My patience with Canfield was wearing thin. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was determined not to tell me anything worthwhile. He felt no remorse for sucking me into his downwards spiral and nearly getting me killed. I had already shot him and currently had the weapon aimed at his face. The man had no remorse and very little fear. So, what was left to use as leverage?
Out of frustration I blurted, “Why do you hate me so much?”
“What is this an episode of Dr. Phil? Why do women always have to analyze everybody’s feelings? I don’t hate you.”
“Then why won’t you help me? You got me into this mess.”
“We already covered that. You got yourself into this mess. Nobody twisted your arm. It’s not my fault you waded too far into this thing and now you’re in over your head.”
“I don’t understand how you can justify what you did by blaming me. You and Plum kept things from me. You’ve had it in for me from day one. You stuck me with a list of rundown properties that I couldn’t give away, let alone sell.”
“See, that’s where you’re wrong. All the agents in that office started out with property listings like that. Only they found a way to make it work. You chose to give up and wallow in self-pity.”
“Yeah right, how the hell could I have unloaded those money pits?”
“Underneath that lousy haircut and those granny clothes, you got a nice face and body.”
“I hope you’re not about to say that the agents in that office slept their way to better property listings.”
“Not all of ’em. There’s all sorts of angles to exploit. When you were interviewing for the job and kept talking about how badly you wanted to make your folks proud, I thought that maybe you would be motivated enough to discover those angles. Some of the most cutthroat gals in my office gave me that same golly gee speech, in their job interviews. You’d be surprised how many sheep turn into wolves, when they have to compete in order to get what they want.”
“I tried everything to move those properties.”
“No kid, you didn’t try everything.”
“Well, I tried everything within reason. I wasn’t about to compromise my morals.”
“There you go, getting up on your high horse. How is that working out for you?”
“About as well as your underhanded tactics worked out for you. We both wound up in the same place about to be murdered by the same man.”
“Yeah, but the difference between you and me is that I saw it coming a mile away. You didn’t. Admit it, I saved your miserable life. The least you could do is let me go.”
“I have no problem with letting you go, once you give me something I can use.”
“See, that’s what annoys the hell outta me! You always want to be spoon fed. How ’bout you stop being so damn lazy and figure things out for yourself? Your problem has always been that you look but you do not see.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Everything you needed to know was right under your nose the entire time! You never even asked any questions.”
“That’s because I trusted you both.”
“Your first mistake. We didn’t earn your trust. You didn’t know me or Plum from a hole in the ground.”
“I worked for you for over a year.”
“And how did that help? What beyond my name, what I look like and how I take my coffee do you know about me?”
“You and Plum seemed like good people.”
“People always say that. Their neighbor murders somebody and the first thing people say is the guy or gal seemed like such a good person. What the hell does that mean? What does a good person look like? Most serial killers look like good people. That’s how they lull fools into a false sense of security. You gotta look deeper than the surface. Forget what your mom and dad taught you about being polite and not asking too many questions. Not asking enough questions will get you killed on the streets. Quit giving assholes the benefit of the doubt. Do your homework and quit taking people’s word for things. Here’s a prime example, you been asking me twenty questions about Plum. I bet you ain’t even noticed the most obvious thing about your little friend.”
“I’m gonna answer a question with a question. How do you know Plum is the person she says she is? Do you even know her real name?”
I was staring at him so intently that I saw the momentary shift of his gaze towards the door. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of shadowy movement between the door and door jamb. I turned in time to see the woman who had let me in the house earlier hurtling towards me. I had a second to take in the crazed expression on her face before she launched herself at me and we toppled over onto the floor.
The gun flew from my hand and skittered underneath the bed. She straddled my stomach and attempted to launch an assault on my face with her talon-like acrylic nails. I grabbed her wrists and held them at arm’s length away from my face. Meanwhile, Canfield levered himself up from the floor with an elbow on the top of the bed. His sneering face peered over her shoulder looking down at me.
“What are you playing around for Tammy? Shoot her! I would stay for the show but I gotta get going. See ya in hell kid.”
He grabbed a duffel bag from a chair across from the bed, dropped a lit match on the lighter fluid soaked body and took his leave of us. I heard him galloping down the steps. I wanted to stop him but I couldn’t get his girlfriend off of me. She continued her frenzied attack, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was gone and the bed was on fire.
Each time I restrained her hands, she attempted to bite me. Out of frustration, I reached up and grabbed a handful of her long hair and tried to pull her off of me. Clip-in extensions came away in my hand. I improvised and whipped her in the face with them. When she threw her hands up to protect her eyes, I shoved her off to the side and crab walked backward until I regained my feet.
She lunged for the gun underneath the bed and I took the opportunity to dart away from her and the burning bed. The flames had quickly fanned out from the corpse to the comforter draped over the sides of the bed. I backed towards the doorway, pulled Canfield’s gun from my waistband and removed the safety. I wasn’t about to try running with her on my heels shooting at me. Better to stay put and take my chances.
As the woman re-emerged from under the bed with the other gun, the flames consuming the comforter licked her hair. The remaining clip-in extensions on her head began to smoke. She spun around with the gun and aimed at me, momentarily taken aback by the fact that I was also armed. All at once, the top layer of extensions were on fire. I tried to warn her and she laughed, thinking it was a lame attempt to distract her.
The fire made its way across the carpet and ignited the drapes across the room as she stood sneering at me and spewing obscenities. We aimed our weapons at one another and I moved behind the open door to avoid the bullet that never came. Cautiously, I peered through the gap between the doorway and door jamb. The flames had liquefied the synthetic hair which then fused to her skin. She was clawing at her scalp with her free hand as the molten extensions oozed over her face, ears and back. The tar-like substance stuck to the palm of her hand and she frantically attempted to scrape it off on her top. Strips of burnt flesh peeled off and stuck to her clothes.
I stood gaping at her, temporarily immobilized by shock and horror. The woman stumbled into the flame-engulfed bed, causing her clothes to begin burning and melting. Her agonized screams startled me into motion. I ran into the bedroom across the hall in search of a blanket with which to smother the flames.
I was just turning to run back to her when I heard the gunshot. She was lying on the floor dead and completely alight. I turned to leave and stumbled over the purse and shoes she had deposited in the hallway, so she could quietly ambush me. Without thinking, I scooped the purse up and ran down the stairs to find that Canfield had set fires by the front and back doors. That sonofabitch! I ran back upstairs, grabbed the blanket from the spare bedroom and hurriedly doused it in running water from the tub faucet, before wrapping it around myself, running back downstairs and through the flames at the back door. I dropped the smoking blanket and made for the alley, wanting to get clear of the property before the neighbors noticed the fire.