By Karen Singer
Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! That’s how Roger felt as he drove his truck toward Stan’s house. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! But at least he was going fishing again.
He had been surprised last night, not to mention dismayed, when Janice came home from her trip early. Carol of course had been delighted. As usual, though, Janice never mentioned a single thing about her trip. By this morning, it was almost as if she had never left… other than that she had Carol and him unloading all the cleaning supplies out of the back of her car before they could all go to church again. And after church, she had surprised him, and delighted him, by declaring that she wasn’t feeling up to having lunch out that day. Fantastic! So now he was off to go fishing with Stan a bit earlier than he had planned.
The bad part was that the only clothing he had changed since he got home from church, was to remove his dress and shoes, and put on his jeans and a top and his women’s work boots instead. He was still wearing his ‘C’ cup bra with the breast forms, his makeup from church was still in place – with his lipstick refreshed, and the stupid wig was still on his head. And he felt just plain… stupid dressed like that. But at least he was going fishing again.
As he pulled into Stan’s driveway, he saw Stan putting his fishing gear into the back of his truck. He parked off the driveway where his truck would be out of the way. He grabbed his purse… another stupid thing… and got out. “Hey Stan,” he greeted his friend as brightly as he was able.”
Stan looked Roger over. He looked – dumb! “Hey,” he returned, trying to sound at least somewhat civil. “All set?” he asked.
“Just as soon as I can get my stuff into your truck,” Roger replied. He slung his purse over his shoulder and lowered the tailgate of his truck to get his stuff. A minute later, everything was transferred to Stan’s truck and he was climbing up into the passenger seat where he set his purse on the floor at his feet. A purse! What a nuisance! But at least he was going fishing again.
Stan pulled his truck out of the driveway and headed down the road. He purposely didn’t say anything to Roger because he didn’t want to tell him how totally stupid he looked, so he held his tongue and said nothing. He was hoping that once Roger got his big waders on they might hide some of what he was wearing. They weren’t going to hide Roger’s wig or makeup though, that was for sure!
He headed for one of their favorite fishing spots first. It was way back in the woods where no tourists ever dared… or even thought to go. As they hoped, there were no other cars around, for which Stan was grateful. He really didn’t want to be seen with Roger out in public more than was necessary. And this far back in the woods was only marginally public.
Roger got out of the truck, and then had to stop to think. His fishing license and all his IDs were in his purse. He certainly wasn’t going to carry the purse while he was fishing! He quickly grabbed the damn thing and started digging out all the documents he might need… just in case – not that they were expecting the game warden to come around and ask, but it was always possible. He stuffed everything into the pockets of his pants – at least they were big enough. Only then did he go around to the back of the truck to get ready to go fishing.
“What the heck were you doing?” Stan asked as Roger finally got to the back of the truck.
“I needed to grab my fishing license,” Roger replied. “It was in my purse.”
Stan rolled his eyes at that and purposely turned away from his friend to finish getting ready.
Roger pulled his big waders out of the truck before he bent down to unzip one of the boots he had on. He pulled the boot off and stuck his foot into the boot of the waders instead. Then he repeated the process for his other foot. Then he began pulling the chest-high waders up his body. The tops of the waders came just over where the nipples of his breasts would be… if he had real breasts. He pulled the suspender type straps over his shoulders and fastened them so the waders wouldn’t fall down.
Stan was ready. He turned around to see Roger now fastening the straps on his waders. He was a bit disappointed to see that they didn’t cover more of Roger’s body… like especially those fake tits he was sporting. “Make sure you tighten that belt extra tight!” Stan cautioned him, referring to the belt that would keep the water from filling the waders too fast if he happened to fall in the water. After his last little fishing trip, his own belt was pulled tighter around his chest than ever!
Roger’s belt was set for the way he always wore it. He grabbed the ends and pulled them together to fasten them… only he was having a little more trouble doing it than he usually did. It seemed that the way his stupid breasts were pushing things out, they were making it a bit more difficult to get the ends of his belt to meet. But with a bit of extra effort, he got the thing fastened.
