The Watchers 28

They didn’t make me do anything

            “Do you remember the last time we saw each other, Trina?” Liza asked.

            “Yeah, I think I do,” the woman said. “it was so long ago I started thinking it was all a dream before, but I remember when they took you away.” Liza nodded stone faced remembering that time.  

            “You were going away because you’d tried to set the house on fire again,” the woman asked. It was Liza’s turn to nod. “Why did you want to burn the house down?”

            “I didn’t,” Liza said smiling.

“But you said,” Trina frowned.

“Lies,” Liza said, “one of us had to go.”

            “You did it for me?” Trina sat shaking her head.

            “No, I didn’t have a choice, but here we are. It was for the best.” The women stared at each other through the glass. Both watched the other closely for similarities. They could be twins their similarities were so alike.

            “You think so?” Liza nodded her head. “Did you like your new home? Were they nice to you?”

Liza laughed but it sounded hollow. “Let’s put it this way. They fed me, they clothed me, and they kept a roof over my head. I guess you could call that nice.” After a long pause, “They taught me a lot. Some of it I could have done without, but it brought me to the real me.”

            “This,” Trina said gesturing to the box she was in, “this is the real you?”

            Liza nodded slowly.

            “Shit, and I thought I was fucked up,” Trina said but there was no laughter.

            “Yeah, well not everyone grows up with the Jefferson’s for parents living in a gingerbread house.”

             ‘What exactly do you do? Did they make you do?”

            “They didn’t make me do anything, not at first” Liza said standing. She walked to the glass placing both her hands on the coolness. “This is all me, baby- all me.”

            “You like to kill?”

Liza shrugged then took a few steps back to lean against the small table.

“Would you kill me?”

            Liza looked at her sister for several moments then shrugged. “I don’t know, it depends.”

            “Depends on what?”

            “It depends on if they told me to.”

“Do you do everything they tell you to do?”

“Pretty much,” Liza said. “Don’t look so shocked. You can’t really judge, can you now?”

“I’m on a TV show, I don’t kill people.”

“You kill minds, spirits,” Liza said walking closer to the glass. “Oh sister dear, you most definitely kill.”

“It’s not the same thing.”

“Isn’t it,” Liza said sighing. “Look sin is sin as far as I’m concerned. I may kill people, but I kill them to keep people safe. I kill, I lie, I cheat, I steal, to make sure that you can sit on your couch in your Ugg boots and designer clothes, watching a big box stuffing your face with a bag of Doritos. Now you tell me whose wrong. Because I can stop any time. How about you? What would you do to keep those you care about safe?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what are you willing to give up,” Liza said. “I’ve given up everything. My life is not mine and never has been. Free will? Poof, what is that? I’ve never had it. Now, Trina, what are you willing to give up?”

“I’M IN A BOX!”

“Yeah,” Liza said. “Well, so am I.”

“Liza,” Trina sobbed, “I’m sorry you had to go through what happened to you, but I can’t- I don’t know what you fucking want from me.”

“I want you to give a damn,” Liza yelled. “I want you to give a damn about your life, your sister’s life, hell your daughter’s life. How much do you want your life back because,” shed said walking behind the small table this time to sit down in the chair. “I kind of like your life. You know I was planning on taking it from the very beginning. Killing you, and walking right in. Boom. I was this close too,” Liza said pinching two fingers together until they almost touched. “But they found me.”

            “Who?”

            “They,” she said. “Believe me you don’t want to know. Once you know there is no unknowing. If I told you it wouldn’t be good for you.” The two women were silent for several minutes. Outside it was dark but there were no windows to tell it. Liza didn’t have much time left, but she lingered.

            “If you told me you’d have to kill me?” Trina smiled but it was a sad smile.

            “Something like that,” Liza said.

            “So what do I have to do to get out the box?” Trina asked.

Liza stood up and walked until her nose was nearly touching the glass.

             “You have to stop thinking like you, and start thinking like me.”

The Watchers 27

He made me this way

The light above the garage had been removed just as Liza had remembered. There were no street lights on this block. Liza had made sure of that too.

It made her comings and goings safer and more discreet. This was her first time returning since she’d moved in with the Davenports, but it looked like nothing had been changed. That was a good thing. Still she kept her guard up.

Using her key, Liza entered the back door. Once inside she didn’t bother to remain quiet. There wasn’t anyone inside the house to hear her anyway.

She made her way through the first floor of the house to the kitchen looking for any changes, but there were none. The backyard looked quiet and dark just as she’d left it. The lights were on a timer but she didn’t need to turn anything on anyway. The blinds remained closed at all times.

A car sat in the garage, but it hadn’t been driven. It was all for show- everything. The neighbors believed there was a family of three living in the house. Liza had gone through great pains to cultivate the family’s story. The family included a man and his wife and their college age daughter that was away more often than not. The truth was there was no couple only Liza, but she’d made sure that the neighbors had seen enough to believe the lie.

All of them had seen the family members enter the house at different times; however, they were always alone- never together. The parents were away a lot on business is what the neighbors thought.

Taking the flashlight, Liza headed to the front of the house making sure to lock the door behind her.  

Liza went upstairs to the master bedroom. she turned on the lamp and sat down at the table. The laptop was just how she’d left it. Logging in, immediately several square blocks showed up on the screen. Each gave a different view of the outside of the house. Liza pressed the space bar and another screen of blocks came up this one showed a picture of the backyard and the toolshed.  

Pressing the space bar several more times Liza found the room she’d been sleeping in at the Davenport’s. It was Trina’s room.  The room was dark but the covers were still arranged just as she’d left them as was the rest of the house. There were no monitors for the other bedrooms but there was one in the kitchen area above the fireplace.

Liza flipped back to the monitors of the safe house. She opened a square of the back yard clicking on the tool shed window another file opened up. It was labeled TD. This screen was in color and it showed a room with a mini refrigerator, a toilet and a sink. It also had a cot. Liza watched for several minutes until she saw movement.

She was still alive.  

Initially, Liza’s plan had been to get Trina out of the way temporarily. She’d planned to take her place. Use her life like an escape hatch from her own, but something had gone wrong.

Those two imbeciles Liza had Jocelyn hire got it in their heads to change the plan. Jeremy had to get fancy and bring a gun. However, she knew now it was Central that had turned on her and had used Wilson to do it.

It had all come back to Liza now. They’d ambushed her in the woods that morning on her way to the bookstore. She’d thought it was because she’d been mistaken for Trina, with all of the woman’s enemies it was possible. But now she knew different.  

Who’d sent them she still didn’t know, but they’d got her without ever showing their face. However, they hadn’t finished their job. She’d somehow made it to Crossroads to follow through with her plan in spite of her memory lapse. However, now she knew her attempted assassination was Central’s doing. They’d put a mark on her.

The Mastermind was still playing his games. Every freedom he’d given her was just another way to maintain control. From the power, to the money, to the increased responsibility it was all a trap. A false sense of empowerment that Liza had believed she’d had. Even Wilson was just another way to keep a leash on her.

It took Mrs. Davenport to remind her of who she truly was- just another orphan that no one wanted. A ward of the agency called Central.

Mrs. Davenport wanted Trina, and the Mastermind wanted Liza. That was why she’d been sent away, been groomed to do Central’s bidding. Liza was nothing more than a slave.  She could see that now.

Liza never had a chance to be normal, and it was all Mrs. Davenport’s fault. She’d known what he wanted Liza for and what he’d do once he had her. It would have been kinder to have put a bullet in her head all those years ago.

Liza regretted killing the old woman now. The proper payback would have been to have let her live, and let the cancer kill her slowly. Liza’s only conciliation was that she was the one that took Ophelia out. Now that she was gone, Liza just had to take care of Trina.

Slowly, the calm returned.

It was the Mastermind’s fault. He’d made her this way. He’d taught Liza that she had no choice. He was the Mastermind, and He never accepted anything less than complete obeyance.

That was why she left. Liza had planned her escape for a year. She’d had a plan all along. As long as she had Trina, she had a chance to make it happen. However, she knew different now. Wilson had shown her the truth. Her plan had been doomed from the start.

“You will kill him,” he’d said over a year ago.

“Never,” Liza said, for the first time refusing a direct order. The Mastermind laughed.

“You have your order,” he’d said and those were the last words he’d spoken to Liza.

Tonight, she’d finally obeyed. Wilson was dead. Once again the Mastermind had gotten his way. 

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What was done was done

“She’s spiraling, Sir.”

            “Says you. She is doing what she’s always done,” the Mastermind said. “I’ve given her until the end of the month. Until then I want you to keep watching her. I expect an hourly report of everything. No matter how insignificant or small you may think it is, I want to know it. Understand?”

            “Yes, sir,” the agent said. “But what about Mrs. Davenport?”

            “What about her? There’s nothing we can do about that. Have we found the woman yet?”

            “No, sir, but we have people searching. We’ve combed over the safe house for clues as you asked, but everything had been destroyed, we’re still looking, but we haven’t any leads.”

            “Find it, there is a second one. She always has one. It’s her pattern.”

            “Yes, sir,” the agent said right before the call was disconnected.

            The agent was right and the Mastermind knew it. He feared Liza was out of control and there was nothing he could do about it. He’d given his word to her and he never would go back on it.

He’d asked a lot of her and she’d always delivered in the past. She was his most reliable agent, but she needed this time. He’d already made his decision and was certain it was the right one. He’d give her this chance and if it backfired, he’d go get her his self. Either way Liza had earned her chance to end this her way.

Mrs. Davenport was a casualty but her hands were not completely clean as it was. It was a fact that he knew Liza was now aware of which was most likely why she’d killed the woman.

Either way what was done was done. She had until the end of the month then she would return to him. Liza knew better than to cross him for that he was sure.

Until then he would keep his promise.  

The Watchers 26

She wanted me to do it

“In all my years I’ve never seen a more idiotic display of behavior,” Judge Banks said from her bench.

Blackfoot sat behind the defendant watching the young woman’s every move. He wasn’t on the case any longer, but no one said he couldn’t attend the court case that almost got him fired.

She wore the requisite orange jumpsuit. Her hair was matted and sticking up in all directions on her head. She was fidgeting and mumbling to herself. She looked even worse than the night of her arrest and she’d barely been conscious then.

