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.

The Watchers 18

God protects children and fools

“God protects children and fools,” Blackfoot thought as he watched Davenport’s bookstore attacker shuffle into the tank. It was his Daddy’s favorite line, but watching the pitiful excuse of a man before him he figured no line had ever been truer.

The man’s ankles were shackled together beneath the unhemmed legs of his orange jumpsuit forcing him to shuffle awkwardly. The officers sat him at the table bolted to the floor in the middle of the room then secured the handcuffs on his wrists through a metal loop on the table in front of him.

Blackfoot and Taylor watched the man fidget for a few minutes as he tried to get comfortable on the steel seat. Once settled in he scratched his nose a couple of times before sticking one finger in his left nostril.

“You think he’d have struck gold by now,” Blackfoot said grimacing as the man switched nostrils. “Let me get in there before he pokes a whole in what’s left of his brain.

Taylor breathed a sigh of relief it was Blackfoot and not him. He’d done it once already and it was ten minutes of his life he regretted losing.

The man was harder to follow than an ant only his brain was even squirrelier. He still didn’t know what drugs Jeremy was into but seeing him now he had a feeling that his being under the influence had only a minimal effect on his normal state of being

“Okay Jeremy,” Blackfoot said as he walked into the room. The young man jumped in his seat his eyes enormous as they darted up and down the detective’s body looking for any sign of threat. “I guess your accommodations have been adequate since I last saw you?” Blackfoot said.

“Acomma- what?” Jeremy said with his mouth hanging open. He kept his eyes on Blackfoot as if he expected the detective to sprout horns at any moment.

“They treating you nice?”

“What? Naw,” Jeremy said picking at a scab on his neck, but then remembering who he was talking to he mumbled, “It’s alright,” looking over his shoulder as if a guard might materialize at the door to take him back at any moment.

            “Well, I’m sure you’re used to it being that you’ve been here a few times before. This would make your third strike, huh?”

            “I dunno.”

            “Come on man. Yes, you do,” Blackfoot said sitting down. “Let’s see there was possession, then a selling charge, now you done jumped up. Weapons charge, aggravated assault, attempted robbery, murder. Man, you in the big leagues now.”

            Jeremy shook his head, his long black locks swinging with each shake. “Naw man, that wasn’t me.”

            “What do you mean that wasn’t you. Man, you got caught red handed.”

            “But there ain’t no tape. Ain’t no one saw me.”

            “You’re wrong there, buddy. Your victim is still alive. She saw you Sherlock,” Blackfoot watched the young man lean back in his chair and started giggling. He wanted to grab the man by his neck, but he forced himself to stay seated.

He couldn’t do stuff like that anymore. Jeremy was already locked up with charges, but there were cameras in all the rooms now a part of the new governor’s justice initiative.

Blackfoot just wanted to know why Jeremy had attacked Trina. He wanted to know and he wasn’t leaving without answers.

            “I don’t know what you talking about,” he said.

“Oh you don’t huh? Well let me refresh your memory- Trina, aka the woman you and your girlfriend tried to strong arm three days ago. The woman who kicked your ass up and down the cookbook aisle at the Crossroads,” Blackfoot watched as the memory dawned on Jeremy’s face, but it was short lived.

“Oh Yeah,” Jeremy said smiling until the tarnished gold tooth in his mouth showed from the corner of his crooked mouth. “Like she gonna talk to you,” he chuckled, “about me.”

Blackfoot felt the heat rise up his neck. Was that it? Did he have a relationship with Trina? That would explain things, why the woman wouldn’t talk. It wouldn’t bother him if he had another witness, but he didn’t. All he had were two drugged out convicts and a victim who would only give him monosyllabic responses.

“She’ll talk alright. She’ll say exactly what happened and you my friend will be sent away for a very long time.” Blackfoot kept his eyes on the young man. “What I don’t understand is how you and your girlfriend got involved in all of this.”

 “Man, she ain’t my girlfriend. I told your boy down at the station,” Jeremy said slumping in his seat.

“Well your partner in crime, you know the chick we arrested right along with your ass? Yeah, you do. Why were y’all even there? Why Trina if you know her so well?”

“Oh yeah,” he said smiling. “Yeah me and Trina go way back.”

“Tell me about it,” Blackfoot said, but Jeremy’s face closed at his words. “Okay, Jeremy. I get it you liked what you saw. You wanted her to talk to you but she wouldn’t give you the time of day. So, you got your…friend to follow her with you and you were going to cop her bag and sale it. Rough her up a little bit- was that it?”

“Naw man, it wasn’t like that.”

“Yes, it was. A girl like that from a family like that. What would she want with someone like you?”

“Someone like me, man you must be crazy,” Jeremy said laughing. “Fuck that I’m a catch.”

Blackfoot blinked twice at the man’s arrogance, but he said nothing. He didn’t have to. Blackfoot didn’t want to know what delusional reality the kid lived in that made him a catch. He was in jail with no possibility of release. If even one of his charges stuck, he was looking at several decades of hard time. 

His only option was to admit to it as quick as possible and cut a deal. If he didn’t repulse him so much that’s what Blackfoot would be advising him to do right now, but the boy had youth and stupidity working against him. The only thing in front of him was a big fall; Blackfoot just hoped he could get what he needed from him before it happened.

“All I know is she said she had a job for me, and now she’s dead” Jeremy said his voice hollow. It was the first real emotion he’d shown.

“Like I told the other cop. She gave me the gun to hold. She said we was supposed to grab this chick’s purse and take it,” Jeremy said shaking his head, “I don’t know to who. She just said she’d pay us later.” 

Blackfoot shook his head. He needed more. “Us?”

“Big girl, y’all locked up with me.”

“Who told you about the job? I need a name.”

Jeremy shook his head before speaking. “Man, I guess it don’t matter now- she dead. You know the girl y’all pulled from the water last week, Jocelyn. That’s what big girl said,” Blackfoot heard a knock on the window but he ignored it.

“She was the one that set it up,” Jeremy whined. “Now she dead, and we ain’t getting paid,” Jeremy said sounding just as lost as Blackfoot felt. “I don’t know man, that’s all I got.”

“You said that you and Trina was tight,” Blackfoot said. “If you were so tight with her why’d you rob her. Pull your gun on her.”

“Man, I didn’t know who the chick we was robbing was supposed to be. All I knew I was supposed to show up. Be you know, like back up. She was supposed to do everything, but when that chick started throwing kicks and punches, I was just trying to get out the way.” Blackfoot watched the young man. He hated to admit to it but he actually believed him, which made him cringe. 

“Still doesn’t compute,” Blackfoot said. “If you were so close, why didn’t you bail when you saw it was Trina?”

“That’s what I’m telling you man,” Jeremy said his eyes wide. “Trina wasn’t there.”

It was Blackfoot’s turn to laugh, but Jeremy continued undeterred. “You can laugh all you want man, but me and Trina was tight. You know? Real tight. That chick- you can say what you want but that chick was no parts of Trina.”

There was a knock on the window, and Blackfoot stood slowly.

“We through?” Jeremy asked. Blackfoot waved for the guards to enter.

Blackfoot walked into the hallway. He didn’t say anything as Taylor joined him.

“I know crazy, right? Bruh told me the same thing,” Taylor said a grim set to his jaw.

“Yeah, but you know the funny thing about it,” Blackfoot said. “I almost believed him.”

“I got the report back on the body in the water,” Taylor said. “you remember my other case?”

“Yeah,” Blackfoot said as he marched up the stairs to his office. Taylor closed the door behind him.

“Well, boss it seems that we found the bullets to Jeremy’s gun.” Blackfoot sat down at his desk his eyes fixed on the younger man. He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like what he was about to hear.

“They were found at the scene where my floater’s body was discovered,” Taylor said his face pale. “The ones used to kill Jocelyn match. They also match the one we found on Trina Davenport.”

The Watchers 17

You can’t park here

Liza poured a cup of coffee and sat next to Mrs. Davenport and Zuri at the table. She took a long sip savoring the warmth of the mug in her hands.  She looked up to see two pairs of eyes staring back at her. 

“Mama I thought you hated coffee,” Zuri said staring at the cup then back to Liza.

“Yeah,” Liza said gripping the coffee cup tightly with both hands, “Mama needed a little pick me up today.”

“Go get your book bag, young lady,” Mrs. Davenport said and the girl immediately stood up to do as she was told. “You sure you up to taking her to school,” Mrs. Davenport said. “Leena can do it if,”

“No, Leena can’t,” Leena said walking into the kitchen still wearing the scrubs she wore last night as pajamas.

“Remember, I don’t have no kids,” Leena said.

“I said I’d do it,” Liza said.

She needed to make a few stops, and the car would make it easier. Hiding away in the Davenport’s house wasn’t going to keep me safe. Eventually I had to venture out.

“The keys are on the latch over the switch,” Mrs. Davenport said, “take the red set to the Chevrolet.”

“Why you acting like she don’t know where stuff at,” Leena jeered. “She may have been big timing it for a little while, but she ain’t been gone that long.”

Liza grabbed the keys and headed to the door with Zuri close behind. The hardest part was getting the girl to give her directions without making her suspicious. Within minutes they were pulling into the school’s cobblestoned driveway. It was a nice school. There was a line of cars dropping kids off at the school and teachers standing at the door greeting everyone.

“Are you going to pick me up after school?” Zuri said before climbing out the car her round shoulders curved inward as if she were waiting for another rejection. Liza could tell she’d been disappointed a lot by her mother.

