It’s 11:53 am. I head to the back of the room, nodding at Linus, the bartender. I take my usual booth, hood up. I know it’s a bit conspicuous, but no one here pays much attention to anything other than their pints and newspapers.
I always tell my clients not to arrive even a moment earlier than the agreed upon time, which in this case is noon. I like to watch them enter, so I can get a full read on their intentions before they even say a word.
At 12:00 exactly, she enters. She’s a little short, thick with womanly curves, but as she approaches I can see in her face that she’s just a child. A scared child at that. I have no idea how a teenage girl would get my number, but I immediately want to hit someone.
She comes directly to my table, as directed, and sits down.
“Jamie Medes,” she offers with her hand stuck out.
“How did you find me?” It’s always the first question I ask, but it’s the first time I’m burning for an answer.
“Does it matter?” she asks. There’s a bite in her tone that tells me she’s tougher than even she knows.
“As a matter of fact, yes, it does.”
Jamie shifts in her seat, visibly uncomfortable. “Friends of friends.”
I hate that answer, and I sigh hard so she knows it. Her gaze wanders.
“Look, I don’t know what you heard but I’m not a hitman and I don’t fuck around with minors so I can’t beat up your prom date or whatever.”
Her glare comes at me like a speeding bullet and I see her chest begin to heave. Her entire demeanor hardens and I realize I’m way off base.
“Hey, I’m sorry. It’s just, you’re not my typical client. I’m a little thrown here. I don’t know what to think.”
“So don’t think. Ask.” She holds my eyes and I can’t help but smile. I gesture for her to go on, and she does. “I’ve been involved in a couple – incidents. Traumas, I guess.” Now she looks away again. “Cards down, I’m having some trouble with PTSD, and all the therapy and pills in the world won’t give me what I need.”
“And what’s that?” I recognize her now, from the news. The sole survivor of a home invasion, and later a witness to a bank robbery. She took two shots to the arm.
“Protection. I want you to train me. I know it’s not what you usually -”
“Yes,” I say. “When do you want to start?”
“Well,” she bites her lower lip, “how much -”
“A young girl like yourself is entitled to safety. No charge. I do have one rule though.”
“No slacking. Now let’s get out of here before you get carded.”
I never tell her that I know who she is, but I assume she figures I do. Either way, it seems like a courtesy worth extending. We train three times a week and the greatest improvement I see by month two is her confidence when she takes the gun from me. I teach her how to channel that strength that’s been inside of her all along – the strength of a survivor, like me.
© Shyla Fairfax-Owen