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Looking into the mirror, the girl saw herself in a way that no one else saw her. She was hideous. She didn’t know how people could say she was beautiful or gorgeous. She tried to see herself through their eyes, but no matter how hard she tried all she saw was disgusting characteristics. Her hair was a mess, yet everyone tried to mimic it. Her makeup was a disaster, yet everyone wanted to know how it was perfect every day. Her clothes were anything but stylish, yet everyone wanted to know where she bought them.
Everything about her was revolting, or at least that’s what she thought. She couldn’t see how people could stand to be around her. All she could think was that if she was one of those people she would never hang out with someone who looked like her. She was tired of the way she looked. No one noticed anything but her looks. She doubted that anyone knew how smart she was or what kinds of things she was interested in.
She spent her weekends in expensive stores looking at clothes she knew she would never be able to afford. After window shopping at the mall near her home, the girl would go to the second hand store an hour away to buy clothes that would surely never have come from anyone in her school. She was always behind in the up to date fashion, but no one seemed to mind because apparently she could make everything look good. The employees at any store always said that the clothes didn’t make her look good but rather she made the clothes look good.
She had been offered to model for a local agency that was known for advancing girls on to the big time modeling in Vegas or L.A.. She turned them down because she thought she was too fat. Everyone she knew encouraged her to take up modeling saying she had the perfect body for it. She knew if she was going to make it in modeling she would have to lose at least ten pounds. Besides her parents, or lack thereof, would never be able to come up with the money to allow her to do it. She was stuck in this beat-down town going nowhere. Even after high school when all of her friends went off to college, she would be stuck here working at the cafe across town, working to pay off the debt she owed to her parents.
She didn’t know how long it would take to pay off that debt, but she was determined to do it. She knew that if she could pay off that debt then she would be free of this dump that she was forced to call home She knew if she could pay off this debt she would have a chance at a successful life. Her parents said she would never be able to pay it off, that she would never make enough money to do it. She had to prove them wrong. If she did anything in life it would be proving her parents wrong. She was already saving for her future, always putting away her change into a jar. She figured she had at least two to three hundred dollars easy just in change. She had a part time job at the local thrift store where she made just above minimum wage. During the summer she worked two full time jobs. She helped out her neighbors with various household tasks and yard work. If she kept going at this rate she would have the debt paid off within five years of graduating high school.
Working a part time job and taking as many advanced classes as she could really put the brakes on her social life outside of school. She hardly ever had time for friends and school activities. She never went to any sporting events and didn’t participate in any extracurricular activities. Her boss always would tell her to go to some of the games and have fun because she was still a kid, but her boss didn’t understand how important working was for her. If she didn’t work she wouldn’t be able to leave this town. She always made up some excuse not to go to the games and her boss would leave her be and just let it go until the next sporting event. She was one of the most committed workers at the store. She was always on time and never second guessed the boss. Every few weeks she would get shifts that were later and later into the night until eventually she would be able to close up the store.
On her first night closing the store, she looked up the street and saw a man heading toward her. She didn’t think the man was a threat because the town was very small and no one had a reason to harm anyone else. By the time she had finished closing the man was approaching her. She didn’t recognize the man but took in his ratty appearance. He had a hood up over his head so she couldn’t get a good look at his face. He looked like a bum. She knew the smart thing would have been to get away from him as fast as possible, but her life had been pretty dull lately. She stood there looking at her phone. She waited for him to reach her. She wanted to see what the man would say to her. She secretly watched the man walk in front of her without saying a word. She was stunned. She had assumed that he would say something, ask for money at least, but the man kept walking.
The girl didn’t know what to think of this mysterious looking bum. She had never seen him before. Where had he come from? Who was he? She decided she needed to know where this man was going. She started to follow him. The man zigzagged through the dark streets. Every now and then he would take an empty, deserted alley. She noticed that the man had looked over his shoulder a few times, as if sensing that he was being followed. Why didn’t he confront her about following him? Was he not worried about a young girl following him through the streets late at night? Still the girl continued to follow the man.
