by Martin Maenza
For the first time in many months, Camille Fortier actually felt good about returning to her job at the real estate agency. At least here she knew the rules of the game well enough. Each agent’s main motivation was to be the top seller of the month, an accomplishment that resulted in having one’s picture hung at the coveted position above all the others. She often laughed at how pathetic they were, striving for the so-called honor. And she relished even more the notion that she would deprive them of it every month she achieved the most sales.
As she sat at her desk enjoying her morning cafe mocha, Camille couldn’t help but wonder why she had even bothered with Mirror Master and his ilk. She was a warrior, after all, and the chosen successor to the Zamaron throne. She could handle her own affairs by herself. She certainly didn’t need any male to help her achieve them.
Her daydream of seeing the entire Secret Society crushed under her pink-booted heel was shattered when the phone on her desk rang. After the second ring, she retrieved the receiver from its cradle and answered the call. “Camille Fortier of Seven Hills Realty. How may I assist you?” She truly despised the cheeriness of the greeting, but accepted it as a part the role she was playing.
A perky female voice on the other end of the line chirped, “Yes, Ms. Fortier? Hi. My name’s Bonny Hoffman.”
“What can I do for you, Ms. Hoffman?”
“Another client of your agency referred me to you. He said that you could assist me in locating a new home in the area. I’m looking for something along the lines of nine-thousand, five-hundred square feet or more, with a pool, preferably.”
Camille’s eyes narrowed as she glanced across the large room to the main wall, eyeing the position of the top seller’s photograph. “Ms. Hoffman, I think you have called the right agency. I am certain we can find exactly something to fit your needs.” She reached for a pen and pad of paper. “Let me just get some information and a contact number from you, and I will get right to work pulling some prospective properties to show you.”
A few days later, two women sat at a table in a small downtown bistro. Dressed in a turquoise blouse that was half-tied to reveal her pierced bellybutton and a short white skirt, the young blond woman finished the last bit of her club sandwich. “I really appreciate your spending so much time with me the last few days,” Bonny Hoffman said between bites.
By contrast, Camille was dressed in a stylishly cut cranberry business suit with matching heels. Anyone who observed them could easily conclude that they made an odd pair. “It is part of my job, after all,” the dark-haired woman said. She finished the last of her portabella mushroom sandwich.
“Yeah, that’s true,” Bonny replied. “I know you’ve got other clients to show houses to, but I really like to take my time. I want to make sure, when I choose one, it’s one I’ll be happy with.”
Camille nodded. She remembered the saying that the agency’s owner always told the agents at the weekly meetings. The customer was always right. She could endure the woman’s attention to detail as long as a big sale resulted from the efforts.
The waiter brought the check, and both women reached for it. Their hands touched awkwardly, and Bonny laughed. “Let me get that,” she said. “It’s the least I can do, given all you’ve done for me so far, Camille.”
The two women got up from the table and walked to the front of the restaurant. Their departure, however, did not go unnoticed. A dark-haired woman watched them from a table in the back and smiled. “I can’t let you out of my sight,” she said to herself as she finished the last of her coffee and prepared to follow the two women.
Bonny Hoffman turned in a full circle, taking in the spiral staircase and the large upper windows of the foyer. “I love it!” she exclaimed. “I really, really love it!”
Camille half-rolled her eyes. This was the second time the young blond woman had done this spin; the first time was before they had gone upstairs to view the bedrooms. “Shall I show you the rest of the downstairs?”
“Sure,” Bonny said with a wink. They began to walk down the hallway with the hardwood floors that flowed from the foyer. Bonny lagged behind and stopped to check out one of the rooms along the way. Opening the door, she let out a squeal of delight. “Camille, have you seen this room?”
The realtor joined her client, who had entered a very large room. “This room is perfect for my home theater equipment!” Bonny exclaimed. “It’s got the right acoustics and everything.” She turned back to Camille. “Have you ever seen the movie Star Wars? The opening scene with the star cruiser in pursuit really only works in a theater or on a very large screen TV. I’ve got the biggest on the commercial market. The sound system is top of the line, too; you really get the reverberation of the ships using quad-speaker surround sound.”
Camille nodded. “I am sure you do.” She did not enjoy making small talk, and this Bonny Hoffman felt the need to fill each void of silence with it. Besides, Camille knew perfectly well that battles in space were silent; obviously these Terran filmmakers didn’t strive for accurate details.
It took a good while, but Camille was finally able to show Bonny the dining room, the large kitchen, and the study. Finally, they worked their way out a pair of French doors that opened up to the outdoor pool and garden. The pool itself was Olympic-sized, with beautiful bushes and hedges around the sides to give it a natural sense of privacy.
“This is lovely!” Bonny exclaimed. “Even though we’re just getting to know one another, you know what pleases me already!” She gave Camille an unexpected hug.
Suddenly, there was a rustling in the bushes. Out from them emerged a dark-haired woman in a dark blue tank top, leather skirt, and thigh-high boots. “Hold it right there!” the newcomer exclaimed.
