By Karen Singer
Chapter 11 (Part 2 of 2)
It was late afternoon when Janice and Carol were sitting in the living room watching an old movie on TV. In the background, Janice could hear the tiny sounds of progress being made by Roger in the bedrooms. Progress that would permanently reunite Carol with her once again. She couldn’t wait!
As she sat, she happened to glance up during one of the commercials to look through the large living room window out toward the road… and her breath caught in her throat. She saw very few cars drive by the house, and when they did, they were usually travelling fairly fast. But there was a car out there now, and it was stopped, out on the road, right in front of the house. Her bigger problem was… that she was fairly sure she recognized that car. It was the same car she had seen so many times over the last few years… before she had been sent to prison. It was the same car that FBI agent Ted Jacobs drove.
Anger and a bit of fear descended on her immediately. Her mind quickly remembered the money that was not very well hidden under the clothes in her dresser and she panicked a bit. But reasonable thinking quickly prevailed. The FBI had no reason to come into this house at all… at least not without a search warrant. And she wasn’t going to let them in without one. But she was fairly certain that Agent Jacobs out in that car didn’t have a search warrant. He had been hounding her unreasonably for many years now and had long ago become a major nuisance. He would show up at the most unreasonable times and just watch her from a distance. And it looked like he was up to his old tricks again. Damn the man!
Jacobs stopped in front of the house and looked at it closely. He checked the number on the mailbox once again. As far as he could tell, this was supposed to be the place where Janice Stokley had taken her housekeeping job. But obviously the damn Child Services agent had given him the wrong address! All he could see was a small battered old house… with an equally small and battered old car parked on the lawn out front instead of in the driveway… or the garage which was closed… and probably full of old rusting junk. This was not the kind of place that would need the services of a housekeeper!
Cursing, he punched the gas and drove further up the road to see if there were any better looking houses where Janice might be staying. He had tried entering the address in his GPS unit, but this far out, none of the houses were listed there at all. In fact, many of the roads weren’t even in there. So he was traveling completely by what little information he had been able to dig up… which was obviously wrong information!
Janice breathed a small sigh of relief as soon as she saw the car drive on again. But she gave up all pretense of watching the movie anymore, her eyes remained glued to the road out front of the house!
Jacobs drove quickly up the road for ten minutes before turning around and going back again. He almost missed the house as he drove past it, but he slowed down and stopped one more time to take a last look. No, Edward Fitch from Child Services had certainly given him some bad information and he was major pissed about it. Today was Sunday, his day off. He was coming out here on his own time to check on a criminal. And it didn’t help when a stupid civil servant couldn’t get his facts straight!
Janice saw the car come back again… and stop. She barely breathed for the few seconds it sat in front of the house. And then it was gone again… and she breathed. The money! If Agent Jacobs was up to his old tricks again, she had to find a way to protect her money. And just hiding it in the dresser drawer wasn’t going to work!
“Excuse me, dear,” she said softly to Carol. “I think I should just peek in and check on Mr. Brinkley.” Carl barely turned her head as she got up and left. Her mind on the money, she went first to her bedroom where she looked at the dresser the money was hidden in. But she didn’t bother opening it. She turned around and went across the hall and opened one of the doors to the area where Roger was working. She found him up on a small ladder, his head bent backwards as his drill quickly put a screw into the large sheet of wallboard that was being held in place against the ceiling by the orange hoist that dominated much of the room.
Once the screw was in place, Roger turned his head to see Janice standing in the doorway. His mind immediately became fearful that she would call him out for more… training.
“I just thought I’d see how you were coming along with things,” Janice explained as she stood in the doorway. Actually she wasn’t even sure why she was there. She was simply nervous because of Agent Jacobs. But seeing the big sheets of board now covering up most of the ceiling area was quite surprising. It was another major change.
“As you can see,” Roger said as he climbed off of the ladder. “I’m almost done with the ceilings now. After that, I can start on the walls. Tomorrow, I’ll call the rental company and have them pick up the hoist again.”
Janice nodded as she walked further into the room, still staring at the ceiling. Finally she looked all around. The room looked far different than it had a few days ago, even with just the insulation filling the walls. As she looked around, she noticed the obviously new boards that he had used to repair the floor. Something about that repair made her stare at it for a moment. As she finally moved her eyes again, the heating system in the house kicked on and out of the corner of her eye she noticed some dust kicked up by the floor vent further down the wall. She stared at that vent, then back to the repaired section of the floor.
“Excuse me, Mr. Brinkley, but exactly what is under the floor where you did the repair?”
Roger was a bit surprised by the question. “Just empty space… and the floor joists of course.”