The girl had turned into an alley shortly after the man did. Not realizing where she was she walked into the dead end alley thinking there was a door he went through. By the time she got to the end of the alley she realized there was no door. Where had the man gone? This was the alley he had turned into, she was sure of it. How did he just disappear like that?
“Why are you following me?”
The voice had come from behind her. She turned and saw the man she had been following. She was just now realizing that following wasn’t the best idea in the world. Now she was trapped in a dark alley with no one around to hear her scream.
“I asked you a question,” his voice seemed to get louder and more violent.
“I.....I....I’m sorry. I was just....”
“You were just what?”
“I just wanted to know why you.....why you walked by me without saying anything to me or begging for money.”
She hadn’t realized until now that he was slowly making his way towards her. Every time she took her eyes off of him he advanced one more step towards her.
“Why didn’t I beg you for money?”
“Yes. I mean most bums do. They beg and beg until you give in or walk away from them.”
“What makes you think I’m a bum?”
“Well...um, the way you are dressed. Your clothes are filthy and are very worn out. Your hair is....well, very uncleanly.”
“So you’re saying just because I look like a bum I am one? Is that what you are implying?”
“Well yeah,” she was now starting to back away from him. 'Why did I follow him in the first place? Why didn’t my brain kick in and say no?' She was now backed up against the brick wall. She figured if she could inch her way back to the street she would be okay. She slowly started sidestepping to her left to get closer to the mouth of the alley.
“Who do you think you are to judge me? Do you think just because you are Ms. Popular at school you can judge me and make fun of what I look like?”
“I wasn’t making fun of what you look like. I was making an educated guess. I wasn’t judging you either,” she said in a whisper, threatened by the man’s sudden anger.
“What were you doing then if you weren’t making fun of me? And you did judge me, saying that I would beg you for money.”
“Like I said, I was just making an educated guess that you were a bum and most bums beg for money.”
“Well you aren’t very smart, are you? Your educated guess wasn’t very close at describing me.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.” She was almost to the street. The man hadn’t even noticed, or seem to notice at least that she was close to escaping. 'Just a few more steps. I’m almost there.'
“Yeah, you better be. I can tell exactly what you’re thinking. Trying to slowly get away by creeping along the wall. Even if you try to run I can still catch you.”
“How do you know? For all you know I could be one of the fastest people in the state.”
“I know you aren’t. You don’t play sports. You don’t even go to any of the sporting events for school. You are always too busy to hang out with your friends because you work all the time.”
“H...H...How do you know that?” She was now slowly making her way to the sidewalk. She saw some light out of the corner of her eye, a street light. 'If I could just get to the light then I can figure out who this guy is and maybe figure out how he knows all this about me.'
“I have my ways.”
“Or maybe you’re just guessing.”
“Oh, I’m not guessing. It’s a fact and you know it.”
“Prove that it’s not just a guess. Prove that it’s a fact.” Now the girl was just buying herself time to get farther from the dark alley.
“Your name is Alison Tisdale. You are a senior at Highlands High School. You work at the thrift store. You are in almost every single AP class that is offered at the school. You hang out with Kelsey Bentley and Clarice Whitesell. Is that good or do you want me to continue?”
Alison was in shock. She didn’t know what to say. She was frozen in place as soon as he said her name. She didn’t know who this guy was or how he knew all of this stuff about her. She was freaked out.
“I’m going to take that as a yes. You see Alison, you aren’t exactly hiding everything like you thought you were. There are some other things I know about you too, things that you don’t want everyone to know.”
Alison was starting to get really freaked out. 'Who was this guy? What other things was he referring to?' There was only a few things that she could think of that would be harmful to her reputation, not that she was too worried about her reputation. She just didn’t want to be completely embarrassed about the things she was hiding. She didn’t want to have to run away from everything, again.
“Who are you? How do you know all of this stuff?”
“You don’t get to know that information.”
“Well then at least tell me what other things that you know.”
“Hahahaha. Well there is that thing about your little money problem with your parents. And the big one, why you didn’t take the modeling jobs because of that one little illegal transaction that you made long ago that keeps you running, moving from city to city. And that other little illegal matter which is why you can’t actually go to your dream school.”
“How do you know about all of that?”
“Like I said I have my ways, and you aren’t exactly hiding it all that well.”
