By Karen Singer
Chapter 9 (Part 1 of 3)
Roger heard his old alarm clock ringing. Of course, he was naked, sleeping on the bathroom floor, chained to the toilet, while the alarm clock was in the master bedroom – next to his old bed. He opened his eyes. The house was still dark! He had no idea what time it was, but he could hear her stirring already. He pulled the bath towel off of him that he had been using for a blanket and got to his feet. The door to the master bedroom suddenly opened.
“Time to get ready, Mr. Brinkley.,” she called from still inside the room. “Are you awake?”
“Yes,” he replied, still wiping the sleep from his eyes. “What time is it?”
“Early!” was her only reply.
The bedroom door closed again. He turned on the light so he could see what he was doing and started getting washed and shaved for work. It was probably a good half hour later when she opened the bedroom door again. She was fully dressed. She unlocked the cuff on his ankle, freeing him from the chain that held him in the main bathroom all night. “Hurry and get dressed, Mr. Brinkley. I have things to do today.”
She followed him into the unfinished room where he had stacked all his clothes. He searched around a bit and finally picked up a pair of his old underwear.
“Panties! Mr. Brinkley. Not those ugly things. In fact…” She walked over and took the underwear from him. Then, noticing a pile of it on the floor. She gathered every pair she could find into her arms. “Panties from now on, Mr. Brinkley… and bras too!” Then she left, carrying his underwear out with her – his old underwear.
She was back again a few minutes later. He had managed to get the last new bra with a small cup size on, but he was struggling to adjust the straps so they would be tight. She turned him around and did it for him. He was tempted to say thank you, but he stopped himself. He wasn’t about to thank her for making him wear the damn thing!
“No pantyhose or stockings?” she asked as he continued getting ready.
He looked shocked. “What for? Isn’t what I’m wearing enough?”
She merely shrugged. “I’m just surprised, that’s all.”
He was glad she didn’t push that issue any further. She left him while he finished getting dressed. He found her a little while later out in the kitchen. She had poured two bowls of cereal and had made coffee. He was actually grateful. “You went grocery shopping yesterday,” he noted, trying to find something to say.
“Of course. You don’t think I’d let Carol eat all her meals from Burger King, do you? I saw all the bags in the trash.”
“She’s a kid,” was his only reply.
“Yes, and growing all too fast. It seems like only yesterday when she was a little girl playing with her dolls.”
When breakfast was over, she cleared the table. Then she handed him his cell phone back again. “Make whatever arrangements you need to for the materials. As you suggested, we’ll leave the garage door open, but if I’m back before any of them arrive I’ll watch out for them. I put both my new number and Carol’s phone number in there for you, Mr. Brinkley, so you can call either of us if you need to. I also left some of the pictures that Carol took of you. You might want to review them and think about what they represent. Let them remind you that your only ticket to freedom is doing whatever I want.”
As she drove him to school, the streets were mostly empty. “You might want to mention to a few people at school that you’ve hired me as your housekeeper. It will look much more natural then when I come by to collect you or Carol.” She pulled up to the school. “It doesn’t look open yet,” she noted.
“It probably isn’t. It’s still awfully early.”
“You’ll just have to wait then. I have an appointment in Atlanta I can’t miss.” She reached into her purse and pulled out his wallet. She handed him a ten dollar bill. “I’ll see you after school, Mr. Brinkley. Have a good day.”
Roger watched her driving off in his car. She still had his wallet, but at least he had his cell phone back again. Not that it would do him much good. Since he couldn’t get into the school building, he pulled his phone out along with his list of materials. The building supply stores opened very early. He started ordering his supplies.
“You can go in now, Mrs. Stokley,” the receptionist said.
Janice thanked her and opened the door to her lawyer’s office. “Hello, Mrs. Branson,” she said as she walked in.
“Janice!” her lawyer returned with a big smile on her face. “Welcome back! How is everything?”
“So far, so good. I’ve taken a housekeeping position for now. My big problem though, is that I need to get my daughter back as soon as possible. But Carol’s case worker won’t release her to me until some of the rooms in the house are finished. That’s going to take a few days I’m afraid.”
