Lilian Evans was tired. It wasn't an uncommon sight to see the young woman trudging down the street in her heels, in fact, most of the tenants in her neighborhood knew her schedule like clockwork. Every night she'd get off work with a chip on her shoulder. Her boss kept her over hours often, loaded with paperwork and other tedious tasks. The idea of being a secretary had never crossed Lily's mind when she thought of her future, but like many people around her, she was stuck.
Tonight was no different, she stayed behind late and was dying to get home. She didn't own a car, but she already had her bus pass out and ready to be swiped. It was dark as she strutted without much of a worry. Dingy yellow street lights flickered, small convenience stores were still open, a truck was parked across the street currently being loaded with newspapers and boxes. The bus stop was ahead of her, two lone benches surrounded by an overhang whose glass had been broken years ago. Puddles from the early rain were still on the ground, along with litter and stray pages from the paper.
Sighing Lily double-checked the bus schedule posted on the sign before reluctantly taking a seat. There weren't many people out beside the crew loading the truck down the street, a store owner was leaning in his shop's doorway for a smoke, three women stood at the street corner. None of them seemed to pay any mind to her though and Lily liked it that way. She'd lived on the lesser side of town since her early teens with her father and older sister. After her mother passed away they had been given no choice but to move to somewhere more affordable. The neighborhood had even been all that bad at first, but through the years it worsened along with the rest of the city. Few places around the city were truly nice, and if they were it was far too expensive for Lily to make the cut with her lackluster secretary position.
But Lily didn't mind. She had her own apartment that suited most of her needs, she was friendly with her neighbors and still had her sister around for company. She wasn't on the street like others she knew, she had food and enough money for her needs and a little extra. She'd only been robbed once in two years of living on her own here- which was pretty good considering some people she knew.
Lily slipped her hand into her bag as she watched a man approach her from the corner of her eyes. Her fingers brushed against and curled around the paper spray in her bag, a necessary precaution of being out this late alone. She ignored his presence as he sat down perhaps a bit too close to her considering there was a whole nother bench to pick. "Lilian Evans?" A scratchy voice asked and Lily's nose crinkled at the stench of beer on his breath. He was close to her now, his face inching closer to hers. She kept her head forward and her eyes trained on the store owner now watching them.
"Who wants to know?" She squeezed her pepper spray tighter, ready to get him.
The man shifted slightly in his seat before moving his hand over, pressing something cool into Lily's thigh and dragging it up her side and into her back. Lily's grip loosened as she stiffened her breathing. It wasn't pointed like a knife, so her mind drew to the next reasonable conclusion of a gun jabbing into her back. "I don't have any money." She stated.
The man snorted before leaning in closer to speak into her ear. Lily felt paper crinkle as he pushed a manila envelope into her lap. "Tell that sister of yours to back off" he hissed, "give her that envelope and tell her that if she doesn't lay off me and my friends she's as good as dead."
"Wh...what did she do?" Lily choked out stiffly.
The man scoffed, "all you need to know is she'll be dead if she doesn't follow those instructions."
The man didn't linger there much longer. He got up, swiftly slipping the gun away and hurried off. Lily barely looked after him, her hands gripped the envelope in her lap tightly. Slowly she tried to steady her shaking hands as the bus rolled to a slow stop before her.
After using her building key to enter, Lily stormed up four flights of stairs to her floor. The elevator was still out of order, but she was so angry that she breezed up the stairs in no time. She unlocked her apartment door and threw it open with a loud creak. The two-bedroom apartment smelt of fresh cooked food and perfume. Lily locked the door and kicked her heels off, dropping her keys and bag off on the small table before she went for the kitchen. "Emily" she hissed, still gripping the envelope.
There were two girls perched in the small kitchen. Her older sister was at the stovetop while another girl was at the counter perched on a stool. Emily looked over her shoulder, tossing her blonde locks out of the way with an excited gleam in her eyes. "Lily, finally! We're making Ravioli!"