“What does any of this have to do with anything?”
“I’ve been waiting for the day when I can bring the popular Alison Tisdale down. You see now that you know that I know this information, it will be easier for me to get some things done.”
“Well for starters, you will do everything I tell you.”
“What, like your slave?”
“And what if I don’t?”
“Then your secrets slowly start coming out. First the not so important ones and then eventually the one that will completely ruin your life.”
Alison knew at that moment that she had to do this. She didn’t have a choice. If she wanted to stay here and keep from having to owe her parents even more money. She would have to start over somewhere far from here.
“Alright. What kind of things will I be doing?”
“I knew you would be on board. First things first. You won’t mention a single word of this to anyone. If I hear you told someone about our little meeting all of your secrets will be on the front page of the school paper. You will do exactly what I tell you to do when I tell you to do it. You won’t have to worry about telling me when you’ve finished a task, I’ll know.”
“I’ll contact you when I have something for you to do until then just go on about your normal routine.”
After that the guy left. Alison just stood there in shock. She wasn’t sure what to do. She knew she was being blackmailed, but she couldn’t do anything about it. She knew that if she told anyone about what happened she would be ruined. Besides she didn’t even know who he was. She stood there thinking of a way to get around it. 'There has to be a way, some kind of loophole. I can’t just let him do this to me without trying to do something.' Alison started walking back to the direction she thought her car was. After ten minutes of wandering the streets she finally found her car. She slowly started her way back home while still thinking of a way to get out of this whole situation. The only thing she could think of would be to pack everything up, yet again, and leave town. She would have to convince her parents to leave which would be a problem. She knew she would have to tell them what’s going on before they would even consider leaving, but what if her “boss” found out that she told her parents. Would he still spill her secrets?
A few days had passed since the incident with her blackmailer, and she hadn’t heard a word from him yet. She thought maybe he had forgotten, but she knew he would never forget. She would be his slave until either he or she left town for good. She still hadn’t found a loophole in the situation and she feared that there wasn’t one. The only way she even had a chance was if she could figure out who the guy was. If she could do that, she could dig up information on him and blackmail him in order to get rid of her blackmail. The hard part would be to figure out who he was. If she failed, she would have to leave this town just like she left every other town. It was different this time though. She actually felt at home here unlike every other city and town they had lived in. Even though she couldn’t wait to leave, she loved this little place. She had been here for almost four years now and she had finally found her home. 'I don’t know if I could stand having to leave this place and never be able to come back. I don’t know if it’s a risk I’m willing to take. But how long will this blackmail go on if I don’t try to do something about it?'
Every day that passed without any contact with her nameless, faceless boss was a grateful day for Alison. She could worry less about having to do some kind of terrible deed. When a full two weeks had passed and she still hadn’t been contacted by him she thought that maybe it was just a threat, something to scare her a little. Maybe he was harmless after all or maybe he had forgotten.
It was almost midnight on the following Wednesday when the call came. Alison had just finished doing her AP Calculus homework when her phone began ringing. She checked the time first before looking at the number and realizing that it was not one she recognized. She knew immediately who it must be. She considered not answering and acting as if she never got the call or that she was asleep, but she had a feeling that he would know that she had, in fact, just ignored it. Unwillingly Alison answered the phone.
“It’s time for your first task. It’s pretty simple and very hard to screw up. There is an envelope in your mailbox full of money. On the envelope are two sticky notes with addresses. Go to the address on the yellow one and wait until you see the lights inside the house flash on and off three times. When you see them flash three times go to the back of the house and knock four times. When you go in do exactly what they say and if they ask who sent you tell them that you work for BD, you shouldn’t have any problems after that.”
“Do you understand so far?”
“Yeah. Three flashes, four knocks, follow directions, and I work for BD. Now what exactly does that stand for?”
“It’s not important. Anyway, they should give you a cardboard box in exchange for the envelope. Make sure you get the box before you hand over the money. Don’t leave until they count the money out. There is exactly fifty-five hundred dollars in that envelope. If they come up short tell them that BD counted it out himself and if they have a problem with it to take it up with me. Grab the package and get back to your car. Go to the address on the second sticky note. There will be a silver truck waiting under a street light. Give the package to him and you are free to go back home. Got it?”