Blackfoot had seen a lot of mental health cases. The woman showed the textbook signs of a mental problem of some sort. It was obvious something was off with her. Blackfoot was surprised the woman’s lawyers hadn’t forgone the entire process and just entered a plea of insanity which wasn’t hard to believe, but they hadn’t.

Blackfoot looked around the courtroom. There were very few people and none appeared to be there for the defendant.  The charges were pretty steep but she didn’t have one person in the courtroom there for her.

It didn’t sit right by him, but he wasn’t surprised. It was typical of the mental health cases he’d had before where the family abandoned them in their time of need. Years of episodes would wear their patience until they cut themselves loose for self-preservation. It was tough, but that’s how many ended up slipping through the cracks. Blackfoot hoped while she was in jail she got the help she needed, but he doubted it.

He’d already watched her partner in crime get his sentencing. Jeremy had been cool to the bitter end quietly listening to the judge. However, unlike him Jenna wasn’t ready to just take whatever the judge had to say.

“Futhermore, I have determined since apparently Ms. Trubadour you were the mastermind behind this idiotic crime you will be punished to the full extent of my authority. This court sentences you to seventy-two months minimum at the Women’s Correctional Facility.”

Blackfoot watched the young woman as the judge’s words registered. Her entire body tensed suddenly. Her feet were shackled and her hands were cuffed in front of her, but it didn’t stop her from throwing her body against the table and then scoot over it. She almost made it to the judge’s bench when she was tackled by a guard.

“You can’t do this,” the woman screamed as she wrestled with the guards to be heard. “She paid me to do it,” she yelled over and over. “She wanted me to do it,” the woman screamed as she was dragged to the door and the judge banged her gavel on her desk for order.

The entire court was on their feet watching as the guards tussled with the snarling woman shocked into silence. The woman’s wails of outrage could be heard even as they dragged her down the hallway towards the holding cells in the back.   

“We’re going to take a break,” the judge said her voice trembling as she tried to regain her composure. “We will return in one hour. The court is in recess.”

Blackfoot followed the others out of the courtroom. The Davenport case was finally finished.  

The past month had been rough. Since he’d met Trina Davenport, his life, had been a roller coaster. When the case landed in his lap, he’d thought it would be a simple open and shut, but it had turned out to be a near career ender for him.

Davenport had become a thorn in his side. She’d thrown his life for a loop. She’d beat him up and almost had him fired. Yet here he was still unable to let it go. 

Blackfoot walked to his cruiser elated the case was over, but he couldn’t shake the funk he was in. The surprising news of Mrs. Davenport’s death that morning clouded it. He’d gotten the news along with everyone else at the precinct during morning meeting.

Like everyone else he was shocked to hear the news. No one even knew she had cancer. He hated that Mrs. Davenport hadn’t lived to see her daughter’s attackers put in jail. It made him sick to his stomach. It also made him sick to his stomach that he couldn’t pay his respects to the family. He knew he was probably the last person they wanted to see at this time but he felt compelled to say something.

It just wasn’t right, but he knew his feelings didn’t matter now. The family was grieving and that took precedence over everything else. Any grief he felt could wait. He knew it was just a fraction of what the Davenport family was feeling to have lost Ms. Ophelia.

Blackfoot didn’t believe in rocking the boat, but he also didn’t believe in being an asshole. However, there was no way he and Trina were going to be able to avoid each other forever.

It was a small town and he believed it would be best to get it over with sooner rather than later. He’d give the family time, but he intended on making things right. Rather sooner than later. He was confused by it but the truth was Trina was never too far from his mind. It was like she’d invaded his life. He even saw her a couple of times around town, or he thought he saw her. It was turning into an unhealthy obsession.

Regardless of what had happened between them. Although he regretted it, he now felt like it was inevitable. There was something between them he just didn’t understand. The woman fascinated him like no other. It was just a matter of time before their paths crossed again. He was certain of it.

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My name isn’t Wilson anymore

The day Ophelia Davenport was buried the entire city shut down for an hour. Even strangers to the woman and her legacy paid their respects stopping in the street as her procession passed through the quiet streets. The police escorted the mourners through to the church and then to the hillside graveyard where the Davenport girls laid their mother to rest.

There were a few distant relatives and their mother’s closest and dearest friends sitting next to the girls but the majority of attendees surrounding them weren’t relatives of the woman. They were the family that she’d created during her many years.

If asked none would have been able to name a single relative of the dead woman. She never talked about her relatives. Her family was her late husband’s family and that was all they’d ever known of her. Where she was from or who her people were no one talked about. It was the rich life she’d created they were there to celebrate not the one she’d been born into.

When it was over the limousine went back to the Davenport house for repass. Words of comfort were said, and promises made to visit more over platters of food.

As the sun set and the night grew colder one by one the mourners disappeared until it was just Zuri, Leena and Liza left.

The house was eerily quiet. Leena put Zuri to bed, and then came back into the kitchen to help put away the food. 

“Do you think she’s still here, you know her spirit,” Leena asked. She’d been stoic all day, but Liza could see the puffy redness around her eyes. The emotional toll of the day showed on her face and the way she dragged her body around the kitchen. 

“Maybe,” Liza said closing the dishwasher.

“What do we do now?” Leena said her voice hollow.

“We carry on just like Mama would have wanted it,” Liza said. “We keep working, we keep trying, we keep going.” Leena pulled her into a hug. Sobbing, she held her tightly. Liza could feel the damp tears wetting her grey t-shirt.

“I miss her so much,” Leena said.

“I do too,” Liza said, and a part of her meant it. She missed what Ophelia Davenport represented those first few days she arrived before her memory had returned. The Davenports had taken her in and given her a priceless gift- the gift of family, and regardless of the circumstance that brought her there, Liza had decided that this was her family now. No one and nothing was going to take that away from her.

She may not be Zuri’s real mother, but Liza cared for the little girl. She didn’t deserve for her life to fall apart. Liza wanted more for her and she had the means to make it happen.

“But we’ve got each other now, right,” Liza said. Leena inhaled deeply, nodding.

“Right, and we have to make sure that everything our parents worked for continues on. Zuri’s depending on each of us, and so is everyone down at the diner. Tomorrow morning we’ll get up and we open as usual. That’s what Mama and Daddy would have wanted.”

With a plan in place both women retired to their rooms. Liza lay in bed for a couple of hours then got up and changed her clothes. Pulling on a pair of black pants and a black sweater she prepared herself for the next step. It was 3:33 a.m. It was time to go; it was time to end this.

Liza ran through the streets at a light jog. Making sure to stay in the shadows she set a quick pace. She’d timed it already. Liza knew exactly how long it should take to get to her destination and get back, but this would be the first time she’d gone on foot from the Davenport’s house. Planning cut down on mistakes, but even the best laid plans could go to pot in a split second. Liza had no back up plan. She had to trust it would work out. All is well.

The streets were quiet, and slick with rain. There were wet patches but luckily there was no ice. She was a few blocks from the second safe house when she heard a noise that stood out from the usual night sounds. Hiding behind a line of cars on a side alley, Liza waited. It didn’t take long before she caught sight of him.

It was dark but she could clearly see the outline of a man about 6’1, dark skinned with a slight build. Liza waited until he passed her, then followed. He walked for a block before he ducked in an alley.

Pulling her gun from her jacket pocket she was on him before he could defend himself.

“Hand’s up,” Liza said pushing the man to his knees against the wall. He tried to turn around but she hit him twice with the barrel of her gun on the side of his head. Not hard enough to knock him out but enough to let him know she meant business. He groaned into his arm hissing at the pain as he grabbed the side of his face.

“Keep them up, chief,” Liza said searching with one hand as she used the other to keep the barrel of the gun against the back of his head.

“Wwww-wait,” the man said but by then Liza had already pulled the man’s gun from his waistband. Why hadn’t he drawn on me? She raised the gun.

“All is well,” the man gasped on the ground. Liza caught his profile in the light from the lamp post. Cursing Liza lowered her weapon.

 “What the hell are you doing here?” 

“I should be asking you the same thing,” Wilson said blood dripping from his bottom lip. It was already beginning to swell.

“No, you shouldn’t because you’re supposed to be at headquarters. Do they know you’re gone?” Liza said stepping further into the shadows keeping her eyes on the alley in case he wasn’t alone.

“No,” he shook his head, and then peeked at her, “I don’t know.”

“Jesus Christ,” Liza cursed. Crouching she pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and handed it to him. “Get down,” she said pulling Wilson’s hand until he was next to her against the wall.

“They sent me off base since you left. Apparently, I’m no good without you,” Wilson said bitterness creeping into his voice.

            “So you decided it was a good idea to track me here? Are you crazy? If they catch you there’s nothing I can do. You’re good as dead.”

            “They don’t know you’re here,” Wilson said.

            “The hell they don’t. I’ve had two tails that I’ve counted, not including you. Someone knows something. They drop in and out, but they know.” Liza saw the look of fear pass over Wilson’s face although he tried to cover it. “Truth, why’d you come?”

            “I,” Wilson said suddenly looking lost, “I thought you might need my help.” Liza stared at her husband. She didn’t know whether to laugh or to feel sorry for him.

She hadn’t wanted to marry him, but she’d been backed against a wall. Wilson wasn’t an American citizen and they needed his intel for a case they were working a decade ago. Unlike her he’d come from a family that gave a damn about him. He’d had a life before coming to Central so there were measures they had to take for him to join and still keep his persona intact which was valuable to the mission they were working at the time. In order to get him to comply Central gave him what he wanted. At the time what he wanted was Liza.

When the job ended, however, she was stuck with a husband that seemed to have no other purpose beyond the data they had obtained.

Liza had been given the option of terminating him then, but she grew to like the idea of having a family of my own, but of course it had never worked out. It didn’t take long for her to realize she’d made a mistake especially as he became more of a liability with each passing year.

“They made me give them my badge,” Wilson said. “My name isn’t Wilson anymore.”

            “What did you say?” Liza said his words sinking in.

            “My name is Michael Ray. See,” he said reaching in his jacket pocket pulling out a well-used passport.

