By Karen Singer
Zap! Ouch! Zap! Ouch! Zap! Ouch! Zap! Ouch! It was all he could do to keep himself from saying ouch… or from saying anything. Whoever said that the laser treatments would be painless was full of shit! Okay, maybe it didn’t exactly hurt that much, but it did hurt! Especially when they got to his neck under his chin. Zap! Ouch!
He was now set up for appointments every Tuesday morning – first thing every Tuesday morning. He was having his whole body done… a small area at a time. Starting today with his face. It was literally going to take months to totally rid him of all his hair… if he didn’t give up on it before then to avoid the pain. Zap! Ouch!
But they had told him it would get easier each time they went over an area they had already done since there would be less and less hair each time. It had better get easier! He didn’t know what he would do otherwise. But obviously the problem with that was that they had to do each of those areas a first time – before they could get to a second time… and the third time… and whatever!
He was now in the process of waiting for his name to be changed. The paperwork had been turned in. There was even an ad running in the newspaper warning everyone that he was going to be changing his name. Now he just had to wait for a court date to rubber stamp the deal.
The formal name change would be painful, but it would be an emotional pain that he would have to deal with. And the truth of it was, with the way he looked now, the name change was probably a good thing. Since school had ended, he had already been in the stores and been called Ma’am twice now. Bringing out a credit card or his driver’s license to show that he was a man named Roger was a bad thing. Well, embarrassing anyway if he wanted to get through life pretending to be at least somewhat of a normal person. He wasn’t all that fond of going somewhere and having people point at him and say, “Look! There’s a man in a dress!” Ugh!
“Almost done,” the technician said as he laid there doing his best not to move… or scream! “Just a little bit more,” she added.
He couldn’t wait for the annoying pain to end! All he could think about was getting out of there. His mind was already trying to convince himself that he had to hurry. Not that he did. Since he still had no calls for his handyman business, there was no reason to hurry at all. But he did have things to do. And anything would be a lot more fun than getting zapped by a laser. Zap! OUCH!
“So I guess you have job now where they’re letting you work even though your… changing?” the technician asked as she zapped another spot.
Ouch! “I’m a handyman… uh… handy woman now,” he replied. Ouch! “I work for myself doing whatever odd jobs I can. Mostly I do construction work and fix things.” Ouch! It was very hard to think and talk when you’re constantly being bombarded by little zaps to the face.
“That’s cool,” the woman said. “So you don’t have to worry about being fired.”
“No.” Ouch! “Not since I work for myself.”
“Is business good?” she asked as she zapped his chin again?”
Ouch! “For a while it was more than I could handle. But things have slowed way down right now.”
“Is that…” she zapped him again… “because of your transition?”
“No. At least I don’t think so. I hope not!” Ouch! “No, I think business is just slow right now. It gets that way sometimes. It seems to go in spells.” Ouch!
“You should talk to the owner here. We’ve got a couple of things that need fixing that he doesn’t seem to want to get around to.”
Ouch! “Glad to,” Candy replied. “And I can leave him one of my business cards. Candy Girl the Handy Girl.”
The technician laughed. “Hold sill!” She zapped him again… then quickly zapped him one more time. “There. All done,” she said. “See, that didn’t hurt much at all.”
“No, not much,” Candy agreed. The truth though… it had hurt a lot more than they said it would!
The owner of the treatment center wasn’t there when Candy left, but he did leave one of his cards at the desk. The staff seemed to get quite a kick out of seeing it.
After the laser treatment, he climbed back into his truck and headed home. Since he didn’t have any paying jobs to work on, Janice had declared that the house needed a new front porch. And she wanted a roof over it. New steps. And a new sidewalk out to the driveway… why? The driveway was all dirt anyway! But Janice had said it would make the house much more welcoming. He supposed it would. And a roof over the entrance to the front door would be really nice when it was raining… which it still did a lot. Fortunately, not as much as during the previous six months. It was officially the wettest year in history! Already!
