"B-but... You look so young," I uttered when I found my voice.
A burst of short laughter escaped her. "I am going to excuse your narrow-minded view. Darling," her smile was wide, "I am just twenty-seven and I won't be getting old anytime soon."
Her voice carried certain confidence that I could never attempt to rival. While I was jealous of her admirable high self-esteem, I gave her a look of doubt which she responded to with a quick nod of her head.
I still had a little look of doubt on my face when she said, "Let's not waste time on age-telling, Damon. I have a proposition for you."
The wrinkle on my forehead deepened.
"How do you know my name?"
I instantly realized she had said my name earlier.
Tilting her head to the right, her bun fell into a ponytail. That simple move gave her face a slightly different feature.
"I know a lot of things about you, Damon Jones. You live in Alaban, don't you?"
"Stalker alert?" I found myself asking without putting much thought into my response.
"I don't stalk, I observe." Who is she, a scientist? "Listen to me, Damon, I have a proposition for you."
"I still don't get why you would stalk me."
"Damon, I do. not. stalk." A dark, angry look flashed through her eyes, but it quickly went away as though it never existed. A brief silence ruled the office and I continued to make sure I didn't maintain prolonged eye contact with her.
"As I said earlier, I have a proposition for you." She placed her elbows on the desk and leaned forward. "You want a job as a photographer, but I want you to work for me."
I shifted in my seat, the blue file in my hold feeling heavier even though that was just a game my mind was playing. My wallet also seemed to poke me from where it was.
I was starting to feel tense.
But I hid my uneasiness well as I said, "I don't understand. If I get a job here as a photographer, I will be working for you."
"I am talking about a different work." I raised a brow and my suspicions flew. "You have met our requirements and we need someone like you."
"Who," I placed my hands on the desk as my curiosity became aroused, "exactly are the people who need someone like me?"
"If I tell you, you'll freak out," she replied calmly. This woman named Selena was too calm for my liking.
"I know you will still tell me," I stated as I sat back. When my arms crossed over my chest, I proceeded to take a quick tour of the office again.
And that was when I noticed it. I turned and it was everywhere, on the blinds, furniture, and cups. Even on the floor.
How I did not notice it earlier baffles me.
"Anything catches your fancy, Jones?"
I gave her a side glance before I returned my sight to what I was looking at. Staring deeply at the huge 'D' sign on the floor next to my feet and taking in the curvatures that came with the boldly imprinted letter, I realized my thoughts were right.
My motion was quite dramatic as I faced her.
"You are..." That smirk of hers returned. "... the Dangerous Dame."
"In the flesh, darling." She clapped once and her sweet-looking face wore the dark look that flashed earlier. "In the flesh."
"Y- you are really her?" I gulped hard and my hands held my file envelope tighter. "The Dangerous Dame everyone in Población fears is a twenty-seven-year-old woman?"
"Oh, please. Stop making me sound so old." She waved her hand, some sort of excitement in her voice.
I sat properly and faced her squarely. It was high time I ended my presence in that room.
"Why exactly am I here?" The confidence in my voice was fake.
While I urged myself to remain calm, I recalled all the terrible news that trailed Miss Selena, a.k.a, the Dangerous Dame, the present leader of the Damish Gang.
"I told you, I want you to work for me."
"Do I look like someone who would work you?"
"You look like someone who will work for me," Miss Selena replied with certainty in her voice. Then, as my soul plunged into a state of slight jeopardy, her hands went on to tuck beneath her chin and her eyes dared me.
I sucked my lower lip, occasionally lifting my head to study her with my eagle eyes. In my mind, I tried to figure out what she could possibly want me to do for her.
Kill someone? Kidnap? Buy drugs?
I soon felt a light touch drawing circles around my breast area. Miss Selena was now laying chest-down on the large table, her legs which wore heels strangely dancing in the air.
Our faces were so close, that I saw how easy it was for her to change the look on her face from sweet to dangerous and vice versa.
As her fingers played on my body, making me feel more frightened for my life, she said, "Darling, stop getting worked up. I assure you, the work isn't something bad."
"Why me? You realize I can go to the police after leaving this place. I'll tell them about you." While everyone in the country knew about the Damish Gang and the infamous Dangerous Dame, no one knew the real identities of the gang members.
They had their hold on a lot of things in our country, yet their faces were unknown.
Well, no one knew that information until this very moment I am in.
I was presently facing their leader who had a non-suspicious look. She had the kind of face that could never be linked to terrible doings. If she were a normal citizen, she would surely turn heads with her beauty but no one would ever think that she is a member of a gang.
Miss Selena put a stop to the trailing her fingers were performing and suddenly, I felt suffocated when she firmly dragged my shirt's collar.
"Listen to me, Damon Jones..." The glacial look in her eyes could not be missed, it made my soul shiver a little. "... Try to tell anyone about me and you won't make it past the exit of this of building."
