Tag Archives: WOMEN'S FIction

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 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.”

The Watchers 17

You can’t park here

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I said I’d do it,” Liza said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Figure out the pattern~

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

            “Has she identified you?”

            “No, sir.”

            “You have not been compromised?”

            “No, sir.”

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

            “Yes, Sir.”

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

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

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

“Yes, Sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watchers 16

I had to become Trina Davenport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watchers 14

If anything ever happened to my granddaughter  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” Liza said catching her breath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, ma’am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watchers 11

Are you ok, Mrs. Davenport?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Primarily,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes ma’am.”

“And she was mugged, you say?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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