So now he was heading back home to climb into his comfortable work clothes and start making a materials list. Since he didn’t have anything better to do, he figured he would be spending quite a bit of time at the building supply store later. He nearly laughed. For the last few months, everyone there had always given him strange looks whenever he was there. Wait till they got a look at him now!
Ted Jacobs didn’t know what went wrong. He had no idea at all. How had anyone found out about the heroin he had buried in his backyard? It had sat there for years untouched. In fact, the only time he had ever touched it was when he had grabbed one of those bricks and stuck it into Janice Stokley’s car. But that too had been years ago now! So how had anyone caught on that the drugs were there?
He was screwed! Totally screwed! There was no way he could really deny it, his signature was all over the paperwork from the original drug bust where he had taken the drugs from in the first place. His life was basically over. He was only hoping that his service to the FBI would help him get a lighter jail sentence. It was the best outlook he had.
He looked up at the large mirror… where he was certain someone was watching from the other side. They had brought him up from the holding cell almost half an hour ago… and he had been just sitting and waiting ever since. He looked up as the door opened and his lawyer walked in. He wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not. So far, his lawyer hadn’t seemed to do anything for him.
Before he could even speak to his lawyer, one of the Internal Affairs agents entered. He sat down at the table across from Jacobs. The lawyer remained standing. “We did some checking on the money we found with the drugs,” the IA agent said.
Jacobs was suddenly lost. “Money? What money?”
“Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars!”
“I didn’t have any money out there! None!”
The agent shook his head. “It was there. All of it nicely wrapped with the bank wrappers still on them.”
“Bank wrappers? But there was no money. Just the heroin.”
“I’m afraid that’s not what we found. The bag contained two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in wrapped bills, and three kilos of high grade heroin.”
Jacobs was shocked! It was all he could do to keep from exclaiming, ‘Only three kilos? What had happened to the rest of it?’
“A Miss Williams remembered you telling her recently that you had used one of them to frame another criminal. So I guess that would have made it four kilos.”
“Monica?” Jacobs asked. He didn’t remember ever telling Monica anything about the drugs. How would she have found out?
“Just a minute!” the lawyer interrupted. “I need to talk with my client privately for a few moments.”
The IA agent was irritated, but he had done this many times before. He got up and left the room.
“I thought you told me there were ten kilos there!” the lawyer said.
“There were! But I used one of them to get a major criminal off the streets.”
“So why are there only three? And you didn’t mention stashing money there either!”
“There was no money! I never sold any of that junk!”
“But you were planning on it.”
“Well, yeah, but not till I’m old and grey.”
“So the money wasn’t yours?”
Jacobs shook his head. “Not mine. I didn’t put it there. And there should have been nine kilos in the bag.”
“So someone found it and paid you for the drugs.”
Jacobs just looked at his lawyer for a moment. “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard! Who the hell would do that?”
Candy parked his truck at the building supply store and got out. He had been in the place so often over the years that his mind often joked about it being his home away from home. But lately, he wasn’t as comfortable going in there anymore. Lately, he was mostly embarrassed. He tried to tell himself that since he was now living the rest of his life as a woman, he had better get used to being seen that way everywhere… including here. He had to try to act as comfortable as possible… even though he was anything but!
He walked through the familiar doors and all the way to the back of the store where the contractor’s desk was. The desk was usually busy, especially early in the morning and late in the afternoon when most contractors stopped by to order materials to be delivered or to pick up things they needed. The rest of the day the desk was usually busy filling smaller orders for things the contractors needed right away. The desk wasn’t all that busy when Candy took one of the stools lined up in front of the counter to wait for an available salesman, but all four salesmen were occupied and there were a few others ahead of him. It was often like that. He had already spent hours of his life sitting on one of those stools waiting to be helped.
As he was waiting, another contractor walked up and took the stool next to him. He glanced more than briefly at Candy and then looked away to see how long his wait would most likely be. But he was a contractor that Candy knew well. Candy had worked for the man many times in the past. “Mike?” Candy said.
Mike Clemmons turned towards the voice. “Do I know you?” he asked.
