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The Watchers 31

We get caught, we die

            “Get up.”

            Trina looked up from her bed. Shock registered on her face at seeing Liza inside the room with her.

            “Hurry up, we don’t have much time,” Liza said throwing a bag at Trina. “Take what you can carry, but no more.” she said. “Move!”

            Liza watched the change come to Trina’s eyes a second before she launched herself off the bed.

            “What did you do with my family, you bitch,” Trina said her entire body writhing as she clawed and kicked at Liza.

            “I didn’t do anything to them,” Liza said pushing Trina against the wall.

            “Bullshit. They never would have believed you were me- never.”

            “You’re right,” Liza said. “Your mother knew immediately.”

            “She’s not my mother,” Trina spat confirming what she already knew to be true. Trina couldn’t stand the woman any more than she could. “She was never my mother.”

            “Yeah, well that makes two of us.”

            “Consider yourself lucky,” she said her eyes wet with tears. She inhaled deeply. “She told me you were dead,” her voice breaking.

            “Well,” Liza said. “she was half right, but I’m getting better.”

“You can’t beat me. You’re not strong or bad enough. You don’t stand a chance. Fighting is only going to tire you out, and I need you to be able to run.” Liza threw the sack at her but it bounced off her onto the cot.

“Fill it, or don’t. You’ve got two seconds.” 

Defiantly, Trina stood up to her sister.

“Good, let’s go.”

            Outside the smell of kerosene permeated the air. Liza reached for Trina’s hand when she hung back in the doorway.

“You had me in someone’s back yard?” Trina asked incredulously as she looked towards the house and the lawn chairs.

“Move,” Liza said pushing her towards the trees. Once they reached them, Trina was out of breath so they stopped and crouched down in the brush giving Trina the chance to breath.

            “Talk to me,” Trina said, but Liza ignored her as she tinkered with a black box she held.

Liza pulled two wires from the bottom of it then stripped them and wrapped them tightly around each other. Then removing a smooth panel from the top of the box she pressed a button and there was a muffled explosion. Within seconds the top level of the shed they’d just been in collapsed shooting flames several stories into the black night.

            “Let’s roll,” Liza said before taking off in a full run. Trina followed, but wasn’t in near as good shape as her sister. When they came to the edge of a highway Trina fell to the ground.

            “Get up. We’re not done yet,” Liza said with no sympathy in her voice, but Trina refused to stand. “When I say run you better move your ass.” Trina struggled to catch her breath. “You can’t be this weak.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Trina said out of breath. Before she knew it, Liza had backed her against the tree, her hand around Trina’s neck.

“If you don’t run, you get caught. If you get caught, you die,” Liza said watching Trina’s eyes, carbon copies of her own widen. “They will kill you, you understand?”

“Who,” Trina managed to squeeze through her constricted vocal chords.

“The people who made me what I am.”

A siren blared in the distance, but it was going in the opposite direction of where they were headed. Liza released her hold.

“You don’t have a choice in this,” Liza said. “We get caught we die; do you get that?”

Trina stared back at her as the words sunk in replacing her defiance with fear.  “Good girl,” Liza said watching Trina closely. “You good?” At Trina’s nod, the two women took out in a sprint.

            They ran for miles, stopping occasionally for Trina to catch her breath. It was dark and she was shivering her lips blue in the moonlight, but she didn’t quit. They ran along the side of the highway in the shadows, but when they reached the top of the hill that looked down on the city, they left the highway behind.

Soon they were passing streets with houses and the high school Trina had attended years ago. Liza noticed Trina’s pace change as she began to recognize her surroundings. Soon Trina was keeping pace as they came closer to the Davenport house. When she attempted to take the lead, Liza pulled her back roughly pushing her body into a ditch her face inches away from hers. Their breath came out in harsh puffs mingling together in the frigid air.

            “I’m about to give you a second chance,” Liza said staring at Trina’s face. She had a wild look in her eyes. “You do what I say, when I say it and I will let you live. You understand?”

