Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Housekeeper - Chapter 15 (Part 1 of 4)

The Housekeeper
By Karen Singer

Chapter 15 (Part 1 of 4)

For Janice, her morning was incredibly busy, yet the business helped her get past the growing anxiousness over not receiving a return call from Mr. Wu.  It wasn’t like him to go this long without getting back to her.  She was beginning to worry about there being some kind of a problem. 
It took her only three phone calls to find a carpet store that could send a crew out to install the carpeting on Saturday morning… if she got it ordered within the next few hours.  It only took one phone call to find out that even though it would be the day before Easter, the rental furniture company could indeed deliver some furniture to the house on Saturday morning as well… if she picked out what she wanted sometime today. 
And her most important phone call of the morning went to the Child Services agent, Mr. Fitch… who wasn’t entirely happy with the situation, but finally agreed to meet her Saturday afternoon to arrange for her to have full custody of Carol.  Finally!  Things were rolling again, and they were rolling fast.  Now if only Mr. Wu would get back to her!
By lunchtime, the carpeting had been picked out, the temporary furniture that would occupy the rooms was ordered, she had purchased two light fixtures for the rooms, and she was home again… where she found a rather large metal sculpture blocking the entrance to the garage.  Obviously the piece that Roger had ordered that would be part of her secret hiding place he would construct for her.  But why did they have to block the garage with the thing? 
She had begun spending more and more time in the afternoons in front of Roger’s TV set… just to relax for a few minutes.  But even there, what she watched on TV had a goal toward her future with Carol.  Among the many stations that Roger’s TV got that the TV in prison didn’t get, was the stations that carried all the home-buying programs… particularly the programs where people were hunting for new homes in other parts of the world.  These she found particularly interesting… especially when they dealt with homes on tropical islands.  However, the part that appalled her was the price that the people in the programs were paying for what they bought. 
Many years ago, Janice had set a target figure of ten million dollars as the amount she figured she would need for her and Carol to live comfortably.  In the last few years that figure had gone up.  It was now at twenty million dollars, and after seeing the prices of the rather moderate looking homes on TV, she was starting to wonder if that was going to be enough. 
She now had money stashed in many different places, hopefully in places where only she could find it.  Her current total for it all was a little less than sixteen million.  But the bigger problem there was that much of it was currency that if she simply took it to a bank somewhere, it would quickly show up as bills on the stolen money watch list.  Mr. Wu could launder it for her, but the cut he wanted was an unthinkably large amount.  So she had done nothing with any of it.  She had simply let it sit and wait until she could figure out a way to deal with it all. 
But now, after draining the money from five banks plus three investment firms, she was worried that things might now be getting too chancy for her to continue.  That had been made very clear by the false drug charge she had gone to prison over.  She still didn’t know where those drugs had come from… but she knew where she wanted to plant the blame. 
So now she was planning to move out of the country to someplace nice while she still could.  The only problem was that the unlaundered money was totally worthless until she could safely deal with it.  But then, that was all part of why she had taken over Roger Brinkley’s life in the first place.  He simply didn’t know it… yet.