            “What did you do?” Liza said feeling the weight of both their guns in her hands.

            “I, I- I they didn’t give me a choice,” Wilson said as he struggled to his feet. “That’s what I came to tell you. They gave me an assignment. You know how it is, they tell you to do something, you do it.”

            “What did you do?” Liza said again.

            “I took the envelope to the address. It had pages from your Central file in it. The one with your information, your real information.”

Liza raised his gun shooting one shot in the center of Wilson’s head. He dropped less than a second later. Sighing Liza looked down at the once handsome man. There was no going back now.

Liza dragged his body behind a dumpster hiding him from the view of the street. She dropped his passport on his chest. A second later she was sprinting full throttle across the street towards the line of woods leading to her second safe house.

The Watchers 25

She called you Ophelia

“Mama was calling for you while you were out. She wanted to talk to you.” Leena said as she grabbed her coat to leave.

Knocking softly, Liza opened the bedroom door. As expected the older woman was in her big soft bed surrounded by pillows. She looked like she was floating on a puffy white cloud as the television on the dresser played at the foot of her bed.

“Come on in, dear,” she said her body almost disappearing beneath the bright white sheets and matching comforter.   

“Leena said you wanted me.”

“Yes, dear. I had something for you.” Mrs. Davenport lowered the volume on the television, and then picked up some papers from the bed stacking them in one neat stack on the TV tray next to her.

“How are you feeling?” Liza asked.

“Fair to middling,” the woman grimaced as she tried to pull up in the bed. She looked tired but when she opened her eyes, Liza saw that ever present alertness there. “To be expected, I guess. At least that’s what the white coats keep telling me,” she said. “Close the door behind you.”

Liza obliged sitting in the chair by the window. The doctor’s prognosis wasn’t good. Mrs. Davenport was weak and tired all of the time. The treatments that were supposed to save her life were taken what little energy she had left.

“I have something to show you. I’ve been meaning to show you this to you for a while now, but I kept making excuses. Here,” she said pushing the stack of papers at me. They were court documents.

“What am I looking at?” Liza said.

“Just read it.”

Liza started on the first page and the first thing that jumped out was the date.  It was a birthdate, Liza’s birthdate. The next thing she read took her breath away. Her name was in the box next to the birthdate. It was her real name.

Liza looked at Mrs. Davenport. It had been decades since anyone outside of Central had known her real name. 

“Keep reading,” Mrs. Davenport said the frown on her face deepening.

Liza gripped the papers trying to control the trembling. Her heart was beating so fast it felt like it was about to burst out of her chest. Turning the page she found a photocopy of two birth certificates. One was for her and the other was Trina’s.

It showed the same parents on both. Trina and Liza were sisters. They’d been placed in foster care decades ago. Liza kept reading until she saw what looked like a photocopy of a page from a social worker’s documentation.

            Baby T, Baby L removed from mother’s home due to evidence of abuse and unsanitary living conditions. The mother was an admitted drug abuser with multiple arrests and convictions. On mother’s last sentencing the children were in need of immediate placement.

On the mother’s release the children were returned to her home. On the mother’s passing, the birth father forfeited his rights; and the children were placed. However, upon further proceedings in adoption procedure the family requested the adoption of only one child Baby T. Adopted parents stated they were not interested in adopting both children.

“There hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought about you. What happened? What would have happened had we taken you?” Mrs. Davenport said. 

“You have to understand that we just couldn’t keep both of you. We had one little girl and taking in two more children, well, we just couldn’t.” Mrs. Davenport said a plea in her eyes for Liza to understand. “But we never forgot you, ever,” Mrs. Davenport said hiccupping. She reached for a tissue. “I just wanted to let you know. We cared.”

“You cared,” Liza nodded. “Why,” she asked, “Why her and not me?”

Mrs. Davenport said looking back to the television screen. She was quiet.

“Did you ever look for me?”  the older woman said nothing. Liza knew the answer already. The answer was no, she hadn’t.

“The social worker thought it wouldn’t be best,” Mrs. Davenport said.

Folding the papers, Liza made them as small as she could before pushing them deep in her back pocket.

“I understand,” Liza said as she walked to the lamp in the corner of the room and turned it to low. The glow from the television was bright, but she knew Mrs. Davenport liked to keep it on all night.

“I’m tired,” Liza said walking to the door with heavy feet. She reached for the knob, but her hand froze above it. A memory began turning over in her mind. Liza looked back at Mrs. Davenport feeling the calm return, overtaking her before she could decide if she wanted to fight it, then realizing she didn’t.

Locking the door Liza turned back to Mrs. Davenport, who was still watching her with a teary, hopeful smile.

“I’m so glad I told you,” she said, “I feel so much better now.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Liza said walking back to the bed. She pulled one of the pillows from behind her head squeezing it between her hands.

“Dear I usually sleep with that pillow,” the older woman said. Confusion passed over her soft face as she continued to stare.

“Yes,” Liza said squeezing the pillow’s firmness. “I know.” The woman went still. Liza saw the moment realization dawned in Mrs. Davenport’s eyes. A shrewdness replaced the usual motherly sweetness she showed the world.

“All is well.” She smiled clapping her long bony hands together. “Brava. You were always too smart for your own good,” the older woman said her laugh low as she lay back against her pillows. Her breathing had grown shallow but her eyes showed no defeat.

“She called you Ophelia, sometimes O in all my surveillance,” Liza said. “but never Mama, Mommy, or even mother. Why not? Because you weren’t her mother and she wanted you to know that every day of your life. Didn’t she? You clocked me as soon as I showed up. Didn’t you?” Liza said louder than she intended.

“Even back then you were something else,” she said smiling. “So smart. Quiet, but there was something else even then. I saw it that day Roger brought me to meet you girls. I’m sure He saw it too.”  

“He?”

“You know He who shall not be called by name,” the older woman said reaching beneath her duvet. Liza tensed until the woman pulled out a cigarette and a lighter. “Oh calm down, girl,” she said lighting the end. “If I wanted to kill you I would have done it much sooner than now.” She inhaled before laying back again on the pillow. “I can only handle few puffs at a time now,” she coughed slightly, “but God it’s worth it.” She took another small puff. She coughed several times but her face looked blissful afterwards. “He was the one that told us about your sister- not you. You he kept for himself. He wanted you as soon as he saw you. What was I supposed to do?”

 “Save your own ass.”

“See, like I said you were always such a smart girl.”

“How long were you with Central?”

“A while,” she smiled taking another puff. “Then I had to go and get old, and sick. It was the best and worst thing to ever happen to me.” Liza sat down in the chair.

“I knew no one when I came here, but as usual I found a way to fit in. You know how it is. I don’t even remember what the mission was, only that when it was through no one came for me. Months passed then a year, then two. By then I thought they’d forgotten about me. At least that was what I told myself. I know stupid, right?” Liza didn’t respond but she knew. Central never forgot, nor did they make mistakes.

“Somehow, they got to my husband first. Made him believe he wanted to adopt a kid. So you see it was all Roger’s idea, of course,” she laughed but it wasn’t a joyful sound. “I couldn’t have children,” the woman said. “Truth be told I never thought about being a mother, but we all get old, eventually.”

“So, you got her so you wouldn’t be alone.”

“Partly, yes. I mean we had Leena, but she was all Roger’s. My husband loved being a Daddy, he would have taken you both, was going to, but,” She inhaled again managing to keep it all in this time. “that’s when He came back,” she said her voice just a whisper. “Only He didn’t want me. I had gotten soft, my profile here was up. I couldn’t just drop everything and disappear anymore, but I learned quickly it wasn’t me he wanted anyway. But, of course, you know how they are. They can’t just let you go.”

“You let me go.”

“Darling, I never had you. Besides He wanted you, and we both know He always gets what he wants,” she said her eyes had a knowing sparkle.

“You knew what he wanted with me and did nothing.” The older woman nodded her eyes locked on mine. Liza stood up. The woman’s face hardened.  Her eyes dropped to the pillow in Liza’s hands. “We all have to go sometime, dear,” she whispered, licking her dry cracked lips. Liza knew what she wanted but she lay the pillow on the bed drained of anger and hatred for the woman she had long forgotten.

“Besides I knew eventually you would leave me, anyway,” she said. Liza realized then the breadth of Mrs. Davenport’s selfishness. She’d only been concerned then and now about her life, her comfort.

“She hated you for it,” Liza said anger choking her words. “For separating us.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” she said taking another puff. “She forgot about you the moment she got here. My husband waited on that little girl hand and foot,” the bitterness vibrated with each word. “Trina don’t care about anyone but Trina. Or at least she didn’t, right?” The woman winked, her laughter like a creaky, dry board. She stopped suddenly, inhaling deeply to catch her breath. “You’re just like Him. I can see it. I guess you know where all the bodies are buried too, huh?” Ophelia said carefully putting her cigarette out in the ashtray.

Liza looked down at the woman she’d grown to care about taunt her, goad her to react. Liza fought against the calm refusing to give in and put her out of her misery. She wasn’t who Liza believed her to be. She was a Watcher, just like her. The pattern had been there all along, but Liza had refused to believe it for the tradeoff of the one thing she’d never had: a family. Only this family had been built on a foundation of lies.  

“You got kids, dear,” Ophelia asked her eyes deceptively innocent. “No, of course not, Central’s the only family you’ll ever have.”

“No children,” Liza said quietly. “A husband once, but I haven’t seen him in a while. Your husband was Roger, right?” Liza smiled when the woman nodded slowly. “Say hi, for me.”

Liza pushed the pillow slowly into the woman’s jeering face. She tried to fight at first but they both knew it was impossible. As the pillow cut off the woman’s oxygen her thin arms flailed but there was no strength to them. The woman’s lungs were shot. It didn’t take long before the frail body went slack. Stepping back, Liza looked down at her. It was almost like she was sleeping.

Liza put the pillow back behind the woman’s head. Unlocking the door, she closed it softly behind her.

The Watchers 24

Keep what you need and burn the rest

            Liza left on foot the next morning. Since everyone was still asleep, she borrowed one of Leena’s winter coats. She’d be back before she even missed it.