She wanted to shake some sense into the girl. Her mother was a selfish jerk, and the sooner she accepted it the better off she would be. She couldn’t say that, of course. That was for her to learn. 

“Yup,” she said, “unless I don’t. Then your grandma or auntie will come.” The little girl’s hopeful face fell, but Liza knew it was for her own good as she watched the girl walk away. A loud knock on the driver’s window startled her. 

“You can’t park here, “the woman dressed in a black puffy jacket and skull cap yelled. 

“Okay, I’m moving,” Liza said but the woman continued before she could put the car in gear.

“I said you can’t park here,” the woman said again. Liza looked at the woman. What the hell was her problem? Liza put the car in gear forcing a smile on her face. The woman looked confused then suspicious. She watched the woman in the rear-view mirror. She wasn’t Trina, but Liza was beginning to understand why the woman caught so much trouble. Every where she went someone went out of their way to push the woman’s buttons then point a finger when she reacted.

After watching hours of footage, Liza was sure Trina would have at the very least cursed the crossing guard out. The worst case scenario, she would have jumped out the car and slapped the woman silly. However, Trina’s way of handling conflict was what Liza wanted to avoid.

Central had trained her to deescalate not detonate conflict. Maintain your cover at all costs, and never draw attention to yourself.

In essence she needed to tone Trina down. Trina’s way was to bring as much attention to herself as possible. She thrived on it. Liza didn’t know how long she was going to be here, but she knew there was no way she could complete her mission, if she was fighting someone every step of the way.

Pulling the visor down she looked in the little vanity mirror when I came to the first stop light. Liza tilted the mirror looking closer. She marveled at the resemblance once again. The face staring back at her was her own but it was also Trina’s.

The things that looked foreign in the mirror could be changed easily. Then she could be more like herself, but still fit in. The hair had to go. It felt like it was wearing her more than she was wearing it. Although it looked alright, Liza knew what was going on underneath the helmet of dark auburn strands. It was time for a change. It was time to introduce the world to the new Trina.

Eventually she’d have to leave the Davenports, but until then, she could scale Trina’s look back a little. Liza didn’t want or need the attention Trina attracted. Trina thrived on having a high profile, but there was no way Liza could live that way 24/7.

Tracing her way back through the Davenport’s neighborhood, Liza made her mind up. She stopped at the drug store and picked up some things she needed. She made a stop at Walmart for bullets, and a few other places.

She didn’t know how people would react, but either way she knew it had to be done. It was time for Trina to have a make under.

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Figure out the pattern~

            “We haven’t made contact but we have her location.”

            “Has she identified you?”

            “No, sir.”

            “You have not been compromised?”

            “No, sir.”

            “Not that you know of, you idiot! You don’t know and wouldn’t know until it’s too late. Do not let your guard done with her for one second. You can’t trust or relax because just when you think you have her figured out; she will attack.”

            “Yes, Sir.”

“That’s what we trained her for. Remember that.”

            “She surfaced two days ago. She hasn’t tried to hide or run.”

“I don’t care whether she’s wearing a fucking neon sign in the middle of town square you stay away from her.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“If anything, she’s purposely stayed in the open. It means she’s playing her cover, and you are not going to approach until I say so. Stay on her tail and don’t mess this up.”

            “Yes, sir,” the agent said into his cell. “What about the Davenports?”

            “I don’t care do what you have to do just don’t lose her again.”

The agent pocketed his phone. The reports were dismal he’d heard from Liza’s old territory. They needed her back. They weren’t making any progress overseas and it wasn’t looking good. What the hell was Liza doing?

Liza was their best agent, but whatever stunt she was pulling went against everything Central taught all of them.  

What happened to her in London? So many questions floated in his brain.  Liza was a damn lethal weapon it just didn’t make sense. All he’d heard was she hadn’t worked another assignment since London. There was no telling what the truth was. All he had to go on was what he was told.

They’d been trailing her since she surfaced. She had to know that, but she wasn’t letting on and she hadn’t called in from what he’d heard.

The Mastermind confused him most of all. If it were his decision to make, he’d have her picked up. If it was anyone else, he was sure that was what the Mastermind would have done but not Liza.

He’d have to wonder if she might have turned. She could be working undercover for another agency, but who? And furthermore Why? Central was her home, Liza had no reason to leave.

Either way it wasn’t looking good for her. She was getting sloppy. They’d had to destroy two visuals on her since she’d surfaced.

First it was that bookstore that caught her taking down the couple who’d attacked her. He’d had Central hack the system to erase the tape.

The hospital security was a lot easier. Management gave the tape over without coercion. It hadn’t taken any subterfuge.

Then that crap she pulled in the middle of the street in public view. They’d had to work hard to contain the teenager brigade of YouTube videos, but luckily it was only crappy camera phone footage shot at night too distorted to really see what was going on. Still they’d wasted man power on containing it.

He didn’t know Liza personally, but he’d heard enough stories about her. From what he knew she was the best especially at this type of job. She could infiltrate any situation.

She was a chameleon but since she’d surfaced her awkwardness was palpable every time she was spotted. Something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t determine just what. Then again that wasn’t his place. That was the Mastermind’s job.

He was here to do a job and his job right now was to trail Liza. That’s what he was told to do. When it was time to strike, he’d be told that as well. Until then he just had to keep reporting back what he saw as the Mastermind told him.

One thing was for sure he didn’t take any of the warnings about Liza lightly. Although this assignment on the surface appeared easy, the Mastermind’s words worried him. These types of jobs were the ones that could get you killed. You get lulled into a false sense of security and then Bam- you wake up with a bullet in your head.

He’d heard the tales of how Liza could go so deep she could pull a hair from her target’s chin before they’d even realized she was there. It was how she caught the big fishes. It wasn’t magic it was her attention to detail.

Everyone had a pattern that was her motto, and she got the big catches because she learned them, studied them.  It’s what she built her career on. In fact, they taught an entire class on her techniques.

Figure out the pattern, learn to mimic the pattern, and then execute the pattern. It could be the most mundane things, but eventually it would tell you how to take down any target. It wasn’t always necessary to learn about every intricate detail of a mark, but it helped.

Sometimes you just wanted to get in and get out. Take them out and be done. No need to figure out habits for a job like that, but there were other jobs that more finesse was required that’s what Liza mastered in. For those missions patience was tantamount and Liza’s patience and attention to detail was legendary.

She assumed new identities as easily as most people changed clothes. She did it so often and perfectly that no one really knew what she looked like without her costume any more.

He’d met Liza twice in person, but she’d been undercover. If no one had told him it was her both times he would never have believed it because her looks and more importantly demeanor were so different.

That’s what she got the big bucks for. Liza could make herself look like anybody. She could be twenty-five or sixty-five. She could be fat or skinny black or white male or female- she was that good. This made this assignment all the more strange.

Since they’d arrived, Liza or “Trina” hadn’t left the house until this morning when she dropped the kid off at school. He’d seen everything following her. He’d even seen the confrontation with the school guard.

Liza hadn’t said a word to the woman, and that had been her big mistake. The school guard hadn’t waited for Liza to turn the corner before she was relaying a play by play of what happened to her fellow guard. It was a big mistake, on Liza’s part. He was sure by the end of the day everyone would have heard about how strangely Trina Davenport was acting.

Like Liza always said it wasn’t what people said that caught them up sometimes it was what they didn’t say. It was the small things that caught you. That moment you try to take a shortcut and you step out of the comfort zone of what is plausible.

You can’t reach out of that zone too many times when the stakes were as high as the one’s they played with. There was no room for errors or do overs. You either did it right the first time or you died.

The Watchers 16

I had to become Trina Davenport

Liza woke with a start. Heart racing, she searched the room until she remembered. Trina’s room. She looked at the blue walls as she sat in bed. The clock on the wall showed it was six o’clock. She’d slept the entire night. She’d never slept for longer than a couple of hours. She hadn’t since childhood.

The door still had the dresser blocking it. After locking the bedroom door she’d slid the dresser in front of it just in case. No one had tried to enter her room, but she didn’t want to take a chance.

She’d spent the majority of the night searching the internet for information about Trina. She’d started with her Wikipedia page and went from there. There was a plethora of articles and interviews written about ‘America’s Bad Girl” aka Trina Davenport. Then she moved onto Youtube videos and fan pages detailing her every movement for the last two years since she’d been picked as the next big thing to hit reality TV.

Trina Davenport self-described as the girl America most loved to hate. She became famous for her taglines “You hate me because you ain’t me” and “don’t start none, won’t be none.” Her rise to fame began with the viral video detailing her troubled life in her hometown.

With a ground swelling of support from friends, fans and family she was voted to be cast in the all-star season of “The Bad Girls take Manhattan”.

Ms. Davenport began with the Bad Girls franchise in 2011 in the show’s third season. Like many ensemble reality shows before it, the Bad Girls detailed the lives of six young women from very different circumstances living together in a house. However, Bad Girls was the first of its kind to make its housemates compete for a prize to be rewarded at the end of the show.

The premise of Bad Girls was to take the most outrageous personalities and turn them into debutantes by the end of the show. The contestants were giving classes on etiquette as their entire lives were made over. At the end of the season the contestant voted most improved won a monetary prize.

Many of the show’s detractors stated that the show exploited the contestants many of whom were not educated and were from underprivileged back grounds by pitting them against each other and encouraging them to attack their fellow contestants. However, the show’s rabid fans have rallied behind them even signing petitions to keep the show on the air. Its supporters call it the real-life modern day My Fair Lady minus the Professor Higgins. Instead a hodgepodge panel of etiquette coaches and special guest judges determine each week who will stay and who will leave.

