WARNING: This story contains references to drug abuse, prostitution and human traffiking.
Chapter one – Missing Persons
I sat with my coffee at Franklin’s bean grinder. It was Pam’s favourite java hut and she always insisted on meeting me here. I played with the end of my blonde pigtail as I waited, noticing a dark haired man a few table away giving me the eye. I crossed my arms and turned a little in my chair so I was looking out of the window, I was aware that I was pretty and understood his attentions. My curves earned me many a whistle and cat-call from construction workers but today I wasn’t interested in any level of flirtation. Today I was worried sick. I replayed the voicemail from Pam in my head.
Sookie, I think I’m in trouble. Meet me at Franklin’s, 11am, I have to go now but hopefully I’ll be able to make it before … I’ll see you later.
I checked my watch for the hundredth time. 10.45 am. I tried to settle down and drink my coffee, but every time the door opened my heart leapt into my throat. Pam Ravenscroft-Compton was always calm, cool and collected. She was never scared and she sounded terrified in the message she left me, that was enough for me to realise that when she said she was in trouble – it was big trouble. I wracked my brain, wondering what on earth she could have gotten herself into. I hadn’t seen much of her the past few months; she was spending a lot more time with her husband, Bill. I started to think maybe Bill was the one who had gotten her into something. But that was ridiculous; Bill was the most normal, nice guy you could ever meet. And he loved Pam dearly. I was pulled out of my musings with a jolt as a chair at my table scraped across the floor.
“Hi Sookie, what are you doing here?”
I looked up to find Eric Northman, Pam’s friend and business partner, settling next to me and signalling to one of the waitresses. His long blonde hair was pulled back neatly except for a few strands that fell forward as he folded his tall frame into the chair. Eric was a very handsome man, there were queues of women who went to their bar, Baldur’s Gate, every night hoping to catch his attention. They never did. I once asked Pam if he had a wife or girlfriend, ‘he doesn’t date’ was her cryptic reply.
“I’m meeting Pam, she left me a voicemail.”
Eric nodded. “Me too. Did she sound …”
“Scared? Yes, I’m worried about her Eric.”
Again he nodded as he ordered his coffee. We lapsed into a tense silence. I didn’t know Eric that well. I’d met him probably hundreds of times, but we never really chatted or spent time one on one trying to get to know each other. I could hear his foot tap under the table even though there wasn’t any music. The silence continued as Eric’s coffee was brought over and 11am came and went.
By the time 11.30 came along, both of us were too concerned to drink anything and spent the minutes shooting concerned glances at each other between calling her cell and calling the bar. Her cell was turned off and no-one at the bar had seen or heard from her in over 24 hours. Pam used punctuality as a tool of power, she was only late for those she disrespected and it was purposeful so they would know she disrespected them. She was never late for meeting either me or Eric.
“What should we do?”
I bit my lip and looked to Eric for guidance but he seemed just as lost as I was.
“Maybe we should call Bill?”
We both picked up our cell phones at the same time and smiled awkwardly; Eric gestured for me to make the call and slipped his cell back in the pocket of his jeans. I hit speed-dial 2 and after one ring it was picked up.
“No, Bill, its Sookie. Have you seen Pam? She was supposed to meet me for coffee but she hasn’t shown up.”
“No.” He sighed into the phone. “I haven’t really seen much of her these past few months, last night she went out and she hasn’t come back yet. She told me she was with you.”
“Oh. Eric is here too, we’re coming over. Something is very wrong here.”
Bill sounded distraught as I hung up. Pam told me she was spending time with Bill; she told Bill she was spending time with me. Who was it she was with when she was lying to us?
“Eric, Bill is worried too. We should go over there and try to work out what’s happening. Have you seen much of Pam recently?”
“Not really.” He shrugged. “She said she wanted to be with Bill, I assumed they were trying for a baby or something.”
“’Or something’ is right, she hasn’t been with Bill. She told him she was with me. Last night she went out and she hasn’t went back home.”
Eric’s eyes widened in fear and he followed me to my car without question. I broke the speed limit the whole way to the house where Pam and Bill lived. When we screeched to a halt in the driveway, Bill was pacing the porch. He walked quickly to us and was asking questions before we were able to exit the vehicle.
“Have you heard from her? When did you last see her? Do you know who she’s been with?”
He was wringing his hands and pacing until Eric grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him inside the house. In the tastefully decorated living room, we bounced questions back and forth but besides realising that neither Eric nor I had seen her in two weeks and that she had been going out every night to meet some mystery person, we were lost. Our next round of phone calls was to hospitals in the Shreveport area. None of them had admitted anyone of Pam’s name or description. Bill called the police despite Eric and me saying it was pointless. Sure enough, they wouldn’t file a missing person report until she had been gone for 3 days.