Stan just shook his head as he looked at Roger’s chest now. The belt was fastened just below Roger’s fake breasts, and it made them stick out that much more – as if Roger was now trying to flaunt them. “You couldn’t have gone with the small breasts you wear when you’re working around the house?” he asked disgustedly.
“Um… I just came home from church,” Roger explained, “and I was in a hurry to get ready.” Actually, he was quite sure that Janice wouldn’t have approved of him wearing the smaller breasts for this at all. She wanted him to deal with Stan now as Candy – as much as possible. Well, Stan was just going to have to get used to it.
“Are you ready?” Stan asked.
Roger grabbed his fishing vest and pulled it on. His net was already fastened to the back of it. He grabbed his fishing creel to put any fish in that he caught and slung it over his head and shoulder and rotated it around to his back. Then he grabbed one of his fishing poles out of the back of Stan’s truck. It was already put together and already set up to start fishing right away. The only thing he didn’t have that he normally would, was his hat. He had left that at home because of the wig he was wearing. “Now I’m ready,” he replied happily.
Stan just shook his head and headed for the edge of the water. At least Roger’s vest hid his breasts – a little.
“Geez!” Roger exclaimed as he stood at the edge of the stream. “It’s really high… and it looks pretty rough.”
“It’s not nearly as bad as it was last week,” Stan said as he started easing his way into the water. A moment later, Roger followed.
Stan carefully worked his way over to the right side of the river, and Roger stayed closer to the left. They had fished together for years. Each of them knew exactly what the other would do. Not a word was spoken between them. No words were needed. Stan was able to put the way Roger was dressed out of his mind as he totally concentrated on his fishing. Roger was back! Sort of. And the two of them were again moving through the water like a well-rehearsed team! Finally!
Roger cast his line and patiently worked the small area where he had caught fish in the past. He breathed in the clean fresh air and took a brief moment to look around at the woods that surrounded him. This was living! This was what life was all about. This is what he lived for! The feeling of being back fishing with his best friend was close to ecstasy. It would only be better if he wasn’t dressed so stupidly. And… if only the stupid hair from his stupid wig would stop blowing across his face! It was a major irritation!
He cast his line in a different spot, carefully working the entire left side of the stream. The water was pushing hard against the back of his legs, all the way up to his waist. The water was definitely much higher than he was used to… and much more dangerous. And Stan said it was better than last week? It must have been awful! Awful enough to knock Stan off of his feet, he remembered.
He suddenly saw Stan’s line pull tight. He had one! He watched as Stan expertly played the fish and brought it in. A few minutes later, he watched as Stan grabbed his net and got the fish into it. A rainbow trout. Not really big, but decent. Good eating size. “Nice one,” he said with a smile. Stan was smiling back broadly.
Roger cast his line again and started working his line. And his stupid hair blew across his face again. Irritated with it, he pulled his hand that was holding his fishing pole up to his face to move the hair away with his fingers. And just as his fingers started to grab around the hair. There was a splash in the water where the end of his line was and a major pull that almost yanked the pole out of his hand. Got one! With the hair still blowing in his face, and all too often across his eyes as well, he did his best to pull in the fish. A big one! There was no doubt about it. Despite being hampered by his hair, he managed to get the thing in close enough to get his net under it. A brook trout! A real prize. They were very hard to catch.
“Do you need me to remove the hook for you?” Stan teased from a few yards away… as if he was fishing with a woman instead of Roger.
Roger smiled. “I think I can handle it. Two minutes later, he stuffed the large trout into his creel. He took the time to breathe in happily again. This was living! This was what life was all about! He and Stan smiled broadly at each other. They had both caught a fish – already! Life just couldn’t get any better than this. Unless you count not having to dress so stupidly to go fishing.
Janice was somewhat watching TV, but her eyes were mostly watching out the window. A large black SUV pulling into the driveway caught her eye. She had been watching for it. She glanced at the clock as she got up. Two minutes before two o’clock. Susan’s messenger was certainly punctual. She grabbed the video camera and opened the front door as a Chinese man approached the steps.
She handed over the whole camera, but instead of leaving the man started manipulating the thing and very quickly removed the small squared memory cared. Then, with a slight bow toward her, he ceremoniously handed the camera back to Janice. Without speaking a single word, he turned and left.
