By Karen Singer
Two large backpacks filled with money, and some of the most expensive quilts ever created. They were among the things that the FBI pulled out of Candy Brinkley’s house. But as for Janice and Carol, it was as if they had vanished off the face of the earth. The black SUV was found a day later just over the border in South Carolina. The FBI knew then that someone else was helping her… or she at least had contacts that could get her another vehicle. Worries of a mole inside the FBI started to form.
Candy came home from a brief visit to the hospital to find her front door broken open. The FBI had done that before they had discovered that they could have easily gone in through the unlocked door from the garage… which was still wide open. But they had been in too much of a hurry.
Candy had spent most of the day in the hospital being looked over by doctors – at Agent Forsyth’s insistence. And Forsyth had refused to take no for an answer. So it was late in the afternoon by the time that Candy walked sadly through her broken front door.
Her house was a mess… and not from what Janice had done. The mess was from what the FBI had done. Protect Janice! But she had failed. Not only had she failed, but she had been the one to strike the damaging blow against Janice! Something inside of her was panicked over that. And something else cheered. She couldn’t seem to reconcile the two. She had wanted Janice gone more than anything! But after doing what she had done, breaking free and telling the FBI all about Janice, her mind was now in a confused whirl and going in circles. And she couldn’t seem to get it to stop. She couldn’t think clearly at all!
Once she got home, her mind shut down and she was simply stunned. All the training that Janice had stuck into her head seemed to go on the attack as it all tried to reinstate itself in her again. Everything! Candy’s panicked mind retreated further as she remembered all too clearly everything Janice had commanded… over and over again.
Jennifer and Stan both showed up shortly after Candy got home. There was no answer at the door but the broken door had been left open so they just walked in. They found Candy sitting in the living room mumbling to herself. “It was all a lie,” Candy said again as she sat on the couch, her mind now fighting a losing battle with everything Janice had commanded. But the impenetrable wall was whole again, and all her will to resist those commands was still stuck on the other side. “I lied. Janice didn’t do it.”
Jennifer sat down next to her and held her hand. “No, you didn’t lie!” she insisted quietly. “You told them the truth! Finally!”
But all Candy could do was to stare into the distance and repeat, “I lied. Janice didn’t do it.”
A truck pulled into the yard along with a police car. “What happened here?” Mikes voice called through the broken door. “Candy, are you okay?” The policeman that had come with him was equally concerned as they both rushed inside the house. “What happened?” Mike demanded again.
Candy didn’t even notice them there. “I lied. Janice didn’t do it,” she mumbled, more to herself than to anyone else.
“What are you talking about?”
But Jennifer got up and pulled Mike and the policeman aside and talked to them – for a very long time. Neither could believe anything they heard. Afterwards, the policeman tried to get a statement out of Candy as to what had happed with Fitz, but Candy was too out of it to even pay attention to him.
“She should have stayed in the hospital,” Jennifer told them. “But she was too damn stubborn and insisted on getting out of there. But she wasn’t like this when she left. I think she’s getting worse!”
“Want me to call someone?” the policeman asked.
Jennifer thought about it. “No. I’ll watch her. I know her doctor. I’ll call her.”
“I’ll be back tomorrow then,” the policeman finally said as he gave up. “Maybe she’ll be a little more responsive.
Jennifer took out her phone and called Jessica. As Candy’s doctor and friend, she knew that Jessica would want to know.
Jessica never moved so fast as she did when she got that phone call. She was in her car and speeding towards Candy’s house… a place she had never been to… and a place that she had always shied away from… because of Janice. She had to get directions several times from Jennifer before she found the house.
Candy was still in a total daze when she got there. All Candy would do was to stare off into space and say over and over again that she had lied and that Janice didn’t do it. But after Jennifer had told her everything that had happened, Jessica had a pretty good idea as to why Candy was saying that. Candy hadn’t lied to the FBI at all. Janice’s conditioning had forced Candy to protect Janice at all costs… but now that conditioning in Candy’s head had been compromised. She wasn’t a professional psychologist. She couldn’t imagine what was going through Candy’s mind just then. But she did know what Janice had done to her personally, and she cheered the fact that somehow Candy had found a way to break free… if only for a little while. But right now, she had no doubt that there was a major battle going on inside of Candy’s head. And she was fairly sure that nobody could help Candy with that battle at all.
With Jennifer’s help, she put Candy to bed in the spare bedroom – Candy’s room. The master bedroom that they now knew that Janice had used looked pretty much like a cyclone had hit it. The FBI had been very thorough! Candy was asleep in moments. And Jessica decided to stay the night.