The shows formula involves taking young women from all over the country that lacked basic manners and turn them into modern day “Eliza Doolittles”.

They were then shipped into the Hamptons and NYC’s finest parties and social clubs to “fool” the high society into believing they belonged. After rigorous lessons on social etiquette and cramming sessions on world events the girls were given a head to toe makeover then unleashed as eligible debutantes.

The experiment was to see who blinked first: the young women who are strangers in a strange land or the hoydens of high society who could sniff out the imposters and toss them before they can have their first taste of champagne.

In the first season the shows detractors call for the show to be boycotted saying it exploited poor uneducated minority women seeking to improve their lives by showcasing their lack of education and poor social skills as entertainment. Others said it mocked the traditions of a notoriously exclusive society that never asked to be a part of this carnival show.

Either way the success of the show as shown by its ratings proved that Americans were interested. They are watching and there have been many breakout stars from the series, but none more of a breakout than Trina Davenport.

Trina Davenport, a high school graduate from the South, became the third season’s breakout star catapulting herself and the show to international fame. It was later learned that although she was initially portrayed as coming from a low socioeconomic background, she actually hailed from a family of educators and businessmen.

On the show Trina was the most outspoken and argumentative of the group, but many professed their love of her because of her willingness to step into the fray to fight for what she believed. However, often what she believed in seemed to be directly related to how much screen time she could get.

Undeniably ambitious Ms. Davenport was upfront with her desire to establish a career in show business after being cast in the show. Although Trina never denied her reason for being on the show, “I was born to be a star, baby,” was one of the many taglines she was famous for, fans appreciated her frankness and drive.

However, once her season was over the ambition she had fizzled out when she was unable to use the platform as a launching pad for more legitimate roles. Things changed when a ground swell of support fans voted Trina to return for an All-Star season that took the debutantes overseas to Europe.

It was after that record-breaking season that Trina was able to recapture her popularity that has led to renewed interest in her career as an actress signing on for several episodes of the hit dramedy, Two for The Road in 2016.  

Liza read many more articles basically of the same ilk, but it was the Bad Girls videos that put Trina the woman in full perspective. Some were well produced duplicates of the reality shows the woman had been on, but some were candid videos uploaded by fans or so-called fans showing Trina at her worst in public. The girl definitely had a temper on and off the show. She had a trigger personality and wasn’t afraid to go after someone.

However, her audience loved her or loved to hate her because regardless of her behavior she always had a witty comment to make before, during or after her tantrums. She was ratings gold.

The latest video posted was by fans of Trina in line at a movie theater with her daughter Zuri went viral. It began as usual with Trina in full rant. Published a year ago it had several million hits for the sixty second clip.

Like all the others there was never footage before or after, it always began when Trina was already amped up and charging full speed ahead. Her behavior was reckless but Liza didn’t believe it warranted her being killed. In the past twenty-four hours she’d been shot at, mugged at gunpoint and attacked in the street. She couldn’t imagine what the rest of Trina’s life was like with the short time period she’d walked in her shoes.

What was worse was that it didn’t seem like Trina had any one on her side except of course Mrs. Davenport and Zuri. It was all so strange. She was playing the part of a lightning rod personality but Liza wasn’t used to being the center of attention. She knew something was going have to give. She had to find a happy medium between old Trina or new Trina.

The smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen pulled Liza from her thoughts remembering her promise to take Zuri to school.

Liza pulled the knife from under her pillow and stuck it in the waist band of her pajamas before walking to the bathroom across the hall to wash up.

She still hadn’t figured out the purpose of her mission. She also hadn’t been contacted by Central. She could feel time slipping away, but there wasn’t anything she could do but keep under the radar.

She needed more info. Until then she planned to fit in the best she could. It was her only option if she wanted to get back to Central. She had no choice but to become Trina Davenport.

The Watchers 15

It’s like she’s two different people

Taylor hated to be the bearer of bad news, but there was no way around it. He flashed his trademark smile as he walked in the station determined not to let the dread he felt brewing in his gut show on his face. 

He knew Blackfoot wasn’t going to like his news one bit. The hospital security tape for the night Davenport was corrupted, but that wasn’t all. The bookstore called him and the Crossroads tapes were gone too. They’d been destroyed by someone on staff.

Taylor didn’t believe that for one moment, but what could he do? It wasn’t like he could jail anyone for what he suspected to be true. However, he had a feeling the “lost” tape would probably appear anonymously on some gossip site in the next few months. It was certain going to bring a pretty penny to some pimply former employee.

“So not one but both of them either lost or missed the tapes of Davenport?” Blackfoot said. “I swear this case is going to kill me,” he said sitting on the edge of his desk. “I just don’t get it. Between evidence getting lost and a victim, who won’t talk to us, we seem more concerned about her safety than she or her entire family put together.”

“Still no word, huh?”

“None whatsoever,” Blackfoot said. “Ballistics got back to me. The bullet found on Davenport matched the gun.”

“Damn,” Taylor said laughing. “Well, that’s what we hoped. I went to the bookstore and the manager first said the cameras malfunctioned, but then he admitted, you know after I questioned him for a bit,” Taylor said clearing his throat, “that one of the tapes malfunctioned and an employee tossed it. They gave us the backup tape, but it’s no good to us. Not a clear frame in it.” Taylor took one of the two seats facing Blackfoot. “Then I ran over to the hospital just on a whim and they said flat out there was no tape.”

“No tape?”

“Their exact words were, ‘what tape?” Taylor pulled out a peppermint from his jacket pocket. Unwrapping it he popped it in his mouth.

“At least we still have the yo-yos locked up.”

“They’ve given all they got,” Taylor said. “The woman just blubbers about someone promising her she could have Trina’s designer purse, and her boyfriend keeps saying he was set up. They’re both losers if you ask me,” Taylor said standing. “I mean who tries to rob a woman in the middle of a crowded store in the middle of the day in the suburbs?”

Blackfoot stood and grabbed his coat from the back of his chair.

“C’mon let’s go.” Blackfoot said. “I can’t sit in this box a minute longer. You hungry?”

“Sure,” Taylor said surprised by his partner’s abrupt change.  “Where we going?”

“Does it matter?”

“No,” Taylor said looking defeated, “although I have a feeling even if it did, you wouldn’t care.” Blackfoot smiled for the first time that morning.

Ten minutes later they arrived at their destination. “You just don’t give up do you?”

“Giving up don’t get cases closed.” Blackfoot held the door to the Davenport’s diner for Taylor to enter.  The diner was packed with the usual lunch crowd.

Davenport’s opened in 1985 but it hadn’t changed much since then. Like most of the businesses in the center of town it was stuck in a time warp, but beloved even more because of it. There were pictures of local officials enjoying plates of their famous twice fried chicken, greens, macaroni and cheese, and big pieces of Mrs. Davenport’s famous buttered corn bread through the decades.

The décor was a running history of the town. Pictures of little league baseball teams and framed pictures of newspaper clippings heralding accomplishments over the past decades. There were mirrored walls behind the counter on the wall that made the diner look two times bigger than it actually was.  It was on the small side but not a single square foot was wasted. There were booths along one wall and then two aisles of tables that ran from the front door to the kitchen. All the tables and booths were full, but Blackfoot was able to find two spots at the counter. They had to stand for a few minutes but soon they both had a stool to sit on.

It was because it was such a local favorite; Blackfoot couldn’t imagine anyone taking a hit out on one of the Davenport daughters without someone in town knowing something.

That is, unless, of course, the person or persons behind Trina’s trouble was an out of Towner, which concerned Blackfoot.

After they placed their orders, they both sat quietly watching the flow of customers. It was a steady level of chatter filling the room making it unnecessary to try and carry on a conversation. Taylor pulled out his phone scrolling through his screen while they waited. 

Once their food arrived and the waitress had moved on, the two men dug into their plates. Blackfoot always enjoyed eating at the diner, but he had to admit he was hoping to run into the matriarch. Unfortunately, Taylor learned from the chatty waitress the boss lady was not coming in today.

Apparently, the elderly woman had taken a few days off. She’d been doing it quite a lot lately according to her employee. It was a piece of information that Blackfoot found odd, since as long as he’d known Mrs. Davenport the woman never took off from work. She was there every day for most of the day at that.

The story was that she wanted to spend more time with her family now that Trina was back. Blackfoot could understand that especially with recent events, but it didn’t make him any less suspicious especially since Trina had just gotten back in town this past week, but he learned Mrs. Davenport had been cutting back on hours for the past two months.

Taylor pulled his phone out with a frown on his face as he wiped his mouth before furiously tapping on the screen.

“What you got there?”

“It’s called the internet,” Taylor said laughing. “You heard of it” Blackfoot grinned shaking his head.

“Ok, smart ass. I’m older, not old. Big difference.”

 “Here we go,” Taylor joked back, “Look here. The paper did a story on her. You know local celebrity and stuff…”

“Local celebrity, huh,” Blackfoot said shaking his head. “What else it say?”

“Hey, I know you’re a pop culture snob, but not everyone thinks like that,” Taylor said. When Blackfoot only smirked as Taylor continued, “She came back two months ago for a short visit, but she’s here until the new season of her show starts filming. Says they’re on hiatus until spring.”

“Your girlfriend said Mrs. D started cutting back on her hours a couple of months ago.”

“Yeah, but her granddaughter’s been living with her since she was born, and don’t forget Leena.