Bonny’s blue eyes widened, but she still held Camille in the embrace. “Carmen! What are you doing here? Have you been spying on me again?”
The woman who had emerged from the bushes looked first at the blond and then at Camille. “Obviously I can’t trust you can I, Bonny?” she said with a rough voice. “I turn my back for one minute, and you start running around with this upper-crust snob!”
Camille pushed free of Bonny’s grasp. “Now wait just one second,” she started to say.
“Shut up, bitch!” Carmen replied. “I’ll deal with you after I put this little cheater in her place!” She lunged forward and slapped Bonny across the cheek. The blond tumbled to the ground, putting a hand to her face where she had been struck. “I guess that’s the only thing that gets through to you sometimes, sweetie! You always do like it when I’m rough!”
Carmen spun around to face Camille. “Now, as for you, where do you get off wining and dining my woman? You gonna set her up in a place like some fancy sugar mama or something?”
Camille started to back away slowly, her hands up in a palm-out fashion. “I think you have the wrong idea here. There is nothing going on between me and her. She contacted me to buy a house. I am her realtor, and that’s all.”
Carmen reached into the large handbag she had slung over her shoulder and produced a large semi-automatic pistol. “Yeah, likely story, sister! I’ve heard that one before. Say, Bonny, wasn’t that Rhonda bitch in Seattle a realtor, too?” She pointed the weapon at Camille. “I ended her career pretty quick! The only real estate she’s showing is a cemetery plot!”
A bead of sweat began to form on Camille’s brow. The situation was quickly escalating out of hand, and there was very little she could do to stop it.
“I think there has been a misunderstanding,” Camille said. “If we could just talk this over calmly…”
Carmen raised the gun with both hands, got Camille in her sights, and danced her right index finger near the trigger. “Yeah, you think I’m one who likes to talk? I let my actions speak for me!” She squeezed the trigger and let off a number of shots.
Camille hit the red slate patio deck hard, and a spray of bullets shot over her. The glass on the French doors shattered, sending shards of glass all over the place. One shard struck Camille’s right thigh, and her leg began to trickle some blood.
Knowing that if she remained still she was an easy target, Camille quickly scurried toward the cement planters. She needed some fast cover in order to figure out her next move. This woman is crazy! she thought to herself. What have I gotten myself into?
The dark-haired woman, meanwhile, began shooting at the rest of the windows on the first and second floor. “I do so love the sound of breaking glass,” Carmen laughed.
“That’s enough, Carmen!” Bonny yelled as she produced her own weapon from her purse. “Your beef is with me, not her!” She fired at the dark-haired woman; bullets ricocheted off the pool deck as Carmen sprung forward with a roll. She tumbled through the garden, trampling the just-blooming roses and tulips.
“You’re nothing but trash, honey!” Carmen retorted. “So if you want to buy this place, let me help make it match your reputation!” The dark-haired woman burst through the damaged doors and into the house.
Bonny yelled at her as she made pursuit. “Get the hell out of here!” After the blond went inside the house, there were sounds of lots of gunfire and the two women screaming.
Camille could only imagine what was happening inside the house. She had no interest in seeing it firsthand. Obviously, Bonny was as insane as the other one, and someone was bound to get seriously hurt from the exchange, not to mention the property damage to the home. She did the only logical thing she could think of — she took off her heels, ran around the far side of the house in her stocking feet, got into her car, and fled the scene.
Camille’s hands trembled as she tried to get the key into her front door lock. On the second try, she succeeded and carefully opened the door. Reaching inside, she flicked the switch, bathing the room in light. It was an exquisitely decorated apartment, one that showed her sense of style and class.
She made a quick scan of the room before hurrying inside; everything seemed to be in order here. She closed the door behind her and locked both the lower knob and the deadbolt, then tossed her purse on the couch and made her way to the small kitchen.
“You’ve got to pull yourself together, Remoni,” she said to herself. She opened one of the cupboards and pulled down a bottle of scotch. Camille took a small glass from another counter, splashed the liquor into it, and took a good, long drink. Her hope was that it would calm her nerves, which were still buzzing like a live wire.
Retreating to the back bedroom, Camille noticed a blinking red light coming from her answering machine. “Who could that be?” Her first instinct was to forget it until morning, but curiosity got the better of her. She went over to the small table and pressed the replay button.
There was a female voice on the message, one with a rough and harsh tone. She knew it instantly from her afternoon encounter. “Don’t think this is over yet, Ms. Fortier! I’ve got your number, and I can easily find out where you live! Stay away from my Bonny, if you know what’s good for you, bitch!” The message ended with the loud click of a phone being slammed down.
Camille began to tremble again, almost dropping the glass on the carpeted floor. She didn’t like being in this position, being vulnerable and scared. She hadn’t felt like this for years, not since her days as a child on Pandina. Without the power that was rightfully hers, she felt weak and at the mercy of others. She hated that.
“Damn!” she cursed out loud. Camille knew what she had to do.