Stepping into the backyard the cool air met her full on as she made her way through the neighborhood and into the woods. Liza could see the morning traffic through the trees. It hadn’t picked up yet but where she was going she didn’t need a car. She wasn’t worried about being followed either because on foot there wasn’t anyone who could catch her.

That was one good thing about living in a small town. There was very little congestion which bred a lot of familiarity. It made surveillance easy because she could spot an outsider a mile away in the city. Once she got to the outskirts of town it was even easier.  As long as she could see them coming, she felt safe.

Liza took a different route than before but saw no signs anyone else had come this way. She didn’t believe for one second whoever it was had given up, but as long as she was on foot, she felt like she had a chance of remaining unnoticed. The car had a tracking device- she didn’t.

She found it quickly. It was for that reason she hadn’t bothered removing it. If she had it would only be a short time before they added another. Besides she’d lost them once, she could do it again.

Once Liza made it to the edge of town, she disappeared into the trail of woods that bordered the west end of the city. It was then I broke into a brisk run for the rest of the way.

None of the Davenport’s said anything about her new haircut. People in town looked at her different which felt surprisingly good. Instead of seeing Trina, Liza could pretend it was her they were really seeing. It was her they were accepting. She didn’t have to hide anymore. 

It felt good. Although it was Trina’s life, it was the closest thing Liza had felt to having a home with family and a sense of belonging.

There were moments Liza remembered her life before, and she realized there was nothing she really missed about it. She didn’t want to go back to it-none of it. She’d done bad things, horrible things, but here she was different, if only for the moment. At least she was trying to be.

Being a mother freaked her out initially, but Zuri was a smart girl. She reminded Liza a little of herself at her age. 

Leena still kept her distance, but Liza was okay with that. Whether her and Trina were ever close or not was a moot point. It didn’t seem as if the Davenport girls had much in common anyways. Nonetheless, she learned the Davenport’s put family above all else. Regardless of the circumstance that brought her there, she was family now. For however long she was there, she wanted to take advantage of it.

Liza entered the camper. Taking the lamps of kerosene, she unscrewed the lids. She turned the generator on along with every appliance she could. She emptied the kerosene on the floor, theh walls, everywhere she could, and set several bottles of reserve gas near the generator.

The fumes burned her nose, as she carried the only two items she saved up the ladder to the roof of the trailer.

One was a small address book she’d found and tucked in her back pocket. The second thing was the last lamp full of kerosene.

Once standing on the roof, she dipped a rag in the liquid and lit it before dropping it through the hole into the trailer. Immediately the inside of the trailer lit up as the lit rag touched the ground.

Climbing to the side of the trailer, Liza jumped from the roof as the fire raged inside. The sound of glass popping rang out as she ran for the line of trees to safety. A second later she heard the first explosion as the jugs of gasoline exploded one after another.

Sitting in the shade of a large oak she watched the moss surrounding the trailer catch on fire as a smaller explosion popped the roof of the trailer. The flames burned bright as it spread in all directions.

Squeezing the address book in her hands, Liza was thankful she’d taken the time to go through everything. A lot of what she saw was useless, which made sense.

Keep what you need and burn the rest. Central had trained her well.

When she found the address book in a secured drawer with a combination lock, she knew its value instantly. The book had nothing but symbols and drawings throughout. Indecipherable to most, but the jumbled letters and symbols made sense immediately to Liza.

It was funny. One moment she was clueless about the past six months and what she was doing in this little Podunk town and the next moment she was completely clear of everything. As she read the pages complete clarity returned with the force of an eighteen-wheeler. Liza understood everything now.

Why she was there, and how she gotten there. The calm she felt in the bookstore a week ago was back, but this time it wasn’t for self preservation. It was for comfort that all was well and her mission was back on track.

Holding the book tightly in her hand she turned away from what was left of the trailer she’d been living in. The heat of the flames lessened as she stepped further into the forest of trees. This wasn’t her only safe house.

She had another home, but that one was in the next town over. It was bigger, a lot less rustic.  

She needed to go there, but she wasn’t ready just yet. There were a few more things Lizaneeded to do before she could make that trip, but make it she would.

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Right now you think this isn’t real. You think I’m just here to scare you then let you go, but let me tell you that’s not what this is

They had a pattern now.

Weekday mornings started with breakfast and then getting Zuri off to school. From there Leena and Liza took turns going to the diner and checking in with the staff there making sure they had what they needed for the day’s service.

Ever since Blackfoot’s visit last week Mrs. Davenport, or Mama, hadn’t been back to the diner. Her health was getting worse; but she refused to let the staff know. She hadn’t left the house much at all, but her girls had filled in for her at the diner. Between the two there wasn’t any slack noticed in service, but Mrs. Davenport’s presence was very much missed.

Yet Mrs. Davenport wouldn’t talk about retiring. With all she’d been through with her cancer treatment no one would blame her for considering it. Still she refused to even talk about it. Even in her weakened state she wasn’t ready to give up the control of her business or her family.

Thanksgiving was coming, so she took all the decorations out herself determined to carry on the Davenport’s tradition of decorating the house.  It would be her first holiday with family. By the time she was through with putting everything up, the house looked like something out of Liza’s childhood dreams. Even Mrs. Davenport was impressed.

“I do believe you made this place look the best it’s looked in years,” she’d said. Her words made Liza smile and almost forget how she came to be there.  In that moment she was her real daughter, and Trina had never existed.  

However, she couldn’t forget that Trina was a mother. Although Liza didn’t mind being Zuri’s mother. In fact she was getting used to it. When Zuri yelled Mama now, Liza no longer flinched. The maternal gene she’d thought she was born without had kicked in.

Zuri loved her Grandmother, but having her mother back had put a new life in the little girl which Liza enjoyed seeing. So when Zuri came home one afternoon from school with tears on her face and a quiver in her voice, Liza didn’t hesitate in finding out what was bothering the little girl. Nor did she block the return of the calm.

Leena had picked Zuri up from school. At first, Liza thought that was the reason for Leena’s bad attitude, but one look at the girl’s face she knew it was something else.

“Her teacher said to just let it go, kids will be kids. But something has to be done,” Leena said dropping her purse on the table. “Letting some girl get away with bullying Zuri isn’t right. It’s not fair. I know folks like that; hell, I was folks like that. You give them an inch and they will run all over you. You have to stand up to them. Make them back down,” Leena said her voice rising as she pointed one of her pointy fingernails at Zuri.

Zuri dissolved in tears at her aunt’s words. “That’s enough,” Liza said quietly. “Enough,” she yelled again when Leena continued berating the girl.

“Fine, let the girl get beat up every day for the rest of her life. She’s in the sixth grade now but it’s only going to get worse. Right now, it’s one bad ass little girl, but if you let this go, she’ll have the entire school thinking they could use her as a punching bag.”

Leena left the kitchen after speaking her piece, leaving a thoroughly devastated Zuri in her wake.

Liza stood with her hip against the kitchen table watching. When Zuri stood, she followed her. Just as she suspected she headed for her grandmother’s room.

Before the little girl could knock on the woman’s door, Liza grabbed the girl’s hand squeezing tightly. Zuri tried to pull away, but she wouldn’t let go until she dropped her hand.

“Go,” she said in a quiet voice pointing towards the front door. Although Zuri looked shocked she obeyed.

The fact that she obeyed so readily didn’t sit well with Liza either. The little girl had no backbone. Had the tables been turned, Liza never would have given in so quickly. Her opinion of the girl dropped a few pegs, but she was determined to make this right.

Judgment wasn’t what Zuri needed right now. What she needed was to be taught an important lesson. 

The first lesson she needed to learn was to stick up for herself. Number two was that when she couldn’t stick up for herself, she had someone who was going to do it for her until she learned to do it for herself.

Liza grabbed their coats tossing one to Zuri as they went outside to the car. Once they were both inside, she turned to Zuri as the car warmed up.

            “Who is she?”

            “Who?”

            “Don’t make me ask again little girl,” Liza said irritation coloring her voice. She lit a cigarette ignoring the girl’s big eyes at seeing her smoke.

            “When did you start smoking?” Zuri asked.

             “Want one?” Liza held the pack out to the girl. The girl pulled back with horror on her face. Liza smiled in approval. “Exactly don’t ever let me catch you smoking, you hear?” Zuri’s eyes grew big but she nodded.

“Little girl you’ve got yourself in a pickle, but it’s OK.” Liza said as she backed the car out of the driveway.

            “Where are we going?”

            “I don’t know, you tell me,” she said putting the car in drive. “Where does she live? C’mon I know you know,” Liza said when the girl stared back at her with both eyebrows raised her mouth in a perfect O. Suddenly, Liza jerked the steering wheel to the right and put the car in park.

            “Do you want to be able to walk down the hallway with your head held high or do you want to have to hide until you graduate?” Liza said. Zuri dropped her eyes to the hands she held clasped tightly in her lap, but after a few seconds she gave an address.

            “367 Warrior Drive,” she said softly. Liza put the car in gear but before she could pull out onto the street Zuri spoke again. “But she’s not there now. She’s still at practice, at the stadium.”

            “That’s my girl,” Liza said making a U-turn in the middle of the street. She turned the radio on then winked at Zuri. “We’re going to go have some fun. Want to?” Zuri hesitated, but then nodded slowly. “Good, now tell me all about your little friend.”

            When they rolled up to the high school’s stadium, Liza had the 411 on Kim, the girl bullying Zuri. Her track team was still running drills, but it didn’t take long for Zuri to spot the sturdy built young woman with the long shiny black ponytail she was looking for.  The girl was tall for her age, almost Liza’s height. She smiled in anticipation.

Liza hadn’t spotted anyone following them, but she didn’t care either. This wasn’t business this was personal.

They watched from beneath the bleachers waiting for her chance. She got it when the girl broke away from her group to go to the bathroom.

“Keep watch,” Liza whispered to Zuri as she walked up behind the young woman after she left the bathroom. Liza grabbed the young woman by the neck dragging her backwards one hand over her mouth. She spun her around and pushed her back against the stadium wall.

“You know what’s going down, right?” The girl stared back with shrewd eyes assessing the situation before smirking. Liza smiled then grabbed the girl by the chin.