“Besides the woman’s husband gone and she probably just wanted to get away from work for a while. Hell, I don’t blame her with all of the drama that daughter of hers has stirred up on TV. A woman like Mrs. Davenport I’m sure couldn’t sit well with her daughter’s behavior. I mean have you seen that show?”

“An entire episode? Can’t say I have,” Blackfoot said shaking his head.

“C’mon, man. She’s the star of the show. If it weren’t for her there was no reason to watch it. That woman is a firecracker and not in the good way.”

“There’s a good way?”

“Man, you don’t get out enough.” Taylor said noticing Blackfoot’s sharp glance. “I mean the women on that show are crazy, and Trina was the craziest of the cray-cray.”

“Cray-cray?”

“Crazy on steroids. In fact, if you hadn’t told me about how quiet she was in your interview I wouldn’t have believed it was possible Trina could close her mouth long enough to let someone else get a word in edgewise.” At Blackfoot’s confused look Taylor continued. “I mean it man, you need to watch the tapes. That woman is certifiable.”

Blackfoot finished his juice but Taylor’s words gave him pause. The Trina he’d met was nothing like what Taylor was describing. His description didn’t fit with the woman he sat with yesterday. He just didn’t get how someone could change personalities so drastically in one week. The woman Rusty described meeting was more like Taylor’s description, but nothing like what he saw. It was like there were two Trina’s.

Unfortunately, the address Rusty had given him hadn’t panned out so he didn’t have anyone to corroborate his story.

It was just so strange. When Trina saw Rusty, she acted like she didn’t know who Rusty was. Blackfoot didn’t blame her considering how their night went down according to the EMT, but still it was odd.

From what he remembered years ago, Trina seemed to be a nice young lady, but she was a kid back then. Apparently, a lot had changed.

He needed to talk to her again. Something just wasn’t sitting right with him. He just needed to talk to her one more time – alone. He knew it was the only way he would be able to find out what was really going on.

Trina knew something, he was sure of it, but either she didn’t realize it or she just wasn’t talking.  he last thing he wanted was a repeat incident like what happened at the Crossroads, or for someone to take another shot at the young woman only this time at close range.

“It’s like she’s two different people in one body,” Taylor said around the last bite of his BLT sandwich.

Blackfoot agreed. He just knew something wasn’t right. He also knew he wasn’t going to be able to stop until he figured out what it was.

The Watchers 14

If anything ever happened to my granddaughter  

It was like her mind forgot to forget. Every time she remembered a piece of something it left a space, and something opened up just enough for a slip of memory to come through. It just wasn’t happening fast enough. Liza wanted answers and she wanted them now. She’d hoped if it happened enough eventually she would start understanding what had happened to her.

It was just coming so slow. If Liza didn’t know better she’d think she didn’t want to remember, but that was crazy. Then again maybe she was crazy.

Who forgets an entire block of time?  Someone with one too many secrets that’s who. It made her question: was she cracking up? Had all the missions blown a circuit in my brain? If so, telling Central might be the safest thing for everyone.

She was a stranger not only to the Davenport family, but to herself, and the worse part of it she was beginning to wonder if she could or should trust herself.

Beyond the little memory she had which was nothing more than flashes of faces and places, she still didn’t know who she was supposed to be for this assignment. Anger she was used to but not when it was directed at herself. The frustration almost paralyzed her. It made me move differently- slower, and that wasn’t like her. Then just when she gave up on remembering anything a memory would appear.

Liza knew who she was, but what did that mean when she couldn’t remember what she’d been doing for the past six months? A lot can change in six months. Her name was Liza Waters but who was that really now?

Liza needed to talk with someone who knew her, knew about her, but there weren’t that many people. There was Wilson.  The last time she remembered sharing the same zip code was a year ago. That was the last time she remembered, but she couldn’t be for sure.

If she contacted him and he suspected something was wrong she’d put both of them in danger. As a Central agent he’d be required to report all to the Mastermind. Liza couldn’t risk that. There really wasn’t anyone else she knew who wasn’t equally in danger if she told them her truth. Everyone she knew was somehow affiliated with Central.

Mrs. Davenport hadn’t pushed her to prove anything. She’d just accepted her. It was as Trina, but the woman’s protection was solid. Considering what she’d been able to discover about Trina, she would have understood if the woman had kicked her out, but she hadn’t. The woman seemed to have an abundance of forgiveness within her. Even though Liza knew it was for Trina not for her, she appreciated it. It was the most anyone had ever done for her- ever.

Later that evening Mrs. Davenport called Liza in to her room as she was getting ready for bed.

“Put this on the head for me, baby,” Mrs. Davenport said pointing at the Styrofoam bust before removing her wig. Liza was surprised to see the woman’s mostly bald head but looked away. She didn’t want to say something wrong.

Liza caressed the gray curls in my hands and carefully shape it around the mannequin’s head on the dresser so the wig would keep its shape. She tried not to stare at Mrs. Davenport but the sparse tufts of hair on smooth brown skin was hard to ignore.  

“Cancer ain’t nothing to play with,” the older woman said coughing softly. She returned her stare in the vanity’s mirror. Without her wig the woman looked older than her sixty-five years. Liza could now see just how hard the older woman worked to hide her illness during the day.  

“It’s been a rough year,” she said in a manner that could be taken as a question or a statement. Mrs. Davenport turned in her seat to face Liza.

She stared for several seconds.  “Sit down,” she said. Liza immediately sat on the edge of the older woman’s bed directly opposite from Mrs. Davenport.

“Family is important to me,” the older woman said. “There was never many of us. Roger came from a small family, and mine,” she said smiling ruefully, “was even smaller, but each year I’ve watched our family shrink in size.”   

“When your Daddy died two years ago, I wanted to die right with him. Losing a husband, no matter how many years he was sick, is hard,” she said taking a deep breath. “God bless him. No matter how much you think you prepared it ain’t ever easy. Then I had the problem with my lungs and I realized I had my chance to join him. But you know what,” I said smiling softly, “I wasn’t ready to go just yet. Only God can make those choices. When he says it’s your time, then it’s your time. Until then we have to do the best we can with what we got.”

Leaning in her seat she said, “You’re here, now.” Mrs. Davenport said with an intense look on her face. “While you’re here know you have family, you hear me? You understand?” Mrs. Davenport said her eyes locked on mine.

“Yes,” Liza said catching her breath.

“Yes, what?” her soft voice edged with steel.

“Yes, ma’am,” Liza answered. She wasn’t certain but it seemed as if Mrs. Davenport was talking directly to her, Liza, instead of Trina, but she shook the thought away. There was no way, or was it? She said no more, and Liza didn’t push her to. There was no way she was going to mess this up. She needed more time and here she was giving it to her with a big red bow on it.  All she had to do was continue being Trina.

Whatever troubles Trina had given to her mother seemed to have prepared the older woman for just about anything. It was confounding that a woman as accomplished as Mrs. Davenport could have raised two daughters who were so different and so troubled, but she had.  

It didn’t make sense, but it wasn’t Liza’s job to figure that out. She wasn’t there to resolve their family problems. She was there to buy enough time to finish her mission. Then she planned to disappear just like she always had. 

A part of her wanted to know more about the Davenport’s, but the other part said leave it alone. That was the voice that forced Liza to her feet.

“Trina,” Mrs. Davenport’s voice called out. Liza stopped in my tracks. The woman’s voice despite whatever treatment she was going through was still clear and strong. “I haven’t heard you say much since you been back in this house. You got something on your mind?”

“No,” Liza said quickly adding, “ma’am.” She turned in the doorway to smile at the older woman. “Nothing on my mind.”

“Good, good,” the woman said. “Now you go on to bed you got to get up early to take my granddaughter to school in the morning. You up for that?” Liza nodded.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Glad to hear, because that girl is my pride and joy. If anything ever happened to my granddaughter,” the woman paused, “there would be hell to pay.”

The look in the older woman’s eyes spoke volumes, and Liza heard it loud and clear. She could stay, but she’d be expected to manage Trina’s responsibility which meant the little girl who called her “Mama”, but she knew nothing about.

Regardless of what had gotten her there, Liza felt safe with the Davenports. She was willing to deal with Trina’s crazy life, but she wasn’t prepared to let any of it touch Mrs. Davenport who’d done nothing but show her loyalty.

“I need to get online,” Liza said hoping the Davenports had a computer.

“Of course,” Mrs. Davenport said walking to her closet. “We may be country, but we aren’t completely out of touch, dear,” she said walking to her closet. She returned with a laptop and a power cord.

Liza took both thanking Mrs. Davenport before telling her goodnight.

It was already midnight but she still had work to do, and she knew just where she was going to start. Although sleep sounded good, the job couldn’t wait.

Liza took the laptop to her room and locked the door. She logged on to the laptop and pulled up the browser then typed the two words into the search engine: “Trina Davenport”. She just hoped she could get some answers.

The Watchers 13

No one said your daughter was a criminal

“Female, 22 years of age, one prior, and oh lookee here,” Tracy said, “surprise, surprise with a prior charge of disorderly conduct. Not exactly innocent, now is she?”

“Just tell me the facts,” Blackfoot turned his back to the wind and the crowd of onlookers watching their every move. The assailant was in the back of the ambulance headed to the hospital, but his job wasn’t done. His job wouldn’t be done until he finally got to talk to Trina Davenport, who was sitting in her family’s living room waiting for him.

