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The Watchers 34… the end

Until then though, I would watch

            “What would you like us to do, ma’am,” the agent said on the other end of the line.

            Liza watched the crawl of images and words on the wall of screens before her. The images sped by but she took it all in. She would make her decisions based on the information she saw. Using it and statistical analysis Liza made decisions for a variety of scenarios occurring in real time around the world. It all occurred in rapid fire succession over and over again all day every day.

The statistics were only a small part of her decision making. She used them, but she didn’t always follow them. The ultimate decision was always hers.

It took more than mathematics to predict human behavior because there were too many factors that could change the pattern in a blink of an eye.

            “Take him, and tag him, then call me,” Liza said into the phone before ending the call.

Standing she stretched before walking away from the desk. However, before she did, she hit a button beneath it to signal her second in command that she was not monitoring.

The screens had to be watched at all times. Whether by her or someone else, 24/7 there were eyes on them making decisions about everything from court cases to war room strategies. She had trained a few to watch for her, but none that she trusted implicitly. No one she trusted who would look for what she looked for and report to her the most pertinent information.

            The cameras she watched were beamed to her from satellites high in the sky. They each gave a view that was necessary and needed to be watched. That’s who she was- a Watcher and she was the best.

            Liza’s only worry at this point was that she didn’t have a replacement- yet. Every watcher had to choose someone because there was so much to learn. Her time to choose was coming soon.

As she’d been chosen, Liza had to choose so the grooming could begin. The Master watcher before her was the Mastermind. With his death she took his place, as he’d always known she would. She was the only one who knew what he knew and that knowledge he’d passed to her was invaluable. Liza knew now it was the real reason she’d been kept alive even after she’d run.

            She regretted nothing though.

Liza knew when her replacement came of age and learned all they could learn she’d probably suffer a similar fate all watchers had. With the enormous weight of responsibility inevitably came resentment, and that resentment had to be spent.

This was not a job of love it was one of necessity. Emotions were not a part of it, could not be. They did what they had to because someone had to do it.

They had relationships with every government; every organization that made sure the world woke up in the morning and went to sleep at night.  They kept order of the entire mess. Without them there would be chaos.

They did what they did so the world could keep turning with clean hands and a clear mind.

            They were the boogeymen that controlled the things that went bump in the night, and created the bumps.

Returning to her desk Liza hit the red button once again and the screens brightened just a fraction brighter signaling she was back to the others. There was one in particular she was interested in.

In the far right corner two rows over there was a screen in color. It had been years, three in fact since she’d begun watching the family smiling into the camera. Using the wireless mouse, Liza pulled the screen closer then hit the volume.

            “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Kayla, happy birthday to you.” Liza watched as little Kayla cooed reaching for the birthday cake sitting in front of her.

Her parents Blackfoot and Trina stood over her as her chubby little golden-brown hands squeezed the cake between her fingers then into her mouth.

            Liza smiled as she heard other voices. There was Zuri smiling at her baby sister and Liza heard Leena’s loud voice from somewhere off camera.

A moment later Leena passed by in her new beau’s embrace.  They looked so happy and at peace. Smiling, Liza watched for longer than she intended but she couldn’t help herself.

She’d done that. For the rest of her life if nothing else she knew she’d brought her sister happiness and something she’d never have- a family of her own.

            Liza pulled the screen to the front not ready to turn away just yet. She monitored all of the hot spots around the world, but her eyes kept returning to the scene in the Davenport’s kitchen, and little Kayla.

            She was a beautiful brown eyed little girl. She had her mama’s good looks, and her father’s curiosity.

That one’s going to be fierce, Liza found herself thinking once again of the little girl. Again and again her eyes returned to the screen until it went dark as the family moved from the kitchen to their bedrooms for the night.

Liza hadn’t approved more cameras in the house- not yet. She’d given the new family their privacy, but she would- eventually.

            Little Kayla had just turned two, but she was already making plans for her niece. She was a healthy little girl, but there was something in her eyes she could already see.