"You don't scare me." My words were a huge lie. The more she squeezed my collar in her hold, the closer I was to shitting my pants. And, the evil look in her eyes was enough to warn me to desist from spewing another lie.
A burst of short, hearty laughter was quick to fill the room and Miss Selena wiggled back to her seat. She managed to make that action look gracious.
"So, would you like to know the details of your job? I promise you, it is a million times better than the bear-dancing job you have."
My suspicions returned and I didn't spare her a little glare. With her statement, it was certain she had people stalking me. Or maybe she was the one that performed the 'observation'.
"What is this job?" I finally asked as I decided to play along. Playing along is for the best.
The woman reeked extreme danger. She could pin me to the wall and leave me to die if I run my mouth in an extremely careless way.
"Finally!" She threw her hands in the air excitedly. "I was worried I would have to take the low road. But that road can be-" She stopped when she noticed a certain look on my face. "Okay. I need you as a photographer for the Damish Gang."
"As a photographer of your gang? And what exactly do you want me to do? Take pictures when you guys are having meetings? Or maybe take pictures of you guys posing with your weapons? Wait, here's a good one. I could take pictures while you guys are fighting a rival gang.
I mean it would be so nice to capture the bullets being projected back and forth. And then, when we are all dead, our ghosts can come back and start relishing sweet memories through the pictures."
My voice dripped with absolute sarcasm but it seemed my response only made Selena laugh. Miss Selena found it difficult to contain her loud chuckling but she soon gave her serious mode a chance.
"Oh, you are so funny. That is more reason why we need you in our gang. So, are you in?"
"In for what? Not even in a million years." My hands hit the table with certain anger which came from nowhere and I stood up. "Do you really think I would be someone who would want to dive into a life of crime? I don't even get it," I crossed my arms over my chest and stood calmly, "what do you expect me to tell my mom I am doing as a job? Mafia photography?"
"If that's the issue, you will get a job here in TIANOR, as a photographer for our models. It will be the perfect cover," she replied with a relaxed tone in her voice.
"You are serious about this gang photography thing, aren't you? Why do you guys even need it? Why do you need me?" The frown on my face deepened as a corner of my mind prayed fervently that my false confidence wouldn't be the end of me.
"That is not for you to know, Jones." Miss Selena wore a blank look and that instantly frightened me. As I watched her swirl in her seat, I begged the part of me acting stern to soften a bit.
That stern part ignored my pleas.
Maintaining my solid stance, I said, "Well this is for you to know, Miss Selena. I am not accepting your job offer. I have no interest at all." I pressed my hold on the file in my hands and soon walked away.
When I got to the wall that was supposed to be the exit, I tried pushing it to no avail.I also attempted pressing random portions of the wall but it failed to open.
A bit embarrassed, I turned to face Miss Selena.
"Can you uh..." My cheeks felt red. I felt so humiliated. "The door, please," I simply requested.
"Damon Jones," her serious voice called from where she was, "you'll end up being Damish Gang's photographer and there's nothing you can do to stop that." I didn't miss the smug look that rested on her face as she reached underneath her desk.
The wall then slid open and I urged myself to ignore her last words. Quickly, I walked out. But I was highly disappointed that I didn't eventually get a job.
DAMON 'Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?' The television yelled. "Spongebob SquarePants!" My seven-year-old niece squealed in response. From where I was, I watched her move her upper body energeticcaly to the rest of the theme song and when the end came, I took over. "Spongebob SquareBecca!" A wide smile on my face, I reached for her hair and ruffled it. Surprisingly she didn't yell like she usually did. Instead, she faced me and gave me an innocent-looking smile which strangely reminded me of the crazy encounter I had the previous day. "Why are you smiling?" I asked her when her smile turned into a teethy grin. "'Cause you're not mad at me anymore," she replied with that cute voice of hers. "I was and can never be mad at you, Becca." 'I don't know about your teenage days though,' I quickly thought. I was well aware of the fact that the teenage years can be a little... I don't know the word to use. "But, I kept my file of drawings on your table where your file was and mad
DAMON With a bitter smile on my lips, I decided it would be better to park my car in the open parking lot. Parking in the basement car park would call undue attention to me and the employees I see every day would have more reason to taunt me as they have been doing for whatever reason known to them. Once the parking was taken care of, I got out of the car and mentally prepared myself for the long day ahead. I entered the administration building whose outside walls were painted pink and white and headed straight for Linda's office to get my costume and trays of sweets. Yes, that torturous activity is not over. As I ignored the snickering and intentional backbiting that trailed me as I walked, I wondered if my bear-dancing situation would come to an end soon. Mr. Hands did not indicate how long I would do the embarrassing activity for. At that point, I didn't mind the desk job which I alwway dreaded because of the people I worked with. Soon, my mind still raided with thoughts, I
