By Karen Singer
Chapter 64 Part 1 of 3
“Are you coming?”
“Of course,” Candy replied to Jessica’s question. There was no doubt though that the doctor had sounded very half-hearted when she suggested it.
“Great,” Jessica replied. “We’ll just have dinner or something and we can talk then. In fact, if you don’t mind, maybe we can do this every Friday evening. That is, if you’re not busy. You know I’ll go out of my way to take care of you anytime you want. But since you don’t have any other therapist… and I know you won’t ever have one, then I’m going to try to do my best to fulfill that position too. The once a week sessions should be a big help to you.”
“I’m sure they will,” Candy replied. And Candy knew all too well that the doctor had the most trouble staying out of the casinos on Fridays. It was the result of Janice’s conditioning on the woman. “It all sounds fine with me,” Candy replied. “I guess you’re using me to help you get past your gambling urge?”
It was a moment before the doctor could reply. “Kind of. My own therapist suggested that I find something to do every Friday since that seems to be my worst day.”
“Then I’ll be more than glad to help. You know I enjoy spending the time with you anyway.”
“If you don’t count last week,” Jessica replied.
“Well… last week was somewhat of a disaster.”
“I’m so sorry about that,” Jessica told him.
“No, I’m the one who’s sorry. In more ways than you can imagine.”
Jessica was silent about that for a moment. “I’m sure,” she replied. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through with this… and anything else that she’s done to you.”
“Like I told you before, right now, I’m just trying to figure out how to live the rest of my life like this. I’m just doing the best I can.”
“I know Candy. Forgive me for feeling sorry for you… but at the same time, I’m rather impressed with the way you’re handling everything. I don’t think I could have done that.”
Candy grunted. “I just do what I have to do. It’s all I have.”
“I suppose so. See you tomorrow?”
“I look forward to it,” Candy replied. He hung up the phone. It looked like he now had an appointment for every Friday evening with Jessica… his doctor …and now his therapist. And he had another appointment every Tuesday morning for his laser treatments. If things kept on like that, his schedule was going to get awfully busy. He laughed. Busy? Sure. Working for himself now, he basically had all the time in the world.
As the evening shadows fell and the world outside his living room grew darker, he stuck yet another needle carefully into the quilt material to hold the pieces together. Making a quilt was nothing at all like building anything else. He found it tiresome, frustrating, and more than a little difficult. And as much as he used power tools that were extremely dangerous, he was still somewhat intimidated by Janice’s sewing machine. But at the same time, he also found that he was rather enjoying the constant pattern changes of the material. It was all… very pleasing. He had already finished the first quilt for his room, and now he was in the middle of his second one.
The headlights turning into his driveway surprised him. Who would be coming to the house now? And worse, he only had a set of temporary steps going up to the front door because of the new porch he was building. And whoever was out there would have to climb over half his construction materials just to get to the steps!
He put the quilt down and hurried to the door… and was both surprised and irritated to see Agent Forsyth trying to climb over a pile of his boards. The command to protect Janice was immediately coursing through his head. “There’s nothing I can help you with,” he said as soon as he opened the front door.
“Yeah,” Forsyth said, doing his best to take in Brinkley’s new appearance. He was more than a bit shocked at how feminine the guy now looked. “I have no doubt that’s pretty much the case. Can I come in anyway?”
“I’d rather you didn’t,” Candy replied testily.
Forsyth only nodded. “That’s okay,” he replied. He knew this was going to be a wasted trip. “Look,” he said.
“Oh hell!” Candy exclaimed. “Come on in for a minute. We’re letting the damn mosquitos in.”
“Thanks,” Forsyth replied as he mounted the steps and climbed into the house. He looked around. The place looked far different on the inside than he expected it would. “Nice place!” he said. “My wife would love this.”
“Janice takes good care of it for me,” Candy told him.
“It looks like it,” Forsyth said, still looking around. He didn’t see any sign of the dog that Jacobs had told him about. He saw the sewing center all set up in the living room. “Looks like somebody does some sewing,” he noted.
“I’m making a quilt!” Candy told him with more than a hint of irritation since he wasn’t happy that Forsyth was there at all. Then he thought better of his attitude. The least he could do was to be a bit a little more polite… whether he liked the fact that the man was there or not. As much as he really wanted to tell Forsyth what was really going on, actually doing it was out of the question. He tried his best to sound a bit nicer. “Do you want to see?” Not waiting for an answer, he walked over to the sewing table and stretched out the quilt he was working on.
