Miss Scur was a very odd woman. Everyone said so and everyone agreed, but everyone also loved her.
She had moved into their little town in the middle of nowhere some years back, around a decade ago, and opened her, now beloved, bookshop.
She’d always welcome people warmly and she, almost single-handedly, made children want to read more books just to have an excuse to hang out in Miss Scur’s book shop. She would somehow always have some snacks ready and would spoil the children by recommending them some books and then giving it to them for free.
Her shop would also have plants at every corner, Forget-me-nots, Red Dahlias, White Lillies and especially Daffodils. The yellow flowers were her absolute favourites and she would always put one on her dining table while she ate. They just make such good company, she would joke.
People would go to her when times were tough and she’d always manage to have an available room in her home, she would even pay a room for them in the local motel. Some worried that the lady was a little too kind for her own good, but so far no one had dared to trick her.
“She has an eye for these things, see.” Explained Arthur to his niece when she visited him. “Can smell your lies the moment you step into town.”
“But she’s just an old lady!” Atlas protested.
“You watch your mouth young lass! She is not a day over 61.” Reproached Sean, the barista in the coffee shop they had been talking in.
The town loved Miss Scur and people would chat with her every day. They all knew her favourite movie and her favourite song. They even knew that her large black dog, whom she named “Cerberus” no less, was just like her, in the sense that it could not harm a single fly. They even knew her not-so-secret recipe of chocolate chip and almond cookies. In return, she also knew almost everything about them. How Mrs. and Mrs. next door to her had been accidentally married before they even met, but ended up falling in love nonetheless (The judge that had annulled the marriage the first time was more than a little surprised when they showed up back at his doorstep asking him to marry them). She knew that little Tim had been a little weary when they first came into town to live with their dads but had lightened up significantly after they made some friends in the park. She knew that young Fernando was nervous to finally see his long-distance friends that were finally coming next Sunday, and so on; she knew everything about everyone and more.
All and all, the town had become more like a family and all thanks to Miss Scur.
Knowing all this, it might be a surprise that nobody actually knew about Miss Scur’s life or family. They knew she hadn’t been born there and that she had enough money to not only live without worries but also to spend extra on frivolous and generous gestures. Some suspected she had a large inheritance and, in the absence of any other family members or children, she was free to use it all up. Others thought that she might be maintained by some other family member that had enough money to support Miss Scur’s kind heart.
"Ah, hello little Myrtle, what can I do for you?" Asked Miss Scur as a little redheaded girl approached the reception desk with a couple of antique books in her tiny arms.
"Mah mommy asked me to ask you if we can borrow these two books for just a couple of hours." explained the girl. "My grandpapa came to town and we wanted to read some parts."
Miss Scur smiled. "Of course dear, if you want I can go pick them up so Lysa doesn't have to come all the way over here." Miss Scur stopped for a moment, thinking; before she continued. "I can also bring you some pie if you want. Do you know your grandpa's favourite?"
"Lemon!" Myrtle exclaimed
"Alright, I'll make sure to make you and your grandpa a delicious lemon pie." Miss Scur laughed softly.
"Thank you Miss Scur! Do you also make pies when your family visits?"
Miss Scur's smile dimmed just for a second. Her eyes pierced through Myrtle as if noticing her there for the first time.
She took a little Daffodil from the flower vase on the desk before walking around it and kneeling in front of Myrtle.
"Be careful with those books, alright dear?" Miss Scur put the flower on Myrtle's ear. "They can be quite delicate."
Myrtle had only been 9 when she asked about Miss Scur's family, and she couldn't be sure about it but she was sure Miss Scur's face had turned pale at the mention of her family.
Word silently went around and the whole town silently agreed to never bring it up again. Goodness have mercy on the unlucky soul that wasn’t aware of the silent law of the town and brought the topic up. Steel glares from the whole town would stab through the poor bastard.
Nobody knew where Miss Scur was from and nobody cared enough. She was here now and she was loved now. That was all that mattered.
Josephine Scur slid through the dark wet street. She had spent more time in old Shane’s boathouse that she had meant for, but the roasted fish was enough to make her stay for a whole week.
8 or 9 years ago walking around the street during the night would’ve been suicide. Crime had been rampant around the area just a decade ago. People claimed that as soon as Josephine arrived in the town crime had vanished, as if she had been an angel, blessing the town. Josephine always chuckled at the idea but smiled politely nonetheless.
It wasn’t long until she noticed a dark figure following her. She hadn’t seen them per se, but it was almost like a sixth sense she had. She knew someone was there. She knew they were following her. And she knew they were some old acquaintance. Still, she kept strolling by with not a care in the world until she reached her quaint bookshop and she directed her wheelchair towards an alley right beside it, which led to the back door.
Right on cue she heard someone cock their gun and point it right behind her head.
“Long time no see, Red Dahlia.” said her stalker “Or is it Miss Scur now?”
Josephine didn't move, not out of fear but mostly out of an annoyed indifference at the interruption of her peaceful night.
She sighed. “Ah. So you've finally decided to come.”
"I'm offended." said the stalker as they pushed the gun to Josephine's head. "You knew I'd come and yet made no preparations to receive me."
"I'm afraid I don't know you well enough to prepare a proper welcome."
"Good thing you don't need to know me. Not where you're going."