DAMON My eyes blinked furiously and with difficulty, I adjusted my sight to accommodate the unusual brightness in the room. I managed to take a quick look around the huge, space which would be empty if I wasn't there, and I noticed a huge gap on the ceiling which gave sunlight a point of entry. That was where the light was from. The heavens must enjoy teasing me. Other than the light that was focused on me, the remnant of the room was dark. I could barely see what lurked in the far corners but I felt a lot of negative energy which came with the musky smell that I was certain I wouldn't be forgetting soon. Soon, I attempted to move my feet so that I could at least scurry for my freedom. Hitting the rusty iron door which was right in front of me didn't sound like a terrible idea. Or I could dump that crazy idea and save myself from getting into trouble by checking out the strange environment through the small bars the huge door had. But, my feet wouldn't budge. As the chair mad
DAMON "You have never heard of us?" The middle of his forehead quickly wore a frown before he sharply pulled his hands off the chair and stood upright. My nose scrunched in reaction to his disturbing perfume. After making a clicking noise with his mouth, he folded his arms, gazed right into my eyes, and asked, "How could you have never heard of The Pretties? We made quite an entry this year." "What do you guys do? Put on dresses and try out new lipsticks? Are you a fashion company of some sort?" My voice was so calm and I became worried for myself. Excusing the flamboyant appearance of the man in front of me, it was clear that they were one of the gangs that bothered the streets of the country. But, no, I have never heard about them. The name 'The Pretties' didn't sound familiar. But then, I don't exactly pay much attention to the affairs of the nation. I have enough problems to deal with. My ears caught the stifled chuckles from one of the men at the entrance. Mr. Pretty was
DAMON Miss Selena made clicking noises with her mouth as she tapped the wooden arm of the couch she was seated on. I narrowed my eyes as her response rang in my head a hundred times over. There was something about the word, 'father', that almost made me believe her but, I could not afford to fall into any trap. Especially if that trap is laced with lies. I won't let anyone use my late brother as a means to get me to do something terrible. "What do you mean by my brother was killed because of my father? How do expect me to believe anything you are saying? What?" My frown deepened. "My brother was killed? Please... it was clearly an accident." "The Pretties masterminded his accident. They made sure it was impactful enough to kill him. So yes, they killed him." Selena exhaled hard as I glared at her. As she scrunched her lips while her mind seemed to calculate things, I went to take a seat opposite her. "Prove it. I won't believe you until you do so," I dared her. "Gladly." Her li
DAMON "If you work for me. I will ensure The Pretties doesn't touch your family, otherwise, terrible things will start to happen,” Selena said. "Is this fun for you? Do you think I am a charity case? What do you hope to get from me in return for this protection?" I asked after her words sank in. Honestly, a part of me was already considering her deal. I don't take my family's safety lightly. They are all I have. So, if I have to dine with the devil to have them protected, I will do so. But... I still had so many questions. Selena nodded as my eyes questioned her further. "As you know I have been watching you. What you don't know is that I have been watching you ever since your brother died. I have watched you suffer at that vain job of yours. I have seen how you love your family. I know you are good at what you do. So, I want you to consider my proposition as a simple deal. Take my words as the truth that they are. If I say I will protect you, I will do so. Work for me while us
DAMON I watched as Miss Selena's lips grew into a smile. My response seemed to delight her greatly. "This is awesome," she said excitedly. "We should celebrate." "What's there to celebrate?" I grumbled from where I was. "I am not doing this because I find your offer interesting. No, working with a gang leader has never been my plan. I am doing this to protect my family." "You might as well think that you are doing it for the money," Selena spoke. "You don't have to be so hard on yourself especially now that you have two good-paying jobs." "Isn't my life so great?" I asked, a sarcastic tone in my voice. "Damon Jones," the thickness of her voice snapped me out of my complaining state. "I gave you a choice, so stop making it seem like I forced you to do this. You can decide to change your decision now before we sign a contract." "There's a contract?" My brows lifted accordingly as my nagging side disappeared instantly. "Why?" She crossed her arms. "Did you think you would work for
DAMON "Damon," Selena's feminine voice penetrated my sleep. I was dreaming about my brother and the life he could have had with his daughter and wife. "We're here," I heard her say as I blinked the sleep in my eyes away. While stifling a yawn, I managed a stretch that left me satisfied. I was about to ask Selena a question when the door on her side was immediately shut. She had left the car. I soon did the same. As soon as I stepped out, my sight landed on a huge mansion and the scenery surprised me greatly. Honestly, when she mentioned that we were going to the main base, I imagined a dirty, old-looking, almost rusted factory. But the building I was presently staring at... By God, it was magnificent. At that moment, I felt the ache of not having my camera with me. Everything about the building was glorious. From the well-permed lawn to the exquisitely designed lamp stands which had gold-colured stripes on its pole, everything was indeed gracious. As the car behind me was d