When Jessica found that Candy was still pretty much out of it the next day too, she took Candy to a hospital in Atlanta… and a few days later, installed her in the guest room in her own house where she could take better care of her.
Jessica set up appointment after appointment with specialists for Candy. But since Candy couldn’t tell anyone exactly what Janice had done to her and neither could Jessica, the doctors were at somewhat of a loss. Jessica too was afflicted with the primary command to protect Janice, and so she couldn’t even tell the doctors about what information the FBI had since it all was directed against Janice.
But Candy was gradually coming out of it… gradually showing more and more sparks of life!
The FBI started coming back again and again once Candy was well enough to start responding to their demands for more information – which Candy outright refused to give them. Protect Janice! Protect Janice! That primary command seemed to be more in force than ever! The FBI even tried getting Candy to agree to electro shock therapy in hopes of breaking her free again from what Janice had done to her, but Candy was very vehement that she wasn’t going to agree to that at all! Protect Janice! The FBI was finally forced to give up. What Janice Stokley had done to Candy was going to completely prevent her from telling them anything more at all.
The evening Candy sat in Jessica’s living room and suddenly giggled, was the evening Jessica realized that Candy had finally fully come out of it. She was finally well again. “Candy?” she asked questioningly.
Candy turned to her, her eyes were bright, and clear, and happy. “I’m me!” Candy said.
Candy nodded. “I’m me. I’m who I always was, and yet I’m different than I used to be too. But I’m still me.”
“What do you mean?”
Candy smiled. “I’m a woman now. Maybe not completely, but every day I’m coming closer and closer. And soon I’m going to have an operation that will make me as close as I can get. But all that is secondary now because I’m finally a woman on the inside. I don’t think of myself as man anymore. All that’s in the past. I’m a woman now. Now… and forever!”
Jessica looked at her dubiously. “What brought this on?”
Candy was still smiling. “It happened sometime after the beating that Fitz gave me. I think that loosened things up in my head enough to give me the ability and courage to electrocute myself. And then after I talked to the FBI and told them everything I could about Janice, somewhere in the middle of all that, my mind shifted. Somewhere in the middle of that I saw myself as a woman… and only as a woman. I wasn’t a man anymore… and I knew I never would be. And… I was happy about that. I still am.”
“But I would have thought that what you did, fighting back like that, was something more masculine,” Jessica replied.
Candy shook her head. “Nope! And I think I finally figured that out. It’s something that’s been really bothering me since it happened, but I finally figured out why it happened then.”
“And why is that?”
“It was something Janice told me once. Something she mentioned over dinner. She told me that a strong woman can do absolutely anything! Anything at all! And she had seen time and time again where women had accomplished things that men could never do! Somewhere in all the pain and shock I went through that day, I found the courage to do the one thing that would break the holes in Janice’s impenetrable wall. I found the courage to break free and tell the FBI all about Janice. But it wasn’t the physical strength of a man that allowed me to do it, it was the determination of a woman. Somewhere in that mix of pain that day… I crossed over the line. I’m whole now. I’m me again. Only different. I guess, a new me, but the old me is still all there too.”
Jessica wasn’t too sure at all about anything Candy had just said. She would have to digest it all later. She was more concerned with what was going on in Candy’s head just then. “Can you talk to the FBI now?” she asked.
Candy shook her head. “No. And I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to do that. Janice’s commands are still too firmly locked into me. I have no choice but to go forward the way she wanted me to. But I can accept that now. I’ve already accepted that. I’ve moved on… and now my mind has moved on with the rest of me. I’m… whole again.”
Jessica wasn’t at all sure about that, but she was hoping it was all something good… at least for Candy. “So how do you feel now?” she asked.
Candy smiled again. “Great! Alive!” She giggled. “Happy!”
The ancient fishing boat pulled up to the dock and was tied off. The unloading of the day’s catch went fast and efficiently. It didn’t really take all that long. The fishing had been bad that day. The boat was long abandoned by the time the sun started setting. Only then did Meng open the cabin door and look around. Nobody in sight. “Ben-ben!” he commanded softly.
Ben-ben followed his master out of the cabin and onto the deck of the boat. He had been transferred onto the boat from a large steamer only that morning. Then had spent the rest of the day hidden below decks. He had no idea how long he had been at sea now. A very long time. And he had done things with the ship’s crew that at one time he would have been horrified to contemplate. Now they were simply his life. His reason for living. Literally. If he didn’t do them, he didn’t eat. It was that simple.
He barely thought of his old life anymore. He rarely had time. And when he did have time he would drop into an exhausted slumber that held only nightmares if he dreamed at all.
