Chapter 29

I sat taking in the scene around me: the lovers attempting to touch each other through the Plexiglas, the addict twitching as his mother blithely chattered on, the wife with the screaming toddler on her lap yelling at the hapless asshole who could do nothing right. A moment later the seat in front of me was filled. I lifted the phone on the side of the wall and waited for him to do the same.

"Well, if it isn't the illustrious Professor Northman," Bill drawled.

"William," I acknowledged.

He was pale and drawn, and the faded denim of the prison's standard issue did nothing to improve how he looked. "To what do I owe the honor? Trouble in paradise? Need some advice as to how to properly handle Sookie?"

I snorted. There was no way he was going to get under my skin. I'd won. He'd lost. End of story. But, he was still trying to harass Sookie. I wouldn't allow it.

"Is that what you did? Handled her? You wouldn't know the first thing about how to handle a woman like Sookie."

I watched him grow agitated. "You stole her from me," he hissed.

"You never deserved her, and she was never yours to begin with," I snapped back. I took a deep breath. Getting into a pissing contest with Compton was not the reason I was there. "I want you to stop sending her those letters."

"She got my letters?" he asked, excitement plain on his face.

"No. Her publicist sees to it that they never get through the initial screening. But, she knows you send them. The police have to be kept up to date, as does your warden."

His face darkened, and when he spoke spittle gathered at the corners of his mouth. He looked like a rabid dog.

"You have no right to keep me from her," he ranted.

I really have no idea how he wasn't found insane at trial.

"William," I tried to be reasonable. Okay, maybe I wasn't really trying to be reasonable. "You're a convicted felon. What exactly about this situation screams 'Sookie, please take me back?' You're a smart man William, or you were." I tried to speak to his academic side—the side of him that made Niall choose him as a research assistant, the side that had impressed most of the faculty.

"I'm the smartest student you ever had, Professor."

"Except Sookie," I countered.

"That bitch couldn't hold a candle to me," he hissed.

"William, William, William, I just can't have you speaking about my wife like that."

His eyes grew dark.

"Yes, William, my wife. Not yours, mine. Mine to touch. Mine to kiss. Mine to fuck."

His hand slammed against the Plexiglas and a guard started forward. I held up my hand to let him know it was okay.

"I'm going to get out of here," he ranted. "I'm going to get out of here and I'm—"

"You aren't going to do a fucking thing, William. You are going to rot in here for the better part of your life." I stood up, preparing to leave. "Tell your new cell mate hello from me. And William? You will stop writing to her." I hung up and walked away ignoring him as he screamed soundlessly from behind the glass.

x x x

That blond motherfucker. He had stolen my life from me. I should have been the one to marry Sookie. She was mine. I should have been the one lauded for my academic prowess and publishing my work.


Instead that stupid bitch ran off with him. They were going to pay. I was going to get out and they were going to pay for what they did to me.

And that book she published?

How dare she write those things about me? Oh, sure now it was "Stephen" who was her first boyfriend and "Alex" who was the professor she fell in love with, but everyone knew it was me and Northman. And the things she wrote. I could kill her for those alone.

I'm not crazy. I'm not a misogynist. I love women. Sookie was just so difficult, and she wouldn't fucking listen. And she was a broken, used thing when I found her. She was lucky to have me even though she'd been used and couldn't even have children.

She was so beautiful and soft and . . . mine. And that fucking rich son-of-a-bitch stole her from me. He seduced her, while she was still his student! What kind of sick fuck does that? And that outfit she was wearing? Dressed like a school girl? And they say I'm the one with problems.

I'm the one who loved her. Me. I'm the one who taught her how to please a man. But Northman was reaping the benefits of my hard work. It wasn't right.

I made my way back to my cell, determined to write another letter to Sookie. Eventually one of them was bound to slip through to her. I wanted her to know how much I missed her, but also how angry I was with her. I was prepared to forgive her eventually, but she would need to be punished first. She would need to be punished a lot.

I walked into the cell and saw someone I didn't know lying on my bunk. The guy was huge. I mean body builder huge. His brown hair was in a long ponytail and he had a mean looking scar across his face that ended in his beard.

I'd learned that you had to stand up for yourself in prison. You had to stake claim to what was yours. My education had, ironically, saved me from some of the worst of the abuse that can come to a man in prison. I was helping several of the inmates learn how to read and get their high school diplomas. As a result, I had their protection, at least to some degree. Still, I decided to be firm.

"Who the fuck are you? And what are you doing on my bed?"

"I am Sigebert," he replied. His accent was strange. German perhaps? He eyed me up and down. "I am your new roommate."

x x x

I walked out of the prison and into the sunshine, and decided I would no longer concern myself with William Compton. I knew Sigebert would take care of matters.

Sigebert's parents had worked for my father's family back when my father was a child. Sigebert was a few years older than me. Although he was occasionally around when I was a child, when he left for the military, I didn't see him very often.