Whoever she had been hiding from us was the key to finding her; I could feel it in my bones. Eric watched as Bill and I searched every drawer, cupboard and box for an address book or anything that could point us in the right direction. When there was nowhere left to look, Bill collapsed on the floor, sobbing his heart out.
I went to him, offering comfort, but in return I was pushed away so hard I skidded across the polished wooden floor and banged my head on the nightstand. Eric rushed over and picked me up, I stood on shaky legs and rubbed at the spot on my head where a bump was sure to appear.
“What the fuck Bill? We’re all scared and worried, we need to stick together to find her!”
I tried to scream at him but my voice was so choked with emotion it came out as a croak. Bill stormed out with a ‘fuck you’ and left me and Eric in a storm of slammed doors and screeching tires. Despite wanting to collapse and cry, I let Eric guide me back out to my car. He climbed in the driver’s seat and held his hand out for my keys. We drove around for hours, trying to think of where Bill might have gone. He wasn’t at his office or at his sister, Lorena’s, house. Finally we went back to Bill and Pam’s. I could hear the phone ringing as I got out of the car and ran through the front door that we had left unlocked. Grabbing the handset from the cradle and almost dropping it in my haste.
“Hi this is Tracy from Mercy Hospital; I’m looking for Pam Ravenscroft-Compton.”
“She’s not here, we don’t know where she is and now we can’t find Bill either!”
“We’re currently trying to find a next of kin for Mr. Bill Compton. We’re working through the contacts on his cell phone right now but if you could perhaps give us a clue where to start we’d appreciate it.”
“His sister, Lorena Ball, she’s his only living relative.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“Wait! Why … why do you need a next of kin?”
“I’m sorry ma’am, I can’t tell you that.”
I hung up the phone and turned to Eric. “We need to get to Mercy Hospital; something terrible has happened to Bill.”
We scoured the house for a set of keys to lock up behind us, finding a spare set in a kitchen drawer. Again, Eric drove as we made our way into Shreveport. We passed Lorena’s Mercedes CLK in the parking lot of the Hospital and rushed to find our own space and get inside. None of the staff would help us; we weren’t family so they couldn’t tell us anything. We were resigned to sitting in the waiting area, keeping our eyes peeled for a glimpse of Lorena or even her husband, Russell. Finally I saw her, her eyes were red and puffy from crying and she held a tissue to her nose. I nudged Eric and we stood to make our way over to her.
“Oh Sookie! When you came to see me earlier I thought he’d just gone somewhere to calm down!”
“What happened, Lorena?” Eric’s deep voice was soft as he helped her into a nearby chair and knelt in front of her.
“The paramedics on the scene said it looked like he’d swerved to over-take but there was a truck coming down toward him. He … he’s dead and so is the driver of the car he tried to pass. The truck rolled as the driver tried to brake in time.”
The police came over and asked us questions about Bill, we told them everything. When Russell came to get Lorena, we decided it would be best if we left them to their grief. We had to find Pam, now more than ever. Whatever double life she was leading, the death of her husband would affect her enormously.
“We should check her office at the bar. She has a safe there, I have no idea what she keeps in it but she told me the combination in case anything happened to her.”
I nodded at Eric’s suggestion. “Let’s go.”
We were greeted by Ginger at Baldur’s Gate, she waved and smiled but her expression soon became worried as she saw Eric’s dishevelled and emotional state.
“Eric? Have you found Pam yet?”
“No, Ginger, we haven’t. Bill has been killed in a road accident; we need to find her as soon as possible.”
Ginger’s hand flew to her mouth and she gasped out an ‘oh no!’ as we headed down the corridor to Pam’s office. Once inside, I went to the desk while Eric took a painting from the wall and punched a series of numbers into the keypad. I searched through the drawers, pulling out notebooks and folders until my hand found something at the back of one. I pulled it out and stared at the cell phone. It wasn’t Pam’s regular phone. This one was disposable.
Eric stopped sifting through the papers he had brought out of the safe to look at what I’d found. He came to my side as I turned it on and pressed the keys. It was empty, no numbers and no texts. There were four received calls from a number I didn’t recognise. I didn’t need to look at Eric to know he was thinking the same thing as I was. I pressed the call button and put the phone on speaker.
The number you have dialled is no longer available. Please hang up and try another number.
I threw the phone across the room and fell into the chair that Pam spent so many hours in. Eric rubbed my back as I cried, it was a simple gesture from a man I didn’t really know, but it was as calming and tender as it would have been from someone I knew well. Once my tears dried, he went back to the pile of books and papers he’d retrieved from the safe. I watched as he tossed many items to the floor, but stopped when he opened a red, leather bound notebook.
“I fear I may have gotten myself into something very dangerous, so I have started this diary in an attempt to explain myself. If someone is reading this, then I am either dead or something much worse.”
My mouth gaped as Eric read out the first lines of the book. He held it out to me and I recognised Pam’s handwriting straight away. Oh, Pam, what on earth did you get involved with?