Candy smiled. “You used to. Roger Brinkley. Or what’s left of him. I go by Candy now.”
Mike’s jaw dropped. “Roger?”
“Candy now, I’m afraid. I can’t very well keep calling myself Roger when I look like this.”
But Mike was still too much in shock to really process what Candy had said. “Damn!” he finally exclaimed.
“Yeah!” Candy replied with a nod. “That kind of sums it all up.”
“Damn!” Mike exclaimed again. “I had heard you were going… funny. But I didn’t expect to see you looking… like this!”
Candy felt his face turning red. “Well… I’m afraid I’m still a work in progress. I’ve only been on the hormones for about a month.”
“Well, yeah,” Candy replied. “I can’t do this without them.”
Mike shook his head. “I never figured you for one of those.”
“Me either. But… well… here I am.”
Mike shook his head again as he let his eyes take in Candy again… only all of him this time. “Funny thing is… you don’t look half bad.”
Candy felt his face growing red again. “Thanks,” he replied shyly. “That means a lot.”
“So what are you doing? I heard something about you going full time into the handyman business.”
“Yeah. I’m trying to make a go of it.” He quickly pulled his purse open and fished out one of his new business cards and passed it across to Mike. “Candy Girl the Handy Girl,” he said.
Mike looked at the card. “So you’re the one who put this on the bulletin board.”
“It’s on the board?” Candy asked. “Janice must have done that when she paid one of my bills.”
“You can’t miss it!” Mike said as he passed the card back to Candy. “The pink kind of stands out.”
Candy was a bit disappointed that Mike had given him back the card. “So how’s business?” he asked.
“Huh! Too good!” Mike grunted. “In fact, I had it in my mind to give you a call for a while there… that is until I heard you were… doing something different.”
Candy was disappointed. “I fully understand,” he replied.
“How’s business for you?” Mike asked.
“It was great,” Candy replied. “Too good in fact. But now that school’s out and I can work full time at it, the jobs have kind of dried up.”
Mike nodded knowingly. “That’s usually the way it seems to work. Fortunately, I’ve got enough work right now to keep three crews working on different sites full time.”
“Things really are going well for you!” Candy noted.
“Yeah,” Mike replied. He stared at Candy for a moment. “It’s a shame. I really could have used your help this year. I think you would have made a better foreman than some of the guys I’ve got now.”
Candy was even more disappointed. “I… can’t help that,” he replied sadly.
“You going to try to get your contractor’s license now?” Mike asked.
Candy shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t know. Right now I just have to figure out how to get on with my life.”
Mike nodded. “I won’t even guess what that means.”
They were spared any more conversation as the salesman came over and took Candy’s large order.
They were spared any more conversation as the salesman came over and took Candy’s large order.
“You’re sure about that?” the Internal Affairs agent asked the caller on the other end of his phone. He listened for a moment. “Yeah. Okay,” he replied before hanging up. He turned to his partner. “Every one of those bills that we found in Jacob’s backyard was from a bank robbery in Mobile.”
“In Mobile? How long ago?”
The first agent paused before breaking the bad news. “Back when Jacobs still worked out of the Mobile office.”
His partner just whistled. Things were looking even worse now for Ted Jacobs. “I think we ought to talk to his partner again. See if Forsyth can give us any clue.”
“Couldn’t hurt,” the first agent replied. “But I don’t think it’s going to yield anything.”
The second agent could only agree.
Since the materials he ordered earlier weren’t going to be delivered until late that afternoon, Candy was getting ready to get on the lawn mower to have a go at the weeds in the yard. He was just about to start the engine when he heard his cell phone ringing. He had to fish the damn thing out of his jeans pocket where he had put it… a task that was made difficult because of the way they had trimmed his fingernails… and the fact that his jeans were now fitting a lot tighter around the hips than they used to. “Hello?” he said as quickly as he could.
“Is this Candy?” the voice asked.
“Yes,” Candy replied, hoping it would be a call for another job.
“You left your card here this morning after your laser treatments. You don’t by any chance do any electrical work, do you?”