When I was about fourteen, he was visiting. My mother and I were at the park near the house, and a man accosted us. I learned when I was older that it was likely a kidnapping attempt, although that fact was kept from me when I was young. Sigebert had been walking to the house when he heard my mother's yells. He rushed over and before I knew it the man who had attacked us was pinned under Sigebert, blood pouring from his nose and a few other places.

For years after that, Sigebert was my hero. My parents also felt beholden to him after that day. After he left the military, he would occasionally work security for my parents when they had one of their parties or charity events. When I asked him why he left the army he told me that "don't ask, don't tell" really didn't work for him. I shrugged and told him it didn't matter to any of us.

"I know Little Norrman," he said with a grin. He'd always called me that, and while I would have bristled at the nickname from anyone else, it didn't bother me coming from Sigebert. Like I said, he'd been my childhood hero. He could call me anything he wanted.

Sigebert started to have problems with the law. A fight here. A drunk and disorderly there. However, given the service his parents had given my father for so many years, and the help Sigebert himself had given us, my parents were always there to bail him out and provide him with legal help.

Unfortunately, he finally got into the type of trouble even my parents' money and help couldn't get him out of, and he was spending twenty-five to life behind bars. The years in prison changed him, and I can't say I was proud of those changes. However, one thing remained true: his steadfast loyalty and love for my family.

When I saw him after my parents' deaths, he was devastated. And I won't lie, some of the things he said he would have done to Indira if she was still alive were . . . disconcerting, but I knew it came from a place of a pain. He absolutely adored my parents. Until the explosion they'd sent money every month for deposit in his prison account so he could buy cigarettes and whatever other sundries he needed, and after they died I continued to do so. I knew he would do anything I asked of him.

When I'd met with him the week before and told him everything, he was furious at Compton. Sigebert was a strange contradiction, and although violence and drugs had landed him in jail, he had a perverse sense of justice about people who abused women. He believed in an eye for an eye, so he had absolutely no qualms about my request to make sure Bill paid for what he'd done and, my demand that Bill stop sending letters to Sookie.

No qualms at all.

It took a few phone calls, and I was grateful for the various political connections my family name afforded me, but by the following week, Sigebert had been transferred to the same prison as Bill. That's why I'd gone to see him.

As I walked to the car waiting at the curb, I turned the ring on my finger and thought of Sookie. I knew she would never approve of what I'd done, but I would never regret it either. Bill Compton was a rabid dog and needed to be properly controlled if the authorities weren't going to put him down. I knew Sigebert was the right man to do that. Plus, I wanted a little payback, for myself and for Sookie. I wanted Bill to hurt in every way.

Maybe it made me a bad person, or maybe it just made me human. I wasn't going to get into a philosophical debate with myself. I slid into the car and told the driver to take me home, to my wife.

x x x

"Well 'roomie' you're on my bunk, so move," I snapped at him.

I never even saw the punch he leveled at me, and a moment later I was smashed against the wall, blows landing all over my body. "I hear you like to hit women," he snarled at me.

I spent a couple of days in the infirmary after that. Of course, I couldn't tell them what really happened, because that's just not how things were done. I vehemently denied being in a fight and insisted that I'd just fallen down some steps.

I was released at dinner and went directly to the cafeteria. As soon as I walked in the room went quiet. I saw Sigebert sitting at one end of a table, with the other men sitting well away from him. I looked toward the few men I'd considered "friends" or at least been able to count on for protection in the past, but they wouldn't even look at me, and closed ranks keeping their shoulders tight together, making sure there was no room for me to sit with them.

I looked at Sigebert and he just smiled at me, then resumed eating. I lost my appetite. I set my tray down and made my way back to my cell, praying that somehow, someway, Sigebert had been transferred. I walked in and saw his things still there, and it was obvious he'd begun to use my bunk.

I'd lain in the infirmary bed for two days mulling over Northman's visit and his parting words: "tell your new cell mate hello." I hadn't thought much of it when he said it, but I was certainly thinking about it as I lay there in pain. Northman had set it all up, and while I was furious that this had been done to me, I couldn't deny that I was also frightened by the fact that Northman could set something like that up, that he could reach into the justice system and move people about like pieces on a chess board.

I walked over to the small metal sink in the cell and splashed some water on my face, desperate to figure a way out of my predicament. I heard him come in, and the sound of the door slamming shut as we were locked down for the night. My hands gripped the sink tight and I was afraid to turn around.

I felt him come up behind me. Felt his breath against my neck and his chest against my back and my fingers gripped the sink even tighter. His hands covered mine and he pried them off the sink.

"No," I said, but I wished my voice didn't sound so scared.

"Is a word you know nothing about," he replied. "You thought she belonged to you. You thought you could do what you wanted to her. Now I'm going to teach you what it really means to belong to someone."

I never sat with my old "friends" again. Sigebert had staked his claim on me while I was in the infirmary. I was his in the eyes of everyone at the prison.

I never slept alone again.

I never hit anyone again. Well, there was the one time, but Sigebert made sure I understood the consequences if it happened again.

I never wrote another letter to Sookie.

I never even breathed her name again.