Although her visitor couldn't see her, Josephine couldn't help but smile. "You're not going to kill me Claire, we both know that."
At the mention of the name the gun behind Josephine's head loosened just a bit before being shoved back with more force.
"Playing games are we?" Claire pulled the gun back and shot a bullet right beside Josephine’s head, grazing her glasses and, quite rudely, shoving them out of place.
At least she had the decency of using a can to avoid making noise, she’d be damned if she disturbed lovely Jorge’s beauty sleep.
Josephine adjusted her glasses and turned her wheelchair around.
She had expected to have a clearer vision of her vision of her visitor but the only thing she saw was the barrel of the gun in front of her.
“Move that thing from my face, please. If you were going to shoot me, you would've already done so."
The girl didn't move, after a beat of silence she said, "And what makes so sure?"
“I know you have a great aim, some are calling you ‘Robin Hood’s ghost’, a little extravagant for my tastes, but I am not involved in that whole mess anymore.” she pushed the gun out of her face, as of it pressed no threat to her
To Claire's surprise, she didn't shoot. There was something about Red Dahlia's calmness that unnerved her. Her mind had suddenly started listing the many unsolved murders Red Dahlia had in her pocket; from simple missing people to the disfigured corpses of an entire mafia gang who had not had enough money to out pay their competition for the assassin. She had expected the woman to look more surprised, maybe a little more afraid. Ten years out of the game tended to make people dull, more easily scared, but looking at her now, Claire could almost swear she saw a murderous glint in Red Dahlia's eyes.
"What I do find odd" continued Josephine, pulling Claire from her thoughts "is why such a talented assassin such as yourself would give me pleasure of a visit when you could've taken that nice little suppressor and shot me from the top of that roof with your ol’ reliable sniper rifle?” there was an earnest curiosity in her tone of voice while she pointed at the roof of the Harper’s boutique in front of her bookshop, the perfect spot for an assassin like Claire.
Something akin to genuine surprise crossed Claire’s face as she stared defiantly at Josephine’s dark brown eyes, before they were replaced by a cold mask of indifference.
Claire shrugged. “Maybe I wanted to meet the legendary Josephine Dearil, Red Death Incarnate in person; you were quite the talk back in the days.” A wicked smile was painted on Claire’s face, one only a reckless youth would have before doing something especially stupid. “That is… before your daughter died. Pissed off the wrong people, did you?”
Josephine smiled at the youth, although there was no kindness or humour behind it, if anything it looked more like an irritated smile. "Oh, you know how weird the job can get. One day your daughter gets murdered, another you see a dead woman walking."
A chill went down Claire’s back as the wind howled behind them, she could almost swear she was hearing the ghosts of all the missing criminals that had been in this town before Red Dahlia arrived, they were begging her to run away.
She pulled her gun back and cleared her thoughts.
Finally understanding what was going on. The woman was bluffing, of course, there was no way an old woman in a wheelchair could pose any threat to her. Her reputation has been fearce, but Claire was willing to bet this old woman had used her old reputation as a way to protect herself. What a joke.
"Your threats are getting weaker." She said, her confidence slowly coming back to her. "There's a pretty good bounty on your head, y'know? The pigs wouldn’t really care if you're dead or alive, but my boss assures me you're worth more alive."
"Oh, I'm afraid you misunderstood, my dear." Claire looked back at Red Dahlia, she was still smiling. "I wasn't threatening you."
Before Claire could understand what she meant the shadows behind Claire coporialized into a big black beast, shing her to the ground before she could think of shooting. Cerberus' paws landed on Claire's head and back, crushing her ribs and suffocating her.
"I haven't threatened anyone after my dear sunshine died." explained Josephine as Claire struggled to get the beast off of her, if only for a second to breathe. "Threats imply I would give you the chance to live. I, on the other hand, was merely staying a fact. It's not every day you see a dead woman walking…”
Claire struggled on the ground, kicking and squirming, but her strength slowly left her body.
Josephine approached her, rolling her wheelchair closer to her victim and pushing her head to the asphalt. Claire could only watch as Red Dahlia pressed something in her hand.
“...but we'll fix that soon enough, won't we?"
A Red Dahlia.
“Morning Miss Scur!” smiled Jorge as he picked up his morning newspaper. “You need help with that?”
Josephine was, at the moment, carrying a large bag of garbage as Cerberus helpfully carried two more on his back, wagging his tail at his owner.
“It’s alright, dear, I was just cleaning the mess a visitor made yesterday.”
“You had someone over?”
“Oh no, just a lost tourist; but I couldn’t just let her go in the middle of the night, you know? She must have arrived at her grandmother’s house by now.”
Jorge just chuckled; of course Miss Scur would stay up all night to help a complete stranger.
“How about I bring you some breakfast, I made some extra anyway. You must be tired and I bet Cerberus would appreciate some bacon I have.”
Cerberus cheerfully barked back.
“That’d be wonderful, my dear, I will be with you in just a second.”
Jorge hummed as he prepared another plate in his table for Josephine, even putting a small Daffodil on the table, not even stopping to think about how the hell had he not noticed a car or a lost stranger in a town as quiet as his own. This sort of stuff sometimes happened, especially around Josephine, but nobody really minded. After all, Miss Scur had always been an odd woman.