Her intelligence and strength made her stand out. Kayla was a fighter just like her auntie. Like every fighter, they had to be taught of their potential. Just as she was taught, Liza would have to teach Kayla.

            Not now, of course. They had time, but Liza knew there would come a day when she would introduce Kayla to what she would become.

Until then though, she would watch.

When the time was right, then Liza would reveal herself, and teach Kayla who she really was. The best Watcher Central had ever seen.

The End.

The Watchers 33

She knew her sister.

            It was sunny and warm. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was her wedding day, a first for the Davenport girls. Although they looked nothing alike the two young women were sisters if not by blood then by bond.

            They’d learned things about each other in the past few months that neither had known about the other their entire lives.

            “Trina,” Leena called from the front room. Trina ran to the living room still in her robe to see what Leena was yelling about.

            “What in the world,” she said walking into the front room. There was a huge box sitting in the middle of the living room.

            “It just arrived. The tag says it’s for you,” Leena said smiling.

Immediately Trina thought of Liza, but she said nothing. The woman had given her so much as it was, she couldn’t imagine anything else from her especially after all this time.

It had been a year since she’d last seen or spoken to Liza. Since then it was as if the woman had dropped off the face of the earth.

            She’d known better than to go looking for her. Besides Liza had warned her not to try. She said for her safety and the safety of Leena and Zuri she had to leave.

If it hadn’t been for the weeks she’d spent locked in that basement, Trina wouldn’t have believed it, but she knew better than to second guess Liza.

            Truth be told she was scared of the woman. She was her sister, yes, but by blood only. Liza had saved her, but she had also been her captor.

It was a truth that she knew not to forget. Nonetheless, without her she wouldn’t have the life she now had. It was a humongous price to pray, but she was hard pressed to say she would trade her current situation for anything else.

            “I think I’m going to need something to get into it,” Trina said her voice more breathless than she meant it to be.

            “Wait, let me find some scissors,” Leena said smiling. As soon as she left the room, Trina attacked the box. She didn’t know what she’d find, but whatever it was she wanted to see it without witnesses.

Pulling at the tape she opened the seam at the top. Tearing open the lid she saw it was full of the Styrofoam popcorn that meant there was something breakable inside. Scooping out the white foam kernels, Trina quickly uncovered the top of the glass figurine.

            “Couldn’t wait, huh,” Leena said disappointment in her voice. However, a second later her voice was filled with awe.

“Good lord, it’s beautiful.”

The two women carefully pulled the glass figurine from the box. It was wrapped in more Styrofoam but the colors of the hand-blown glass were visible. As they removed the Styrofoam from around it carefully, they unveiled the treasure.

            It stood about three feet tall and it showed the busts of a man holding a beautiful woman holding a child. It was a figure of emotion more than actual detail and the colors of the rainbow blending perfectly to reflect it in a marriage of light and love.

            “Oh, Trina, who sent that to you,” Leena said tears in her voice as she walked around the figurine on the kitchen table. “It positively glows,” she said.

            “It’s alright,” Trina said with a smirk but she too was impressed. Reaching for the card she read it aloud.

            For the beautiful family as you begin your new adventure. May you hold each other close through the years. Protect each other, love each other because that is what truly matters. LW

            “Who is LW,” Leena asked touching the figure with the tips of her fingers.

            “I have no idea,” Trina said smoothly. “Probably some fan. It seems a bit much though. You think we should keep it?”

            “Girl, if you don’t you crazy. This is a work of art,” she said. “This should really be in a museum, an art gallery something.”

            “Yeah, it should,” Trina said, but she knew that was not what was intended. LW, she thought to herself smiling. The figurine was Liza all the way. It was over the top and overbearing, but at the same time classic. It was timeless, and the thought of giving it away or hiding it away she knew she’d never be able to do nor was that Liza’s intention. She knew her sister.

