By Karen Singer
Jessica Parker drove to work Friday morning – with her pacifier still in her mouth. By her accounting, it had been two weeks now since she had been abducted and… brainwashed. And she had been hoping that all the baby punishments would be over with now. But it seemed not. Maybe later today? She could only hope. Poor Candy was stuck with his problems for the rest of his life! And from what she now knew, so were all of his housekeeper’s other victims – all of them stuck for life. She could only pray that her own little problems would end soon. Her life was hard enough!
Being Friday, her thoughts turned to the casinos again. But as much as she desperately wanted to go tonight, she was now too afraid. Candy had been right, she was an addict. She had known she was an addict for a long time. It was just hard to admit. Besides, what harm could a little gambling do? It was fun! It was a way to get out and meet people. It was… She stopped her line of thinking and sighed. The gambling called to her too deeply.
She knew she needed to break that habit… if for no other reason than for her kid’s sakes. And now her gambling had landed her in a world she had never imagined. Brainwashed… where supposedly things would be even worse for her if she ever gambled again. Supposedly. She still wasn’t sure if that could be possible or not… despite the evidence of her past two weeks. Well, she would be working with a therapist now… starting next week anyway. There had been no way that she could meet with him this week, neither of their schedules would allow it and there was no way she was going to show up on his doorstep with a damn pacifier in her mouth.
So now it was Friday again, and she wanted to go gambling again… and she dared not. She supposed she still owed Candy a major thank you for what he had done last week. She had promised to take him shopping tomorrow night… if she was done with all the stupid baby stuff. And what worried her now, was that it had been two weeks… and she still couldn’t get her pacifier out of her mouth!
How much longer was it going to last?
Janice hummed happily out loud as she stuffed some towels into the washer. She added laundry detergent, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and a double load of liquid fabric softener. She breathed in the scent of the fabric softener. So nice! They really were making those products smell so good. And she preferred the way the liquid softener worked to the dryer sheets that most women seemed to use now. She supposed it was just a matter of preference.
With the washing started, she went back to her sewing table where she had already cut out a number of colorful squares for the new quilt she was making. The floor around the table was piled with packages of thin cotton batting and bolts of brightly colored fabric that she had thought would all make excellent quilts.
She didn’t have a lot of experience making quilts. She had only made two in her life. But she figured she had plenty of experience for what she needed to do. Humming happily to herself, she carefully measured out another ten inch square on her material and began cutting. She figured that ten inches would be the perfect size to allow her to hide two thousand dollars inside it, arranged in two stacks of a thousand dollars each. A little bit of the thinnest cotton batting on each side of the money, and once the squares were sewn to the quilt backing, she should have a nice fluffy comfortable quilt that she would feel proud of. The freshly washed money would be completely limp from the extra fabric softener she was using on it… and it would smell oh-so-good!
“Any questions?” Roger asked, as he finished demonstrating the math problem on the board. As his eyes roamed the room, he thought he was noticing more strange looks from the kids in front of him.
“Did you really wear a skirt to school on Wednesday?” one of the boys in the middle of the class asked jokingly.
Roger put his chalk down on the blackboard tray. He had been afraid of just this. He hadn’t heard a word about being seen in a skirt yesterday, but this was a day later. The word would have had more time to spread. He had little choice in his answer. Doing his best to but a big beaming smile on his face he looked at the kid and confidently replied. “I sure did.” The startled noise from his students was only to be expected. He went over and sat on the edge of his desk, his face holding something of a conspiratorial look, as he waited for the noise to abate.
“Why?” one of the other students finally asked. The question was basically echoed all over the room.
Roger finally held his hand up to stifle the questions. “Yes, I did wear a skirt to school on Wednesday… and none of you even knew it, did you?” He looked around the room at the surprised faces of all his students.
“So how come?” one of them blurted out.
“The reason I did it,” Roger told them, “is for something special. And I’m going to make you all wait to find out!”
The disappointed complaining from the students was evident.
“You won’t know until it’s time for you to know,” Roger called above the noise.
“When will that be?” one of the girls asked.
“Before school ends,” Roger told them. “There’s only a week and a half of school left. But I promise you, you’ll find out the reason for it before the end of school.”
He had committed himself to telling them about his transition now. There would be no holding back. But at least he would be done with the school year before then. Announcing things this way was the best he could come up with… like it or not.
Late that night, Roger was half asleep when a noise woke him fully. No curtains on his window showed him lights… headlights turning into his driveway. He got up from the floor to look out. He couldn’t see much, but there was no missing the three large vehicles that had turned into his driveway. He was surprised to note a limousine as the second vehicle.