The lawyer nodded. “Is there any way I can help with your daughter?”
“Any help you can give me there would be appreciated. Her case worker is a Mr. Fitch.” She pulled a piece of paper out of her purse. “And here’s his phone number.”
“Fine,” her lawyer said. “I’ll call him in a little while.” She looked back up at Janice. “So you took a housekeeping position? I’m surprised. That’s not your usual line of work.”
Janice shrugged. “It’s a temporary but necessary position for now. In the meantime, I need my things. Do you have them?”
Mrs. Branson pulled a large closed envelope out of her desk. “It’s all here. The keys to the storage room and everything else you need. I’m afraid there isn’t much there, just clothes mostly and the few things you specified. Your instructions did say that I should sell your house and everything else to pay all your expenses. The locker is paid up for the next three months so you won’t have to worry about that right away. Your bank account information is in there also, but of course, after all the fees, there’s very little left.”
Janice smiled as she took the envelope. “I understand. I’m just grateful for what you’ve done.”
The lawyer frowned. “Mrs. Stokley, I’m still angry about what was done to you. I have no doubt in my mind that you were set up. I just don’t see you selling drugs.”
“I’ve never had anything at all to do with drugs in my life!” Janice replied. “Somebody planted them there just to get at me. And I’m not sure, but I have my suspicions as to who it was!”
Her lawyer nodded. “Just don’t get any foolish ideas. You just got out of prison. You don’t want to go back again!”
The bank account didn’t have much in it, but Janice withdrew a thousand dollars, mostly because anyone looking for her would expect her to. Then she went in search of the storage locker. Her lawyer’s office had been in downtown Atlanta. She had to travel a short way back up the interstate to get to the suburb of the city where she used to live. She found the storage company easily since it was located fairly near the highway.
Inside, she found a jumble of professionally packed boxes. With no way to know what was in each one, she used one of the car keys to cut tape and began going through them. She didn’t want to take much, just a few clothes she wanted. She left all of Carol’s old clothes alone. Carl was older and bigger now than when these clothes had been left behind. She found her old computer in one of the boxes and left it alone as well. It would have to be gotten rid of. There was no incriminating evidence at all on the thing, but she still wouldn’t ever touch it again. There was always that small chance that the FBI had planted some kind of bug in the thing to track what she was doing.
She continued searching through boxes until she found the one other thing she was looking for – her old photo albums. Selecting three, and one in particular, she closed the box they had been in and loaded everything she had taken into her car.
Once the storage locker was closed and secure again, she went directly to the local Wal-Mart. Once inside, she purchased a pair of rubber boots, a small camping shovel, a trendy backpack with the logo from the University of Georgia on it, and two cheap pre-paid cell phones. Then she got back into the car to head north.
The scenery in this part of the country was spectacular. It was just barely spring, but already she could see the trees beginning to come back to life. The area was one of her favorites in the fall. She, along with millions of other tourists, often drove the roads just to see the colorful fall leaves of the Smokey Mountains.
The State Park was a bit of a drive, but once past the Atlanta area the traffic thinned. She only wished she was driving a better car so she could enjoy the ride more. Well, that problem would be corrected tomorrow!
Once she reached the State Park, she began checking in earnest for any signs that she had been followed. She seriously doubted that the FBI would be on her case so soon, but she was a very careful person. She had to be! She took several turns and backtracked a few times. She stopped at a few overlooks and got out to view the scenery, but mostly, she was watching the other cars in the park. She was relieved to see no sign at all that she was being followed. Back in the car again, she drove to a remote section of the park and easily found the little parking area she had been searching for. The only thing near it was a hiking trail.
She took her shoes off and replaced them with the rubber boots. All the spring rain had left the area very muddy. The boots were a necessity. She selected one of the photo albums she had taken from the storage facility and put it into the backpack along with the little shovel. Throwing the backpack over one shoulder, she headed up the trail. Ten minutes later, she stopped and checked for any sign at all that someone might be following her. As she had expected, she was alone. She pulled the photo album out and found the series of pictures where she and her daughter had once travelled this trail before. The pictures were all of Carol, but each picture was taken either near a special landmark that she could look for or at a fork in the path. And in each picture, Carol was subtly posed in such a way as to point out which direction she needed to go.