“I know what you’re thinking. Thinking I’m going to let you go cause you’re a kid. Let me tell you now- you’re wrong. You see that girl over there?”  Liza released her neck so she could turn in the direction she was pointing. The girl tried to pull away but Liza yanked her head back.

 “Nope, not going anywhere.” When the girl tried to scream, Liza put her hand back around the girl’s neck and squeezed until the girl’s voice box closed stopping air from entering. “Cool it,“ she said. “You’re not leaving until we understand one another.” The girl stopped struggling.

“I’m not your mama, I’m not your daddy, I’m not your teacher, or the little girls that follow you around and hang on your every word, you understand?  I am your worst nightmare. You understand?”

Liza removed her hand watching to see what the girl would do. Instead of screaming or running this time she nodded. “Very good. Now maybe we can reach a compromise.”

“You, my dear, are about to have an opportunity to change,” Liza said, “one chance. My girl over there will not put up with your bullying any more or that of anyone else in this shitty little school. You listening?” Liza asked frowning at the girl whose eyes had wandered to Zuri as if the little girl could help her. Liza slapped her hard across her face.

“You think I’m joking with you, I’m playing with you?” Liza said, placing her arms on either side of her. Their faces were an inch apart so close she could smell the girl’s peppermint gum. “You know who I am, don’t you?” The girl nodded her head. Liza smacked her hard against her ear knocking the girls gum out her mouth.

“Wrong,” she said. “Do you know who I am?”

“No, ma’am,” the girl croaked her voice dry and cracking with tears.  

“Very good,” Liza said into the girl’s face. “You think when I let you go, you’re going to go home or to the coach and tell them what just happened, but I’m telling you you’re not.”

Pulling my pocket knife from my pocket Liza unfolded it pointing the tip at the young girl.

“Right now, you think this isn’t real. You think I’m just here to scare you then let you go, but nope, you’re wrong,” Liza moved closer and with one swipe she cut the girl’s forearm. The cut was shallow but it bled running down her arm to drip in the sand. The girl opened her pink lips to scream, but Liza’s hand to her throat cut it off.

Holding the blade against the soft sensitive column of her jugular Liza waited until the girl’s eyes were back on hers. “You’re scared, I know, and you should be,” she whispered. “This has kind of gotten out of hand, I can admit that. Sometimes I do that,” she said, “when I’m pissed.” Pressing the blade against the girl’s jaw. “You don’t want me pissed off do you?”

The girl shook her head the strands of hair sticking to her sweaty cheek. Swiping the girl’s hair away, Liza cradled the girl’s sweaty face in her hand. “This is real honey, and I want you to remember it. Think of it as a little taste of the hell you put my daughter through for the past year. Oh yes, I know and it stops today. Now, you have a choice. You can leave my girl alone and forget she even exists. You stay away from her and you keep your little nasty friends away from her too, or I come back, yeah? You understand?” The girl nodded quickly. Liza stepped back. Watching the girl slide to the ground Liza crouched in front of the crying girl.

“Shh, shh I’m not going to hurt you,” Liza said. “I actually get you,” she said standing. “But if I ever hear your name in my daughter’s mouth again I’m coming for you, got it?” Again the girl nodded. Liza turned to walk away, but stopped to look at the girl again.

Bending again to the girl’s level her eyes slits. “Say anything about what just happened to anyone and that cut will be deeper and connected to the other one I make on the other side of your face. Pretty’s all you got going for you, both you and I know it. Cross me and you’ll spend the rest of your life wishing that you were dead. Understand?”  Liza didn’t wait for a response, but left the girl on the ground as she went to put an arm around Zuri.

“Now go clean yourself up and get back to practice dear,” Liza said. Then to Zuri, “How about some hot chocolate?” Zuri watched Kim as she stood then went into the bathroom. Then she looked up, eyes big and filled with awe.

“With whip cream?”

“That’s my girl.” Liza said smiling.  

The Watchers 23

I know the real you.

            The Davenport house was dark and quiet. Leena and Zuri were still out. Liza put on a pot of water to make tea when she heard Mrs. Davenport come out of her room. 

            “Bring me a cup when you get it ready,” Mrs. Davenport said sitting down at the breakfast nook to stare out the window.

            “Yes ma’am,” Liza said, smiling that the woman had joined her.

Mrs. Davenport had done more for her in the past few days than she could remember anyone doing for her without expecting anything much in return. It meant a lot. Having the older woman just being there was beginning to mean a lot. The last few days had been quite a surprise.

The trailer in the woods hadn’t been a surprise. There had been many more trailers, rooms, houses, places that she’d set up only to leave when the job was done and it was time to move on. Twenty years she’d lived this way.

            Grabbing sugar and milk, Liza put it on a tray. Once the pot was ready, she added it to the tray with some teabags, cups and silverware. Placing the tray on the table, Liza poured hot water and placed a teabag in each cup letting it steep under a saucer for a few minutes.

            “Two sugars and,” Mrs. Davenport said, “a dash of milk.” Liza prepared the tea then stirred the cup before placing it in front of the older woman.

            “Thank you very much, dear” Mrs. Davenport said her eyebrows raised, “that is exactly how I like it.” Liza smiled pleased to have gotten it right. Mrs. Davenport held her cup but her eyes remained on Liza.

            “I didn’t know any of my girls were so observant,” Mrs. Davenport said before taking a sip of tea. She sighed closing her eyes and taking another sip.

            “Well, we learned everything we know from the best,” Liza said laughing softly as she took a sip of tea.

            “Don’t,” she said setting her cup on the wooden table. “Let’s not sweetie.” Liza felt something turn in her stomach at her words.

Liza felt the calmness waking up, but this time the usual thrill that came with it was gone. She didn’t want what the calm brought, not now. Not with Mrs. Davenport. Pushing her cup away, Liza placed her hands on the table preparing to stand, but the older woman raised a hand to stop her.

It took everything in her to sit back down, but something in the woman’s stare gave her pause.

            “My daughters have always been selfish, egotistical, combative and most of the time hateful strangers to me,” Mrs. Davenport shook her head.

Confused, Liza attempted to defend herself- Trina, but Mrs. Davenport gave a shake of her head. The synthetic curls shook back and forth before falling neatly back into place. She had a warning look in her eyes which Liza heeded. It was the same look she’d given the police chief earlier.

            “I could never do enough,” Mrs. Davenport confessed. “I tried, Lord knows I did, but it was never enough. I always,” her voice heavy. “I always got it wrong somehow.”

            The confession took Liza by surprise. She was at a loss of words. She could only wait and let it all play out.

            Sitting back, she listened. After all this was a job- nothing more. At least that was what she told herself. Liza always knew she’d have to leave eventually. Either she’d finish the mission, or Central would come for her. Either way she didn’t plan to stay with the Davenport’s forever. Did she? Liza pushed the thought away. That would be crazy. Wouldn’t it?

            “I’ve learned in my life to play the game, play by the rules until you learn them and then use them to your advantage,” Mrs. Davenport said with a slight smile. “I imagine you’ve learned that as well.”

            “Leena was always my rock. She was Roger’s- biologically. She was his baby for a time. She’d had to learn to be flexible because she had to be. That was my fault. I felt there was something missing- so, I changed it,” she said her voice fading.

Taking a deep breath, she continued. “I’ve made a lot of bad decisions, but I’ve always been well-intentioned. I never,” Mrs. Davenport said her eyes searching, “I never meant to hurt you,” she said.

The woman’s words hit Liza hard. She felt time slow with each tick of the grandfather clock in the hallway. She wanted to scream at the woman to stop talking, but the words wouldn’t come. It felt like she was talking to Liza, not Trina, but her mind told her that was impossible.

“All those years ago, I thought I knew what was best, and now, I,” her voiced faded as there was a sound at the back of the house. A moment later the back door opened. Leena and Zuri had returned. Liza blinked first. Standing without a word she cleared the dishes from the table as Zuri ran in the door.

            “Grandma, grandma,” she said oblivious to the tension that had filled the room moments before, “guess who got a part in the Christmas play,” the girl said sitting in the chair Liza had just vacated.

Liza tuned out their words. Something had happened, but she wasn’t sure what and furthermore, didn’t want to know.  

            “Um, let me guess,” Mrs. Davenport said playing along, “could it be the loud child that just came running into my kitchen without so much as a hello?” Zuri started giggling, and her grandmother laughed too.

Rinsing the dishes Liza felt Leena walk behind her. She’d been so quiet she’d forgotten she was there.  

            “How long you going to keep trying to play us,” Leena said in a low voice the curve of her ample hips resting against the counter knocking the draining board. The dishes rattled but she paid them no mind.  “She may buy this new Pollyanna act, but just remember,” Leena spat, “I know the real you. I know that all you looking for is enough money to set you off for another adventure and then you going to leave that old woman and your little girl high and dry. Then I’ll be left here to pick up the pieces as usual.” Leena jerked the dishtowel out of Liza’s hands.

“It’s not happening this time. You hear me? This time when you leave you stay gone. You got me?” Leena’s anger was palpable. Liza exhaled realizing the woman still believed she was Trina. When Liza didn’t respond, Leena threw the dish towel into the sink of water then walked out of the kitchen.

Liza pulled the soggy towel out and rung it dry then finished the few dishes in the sink listening to Zuri and her grandmother chattering obliviously at the table. Leena was a problem, but she refused to take the woman’s bait especially now that she had her mission.

Mrs. Davenport was hiding something. Had been apparently for years. The old woman had a secret, and she’d almost heard it tonight. It was why she’d come. It was the reason she was impersonating the woman’s daughter.

All Liza had ever wanted was to be normal, and have a normal life, but as long as she was herself, the Watcher, there was no chance of being normal.

Trina was the normal one. Trina got the normal life- not Liza. Bitterness rose in the back of her throat, but she pushed it down.

Soon enough it would be time to leave, once the job was done. Until then she planned to take advantage of all the things Trina had taken for granted. She intended to live the life that had been denied to her ever since the day Central took her, and made her what she’d become- a killer.  

The Watchers 22

How’s your arm, detective?