He was about to quickly grab some clothes to put on and see what they wanted, when he heard the front door closing… and he saw someone leaving the house. Janice! If it wasn’t for the headlights he might not have seen her at all. Whatever she was wearing was so dark that she was difficult to see.
He saw men pouring out of the vehicles… but they didn’t go far before they noticed Janice and they all got back into the cars… except for one who held the door of the limousine open… and then closed it again after Janice had gotten in.
Roger watched from his window as all three vehicles backed out of his driveway… and took off into the night.
What was Janice up to now? More brainwashing? He was betting on it. He felt sorry for whoever it was that would be her next victim.
But the limousine! Where did that fit into everything?
“Coffee?” Susan asked as Janice seemed to get settled in the seat opposite her and had finished looking around.
“Sure, why not?” Janice replied happily. The dark curtains lining all the windows thankfully prevented her from seeing the world go by backwards. The car almost rode smoothly enough that she could imagine she wasn’t going anywhere at all.
Susan pulled the silver coffee pot out of its warmer, opened it, and poured some into the china cup that was resting on a shelf mounted to the side of the car. She carefully picked up the cup and saucer and held them out for Janice to take. She picked up her own cup and saucer after filling them as well.
“Very nice car,” Janice exclaimed as she sipped at the hot liquid.
“Thank you,” Susan replied. “I travel so much that I’m afraid it’s become something of a necessity.
The two women talked pleasantly during the entire long trip. Not once did either of them mention the job ahead of them. Not once did either of them bring up any other business. The two simply enjoyed talking about life and family. No stress, just pleasant conversation.
Nothing changed until the limousine driver called back that they were entering Jacob’s neighborhood. Susan became all business then. She reached into a bag on the floor and extracted two pairs of gloves and two masks that would cover their entire faces. She held one of the masks and a pair of gloves out toward Janice.
“No thanks,” Janice told her, digging into her own bag. “I’ve got my own.”
Susan only smiled.
The limo parked a few blocks away and waited while the other vehicles drove slowly around the area to check for danger. Susan and Janice both pulled the masks over their heads, pulled the gloves onto their hands, and Susan picked up a tiny hand-held radio. She said something in Chinese, and got back two different replies, both also in Chinese that Janice couldn’t understand.
“I’ve got a small shovel with me,” Janice said, indicating the bag she had brought with her.
Susan smiled and reached into her own bag. “Me too,” she said as she pulled up the handle of her own shovel.
The radio crackled more soft words. Susan replied in Chinese, and the limo began moving again. Janice grabbed her penlight out of her bag and tested it… she noticed Susan doing the same.
The limo slowed to a stop and the driver grunted something. Susan pushed the door open and she and Janice were out quickly. The limo accelerated, leaving them behind. A few seconds later, they were both in Jacob’s backyard, both looking all around for any sign that they had been noticed.
Janice led the way to the wood pile and began quietly unstacking the wood from the back end. Susan began helping her immediately. Removing the wood went far quicker with the two of them. The small shovels came out, and the plastic bag was quickly uncovered.
Susan untied the knot and opened it. Her penlight showed white blocks inside. She reached in and pulled one out. From her bag she extracted a small knife that she used to poke a small slit in the block… the knife blade pulled out a tiny amount of the contents from inside. With the tip of her finger, Susan lightly touched the white powder on the knife, then brought it to her lips to taste it. Her eyes seemed to wander in all directions as she carefully analyzed what they had found. “Woof!” she whispered softly. “Good stuff! Very strong! If the wrong people got their hands on this and didn’t know what they were doing, they’d probably kill someone with it.”
She began pulling the white blocks out of the bag. She counted nine just as Janice had told her. Then she began pulling out some of the money that had been underneath it. When she had removed a hundred thousand dollars, she asked Janice, “Are you sure you don’t want to take more back?”
“No,” Janice whispered back. “I’m even worried that what’s left won’t be enough.”
Susan nodded and considered what Janice had just said. “Why don’t we do this?” she asked as she separated the money she had just removed into two equal piles. “Just take half of this much back. Would that make you feel more at ease?”
Janice stared at the two piles of money. She finally pushed both piles toward Susan. “Put it all back. I want Jacobs put away… for life! I don’t want to take any chances.”
Susan put all the money back into the bag. Only three of the heroin bricks out of the nine were returned to the plastic bag on top of the money. The rest Susan stuck into the bag she had brought with her. Together, the two women once again carefully buried the bag and replaced each of the logs they had moved. With their penlights, they carefully searched the area, trying to clean up any sign that they had been there. Susan whispered a single word in Chinese into her radio, and they headed for the side of Jacob’s house… to wait up against it where they wouldn’t be seen until the limo could pick them up.
The wait was only moments before they were in the limo and heading home. And once again the conversation turned light. Neither woman mentioning what they had just done.