            “Yes or no,” Liza barked when Trina tried to speak. Trina nodded her understanding. Liza stared at Trina for a full minute before she pulled back slightly as if testing Trina’s reaction.

            Weak and scared Trina didn’t move let alone speak. She waited for her next direction.

            “The life you had is no more,” Liza said. “I’ve made sure of it. What you have to understand is the way you were is no more. To your family, your friends the old you no longer exists. This,” Liza said tugging roughly at the mat of synthetic hair on her head, “is no more. The clothes you used to wear are no more. The way you talk, walk, live is no more.” Trina listened, but Liza could tell the words weren’t connecting. The woman’s brain was slow from fatigue and the cold, but Liza needed her to understand before they took another step.

            “You will have to relearn how to be, but if you can do that you can have the life you deserve. Understand?”  Trina nodded knowing it was the only answer that Liza would accept.

            “Good girl,” she said. “When I say jump, you say how high. You do what I say; when I say it if you want to live.”

            That Trina understood. Ever since she’d woken up in that underground cell, she’d been living with the understanding that it could be her last day; Liza had made sure of it. Trina had lived and breathed that truth for all those days when her only contact was a disconnected voice through the intercom.

Now here she was breathing fresh air with a woman that had not only been impersonating her, but had apparently been living her life better than she had.

Trina followed behind LIza pulling the hoodie she wore over her head just as she’d been told to do. When they got to the Davenport’s Trina didn’t even look around the darkened rooms.

She did as she was told and followed behind Liza stopping only once she was told to do so. She was alive and it was because of the woman in front of her. That was all she needed to know now.

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She was burning the boats

            “We procured the package,” the agent said into his headset.   

            “Take care of it,” The Mastermind said. “We don’t know if it was her, but if it was, then she knows everything.” A chill went through the agent’s body. 

The agent climbed into his SUV parked down from the alley where Wilson had been located. After the call ended, he supervised the clean-up crew then made his way back to Davenport’s street.

He parked a little way down from the house. He knew her secret now. Liza hadn’t been as quiet as he’d thought. All those nights they’d thought she was down, she’d been out and about, and only God knew where. She’d killed Wilson, Wilson for god’s sake. The poor bastard wasn’t a threat. Liza’s balls were bigger than her husband’s were.

Now that she’d left her mark though he doubted she’d stay much longer. Central’s handbook taught them to never revisit old haunts. The second safe house he was sure she had was no more. He made another call to the tracking team.

            “Check for any recent fires or structural changes in the area.” Hanging up the phone, he expected to get a call in the next hour.

Once he did, he’d planned to visit the site to see what could be salvaged. There wouldn’t be anything, of course, she was too good, but there was always a chance.

All they could to do was try because as it was, they were just holding their asses in the wind with the little bit of Intel they were getting from the Mastermind. Covering for a woman who every indication exclaimed she had gone rogue.

            “Dammit,” the agent muttered to himself. This wasn’t supposed to happen- not to them, but ever since she’d slipped off radar nothing went smoothly anymore. Worse the big boss had turned them into sitting ducks. His hands were tied and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. If it were him in charge, he would have ordered Liza be taken down, but for some reason He was holding them back.

The vibration of the phone let him know a call was coming in. He picked up the call.

            “Yes, sir,” the agent said.

            “She knows. No status on Trina at this time. Continue your surveillance report any movement. Keep the tail on the Davenports. Blackfoot seems to still be a go, so we prepare for that event. If she tries to slip away on us it will be then. The entire building will be crawling with officers, military. We must isolate her. Understand?”

            “Yes, sir,” the agent listened for more details but the line went dead. Sitting back in his seat he tried to push away the feeling of dread. The ball was tomorrow night.

            He’d like to think they’d catch a break at least once. This entire operation had been a disaster from go, but his gut told him it would end exactly how it began.

            It was almost three months ago that he’d heard Liza went missing. One day she was there the next she disappeared, but what was it to say she hadn’t left sooner than that.