Blackfoot stared at the Davenport house as Tracy read the report from the cruiser’s monitor. He’d been the first officer on the scene. Blackfoot was going to interview the Davenports personally, but he knew he had to be prepared. If he didn’t have all the facts it was going to be a long night.

Just because Trina now agreed to talk it didn’t mean she was willing. It’s just that Mrs. Davenport couldn’t deny her daughter was in her home anymore, not with an entire neighborhood of witnesses.

“Apparently the woman threatened to bust out the windows of the Davenport’s Chevrolet with her bat unless Trina Davenport came outside,” the officer paused to hold up a bat. “When Ms. Davenport came out of the house Bat Girl got a few swings in and then that’s when this happened,” the officer then waved towards the ambulance and made chopping motions through the air with her hands.

The EMT hadn’t reported to him yet, but he knew the gist of the rest. The woman was hit by Trina one time, but it must have been a hell of a punch because the woman had been knocked out cold.

By the time the first officer arrived she was moving, but had difficulty breathing. It all sounded very familiar. Only this time they had footage. It was dark, but he could see faces and hear the exchange on one of the teenager’s mobile phones. He had the teenager forward the link to his email account. The only thing left was to figure how this encounter factored in with the other incidences involving Trina Davenport.

The investigation was pretty much going by the book ending with the woman’s arrest pending her discharge by medical staff.

The only deviation from the textbook assault case was that this was the third time in three days that Trina Davenport had been involved in an altercation. The woman wasn’t just born under a bad sign she had a big red target on her back.

“Sounds like chickens coming home to roost if you ask me,” Tracy said.

“Follow the bus to the hospital,” Blackfoot told the officer. “Stay on her. Once she’s released take her downtown.”

“Will do, sir.”

Blackfoot walked towards the Davenport’s front porch for the second time that day but his mood was much worse and his footsteps a lot heavier. He cursed himself for giving up so easily earlier.

Maybe if he’d pushed more all of this could have been avoided and he’d already have the information he needed from Trina. It was the second time he’d second guessed himself out of finishing this case; he swore there wouldn’t be a third.

He wanted to talk to Trina even less than she wanted to talk him, but neither had a choice now. He didn’t care about excuses anymore; he was finishing this tonight.

“Blackfoot!”

Groaning he turned in time to see a short boxy man running his way.  It was the EMT from the bookstore the night before. He couldn’t say he was glad to see the guy, but he no longer felt like pummeling the man either. He called that progress. 

“Hey,” Blackfoot said pulling a cigarette out of his pocket making the most out of the reprieve. “You ever not on the clock?”

“I could ask the same about you,” Rusty said as they fell into step with each other.

“The girl’s going to be alright, but we hadn’t had the chance to check out Ms. Davenport yet,” he gave a nod to the house. “I can’t believe they discharged her so quick after last night.”

“They didn’t. She’s AMA.” Rusty shook his head, and Blackfoot shrugged. “Her choice, but it’s a pain in my butt. We’ve been looking for her all day. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the girl planned all of this. No one has this much bad luck,” Blackfoot said before dropping what was left of his cigarette to the ground.

“You mind if I tag along,” Rusty said, “you know in case she needs some medical attention.”

Blackfoot would have been impressed with the man’s dedication if he didn’t already know him. Although he’d gotten over their confrontation the night before he still didn’t like the pipsqueak. Besides he liked to work alone. He was about to tell the man no, when Mrs. Davenport stepped out onto the porch and waved for both of the men to come inside.

Immediately he had the urge for another cigarette seeing the woman’s dour face but he ignored it. Blackfoot led the way.

“Wow,” Rusty said under his breath as soon as they entered the interior of the house. They passed the diplomas of the Davenport clan and pictures with local and nonlocal celebrities hanging on the walls. Both Mrs. Davenport and her late husband were national scholars each having gotten multiple degrees and certifications in Education and Science. However, after both retired they opened the Davenport restaurant and found their second calling. Several of the pictures on the walls showed the couple in their later years smiling widely with their arms around dignitaries. Blackfoot saw a couple of pictures with the Davenport’s and two different U.S. presidents.

Mr. Davenport had been one of the few doctors of color in town, and Mrs. Davenport had worked for the state’s education system for more than three decades first as a teacher then an administrator. They were considered local celebrities themselves and had become a highly respected staple of the Gulf Coast.

Unfortunately, the achievements the two elders of the family hadn’t transferred to their offspring. Leena, who had to be in her mid-thirties, still lived in her parent’s home and hadn’t completed college, Trina had barely finished high school, and her biggest claim to fame was her notorious stint on a reality television show that put Jerry Springer to shame.

“Just let me do the talking, hear?” Blackfoot said in Rusty’s ear. The red head frowned but quieted when Mrs. Davenport sat down directly across from them.

Blackfoot looked over his shoulder to see Trina enter the room. She looked as he expected her to look. Dog tired, but still standing. She came into the dining room and sat next to her mother at the table. She said nothing as she stared across the table at the two men.

Blackfoot had the distinct impression that he wasn’t just being watched but assessed. He didn’t like it. Her look said, screw you, but Blackfoot could say at that point after the day he’d had he felt about the same. He didn’t want to be there any more than she wanted him there. In fact he couldn’t wait to leave. He only had one question.

“Why did you run?”

“I didn’t.”

Surprised, Blackfoot looked at the young woman waiting for her to say more, but she just stared back at him. “Okay, what happened to make you leave the hospital this morning,” Davenport said, “without telling anyone?”

“Is that a crime?” Mrs. Davenport spoke up. “You know how expensive it is to stay in a hospital.” She added, chuckling, but no one joined in except for Rusty. Blackfoot gave the man a warning look.

“Yes, ma’am,” Blackfoot said turning back to the two women. He already regretted having agreed to allow Trina’s mother in the room with them. He wanted answers, but his hands were tied about how to approach getting those answers. His patience was so thin it was damn near transparent which was a bad spot for him to be in. Even on his best days his temper could get the best of him which he knew would be the opposite of the right thing for him to do.

He was an excellent interrogator and he knew what he had to do, but there were too many people in the room. He wasn’t going to get to talk with Trina with her mother acting as a go between. Even though from what Blackfoot learned of the woman in the past twenty-four hours she was the least vulnerable person in the room. He was beginning to have the distinct impression that the tv persona she’d adopted was just the tip of the iceberg.

He wanted to talk to Trina alone but Mrs. Davenport wasn’t budging.

“No, it is not a crime to leave the hospital, but considering her injuries.”

“She’s fine,” Mrs. Davenport said. “Don’t you think she looks fine? She looks fine to me. It’s that crazy girl outside that isn’t fine. She’s the criminal not my daughter.”

“No one said your daughter was a criminal,” Blackfoot said wishing a hole would open up in the middle of the dining room and swallow him whole. “Just considering all the problems she’s had over the past couple of days I’m following up to see if maybe we missed something. Is there a relationship between the altercations she’s had of late? Will there be more attempts to harm her?”

“Not if you lock up that crazy woman out there, there won’t,” Mrs. Davenport said. “I will not have my daughter treated like a common criminal, detective.” Blackfoot nodded his head, as it became clear they were on crossed paths. So he cut to the chase.

“Ms. Davenport, do you have any idea who tried to kill you?” Blackfoot heard a gasp from behind him. Turning he saw Trina’s little girl staring back at him with a horrified look on her face. Immediately he regretted being so blunt, but the woman needed to get some sense knocked into her.

He didn’t want to worry her family especially her child, but he was done playing around with her and Mrs. Davenport especially when there seemed to be an ever increasing circle of criminal activity developing around her. Trina had already taken up the last twenty-four hours of his life, and now it looked like after this evening she’d take the next twenty-four as well since he’d have paperwork to file.

Blackfoot waited until Mrs. Davenport stood and took the little girl out of the room, and then looked back to Trina.

Trina scowled back at him shaking her head. Undeterred, Blackfoot followed up with another question. “And the couple that attacked you yesterday. Did you know them? Had you met them before?”

Trina paused as if she was considering the question but then her only response was a slow shake of her head. She didn’t say anything but the look on her face made Blackfoot want to hit the wall with his fist. She was holding back on him, but he tamped down on his anger. The woman wasn’t going to give him anything more than what she had to, and he’d had enough.

“Well, then tell me this,” he said, “why is it they’re claiming you hired them?” Blackfoot watched the woman’s face closely. He saw the woman frown, but it was gone so quickly that he thought he’d imagined it. Other than that brief slip, there was nothing. 

“I have no idea what they’re talking about,” the young woman said her voice cool. She kept her golden-brown eyes fixed on Blackfoot’s. Her gaze steady. “If that’s what they’re claiming it’s their word against mine. Considering they tried to kill me,” she said.

“I will not have you in my house accusing my daughter of such things,” Mrs. Davenport interrupted as she marched back into the room to reclaim her seat at the head of the table. “My daughter wouldn’t have any need, want or desire to affiliate herself with those, those hooligans.” Blackfoot could feel the older woman’s temper rising. It was time to go. He’d done enough for one day.

“I apologize for any misunderstandings,” he said smiling politely he rose from his seat. “That wasn’t my intention.” Blackfoot tapped Rusty on the shoulder letting the man know it was time to go. Trina denied needing any care so there was no need to stay any longer.

Blackfoot apologized for taking up the family’s time but not for his questions. He’d be surprised if he didn’t get a call from the Lieutenant, who was a personal friend of Mrs. Davenport, in the morning, but it was worth it. He got what he needed.