Meng was his lifeline now. He understood nothing at all but the commands that had been taught him… and all too often he didn’t always understand those. But without Meng, he didn’t know what he would do. Meng was now his only means of survival. That, and doing as he was told.
He followed Meng out onto the deck of the boat. He was glad nobody was in sight. He was nervous enough about his appearance as it was. He looked around at what he could see. A big city, that was for sure. That made him even more nervous. And the place stank horribly!
“Ben-ben!” Meng’s command came again. And Ben-ben followed. Meng had to help him up the short ladder to the edge of the boat, but from there, it was an easy step down onto the dock. There was no need for his leash… not attached to his collar or even to his nose ring that Meng was all too fond of using. He would stay as close to Meng as he could. Without Meng, he would be lost. He was fairly sure they were in China somewhere. All the men on the boats had spoken what he was sure was Chinese. Not that he could understand a word of it.
He followed Meng up the long ancient dock. An old battered car waited at the end. He saw someone open the car door and step out. Meng stopped in front of him and the man bowed to Meng. They spoke and the man pointed several times at Ben-ben. Then Ben-ben was loaded into the car and they left. Ben-ben became more nervous. He didn’t know what kind of place they were taking him to.
The car drove for a long time. Ben-ben napped for most of it. When the car finally stopped, it was behind a building somewhere. Where that building was, Ben-ben had no idea, nor did it really matter. He was taken inside, to the amazement and delight of more women than Ben-ben had seen in one place in a very long time. He was fawned over and petted. And eventually fed and watered. And his new life began... as an hour later he was led into a room where a man waited. And he was forced to do what he now knew best… give the man pleasure with his tongue… that Meng had trained to do the most incredible things.
It took Ben-ben very little time to realize he was in a brothel… somewhere in China. His new life. And a few days later, Meng disappeared and he had only the women and the few men there to rely on. People who didn’t know all the commands he had been taught by Meng, and people he could barely understand when they did say something he had been taught.
“Janice!” Maria Alverez exclaimed excitedly with her arms held wide. “It’s so good to see you again! Welcome to Columbia!”
The two women hugged. “Thank you,” Janice replied. “It’s good to be here.”
“I heard about your unfortunate trouble,” the older woman said.
Janice shrugged. “Carol and I are just lucky to be out of there.” She motioned toward Susan Wu and her father. “I have Susan and her father here to thank for that!”
“And a lucky thing too!” Maria exclaimed. “Where is your daughter?”
“In school,” Janice replied.
“That is good!” Maria declared with a nod. But a small laugh from Susan made her turn questioningly. “What is so funny about school?”
“Nothing,” Susan replied. “Carol is enrolled to finish high school in a very fine school… part of the time, but the rest of the time she’s studying to be a dominatrix with a woman I know. I have no doubt that Carol will be one of the best. She’s a natural!”
Maria broke out laughing.
“I take it now that you’re satisfied with my methods?” Janice asked, trying to get to the root of this meeting.
Maria smiled. “Come!” she commanded. She led the way down one of the halls, into another room, and stopped at the open doorway on the other side. She pointed down the far hallway. “Eduardo,” she said softly.
Janice looked. Eduardo was at the far end of the hallway, on his hands and knees scrubbing the floor. He was wearing a very colorful dress and had a red flower tucked in his hair.
“Beautiful, is he not?” Maria exclaimed softly. “He literally spends all his free time cleaning everything and anything. The maids all love him for it! They even supply him with their cast off clothing. And he in return does many other favors for them… in the bedroom!”
“And whatever happened to those two guards in the room when I worked on Eduardo?” Janice asked.
Maria rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I had to get rid of them. They both became quite strange. The one dresses as a woman all the time and the other seems to enjoy acting like a baby or something. The two are terribly devoted to each other. I only check on them now and then because I’m curious as to how what happened to them is still affecting them. They take in laundry now from other people to support their… strange lifestyle.”
“It’s strange that they would be affected like that,” Janice replied thoughtfully. “That’s everything I told them to do, but they didn’t have the incentive of the shock box I used on Eduardo. I think it will be interesting to see how long they stay like that. Especially since I only did it the first time with them instead of twice like I did with Eduardo.”
“That’s why I keep watching them,” Maria admitted. “And I have some of my people send their laundry to them so they continue to have at least a little money coming in… so I can keep my eye on them.”
Janice nodded. “Please let me know how that goes. With Eduardo too.”
Maria nodded seriously. “These are all things I think we both may need to know.”
Janice nodded her agreement.