“What’s for dinner tonight?”
Janice was so taken aback by the question spoken over the phone the way it was, that she barely knew how to answer. “Candy?” she asked, since the speaker hadn’t even bothered to say hello.
Roger nearly laughed. Despite the way he was dressed, he felt nothing but jubilant… and great! “We’ve got a bunch of trout, fresh from the stream… if you’re interested,” Roger replied happily.
Janice was still trying to collect herself. Fresh fish? She had really been planning on preparing something else for dinner. But with fish that fresh, she had a slight problem. “Um… Candy… I’m afraid I’m not sure how to cook fish very well. I don’t serve it often.”
“If you can handle making something to go with it, Stan and I will put the fish on the grill. That’s what we usually do after a lot after our trips.”
His friend Stan was with him… and would most likely be coming to the house. She had to be careful what she said. “So this is a common occurrence for you?” Janice asked.
“Somewhat,” Roger replied. “We do it a lot.”
“Very well, Candy. I’ll prepare some vegetables, if you and your friend can manage with the fish.”
“Great!” Roger replied. “We’ll be back in about half an hour.”
Janice put her phone down. Roger had sounded all too happy on the phone. And his friend Stan was coming for dinner again. Obviously, his friend Stan wasn’t all that put off by having to deal with Candy all day instead of Roger. Still, as much as she detested the killing of pour little fish, fresh fish for dinner wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. She quickly got her mind started on figuring out what to prepare to go with the fish.
The grill was without a doubt one of the cheaper ones on the market. And it was several years old at that. Roger had to pull it out of his workshop and set it up on the lawn. Now it was filled with a pile of charcoal that was glowing brightly. Together, Roger and Stan spread the charcoal out along the entire bottom of the grill and Stan put the grate in place while Roger grabbed the fish that was now ready to put on it. A few moments later, the entire surface of the grill was covered with fresh trout that had been gutted and cleaned back at the stream. It wasn’t long before the aroma was gently filling the air.
Despite the way he was dressed, and despite his stupid hair continually blowing in his face, and despite having to reach up to move the hair back all too often, Roger found himself forgetting about the way he was dressed as he relaxed and enjoyed being with Stan. In many ways, the day had gone much like things had gone in the past… including right now. And despite the way he was dressed, it had been without a doubt – the best day he’d had in a very long time.
And because of that, despite how hopeless his situation was, Roger felt nothing but hope for his future.
Stan batted the fishing jokes back and forth with Roger. The only thing he missed just then was having a beer in his hand. Unfortunately, Roger’s housekeeper hadn’t stocked the refrigerator with that necessity since she had moved in. But no matter, this had been the best day he could remember in quite a while. Yeah, Roger was dressed so stupidly it was almost unthinkable. But if he totally ignored the way he looked, his old friend Roger was definitely back. The two of them had enjoyed a great afternoon of fishing, and now the two of them were simply enjoying each other’s company as they grilled their catches of the day.
And despite the absolutely bizarre direction Roger was now heading with his life, Stan felt nothing but hopeful that their friendship could continue… because that friendship had been strained lately in ways he simply couldn’t believe. But underneath the dumb makeup and wig that Roger was wearing, his old friend was still there. And because of that, somehow, Stan felt nothing but hopeful about the future.
The messenger that Susan Wu had sent to retrieve the video memory card from Janice hadn’t been based in Georgia at all. The messenger she had sent had departed from a small town not far from where she and her father resided – just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Just about the last place anyone would think to look for an enterprise such as theirs. Which was part of the reason their fortress like mansion had been built there. So it was only a matter of hours before the card had been delivered, and not long after, Susan was sitting at her desk watching the video on her computer.
Janice had already told her everything she had been interested in before, but after watching the video the first time, she now knew the reason why Janice had been so insistent in making sure that Susan would honor the bargain they had struck in Chattanooga. And because of the amount of money involved, Susan realized that she may have made a mistake.
