I smiled softly at the teen girls who passed me on the sidewalk. Clearly members of the local high school, with book bags slung haphazardly over their shoulders. They paid me little attention, perhaps just a subtle glance from the corner of their eyes.
I felt a tad conspicuous, what with my business like attire, in broad daylight at the end of a school day, apparently. But I couldn't help it. It just felt so dreadful to dress in anything less than a rigid pair of heels and at least a nice business shirt. I had opted to skip the suit, but I appeared comparatively regal to most people around me.
A simple suburb, a few gentlemen washing their cars in front of their lawns, kids walking home, the chirping of birds, everyone was dressed lazily... around their families.
"This is the worst, absolute worst place I could possibly do this." I said to myself. With a deep breath I found the house I was looking for. A one story house with a few bushes under each window. The garden was okay, nothing extraordinary about it, a pretty cypress stretched just above the roof.
Suddenly, the front door opened, revealing a small child, with dark mahogany skin and short black hair. He had a broad grin and dashed out of the house, paying me no mind. For the first time, I noticed that up front, near the sidewalk there were a few toy cars and other such childlike trinkets.
I stopped short.
"A son. He's been busier than I had imagined." I realized. I felt a guilty pang in my heart. "You said you would do this Samantha. Don't pussy out now."
I set my jaw, and approached the boy. He noticed a shadow over come his toys, and looked up at me, surprised slightly. I gave him a kind smile.
"Hey there! Are you by any chance Mr. Elliot's son?"
He seemed a little scared.
"I... just need to talk to him if you are." I encouraged. "It won't take long."
"My daddy's busy."
"Is he at work?"
"No ma'am. He is in his office. He said I could play outside before I had to go to my music lessons." The boy was surprisingly articulate. Yet naïve, I sensed.
"I could tell my mom."
"That's just fine, so long as he is here." I assured. I rose from my kneeling position I had adopted upon speaking with the boy. I strode up to the front door, and despite my earlier confidence, I found myself hesitant. I might have stood there for a few minutes, the conflict brewing had the echo of laughter from some high school kids not alerted me back to sanity.
Wasting no more time, I gently knocked on the door.
For a few seconds, nothing happened, and then I heard shuffling. The door unlocked, and opened. To my relief, it was not the man I had came here for, but rather an attractive woman of what I assumed to be African descent. She was short, with very dark skin, with attractive facial features, despite no make up one. Her hair was puffy and bronze, her eyes a warm wooden brown.
"Can I help you?" She asked, confused. Clearly, she was wondering who I was, in such a small pleasant neighborhood, doubtful were there going to be anybody but children selling chocolate bars for the school. Far from the booming metropolis where I might not have gotten a response from folk tired of entrepreneurs.
"Hi, I'm Samantha, I'm looking for Martin Elliot?" I asked, politely as I could.
"He's my husband." She said, somewhat defensively. She eyed me a bit more warily now. I briefly thought of insecurity, I was taller, with a slightly curvier frame, and was asking about her husband. I could be a threat. "What do you want with him?"
"I'm an old employer of his. Before he left his old profession, he left some loose ends, a few things that I need settled. It's a somewhat urgent matter, one that I would hope be rectified." I offered. She looked at me funny, trying to determine weakness. This I did not give her.
"Okay, he's busy right now but please, come in." She said. I nodded and entered. The house was very family friendly. A big, sprawling couch of comfortable fabric, a coffee table with a bowl of nuts on it, sizable flat screen, about as generic and picture perfect as a family home could be. I felt like a dick.
"Would you like anything to drink? We don't have any alcohol though." She said.
"Just water." I said.
"I'm Keisha, by the way." She said, as she went into the kitchen to retrieve my water.
As she was gone, I took the chance to wander around her house. The hard wood floors made my heels loud, and the pictures on the walls were of Keisha's family. In the center, she smiled and held a baby in her arms, most likely the boy from outside. At her left, a young girl, maybe eleven or so, hugged her and also smiled. She was black, with a blonde streak in her ebony hair. In the back, a big man, bald, but with a shaved beard stood. He was muscular, and a smile on his face.
"There you are little one." I said softly. I twitched when I used that voice. That moniker.
She returned, I thanked her when she passed me the water.
"My husband never really talked much about his past."
Thank god, I thought.
"Where'd he work for you?"
"He was a manager I supervised for a textile business. Nothing fancy." I lied.
"Are you... a model or something? You're stunning." She said.
"I'm far to fickle for that."
"I'm too serious for that." I said, with a slight sigh.
"I'll get my husband for you, he's working right now but if it's so important..."
"I assure you, nothing more than a simple conversation."
She seemed to relent to my presence.
"I'll go get him." She turned. "Please, make yourself at home."
As she left, I sat on the couch, and looked around. I could glimpse the door that could only lead to the garage. Beyond that a hallway to a dining room, and a sliding door.
I heard giggling.
From the hallway, two teen girls emerged, one was the girl from the picture, just a bit older now, maybe fifteen. The other was the same, yet Asian.
I closed my eyes. At my will, they left without noticing me. I tapped my foot. I noticed a cat, for the first time. Up one the stand for the TV, next to the loudspeaker. A fluffy cat with bright green eyes and orange fur.
"Hey kitty." I said playfully.
It hissed violently.
"You may know what I am, but please, let's not make this hostile, fluffy one." I told it. It remained aggressive. I gave it a calm nod. "Very well. But only I can hear you. Know that you're use as a defense is meaningless. I arrive as a friend."
The cat remained unconvinced. I shook my head in disdain.
I heard footsteps. The cat seemed ready to pounce, to claw its way to Martin. I gave it a look of warning.
"You're name is Whiskers. I'll warn you once." I said quietly. It's acute ears heard me, and the cat chose to remain docile for everyone's sake.
"Honey, this is the lady I was talking about. She said she was a former employer of yours?" Keisha said.
A confused Martin Elliot followed her, and looked at me. It took him a few moments, but a look of recognition sparked in his eyes.
As did a barrage of mind numbing fear. A look of horror and terror that was unmatched. Keisha saw this.
"Baby what is-"
"Stay back!" He shouted, as he backed up. I stood and tried to calm him.
"Keisha run, take the kids she'll kill us all! Witch!" He cried, and in his panic, burst from the hall, and leapt through the sliding glass door with a crash, the cat, Whiskers mewled, realizing his cowardice. Had he gone wild, maybe his master would have seen it coming sooner.
"Sorry about this." I said, as I gently tapped Keisha on the head. She collapsed, as if a ghost had claimed her suddenly. "Martin! Please listen, I just want to talk, there is no need to run!" I shouted as I left the house, as he clawed his way over the fence.
"Get away from me! Get away!" He cried. He looked at me, eyes bloodshot, as memories filled him.
"Witch!" He screamed, before getting over the fence.
Memories of torture, I realized.