Chris is back...and so's Greta...
Greta Pays A Visit
"Mrs. Trenton? Gina Trenton?" the tall blonde woman asked the woman standing on the threshold of her home. The blonde woman knew who she was addressing but it felt like a formal situation and decided to dispense with the formalities as quickly as possible.
"Yes," the woman nearly squeaked. She was much smaller than the blonde. Of average height but with the giant looming over her, she looked like a child. She wore glasses, had a short bob of brown hair. She wore a T-shirt and jeans but looked uncomfortable in both. Or maybe it was just the blonde woman that was making her nervous.
"I'm here about your husband, Mrs. Trenton," the blonde said.
"Is it...are you...?"
"Police? No, not police. My name is Greta. May I come inside?"
This was the best and the worst part of the job, depending on who you were dealing with.
Assholes were simple. Assholes like Abe and Teddy and a rather large contingent of men and some of the women Greta had had to deal with had been pushovers. They thought they could buy her off with various offers. Abe and guys like him, and, truth be told, a few women, tried sex, in lieu of payment. As if she was easy and would immediately get naked and nasty with them.
Others thought intimidation was going to work. Some understood different when they woke up the next morning, looking for the train that ran their asses over. For most, it was when they stopped screaming long enough for Greta to explain their situation.
Gina Trenton didn't seem like she was going to present any kind of problem. People like her were the kind of cases Greta hated most.
Gina stepped aside and admitted Greta into her house without another word.
The foyer was immaculate, with polished wood flooring, a portion of it covered by a Persian rug that appeared to be the genuine article. A table with a small tablet, a pen resting on top, and a cell phone next that was up against the banister of a staircase leading up. Two large landscape paintings hung on the lime green walls.
It had been raining and Greta decided to be courteous and took off her shoes so as not to track mud into the woman's house. Gina Trenton escorted her to a living room, with identical lime green walls. The white Berber carpeting seemed to stretch on forever. This room alone was bigger than Greta's entire apartment.
There was a wet bar in the corner. A number of framed pictures hung on the walls. The pictures were of Gina and a balding man, her husband Michael, in happier times. There were no shortage of vases in this room, all of which held fresh flowers and water.
Greta stepped into the room and her feet sank into the carpet. It felt good on her sore feet.
Gina walked toward the wet bar. "May I fix you something?" she asked.
"No, thank you," Greta said and set about inspecting the room. A bookcase held vintage novels. Some of the names she recognized; others, not so much. A fireplace was along the far wall and had a small fire crackling away. A set of brown leather chairs sat facing a four-seat black leather couch. A glass-topped table segregated the couch from the chairs.
"Please have a seat," Gina said as she mixed herself some kind of cocktail. Greta took one of the chairs and watched the woman down the entire concoction in one go. She mixed herself another before she joined Greta, taking a seat on the couch. She crossed her legs. Greta saw her eyes up close for the first time. They had a redness that can only come from crying and rubbing.
"Now what is this about Michael?" she asked Greta, before taking sip of the drink and setting it on the table.
"I think you already know, Mrs. Trenton," Greta said, resting her arms on the arms of the chair.
This was the point where most people that owed Charlie would attempt their counter-offer. Every single time, she turned them down. Every single time, they wound up paying.
When the subject was a loved one of someone that owed, they either threaten to call the police or give an outright denial that anything was even happening.
Gina Trenton tried for denial. "I don't understand what you mean," she said.
Greta sighed. She had hoped that it wouldn't come to this. She stood and walked across the room to stand next to a table where one of the vases rested. She lifted it. It had a bit of heft, would work rather easy as a bludgeoning tool.
"How much is this worth?" Greta asked the other woman. "A thousand? Two? More? Is this a gift from your husband, ma'am? If so, I think we could do business, in lieu of the payment he owes us. This and some other items in the house."
"That vase is mine." The undercurrent of animosity in her voice was starting to rise to the surface.
Greta decided to press. "What about the books? The carpet, the furniture, the house?"
"My vases, my carpet, my furniture, my house." With each word, Gina grew more and more furious. Her possessions, her station in life, was under attack.
"Your grandfather's more likely," Greta said. The look on Gina Trenton's face gave Greta a perverse tingle. Children of wealth so often hated being reminded that it wasn't theirs in the first place.
Greta had done her homework, discovering that Gina Trenton had married her husband for love, or something like it, and not status or money. Michael was working class and didn't have anywhere close to what his wife had. The pre-nup Gina had him sign was nearly empty on his side of things. He'd tried in vain to think of something and had come up with his car. Pathetic.
Gina's father had inherited everything from his own father and Gina, his only heir, had benefited when he passed away, too.
Two generations of living in the lap of luxury, never having to work a day in their lives or worry about where their next dime was coming from. Must have been nice.
Greta dumped the vase's contents onto the white Berber, making a mess and causing Gina to leap to her feet.
"Get out of my house now!" she bellowed.
"Sit down and shut up," Greta said. Unlike Gina, her voice was calm, steady and hadn't risen one decibel. She took the vase with her as she crossed the room and went out the doorway and into the foyer. She set the vase on the table and grabbed the tablet, the pen and the cell phone. She slipped her shoes on before returning to the living room. Gina was in the exact spot she was ordered to sit in.
Greta left muddy footprints on the carpet as she crossed the room and handed the woman the tablet and pen.
"I want you to write down your husband's cell number," she said. "Then, you're going to call him and find out where he's staying. We know you kicked him out a week ago. We've been watching. But your husband has some street skills and, needless to say, we lost him."
The woman wrote on the tablet. When she finished, Greta flipped the phone open and handed it to Gina then took a seat next to her so she could hear the conversation.
Michael Trenton's phone rang three times before he answered. He sounded haggard. Gina apologized for tossing him out of the house.
"No, baby," he said. "Don't. I'm the one that screwed up."
The conversation went on for a few more minutes before Greta banged her knee into Gina's. Gina got the message and asked where he was and would he please come home. Michael said he needed to sort himself out and it might take a while. He gave her his location, though.
That was enough for Greta. She was starting to wonder if she had gone too far, been too harsh. She shook her head, as if to shake the thought loose, and grabbed the cell phone. She spoke into the speaker.
"Mr. Trenton," she said, "you know who I represent. You know what my employer wants. You have forty-eight hours to get his money." She hung up before Michael could protest.
Greta grabbed the pad from Gina, tore off the page with the number and location written on it. She tossed the cell phone on the couch and walked to the doorway of the living room.
Greta turned and said, "Just so you know, I'm taking the vase as insurance."
Christopher Grant is the editor and publisher of A Twist Of Noir. His crime fiction can be found here at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers, Not From Here Are You?, Powder Burn Flash, The Flash Fiction Offensive and The 6S Social Network.