No matter how much she thought she had been successful in keeping Phrynosoma out of the limelight and out of Mr. Thompson's line of sight, she was wrong. There was no way he would not be suspicious of what was going on. The only reason he didn't try to arrest them all at once was because he wanted to find out more before taking any action. If they were as dangerous as he feared, he might not be enough to take them all especially with his sister by his side. There was also the question of how involved Lisa was.
Seeing how her eyes darted in all directions except his, he sighed. He had really hoped she was an innocent bystander, but it was clear that she was somewhat aware of what was happening on her property.
"Lisa," he said and she looked him the eye. Letting his power leak into his voice, he commanded, "Tell me about your relationship with the other tenants."
"Kali is my very first tenant and he used to come over often to talk. Shyloh is his employer and this is the first time meeting him. Zemud is an old tenant and I usually avoid him because he takes offense to the fact I'm a completely ordinary human. Phrynosoma saved me from some gangsters and I let him stay as repayment. Pain and Amanda are kids he found on the street."
She slapped her hands over her mouth and stared at him with hurt eyes. Lisa never expected him to use his power on her to make her talk. Wasn't using his power on someone who wasn't doing anything illegal or violent illegal? Then again, all she had been doing was making him suspicious about what was going on and she was technically going against the law by harboring an illegal alien. He didn't know that though; however, she wasn't sure how long that would last if he kept using his power to keep making her talk.
Mr. Thompson's sister suddenly slapped his shoulder, startling her. "Don't be like that dear brother. You shouldn't be picking on my future landlady. She might end up taking it out on me."
"Nancy, stop interfering with my investigation."
"You're being too serious. I mean look at her."
When they both turned to look at her, she froze. She wasn't sure whether or not she should be offended - what did she mean by that? - or pleased - maybe he won't pry any further - by the comment. Either way, she didn't like how they were staring at her. No one said anything until Zemud couldn't take being ignored anymore.
"Are fucking serious?"
"There's no way a shitty loser like Lime could possibly do anything remotely illegal." He pointed in her direction. "If anything, she's more likely to get her sorry ass killed or kidnapped."
She never expected him to stand up for her even if it came out as insulting which wasn't surprising. That was the way Zemud was. He couldn't keep himself from acting life a complete jerk. She was pretty sure he had never talked civilly to anybody in his entire life and that including children and when he was a child. Having heard plenty of horror stories from Mrs. Zamora about what a terror he was at a toddler, she had vowed never to have children; life apparently thought otherwise because, even if they weren't blood related, Pain and Amanda certainly made her feel like they were hers.
"Young man, I have warned you multiple times to watch your language."
Instead of pushing him further, Zemud chose to look away. "Tch."
With a sigh, Mr. Thompson returned his focus back onto her. "You know that you can tell me anything. I can help you, but only if you tell me." She nodded. "Do you feel threatened or are being forced into anything?"
It surprised her how quickly the answer came to her, but it was true. Honestly, Zemud was the worst of the tenants which was saying a lot considering a certain someone, but he never actually physically hurt her. While she may be uncomfortable around him, she never feared that he would actually hurt her. Phrynosoma, on the other hand, was more of a threat to criminals or anyone who might hurt her with the kids - she had slowly gotten over her fear of either of them hurting her - following his lead. Kali was a completely gentleman and she would like to believe Shyloh was the same even if he did give her the creeps.
Mr. Thompson, on the other hand, was not happy with her answer. She didn't seem to be lying - she had been quick to answer; no hesitation whatsoever - which unfortunately meant that, whatever was going, she probably was doing it willingly. It hurt to see another child get caught up on the other side of the law. That was the whole reason why he offered to help her out. He had been immediately concerned that she had been left on her own and had suspected abuse. While it turned out to be nothing of that sort - her parents were a curious sort and he wasn't sure what to think of them; they appeared to be normal people with the emphasis on appeared and normal - he had wanted to keep an eye on her.
Well, that failed spectacularly. The thing was, he hadn't noticed her doing anything suspicious while he was around. She had acted exactly how one would expect a well raised and inexperienced landlord to act. Perhaps the whole was an act to confuse him and she was trying to fool him right now. If that was the case, who was she working with? The only possible person out of the questionable people he met was Phrynosoma, but was it ploy to distract him from the real perpetrator. She had indicated that Kali was just a friendly tenant and didn't know Shyloh. It was possible that they had tampered with her mind in case she got cornered by the police. It was popular trick among criminals to avoid getting others caught.
Then there was Zemud. His horrible attitude and manners made him a likely member of a gang except he knew he wasn't. It took him a while to realize it, but he recognized him. He was an applicant for the special forces unit. It had been a big thing considering how most Ifrit preferred to keep out of human matters or become forces of destruction that thrived on people's suffering. Despite how much he lacked the proper behavior needed, they considered him to be a valuable asset and were willing to overlook it. He quietly commented to himself that he might be more of a liability if he couldn't work with others, but his friend insisted that they could put him on the right path.
Sometimes he even wondered why he was friends with Henry, then he remembered that his superiors tricked him into the position. Not that he would ever regret it.
Deciding that she didn't like the look on her brother's face, Nancy said, "I'm surprised that you own so many buildings. The taxes must be insane."
"Technically, my mom owns them. I'm only in charge until she comes back."
"I heard about that from this big lug here." She nudged him with her elbow. "I'm surprised your parents trust you so much. I bet you're big on obeying the rules."
"I'm surprised they did too. I only found out because there had been a letter in the office addressed to me and that was after Kali showed up asking for her."