Did it explain who was trying to kill Trina Davenport? Hell no, but if she wasn’t going to cooperate, he didn’t see why he should. The case was closed as far as he was concerned. Trouble was going to follow Trina Davenport no matter what she did and all he could do was make sure none of her dirt got on his hands.

As they walked across the driveway to their respective vehicles it was Rusty that spoke first.

“She’s a cool character isn’t she?” he said whistling.

“To say the least,” Blackfoot said chuckling.

“Pretty too,” Rusty said as Blackfoot pulled his door open. “Just too bad she and her whole family’s bat shit crazy.” Looking back to the house once again Blackfoot saw the curtain in the picture window move, but he couldn’t see who’d been watching him. He’d bet on it having been Trina.

She was pretty alright, but Rusty was wrong about her. She wasn’t any crazier than he was. Still Blackfoot had a feeling Trina Davenport knew exactly what she was doing, and as long as her mother allowed her to hide away in her house she would.

She was also nothing at all what he’d imagined her to be. It made him wonder about the act of hers on television. The episodes Taylor had sent him of her television show was nothing like the reserved young woman sitting in her mother’s house. It made him wonder which was the real Trina.  He didn’t know the Davenport girls growing up. He was years ahead of them in school, but he’d heard of some of their exploits.

All he knew was that based on what he saw today she deserved an Oscar for her TV act. She had to be the most amazing actress he’d ever seen or she’d fooled the entire world into believing her wild woman act on television. The only other explanation was she’d just pulled an A- plus con job on him by convincing him that she wasn’t as crazy as everyone said she was. He still wasn’t sure which Trina was real.

Either way he was done. Let whoever wanted to kill her have at her as far as he was concerned. There was something there, but until she was willing to talk, he didn’t see how he was going to find out what it was.  

“Still say I should have fucked her when I had the chance,” Rusty said.

“What did you say?”

“C’mon you heard me,” Rusty said laughing. “Don’t tell me you’re a prude on top of a shit luck with women,” he said shaking his head, but this time Blackfoot ignored the dig.

“You know her?”

“More like knew her,” Rusty said, “just not in the biblical sense which I regret. C’mon man we all went to school together. I was in her class, of course, I knew her.” Blackfoot exhaled.

“Oh,” Blackfoot said. “When y’all were kids.”

“Yeah, I had it pretty bad for her then too, but Miss Popularity wouldn’t give me the time of day back then,” Rusty said as they walked to the ambulance. He threw his pack into the back and walked to the cab. “But last week when she got in town it was a different story.”

“You mean you and her were together last week?” Blackfoot asked.

“Yeah, I told you that,” Rusty said climbing into the cab. “Wait maybe it was your partner I told. I don’t know man. Either way nothing happened.”

“So how long has she been in town, I’m wondering,” Blackfoot asked.

“I don’t know man but she’s one hell of a partier,” Rusty said smirking.

Blackfoot could feel himself getting sucked in all over again, but he couldn’t help it. If Trina had been in town for a week, who had she been staying with? Furthermore, why would Mrs. Davenport lie about not seeing her when it was so easy to disprove.

Unfortunately, Rusty didn’t know the name of Trina’s friends the night they’d met up. He only had an address. Blackfoot took it down. It was an address over in the warehouse district where a lot of so-called hipsters were moving to in the city.

It seemed like every time he thought he was going to be able to quit the case it took another turn. He was beginning to believe the reason Trina wasn’t talking was because it saved her from tripping over all her lies.

The Watchers 12

Sometimes you can’t go home

“She needs to go,”

“No,” Zuri cried grabbing Liza tightly. “She can’t go.”

In the Davenport’s den Zuri curled up against Liza’s side on the loveseat. Her body warm and soft smelling of cocoa butter and popcorn.

Leena and Mrs. Davenport sat directly across from Liza in straight back chairs. Leena’s face heavy with disapproval. As much as Leena was spoiling for a fight, Mrs. Davenport wasn’t having it.

The grandfather clock chimed from the hallway.

“She needs to go,” Leena barked again this time her eyes so tight Liza doubted she could see anything.

“Hush,” Mrs. Davenport said. “What happened?” the older woman said, “and I want the truth this time.”

Liza never got rattled, but something about Mrs. Davenport shook her a little. All she wanted was to get as far away from the Davenport as she could, but she had not choice. She had to stick it out. The problem was being Trina.

She didn’t know Trina. She didn’t know how the woman talked, thought, or even moved. For the first time since she’d gotten there all eyes were on her and they wanted an answer. She give Liza’s answer, but they were expecting Trina’s.

All she knew about Trina was that the woman wasn’t well liked, and from the various reactions of the Davenports, she was beginning to believe it was deserved.  Also, the woman was in big trouble yet no one knew why.

Liza dropped her head into her hands as the throbbing that had never quite left grew worse suddenly. She’d stumbled into the life of a person who attracted drama like flies to shit.

“Don’t cry Mama,” Zuri said patting Liza’s back.

Liza never cried, but she didn’t correct the girl. Hell, she needed time to think.

“Please, they just crocodile tears,” Leena said. When she heard footsteps walking away, Liza breathed a sigh of relief. One down two to go, she thought biding for more time.  

“Zuri,” Mrs. Davenport said firmly, “go to your room.” The girl moved closer to Liza. She thought she was going to refuse for a second, but Zuri stood and did as she was told. When she was gone her warmth lingered, but when Mrs. Davenport spoke, a chill ran down Liza’s spine.  

“Look at me,” the older woman said. “I said look at me.” The woman’s sharp tone refused to be ignored.

Liza raised her head to look at the woman head-on. She was tired of hiding the truth. Liza just hoped she didn’t have to hurt Mrs. Davenport or the little girl. Leena on the other hand, she’d enjoy that, but still she’d rather not. 

“Both you and I know,” Mrs. Davenport began. Her dark eyes sparkling in her pecan colored face, but a shout from the den silenced the woman.

“Mama,” Leena ran in the room, “they about to break your windows in!”

“Lord, what now?” The older woman struggled to get up from the couch then made her way to the picture window in the living room.

Liza walked up behind the two women to see what Leena was yelling about.

A small crowd had gathered in the street in front of the Davenport’s house. Most of them were teenagers but some were older. One woman stood apart from the rest. She held an aluminum bat in her hands.

Liza peeked outside using the curtain to cover her face. The growing crowd had their camera phones pointed at the house. The leader of the group, the young woman with the bat, stepped away from the crowd to walk up the Davenport’s the driveway.

“I know you in there Trin-a,” the woman yelled swinging a bat in her hand.

“What in the world you done now,” Leena said as she stomped to the door and opened it.

“Leena,” Mrs. Davenport called after her, but Leena didn’t stop.

“Call Blackfoot, Mama,” Leena yelled as stepped outside.  Mrs. Davenport turned to the phone, but before she could dial, Liza stopped her.

“I’ll take care of it,” Liza said praying the old woman put the phone down willingly. The last thing she needed was to bring that cop back out to the house. The older woman looked doubtful but put the phone down.

Liza opened the door and stepped onto the porch. Leena was already yelling at the girl holding the bat to get away from the cars but the girl wasn’t looking at her, having spotted Liza.

Immediately the cold seeped through her jacket, but she kept walking down the steps straight into the eye of the storm.

Liza had spent her entire life avoiding being noticed or filmed, but the fact that everyone thought she was Trina gave her cover. Everything she’d learned about the woman was that she was no shrinking violet.

“So you finally showing your face, huh,” the loud young woman pushed past Leena. “You been hiding out huh? Well, your luck done run out now girl. I don’t care who you are, or who you think you are, but you ain’t coming back here with that crap you pulled with them basic bitches on TV. You hear me?”

Liza stared back at the enraged woman. She didn’t know what she was talking about, but the woman wasn’t done yet.

“You think you can just plop back in town and talk to anybody’s man, well let me tell you something. Jeremy don’t want you back, okay.” The crowd jeered. Liza felt irritated. A man, this was all about a man? A man she didn’t even know existed, wouldn’t even recognize if he was standing next to her.

Bat girl became even more animated as she moved closer. “Well, what you got to say now?” The girl said moving her head side to side. “Ms. High and Mighty can’t talk to nobody. What you got to say now?”

The last thing she wanted was to get into a shouting match with some crazy woman she had no beef with, but Liza knew she had to do something. Something told her Trina would never allow the girl to pop off like this without some push back.

She didn’t know Trina, but Liza was already tired of her. The woman was a magnet for drama. The crowd moved closer as bat girl advanced. .Liza had to end this before things got out of hand and the police came back.  

“Look,” she began, but the crowd drowned her spoiling for a fight. “I don’t want to fight you,” Liza said as loud as she could over the crowd. Her head was still hurting and yelling only made it worst. Confused faces stared back at her, and Liza realized too late her response was not what they expected or wanted. 

“Look, I don’t want to fight?” the young woman said in a mocking tone.  “Well, you ain’t got a choice,” she said pushing the end of her bat into Liza’s chest. Automatically, Liza swiped the bat to the side with one hand and the bat went flying to ground.  The girl’s shocked face whipped back to her.

The next second the woman was on her pushing her but Liza didn’t move. The woman swung wildly. but Liza deflected the hits easily, choosing to restrain the enraged woman rather than hurting her.

The woman kept coming. Even though none of her blows hit Liza, she was relentless. Liza easily deflected each swing, until the woman started clawing at her face. Liza’s body took over as her training kicked in. Within seconds the girl lay crumpled on the cold wet ground. An eerie quiet settled over the bloodthirsty crowd before there was an explosion of noise as everyone started yelling all at once.

