his voice a gravelly and frighteningly familiar murmur, "Don't blink. Blink and I just might be behind you with my fingers wrapped around yours, forcing that perfectly good Ka-Bar into your throat." The darker his tone grew, the clearer it became: the rasp in his voice, the memory of pens and silk scarves clinging stubbornly to every word. "I don't think that's a road you want to go down again, Lisa."
Her eyes narrowed, locked on his. Her hand had grown numb, an empty sensation filling her wrist and arm. The handle was imprinted into her palm and her bones were sore. Glaring at him, she tightened her grip on the knife… and closed her eyes.
The span of two rapid heartbeats went by, and when she opened her eyes, she drew in a harsh breath and forced herself not to stumble back. His face was inches from hers, challenging but unintrusive. His hands were out of his pockets but his fingers hadn't curled into fists; he didn't look ready to strike.
Lisa eyed him with curiosity and simmering hatred, and he appeared a maelstrom of things: frustrated, furious, regretful. Lisa didn't move away from him, or raise the knife to force space between them. She stayed absolutely still and waited, as she'd become very adept at doing.
They stood there while her heart thundered on, louder than the sound of her breath mixing with his, until she had to break the cacophony.
"I don't think you want to kill me," she said, then corrected herself, "I don't think you can."
His lips flattened into a firm line, his jaw locking. He looked menacing. His voice was low, as though they were sharing another dangerous secret, like in the airplane restroom. "What alternative do you suggest then, Lisa?"
She watched his jaw, watched a thin vein in his neck throb, lowered her eyes to speck of a scar she'd left that stretched inward, scratching his vocal cords. "I could… kill you."
"This goes both ways," he said, forcing her attention on his lips again, dragging her gaze back to his own. "If you could kill me, you would have. What do they call this? Stockholm syndrome?"
Lisa hadn't missed the hint of condescension and quickly countered with, "That's for the hostage. For the captor, it's just sick."
He'd stepped closer, or she had, and now she could smell the familiarity of her own hotel in his hair, see the Lux Atlantic pen tucked into the inside of his jacket – probably like he could smell her herbal shampoo, or see the dry ridges of her chapped lips. Lisa felt trapped in a terrifying moment of expectation and disgust, waiting for the thrumming in her veins to pull her up to kiss him, or the violence in his to press her to the wall.
Instead, he turned away, straightening his jacket with an air of detached profession. Lisa felt played, dangled for amusement before tossed back into the water with a gaping, bloody hole in her cheek – when he glanced back at her, and she saw on his face a sliver of apprehension.
"Next Saturday," he said shortly. "And I'll have a key. Don't leave the door unlocked." He cast her an arrogant grin, the falsest she'd ever seen. "You never know what kind of psychopaths might come in uninvited."