The card he had left that morning! “Yes, I do some,” Candy replied.
“How about plumbing?” the voice asked next.
“I do some of that too,” Candy replied.
“Well the women here have been after me to get a few things fixed, and several of them rather pointedly gave me your business card.”
“I can be there in twenty minutes,” Candy replied. A job! The lawn tractor was left right where it was as he ran to grab his purse.
Sid Forsyth was simply depressed. It wasn’t easy finding out that your partner, that you had known and worked with and trusted with your life, was in reality… a crook! He still found that hard to believe. But the guys from IA had both confirmed that he had admitted stealing the heroin. And now they were asking about money!
“I don’t know,” he told them. I honestly don’t know! I’m still kind of floored by it all. It’s all just too hard for me to believe.”
“Yeah,” one of the IA agents replied. “To be honest, we’re all just as surprised.”
“Is there any chance I can talk to him?” Forsyth asked. “We’ve been together a long time. Dirty or not, he was still my partner.”
The two agents looked at each other for a moment. “Tell you what,” one of them said, “you talk to him for us this time, ask him specifically about both the money and the drugs. Then you give us the full report on everything when you’re done.”
Forsyth readily agreed to it, and half an hour later he was sitting in an interview room across from his best friend… and now ex-partner. “I still don’t believe it,” he said to Jacobs.
“Yeah, well….” Jacobs said sadly. “It was just that one time. I did something really stupid. You know how it goes. Sometimes things just get to you and you do something really dumb. I did something really dumb. And now I got to pay for it.”
“How much did you take?” Forsyth asked. “They wouldn’t tell me.”
“Ten! Wow! How much was in the whole bust to begin with?”
Jacobs shook his head. “I don’t remember the exact number, but it was a lot. Over a hundred I think.”
“So you took ten.”
Jacobs shrugged. “My partner at the time was a rookie. Really green. We were way understaffed for the job and nobody even noticed. It was all a bit too easy.”
“But ten kilos is still a lot!” Forsyth exclaimed.
“I had this idea that if worse came to worse, it would be kind of like an emergency retirement account if I ever needed it.”
The problem with his statement was that Forsyth completely sympathized with him. They didn’t exactly make a lot of money for the kind of job they did. “But you did sell some of it,” Forsythe prompted. “What happened? You never mentioned that you needed money for anything.”
Jacobs leaned forward. “That’s just it! I didn’t sell any of it. None! I had nine bricks of that stuff buried under the woodpile in my backyard.”
“I thought you said you had ten,” Forsyth noted.
“I put one of into Janice Stokley’s car to get her off the streets!”
“You did that?”
Jacobs nodded. “And to this day, I still don’t regret that one bit! The woman is a thief, a big one! She had to be stopped.”
Forsyth shook his head. “But there’s never been one shred of evidence!”
Jacobs leaned forward with a bit more excitement. “Well maybe there is now! They told me that all that money was from the Mobile robbery. Maybe she planted it in my backyard to frame me!”
Forsyth shook his head. “Not likely,” he replied. “Besides, how would she have known you had those drugs in your yard to begin with… let alone where you put them?”
Jacobs didn’t look as excited now. “I have no idea. But I’m betting she’s the one behind it!”
Forsyth leaned forward and spoke quietly. “Right now, the guys in IA are trying to find ways to link you to that bank robbery in Mobile. The lab guys said the moisture content of the money meant that it had been buried for a long time.” He leaned back, but his voice was just as soft. “And Ted, Janice wasn’t the only one in Mobile at the time of that robbery. You were there as well.”
In any other circumstances, Candy might have been a bit annoyed, but today he was nothing but thrilled. The owner of the Laser Treatment center had only needed a light fixture replaced and a leaky faucet repaired. But before he was done with those, the store next to it asked him to come over and see if he could stop their toilet from running constantly… which meant another quick trip to the hardware store. And before he finished that, he got a request from two stores down the row to replace one of the fluorescent lights in their office that kept blinking on and off. Another quick trip to the hardware store. And he was nothing but thrilled over each trip! Business!