“I am sorry to be meeting under these circumstances Mrs. Davenport, but I felt it was really important after hearing about my detective’s behavior on yesterday evening that we sit down face to face.” Chief Bradford said.  

“I’ve always been upfront that our department had improvements to make but situations like what occurred in your home last night are completely uncalled for, and I have to say,” he paused to look to Blackfoot who sat in a chair on the other side of the room his eyes on the floor, “disturbing,” the chief said. Mrs. Davenport hadn’t looked at Blackfoot since entering the office. In fact, she hadn’t said a word. The nurturing grandmother was gone and in its place was the Mama Bear out for blood.

The chief cleared his throat and continued. He had his speech prepared and he was determined to give it.

“I’ll have you know that Blackfoot and I have talked. He called me at my home last night to inform me of what happened. I just have to say how much I appreciate your coming into my office, to speak with us. I know how busy you are.”

From her seat in the corner Liza could see everyone. Mrs. Davenport’s face was stoic during the chief’s speech, but she knew the woman was listening to every word. Blackfoot never looked up but in spite of the chief’s conciliatory words the man still managed to look rebellious. Liza couldn’t keep her eyes from him.

She hated Mrs. Davenport being dragged into this mess, but the woman refused to let the matter drop. Liza wanted to attend the meeting alone but Mrs. Davenport wouldn’t hear of it. She’d also insisted her lawyer, Mr. Bennet, accompany them.

As soon as they’d walked into the police department they were ushered into the boardroom. The eyes of every police officer were on them as they walked through the rows of cubicles. Liza didn’t know if they’d all heard about Blackfoot’s behavior. The chief’s secretary was gracious. She brought in refreshments and even offered to adjust the thermostat but Mrs. Davenport waved the jittery young woman away.

“I just don’t understand why Detective Blackfoot has insisted on treating my daughter as if she is the suspect rather than the victim from the very beginning,” the chief tried to interrupt Mrs. Davenport, but one stern look and he folded in on himself his mouth puckered closed.

“Since the beginning of this investigation he seemed to hold some kind of grudge against my family, my daughter. As far as I know when someone is attacked with a gun in broad daylight in a public place, they don’t become a target of the police. Am I right in that chief?”

“Yes, ma’am,” the chief said, but before he could speak again Mrs. Davenport continued.

“What I need is your word that this man will not harass my family in any way otherwise we will have to find another means to resolve this,” she said.

“No, ma’am” the police chief said then corrected his self at Mrs. Davenport’s frown, “I mean yes, ma’am. Blackfoot has been disciplined. He’s been placed on probation and the case as far as he’s concerned has been closed. You are completely correct ma’am in that we have our suspects. You will be happy to know that I have assigned the case to another detective, and I will be following it personally to trial. The detective assigned has been informed of all matters of the case therefore you shall not be having any more to do with it. We have your daughter’s statement so there isn’t any reason she should have to participate anymore. The investigation is closed all we are waiting for is the judge, and as we suspect the ruling will result in both suspects incarceration. I will be happy to let you know when that happens.”

“We hoped this matter would have been settled by now, but we see now that you are on the case it will be,” she said standing. “Now we can put all of this mess behind us, that is my hope,” she said looking down at everyone in the room.

“How’s your arm, detective?” Mrs. Davenport said addressing Blackfoot directly for the first time. Her face was the picture of concern but Liza knew better.

“It’s fine,” Blackfoot managed to grit out, but his face was hard as a rock.

“Thank you so much for your time,” Mr. Bennet said, assisting Mrs. Davenport to the door. Liza followed them out the door. Mrs. Davenport was greeted by several officers before we were finally able to walk out of the building into the bright sun.

Liza spotted Blackfoot standing beside his car with another officer she remembered meeting once before. Taylor was his name.  The two were deep in conversation.

Now that the investigation was done, Liza didn’t have to worry about any of their meddling. She was cleared but a part of her still felt out of sorts. It was the part that never felt fully satisfied. The part that wanted to run over to Blackfoot and plaster herslef to his side until he looked at her again like he did last night. It was the part that wanted to step into her Watcher role again. Only now the person she wanted to watch most was the person she needed to stay the farthest from.

Blackfoot hadn’t treated her like the agents at Central who were scared of her skills and her reputation. He also didn’t treat her as Trina. When he walked in that door last night, Liza felt like he was actually seeing her, responding to her, and for the first time in Liza’s life she felt truly alive. He didn’t want her skills, her job; he wanted to know what was in her head, Liza’s head. His methods were unorthodox but Liza could tell he was truly seeing her. Blackfoot’s visit last night had changed something in her in more ways than one. He’d helped her to remember what she was there for.

All the men Liza knew were like her or variations of her. They understood each other which meant we could only go so far. People like her didn’t find happiness. People like her were happiness takers.

Liza was an expert on normal. Abnormalities were what she’d built her entire career on. It allowed her to manipulate others without blinking an eye and use it to her advantage, but she hadn’t- not with him.

Liza wasn’t Trina Davenport, nor did she want to be. However, at that moment last night right before she took him down, she’d wanted to be like Trina if it meant she could have him. For just a moment she thought she could.

When she’d climbed back into the trailer earlier today, she’d traced the wires to the surveillance unit hooked to the generator. It had a running loop of feed from several cameras that she could flip between and see for several miles around the entire trailer. she’d also discovered several trip wires attached to alarms that could be set by satellite. At one time they had been activated but weren’t now.

Liza didn’t find any phones. On every job she always had one burner, sometimes two, but there were none in the trailer. As a matter of fact, she found no identification at all for herself for when it was time to leave. It was odd, but it just meant she’d already destroyed it, or she had another safe house located somewhere else. She found her target board that listed everything about Trina Davenport from her bra size to her favorite color. The board listed the comings and goings of Trina along with candid pictures taken of her that captured everything anyone could ever want to know about the woman. The last entry was two days before she’d been attacked at the bookstore.

Usually before she stepped into someone’s life she destroyed her safe house along with everything she’d prepared so when the mission was complete, she could leave. There was no time afterwards to go back and get rid of the evidence.

It was clear she’d been watching Trina Davenport for a long time. Her only question now was: Where was Trina?

After Liza dropped Mrs. Davenport off at the house she drove around town. She found that she liked the quietness of the town. To the south were miles and miles of beach that anchored the state between its neighbors to the east and west. North of the city were acres and acres of trees and lush forests. The city was teeming for an explosion of growth, but still had its grip firmly seated in tradition determined to keep its small-town southern charm as the city welcomed new residents looking for a slower way of life.

Liza liked it here more so than anywhere else she could remember. It felt familiar, and every day it felt more familiar. The people were simple yet complicated. For the most part there was a sense of goodness to them, even with Blackfoot. It surprised her how much the man stayed on her mind.

Liza turned the car onto a street where the detective lived in a small one-story house. She’d looked him up online. There wasn’t much on him online. No Facebook page or any other social media presence which in itself told her a lot. He worked hard but she wondered how did he live? She wanted to know.

Liza parked a few blocks down from where he lived. Pulling the black cap low to cover her hair, Liza zipped up her coat hiding the white shirt she wore underneath. Crossing through a couple of yards she then walked through the woods in front of his house until she was able to have an unobstructed view of Blackfoot’s front door.  It was a blue clapboard house. It was old but in good condition.

The sun was already setting but Liza stayed in her hiding space between a pair of bushes along a privacy fence until it was dark. There weren’t any homes close enough to have good visuals of her hiding space, but she made sure to stay low until it was safe to move closer.

It wasn’t long before she saw Blackfoot’s car pull into the driveway beside his house. Just as she suspected no drinks with the boys or errands after work. He came straight home. Liza waited until it was dark before she approached his house. There were no kids playing no adults out for an evening stroll. The street was empty; save the occasional car.

Liza made her way to the side of his house until she was in his back yard. He had no pets but that didn’t surprise her. Blackfoot didn’t seem the sentimental type nor did he seem overly concerned with security. If someone came for him, he’d deal with them directly and relish doing it. Although she doubted he could do much right now with his arm in a sling.

His bedroom window was dark. Liza heard noise coming at the other end of the house, where the lights shone out onto the backyard. Carefully she worked her way to the other end of the house. Blackfoot was in the kitchen. Liza felt a thrill seeing him standing at his sink his broad back to her. The windows didn’t have blinds only some cream-colored curtains that were so sheer they were transparent. The windows were closed but she could hear music playing softly from another room. He was alone.

Liza watched him struggle to wash a single plate and a glass with his one good arm then put both still a little soapy on the drain board to his right. He grabbed a beer from the refrigerator then walked out the kitchen. Liza wanted to follow but there were no windows on that side of the house. The only windows to the TV room were upfront facing the street. Liza waited for a few minutes until she heard the radio stop and replaced by some sports game on the television.

Liza had a feeling this was a typical night for Blackfoot which meant he had even less going for him then she initially imagined. Either way the Watcher in her wanted to learn more. For the first time she had a non-Central sanctioned target. It went against the rules, but she no longer cared about rules.

The Watchers 21

Little bird finally flew the coop

They’d lost her.

He didn’t want to call it in but he had no choice. She looked different, but it was her. She’d cut her hair and she wore a plain pair of jeans and t-shirt.

Before she’d been Trina but the woman he saw earlier was different. It made him nervous because she’d changed the pattern. He couldn’t predict what she was going to do next. He didn’t like that, especially considering who the target was. Liza had invented patterning. She’d created the rules, and now she was breaking them. Not good at all. She’d been playing them all along just like the Mastermind said.

He had to make a decision and fast.

This was a small town, she’d have to show up eventually, but she’d made them look like a couple of amateurs.

Two minutes was all she needed to disappear, and she’d gotten ten. Finding the vehicle was easy. They just followed the signal from the black box attached beneath the car but they were already too late.

They searched the store, but she was nowhere to be seen.

            Once they’d regrouped and made it back to the car, he’d had no choice but to call it in. After all he was led so it was his responsibility. 

            “We have her vehicle in sight, but the subject is nowhere to be found.”

            “So, our little bird finally flew the coop.”

            “Yes, sir. We can stay with the vehicle sir, await her return.”

            “No, return to your post and await my word,” the Mastermind said, then the line went dead.

