By Karen Singer
Chapter 36 Part 1 of 2
Janice stared at the mess in the laundry room – or what was left of her laundry room. Actually, things looked a bit better than they had before she left to take care of Joseph Halifax. The tarp that covered the area where the door had been was now replaced by a sheet of plywood that sealed everything up much better. And according to Roger, the roof over the area was fixed to the point where he was fairly certain it wouldn’t leak anymore. Evidently, it still needed a lot more work yet, but he had to get some materials to do the rest of the job. She hoped it wouldn’t take him too much longer to fix everything. She hated living with an awful mess like this. At least she could still use the washer and dryer. She had been lucky about that.
As she stared at the room… and particularly at the new sheet of plywood that her eyes couldn’t seem to look away from, she tried to remember what it had looked like before. Not much, but still somewhat nice… for a laundry room. The door had led out to a small deck before going down to the yard. The deck though had been very small. Just a landing area really. A smile crept to her face. It would be much nicer out there with a big deck. A place where they could all sit out and possibly enjoy a meal. She made a note to “suggest” it to Roger.
She was interrupted from her musings by the sound of her phone ringing. It wasn’t really all that early in the morning, but she couldn’t help but wonder who would be calling her. Hoping it wasn’t her daughter with a problem at school, she hurried to grab her phone. “Hello?”
“Hi,” a woman’s voice on the other end replied. “Is this the New China Restaurant?”
“Uh… no, I’m sorry,” Janice replied, realizing that it was most likely Susan who was calling her.
“I’m so sorry,” the voice said before hanging up.
Janice quickly found one of her few remaining burner phones. She made another mental note to get more of the darn things. She was going through an awful lot of them… and she had no doubt she would soon be going through a lot more. A few minutes later, she had talked with the operator at Mr. Wu’s company and told her the numbers of the fictitious items she wasn’t interested in purchasing, and two minutes later, Susan Wu was on the line.
“Hi Janice,” Susan’s voice said brightly. “I’m just calling to see if there’s been any progress yet.”
“Hi Susan,” Janice replied. “Any progress? I guess you could say that. I’m afraid that poor Mr. Halifax has just spent a very instructional weekend with me.”
“You had him all weekend?” Susan asked, her voice turning much more serious.
“All weekend!” Janice confirmed.
“And what did you find out? Did he kill Leila?”
“I don’t know yet,” Janice replied.
“You don’t know? But you spent all weekend with him!”
“That’s right. But this weekend was dedicated to only one thing – gaining control of his mind! Everything else has to wait until I can control him completely.”
“I would think that by the end of the weekend you would have at least been able to ask about Leila!”
Janice was a bit put off by Susan’s tone of voice. “You asked me to do this job. You know how good I am at what I do. Don’t rush me! I’m already moving much faster than I’m really comfortable with.”
Susan wasn’t happy, but at least progress had been made. And she realized, that for Janice, it was a lot of progress. “Sorry,” she apologized. “You know I’m anxious.”
“I know,” Janice told her. “But you want the truth, don’t you? Let me do this my way, and there will never be any doubt about what information I get out of him.”
“Very well,” Susan agreed. “How much longer do you think?”
Janice smiled. “If everything goes as I expect, I should know something definite for you by the end of next weekend.”
That bit of news pleased Susan greatly. “Are you sure?”
“At least I hope so. It’s on my list of things to cover next week with him.”
Susan paused to consider the information. “In that case,” she said, “we think we’ve found the doctor you were looking for. If you’re going to be home tomorrow, I’ll have a messenger drop a file off at your house. We uncovered this one that we think will work for you, but we’ve made no contact with her at all. I’m afraid you’re going to have to handle that part yourself. She knows nothing at all about our company, and we’d like it kept that way!”
“I understand,” Janice replied. “You said you had a file on her?”
“Yes. Everything you should need to know will be in it.”
Janice considered that a moment. “Very well,” she said, “I’ll make sure I’m here to meet your messenger tomorrow. Anytime during the day should be just fine.”
“Just so you know,” Susan continued, “all of your other requests are still being worked on.”
Janice had no doubt that some of what she had asked for was most likely ready for her right now. Susan was just holding it back until she got what she wanted. But there were some items on her list that would, by necessity, take a lot of time.
“Good morning, Mr. Halifax.”
“Goooood morning, Mary,” Joseph Halifax replied cheerily to his secretary as he made his way into his office.