The TV program she had been watching ended but she stayed where she was.  There was nothing else she wanted to take care of just then anyway.  Instead of changing the channel, she simply watched the program that came on next – a program that dealt with rebuilding homes with problems.  She was mildly interested because it was what Roger would be dealing with.  However, a short way into the program, one of the workers caught her eye, and she could no longer tear her gaze away from the show.  When the program ended, she searched the surrounding channels for more programs like it, and over the course of the afternoon she found several.  Most of the programs didn’t have anything that interested her, but several held her attention raptly. 
The programs she was watching were supposed to help inspire ideas in people so they could try them in their own homes.  Janice wasn’t sure if she was inspired or not, but the seed of an idea was definitely planted in her mind… and she was having trouble shaking it.
With the germ of an idea still forming in her mind, she finally got around to picking up the phone and making the last phone call she needed to make for the day.  She called the number Roger had given her for Mrs. Whittaker, the woman who needed her deck rebuilt.  “Hello, Mrs. Whittaker?”
“My name is Janice Stokley.  I’m calling on behalf of Mr. Brinkley about your deck problem.  We were wondering if you had found someone to help you yet?”
“You’re working with Roger Brinkley?”
“Yes I am.  I’m trying to help manage some of his business for him.  He’s decided to try to do more to help people like yourself who are in need of his carpentry skills.”
“Oh my.  Well, that would certainly be most helpful to a lot of people I know.  But as far as our deck problem is concerned, when I spoke with Roger earlier, he gave me the name of someone else I could call instead.  When I called, the man seemed to be fairly busy, but he promised that he would try to get out here sometime next week to give us an estimate.”
“So you haven’t actually hired anyone to do the job for you yet?”
“No, I guess not really.  We’re still looking for estimates.”
Janice was pleased to hear that.  “Mrs. Whittaker,” she said, “I know you called Mr. Brinkley for help first, but he was unable to help you at that time.  Would you still consider a quote from him to compare with what you get from the other contractor?”
“But I thought he wouldn’t be able to do anything until after school let out?”
“Yes, that’s true, but in light of his trying to go full time into this business, he’s going to make an effort to do as much as he can until he finishes his teaching responsibilities.”
“You mean he’s quitting teaching?”
“I’m afraid so.  But from what I’ve seen, he’s quite a skilled worker, and I think he could make much more money from helping people like you.”
“Well, that’s certainly possible.  I know a number of people who need help fixing all kinds of little things.  And finding someone you can trust to do a good job without gouging you on the price is all but impossible.  It’s a shame that he’s quitting teaching though.  I had the impression that he really liked it.”
“He does, Mrs. Whittaker,” Janice replied, “he most certainly does.  But he’s also just as passionate about building things and doing it correctly.”
“Well, he’s always done a good job for us before, so I have no doubt that he can be successful with whatever he’s trying to do.  Yes, if you would please ask him to come out and give us an estimate, we would be very grateful.”
“Excellent, Mrs. Whittaker, excellent!”  It was then that her mind pictured Roger going out to the woman’s house to speak with her over an estimate for the work she needed done.  And her mind also pictured Roger just as he looked now when he was working on the bedroom for Carol… including his pert little breasts and his new women’s boots.  And the image he had gotten from the TV shows fully overlaid itself on what was in her mind.  “Um… Mrs. Whittaker…”
“There’s just one more little thing you should be aware of.”

