“Mr. Smith, can I get you anything else?” Mary asked, the dark circles under her eyes betraying her fatigue. She’d been serving me the same thing every day for the past six days — a double espresso and a slice of apple pie.
I took my wallet out. “No, thank you, Mary. What’s the damage?” I already knew. It’d be less than ten bucks, but I dug out a fifty-dollar bill anyway.
“Here you go,” she said, handing me the check.
I glanced at it before slipping the fifty into the little pocket folder. “That should cover it.”
“Oh, no, sir, it’s really too much.”
I closed my hand over hers to stop her from giving it back. “How’s Kyle doing, by the way? Things settle down at school?” She was a twenty year old single mom working two jobs, one of which paid below the minimum wage. Fucking ridiculous how, here in the United States of America, one of the wealthiest fucking countries in the world, we have kids like this raising their own kids, struggling to put food on the table.
She smiled, knowing she needed the money. Knowing I knew it. “Kyle’s good, and, yes, it’s going better. The bigger kids stopped teasing him, it seems. His teacher’s pretty nice, actually.”
I smiled back at her. “Good. I’m glad to hear it,” I said, standing. “Oh, one more thing.” I took a business card out of my wallet and handed it to her. “I’ll be going out of town for a while, but if you ever need anything, don’t be a stranger.” She was a good kid. Got a shit lot in life, but a good kid.
Her nose reddened and her eyes moistened. “Thanks, Mr. Smith. You’re a great guy.”
I almost chuckled, wondering if she’d think that if she knew the reason for my daily visits.
I dug the keys out of my suit pocket and went around the corner to where I’d parked my Harley. People turned to stare as I climbed on. It was only natural, I supposed, to watch a big guy in a three-piece suit, wearing shoes costing more than most made in a month, ride a fucking Harley through town. The bike was the only part of the past I brought into my present. The rest I’d return to later, when it was done.
I followed the little yellow bug from some distance away, although I didn’t need to tail her. I knew where she lived. I knew what she ate. Where she did her dry cleaning. Who she socialized with. Who she fucked — although that was surprisingly infrequent. I knew the contents of her underwear drawer. Knew what kind of vibrator she liked and how often she used it. And, today, I’d meet Elle Vega face-to-face. I’d introduce myself as her new neighbor, and I’d steal her life, just like they’d stolen mine.
I'd been watching her for the last three days.
I didn't know what it was I found so appealing about the girl. She was a sneaky little peeping Tom. Maybe it was her pretty green eyes, or how wide they grew at the things she watched us do. At the things I made the girl whose ass I was currently fucking do. Regardless, her fate was sealed the moment she pushed the curtains aside and saw my face.
No witnesses, no matter what. That was rule number one. It had to be.
She hadn't yet realized I'd seen her, that she was being watched as she herself was doing the watching. Her attention was fully absorbed by the fucking. But I studied her face, saw her mouth open, her little pink tongue dart out to lick those full lips, her throat work as she swallowed hard, her cheeks flushing a deep red.
Her face imprinted on my mind. I'd recognize her anywhere now. It was one of the things I was so good at — a blessing and a curse all at once. Never forget a face. Never forget their eyes, how they change when they realize what's happening, when terror grips them.
Forgetting was a gift. People spent their lives chasing the past, trying to hold on to something long gone. Desperate to remember. Me? I wished I could forget.
It had been three days since she'd first seen us. I was sure it was by accident, or at least it had been the first time. Her room was situated directly across the courtyard of the cheap little hotel. She'd pulled the curtains apart to open her window when she'd stumbled upon the sight of us fucking. I'd ducked my head out of sight, and wouldn't have thought much of it, but when, a moment later, the small hand pulled the curtains just a little wider, just wide enough to see, my curiosity had gotten the best of me.
It had been her face. It was just so innocent, so… corruptible. Irresistible to a man like me. I always liked to play with them first, fuck with them a little. It was cruel, reprehensible, really. I knew it, but it didn't make me enjoy it any less.