Once the Mastermind exposed her it took them weeks to even get a whiff of a trace. It wasn’t until she surfaced in Mississippi after the incident at the bookstore, they finally got optics on her. Where she’d been all that time, no one knew.

Why she’d popped up in Mississippi of all places no one knew either. At least that was what he believed- at first. He could put a bullet in his own brain for his stupidity because of course the Mastermind knew. He knew the entire time, but as usual kept the information from us the ones with our asses on the line day in and day out.

They’d descended on the small town to find her under the assumed name of Trina Davenport. They’d been playing catch up ever since.

            He still wasn’t sure they had all the information they needed to do their job, but that itself was a part of the job. They each played the part they were assigned with the Mastermind at the helm.

However, this time the pieces weren’t fitting. They weren’t coming together like the other times. As soon as they thought one side was patched the other side would come loose and once again, they were left scrambling to catch up.

            This ball was a mistake. In the past they would have found a way to stop the whole thing from occurring. Burned the venue, orchestrated a counter event, something to make sure this impending cluster fuck could not occur.

            Instead extra agents had been called in, off other cases for something that should have been taken care of months ago. This didn’t have to happen like this, but that wasn’t his call.

            All he could do was play his role and watch his neck. Because by the time it all went down, he had a feeling that heads would be rolling. He just planned for it not to be his.

            Liza had done the impossible. She’d brought Central to its knees. She’d kept the entire team jumping through hoops for the past few months, even Him.

            Realization crashed down on him hard.  Liza was playing for keeps, and she had no intention of coming back- ever.    

            She was burning the boats.

The Watchers 29

You’ve been you all along, you just couldn’t see it.

REALIGN

“Ms. Davenport I just wanted to thank you for allowing us into your home,” the young female reporter said. The cameraman worked frantically setting up for the live broadcast they were doing for the six o’clock news.

            “You are more than welcome,” she said. “I’m just glad to have this opportunity to let my fans know the changes I’ve gone through over the past few months since returning to my hometown.”

            “Two minutes, Janice,” the cameraman said with one hand on his earphones.

            “Well, let’s make the public fall in love with you again,” Janice said. “You ready?”

            “I was born ready.”

            The interview went quickly. They hit all the major points Liza wanted to address and then a few Janice wanted but she kept her from getting too personal. The recent altercations, the tragic death of her mother, they covered both. By the time it was over even the camera man had tears in his eyes.   

It wasn’t hard playing to the woman’s interest; from head to toe the woman advertised her allegiance to her sorority and all things glamourous. The hardest part was changing the woman’s impression of Trina.

When they were done Janice even asked her to become a part of the Big Sister program her sorority sponsored. She also asked Liza to attend an exclusive ball her organization threw every Christmas. It was only a week away but by the woman’s tone Liza knew she was supposed to feel honored. She made sure not to disappoint.

By the time the interview was finished and the crew had left, Liza knew she’d accomplished what she’d set out to do.

If she was going to stay, there was no way she could continue with Trina’s old bad behavior, and now was the perfect time to try to reach out to people. Get them on her side and stop hating the woman Trina used to be. The only way to do that was to get them to see another side of Trina.

With all the networks seeking content to fill the air between sitcom reruns and Christmas movie marathons it was easy to set up. It took one call to Trina’s manager to get the ball running.

She’d done some fast talking, but once she convinced her she’d turned over a new leaf she was in. It wasn’t like she wanted a spot on the next season of Dancing with the Stars, she just wanted Trina to not be a social pariah anymore. Liza had plans for her long lost sister- big plans. It was going to take baby steps to make the train wreck of a life she’d had into something salvageable, but she’d made up her mind. This was her time now, and she didn’t plan to spend the rest of her life hiding.

            She wasn’t the poor girl born on the wrong side of the tracks that was adopted into the Davenports home- at least not anymore. Nor was she the young woman with a chip on her shoulder that lashed out at everyone and everything.

