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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 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 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 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 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 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 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.