She giggled a bit. “What’s got you feeling so chipper today?”
Actually, Halifax wasn’t sure exactly why he felt so happy today. In the back of his mind were all too many memories of horrible things that had happened to him over the weekend. But layered on top of those memories, were yet other memories that were the only ones he knew he was capable of relating. Basically, his head was a confused mess! “Had a great weekend,” he explained quickly before he disappeared into his office.
He headed for his desk chair and sat… and winced. Every time he sat down now, there was this flash of grey at the edges of his vision. There was no use wondering what that flash of grey was… it was that impenetrable wall that… that woman… had put into his brain over the weekend. It was that wall growing thicker… and thicker… and even more impenetrable – every time he sat down… and every time he stood up. And that wall had him scared to death!
But despite that wall, and despite what he knew had been done to him over the weekend, he still felt fairly happy. And for some reason, he had wonderful memories of spending time with a beautiful woman in the hot tub… and later, he had spent some time with her in that bed as well. It bothered him a bit that he couldn’t remember her name… or exactly what she looked like, but those things didn’t seem to matter. Horrible memories… and wonderful memories… all jumbled together. And still, he felt fairly good.
“Mary!” he called out through the open door of his office. It was a moment before his secretary appeared.
“Yes, Mr. Halifax?”
“Clear my schedule for all next weekend please.”
“Uh… as far as I know, you don’t have anything scheduled yet for the weekend.”
“Good!” Halifax replied. He looked at her for a moment. “Do you know much about all those cabin rentals available up in North Georgia?”
“Cabin rentals? A little I guess. We rented one once for the family and had a great time.”
“Good,” Halifax said again. “Find me one for next weekend. Something… secluded, I think. Something secluded…” he paused to smile before adding, “and romantic.”
Knowing full well the type of man her boss was, Mary just nodded, but she was rolling her eyes as she walked out of his office.
“Why are you so interested in him again?”
Jennifer was instantly put off by Stan’s question. “Stanley Franklin! Don’t you dare ask me something like that!”
“I’m just wondering,” Stan replied as they stood in line to get lunch again. They could see Roger near the head of the line, not close enough that he could hear them.
“Stop asking me that!” she said. “He’s a friend! A good friend! And… he used to be someone special to me.”
“Used to be?”
“You know perfectly well how close Roger and I were.”
“So why did you break it off? According to him, you dumped him.”
“Stan, the next time you ask me about that, I swear, I’ll slap you!”
Stan backed off, but he still couldn’t help wondering about it… and worrying about it. Roger was doing weird things lately. And lately, Jennifer seemed to be showing nothing but increased interest in him again. And… he was jealous!
Yes, things were definitely rolling now! Janice considered some of the latest developments over the last few days as she folded laundry on the kitchen table. There had been a lot of definite progress – and she was nothing but happy about it.
The one little tiny thing that still seemed to stick in her mind that bothered her though, was Roger’s friend Stan. She didn’t seem to feel any problem with his friend Jennifer. In fact, she felt nothing but amusement at that situation. But his friend Stan was another matter. For some unknown reason, Stan wanted to stay Roger’s friend. Not only that, he was determined to stick all too closely to Roger. Something needed to be done about that! But kidnapping the man and raping his mind wasn’t exactly a very good option… or a wise option either – as much as she wouldn’t mind doing it to him at all since he was just another stupid man! No, but something had to be done… and it had to be done soon!
His friend seemed to be concerned about going fishing – far too much. She supposed that for them, fishing was a nice pastime, but she could think of far better ways to spend that time. Still, she supposed that it was something that many people liked to do. In fact, she had heard of some women who enjoyed the sport as well. She certainly didn’t! Imagine, going out and killing some poor defenseless little fish! Ugh! It was positively barbaric!
But never the less, this Stan character seemed to love the stupid sport. And evidently, so did Roger. And the two of them usually went fishing – together. Somewhat like a team, she supposed. Could fishing be done as a team sport? She didn’t know enough about it to answer that question – not that it mattered.
Still, it was an outdoor activity that they both seemed to enjoy. Personally, she preferred hiking. She had spent many hours hiking trails all over the southeastern United States. She and her daughter Carol. They had been some of the best times of her life! So she supposed that if these… men (ugh!)… preferred fishing to hiking, then that was entirely within their rights. And as much as she hated to admit it, since she knew of some women who enjoyed fishing too, then it would have to be somewhat acceptable.
So what should she do about Roger’s friend?