She nodded, not quite sure what it was that she was considering. “Thank you, Mr. Brinkley. It’s looking quite good as far as I can tell.”
Despite himself, Roger replied, “Thanks. I’m trying.”
She nodded and walked out again, closing the door behind her to keep the dust and the noise away from the rest of the house. She wandered back to the living room where Carol was still watching TV… then back to her bedroom again where she sat on her bed and stared at the dresser that held all the money. How was she going to hide it? It had to be something that even the FBI wouldn’t be able to find if they searched the house. She strongly considered burying it outside in the woods, but she would rather have it handy if she needed it. Besides, she knew for a fact that in the future, she would have to go to that hiding place frequently and burying it in the woods wouldn’t work for that kind of access. So that left hiding it somewhere here in the house.
In the quiet of the room, she became aware of when the heating system turned itself off. Most of the time she never even realized when it went on or off, but she noticed it this time. She didn’t even know where the system was… nor did she really care. Her eyes did fall to the air grate in the floor though. Getting up from the bed, she went over to stare down into the darkness of the small grate. She couldn’t see anything inside. The grate was screwed down so she couldn’t pry it up. But that heating duct had her curious. She went back to the room where Roger was working – now putting screws in a different part of the same board up against the ceiling.
“Excuse me, Mr. Brinkley.”
Roger turned again, now more worried than ever that she wanted to do more “training” with him.
Janice walked over to the small vent in the floor. This one was not screwed in place. She pointed at the vent. “How big are the pipes that carry the air to these vents?”
Her question really surprised him. He climbed down off of his ladder and held his hands out about a foot apart. “About ten inches wide,” he told her. “Why? Is there a problem?”
She shook her head as she considered that. Ten inches. “Are they round or square under there?” she asked.
Why was she curious about the heating vents? “They’re square,” he replied, “but they’re only about four inches high. If you like, I can take you outside and you can see one under the house.”
“I’m not going to crawl underneath this house, Mr. Brinkley!”
“You won’t have to,” he replied. “You should be able to see a few of them from the side easily enough.”
Janice considered that, “Very well,” she replied.
“We’ll grab a flashlight from the laundry room,” Roger told her as he headed for the door, “so we can see under there better.”
Janice followed Roger into the laundry room where he grabbed a flashlight and then went out the door. It was threatening to rain again and the ground was very wet, but it wasn’t raining just then. Roger went to one of the panels that lined the bottom of the house and pried it up, then hefted the thing entirely off, leaving a gaping hole under the house.
Fearful of snakes or any other thing that might jump out of the darkness at her, Janice stood back a bit further and bent down to look inside.
Roger knelt down and turned his flashlight on. The beam quickly picked out a long grey metal shape. “There’s one of them,” he said as he held the light on the air duct.
Janice finally moved forward so she could see it better. What she saw was basically a long square box running out toward the side of the house where it turned and disappeared up into the floor from underneath. She stood back up. “Thank you, Mr. Brinkley.” Without another word of explanation, she left him and went back into the house.
Mystified, Roger closed up the hole and went back to working on the bedroom.
Janice again sat on her bed and stared at the heating grate in her room. How hot did those things get? She was fairly sure it didn’t get hot enough to actually catch anything on fire, so that wasn’t going to be a problem. Could she somehow hide the money in the heating system? But as she stared at the grate, she realized it that it was so small, she could barely get her hand inside of the thing. No, she was going to have to come up with a better solution.
She went back out to sit with Carol in front of the TV. But she barely glanced at what was on. Most of the time her eyes looked out the window toward the road… while her mind was occupied with how to hide the money. She was smart enough to realize that when it came to this house, she might be the housekeeper, but she wasn’t the expert. But the real expert on the house was only a few steps away. But the discussion she needed to have with him was going to have to wait… at least until after Carol had left for the evening.
It was pitch dark as Roger carefully maneuvered the orange hoist out the front door and down the steps. The only light he really had to work by was the dim glow of the light over the door. But it was enough. As he finally got the thing down the final step, headlights turned into his driveway and he heard his garage door open. He watched as Janice drove the new Cadillac into the garage. But instead of the garage door closing again, she walked outside instead.
“I see you’ve finally finished with that thing, Mr. Brinkley,” she said as she walked toward him.
“Actually,” he replied. “I finished with it earlier this afternoon. I just didn’t want to leave it out in the rain.”
“So what are you going to do with it?”
“Well, I was hoping to put it in the garage now that you’re back.”
“And what time do you think they’ll pick it up tomorrow?”
Roger shook his head. “No telling. It could be anytime.”
“I won’t be here all day tomorrow. I have shopping to do and errands to run.”
