Continuation of Spare a Room? and A Honest Living.
"I don't feel comfortable with this," Alfred grumbled to his wife, staring down the hallway and at the guestroom wishing that it was empty. The girl inside had to be up to no good. She brought a dirty fox into his house! Also, what normal person has a name like Ace?
"Remember that good karma," Annette chimed in from inside their bathroom. "That poor girl just needs a place to stay for a little bit."
"We aren't a bed and breakfast!"
"But we are good people," Annette leaned out from the bathroom, covered with a towel and sporting a green face mask. "She came to us with good intentions, and it's getting colder out there. Heaven forbid that our sweet Velia was in that position, wouldn't you want a kind family to take her in?"
"Do we really have the money to spare to feed another mouth, especially with how Velia's ex-husband left Velia buried in debt? Velia losing that child support and all of her extra bills has really put us back." Alfred shot back, earning a glare from his wife. He knew that Annette hated talking about their money situation—the burden that weighed heavy on their minds—but they had to acknowledge it.
"We are well off enough to offer this girl a safe place to be," Annette stated, efficiently ending the argument. She disappeared back into the bathroom, returning minutes later with a clean face. She gave Alfred a peck on the cheek before bring him to their shared bed.
"I just can't shake this feeling, like something just isn't right."
"It's your job to worry for Velia, especially after her divorce. If it makes it better, put Ace to work. She did say that she was a jack of all trades, and we could use the extra hand around the house. Maybe just ask her to do a couple of repairs while she is here. That will save us money on hiring someone." Annette suggested while she turned the lamp off, covering the room in a blanket of darkness.
"I guess you're right," Alfred said, unsure but sensed that his wife was done with the conversation. Over the next few hours, Alfred struggled to fall asleep, listening to his wife's soft breaths and his mind still on the stranger that slept in their guestroom. The following morning he had managed to get enough sleep to only need two cups of coffee. Walking into the kitchen bright and early, he spotted his daughter Velia asleep in the rocking chair while Ace and her damn fox sat at the table with his sweet grandson Jamie. Both Ace and Jamie had oatmeal covering them. The fox was happily licking it off of Ace's arm.
"Good morning, Sir!" Ace chimed, giving a little wave while Jamie splashed around some more oatmeal, wearing more than he seemed to be eating. "I hope you don't mind. Velia seemed pretty tired so I offered to step in. Peanut here seems to be enjoying it as well." She gave the fox a pet before going in with another spoonful of oatmeal.
"That's so kind of you, thank you sweetie," Annette spoke before Alfred could get a word in. "I'm making breakfast, would you some?" Ace accepted, and Annette happily got to work. How she could be so cherry around a literal stranger in their house, Alfred would never know. After making a coffee cup for himself and Ace sat down next to her and gave her the coffee before pulling out the list he made last night while struggling to sleep.
"I've got a bunch of stuff around the house that needs to be done, if you truly are a jack of all trades. Feel free to pick out what you could get done in the next couple of days. Anything you need should be in the garage, just ask Velia if you can't find anything." Ace picked up the list, reading it over with a smile.
"Sure thing, Sir! Anything you name, and I'll have it done perfectly." Alfred had doubts about Ace's 'magical abilities but didn't say anything for the sake of his wife. She had the stature of strength and a shaved head to fill a stereotypical tough girl persona, so there wasn't really a need to nick pick from free service.
Heading to work, his hands still shook. Despite the many reassuring whispers, Annette would offer him, it just wasn't enough to bring him peace of mind. There were problems in the depths of every bank account and each letter that was delivered to his house. The horror of it all felt all too real with each cry from Velia and his sweet Jamie. Her stupid ex-husband, it was all his fault. Taking all Velia's assets, ditching the child support, leaving her jobless and buried in debt. Alfred didn't like to cry outside the comfort of his wife's arms, so he took a deep breath in and started his workday as if it were any other.
Alfred made the trip back home at the end of his twelve hours with a measly overtime paycheck. Pulling into the driveway, he admired the new paint on the garage door. It was a perfect two-coat cover, and after checking, Alfred could tell that the protective cover was already painted on as well. Walking in the front door, he noted that the deck had the rotted wood replaced, and the slating sides had been scrubbed clean. Seated once again in the kitchen was Velia in her rocking chair with a sleeping Jamie in her lap, Annette over the stove with Ace at her side. Paint covered her arms, but it looked as if she hadn't even broken a sweat. Annette came over a greeted him with a kiss before setting the table.
"You managed to get through half that list. I'm quite impressed, I was only expecting one thing." Alfred commented after settling himself in at the table. Ace brought over plates while Velia left to put Jamie down.
"Actually I managed to get it all done. The washer is fixed, I replaced the leaky pipe downstairs and I was able to patch up the hole in the upstairs wall. Anything else you need done?" Alfred took a second to process it while Annette glanced over with her 'I told you so' look.