            Taking his black shades off, he stared at the phone. That was it?

He stuck the key in his ignition. Rage ignited within him. She’d made him look stupid, incompetent, worse because it was in front of Him. He hoped for her sake that he wasn’t the one that found him. In screwing him over, she screwed herself. With her recent behavior no one at Central would blame him if she ended up with a hole in her head, not even the Mastermind.

#

Mastermind laid his phone on his desk. He was disappointed but not surprised. He’d been expecting this. He was surprised it hadn’t happened sooner. The fact that the agents he assigned to Liza were still alive surprised him more.

His problem was her going completely silent on him. He believed there was a reason for everything a person did, but Liza had shut him out.

She’d broken patterns, and it had him worried. What was going through her head? He wasn’t sure and that concerned him. As long as he was left guessing it would end up forcing his hand, and he had a heavy hand.  With her he would have to because there would be no second chances.

The agents losing her was expected considering who they were following, but the fact that they’d followed her for this long was concerning. Why had she allowed it? What changed? Why lose them now? What was she up to?

            He’d given her the time she’d asked for and then she’d run from him.

She’d disappeared and then she’d surfaced in the last place he’d ever expected her to return to. He’d been so careful. He’d put so much work into making her into the woman she was and now it seemed she was doing everything she could to destroy that. It was like she was throwing everything he’d given her back in his face.

            When she’d come to him a dirty scrap of a girl with a string of misfortune trailing behind her he’d cleaned her off and taught her everything he knew- well, almost everything.

Everything he’d thrown at her she’d taken in stride and not just survived but thrived. By the end of every test he’d created specifically for her she had always been the last one standing.

He’d pushed her harder than he’d pushed anyone else. So hard there were times he’d thought she wouldn’t recover. In fact, there were times he purposely tried to break her but it only made her stronger. She was special. She was the daughter he’d never had.

He would give her some time.  She was his greatest creation. However, to let her go wasn’t an option either. He’d never let her go. She had to know that.

When he’d first learned of where she’d gone, he hoped it was a coincidence.  

He’d stepped to the sidelines, but he was always aware of where she was. That is until she slipped off from under his radar. He saw that he’d given her too much freedom. That would change. Now that he’d found her, he wasn’t going to ever make the mistake of letting go of the reins again.

            He wouldn’t have her picked up- not yet. He’d let her kick around the small town for a little while longer. Then right when she thought she was safe and he knew all she knew then he would remind her of her place.

By then he wouldn’t have to say anything. By then he would know what she was searching for, and just how to make sure she never got it- ever. She would be begging to return to him, and only then would he let her back into the fold.

She would be his again.

Until then he’d watch and wait in the wings. Waiting for her to realize where she really belonged was with him. She was Central, and always would be.

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Synchronicity means nothing if you can’t read the signs.

NEVER HIDE

The ground was dry and solid beneath the blanket of dead leaves. It felt good to run. Liza covered several miles easily before she slowed down. The area was desolate but it was the reason she’d chosen it.

Once she left the paved roads behind, she wasn’t worried about being followed. The dense overgrowth hid her from view.

Every step Liza took felt natural as her memory opened and allowed in a flood of memories.

Running through the fallen leaves there was nothing but the quiet of the forest to keep her company. She’d been there before. Each step was imprinted in her brain and it all came back like the first kiss of rain before a storm.

Dates and time were fuzzy, but she was getting closer to knowing everything. It didn’t always make sense but that was okay. Eventually the pieces would link up. She just needed a little more time.

The sound of birds chirping echoed through the woods. It was undeveloped land but there were signs that someone had been there before and recently.  

Although it was isolated, Liza wasn’t fearful. If anything, she felt anxious to get to her destination. It was that same feeling she always got on a mission. The synchronicity was returning just like it always did. Every job had a flow she just had to find it. She didn’t know everything but when she needed something it would appear like magic.  

When Liza came to a hill, she already knew it had a sharp drop off on the other side. Once she’d made it over, she scaled her way down to the red dirt trail of gravel and dry mud heading further west.

The path was large enough for a small vehicle to pass through, but no cars had been out here only a golf cart. The memory stopped Liza in her tracks. The only vehicle that had been through these woods was a golf cart she’d stolen months ago. She remembered because she used it to carry some supplies from the main road. With the memory her steps quickened.

Although she couldn’t see it, Liza knew the highway was about ten miles off to her right, but she also knew it wasn’t the best way to come in- not now since she had people following her.

In a slight clearing, Liza came upon a wall of moss and hanging vines. The moss ran up about six feet high intertwining with the dark leaves and vines hanging from three large trees in a circle. Liza reached through the damp foliage until she felt the solid structure beneath it.

Once she found the latch she pulled, and the door creaked open. Liza pushed her way into the through into the darkness into her safehouse.

Once in, Liza pulled the door shut enclosing herself in darkness. The flashlight was still in the groove in the wall just where she left it.

Turning it on I had enough light to see several kerosene lamps hanging from the ceiling. I lit one, but then remembered I could do better. Using the flashlight, I went to the back of the room.

Crouching down she felt for the switch on the generator she knew was there. As soon as she flipped the switch the interior of the camper lit up.

Exhaling, Liza took a few seconds taking it all in from ceiling to floor. It wasn’t very big but it served its purpose. There was a bed in the corner, a couple of coolers stacked next to it with a hot plate on top. There was a small table stacked high with books, papers and folders.

Next to it was a smaller table with a briefcase on it. In the corner several steel boxes stacked. Everything was neat and orderly just as she’d left it.  

She remembered more and more with each passing second but something nagged that she was missing something. There was one last block and no matter how much she wanted to leap over it her feet remained stuck to the ground.

The walls were covered with trash bags to black out the windows. The only light came from a string of exposed light bulbs that were strung throughout the room.  

The cooler was empty but there were several cans of beans and potted meat in the locker. There were also several jugs of water stacked along the back wall.

She didn’t have a lot of time before she had to get back to the Davenports, but she didn’t want to leave just yet. If she was going to find answers, it would be here. She just wondered if she’d be able to accept the answers I got.

 Liza was foraging through the cabin when a noise outside stopped her.  Immediately she turned the light switch off and the room instantly darkened.

Taking her flashlight, Liza inched across the room to the back once more certain of the lay out of the room. She touched the wall pressing her hand behind a plank of wood.

Moving it to the side she found the ladder. Propping it against the wall, she climbed it and pulled back a latch. Sliding the panel back sunlight immediately filtered in.

Pulling herself through the hole she’d made she climbed on the camper’s roof. Covered by hanging moss Liza slid on her stomach to the front of the camper. Pulling her gun from her waistband she looked down. She saw a couple of stray dogs sniffing around at the opening of the camper. She saw no one else. Liza took in the view of the perimeter preparing to climb down when spotted a tiny little black box with a lens no bigger than her thumb attached to the roof. It blended well within several hanging vines. Before she closed the hatch, she spotted three words carved on the white interior, and the last puzzle piece clicked into place.

All is well.

Climbing back into the camper, Liza knew what she needed. Watching the time, she searched a little longer then made her way through the woods back to the Walmart. She did some shopping, then collected her car. She would return, but she had all the information she needed for now. She knew her mission.

The Watchers 20

Remembering

The colors ran like crayons on a hotplate. It felt like a bad acid trip, as memories returned out of order. Liza didn’t know what to trust.

The only thing that grounded her was looking into Mrs. Davenport’s eyes. It was then that she knew for sure it had all happened. The older woman was her life jacket in treacherous waters anchoring her to shore.

After Blackfoot pulled himself to his feet with his one good arm, Mrs. Davenport ordered him to leave warning him that we would be speaking with his commissioner tomorrow.

To his credit Blackfoot hadn’t tried to dissuade the older woman. He apologized, his head hanging in defeat while she spoke to him in clipped cool tones. However, when he looked at me, Liza saw all the burning rage she’d expect from a beaten opponent. She’d never felt more alive. It took everything in her not to smile back at the man.

After he left, Mrs. Davenport said nothing about what she saw. Once again Liza felt like the outsider, but the woman didn’t tell her to leave.

Every thought in her head began and started with one word: “Leave!”, but she didn’t. She couldn’t. The mission wasn’t complete. Instead Liza kept her mouth shut as she watched Blackfoot back out of the driveway. After his rear car lights disappeared around the corner, Mrs. Davenport told her to lock up then went to bed. She’d looked very tired, but she could see a hesitation in her red watery eyes. Liza couldn’t blame her.

It was a blessing that Mrs. Davenport had come in when she did. Liza had been so close to fatally harming the detective. If she had, there wouldn’t have been a choice in whether she stayed or didn’t.

In her world she had every right to protect herself. If someone attacked, there was no time to think you had to put the threat down. Central would understand. Regardless of what Blackfoot thought about Trina, he was in the wrong. It was the only reason she didn’t run.

She’d killed before, but they were all sanctioned kills ordered by Central. But Trina’s wasn’t supposed to be like this. What had happened with Blackfoot, that was Liza.

For once, Liza had doubts. For the first time she wondered what it would be like to not have to forever be running from mission to mission. In the past few days she began wondering if her life was what she wanted. She’d never had that thought before, and it made her doubt herself which she wasn’t used to doing.

She didn’t know what made Blackfoot come after her like that, but the look in his eyes told her that he knew he’d crossed a line he shouldn’t have regardless of what he believed to be true.

Liza would try to convince Mrs. Davenport to leave it be, but she knew for someone like her there was no other option but to file a complaint. If Liza intended to stay, she would have to follow through.

After Liza locked up the house she went back to her room. Lying in bed she tried to convince herself she could be like the Davenports but her mind kept returning to Blackfoot.   

It felt good taking the detective down. When Blackfoot had her against the wall she felt excited. It only got better when she fought him bringing him to his knees.  

All the drills she’d learned from Central were still there. She knew they would always be there, but once again she wondered if maybe she could have more than Central.

Wilson, her husband, was never an equal partner. She’d married him, but she’d never felt a fraction of what she’d felt those moments with Blackfoot.  

Her mind raced through all the lives she’d lived in her thirty-two years yet she couldn’t say she’d ever had a life of her own.