            Walking closer to the centerpiece, Trina looked at it carefully. She followed the lines from top to bottom from all angles.

She knew Leena was watching her, but she wasn’t concerned. She circled it twice admiring the lines, the colors, and the care it took to make their likenesses so real.

It was a bust of Blackfoot her soon to be husband, herself, and Zuri. It was a magnificent piece of art that she knew both Blackfoot and Zuri would get a kick out of when they saw it.

            Once she made her way to the base of the structure that was when she found it.

At the base there deep within the bust was a darker structure from where all the colors combined into black. It was the beginning or the end depending on how you interpreted it, but either way, Trina was sure she could see a small rectangular structure that passed through the entire base.

Anyone else who saw it would have thought it was just part of the work created by the artist, but Trina knew better. She’d seen that same structure months ago in the shed she lived in 24/7.

            Liza had told her the night she’d left the Davenport house for good, the last night she’d seen her that she would always be watching.

She’d said, “don’t you worry, I will always be here in one way or another.” Trina now understood.

Strangely, it didn’t bother her. If anything, she felt heartened that they would always be safe.

            The life Liza lived, Trina knew was dangerous, because for a moment she’d been touched by it. It was that night at the dance. It was the night Liza left and one of her agent’s pulled her to the side to inform her that Liza had gone for good.

That brief moment she’d felt an imprint was made. She always wondered if the people Liza dealt with on a daily basis would one day visit her doorstep, now she knew Liza had thought the same thing.

This was a way for her to keep an eye on them. It was a small price to pay for knowing they would be safe because Liza would always be there keeping watch over all of them.

The Watchers 32

I wanted to be normal for once.

            “Did I tell you how beautiful you look, Trina?” Blackfoot said his eyes darting back and forth from the road to the passenger seat.

            “Well, let me see. Once when I walked in the room right after you stopped mid-sentence talking with my sister, which was pretty rude, I must say,” she said laughing. “Then you turned and said “wow, Trina you look absolutely beautiful,” as we were walking to the door to go to your car, then I believe you wolf whistled at me for a good minute when I was getting into the car.”

“Wolf whistled,” he laughed.

“Yeah, like the cartoons,” she said before demonstrating. “Then about five minutes ago again, and two minutes after that, and then just now. So yeah, you’ve said it plenty.”

            “Good because I meant it,” Blackfoot said.

            Traffic was heavy, but the weather was clear so they made good time getting to the venue. When they pulled up to the Coliseum there were a few police cars outside but it was to be expected. This was a high-profile event for the city.

“That would be me probably if I wasn’t with you,” Blackfoot smiled looking out the window at the black and white cars.

“Making a few extra bucks, huh? Handsome and thrifty.”

“Yup that’s me,” Blackfoot said, “Pretty and cheap.”

“Not too cheap I hope,”

“Hah,” he laughed as he parked the car next to one of the cruisers. Blackfoot wore a black suit but a few men had gone for the full tuxedos. Regardless they were sure to cause a scene walking in together: the bad girl gone good and the good cop gone bad. 

Tonight, she just wanted to enjoy being a girl going out with a boy who liked her just as much as she liked him. She wanted to dance, and drink and enjoy tonight. She wanted to be normal for once.

            “Are you having a good time,” Blackfoot said as they took their first spin on the dance floor.

            “More than you know,” she said, “more than I thought possible.”

            “Good,” Blackfoot said his smile sparkling beneath the white lights. “I was told if I didn’t show you a good time tonight, then I better not show my face again in the Davenport household.”

            “Tell me who, and I will take them down myself.”

            “My lips are sealed,” he said. Laughing he added, “Hey, I need my shins and I think that’s the highest the little munchkin can reach. At least I hope.”

            “Well you don’t have to worry as long as you show me a good time.”

            “Oh, yeah,” Blackfoot whispered.

            “Yeah.”

            “Yeah,” Blackfoot said softly. They stared into each other’s eyes gliding across the floor to the music. Blackfoot was surprisingly light on his feet and kept good time.