It was ratings gold. Even Trina’s worst enemies would have to have a heart of stone to not feel sympathy for her after watching the interview. It was all going to plan.

By the end of the news broadcast, Trina’s manager had called saying her phone was ringing off the hook from national press interested in broadcasting pieces of the interview. 

            Even Leena, usually sour, seemed impressed by the reaction. Leena had to turn the ringer off and let the answering machine pick up saying, “let them leave a message, and you can call them back when you feel like it.”

            “Thanks, sis,” Liza said returning Leena’s smile.  

“Oh, you know Blackfoot came into the restaurant this morning.”

            “Yeah?”

            “Yeah,” Leena said her lips pursed. “He asked about you.”

            “Really? What for?” Liza asked ignoring her pointed stare.

            “What you think?” Leena said. “You know you don’t have to act like you don’t care. He’s a nice man,” she said rolling her eyes. “Look I don’t know what that was about that happened between you too, I’m just saying that was completely out of character for him,” she said. Liza couldn’t help notice her emphasis on the word him.

“You know he and his ex-wife had a hard time of it. A few years ago, she left him when he said he wanted to stay here. She wasn’t a local and as soon as she realized he wasn’t leaving she was out of here, but not before she’d slept with his partner.”

“ Dumb bitch,”

 “You telling me,” Leena said. “Anyone who would let that go needs to turn their lady card in. Well, well, well, do I see interest in that face? What?” Leena said.

            “Shut up,” Liza said swatting her with a dish towel.

            “Okay, looks like sister is finally wising up. You could do worse than Blackfoot, way worse. Getting some common sense in there, I see,” she said. “I’m impressed.”

            “As well you should be.”

 ###

It was after midnight when her cell phone rang. Liza didn’t recognize the number, but she knew better than to not answer.

 “Who is this?” 

            “I bet you’re pretty pleased with yourself.” Liza recognized the voice instantly. She prayed for the calmness, but as usual it abandoned her- with him. Heat burned through her veins heavy and fast like a speedball. She sat on the side of the bed her feet resting on the floor.  

            “What you’re doing, you need to stop,” the voice said. “I’ve been very patient, but you have taken one too many liberties.”

            The voice had the robotic tone that Liza would never forget. 

“You weren’t supposed to call me again.” Her voice sounded steadier than she felt, but she didn’t feel pride in that. They both knew it was just a ruse.

            Laughter was his response. “You don’t tell me what to do. You forget yourself,” the voice said.  “Don’t do it again.”

            “Yes, sir.”

            “Finish your fun, take care of the girl, and come home,” the voice said. “Otherwise I might have to…” the sound of a man screaming erupted from the phone.

            “You have a week,” the voice said, “then I’m pulling you in. We still have work to do.”

            “Yes, sir,” Liza said feeling the shadows return the pool of calm lapping at its edges. Then the phone died. She had no doubt of what the Mastermind could and would do. If she didn’t return, she knew he would come for her this time.  

            She could run, or at least try, but no matter what she did it was going to end up the same way.

Liza had planned for this, but she hadn’t planned on the fear she felt. She’d tried so hard to break free of Central, but it seemed it was all for nothing. There was no escaping Him.

The Watchers 27

He made me this way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was still alive.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slowly, the calm returned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What was done was done

“She’s spiraling, Sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then he would keep his promise.  

The Watchers 25

She called you Ophelia

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

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

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

“Leena said you wanted me.”

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

“How are you feeling?” Liza asked.

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

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

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

“What am I looking at?” Liza said.

“Just read it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He?”

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

 “Save your own ass.”

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

“How long were you with Central?”

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

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

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

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

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

“You let me go.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watchers 24

Keep what you need and burn the rest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They had a pattern now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Who is she?”

            “Who?”

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

            “When did you start smoking?” Zuri asked.

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

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

            “Where are we going?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With whip cream?”

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

The Watchers 23

I know the real you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watchers 22

How’s your arm, detective?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watchers 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.