“Nice,” Forsyth noted. “I think you’ve surprised me again. I didn’t take you for the type that was into sewing.”
“Did you take me for the type that would be changing my sex either?”
Forsyth just looked at him for a moment. “Touché,” he replied.
“So what did you come all the way out here for this time?” Candy asked.
Instead of answering his question, Forsyth looked around again. “Is Mrs. Stokley here?” he asked.
Candy shook his head. “Sorry, she and her daughter have gone off on a little trip. I’m afraid they’re going to be gone a few days.”
“Oh,” Forsyth replied.
“And if you’re thinking of coming back,” Candy continued, “I doubt that she’ll want to see you.”
“Huh!” Forsyth grunted. “I know she won’t. But actually, I’m here to see you again instead.”
“Me? You already know there’s nothing I can tell you.”
“Yeah, I know that, but I’m here to try anyway.”
“Why bother?” Candy asked.
Forsyth took a deep breath before replying. “Because a friend of mine is in trouble.”
“So he’s a real good friend.”
“Okay. And what does that have to do with me?”
“He asked me to check with you one more time. He wanted me to plead with you to try and come up with something that might help.”
“Me?” Candy asked, totally surprised.
“Look, Mr. Brinkley…”
“It’s Miss Brinkley now,” Candy told him. “Candy Brinkley. Soon to be completely official… as soon as I get the court date.”
“Uh… okay… Miss Brinkley. Look, you remember my partner, Ted Jacobs?”
“How could I forget? The damn guy wasn’t exactly nice!”
“No, I’m sure you thought that. But he was damn good at his job!”
“Is he the friend who’s in trouble?”
Forsyth nodded. “Yeah. Big trouble.”
Candy shook his head. “I’m not sure if I should be glad about that or not. As I said, the guy wasn’t exactly nice to me.”
“I know, but hear me out.”
Candy shook his head. “Go for it.”
“I promised Ted that I’d ask again if you knew anything at all about Janice and a lot of money.”
“Haven’t we been all through this before?” Candy asked.
Forsyth nodded. “Yeah, several times in fact. But very often more information comes out when we keep going back and checking multiple times.”
“You mean when you hound your victim.”
“I don’t like to think of it like that.”
“Well that’s what you’re doing! And not just me, but my friends as well. Think about someone in my position. I’m going through a major life change here. Alienating the only good friends I have doesn’t exactly help me.”
“I’m sure, and I’m sorry about that. And if it’s any help, I can assure you that we won’t be talking to them again.”
Candy just shook his head, disgusted with the whole situation. “So why is your partner in such hot water?”
“He did something really bad. Crossed way over the line. But he admits that completely. But the funny part of it all is the money. Look, he admits he framed your housekeeper, Janice Stokley. He admits that freely. But somehow, he had these drugs, and then most of them were suddenly gone. And in their place was a pile of money. Money straight from one of the banks that my partner is convinced that Stokley had robbed.”
Candy was suddenly going crazy trying to put all those pieces together. “So Janice didn’t do it?” he exclaimed. “She always insisted she didn’t do it and that she’s never had anything at all to do with drugs. Ever! And you know what, from everything I’ve seen, I totally believe her!”
Forsyth nodded. “Yeah, it looks like she had nothing at all to do with the drugs, but the money is still another matter. And quite frankly… uh… Miss Brinkley, both my partner and I think you’re holding out on us. We both think you know more than you’re saying.”
Candy’s mouth hung open – as ‘protect Janice’ raced through his mind again… along with an image of money he himself had pulled out of a bag on his kitchen table… and gotten his blood all over. Protect Janice! And himself! This time when he spoke, his voice was no longer his Candy voice… even though it didn’t sound quite like his old Roger voice either. But there was more than a hint of harshness in what he said. “Agent Forsyth... I’ve told you everything I can! I’ve been patient and had to put up with you and your partner over and over again – including in school where it didn’t exactly help my position there one bit. There’s nothing I can tell you about any money at all! Janice works as my housekeeper, and I know she’d much rather be somewhere else… doing something else. Now get out of my house and leave me alone!”
Forsyth only nodded sadly and headed for the door. He reached into his pocket before he left and automatically pulled out one of his business cards. He turned back to Brinkley. “Here,” he said. “Just in case you ever change your mind.”
Candy looked at the card in his hand. “No thank you,” he said testily. “Besides, I think I’ve already got one somewhere.”
Forsyth nodded and headed outside, carefully climbing down the steps and stepping over the construction. As Candy watched his car backing out of the driveway, his thoughts turned to the business card that was still stuck somewhere in his wallet. Why had he kept it? He only knew that he wasn’t willing to throw it out yet.