Roger had been afraid of that. “I guess I can leave it here and throw a tarp over it to protect it,” he finally decided.
“Whatever you need, Mr. Brinkley. But when you’re done, I need to have a word with you please.” She didn’t wait for an answer, but went directly into the house instead.
Roger stared after her for a moment. “A word” didn’t sound good at all. He could suddenly feel that dog collar of hers tightly encircling his neck again.
When Roger finished, he went back into the house and finally found her at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. There was a mug of coffee in front of the chair he usually sat in across the table from her.
“Sit down, Mr. Brinkley,” she told him. “I’ve poured some coffee for you.”
Despite himself, he told her thanks as he sat down… warily… in the chair.
“I’m afraid I have a problem,” she said as he picked up his cup.
Roger’s first thought was, “Good!” But even as he thought that, he worried more about himself.
“And it’s a problem that I’m going to need your help to solve.”
Roger wasn’t at all sure he wanted to help her, but he said nothing.
Janice waited a moment before continuing. “As you know, I have a great deal of money in this house right now. And unfortunately, it’s not very well hidden.”
Roger clearly remembered the money she had managed to get his blood all over a few days ago. Money he wasn’t the least bit interested in ever seeing again.
“I’m afraid that there are certain… people… who are very interested in that money.”
Roger immediately thought about other criminals… shadowy and dangerous figures who he had no doubt would want to steal it for themselves.
“What I need from you, Mr. Brinkley, is a way to help me hide it better… in this house.”
Roger was about to ask what was wrong with where it was now, but he suddenly remembered her odd interest in the heating ducts under the house. “That’s why you were interested in the heating system this afternoon.”
She nodded her head. “Yes, exactly. Unfortunately, the ducts in the floor are too small for me to get very much into… and I have no doubt at all that someone… let’s say someone like the FBI, will have no trouble at all finding it there.”
Her mention of the FBI suddenly brought things into an entirely different light.
“I need something better,” she continued. “Something more secure, and something no one will be able to find. And unfortunately, I’m going to need something I can easily get into over and over again as the need arises.”
Roger drank his coffee for a few moments while he took that all in. “You want the perfect hiding place.”
“Exactly, Mr. Brinkley. And you know this house and how it’s built better than I do. So unfortunately, against everything I’d rather do, I’m forced to ask for your help.”
Roger realized that she was as averse to asking for his help as he was to giving it to her. But could he refuse to help her at all? He briefly thought about all that money he had counted… and gotten his blood on. And the fact that there was little chance the FBI wouldn’t blame him for the robbery instead of her… especially since it was here in his house. No matter what, he still had hopes of somehow getting out of this mess and never going to jail at all.
But did he want to help her? After everything she had already done to him? And she was still threatening to do worse? He was both not wanting to help her… and afraid not to. But he soon realized that she had only asked for his help – she hadn’t ordered him to do it. So maybe… After pausing to consider it further, he plucked up his courage. “If I help you,” he began, “then I want something in return.”
Janice was totally taken by surprise. What also surprised her was that he had managed to come up with the will power to defy her at all. But then, at this stage in the game that was still a distinct possibility. It would take many more training sessions with him until the compulsions would become entirely permanent and he would never even think of being so bold. But even still, as little as she had worked with him already, she knew that only one or two of her victims had been able to break through her training… even a little. Obviously he was going to be another one. Yet… it amused her. With a rather obvious smirk on her face, she replied, “Let me get this straight, Mr. Brinkley… you’re trying to bargain with me?”
Praying it wouldn’t get him in more trouble, he answered. “Yes!”
“I see,” Janice replied, still somewhat amused. “You know of course, I can easily compel you to do anything I want. Absolutely anything! Perhaps you need to spend a few days living as a dog… day and night… to convince you.”
Roger fully remembered being forced to act like Carol’s pet dog last night, and the threat immediately frightened him. There had been no way for him to not do as she willed. But even knowing that, he still tried to stick up for himself. “If you do that, then I doubt you’ll get my best work, which is what I’m betting you really need. You might force me to come up with something, but there’s no way it will be as good as if I have a more… personal motivation.”
Janice’s eyebrows went up at his reply. She paused to consider his words. Unfortunately, while she could easily force… or compel… him to do what she wanted, she also knew that he was right. He wouldn’t necessarily come up with the best solution for her that way. His brain also wouldn’t exactly be working at its best. And the more she worked with him, the worse his thinking would probably get. It was a very fine line she was treading with that already. And he was right, with a bit of motivation he would probably come up with something much better.
She stared at him for a long time before she asked. “What is it that you want, Mr. Brinkley?”