"I guess I'll have to think of something else for you." With that, they went on with their meal. Alfred did think, and he thought hard. He had given her a task list that would have taken him days to complete. There wasn't anything else he could as her to do, anything with reason. If only she could solve every other problem on his shoulders.
Later that evening, after Annette had fallen asleep, Alfred snuck down and poured himself a glass of whiskey. Three drinks in, he felt a swift of fur across his leg, the fur of a fox. Emerging from the dark hallway was Ace, pulling out a chair and sitting across from him.
"Would you like a glass?"
"I'm not about to say no to that," Ace eagerly accepted the glass and took a large swig. It was clear she wasn't an experienced drinking with the small hack after. "I was hoping to catch you alone. Your wife is quite the lovely lady, but I believe this conversation is best suited for you."
"Well, don't leave me in suspense." Alfred grumbled, pouring Ace another glass.
"I can solve more than just household problems. Don't forget that I am truly a jack of all trades! I can make any problems disappear, including money and people problems."
"I don't need your money," Alfred snapped. "I thought you had no money, that's the reason my wife has forced me to let you stay!" Ace put her hands up in defense but still held onto her smirk.
"I don't have any money, and I like it that way. I get to focus my time on helping people, like you. This isn't my first rodeo, and far from the worst thing I've ever done. Say the word, and all your problems will wash away," Ace snapped her fingers, "just like that."
"Just like that? You seriously want me to believe that?"
"You don't have to believe it for it to be real," Ace said, going back to her whiskey for a second, more refined sip. "I could even make it a two for one special and deal with Velia's ex-husband for you as well." Alfred raised his brow and started Ace down.
"How do you know about him?"
"Annette can't go five minutes without bringing up how much she disliked him, and the way Velia reacted to it didn't hide much at all. So, would you like my help?" Alfred started at her outstretched hand, suspicion still swirling his mind. Eventually, he gave in and shook her hand.
"Whatever, just don't say anything to Annette. She would lose her mind if she found out we had this conversation." Ace gave a thumbs-up as Alfred left the room and headed back to bed, not giving much more thought to the conversation the two had. What could the kid do anyways?
There was a lot that Ace could do. Not many got the pleasure of knowing just how much. Peanut, her loyal fox, had that pleasure, but that was because he was her faithful partner. Ace already had a good understanding of who Velia's ex was. Annette made sure of that. A wealthy, scumbag lawyer who no longer wanted to be tied down and splurge on all the luxuries a bachelor could dream of.
It didn't take much to find out where he lived. A simple sneak at the divorce documents stacked in the basement was all Ace needed. It was a long walk, but after 'borrowing' a bike, she made it in good time with the night sky still acting as her cover. Once outside his house, Ace scanned the outer perimeter for an excellent point of entry. The cameras pointed at the front and back doors, so she went ahead and jimmied open a window.
The house was quite refined. Expensive-looking paintings littered the walls while the floors shined a sweet glow from the moonlight. Wandering the rooms, she found prince charming asleep in a king-sized bed and a pair of headphones covering his ears. Ace smiled to herself as the trap had already put itself into place. Walking back to the kitchen, she pulled down the smoke alarm and opened up the wiring. She had done it enough times that tampering with it without showing that it was tampered with was second nature. Once she was satisfied with her work, Ace went over the house and scoured for cash. A rich bastard should have a ton of cash to flex, so Ace obviously found a lot of what she was looking for.
With full pockets, Ace went to the kitchen and made the finishing touches. With the floors waxed and lots of flammable portraits adorning the walls, things were bound to go swell. A fancy gas stone came to life with a small flame, somehow catching a nearby cloth on fire before it fell to the floor. How would that ever happen?
"Don't play with fire, it's never safe," Ace told Peanut as she scooped him up and took him out the window. She watched the flame grow for a little bit, watching it travel down the hallway that leads to the bedroom. If only the door was left closed, then maybe he would have a fighting chance. Oh well. Satisfied with her work, Ace hopped back on the bike and left the scene, Peanut riding in her bag.
"Alfred! Come quickly!" Annette yelled throughout the house, waking Alfred from his Saturday morning sleep. Reaching out for his glasses, his hand instead grabbed onto a small envelope. Finally finding his glasses, he inspected the envelope but found no markings on the outside. Pulling out the contents, Alfred was shocked to find a stack of cash. Flipping through, it seemed like more than he made in a year. In-between the bills was a single playing card, an ace of spades with sharpie on it.
"It was a pleasure doing business with you!"
Rushing himself out of bed after a second of his wife's calls, Alfred was going to ask her about Ace's whereabouts when he glanced at the TV screen. Showcased on their local news was a house that was all too familiar, but not as he remembered. Highlighted by the reporter were the burnt remains of Velia's ex-husband's house, captioned with the news reports stating that there were no survivors.