By Karen Singer
Chapter 1 (Part 1 of 2)
“But Momma,” Carol complained, “I don’t know what else to do! There’s just not much around here!”
Janice Stokley listened to her daughter’s voice over the phone and realized that her daughter was limited in what she was capable of arranging from where she was. “I’ve only got a little more than a week left, Honey. We need to think of something. Otherwise, you know it’s going to take that much longer.”
“I know Momma, I’ve been trying! But I’m all out of ideas.”
Janice thought for a few moments. Things were getting desperate! It was time to start grasping at straws. “How about that math teacher of yours? Are you still seeing him after school?”
“Yes. You said he was helping you. Is he married?”
Carol thought about it. “I don’t think so, but I really don’t know for sure. I think I remember there was some talk a while back about him dating Miss White, the art teacher here, but I haven’t heard any more about it for a while now. So I guess… he’s probably not married. And I think I heard recently that Miss White was seen out with one of the other teachers, so he’s probably not going with her anymore.”
“Okay,” Janice replied, “that at least sounds a little promising. Tell you what, can you still borrow your friend’s car?”
“Michelle’s car? I think so. She’s let me borrow it before.”
“Good. Then here’s what I want you to do….”
Roger Brinkley finished grading the last of his student’s tests and shoved the whole stack into his expandable case that he used every day. His last class had ended an hour earlier and the county High School building was quiet and felt empty. He grabbed his case, closed the door to his classroom behind him, and headed out to his car. The cold mid-March wind that assailed him did little to forecast the usual blistering summer that would be blanketing Georgia a few months from now. As he drove out of the parking lot, he didn’t notice the car that was following him.
He turned onto the main road that ran right though the center of the small northeastern Georgia town and followed the twisting rural highway out through the small city area and out into the rural countryside. Ten minutes later, he turned off onto a smaller country road. Five minutes after that, he slowed down and turned into a long dirt driveway that ran up to his house. He pressed the garage door opener before he got there and drove straight in, pressing the button again to close the garage door behind him. Grabbing his case, he hurried inside.
Carol continued past his house till she could no longer see it, then she pulled to the side of the road and stopped. She looked around. Nothing but trees… and no traffic. Feeling safe enough, she got out of the car and walked cautiously back toward the house. The house sat on a fairly large lot that was surrounded on three sides by trees. She realized that as she had driven past, she hadn’t seen any other houses along the road for quite a ways. It looked just like many of the other remote houses in this part of the country.
Hiding just inside the tree line, she moved ever closer, till finally, she ran out and hid up against the side of the house itself.
The outside of the house looked more than a bit worn and was hurting for a decent coat of paint. She cautiously moved to the front of the house and the first window she came to. Standing on her toes, she was just able to peer inside. What she saw surprised her. She saw nothing but bare board walls, totally unfinished. She ran to the next window and looked in there too – the same thing! Two rooms that were totally gutted!
The sound of a door closing at the back of the house scared her into motionless silence, but after a few moments, she relaxed and continued her tour.
She jumped up onto the small cement porch to look into the next window and got another surprise. From what she could see of the living room through the small break in the curtains, the furnishings looked to be fairly modern, a stark contrast to not only the unfinished rooms but also to the drab looking exterior of the house. To her, the furnishings appeared to be a bit sparse, but otherwise it all looked fairly nice.
She hurried around to the side of the one-car garage and ran down the length of the building, cautiously watching for any sign of anyone else around. There didn’t appear to be any windows in the garage at all, but there was one near the very back of the house. It was fairly high, but by jumping, she could just see into the kitchen. She couldn’t see it well, but she got the impression that it looked fairly nice too. Even the few quick looks she got by jumping brought the impression of “new” about the kitchen.
Turning the corner to the back of the house, she noticed a large building in the yard a good distance away from the house. To her it looked like an old garage or a barn of some sort. Noticing that the side door to that building was open, she quickly ran to the far side of the house where she was less likely to be seen before continuing to look in the windows. This time she saw a bedroom. And again, the room looked fairly nice. Not huge and not a lot of furniture, but at least it was finished.
A tiny, frosted window was next. Bathroom, she guessed.
A loud noise from the building in the back grabbed her attention and she ran back to the rear corner to look. The noise ended, then a moment later, it came again. She couldn’t figure out what it was. She moved closer to the backyard and glanced around. She saw nobody. The coast seemed to be clear. She hurried over to the outbuilding and peered into one of the few windows. There he was, Mr. Brinkley. He was dressed in jeans and an old work shirt. As she watched, he grabbed a long board from a stack and carried it over to one of the machines inside. He measured the board, made a mark with the pencil from his shirt pocket, then he started the machine – the noise she had heard before. A second later, the board was cut in half.