“I think so.”
“You think so? You either understand or you don’t.”
“Okay I understand.”
“Okay so what are you doing?”
“Get the envelope out of the mailbox. Go to the address on the yellow sticky and wait for three flashes of the lights. Knock four times on the back door and do what they say. If they ask I work for BD. I get the package from them before I give them the money. If they come up short I tell them BD counted it himself and if they have a problem to talk to him. Then I go to the address on the other sticky and give the package to a guy in a silver truck.”
“Okay good. Get going.”
“Aye aye captain.”
Alison put on her jacket and her shoes, grabbed her keys and silently headed out the door. She walked down to the mailbox and sure enough there was the envelope with the money and sticky notes. She plugged in the first address into the GPS on her phone. The house was in a pretty beat down area and Alison wasn’t as sure about this as she had been when she first got the task. She parked the car across the street watching the house intently. The lights were currently on and she was waiting for the three flashes. It seemed like forever but finally she saw the lights go off and come back once, twice, three times. That was her cue. She drew up her courage to do this, grabbed the envelope, hid it in her jacket pocket, and got out of the car, locking it before she left. She walked briskly across the street and to the back door of the house. She knocked on the door four quick times just as she was told. She waited for someone to open the door so she could get this shady transaction done with. The door slowly creaked open and a rugged man wearing jeans low on his hips and a zip up jacket showing a white wife beater opened the door. He looked her up and down as if it was a joke that she was here to do business. Finally he opened the door and let her in.
“Sit,” he ordered.
Alison found the closest chair and quickly but gently sat down.
“I’ve never seen you before. Are you new or something?”
“Who do you work for?”
“Really? That’s odd. BD doesn’t normally use girls.”
“Yeah, well I’m not a normal girl.”
“Okay fair enough. Do you have the money?”
“Do you have the package?”
“That depends if you have the money or not.”
“I have the money, but you aren’t seeing any of it until I get the package.”
“Alright, alright. I’ll be right back.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
Alison sat there awkwardly in this strange environment while her business partner went to get her package. Although she was wary about the man she found this kind of thrilling and exciting. She thought she could maybe get used to this kind of thing. Maybe working for mystery boss wouldn’t be so bad after all.
“Here is your package.”
Alison took hold of the box that she was to deliver to a guy in a silver truck at her next destination. She slid it across the table so it was right in front of her.
“Now that you have the package, I would like my money.”
Alison drew the envelope out of her pocket and tossed it onto the table between them.
“Fifty-five hundred dollars. It’s all there and accounted for.”
“As much as I want to trust you I need to count it out for myself.”
“I can wait.”
Alison sat there as the man counted out the money. When it was all counted out and done with she began to rise from her chair.
“Where do you think you are going?”
“I have a delivery I need to make.”
“I don’t think you are going to make it to that delivery.”
“And why is that?”
“Well you see, as much as I loved making business with you and BD, I just can’t let what is in that package out of this house.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well it means that you are going to either cooperate and leave without the package or we are going to have to do this the hard way.”
Just as he was finished his threatening sentence, Alison felt someone’s presence. She turned her head to her right and saw a huge, muscular guy standing there with a gun in his hand ready to be fired. She turned to her left and saw another man almost identical to the one on her right. She turned back to the dealer she was working with.
“One way or another, I am leaving here with this package.”
“Do you really think so?”
“Yeah I do.”
“Well then I’m afraid you thought wrong. You so much as touch that box again and either Bobby or Trey here will shoot before you can say no.”
Regardless of the threat, Alison took a step towards the box, keeping eye contact with the man across the table from her. She knew that she most likely wouldn’t make it out of this alive, but she made a promise to her mystery boss and she was going to keep it. If she walked out of this house without that box, her life was over in her favorite town. She would have to leave and she wouldn’t be able to come back. 'I would rather live here forever then leave knowing I could have at least tried to stay.' She took the last step separating her and the box, reached down and gripped the box right before she heard and felt two bullets simultaneously. She instantaneously dropped to the floor, blood streaming from the two bullets placed perfectly into her head.