            “What is that for?” he asked, catching her smile.

            “What?”

            “That smirk,” he said.

           “Just happy, I guess,” she said as the song ended and the crowd started clapping their appreciation for the live band. She looked to Blackfoot, but he was just staring at her. “What?”

“There’s something different about you,” Blackfoot said. “I don’t know.” Staring at her lips for a second he caught himself. “I like it,” he added finally. They walked back to their table they were sharing with another couple.

            “I’ll get us some drinks,” Blackfoot asked before heading for the crowded bar.

            A face in the crowd caught her attention. It was a man, dark skinned with shortly cropped hair. She didn’t recognize him, but his bold stare made her alert. 

When he beckoned with a nod of his head towards the exit door, she knew she hadn’t imagined it. This was her sign. She hadn’t expected contact so soon, but she knew better than to ignore it.

Looking towards the bar Blackfoot was standing in line for drinks, but there were several people in front of him.

            “I have to run to the restroom,” she said to the woman sitting across from her. “Can you tell him?” the woman waved her off with a smile before she could finish.

Thanking her, she rose from her seat quickly making her way across the floor towards the stranger.

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You are my best creation

            “Bring her to me,” the Mastermind said from the backseat of the black Escalade. “Now,” he said when the driver didn’t move.

A second later he was sitting in the vehicle alone. Looking up from his phone for the first time he glanced out at the quiet street lined with buildings leading away from the venue behind him. 

Once again, he was back in the hellhole named Mississippi. The same place rescued Liza from almost thirty years ago.

            He could hardly believe that after all these years he was back. When he’d found her she was fighting cockroaches for food. Covered in bites from rats and ticks her rebellious nature was fully intact despite the squalor she’d been living in.

She barely spoke and had numerous medical problems as a result of her mother’s inability or lack of desire to take care of her children. He’d rescued both girls, but that hadn’t been his plan.

            His plan was to kill the man her mother had been seeing and he’d done his job.

The girl’s mother was collateral damage which he figured no one would ever see as a loss. The girls by all means should have died with their mother that day, but something had stopped him.

He’d been standing over Liza the barrel of his gun pressed to her temple but he hadn’t pulled the trigger.

            Her eyes never flinched from his never wavered.  In fact, she’d reached up grabbed the barrel and pushed it away. Nothing was said, but he knew instantly there was something special about her- something different. She had spirit, one that even he couldn’t snuff out.

            He’d been on the fast track for years at Central. He knew his trajectory what he was meant for. He’d work a few more years in the field, but he always knew he would move up the ranks and eventually run it all.

It was inevitable, but he had to wait his turn. However, in her eyes that hot summer night he saw something- something that reminded him of his self.

He couldn’t extinguish something with all that potential. So he’d scooped her up wanting to make sure she got the medical attention she needed.

The only time she made a sound was when he attempted to leave without her sister. He went back for Trina and took both girls to the closest hospital. He dropped them at the ER door then left.

            That was supposed to be the end, but he’d waited a distance a way to make sure the two girls didn’t wander away without first getting help. Once they were ushered inside by a couple of nurses he’d left, but he couldn’t leave well enough alone.

For a year he checked back on her making sure she was being taken care of, being fed, and clothed. He followed her trail when she was taken in along with her sister by the Davenports at his request. He followed them closely after that.

            By then she was healthy and was for all intent and purposes a very bright little girl. That spirit he’d recognized in her those years before was still there.

That was when he made his decision. By then he’d moved into the Mastermind position. He had the capabilities to make anything happen so adopting the little girl with the golden eyes with no fear wasn’t very difficult. The only difficult part of it was getting her to forget her former life.

            The past few months showed him he’d failed.

Tonight, he planned to rectify that. She would return to him. She would leave this life behind for good.

She would realize that this was not her world. She was like him, and it was something she’d have to accept. There was no choice. If she didn’t then he had no choice but to destroy everything she was trying to hold onto. She had no choice. She would obey.