She left him to his work and ran back to the main house. Did she dare look inside? What if he was married? She didn’t think he was but she didn’t know for sure. But her Momma…. Throwing caution to the wind, she ran up the back steps to the small wooden deck and opened the back door.
She found herself in the laundry room. The washer and dryer looked fairly new. There was a closet next to them and hooks for coats along the opposite wall. The kitchen was next, the impression she had gotten earlier about everything looking fairly nice was quickly confirmed. The appliances all looked new and there was even a table with four chairs in the room as well. But she dared not linger to look closer.
She hurried through the house, glancing into every room as quickly as possible. Most of the inside of the house looked fairly nice. Much of it looked new. But there were still those two rooms that remained completely gutted. She guessed that he was probably rebuilding the house… fixing it up.
She hurried out the front door before he could discover that she had been there and went back to her car. She knew enough. It was time to go home and wait for Momma’s phone call.
Janice smiled at the prison guard like she always did before she entered the room with the telephones. The guards didn’t usually spend much time listening in on conversations, but she still tried to be as careful as possible. She was praying that Carol would have good news for her today, and if so, then today she would have to be more careful than ever.
She dialed the number she had memorized over a year ago. She heard the operator asking the woman who answered if she would accept the charges – fortunately, she always did… but then she should, the woman was getting reimbursed for all these calls by Janice’s lawyer. “Hello, Mrs. Faye. . . . Yes, I’m doing fine. Looking forward to getting out of here. It can’t be soon enough for me. Is Carol there? . . . Yes, I’ll wait.”
Janice had never seen the foster home that her daughter now lived in, but Carol had said that it was okay – but mostly just annoying. Janice didn’t doubt it for a moment. It was only a minute till she heard someone picking up the phone again.
“Hi Honey,” Janice said cheerily. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, Momma.”
Janice dropped her voice. “Can you talk?”
Carol looked around. She was alone. “Yes,” she replied softly. “No problem.”
“Good Honey. What did you find out?” As Janice listened to her daughter, her hopes began to rise. It didn’t sound as good as she would have liked, and there were some definite problems, but still, it sounded as if it might be workable. “You’re sure of all this?”
“Yes! And like I said, I even went through his house, so I saw it all myself.”
“Excellent!” Janice replied. She had to stop to think a moment… to decide. Time was running out and she didn’t want to waste even more time unnecessarily. She hated certain aspects of what they would have to do, but desperate was desperate. She made her decision to move forward. “Okay, Honey, now it’s time for you to be the brave and resourceful daughter I raised you to be. Are you ready?”
“I can do this, Momma. I hate him anyway!”
“Why dear? I thought he was helping you?”
“He is… sort of. I just hate algebra, that’s all! Why do I have to learn something I’m never going to use?”
Janice could have given her daughter lots of reasons… millions of reasons… literally, but it was probably better if Carol continued to hate him. Besides, her math teacher was a man and Janice had no decent use for any man! If this wasn’t so important, she would have avoided this plan like the plague! “We’ll worry about that after we get past all this. Besides, if you do this right, you won’t ever have to worry about failing his class.”
“All the more reason I have to do this!” Carol declared firmly. “I hate him, Momma! I can do this. I’m ready! I want to do this!”
“I know, Honey,” Janice replied with a small smile on her face. She dropped her voice to almost a whisper, “Now, here’s some things you need to think about….”
Roger’s last class ended and he watched the student’s hurrying out. School was over for the day. He had no tests to grade, but he still couldn’t go home yet. Twice a week he stayed behind to offer extra help to any students who might be interested. Lately though, the only one who regularly showed up was Carol Stokley – when she bothered to show up.
Carol had transferred to the school last year and was now in her Junior year, but she just couldn’t seem to understand the concepts behind how to do the work. And if she didn’t pass his course, then she would be a Junior again next year too. But she was desperate not to fail his class and more desperate not to stay behind in school.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t smart, in fact, Roger had the impression that she was very smart. It was more like she had somehow learned it all backwards… most likely because of some lousy math teacher in the past who didn’t give a damn. Carol was capable of doing the work, but there were just so many things she seemed to have learned wrong, that consequently, she was struggling horribly. She was getting better, but despite the fact that she usually met with him once or twice a week, it was still very slow going.
He glanced at the clock, she was later than usual. He’d wait a bit more for her, knowing that sometimes the kids got delayed with their friends. Of course, it wasn’t unusual for her to not show up at all. He continued to wait, the noise from the building emptying out slowly abated and everything got quiet once again. Just as he was about to give up on her, she walked in and closed the door behind her.