"Homemade" The girl added. Lily knew this girl as Brooklyn Collins. SHe didn't live in the building, but was always hanging around with Emily, and if not her she was stuck onto some guy downstairs. Lily wasn't sure if she liked the woman or not, her life choices were...questionable to say the least. At least in her eyes. Brooklyn had worked the neighborhood streets as a prostitute far before Lily had moved in. Somehow Emily had befriended her- only Lily couldn't quite figure out how. In some ways Lily had to be grateful that Brooklyn always seemed to have her watchful eyes set on Emily, she really wasn't a woman to mess with, but at other times she felt bad for her.
"Brooklyn?" Lily turned to her with a forced smile, "do you mind giving my sister and I a moment?"
"Sure, I need a shower anyway." Brooklyn stood up with a stretch, "Emily I'll be taking some pajamas for the night."
"Go right ahead." Lily smiled as Brooklyn sauntered off, likely to snoop around before disappearing into Emily's room. Emily flicked the stove off, setting a lid over the pot of steaming pasta before turning to her sister. She cocked her head, "something wrong?"
Lily slammed the envelope onto the counter, "what the hell have you been doing!?" She hissed.
"What are you talking-"
"I don't know what the hell kind of stories you're chasing, but you better back off!"
Emily's lifelong dream had been journalism and while Lily had given up on her own childhood fantasies, she had not. Emily currently wasn't working under any company as finding a job in the field was much harder than it had been years ago. There were plenty of journalists out there chasing after the city's next big story. Unfortunately, Emily had decided to keep doing so alone. Lily had mixed feelings, while she was grateful her sister was so passionate about her work, she couldn't help but worry over just how dangerous the city was becoming. These stories that overtook the news made everything- the made Lily's stomach turn. The thought of her sister trying to dive so deep into one was unsettling. The man from the bus stop had proved that point tonight, clearly Emily was getting in over her head, implicating herself into things she should've been involved in. Whatever evidence or footage she had gotten her hands on was no doubt serious.
"I- I'm just looking into all those missing kids!" Emily defended, "didn't you hear? The police are dropping the case! It's wrong- I've even gotten a good lead on it all too-"
"You're tampering with fire Emily." Lily sighed, massaging her temples, "a man held a gun to me tonight Emily, he knows you're catching on to whatever's going on...you need to stop before something happens to you. It isn't worth dying for, I promise."
Emily pursed her lips and grabbed the envelope. "I...I think it is." She quietly replied, shuffling off to her room.
Emily was quick to shut and lock her door. Brooklyn was still in the shower and judging by her things left on the bed she'd be staying the night. Emily took a seat at her desk with a huff, twirling around in her chair to grab her scissors and cut it open carefully. Inside was a note, written in crooked messy handwriting. It was short and threatening. Carefully Emily leaned over to grab a tack and pin it on her board. The other contents were photos, clearly of her throughout her day, one of Lily at her job too. Her mouth dried at the last one, their apartment took from across the street.
Great, they already knew where she lived.
Emily slid the photos back into the envelope and buried them under a pile of notebooks in her drawer. She knew she should be worried over this, and she was, but she'd also worked so hard to get to where she was now.
Admittedly Emily had accidentally stumbled upon this case. Through researching for an article on a local factory waste polluting the Eastridge river downtown Emily had run into far more sinister headlines. Over the past three years, fifteen bodies had been discovered dumped into the river, all of which were single mothers varying in age. Emily was certain other bodies found in the last decade could be linked back to them as well. She found little in terms of the police investigation and after a few weeks nearly called it quits on weaving her case, but a month ago she ran into a new aspect to the case. The children of the deceased woman, all varying in age, were reported missing not long after. While some seemed to just fall off the map without a trace, some had actually been reported missing. And with a little digging Emily had found one boy who resurfaced.
Obviously, they were connected, it wasn't rocket science and with a little convening with her cousin at the police station, Emily had learned the cause of these disappearances had been closed about a year ago. While they knew mothers and children were going missing, no one could seem to trace it back to a clear culprit. Even the boy who was found hadn't had much to say of what happened. In fact, he hadn't said a word of it all. This left Emily feeling less than satisfied. While the police had given their "best attempt," Emily wanted more. What kind of monster would kill mothers and steal their children and why? Not only that but a majority of those kids over the years remained missing.
Emily sighed and looked up at the whiteboard hanging on her wall. Scribbled writings and news clippings stared back at her. There were plenty of other incidents around the city Emily was trying to draw a connection to, in fact, she had even managed to pick out her culprit- accidentally of course.