            Her skills, her ability were too valuable to lose. He’d put years into training her to be the best of the best. He’d already made his decision. She would be his successor. It might take some time, but it was a fact that she would accept- eventually.

            The vibration of his phone forced his attention from the past. “Sir, we have her,” the voice on the other end of the phone said.

            “We’re coming to you,” the Mastermind said, as the door opened and his driver climbed in.

            “Ten minutes, sir,” the driver said.

            “We’ll meet you in ten minutes,” the Mastermind said before ending the call. “They’re holding her at the venue. Go to the loading dock.”

            “Yes, sir,” the driver said starting the car and putting it in drive. Within seconds they were on the highway in holiday traffic heading towards the town square. Traffic was light.

Inside the warmth of the luxury car the Mastermind took his phone out. Absentmindedly he keyed in his code then looked through his email. He pulled up pictures sent earlier in the night of Liza in her gown. She was with the police officer, her date for the evening.

            Picture after picture showed her smiling. Happier than he’d ever seen her. There were several, but on one picture in particular caught his attention. He’d seen her in all kinds of disguises.

He’d watched her transform herself time and time again. Liza knew how to immerse herself into a part so deep that it was hard to imagine her as anyone else.

She truly was a chameleon. However, no matter what the role, he prided himself on being able to pick her out. It might take some time, it might take some digging, but the pictures never lied. He was always able to see her- his girl.

            Looking at the picture closer he found himself searching for that glimmer he always noticed in her eye. In her latest role of her sister, Trina, she hadn’t had to go too far to assume her sister’s identity yet that something wasn’t there. They were nearly identical, so it was the most like her natural self he’d seen her yet something was off.

            When she started the role of Trina, she assumed the girl’s look, fake hair, garish makeup, too tight clothing. But gradually over several weeks she’d molded the girl more into her image. The pictures showed that. The picture was of a beautiful, young woman confident in her looks and her body. She wore little to no makeup and an appropriate dress classy, yet memorable which was exactly who his Liza was. Yet, he knew without a doubt that this wasn’t her.

            He pressed the phone button on his phone but before he could hit the call button the car swerved to the right and came to a sudden stop.

“Give me the phone,” the driver said turned in the seat gun pointed at the Mastermind’s head. He stared back stunned for a second before blinking several times. When he opened his eyes, he wore his usual calm demeanor once again.

“Very well done,” he said. “I’d say I was impressed if I thought you’d care.”

“The phone,” she said again. The gun never lowered even when he handed the phone over to her.

“You are my best creation,” the Mastermind said leaning back in the leather seat. “You are everything I hoped you would become. I made you.”

“No, you didn’t.” The look of surprise that came over his face warmed Liza’s cold heart, but it was short lived.

“I found you in a crack house your mother was about to sell you and your sister to the next highest bidder. I picked you up and gave you the life you have. You exist because of me,” he said quietly. 

“Don’t move.”

“How dare you!” he bellowed. For the first time in months she remembered what it felt like to smile, but her face remained impassive. “You are who I say you are. You belong to me.”

“I belong to no one,” she said raising her chin.

“You know you don’t stand a chance,” he said. “There’s a car behind us and they’ll be here any second.”

“Well, I guess I better make this quick, huh,” she said her stare as chilly as her heart. The Mastermind smiled, but before he could open his mouth to speak, she fired two shots through his skull.

His body slumped in the seat. A second later she was out of the vehicle. She hadn’t taken a step before being surrounded by agents their guns drawn. The woman looked each agent in the eye nodding at the ones she recognized until each gun was lowered.

“Take care of him,” she said, “dump the vehicle. I don’t want to see it or him again,” she said walking towards the waiting car.

“Yes, ma’am,” an agent said entering the vehicle she’d just exited. Seconds later the scene was clear with her heading in the opposite direction away from downtown and the life that might have been.

