The agent shuffled his way through the creaky picket-fence gate, his suit sagged with the weight of work and worry. Agnes followed close behind, upright and resolute. The shimmering early-morning sun illumined the poplar trees that lined the street, although the houses, as well kept as they were in their post-colonial weatherboard splendour, remained curiously still and silent. Sleepiness and silence seemed the constant in this historic, leafy Australian town.
“The main bedroom’s window faces the street, the second and third bedrooms run along the hallway”. The agent glanced over at Agnes wondering if she’d need the three bedrooms. Agnes remained silent throughout the tour, her eyes were bulging, her head perked in all directions, a tight, bird-like smile remained pasted to her lips the whole while. Her demeanour and colourfully loud dress sense unsettled the agent. He’d never known anyone who wore violet velvet skirts – certainly not in this township - and not since being a teenager in the 1970’s did he witness these fashions en masse, the long-forgotten days when he would venture into the big cities to soak in some purpose, and excitement.
They reached the sunroom at the back of the cottage. The floorboards they’d trod on had retained their vintage magnificence despite the neglect and the mould. The sunroom faced the garden that was adjoined to another’s garden on the other side, separated by majestic flame trees in full blossom. For a moment the agent was captured by the still beauty he saw as the sun was beaming in from its northerly aspect, until he was returned to his anxious present, realising that Agnes was the only tenancy applicant for the house and he desperately needed to bag the commission.
“So, are you interested in taking this house?” the agent asked doing his upmost to sound professional and exact.
“Oh yes!” exclaimed Agnes, “This is precisely what I’m after…”. She was wiping some of the dust off the wooden sill as her voice trailed away into some deep thought.
“I will need you to fill out these forms”, the agent’s voice cracked as he fumbled through his files, “er, are you moving in on your own or do have a spouse or dependents with you?”
“I’m on my own, yes,” she said nodding her head. Her piercing gaze froze him into shaky submission.
The agent cocked his head downward and peered upwards towards Agnes who was trying to make the pen work against the paper on the agent’s folder. “Um, Miss Agnes, what kind of work do you do for a living, do you have a viable income?”
Agnes threw down her pen and folder onto the ancient, immovable drawing board and let out a hoarse laugh that shattered the house of its immovable stillness and ghostliness. “Of course I do”, she almost yelled, and continued softly, “I’m a practitioner, of cards”.
Ok, thought the agent who waited for Agnes to fill in the tenancy application. Agnes filled it in quickly and her writing was almost illegible, her pen pressed too firmly onto the page.
“So you’re from Sydney, or Melbourne…”. The agent was peering through the application trying to make some sense of the jarred scrawl.
“Oh I’m from everywhere!” Agnes bellowed. “Now will you take me?”
“Yes, yes Miss Agnes, let me get back to the office to process these forms and the place will be officially yours...”.
“Well here’s the bond then, and however many weeks rent you want in advance”. Agnes pulled a large sum of money out of her shoulder bag that hung on her like a purple sack, with the folded notes bundled neatly together by elastic bands.
“Er, you can take that into the office with me Miss Agnes”. The agent was sweating in his formal blue suit, unsure as to where or why she’d come to settle in this halfway town from whatever past had trailed her. Instinct told him not to pry.
“Fine. But I need to start working now”. Agnes was holding out the money to the agent, her elbow was resting on her waist, her palm extended upwards and outwards.
“But you haven’t even moved in yet Miss Agnes, what work could you wish to start today?”
Agnus turned away and chuckled, then broke into a strange belly laugh that unsettled the agent further.
She coyly cocked her head and fixed her narrowed eyes upon him again. Her smile was thin and wispy.“I kill people.”