“There you are. I was just about to give up and go home,” he said. There was something about the smile that she gave him then that sent a tiny chill down his spine.
Instead of taking a seat at one of the desks in the front row, she walked up and leaned across his desk toward him. Very softly but clearly she spoke. “I’m about to blow the whistle on you. When I walk out of here today, I’m going to tell the police that you raped me in here!”
“I what?” He was startled beyond belief. “Don’t even joke about such a thing!”
“Oh, I’m not joking,” she replied as she stood up straight again, a wicked smile back on her face.
“You know perfectly well that I’ve never touched you… nor am I interested in ever touching you.”
“But you see, that doesn’t matter. Everybody knows we’ve been meeting here for quite some time now. It’s only natural that they’d believe me. And I know how to be very convincing!”
He was so shocked he couldn’t think straight. “You wouldn’t!”
“Oh, I not only would… I’m going to! Unless…”
She leaned back over his desk towards him again. “Unless you agree to do absolutely anything I tell you to do… no questions asked!”
She stood up again and shrugged her shoulders. “Well, we’ll just have to see what comes up.”
“This is crazy! You can’t do this!”
“Oh, but I can. Believe me, I can. And no matter what you say, there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
“This isn’t right! It’s not fair!”
“It’s not supposed to be fair.”
“They won’t believe you!”
“We’ve already been through that. You know they will. In this kind of situation, they always believe the student.”
He knew it was true. He had just never believed that something like this could happen to him. And even if he was eventually found innocent, the scandal alone would get him fired. “This is blackmail!”
She just shrugged. “That… and probably a lot more.”
“You want money?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No, not really.”
“Like I said, I want you to agree to do anything and everything I tell you to do. No complaining, no questions, no putting it off. You do what I order, or you go to jail. And I’ll bet you really wouldn’t like jail very much, would you!”
No, he wouldn’t. His whole life would be gone. Everything! “So if I agree to do what you want, you won’t press charges… or even mention this?”
“Not as long as you behave yourself.” She giggled a bit. She had him and she knew it.
“Okay,” he replied. “So what do you want me to do?”
The smile left her face. “Let’s get this straight. Are you, or are you not agreeing with my terms?”
He stared back at her for a moment, anger seething within him. It was all bogus! It was all a lie! Yet there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. Frustrated, he threw his hands up in the air. “Okay! I agree!”
“Say it! Say it out loud that you agree to do whatever I tell you to do!”
“Okay! I agree to do whatever you tell me to do!”
She nodded. “Good. Now that we’ve got that straight… let’s start with some simple tests. Stand up.”
Exasperated and having little choice, he pushed his chair back and stood up.
“Move around to the side of your desk,” she ordered.
He walked around and stood next to his desk. She moved over to stand in front of him.
“Give me your cell phone.”
“No questions!” she yelled.
He reached into the pocket of his sport jacket and pulled his cell phone out and handed it to her.
She opened his phone and looked over it. Yes! It was a fairly old one, but it had a camera – perfect. She looked back up at him. “Now we’re going to do something to seal the deal. Drop your pants!”
“What?” he exclaimed angrily, not believing what she had just told him to do.
Carol put a very disappointed look on her face, hoisted her bag to her shoulder, she set his phone down on one of the desks, and started walking out. “I’m sure the police are going to be very interested,” she said without looking back.
Roger could almost feel the handcuffs being slapped on his wrists as he watched her leave his classroom. In disbelief, he quickly followed her. The part that disturbed him now, was that she didn’t head for the door to go outside. Instead, she headed the opposite direction, down the hall toward the school office. He followed her, but at a distance. She turned the corner, still heading for the office. He followed, but he couldn’t make himself go any further than that corner. She never even looked back at him. He couldn’t believe it! She was really going to do it! She was really going to report him to the school… and they would immediately have to call the police! It was bogus! Totally bogus! And there wasn’t anything he could do about it. Never pausing, he saw her reach out to grab the handle of the door leading into the office. He had visions of being harshly arrested and thrown into jail – where he didn’t belong and didn’t want to be. His whole life would be over! He’d never be able to teach again! “Okay. I’ll do it,” he called.
She stopped, her hand still holding the handle of the door. She looked back at him but she made no move to come back.
“I’ll do it,” he said again, totally exasperated with the situation.
She turned and slowly made her way back toward him, never once taking her eyes away from his eyes. When she got close, she stopped. “I’ll do it,” he said again. The expression on her face never changed. To him, she still looked angry. He turned and headed back toward his classroom. He didn’t look, but he knew she was following somewhere behind.