“Did you see that,” a young man yelled, “she karate chopped that girl in the neck.”

“I ain’t never seen nothing like that before.”

“Did you get that?”

“Yeah girl, can you say World Star?”

Liza looked down at the young woman on the ground. She was still breathing, thankfully. Immediately, Liza regretted she’d engaged with the woman. There were other ways she could have handled this, especially as she watched the crowd many who were already bent over their mobile devices probably uploading their videos. There was no telling how many people would see her. Central would not be pleased, but there was nothing she could do about it now. What was done was done.

“Sometimes you have to leave home behind you,” Leena said in Liza’s ear. “You should have stayed gone.” 

A lone siren wailed through the chaos. For a brief moment Liza thought about making a run for it a much smaller hand gripped hers.

Zuri was pulled her back to the Davenport house her sturdy little body pulling with all her might. Reluctantly, Liza allowed her to lead her back into the house.

“How did you learn to do that?” Zuri asked once they were safely on the other side of the locked door, but Liza didn’t respond. There were so many cameras.

How had she let this happen?

It was one thing to have a confrontation, but for it to be on camera was a whole other matter. She didn’t know how Central was going to react. This just wasn’t done. They lived in the shadows, not out in the open for the entire world to see. 

Her training went against everything she’d just done, but she wasn’t scared. In fact she felt excited. For the first time in her life she wanted to be seen.

The Watchers 11

Are you ok, Mrs. Davenport?”

“Good evening, Mrs. Davenport,” Blackfoot said through the locked screen door.

The fact she hadn’t immediately invited him in after answering her front door spoke volumes. Trina was inside he was sure but he said nothing. 

“I don’t know how good it is, Detective Blackfoot, but I guess I’ll have to take it,” Mrs. Davenport said emphasizing his new title.

“By the way, congratulations on the promotion,” she said her dark eyes inspecting him from head to toe.

Blackfoot ducked his head, “thank you ma’am.“ Mrs. Davenport nodded.

“So you getting too big for my diner these days,” she said. “I haven’t seen you at my counter in a while.”

“No ma’am, I’ve just been busy, but I plan to remedy that real soon,” Blackfoot said. “Can’t anyone make turkey pot pie like you, that’s for sure.”

Mrs. Davenport smiled, but Blackfoot didn’t let himself relax. Regardless of their history, he was here on business and knew better than to get too familiar with her.

“So what do I owe this visit to,” she said her dark brown eyes locked on his.

With the obligatory pleasantries out the way, Blackfoot knew now the real dance began. She was a true Southern woman, not too be sweet talked, but he wasn’t going to leave without talking to Trina this time. He just had to convince Mrs. Davenport.

Everyone knew of the rocky history the elder woman had with her two daughters, but regardless Blackfoot also knew how loyal Mrs. Davenport was to her girls. She was a strict disciplinarian but she’d closed ranks around them before, and he wouldn’t doubt she’d do it again.

However, this time Blackfoot believed her daughter had gotten into some hot water even Mrs. Davenport might not be able to cool down. He just had to get her to see that.

“I’m sorry to say I’m primarily here on business,” Blackfoot said allowing his face to soften but remained alert.

“Primarily,” she said.

“Well, you know I’m always happy to see you,” Blackfoot couldn’t help but laugh when the older woman rolled her eyes glad to hear her laugh with him. “You heard about what happened at the bookstore yesterday?”

Blackfoot watched the older woman’s face for a reaction, but there was none. Either Mrs. Davenport had an excellent poker face, or Trina hadn’t told her yet.

He wasn’t surprised by that, but he was shocked that no one at the diner had passed on the information.

It was a small town after all and gossip even of the garden variety got passed around like lightning. She shook her head, and whether she knew or didn’t know her face didn’t tell it. 

“Why don’t you refresh my memory, son,” Mrs. Davenport said with shrewd eyes. Blackfoot cleared his throat choosing his words carefully.

“Well I was hoping to talk to Trina.  I think she might be in some trouble.”

“When is that girl not in trouble,” Mrs. Davenport said dryly. T

“Well, she was mugged, but it seems that someone took a shot at her before that.” Blackfoot watched the older woman’s face carefully looking for any cracks, and he finally got one.

“Shot?” the older woman said one arm reaching for the door frame. Blackfoot reached for the door, but dropped his hand when he remembered it was still locked.

“Are you alright Mrs. Davenport?” She took a couple of deep breaths before speaking again.

 “Lord, what that girl done gotten into now,” she said. Her exhale lead to a coughing spell that was so violent it made Blackfoot’s chest hurt in sympathy. When she quieted down, she flipped the switch on the door and waved for Blackfoot to enter.

“I don’t know what’s going on just yet, that’s what I was hoping she might be able to help us out with,” Blackfoot said once the older woman was breathing more easily.

“She might be in real trouble this time. At the very least I need a statement about the incident,” Blackfoot said hoping Mrs. Davenport would see the importance of his speaking to her daughter.

“Have you heard from her, seen her,” Blackfoot said the concern in his voice genuine, but he knew the answer already.

“I’ll get us something to drink,” she said over her shoulder as she walked towards the back of the house.

The Davenport house was one of the oldest ones on the block, but the family had kept it well maintained. Blackfoot believed it was one of the reasons the street remained in such good condition. No one wanted to have Mrs. Davenport knocking on their door with an admonishment about a poorly maintained yard which she’d been known to do. She could have moved out to one of the newer subdivisions years ago, but she hadn’t. Choosing to remain in the same house she’d raised her daughters in.

Blackfoot followed the woman into the warm, brightly lit kitchen. He noticed the expensive furniture and neatly decorated rooms he passed. Her home was as impeccable as he remembered it. She’d redecorated since he’d last visited, but the vibe was still the same. It reminded him a lot of his grandparent’s home when they were alive.

Comfortable and warm with oversized furniture that could have been brand new or as old as he was. Either way it made him want to sit down and stay for a while.  

“Hey there Blackfoot,” Leena said walking through the kitchen with Zuri trailing behind her. Blackfoot spoke to both of them, but when they kept walking, he turned his attention back to Mrs. Davenport.

He knew better than to waste his time. They weren’t going to say any more than what Mrs. Davenport allowed them to say anyways. To try would just piss her off, so he sat down. He grinned when the older woman set a piece of red velvet cake in front of him.

“Oh you didn’t have to,” Blackfoot started, but the words died on his lips with one look from Mrs. Davenport.

Her look was kind, but he knew it would be rude to refuse the offering. Besides it was his favorite as he was sure she still remembered from his patrol days. Back then he spent almost every lunch break he could in her restaurant.

The only difference now was he wasn’t patrolling any more. His waistband couldn’t afford to eat at Davenport’s the way he had when he was younger.

He picked up the heavy fork she placed next to his plate on a paper napkin. Blackfoot took a big bite before he spoke again.

 “Just as I remembered,” Blackfoot said licking the thick white frosting off his lips.

“So Trina was at the bookstore you say. Yesterday? My Trina?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And she was mugged, you say?”

“Yes ma’am,” refusing to let her “you say” get to him. He had an entire store of witnesses to back what he said, but he kept it to himself.

“Well, if she was mugged then why you here asking about her. Shouldn’t you be out trying to catch the folks who did it?” Blackfoot took another bite of his cake trying not to let his temper get the best of him.  

Her interrogation abilities were good, but his were pretty good too.

“Yes ma’am,” he said finishing his last bite. He pushed the plate away to give her his full attention.  “Her attackers,” he said, “are in custody already. But your daughter had some injuries,” Blackfoot emphasized, “that caused her to be admitted to the hospital last night.”

“The hospital?” Mrs. Davenport said. The shock on her face was genuine. “Oh sweet Jesus.”

“Yes, ma’am. She was admitted last night, but before I could question her this morning she left. She left the hospital against the doctor’s orders- which she’s within her right to do, but according to the doctor prior to her being mugged your daughter was shot. She suffered a head injury.”

“Oh my God,” Mrs. Davenport said one hand rising to cover her mouth.

“Yes ma’am,” Blackfoot said as it became clearer that the woman really had no clue as to her daughter’s current situation.

He couldn’t help but feel sympathetic to her situation, but he had no choice but to ask her again, “have you heard or seen from your daughter in the past few days?” He watched the woman for a reaction, unsure of what he was looking for, but the older woman gave away nothing.

“No, no I haven’t,” she said before dropping her hands to her side. Her eyes never wavered from Blackfoot’s. “We didn’t even know she was in town.”

“When was the last time you heard from your daughter?”

“Goodness, I’m not sure,” Mrs. Davenport said pushing away from the counter.

“It’s been at least a month, I think Mama,” Leena said walking back into the kitchen to stand next to Blackfoot.

She grabbed an apple from the bowl glancing at Blackfoot as she wiped it off. He’d known her since she was a little girl, but he couldn’t say he knew anything about her now other than she couldn’t stand Trina.

The two had notorious fights at home and in public, one time he could remember the police had been called. Still it was just as he suspected. Regardless of how they felt about each other, the Davenports were not a family that would turn on one another.  Blackfoot respected that, but it didn’t make his job any easier. He looked between the two women nodding as he stood.

He’d gotten his answer. He was disappointed by it, but it wasn’t like he could force them to tell the truth. Liza could be less than twenty feet from him, but unless he had a warrant, and the police chief’s okay he couldn’t do anything about it. He dug in his pocket and pulled out his card holder handing a card to Mrs. Davenport.

