John Travis has been hard to catch up with in a public setting. And he knew what Lawrence and I looked like, since he knew our family business well.
Our brazen nature must have worried the general public. We were the Kardashian's of serial killers. I'd found that our reputation was closer to fictional characters than of real people. It worked, made things easier, and we never claimed to be low-profile. People who hired us were more worried about confidentiality than if we could get the job done. Once we were successful, their opinions of us changed drastically.
Lawrence had been a different man a year ago. He was a dashing bachelor, well-known amongst women in the city. All ages came to offer him their bodies in place for a relationship. He had a confidant smile, a dangerous attitude, and was painfully romantic. He had one tattoo across his chest that read, "Let them eat cake." Despite rumors about his varying sexuality, Lawrence always carried a short-handled, black leather bag, which he slung across his shoulder. Inside of it, he carried what was known as his "Pharmacy." Every kind of potent pain killer and new designer drug was stashed away in infamous black man purse. With every long stride of his, the rhythmic sound of pills shaking in orange prescription containers could be heard.
He was different now; withdrawn, nervous, paranoid. Currently, his only vice was to drink in private. His tattoo had faded and the ferocity in his eyes had dulled into something quite pathetic. I sat inside of the car, which was outside of John Travis' home with Lawrence. I watched my once majestic partner shiver madly. I smothered my cigarette with itself and turned to Lawrence.
"You know why I brought you here, correct?" I asked. He knew I had been told to kill Travis alone but I disobeyed my father for what would not be the first or last time.
"I can't be very sure," Lawrence mumbled. His eyes were vacant and his stared into the steering wheel.
"You do good work, Lawrence," I grabbed his hand and squeezed in the most affectionate way I could manage. Lawrence peeled his eyes away from the wheel and looked at me as if his soul had been taken.
"You would say that to anyone you want to manipulate."
I stared at his mouth, expecting some sort of apology from it. His statement wasn't entirely wrong, so I said nothing. I didn't want to lie to him and I definitely didn't want to reveal the truth. A car pulled into Travis' drive way and we knew it was him. I shook my head and massaged my temples.
"Let's do this another day."
"I'm ready," He insisted. "You've been treating me like a sick child for the past few weeks and I'm ready."
I opened the passenger door and immediately felt and heard a gun shot coming from Travis' home. I slammed it shut and Lawrence sped off. The engine accelerated along with my heart. I had not been paying attention to Travis' whereabouts, and it was Lawrence's behavior that had distracted me. His eyes were focused on the road and he said nothing.
The initiative attack meant several things. Travis knew there was a hit on his life, he knew that we were waiting, and he shot first before we had stepped out. He was afraid. He should've waited until we were visible to begin shooting. As a police officer, he knew better. This had been our first stake out, so there was no way of him knowing that it was definitely us.
Lawrence and I entered a quiet, darkened home. Everyone was in bed in the deadened hours of morning. We tiptoed past ugly paintings of our past relatives, expensive Persian rugs, my father's large burgundy alcohol cabinet, and then past Cleo and Merle's room. I could see the green glow of their stained glass lamp from under the door. Low voices came from beyond the door and it swung open as we passed.
"Come inside," Merle spoke with haste. Lawrence did not question her, since he'd taken an interest in her witchcraft and psychokinesis. I followed him slowly, not wanting to waste my time of this foolishness. I saw Cleo on the floor of their gypsy tent decorated room. Smell of patchouli was strong and shimmering silks hung from high ceilings. We sat down in a circle, waiting to see what kinds of magic tricks they would preform.
Simultaneously, the looked at us with their hands in their laps.
"We know what you both are up against," They said together. The most powerful weapon in their arsenal was coordination. It was all about presentation. Lawrence was easily fascinated by what I'd been exposed to since childhood.
The only time I had been frightened by them was in our treehouse about a mile from home. The three of us did not like to be home. They had two pieces of paper and each, separately, told me a word they were thinking of. They did a little thinking session, ohmed a bit, and then wrote down what word they were trying to connect to each other. Cleo wrote "egg" and Merle wrote "chicken." I was a little frightened by their telekinesis, but as I ran home from our secret place, I thought clearly about how they could've done it. And their error would only show that even though they weren't accurate, they were still sharing thoughts. The error was the key to their success.
I was only eight then, and now I was 19. Things had changed in our family and my first bad trait to go was any chance of being gullible. Before us was a Horseshoe spread, a seven-card crescent of tarot cards. I knew how the cards worked, because I had used them for meditation at one point of my life. The first card was the past, second was the present, thirdly what is helping, obstacles of overcome, attitudes of others, what the questioner should do and finally, the outcome.
"Is this spread about one or both of us?" I asked, referring to Lawrence and I. Merle pulled her hair back.
"It was drawn for the both of you," She said gracefully. She took her two delicate fingers and flipped the first card. It was the Empress, reversed.
"What does that mean?" Lawrence asked inquisitively. Merle took his questions with patience.
"It means your past has been one of overabundance of pleasure. No surprise there," She smiled. Cleo played with the flame of a candle, completely uninterested by this reading. Merle flipped the present card to reveal the Lovers. Lawrence smiled sweetly and turned to me. I could feel Merle and Cleo rolling their eyes, so I did not return his affectionate facial expressions.
The third card was the Chariot, which meant that maintaining focus would be key to our success. A great amount of planning always went into our work, so it was no surprise that these cards were drawn. I did not believe tarot was for telling the future. Everything was so general that it could be easily fit into an aspect of one's life. Lawrence was captivated by the smells of candles, the low lights, the eerie artifacts and Merle and Cleo's physical appeal and attire. It reminded him of stream punk gypsy caravan.
"This is where things get interesting," Cleo said, finally turning her attention to our group. She flipped the card eagerly to reveal the Hanged Man, reversed.
"The Hanged Man is a sign that you are either unwilling to make sacrifices, or you are making sacrifices for the wrong reasons. You must make a drastic change before anything can improve," Cleo smiled. Lawrence's eyes narrowed. I stood up and quietly bade everyone a good night. No one stopped me, since they knew how I felt about such activities. It was for children with wild, ambitious imaginations and I wanted no part of any fantasy.
My room was less of a gypsy tent and more minimalistic. I had very few possessions I kept for longer than a year. I threw myself on the bed that held no importance to me and as soon as I hit the mattress, my door was thrown open.
Lawrence panted and gripped the door knob in such a way I'd never seen. His eyes were dilated, strung out, and he stammered.
"You have to come see this," He whispered.
"Please don't bore me with your ghost stories."
"No. This is real. The ghost of... your father's brother is in their room," Lawrence grabbed my arm and forced me down the stairs, back into their den.
I didn't remember much of my uncle, other than he was addicted to black coffee, had a pentagram shaved into his short, black hair, and died from a drug overdose. I had met him for the last time when I was six and few of the memories stuck.
The looks on both Merle and Cleo's faces were gaunt, but there was no such being in the room. Lawrence looked shocked. I looked down at their playing cards to see the final card flipped. The Tower begged all eyes.
"You all have bewitched yourselves. There is no ghost. There must be some sort of hallucinogenic mold growing in this room. Maybe you both should clean out your opium pipes and hookahs," I spat and marched back to my room. Lawrence's uneven footsteps followed me.
"It disappeared. I swear I saw him. Please, I know you don't believe in the supernatural, but this is real. I tried to touch it and it looked at me."
"I'm not interested.