It was a long walk, but she had always enjoyed hiking through the forests. The walk was made all that much more enjoyable by reliving all the fond moments through the pictures of her daughter. She took her time as she walked, constantly watching for signs of anyone else in the area. As she had hoped, since it wasn’t a weekend and there would be less people out for exercise, she was alone. Half an hour later, she spotted the boulder where the Carol in the picture had been sitting on with her left arm crooked, her elbow pointing to the right. She glanced around again and made sure that she was still alone. She left the trail and headed deep into the woods.
As per her map of pictures, she went over a little hill, then down into a little gully behind that was well hidden from view on all sides. She found the spot she was looking for and set the shovel and bag on the ground. She had to move several rocks out of the way to clear the spot. Then she began digging. It took a little while, but eventually, she uncovered a large plastic container. She uncovered the lid completely and undid the plastic fastening locks on it that kept it sealed against the elements. Then she opened the lid. She smiled. Over a million dollars in neatly wrapped stacks greeted her. She had seven more caches like this one scattered all across the south.
She counted out half a million dollars – five hundred thousand, figuring that it should be enough to last her a little while. The good thing about this cache of money was that she knew for a fact that this money was all clean. Untraceable. For all the money in front of her, none of it was on any watch list. She couldn’t say that about some of her other caches. But then, she had plans for those other caches.
She covered the plastic container once again, sealing the lid and double checking it. Then she buried it and covered it with rocks and leaves again, trying to leave everything just the way she had found it. The University of Georgia backpack she was carrying was heavier now with the money in it, but she didn’t mind at all. The hike back to the car went quicker than the hike up the trail. Downhill was always so much easier.
Before getting back into the car, she removed the now muddy rubber boots she was wearing and carefully put them and the shovel into the large plastic Wal-Mart shopping bag that the store had placed them in when she had purchased them. The two cell phones she had bought at the time got removed from their packaging and went directly into her purse. She closed the shopping bag so that none of the mud could escape and wind up on the floor of the car. Only then did she get back into the car for the long drive home.
She stopped for lunch at a busy fast food chain along the interstate. But before she left the parking lot, the bag containing her muddy boots the shovel, and the packaging from the cell phones, found its way into the store’s dumpster. Only then did she resume her journey back to Roger’s house… or her house as she now thought of it. She made one last stop before arriving home, a large pet supply store that she had noticed along the way.
As she pulled the car into the dirt driveway of her new home, she was surprised to see a large truck backed up to the house. She continued on and parked the car in the middle of the lawn, well out of the way. The name of the building supply company was printed on the door of the truck. By the time she got out of the car, there was a man walking toward her with a clipboard in his hand.
“We’ve just finished unloading all this stuff into the garage like the order said we should,” the man said. “Do you want to sign for it?”
Janice took the clipboard from the man and looked at it. It was a long list – the same list she had gone over with Roger last night. “Everything is here?” she asked.
“All of it,” the man replied.
She walked to the garage. It was stuffed to overflowing inside and some of his materials were outside too. In the corner of the garage she noticed a small orange machine of some kind. She was guessing that it was the hoist he claimed that he needed. One by one, she started going down the list, asking the man to point each item out. She had to take his word on some things because she didn’t know one type of screw from the next. She also noticed that the orange colored hoist wasn’t on the list. Once she was satisfied that everything was there, she signed the paper and the man gave her a receipt. Then the truck left. Janice took one more quick look at all the building materials, including several huge stacks of wallboard. More than she thought the job should take. But then, what did she know about such things?
She grabbed the backpack of money from the car and went into the house. She hid most of the money in one of the dresser drawers along with her “burner” phones and threw some of the clothes she had gotten from the storage locker on top of them. It wasn’t a very good hiding place, but she would need time to find someplace better. She left the rest of the money in the backpack for now. She had plans for it later.