Roger didn’t know whether to breathe a sigh of relief or not. “I want the grey wall to go away,” he replied. “I want all my free will back again.”
Janice shook her head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Brinkley, but I absolutely cannot do that. That is for Carol’s and my protection. That point will be non-negotiable I’m afraid. No matter what!”
Roger’s face hardened at that as he stared back at her. It was the darn compulsion to do her will… and his inability to fight back that bothered him the most. And he knew perfectly well that if she ordered him to do this he would… but he also knew that whatever he wound up doing for her he would purposely try to do something that would be second rate… at best.
“Is there anything else you’d like to bargain over?” she asked.
Anything else? He could think of a lot of things! But would she grant him any of it? He picked one of the newest atrocities. “Freezing my cock and balls isn’t exactly pleasant,” he replied.
Janice shook her head again. “I’m sorry, Mr. Brinkley, but that will have to remain as well. As with your constant impenetrable wall, that is for Carol’s… and I guess my… safety as well.
She had shot down another one. He knew immediately that she wasn’t going to cut him any slack with anything. His anger at that forced him to quickly suggest one of the items from his list that irked him the most. Angrily he asked, “How about this stupid bra you’ve got me wearing all the time. I want to be rid of it! It’s not only humiliating, it’s damn inconvenient and just a plain nuisance! I’m a man, not a woman… however much you seem to dislike men. That’s what I am! You seemed to have some kind of need of me, so I don’t see why you shouldn’t get used to that fact!”
“Be careful, Mr. Brinkley, you’re quickly trying my patience. I’m merely asking for your help with something we both need to worry about. And don’t forget, your blood that’s all over that money!”
“I haven’t forgotten about it,” Roger replied, his anger still raised. “Just as I haven’t forgotten about one single demented thing you or your daughter has done to me in the last few weeks. And I still don’t have a single inkling as to why you’ve done this to me in the first place. Why me? What is it that you want?”
Janice smiled and shook her head. “I’m afraid, Mr. Brinkley, that you are simply a victim of last resort. We were desperate, and you happened to be… available. As to why I’m doing all this in the first place, I’m afraid I won’t tell you that, Mr. Brinkley. In fact, it’s better for you if you don’t know. But trust me, I have my reasons.”
“Reasons?” he spat sarcastically. His voice dripping with anger as he added, “When are you going to leave? How long do I have to put up with you? How long before I can have my life back?”
“I have no answer to that, Mr. Brinkley,” she replied rather simply and calmly… despite his ire. “It will take as long as it takes.” She leveled a more intense gaze at him. “And the longer I have to fight with you, Mr. Brinkley, over anything at all, the longer it’s going to take!”
Roger glared back at her… even as she glared across the table at him. He finally saw her face soften and smile a bit. “Now, Mr. Brinkley,” she said much more calmly, “perhaps we can discuss some of the aspects of you having to wear a brazier.”
Huh? Roger was surprised. Was she giving in on something? “So I won’t have to wear one anymore?” he asked.
“I didn’t say that,” Janice replied. “I said we could discuss it.”
“Discuss what?” Roger asked. “Either you’re going to force me to wear one or not!”
Janice shook her head. “I’m afraid I’m not going to simply let you go completely unfettered, Mr. Brinkley.”
Janice smiled. Her voice started calm and quiet, but quickly grew more and more of a menacing edge. “I tell you what Mr. Brinkley, if you come up with a hiding place that will hold… let’s say… ten times the amount of money you saw before, and it’s a place that I agree will be completely unfindable by anyone… then I will allow you to go to school without wearing a brazier. But all the rest of the time, you will wear one, and you will fill it with whatever I decide will be appropriate at the time. Is that understood? That is my final offer, Mr. Brinkley. Take it… or take a week living naked and chained to a tree outside as a dog!”
Despite his newfound ability to show his anger at her, her threatening voice frightened him all over again. After last night, he could all too easily see himself in just that position – outside, naked, chained to a tree… and unable to react in any way at all except as a total dog! The prospect frightened him completely. But he was still grasping at straws. “No more bras… at school?” he asked.
“Only if I am suitably impressed with your solution. And until then, you will continue to wear one as you do now.”
He tried something else. “Do I still have to be chained to the toilet in the bathroom every night?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Brinkley, but for now, that situation will remain the same as well. For now.”
Feeling more and more defeated, he nodded his head. “How long do I have to think of something?”
“I’ll give you a day or two at most, Mr. Brinkley. Don’t take too long. There are forces that can make life far more miserable for both of us, and the sooner we solve this problem the sooner we both can sleep easier.”
Sleep easier? He knew without a doubt that he would never sleep easy again.