The best part though was that before he got done with that job, he had a request to see the manager of the entire strip mall. The guy who owned all of it! That little meeting had landed him a more permanent job – as the little malls permanent handyman… handy woman! Any little jobs that came up there, he would get called for to either handle himself, or recommend to the owner when a more qualified person should do it.
By the time he was away from there, he had to hurry home to make sure he would be there to receive all the building supplies he had ordered earlier. But as he was pulling into his driveway, he spotted a brown UPS truck sitting there. Once out of his own truck he found Janice and the UPS driver in the garage where Janice was just signing for the delivery of several very large boxes.
“Candy,” Janice said, sounding delighted to see him. “You’re just in time. We need your help bringing all these boxes into the living room.” She turned to the truck driver. “See you tomorrow,” she said to him.
Candy quickly discovered that Janice had no intention of helping him move the boxes… and neither did Carol. Fortunately, there were only four of them and the boxes weren’t quite as heavy as he feared. But still, they were heavy… and large… and difficult to maneuver. In fact, he was somewhat surprised that they gave him as much trouble as they did to move.
“I landed a major job a little while ago,” he told Janice proudly as he got the last box into the house.
“You did?” Janice asked, sounding very happy about it.
“Yeah. I went out to fix some stuff at one store, then another asked for my help, and by the time I got out of there, I had the handyman contract for the entire strip mall. Anytime they have a problem now they’ll call me first.”
“Now that sounds wonderfully promising,” Janice replied, totally delighted with the situation. “Now will you please open one of these for me and give us a hand.”
“What are they?” Candy asked.
“Boxes,” Janice replied.
“No,” Candy asked with a smile. “I mean, what’s in the boxes?”
“Boxes,” Janice replied matter-of-factly. “We’re boxing up all these quilts and shipping them out. They’re starting to get in the way and we have many more to make.”
Shipping them out? Candy figured that would be a good thing. They were literally stacked all over the living room.
“Oh, and Candy,” Janice added before he could do anything else, “Carol and I will be taking a little hiking trip tomorrow right after the boxes have been picked up. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a nice vacation together. I suspect we’ll be gone for four or five days.”
Inwardly, Candy was ecstatic that Janice and Carol both would be away. And if they liked hiking more than anything else, that was just fine with him! “I hope you have a great trip,” he told her sincerely… hoping that maybe she would extend her stay… permanently! Of course if they got eaten by a bear, he wouldn’t mind that too much either.
What Janice hadn’t told him, was that she was shipping all the quilts off because she had now hid all the money she had dug up so far in them. The hiking trip was in reality a chance for her and Carol to dig up more of her money.
“So what do we do about Stokley?” the IA agent asked. “Jacobs set her up… warranted or not. And from everything that both Forsyth and his boss Goodman has said, there’s not one shred of proof that Stokley had anything at all to do with that robbery. Jacobs has simply been overly fixated on her for years.”
“By rights, legal needs to contact her and make amends somehow. That’s not our job.”
“Has anyone passed this information on to legal yet?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Would it look better if nobody did? If we just ignored it and left it be? The woman already spent her time in jail. Most likely she’d never hear about what Jacobs did. I’m sure it would save the company a boatload of money.”
“I don’t know,” his partner replied. “It’s not right. But I do have to agree with you.”
“Why don’t we just leave that bit for a while? We can always claim that we thought someone else had passed the information on.”
“Not only that, but we’re still not done investigating here. The case isn’t closed until Jacobs is convicted.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me,” the other agent replied.
In another part of the building, Agent Sid Forsyth was contemplating the case against Jacobs too. Only for a different reason. It was the one thing that he had discussed with his former partner that he had withheld from the IA guys. The one thing that he had grave misgivings about doing… that he had wound up promising Ted that he would do for him anyway. He had promised to go out and have one more talk with Roger Brinkley. Even though he was more than sure that the guy wouldn’t tell him anything more than he already had – which so far amounted to a total nothing!