Nancy winced as Mr. Thompson raised an eyebrow. Lisa hadn't mentioned that part to her. She had only stated that her parents left her in charge until they came back. That didn't sound like normal behavior.
"Do they do that a lot?"
"No, my mom tends to hover over me to make sure I'm doing okay."
"Oh? Then why would she leave you by yourself now? Did something happen?"
She wasn't sure how much she wanted to tell them. For one thing, it was very personal and private. She had already told them a lot of things she shouldn't have considering one of them was a possible future tenant, a current tenant, and a police officer. Not only that, but she didn't want to seem whining and complaining about her situation. There were a plenty of people in far more terrible conditions. Pain and Amanda came to mind.
"You're a real nosy bitch aren't ya?"
Mr. Thompson glared, but Nancy just waved it off with a laugh. "Sorry, sorry. I just couldn't help myself. Snooping is in my blood I suppose."
"What are you majoring in?" She was glad for the change in the conversation. Maybe they could finally get to the point of the visit.
"I'm double majoring in journalism and business."
"Do you plan to be a reporter?"
"Yup. I actually already have a job."
The sudden declaration would have people congratulating her at least out of politeness. All it did was remind Lisa that she hadn't managed to find a job. With no college education or job - she refused to consider being a landlord to be her first job - things were looking poorly for her. Hearing her sigh and watching her expression fall flat, the group glanced at each other. None of them were mind readers and had no clue what was cycling through her head as she pointed out to several apartments that were available.
Nancy ended up settling on one that was several blocks away. They discussed the contract on their way back to the office and managed to leave Zemud behind. His mother had wondered what he had been up to and gladly took him back home to have an important talk with him after finding out what had happened. Leaving Nancy and her brother to go over the application, she went to see how her other guests were doing. They had gone silent, or perhaps they have been silent the whole time, the moment they came through the door. While they seemed to not pay them any mind, she missed how the two had kept the group in their sight.
"Sorry about this."
"No, it's my own fault for not informing you of this planned visit. Please accept my humbled apologies. I do not wish for there to be any bad blood between us."
A part of her wanted her to not accept his apologies. He should have known better than to show up without notice. It could be because she was young or new that he was treating her like this. If she wanted to be taken seriously, she would have to put her foot down. Problem was: she couldn't bring herself to do that. She already let Phrynosoma and the kids stay. Not only that, but she already leased the buildings to him - now that she thought about it, shouldn't he have inspected the buildings earlier before signing the lease - and didn't want to ruin her friendship with Kali.
"Apology accepted," she said with a smile.
He smiled back. "Thank you. I've been wanting to meet you. It's so rare these days to see such maturity in our children."
"Thank you." She glanced in Kali's direction, but she couldn't figure out what he was thinking. "Do you need anything?"
"No, your hospitality is appreciated."
She gave an uneasy smile before awkwardly leaving the two of them to go back to the others. They had finished filling out the form and handed over the application fee along with it.
"This is great. As soon as I move in next week, we'll go shopping."
"Take good care of yourself." Nancy grabbed her brother's arm as she said, "Come on."
His answer was a sigh before he gave Lisa a nod and allowed himself to be dragged away. For a few moments after they left, she stared in the direction they had gone before looking down at the papers and money in her hands. Then she looked up again as she processed what had just happened.
Did I actually get invited to something?
She had always been the oddball one among her classmates so no one ever tried to befriend her or invite her to join them. It was kind of nice to have someone (relatively) normal who wanted to spend time with her. Is this what girls do when they hang out? Go shopping?
Wait, did she say she was going to move in next week? I haven't even gone over her application much less the lease.
While she didn't have any reason to reject her - she didn't think she would find anything wrong with her application and her brother was an officer of the law - there were procedures that had to be followed. There were so many things she had to check: current and prior residence, employment history and proof of income, credit report, criminal background check, and many more. She needed to go over the application as soon as possible, after she dealt with the others first. The kids might not last any longer and who knew what they might do.
Giving Kali and Shyloh a quick apology and promise to get to them as soon as possible, she left her bemused guests in order to check up on the trio. Fortunately, the apartment looked intact and they were still inside. In fact, all three of them were watching the TV when she opened the door. That immediately set off warning bells. The only thing that was missing was the man that they had been dealing with earlier and she was certain that Mr. Thompson hadn't taken him into custody. She doubted they would allow him to take him without a fight. With narrow eyes and a suspicious look, she made a quick search as they shot her innocent looks.
Nothing in the bedrooms. There was no body in the bathroom. The kitchen was clean too.
"Amanda, Pain, Phrynosoma." At the warning tone, they were immediately at attention. "Where did the man from before go?"
They shared a glance.
She turned to Amanda with an eyebrow raised. "Where did he go exactly?"
She shrugged. Lisa sighed.
Turning her attention back onto the other two, she asked, "I don't suppose either of you would know?"
They shook their heads. She didn't believe them for a second. They knew how she felt about killing for no apparent reason - they argued extensively how getting rid of the trash was a good reason; she said the ends didn't justify the means - or killing in general. That didn't stop them of course, but they usually did a good job of hiding the evidence. For every single time she caught them in the act, there were at least three other cases she missed, not that she knew that.
Taking a deep breath and pinching the bridge of her nose, she decided to try another tactic.
"Who was the last one to see him?" The two kids immediately pointed to the only adult in the room. "Phrynosoma..."
"I didn't kill him."
Lisa waited for him to elaborate, but he held his silence. Deciding to let it go - it wasn't like she could make him confess and at least the man was still alive - she grabbed her wallet. She did promise them ice cream.