Roger raised his arm to write on the board, and immediately felt the tug of his errant bra strap… again.  Ugh!  Forcing his arm up all the way… and hoping the stupid strap would break… he continued writing and explaining how to solve the math problem.  But his mind was only partially on the subject that he should have been focusing on completely.  His mind was more worried about the long spring break from school that was now rapidly approaching… officially at the end of this class since it was the last class of the day. 
He glanced at the clock.  Ten minutes left… and school would be over for the day… and for tomorrow… and for the weekend… and for the entire next week as well.  He turned to fully face the class.  “Tell you what,” he said, since he knew he was having trouble thinking about what he was doing.  “Why don’t we stop for the day and we’ll start again after we come back from break?  Sound good?”  He didn’t have to get any kind of verbal answer.  The relief on all the kid’s faces was plain enough.  “Just stay quiet and in the room until the bell rings!” he added before he headed back to his seat.  The class didn’t exactly stay quiet, but they didn’t behave all that badly either.  The commotion in the room was enough to help keep Roger’s mind off of worrying about being totally under Janice Stokely’s thumb for such a very long time.
When the bell rang, he watched the pandemonium as the kids all hurried excitedly out of the room while he gathered his things and packed his expandable case.  The long spring break was about to start, and with Janice Stokley now ruining his life, he was more worried than ever about how things would be when the break was over.  Of course, by then, he would no longer be required to wear the stupid bra under his clothes to school anymore.  That was going to be a vast improvement over the way things were going now.  But he also knew that school would only last two more months.  And then he would have no refuge from her demands at all. 
Ten minutes later, he met Carol out by his car.  The only stop they made on the way home, was for Roger to buy a package of women’s knee high hose to wear under his new “work” boots… which earned him a giggle from Carol over the fact that he had to buy them.  As soon as they got home, he retreated to the “safety” of the rooms he was working on… if only to try to hide away from Janice Stokley as much as possible.  Could he hold up here until school started again and never see her?  Unfortunately, he knew it was only wishful thinking.  He quickly changed into his work clothes, including adding the balled up socks inside his bra, a new pair of knee high hose, and of course, his new “work” boots.
To Roger, one of the great things about work boots, normal work boots anyway, was that you never had to bother cleaning them… unless of course they were covered in mud that you didn’t want to drag through the house.  Of course that wasn’t something he was really counting.  But the new stupid women’s high-heel boots that Janice was now requiring that he wear as work boots instead of “real” work boots was another matter.  They got just as dirty – quickly, but because she had specified that they had to be kept “perfect,” he was required to polish them every night before he went to sleep.  Not only were the boots a pain to have to wear since they were women’s boots instead of men’s boots… not only were they a pain to wear – literally – because of the high heel they had that made his feet tired quickly… but they were also a major pain because he had to clean and polish them every night!  Stupid, stupid, stupid!  Almost as stupid as having to eat all his meals without the use of his hands from a dog bowl!  Stupid, stupid, stupid!  And he had no choice in the matter at all!  Ugh!
The small knock on the door alerted him to company as he finished zipping up his boots, and a moment later, Janice walked into the room.  So much for hiding out.
“There you are Mr. Brinkley,” Janice said with a smile.  “I just wanted to let you know that I got a lot accomplished today.  The carpeting is all set to be installed on Saturday morning and the furniture for these rooms will be delivered Saturday morning as well.  And I put the two new light fixtures in the other room for you.”   
Roger realized that Janice had accomplished everything she said she would… which in one way was a great help to him… but on the other hand, it also meant that her daughter would be living here in the house full time all too soon.  “And when is Carol going to move in?” he asked.
“Saturday afternoon,” Janice replied with a smile.  “I’ve arranged with Mr. Fitch of the Child Welfare Service to inspect these rooms Saturday afternoon, after which Carol will finally be transferred fully into my custody again.”
He would have said something like “congratulations” to her, but underneath, he wasn’t all that happy about it.  As far as he was concerned, Carol was nothing but a monster under that sweet exterior!  “I’ll try to get it all done,” he said… although as he said it, he realized that what still had to be accomplished before Saturday morning was a lot!
“Oh!  One other thing,” Janice said.
Roger immediately became concerned.
“I spoke with Mrs. Whittaker earlier and she’s agreed to have you go out there on Monday to give her an estimate.  If I can, I’m going to go with you so I can try to learn a little bit about the process and so I can speak with her further.”  She smiled.  “She mentioned on the phone that she has several friends who might be in need of your services as well.  That could be very good for your business.”
Roger nodded.  “It would be, but I’m still tied to teaching school for another two months.”
“Two months that I have no doubt will absolutely fly by, Mr. Brinkley,” she said brightly.  “Before you know it, summer will be here.”
Roger didn’t say it, but his only thought was that summer would be there… and so would she and her damn daughter!
Once Janice had left the room, Roger started looking around again at what he still had to do.  He was feeling much more rushed now that he knew when everything was going to happen.  If they were going to be installing the carpeting on Saturday morning, and the new furniture for the rooms was also coming on Saturday morning, then he had to get everything done before that… which only left him tonight and tomorrow.  He was somewhat sure he could do it all, but it was going to be close.  Very close!  Of course, if she decided to surprise him with another of her training sessions, then all bets were off! 
Installing the baseboards and trim molding was his first order of business for the rooms… almost.  The walls had to be wiped down first to get rid of all the dust from sanding the wall mud. 