She did her best to put the money out of her head for a while as she concentrated on other details. Nothing missed her attention at all… not the slightest little detail. There was no doubt that Janice had delivered everything she had hoped for… and then some! Not only that, but Janice had taken the time to document it all on the video. The few details that Janice had dug out… the few questions that she had asked, were all the pertinent information she really needed. What fascinated her the most, was watching Halifax’s face as he answered all the questions. There was no doubt in her mind that Janice controlled him completely. She couldn’t even imagine what that must be like for Halifax… but after watching the video, she only hoped that it brought him nothing but total horror!
After reviewing the tape one more time, she quickly thought about the major issues she needed to deal with next. The real killer, Jacob Vesper, had to be found and dealt with right away! There was never any doubt that once her people located him, she herself would be there for his final punishment. She owed him that!
Then there was the case of Joseph Halifax. Janice had promised to find some way to punish him severely. She had no idea what Janice had in mind, but if she didn’t think it was good enough, then she planned on doing some very nasty things to him as well. She was more inclined just then to handle Halifax herself… once Janice got through with him.
And of course she needed to finalize that one issue about the doctor that she told Janice she would handle. What she had planned on was going to cost her big! Very big! But she figured that the price was probably worth it for what Janice had just delivered to her – information she and her people had been totally unable to come up with themselves. Still… it was going to cost her a lot of money.
And then there was the other big issue that now faced her. She had made a mistake. Sixteen point five million mistakes! And she had just confirmed with Janice that she would honor their bargain. But with that much money involved, money that would be so easy to get, what would her father say?
Thinking about her father, she got up and left her office to cross the hall towards his door. She knocked softly.
“Enter daughter,” the voice from inside called.
Susan opened the door to her father’s office. The room was filled with dark rich opulence… some Chinese, some from other parts of the world. Her father, as usual, was seated behind his desk. He was a small man, and ageing now, but he was perhaps the wisest man she had ever met. And… she worshiped him. She bowed slightly. “Hello, father.”
“Daughter,” Mr. Wu said with a slight wave of his hand. “Please… sit down.”
Susan stayed right where she was instead of moving toward the chairs. “I just finished reviewing the video we got from Janice Stokley.”
“And?” her father asked.
“And there’s no doubt in my mind that what Janice told me is the truth. Joseph Halifax hired Jacob Vesper to kill Leila.”
Her father nodded slowly as he considered that. “So what are your plans, daughter?”
She smiled. “I think you can pretty well guess.”
Mr. Wu smiled. “I’m sure you will handle it all in your usual efficient style.”
Now it was Susan’s turn to smile. But her face turned all too serious right afterwards. “I fear, father, that I may have made a small mistake with Janice.”
Mr. Wu was surprised. “And what is that?”
“The deal I made with her. And now I know exactly why she was so insistent on confirming what I told her when we met.”
“And I’d like you to see the video she sent for yourself and give me your advice.”
Her father looked at her dubiously for a few moments before nodding. “Very well.” Without another word, he got up from his desk and followed Susan into her office across the hall. He didn’t bother pulling up a chair, he simply stood behind her and stared at her computer screen as she replayed the video once again. And when the video ended, he didn’t move from that position. He stood there behind her, thinking carefully about everything he had just seen.
“What do you think?” Susan asked, not looking back at her father. “Sixteen and a half million dollars is a lot of money – no matter how you look at it. Do I still honor my agreement with Janice… or do I kill her instead… save us even more money.”
Mr. Wu was silent for a very long time, not moving, only considering the best course of action. Finally, he moved around her desk, heading in the direction of the door. He stopped though, not far from the front of her desk, and turned back to his daughter. “I think…” he began slowly and carefully, “that Janice Stokley’s abilities would be a very good addition to our catalog of services. “I think…” he said again before pausing again, “that in the future, she could potentially bring us far more money than the few million dollars you are currently concerned with. That is…” he said before pausing once more, “if she can be persuaded to fully become one of our services. “I believe,” he said, and paused again, “that you should concentrate your efforts on insuring that her services… and loyalty to us… are things that will always remain paramount in whatever she does in the future. Otherwise…” He shrugged. “We may have to determine if it would be wiser for us to have her simply remain a client… or kill her.” He smiled before he walked out. “Goodnight, daughter.”