7:28 PM Elliot Brand: A driver will arrive at nine to assist you with anything you would like to bring to the new apartment.

8:02 PM Elliot Brand: Ms. Johnson, I would like to confirm that you will be available at nine in the morning tomorrow.

8:47 PM Elliot Brand: Is something amiss? Have you decided not to take the job? Might I remind you, Ms. Johnson, that you signed paperwork this afternoon and are already a Brand Employee?

9:13 PM Elliot Brand: If I cannot reach you, I will come and speak to you face to face.

Elliot was fuming by the time he pulled into the rundown neighborhood that could only be described as the slums. Sirens wailed in the night air, far louder than any crickets had hoped to achieve.

The home looked to be held together with chicken wire and clapboard. Crumbling brick littered the front porch along with hundreds of cigarette butts.

Elliot knocked firmly on the door. There was a rustle behind the curtains and then the lights went off.

Did she think she could hide from him? He knocked louder, “We both know that you’re in there, Ms. Johnson.”

The door cracked open and the unmistakable sound of the gun being cocked ripped through his ears.

“Amanda?” Elliot’s hands tightened into fists. How dare she pull a gun on him?

The door opened a little further and he saw a woman in her fifties with a light between her yellowed teeth wearing a dirty housecoat.

“What you want with Mandy? You the fucker that put that baby there?”

Elliot could only stare.

The woman raised the gun to be level with his chest, “Better start talking fancy man.”

“What’s going on out there?” A man’s voice bellowed from somewhere inside. “Can’t a man get some sleep, damn it all to hell!”

“I’m her new employer,” Elliot stumbled over the words just as he heard a rustling behind the woman. He looked up and saw Mandy.

Her eyes were wide with disbelief, “Mr. Brand? What are you doing here?”

mother and unlatched the door. But rather than showing him inside, she went

left little to the imagination and he could make out her

look elsewhere. But the tiny shorts she’d on weren’t helping. Her legs seemed to go on forever and even her baby bump was glorious and

breathed, “I’m so sorry for bothering

her honey blonde curls to wrap around one of

I apologize for my mother, she

cheeks. “What can

this beautiful woman that was apologizing for things that she’d no control over. A wave of protectiveness washed through him. He couldn’t let her stay here, not for

found that I will need your services right away,”

sister had an emergency at her shop, and I stayed late to

I convince you to

squeaked and covered her breasts, noticing how see-through her pajamas were in the porch

course, I just need a

himself with the request. But he didn’t want to lose sight of her.

man had no idea

“I will need to carry the boxes,” Elliot added with

was holding, “All right, Mr. Brand. But just a warning, we weren’t expecting company.”

the moment the revolver was pointed through the

mortified, “I truly am very sorry.”

up a hand and placed a long finger against her bow lips.

“I’m glad that you’ve

Mandy’s eyes skirted away from his, “Yes, well,

door and a wave of second-hand smoke hit them both. Mandy tried to ignore the way her mother was yelling at the television. She showed Elliot to

rot and was damp. However, the bedroom that she led him too was

was gruff, “Where are the boxes that you can

and walked out of the room and returned with three beat-up liquor boxes. Elliot smiled at her, “What can I help

have much. Please just have

him. He looked

As she opened one of the drawers of the

these items in

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