Roger was trying to work late… well, as late as he possibly could before Janice made him chain himself naked in the bathroom again.  The baseboards and molding were now finished and he was trying to get a start on the painting.  His feet for once weren’t hurting him at all since she had made him start wearing the stupid women’s boots instead of regular work boots.  But that was only because he had become so irritated at the boots that he had taken them off a little while ago.  Now as he was rolling primer paint onto the walls, his feet weren’t doing badly at all – in just the knee high stockings.  But that of course was when the door opened and Janice came into the room.
Janice was surprised to walk into the stark white freshly painted room.  “Mr. Brinkley, you’re nearly done!” she exclaimed happily.  “But I thought you were going to paint everything beige, not white.”
“This is only the primer,” Roger replied.  “I still have to finish this room and I haven’t even started painting in the other room yet.  Tomorrow I’ll do the ceilings in a better white and then put the color on the walls and paint the trim.”
Janice nodded as she looked around.  It was hard to believe that just a short time ago these rooms were totally gutted.  They looked nothing at all like they had just a few days ago.  “But it still looks like you should be finished easily by Saturday morning.”
Roger shook his head.  “Not really.  It’s going to be awfully close.  I’ve also got to set up the closets and hang the closet doors and light fixtures.  And as I said, I haven’t even started priming the walls in the other room yet.  I’m still worried about getting it all done before then.”
Janice nodded as she continued to gaze around the white expanse of the room.  And then her gaze fell on him… and his bootless feet.  “Mr. Brinkley.  Where are your boots?”
“They were hurting my feet,” he replied, “so I took them off.”
“That will never do!” Janice declared sternly with a shake of her head.  “I bought you those boots to wear, and wear them you shall!  Now go put them on… immediately!”
Oh hell!  Roger put his painting tools down and walked out of the room he was working on and into the other room… followed closely by Janice. 
Janice watched him closely as he sat on the floor and put the boots back on again.  As he was zipping the second boot up again, she said, “Mr. Brinkley, since you don’t seem to be as attached to those nice boots as I hoped you would be, I think you need a little more time in them to become more attached.  You will sleep in those boots… and you will continue to keep them on your feet until I say otherwise.  The only exception of course, is when you are in the shower.  But at all other times, I expect to see those boots on your feet!  And since I get the feeling that you don’t appreciate the practicalness of those boots, then tomorrow I shall look for some alternative footwear for you to wear this next week as well.  Perhaps a few days in something with a much more delicate heel will change your thinking about those boots!”
Alternative footwear?  “I’m sorry, Mrs. Brinkley,” Roger said quickly.  “I simply didn’t realize that you didn’t want me to remove them when I’m still working.  I won’t do it anymore.  I promise.”
Janice shook her head.  “Get back to work and finish what you’re doing, Mr. Brinkley.  It’s getting late and I want to go to bed.  You of course, still have to polish those boots before you can go to sleep.  And as I said, you will continue to wear them whenever you’re not in the shower!”
Before Roger could protest, she was gone.  Wear them all the time?  Alternative footwear?  He shuddered at each thought.


sarah penguin said...

Uh-oh his feet are toast :)

adietrech said...

Have I mentioned - I love this story? But it appears to now be a battle of wits between Karen and her readership - Mr. Wu's tardiness - a diversion, or significant? Susan away "from home" - significant? What did Janice see on TV, and what did she tell Ms. Whittaker about Roger? What is the hiding place for the money? C'mon, Karen - give us SOMETHING! ;-)

Karen Singer said...

Give you something? Sorry, you'll have to wait a little bit. Chapter 16 (I think) will start to answer some of those questions.