Quickly she connected her phone to her newly acquired one, to transfer his files and the address book. Within a couple of minutes, she had the Mastermind’s entire playbook.

Disassembling the phone once she was through, she took the memory chip out and snapped it in two. She tossed the whole mess in her purse to be destroyed later.

“Where to, Ms. Waters,” the driver asked through the intercom.

“Central,” she said.

The Watchers 30

You promise not to kill me

Liza felt the stares from the moment she stepped out of the gold Chevrolet, but she wanted them to look. She wanted them to see all of her. For the first time in her life she wasn’t trying to hide. She ignored the sidewalk instead walking across the lawn to the police station.

It was lunch time. Workers were everywhere in their uniforms making their way into the town square for a quick lunch or to get some take out to eat at their desks. Liza waved at a few she recognized from the diner, and they waved back.

Making her way through the doors of the two-story mortar building Liza had a mission to complete. Down the hallway then taking the stairs two at a time. This wasn’t for pleasure, she was dressed for battle.

In her previous life caring about looks wasn’t something she ever did for herself. She dressed as each part required. If she was supposed to attract someone then she found out what attracted them then dressed the part, but she was always playing someone else.

Today for the first time she was in public and all eyes were on her- the real me. It wasn’t Trina she was playing today.

For the first time in her adult life Liza was doing what she wanted to do rather than what was required of her to do. Everyone may see Trina Davenport but they were getting Liza Waters.

Liza found his office easily, but it was empty. She walked the aisles until she spotted him. He was sitting in a conference room in what appeared to be a meeting. The room was crowded with officers dressed in their blues and some in plains clothes.

Blackfoot was standing against the wall facing the windows. Liza made a beeline for the meeting room, hearing the voices as more and more people noticed her. I

            “Ms. Davenport,” Liza heard someone call out from behind me but she kept walking. “Ms.,” the voice said again this time much closer. Liza kept going determined to talk with Blackfoot. Then she felt a hand touch my elbow. She turned surprised to see the gray-haired man Mrs. Davenport and she had met with.

“I’m sorry,” the police chief said raising his hands as if in apology. “Very nice to see you, Ms. Davenport,” the chief said his plastic grin stretching his face. Liza nodded continuing to make her way towards Blackfoot.

            “What can I help you with today?”

            “I actually came to speak to Blackfoot,” Liza said sidestepping away from the red-faced man.

            “Is there a problem,” the chief asked. “has there been another incident,” he said his voice lowering.

            “No, not at all,” Liza said. “I just had something to ask Blackfoot- privately,”

            “Oh,” the chief said shaking his head. “Would you like me to sit in on your…”

            “That won’t be necessary,” she said cutting him off. “Thank you,” The meeting was breaking up and she didn’t want to miss Blackfoot before he left.  Then he spotted her.

One look at his face and Liza knew he hadn’t forgotten.  He was no longer wearing the sling, but the look in his eyes was fire.  Liza had a plan when she walked in the front door, but now she doubted herself. It was a feeling she wasn’t used to having.

            “But Ms. Davenport, I’d be glad to assist you,” the police chief called once more.

            “No thank you,” Liza said not taking my eyes off of Blackfoot.

            “Blackfoot,” Liza called out and he stopped in his tracks.

            Blackfoot stood still with his back turned, but not leaving. Liza walked in front of him.

            “Would you like to go somewhere a little more private?”

            “Are you going to accuse me of kidnapping this time? Assault and battery with a deadly pencil,” he said holding up the No. 2 pencil in his hand.

            “No,” she said. Without a word Blackfoot walked towards the stairs. She kept in step with him all the way down then out the front door. When he finally stopped, they were at the gazebo across from the station in the town square. There was an uncomfortable silence, but it was to be expected. Our last meeting hadn’t gone well, to say the least. There was a chilly wind but the sun was out making it bearable.

            “So, you got me,” Blackfoot finally spoke standing on the edge of the gazebo several feet away from her. She deserved his wariness.

