It was his job to protect her.
From the day the doctors confirmed the pregnancy, he knew that he had a newfound purpose in life. Watching her grow from a tipsy toddler to a grown woman made the greatest and worst moments of his life. It was great because he got to watch his beautiful daughter blossom into the woman she was today.
Worst because now he was tormented, chained down just to watch a monster peel the petals off.
George knew something was off when he heard his daughter giggling from the front of the motel. Mere hours ago, she was clutching him tight in tears while he glared at the diamond band that adorned her ring finger.
“Papa, you have to come and see this!”
With his cane in hand, George limped from his office to the front desk where Bella was petting some red fluffball of a creature, along with a young-looking rascal standing behind the desk. Shaved head with a beanie, bandages wrapped around each finger. Trouble was all George saw.
“What is that fleabag doing on my counter?”
“Peanut doesn’t have fleas!” The rascal shot back, nuzzling the top of the creature’s head.
“That doesn’t explain why it’s on my counter, I don’t need any wild animals running around my motel.” Bella turned to her father and shot him a frown, one she had learned from her mother whenever George started getting too negative.
“Papa, it’s a fox. She tamed it herself when it was just a baby after it’s mother had died.” George went closer to the counter to inspect the fox, watching it nuzzle into Bella’s hand. “We also are a pet friendly motel, so you can’t kick the cutie out.”
“It’s just you and the fox checking in? Aren’t you a little young to be traveling on your own?” George looked the kid up and down once more, picking up on dirt-stained pants and a single backpack. “Is that all you have?”
“I’ve been running my own rodeo for years now, me and Peanut could conquer the world at this point. The name is Ace, pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Ace shot up a hand that George hesitated to shake.
“We could get you in a single room for $60 a night, how long are you staying?” George opened up the registration book when Ace gave off a giggle.
“I don’t have that much money.” George looked up from the book to see the girl without a single ounce of shame on her face. “I was hoping I could entice you into kindly supplying a room.”
“If I kindly gave out a room to every person, I’d have no business to run. You're not going to get very far in life with that mentality,” George was ready to send the rascal out of his motel lobby when Bella nudged his arm.
“I beg to differ, that exact mentality has gotten me halfway across the world over the last couple of years, but trust me, I am no freeloader. While I don’t have the monetary means of getting a room, I do have a variety of talents at my disposal.” Ace smirked as she handed over what seemed to be a poorly made business card.
Ace and Peanut
Jack of all Trades
You Name it, and it’s Done
“Anything? What have you done before?” Bella asked after taking the card from George’s hand.
“I’ve painted houses, built fences, repaired trucks, nannied, done deliveries, and almost anything else you can think of. I can make problems disappear.” Ace leaned in and whispered, “Any problem you have, no matter how messy, I get it done.”
“Won’t you even consider it, Papa? She obviously needs a place to stay.”
George looked over the kid for a third time, paying less attention to her appearance and more to her features. She had arms defined through the material of her shirt, callouses on her palms that showcased years of hard work. Small scars littered her face and the visible skin of her arms, so much that she no longer looked like a rascal and more like a warrior.
She looked like just the person George needed to solve his worst problem.
“Why don’t you come into my office and we can talk some more.”
“I ain’t gonna say no to that!” Ace beamed as George handed her a glass of whiskey. She grimaced from her first sip but still went in for another. The fox was seated on her lap, eating out of a bag of peanuts that Ace pulled out of her bag.
“So you pride yourself on solving problems? Even the real messy ones?” George watched her face for any sign of hesitancy but found none. The girl was either the real deal or just stubborn and stupid.
“Yep, and it sounds like you have a thorn of a problem yourself. Something to do with the scumbag that married your daughter?”
“How do you know about that?” George snapped. Ace laughed and kicked her feet up on a stool that stood next to the desk.
“Her makeup skills are great, but it’s not that easy to cover up puffy eyes and bruised cheeks. But don’t worry, dealing with troublesome individuals is one of my specialties. I can just give him a finetuned warning or go all in if that’s what your interested in.”
“How many times have you broken the law?” George lowered his voice, just in case Bella was trying to listen in. Thankfully, Ace followed in suit.
“Enough times to know I’m good at it. Now tell me, how much do you hate this man?”
“I want him dead.”
“Consider it done.”
The guy looked like a total wife-beater. He had the ugly mustache, the poorly maintained mullet, and a ‘too good for the world’ look plastered on his face. Following him wasn’t a chore at all. With the radio blasting, he hadn’t even noticed the extra luggage in the back of his truck. Ace and Peanut laid low while the wife-beater drove up to a secluded section of the forest, jumping out as soon as the truck rolled to a stop. Usually, Ace had to put a lot more effort into secluding her prey, but this idiot did it all for her.
The two of them trailed behind slowly as the wife-beater walked through the unmarked trails, hunting rifle in hand. Ace truly wanted to laugh at the hunter wannabe, missing each and every shot he took in the designated no-hunting zone. By the time an hour has passed, Ace spotted her chance. She pointed Peanut in the direction of a cliffside, hanging over a ravine. While the wannabe hunter missed more shots, Ace lined herself up.
“Stupid deer,” He mumbled, wandering dangerously close to Ace’s position. She was preparing to lunge at him if times turned to worse, but luckily Peanut had her back. Echoing from the ravine edge was an ear-splitting screech that Ace had come to love.
“What in the world?” The wife-beater scurried over to the cliffside and peered over. Ace rose from her spot and charged with all her might. By the time the man turned around and noticed, it was already his funeral. She shoulder slammed him square in the chest and watched his face twist in terror before it disappeared beyond the cliffside, a beautiful crunch accompanying mere moments later.
Peanut came out from behind the bush he was hiding in and jumped into Ace’s arms, where she treated him with some more peanuts. Finally, she leaned over the ledge and confirmed a job well done.
“How about you and me go and celebrate with Mr. George, get you a nice steak?” Ace smirked at the still body before heading down the long path back to the motel.
“Your not going to tell me what happened?” George leaned in with a low voice after Ace got her two steaks, one cooked and the other raw. She cut up a slice and tossed it to Peanut.
“All legal reasons, if people come asking you if you know what happened, then technically you aren’t lying when you say no.” Ace spoke nonchalantly as she cut up another piece for herself. She could tell that George trusted her word, or at least would have to once Bella and her son stayed here permanently after her husband failed to return home. “It was hardly even messy, well, at least on my end. Can’t speak for the poor bastard.”
“So you just do this all the time? Assassinate people?”
“Assassinations are political,” Ace mumbled through a full mouth. “If you want to put a label on it, we can go with ‘trouble for hire’. That has a nice ring to it. I should add that to my business card.”
“Hi, Peanut!” Bella came over to the table and gave the fox a pet. The news hadn’t broken yet. “It’s nice to see that you're back Ace, thought you left us. Did my father work you hard?” Ace chuckled and waved a hand.
“He hardly had me break a sweat, but it’s all good work.” Ace gave Bella a slice of steak so she could feed Peanut. “Tomorrow the two of us shall be gone. Gotta get up early and catch the good graces of a trucker going west.”
“Where are you two heading?”
“To wherever we can get a room for the night.”