She had stumbled upon something she knew she shouldn't have seen just a week ago. Really she almost wished she hadn't gotten to it, but now she was stuck. Those people knew she was looking into them, despite how discrete she thought she was being.
Groaning in frustration Emily tossed her head back and ran her fingers through her hair. "I can't just give up on this!"
"Hm?" Emily blinked before turning over to spot Brooklyn walking in. "Oh, still stuck on that case?"
"Yeah…" Emily sighed, "there are people out there looking for me" she paled, "they're threatening me to drop it all, but...doesn't anyone care about finding those kids?"
Brooklyn plopped down on the bed, tossing one leg over the other and lighting a cigarette. "Hate to say this Emily, but I don't think so. The police half-assed it as always and it's not like anyone else is going to risk their lives to dig into things- well, anyone but you."
Emily smiled half-heartedly, "maybe I should drop this all...Remy already warned me that if he caught me digging into things again he'd kill me."
"Please, Remy wishes he had the heart to crush your little dreams." Brooklyn laughed, having run into Emily's cousin many times in her years running about the streets. "He's too soft to be a cop, you know?"
"Mhm," Emily hummed, having listened to her friends rant about him plenty of times before.
"But, you know what hun?" Brooklyn leaned forward to smile, "I think it's really great you want to find them. Maybe you should get someone to help you out?"
"Like a partner?"
"Mm, I was thinking of someone to have your back- like a bodyguard!"
"That would be nice, but...I don't think I know any bodyguards. Does Dean have any friends who could help me out."
Brooklyn scoffed at the name of her current off and on boyfriend. "Trust me you don't want to hang around any of the people Dean knows." Emily pouted but dropped the subject. Emily was far from where Brooklyn stood, the older woman had plenty of friends and connections around the city. Meanwhile, the only people Emily knew were her family and her coworkers at the dinner. She supposed she could ask her boss about it, he was fairly scummy, but he was also still pissed at her. "If you want I can ask around, find someone I know will take care of you. It won't be cheap though."
"I'll think about it" Emily stood, dropping the subject and moving to shut and lock her bedroom window. "Are you going out tonight?"
"Nah, need a break." Brooklyn pressed her cigarette out before tossing her body back onto Emily's bed. "Looks like you'll get a cuddle buddy tonight!" She sang.
Emily didn't sleep very well that night.
The next morning Emily woke up to find Brooklyn and her things gone, a small note left behind.
Need to make some money, won't be back for a few days.
Call you later, XOXO
Emily sighed and got ready for her day. Lily was already long gone for work and Emily had her own errands to run. She wouldn't be working until tomorrow night and she was grateful for that. She didn't have the energy to deal with her boss today. Emily spent most of her morning and afternoon working, leaving the missing children case alone for now and picking up a side job for a little cash. She did her sisters shopping for her, cleaned the apartment, and put dinner up- as she usually did on her days off. It was getting late now and Emily was currently slipping her coat on to head to the laundromat down the street, the complex's laundry room had been out of service for weeks now.
She packed her and Lily's laundry away before heading out. She decided just to walk the few blocks needed to get there, having forgotten her bus pass at home. The place was empty, a few machines running and waiting for people to return. Emily threw her things into one of the washers stacked in the middle of the dinghy building. She opted to sit and read until it was time to change to the dryers.
Not long after she got up and threw her clothes into one of the dryers pressed against the wall the bell at the front door jingled and someone walked in. Emily didn't pay any mind to them and kept up her humming as she slipped four quarters into the slot.
Emily flinched at how loud the voice was, she hadn't even heard the man walk up behind her. Emily turned around, looking for the owner of the building, but she had disappeared into the back the moment the man walked in. "Uhm...hi?" Emily looked up at him, her stomach beginning to turn. He looked like he meant business.
He didn't say much to her, just pulled a small photo from his pocket and presented it to her. "This you?"
"Would you believe me if I said it wasn't."
"No" the albino scoffed and slipped the photo away before moving to grab something else. "I think you know who I am." Emily's eyes widened at the sight of a gun being hinted at in his coat.
"Uhm, could you remind me?" She offered a nervous smile, only for the man to scowl.