 His reputation had suffered and she hadn’t done anything to stop it from happening either. She hoped it would smooth itself over on its own, but his response said it hadn’t.

It wasn’t until early this morning that she had an idea that she might be able to use it to her advantage.

Pat had followed through with her invitation to the Christmas Ball. When she received the invitation in the mail, the first person to come to mind was Blackfoot.

She’d been attracted to him from their first meeting, but had no intention of doing anything about it. She didn’t need him then.

            “I’m sorry,” Liza said. “I hadn’t said that until now. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Blackfoot burst out laughing.

            “You’re sorry, huh?” Blackfoot said. “Funny you didn’t seem sorry when you tossed me like a sack of potatoes then lied on me to the chief.”

            “I know, I apologize for that too,” Liza said.

            “You apologize? You know I have a mark on my record? They were this close to demoting me?”

            “No, I didn’t,” Liza said. “I’ll talk to the chief though, anything, I just can’t keep on burning these bridges. It’s time for me to make some changes to my life.”  

            “I saw your interview,” Blackfoot said removing his sunglasses. “It was interesting.”

            “I meant every word. I really am trying to change, evolve.”

            “I can see,” Blackfoot said as he looked her over appreciatively.

            “Look, Blackfoot I came here to talk with you, because I needed to ask a favor,” Liza said ignoring his snort of disbelief. “I know me asking you for a favor is crazy, but here I am asking you… for a favor.”

            “Go ahead,” Blackfoot said.

            “I have this thing to go to, a ball, and although I’ve been in town for a while, I haven’t had much opportunity to, you know, meet many people.  I was wondering if you would go with me.”

Blackfoot’s response was a big bark of laughter that caused several passersby to look in their direction.  

            “You want me to go with you?” he said once, he’d gotten control of his disbelief.

            “Yes, I very much would like that.”

            “You want a date?”

            “Yes.”

            “You really are crazy.”

            “No,” Liza said, “no, I’m not.” Blackfoot looked her over for almost a full minute.

“Yes, yes you are,” Blackfoot said his face suddenly serious.

Liza returned his gaze refusing to fill in the silence. The look on his face told her it was the right thing to do as he seemed to be sizing her up, weighing his options. 

Suddenly he cleared his throat. “Apparently your crazy is catchy,” he said standing. “You promise not to kill me?” he asked a frown on his handsome face.

            “I promise,” Liza said. His response was a brief nod.

            “So, does this mean I’m forgiven?” Liza asked gesturing towards his arm.

            “Don’t push it,” Blackfoot said.

            “Okay,” she smiled before promising to call with more details once she got the tickets. She walked away certain he was still watching me. She could tell he was more than interested in her, even thought she could kick his ass. That made him either stupid or a glutton for punishment, either way Liza was also intrigued. The mutual attraction wasn’t necessary, but it would make what she had to do so much easier.

The Watchers 28

They didn’t make me do anything

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

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

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

            “I didn’t,” Liza said smiling.

“But you said,” Trina frowned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Liza nodded slowly.

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

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

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

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

            “You like to kill?”

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

“Would you kill me?”

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

            “Depends on what?”

            “It depends on if they told me to.”

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

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

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

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

“It’s not the same thing.”

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

“What do you mean?”

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

“I’M IN A BOX!”

“Yeah,” Liza said. “Well, so am I.”

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

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

            “Who?”

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

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

            “Something like that,” Liza said.

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

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

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

The Watchers 22

How’s your arm, detective?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watchers 21

Little bird finally flew the coop

They’d lost her.

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

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

He had to make a decision and fast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She would be his again.

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

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

NEVER HIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All is well.

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

The Watchers 20

Remembering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watchers 19

Who are you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who are you?” he said quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The calm took over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let him go,” Mrs. Davenport said.

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

The Watchers 18

God protects children and fools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They treating you nice?”

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

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

            “I dunno.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Naw man, it wasn’t like that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Big girl, y’all locked up with me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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