As far as she could see, Stan didn’t like the fact that Roger was now slowly becoming Candy. He didn’t seem to like or accept that at all. So if that was something he didn’t like…. She smiled. Maybe that would work out just fine. Maybe that was the answer to her problem!
So… one problem down. Now, what to do about Roger sleeping in her bed while she had been gone. Yes, the bed had been made up nicely afterwards, but did the fool think she wouldn’t smell his scent all over her sheets? Stupid men!
Roger briefly looked down as he climbed his big ladder. He had come home from school, changed as quickly as he could, and headed out to take care of this leaking roof job for the McCrarys. Unfortunately, he had to stop at the building supply store on the way to get some roofing materials… for his own house as well. Going into that place now was always an embarrassment, but he had no choice in the matter. He needed materials to work with.
Now he had climbed, nearly to the top of his big ladder, with a heavy bag of roofing shingles on his shoulder. He stopped when he got his shoulders above the roofline. Far down below… on the ground, he could see both Thomas McCrary and his wife staring up at him. Why couldn’t they just leave him alone? He did his best to ignore them as he hefted the heavy bag of shingles from his shoulder onto the roof. Climbing the tall ladder with such a bag was always somewhat difficult. Doing it while wearing women’s boots was much more difficult. Now he was just glad to get the darn heavy thing off of his shoulder. Very carefully, he climbed from the ladder onto the roof and started making his way up to the area he needed to repair.
He had been out the night before and climbed briefly up here with a small bag of cement mortar – the kind used to cement bricks together. He had easily found the damaged area and had just dumped the small bag of mortar on top of the area and spread it around. The light rain had quickly mixed with the cement as he spread it all out over the entire area in a very thin layer. Cement dries even under water. The wet mortar found its way into any cracks, and as it dried, sealed the leak – temporarily. Now, it only took him about five minutes to chip away the thin brittle layer of cement from the shingles to clear the area where he needed to work.
He wasn’t crazy about working on top of roofs. He wasn’t all that thrilled about working anywhere high up. But he had done it enough to know what he was doing. The other part of the job that irritated him somewhat was trying to be careful about scuffing his damn boots! He had enough problems to deal with as it was. Fortunately, since he still shined them almost every night, there was enough shoe polish on them now to protect them from a lot… just not scuffs marks from the rough roof surface.
With both McCrary’s watching from the ground below, he did his best to ignore them and set about tearing up the area around the bad shingles, and then rebuilding it all with the fresh new ones he had just bought. They wouldn’t match the old shingles exactly since they were new and hadn’t faded yet, but they would be close enough.
Thirty minutes later, he was finished and carefully climbed down from his ladder – with both McCrarys still watching him. As he put his ladder away into the back of his truck, he was aware again that Mr. McCrary seemed to be looking all too carefully at his boots. And so was Mrs. McCrary, but she seemed to be spending even more time looking at his chest… and boobs that were all too visible under the sweatshirt he had chosen to wear.
As he put his bill together for them, he was reminded of the way that their friend, Rebecca Adkins had watched him. By the time he finished at Rebecca’s house, he had been tempted to pull out some lipstick and put it on right in front of her. It had been a good thing he didn’t have any then. It was a good thing he didn’t have any here tonight either, because the way they had watched him bothered him almost as much as Rebecca had. At least they hadn’t asked him any questions the whole time he was working. He was thankful the job was someplace where they couldn’t do that.
A little while later, he was driving off with another check in his wallet for another completed job. Now if he could just get time to fix his own house! But right then, he was more concerned with getting home fast enough to get changed into Candy so he could eat at the table.
He didn’t make it.
Janice and Carol had already sat down and were eating by the time he ran in through the door.
“How did your job go?” Janice asked as he hurried into the kitchen – and didn’t see a place set at the table for him. But there was no dog dish in the corner either.
“Good,” Roger replied. “I’ve got another check for the finished job.”
“Excellent, Mr. Brinkley. Your little business is starting off quite well, I think.”
“Let me go change,” Roger said, “and then I’ll be right back to eat.”
“Don’t bother, Mr. Brinkley,” Janice said quickly. “I’m afraid it’s too late. You know what time dinner is and you missed it. I’ve saved some for you, but I’m afraid you’ll be eating it from the floor instead. And this time, not until after we’ve finished eating here.”
“But I couldn’t finish that fast!” Roger complained.
“No matter, Mr. Brinkley. Rules are rules!”