She was still up when Leena and Zuri returned, but she didn’t move from her bed as she tried to will herself to remember the time before she came to the Davenports.

She reached beneath the pillow for the coolness of the knife. Beneath the mattress was the gun loaded with the bullets she’d bought.

Somewhere around one in the morning Liza fell asleep. When she awoke a couple of hours later, she knew immediately something had changed as she stared in the mirror as she brushed her teeth. She let her mind wander as to the previous night.

A trill of electricity ran down her spine every time she thought about sparing with Blackfoot then to the confusing lack of memories since her arrival in town. Only this time the spaces were filling in like a pinball machine, so many memories that she could barely keep them straight so she stopped trying. Liza let them wash over her accepting them as they came.

“Trina, Zuri is about done with breakfast,” Mrs. Davenport said on the other side of the bathroom door, “I’m going to take her on to school, okay?”

“Sure thing,” Liza said on autopilot.  As soon as she heard the front door slam close, she crossed the hall to her room.

For once she wasn’t concerned about what Trina might wear. Instead she grabbed some jeans and a t-shirt, slipping her sock covered feet into sneakers.

She pulled on a heavy plaid long sleeve shirt then pulled the denim coat she’d been wearing everyday over it. Dumping everything from Trina’s purse into a sturdier canvas bag she strapped it across her body.

Grabbing the keys to the Chevrolet once again she walked quickly to the car already thinking about the route she was going to take.

She knew exactly where she was going. The only problem was she wasn’t sure about what she’d find once she got there. Her memory was still playing catch up with her. Her steps quickened because she knew she didn’t have much time.

In her mind she saw the route to take. As soon as she backed out the driveway, she pointed the car north driving the streets further into the sprawling suburb. Her eyes darted to the rearview mirrors out of habit. She hadn’t thought of a trail following her in days, but suddenly she was hyperaware of the possibility.

Sure enough it didn’t take long for her to spot them.

They were so close she could actually see their faces. Liza felt a cloud of disappointment settle as she lead them through the maze of houses and convenience stores. Their sloppiness made her wonder who sent them.

Watching them for several blocks in her rearview mirror Liza could see there were two people in the car. Every turn she made they followed. It was too many to be a coincidence.

A few days ago she hadn’t noticed anyone following her , but her head was much clearer now.  

She was remembering. Before last night everything had seemed muted and off balance. It was a part of her that she’d been ignoring that kept her in the dark. The denial was real. Her memories had always been there she knew that now; she just hadn’t wanted to see them. She had chosen Trina’s life over her own.

Liza maintained her speed taking it slow through the grid of sprawling neighborhoods. She made sure not to repeat or circle her path making it obvious she’d spotted them. She didn’t want them to know she knew they were there. It would make it harder to lose them when it came time. She lead them further away from her intended destination.

Once she’d cleared the neighborhoods and entered a busier section of town, it was time to make her move. Inching closer to the intersection Liza stayed in the right turning lane. When the light turned green, she put the car in neutral and pumped her brakes several times causing the car to jerk as if she were having engine trouble.

Predictably the irritated driver directly behind her beeped, but Liza stayed put blocking the roadway until the light turned yellow.

When the light changed red, she put the car in gear and took off trapping her tail two cars behind her. Liza then made an immediate left crossing the highway and speeding through several side streets trying to put as much distance as possible between her and the car following ber.

By the time she made it to the Super Walmart parking lot, she was sure she’d lost them, but she didn’t stop. There was no time. If they were professionals they already had a tracking device on the car, and would be there in a matter of minutes.

Liza ditched the car, walking quickly through the parking lot to the field of trees behind the Wal-Mart. She ducked into the pines as soon as she got close enough then took off on a brisk run. She had no time to spare.

Her breathing was easy as she sprinted north deeper into the woods then cut through a shallow stream and headed west further away from the city and the subdivisions into even thicker brush. The forest were so thick in spots she couldn’t even see the sky but it comforted her more than anything. She didn’t need to see, because she knew exactly where she was going.

She remembered everything, and God help anyone who tried to stop her from completing her mission. Liza had no doubt they’d find the car, however, she intended to be long gone by then. 

The Watchers 19

Who are you?”

Stepping from the tub Liza wrapped the thick white towel around her body. 

She’d turned the heat up before getting in the bath, but there was still a chill once the air hit her wet skin, but it was worth it. She’d spent the past hour soaking in the tub and her hair.

It had taken forever to remove the tracks of matted hair, but she’d finally gotten them out. Then she soaked her hair in conditioner to untangle it, and get all the blood and grit out of it. She didn’t know how long the tracks had been in, but she was relieved to have them out. Her head felt lighter, and her scalp could finally breathe.

She’d stayed in the tub until the skin on her toes and fingers puckered, but it felt so good letting the warm water run through her curls.

Once Liza dried off, she wrapped her head in a thick white towel and stood in front if the mirror to admire her work. The bathroom smelled of lavender and cocoa butter a shower gel she’dfound in the cabinet.

She didn’t look that different. The resemblance to Trina was still there, but it wasn’t as pronounced. Trina was famous for her long voluminous hair.

She still had the same caramel complexion as Trina but without the heavy makeup and hair Liza looked more like Trina’s close relative rather than her. With the tracks out and only her natural hair the difference was more pronounced, but the same could probably be said for Trina without all the hair.

Liza stared several minutes at the woman in the mirror touching her cheeks, her nose, and her full lips. Pulling at the dark curls on her head she marveled at the way they sprung back. She’d always kept her hair short. Not out of vanity but because it was easier to work with. Liza relied on wigs her entire adult life, but when she was off the clock, she didn’t wear them.

Using a comb, Liza pulled it through her hair watching with satisfaction as the shiny dark curls stretched into fuzzy lines before snapping back across her scalp. Before she thought about it, she reached for some leave in conditioner and started twisting strands of her hair together into little twists. With each repetitive motion Liza felt a sense of peace come over herself.  

Before long she had dozens of twists lying neatly all over her head in a lovely pattern that kept her in the mirror longer than she’d intended. It felt good. For the first time in days Liza felt like herself.

If only she could be her real self, but she shook her head at the thought. It was impossible she knew but a nice dream. Once she finished this mission she would be on her way, leaving the Davenports behind. Within a month she’d have forgotten all about them, at least that’s how it usually happened.

Liza’s thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. Liza ran back to her room to get dressed.  Quickly she pulled on a pair of sweats and an old t-shirt she’d found in one of the drawers. Mrs. Davenport was already sleeping, and Leena and Zuri were gone to a basketball game at the coliseum. Liza ran her fingers through her hair releasing the twists until the curls sprung from her scalp as she ran towards the front door.

It wasn’t late, just a little after eight o’clock, but no one said anything about expecting visitors. Liza peeked out the peephole, her muscles tensed instantly. A familiar face appeared sending a shiver down her spine. Unlike before, Liza was ready for him. She opened the door, and as soon as she unlocked glass door was pulled open.

Blackfoot stepped forward pushing Liza backwards into the house by his much larger frame. When her back hit the wall Liza let her body go limp not resisting. She let him believe she was giving in to him as she allowed the calm to envelope her.

His body came closer and closer until Liza could feel his body heat against her skin. She didn’t smell alcohol on his breath, but her first thought was he was under the influence of something. His strength was apparent, but Liza wasn’t scared.  

“I don’t think you are really who you say you are,” Blackfoot said his smoky hot breath caressing the fine hairs on her cheek. Liza watched his Adam’s apple bobbing in his neck waiting to strike.

Everything was moving in slow motion even Blackfoot’s eyelids. Liza could count each blink.

“Who are you?” he said quietly.

 “Since you know everything, why don’t you tell me.” Liza’s eyes locked on his; She shivered as a chill passed through her body.

“Who are you?” he said again this time he was so close she could feel his lips on her ear. Then he pulled back grabbing hold of her shoulders. He gripped her tightly when she didn’t answer him back. 

Liza felt her head bump against the wall once, then again. She felt a flash of anger but it died just as quickly as it came replaced by the calmness rolling in like the tide onto the shore each wave growing bigger.

“Do you really want to know?” Liza heard a voice say. It took a moment before she realized the voice was her own.

“Who are you dammit,” Blackfoot said digging his fingers painfully into her shoulders.  Liza felt the last shred of his control slip loose before she let the calm take her.

Liza was aware of everything but no longer concerned about the consequences. Her only thought was to free herself.

The calm took over.

Liza heard a voice to her left, but she didn’t recognize it. All of her attention was on the detective and the vise like grip he had on her.

Unlike the bookstore attack, this time she was present for every second from the moment she removed Blackfoot’s grip from her shoulders. She felt the crunch of his fingers beneath hers as she squeezed enough to make Blackfoot’s bones crack. She stopped short at breaking bones, but caused enough pain to satisfy her need for revenge.

She felt the pop the moment Blackfoot’s shoulder was dislocated when she flipped the much larger man to the floor then shoved her right foot in the pit of his arm and pulled, manipulating the joint out of socket savoring his grunts of pain when it broke loose. Then she placed her bare foot on his neck.

“Remove your hand from my leg or I will break your neck,” Liza heard a voice say, it was her voice. Blackfoot stared back at her in shock from his position on the ground for a second before letting his working arm drop to the ground. She stood over Blackfoot as she weighed her options.

She wasn’t out of control nor was she afraid. Both emotions she knew Trina would have felt, but did not register anywhere in Liza’s body. In that moment she thought about what it would take to dispose of Blackfoot’s body before the rest of the Davenport clan arrived if she were to snap his neck.

Going through the scenario in a millisecond Liza realized she could do it. In fact, Liza thought it would be relatively easy only she didn’t have an order for it.

“Damn Central,” Liza whispered as she applied more pressure. The creak of the floor board behind her broke the calm. 

“Let him go,” Mrs. Davenport said.

Liza froze. Disposing of one body was one thing, but two would make it more difficult. She lifted her foot off the man. Liza didn’t want to harm the older woman.  She’d given her the only respite she’d had since arriving in town. As for Blackfoot she had no qualms of killing him whatsoever. From the look in the man’s eyes as he cradled his right arm with his left, she saw he received her message loud and clear.

Stories centering black women, written by a black woman