“Well, I’ll be following up with you if I hear anything, but please feel free to give me a call if you hear from Trina. We’d really like to talk with her.”

After excusing himself, Blackfoot walked out the front door to his car and climbed in. The temperature was dropping, but it wasn’t what had him chilled to the bone. He was certain Trina was inside. but the Davenports had shut him down. He didn’t know what mess Trina had gotten herself into, but apparently her family was sticking by her.

All he could do was follow-up on a couple of leads he had until the Davenports were ready to talk. He just hoped they did so before it was too late to save Trina from whatever mess she’d gotten herself into.

The Watchers 10

Everything’s fine.

The kid was freaking her out. She hadn’t left Liza’s side for the past hour. Even when she escaped to the bathroom for a few minutes she could hear the girl on the other side of the door- waiting.

Every move she made, she was there. Liza wasn’t used to having a shadow, and there wasn’t anything she could do about it. She was supposed to be Trina, the child’s mother, which meant she was stuck.

Being a mother was never in Liza’s game plan. She’d never even thought about it. So she had no idea how to take care of a kid especially a needy one.

What made it worse, was she didn’t even know the girl’s name. Luckily, she didn’t seem to mind. The girl was just happy to be around Liza.

However, Liza had questions. Like where was the girl’s father? The idea of having to deal with one of Trina’s exes would be disastrous since she still didn’t know who the hell Trina was.

The woman that let her in was no use. When she finally emerged again, she disappeared in to one of the bedrooms at the front of the house without even acknowledging Liza’s presence. 

Liza didn’t know which room was Trina’s and of course she couldn’t ask. If the girl had been younger, she’d have been able to get it out of her without raising any red flags. Unfortunately, whatever age she was, it was old enough to know her mother shouldn’t have to ask where her bed was.

The girl seemed content to just stare at Liza so she let her. When Liza wanted something to drink and she had to look in several cabinets before finding a glass the girl looked confused, but even then, she said nothing just kept staring.

The angry woman, Liza learned was the girl’s aunt, Trina’s sister. She came out of her room once but it was just to fuss at the little girl. The girl ignored her yelling. She seemed used to it. She didn’t even flinch. She just kept sitting on the ottoman across from me.

Liza was looking through one of the family’s many picture albums when she heard a noise at the back door. A second later a woman’s voice called out.

“Alright, alright,” a robust voice yelled. “Everybody let’s go. These groceries aren’t gonna get themselves in here.” The little girl’s face lit up as she jumped from the couch to run down the hall. 

Here we go. Liza walked slowly towards the back. Taking a deep breath, she followed the little girl’s voice.

\“But grandma, she’s back for good this time,” Liza heard the little girl’s excited voice as she stepped into the bright kitchen. She’d said nothing of the sort, but she didn’t correct the girl.  

Whoever, Trina was, Liza no longer believed she lived here at least not all the time. She couldn’t with how desperate the girl was to accept her a complete stranger as her mother.  Her first thought was Trina might have been a drug addict or alcoholic by the way her daughter reacted. She probably dropped in and out of her daughter’s life. It would explain why the hospital staff knew her and the girl’s aunt hated her.

“I done told you about that fibbing,” an older woman said setting her bag down on the steps.

“She ain’t lying,” the girl’s aunt said as she walked out of her room. “The witch is back.”

“Leena, I done told you about that,” the older woman said stepping back out the door to the trunk of the car that had been backed to the door. It was filled with brown paper bags full of food.

“But grandma, she’s right there,” the little girl smiled excitedly pointing at Liza.

The little girl grabbed the older woman’s hand and pulled her by the hand into the kitchen forcing the old woman to look at me.

“See?” I watched the older woman as shock then disbelief registered on her soft brown face.

The brown paper bag of groceries slid out of her hands in slow motion. Suddenly her face cleared and was replaced with a wide sweet smile.

 The angry woman from earlier was the first to speak.

“Didn’t I tell you Mama? Some bodies just can’t stay buried.”

“Leena,” the older woman gasped her eyes cutting towards the sullen woman. Then she walked across the kitchen and wrapped me in a big hug. She squeezed me several times before pulling back. “Did you just get here?” the older woman asked.  

Liza had no idea when Trina was supposed to be here, but as far as she knew the answer was yes. Liza nodded. She was confused by the look of relief that passed over the older woman’s face but it lasted only a few seconds. Then there was a loud banging on the front door. 

“Take her to the back,” the old woman said as a fierce scowl replaced her look of relief. She walked towards the front without a second glance. “Now,” she yelled over her shoulder in a voice stronger than I expected to come from the woman. “Then y’all get those groceries in, ya hear?”

“You heard your grandma, Zuri,” Leena said waving for me to follow.

“Auntie she can stay in my room,” the little girl chirped.

“She got a room,” Leena fired back.  Seconds later Liza found herself alone in the blue room at the back of the house she’d seen earlier. The little girl wanted to stay with her, but thankfully her aunt refused to give in. Leena dragged the girl out before shutting the door without another word.

“Zuri and Leena,” Liza said quietly. The old woman was the same one in the picture on the wall in the front room. She had a couple of decades added on her but she had to be Ophelia Davenport unless there was another person staying in the house.

The old lady looked like a grandmother she imagined that would have decorated this home.  So this was her house. She had to be in her mid-sixties but she was very active, and Liza could tell she ruled her home by the way everyone jumped to do her bidding. 

She’d been accepted by the Davenports, but nothing had change. None of her memory had returned. She still couldn’t remember anything between Morocco and yesterday. She needed more time, but the clock was winding down. A day or two she could explain, but beyond that she’d expect Central to start wondering about why she hadn’t checked in, if they hadn’t already. It was a big gamble, but until she remembered why she was there, Liza couldn’t call Central.

Ophelia had given me know reason not to trust her, after all she was hiding me. That had to mean something.

Liza looked around Trina’s room hoping to find something that would help her fill in the pieces. Unfortunately, the room was bare. From the empty blue walls to the generic bed spread that was the color of sand. It didn’t look like the room of a grown woman. There were no momentos or pictures anywhere not even of the little girl.  

The room was spotless. Even the wicker trash can in the corner was empty.  It was too clean, like no one had lived there for quite a while.

Liza pulled open one of the dresser drawers. There was underwear in the top two drawers. One had women’s underwear all white and the other had pajamas and some long johns.  

“Fucking great,” Liza said. The last thing she wanted to have to do was keep wearing this god-awful outfit.

Walking back to the door, she heard voices that seemed to be getting closer. She’d had a lot of assignments but this by far was the strangest. The voices faded as they moved further away. Unable to resist she opened the door. She couldn’t see anything but she could hear better.

Ophelia was talking to a man in the kitchen. She couldn’t see who she was talking to but she recognized the voice- Blackfoot.

Suddenly, the voices faded once again. Liza needed to change clothes. If she had to run the boots would be useless. A quick look in the closet and she saw some women’s shoes and a few sparkly sweaters that appeared to be larger than her size, but she’d wear them. She needed a bath and fresh clothing in that order. She also desperately needed to wash her hair. The amount of blood caked on her scalp was ridiculous. She could smell it. The bump on the back of her head was smaller than before, but she still didn’t feel one hundred percent yet. She needed another day to rest but Liza didn’t have time for that. She needed to be ready to move as soon as possible.

Washing her hair would have to wait. The nurses at the hospital last night said she was welcome to try and wash it out, but it was going to be a job in itself trying to thoroughly clean the tracks. Besides as cold as it was outside, Liza knew it would take forever to dry. If she wasn’t on an assignment, she’d ditch the weave altogether, but she had to be careful that she didn’t compromise her cover. She was supposed to be Trina, not Liza.

Trina was high maintenance. She wore her hairstyle like armor. As gross as they were the tracks would have to stay. Besides if it weren’t for them, she probably wouldn’t be alive, at least that was what the doctor said earlier. She had marveled at finding the spent bullet casing trapped within the seams of her weave cushioning her from the blast.

Liza might have marveled at it too if it hadn’t been one of two attempts on her life in such a short period of time. Trina had a target on her back which meant Liza had a target on her back. Until her memory came back she planned to lie low.

Liza bent to look under the bed. Spotting a large metal box, she pulled it out. There was no lock so she opened it.

Inside was a bible, but underneath the bible a small serrated knife still in its sleeve and a gun. Liza was shocked but pleased to find both. “Two out of three’s not bad.” Only thing missing was bullets. There were some papers with the name Roger Davenport written on it. She could only assume the box belonged to the patriarch of the family.

Liza pushed the knife down the side of her left boot. The gun she stuffed into the back of her waist band. She saw nothing else she could use so she closed it up and put it back under the bed.

Getting bullets was the easy part anyway. The hard part was figuring out a woman who seemed to not have a friend in the world. Trina was shaping up to be an enigma and Liza was beginning to feel she would remain that way.

Walking back to the door, Liza listened for voices again. This time there were none.

Liza had a feeling the old woman was the key to what she needed to know. Ophelia Davenport’s unwavering gaze gave the impression of a shrewd woman that said what she meant and meant what she said.  

Suddenly Liza remembered something from last night. Ophelia Davenport had called Trina’s phone last night.

If Ophelia was Zuri’s grandmother that meant that the woman was Trina’s mother. Why did she have the woman’s full name listed in her phone?

Even during the worst of times, Liza never called her mother by her full name. It was always Mom.

It was a small but telling piece of information that confused Liza and made her wonder more about Trina’s relationship with her family. Where had Trina been living? And why had she returned?