Candy’s first order of business on Friday morning was to phone Stan. He punched the number into his cell phone and waited.
“Hello?” Stan’s voice finally answered.
“Are you up for some fishing tomorrow?” Candy asked brightly. He waited, but he got no reply. “Stan?” he asked after a few moments. “Are you still there?”
“Yeah, I’m here.” Stan replied half-heartedly.
“So… are you up for some fishing?”
“I guess that depends,” Stan replied.
“Are you going to fish, or are you going to be more interested in makeup and stuff?”
“Look man, I don’t even know who you are anymore!”
“I’m still me… just in a different form.”
“Shit man, you’re starting to act all… girly!”
“Stan… I don’t have much choice in the matter. That’s going to be my new life. It is my new life now.”
“Shit!” Stan replied.
“Stan,” Candy said, “you’ve been my best friend for a long time. I don’t want to lose you.”
“But I’ve already lost you!”
“In what way?”
“Shit! You’re not a fucking man anymore! I can’t look at you and talk about… guy stuff with you anymore!”
“Have you looked at yourself in a mirror lately?”
“Every day, Stan. Every day.”
“Well I can’t very well talk about some of the things we used to talk about. I can’t very well treat you like I used to anymore.”
“What the heck are you talking about? Why not?”
“You know what I mean. You know perfectly well that we both used to deal with women different than with another guy… and I’m not certain yet if you qualify as a woman or a guy. Well, certainly not a guy anymore. That much is for sure.”
The problem was, that Candy did know now what Stan was talking about. “Stan… I don’t know what to say. I’m changing. I’m going to be a woman for the rest of my life.”
Candy waited a moment, but Stan didn’t say anything else. “Stan,” he said, then waited a moment again. Still no reply. “Stan, I still want to be your friend. I still value you as my friend too much to lose you… if I can help it. We’ve both been through a lot together. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your support in the past.”
“Shit!” Stan muttered again, but softly.
At least Candy knew he was listening, but the thought that he might be losing his best friend was starting to get to him. “I understand if you don’t want to be around me anymore. I hate it like you wouldn’t believe, but I understand. And I can’t tell you how much it hurts me right now just to think that you don’t want to be my friend anymore.” As he said it, he felt himself getting quickly over emotional again and his eyes started tearing up. His voice now betraying the hurt, he continued. “I hate that so much. But I have to understand if you can’t accept me for the new me that I’m becoming.”
His voice clearly showed that he was now crying openly. “You’ve been my best friend Stan. I’ve always been able to count on you. But… like I said, if you can’t accept who I am now, then I have to accept that and move on. I don’t want to make things worse between us than they are right now.”
His emotional level hit the point where he couldn’t continue. “I can’t talk now Stan. I’m sorry. So, so sorry! Bye!” He quickly hung up the phone. With the tears streaming from his eyes, he ran to his bedroom and buried his face in his pillow. He had just lost his best friend in the world. Stan couldn’t accept who he was now. It hurt. It hurt bad! But he had no choice but to accept that.
His phone rang and he ignored it. He couldn’t talk to anyone in the condition he was in. It would be too embarrassing. Thankfully, the ringing stopped. But two minutes later, it started again. Frustrated, he picked it up and looked to see who was calling… Stan! “Hello?” he said tentatively, his voice still overly thick with emotion.
“Shit!” said Stan softly. “See, this is what I’m talking about. What am I supposed to do with you if you start crying on me somewhere?”
Candy tried to laugh, but wasn’t successful. “Ignore me. Just walk away and ignore me for a while. I’ll get over it eventually.”
“Huh! Easier said than done sometimes”
“Yeah, I know. But I’m telling you that’s all you have to do. Just ignore me.”
Stan didn’t reply to that. After a moment he said, “You better not ask me to ever bait your hook for you or even to remove a fish from your line if you catch anything!”
This time Candy’s forced laugh was a bit more successful. “I think we can safely call that a deal.”
“Can you promise you won’t break down and cry on me again?”
“I wish!” Candy replied. “I’d like to promise it, but right now these hormones are doing a major number on me. My emotions are almost impossible to control.”
“Shit!” Stan muttered again. “I guess since you think you’re a woman now that you expect me to pick you up tomorrow?”
“Either way,” Candy replied. “If you like, I’ll be more than glad to pick you up instead.”
“No, better not. I’ll come get you. I’d feel funny riding around with the woman doing the driving… even if that someone is you!”
This time, Candy’s laugh was more genuine.