Maria led the way back toward the room where they had first met and asked that cool drinks be brought for everyone. When they had all sat down with the drinks to relax, Maria finally got down to business. “I am more than satisfied with what I have seen of your abilities Janice. And the time is now ripe to begin something I’ve been planning for many years. Your abilities are going to make this much easier for me and I am sure that they will make everything much safer for me as well. There are things that are possible for me now that I never dreamed were possible before.”
“And what is it that you are trying to do?” Mr. Wu asked.
Maria Alverez smiled. “Take control of all of Columbia,” she replied. “Not just the drug trade, but the government as well!”
Wu and his daughter exchanged a quick glance. “That is… very ambitious,” Wu replied cautiously.
“Yes, it is,” Maria said. “But with Janice’s help, I’m sure I can do it. That, and perhaps much more.”
Wu leaned forward. “Please do not forget, that Janice is in our employ, and we insist that she must remain with us.”
Maria waved her hand dismissing the notion. “All the better. There will be no indication that way of any ties between Janice and myself.”
Wu nodded and sat back. “Then it sounds like whatever you are planning could be quite lucrative.”
Maria laughed. “Lucrative? She turned to Janice. “I heard you lost a bit of money when you had to escape. Was it much?”
Janice nodded. “A few million.”
“Ha!” barked Maria. “A few million you say. Janice, I wouldn’t worry one bit about a measly few million dollars. We’re going to make billions Janice! When we’re done, all of Columbia will quietly belong to us… and nobody will be any the wiser! We’re going to make billions!” She leaned forward and her face screwed up into a hungry smile. “And I think we’re going to start with a certain Cabinet Minister….”
Sid Forsyth sat on the back steps of Ted Jacob’s house. Jacobs himself sat next to him. The locator monitor that was attached to Jacob’s ankle was hard to overlook. “So that’s the whole story,” he said. “You were right all along.”
“But you still didn’t catch her,” Jacobs noted.
“Nope. Not yet. But it’s just a matter of time.”
“My guess is she’s fled the country by now.”
“My guess is that you’re right,” Forsyth replied. Rumor has it that she’s been seen in Columbia.”
Jacobs grunted. “Isn’t Alverez from Columbia? If Janice hides out down there, we’ll never get her out!”
“No comment!” Forsyth replied. He changed the subject. “Ted, what are you going to do now? You know they’re not going to keep that thing on your leg forever… just like they didn’t want to keep you in jail any longer than they absolutely had to.”
Jacobs shook his head. “Monica and I are going to get married as soon as this thing comes off. I’ll have to depend on her until I find some way to support myself.”
“Any ideas on that yet?” Forsyth asked.
“Not a one,” Jacobs replied sadly. “All I ever knew was how to be a cop.”
Forsyth understood. Jacobs had been a great cop. A great FBI agent. He had only made that one little mistake. But it had cost him everything.
Jessica finally drove Candy home again. The yard was overgrown and there was a distinct chill in air hinting that the seasons would be changing soon. They entered through the front door that had been repaired, although Candy was quick to note that it hadn’t been repaired well. Not nearly up to her standards. But she had built it all once, she could build it all again.
The house smelled damp and musty from nobody being there for a while. The whole house was still a horrible mess from where the FBI had been through it… several times now. Candy and Jessica both realized that it was a good thing that Candy had stayed with her. The FBI’s multiple searches of the house would have made living there difficult.
“You going to be okay now?” Jessica asked.
Candy nodded. “I’ll be fine. Mike says he’s holding a job for me anytime I want it. I may have to wait though for another foreman position to open up.”
“At least you’ll be working,” Jessica replied.
Candy nodded. “I’m going to need it. No telling what bills I have overdue now.”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “Good luck with that! My gambling debts did a real number on my finances. Strangely though, I have Janice to thank for straightening me out.”
“No such luck for me,” Candy replied. “But I’ll be fine. Mike pays pretty well. And I’m thinking about trying to get Candy Girl the Handy Girl back in business again. I kind of liked working for myself. Even though it didn’t work out so well.”
“Good luck with that!” Jessica replied. “You’re sure you’ll be fine now?”
Candy nodded. “Yeah, just great.”
“See you Friday like we used to do?”
Candy smiled. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Five minutes later, Candy was alone again in her own house. And she knew there was no chance that Janice would ever invade her home again. She hoped anyway.
The living room was a total mess. She picked up this. She picked up that… and just set them on top of the sewing table where they didn’t belong. She went into the kitchen. The drawers were all pulled out and every cabinet door was open. She briefly walked into the laundry room. The musty odor was stronger in there. She opened the washer and saw towels in the dim recesses of the machine. Janice must have been doing some laundry when the FBI had come in so quickly. She turned the machine on and added more detergent.
Her bedroom… the guest room had been gone through as well. Her closet was open and she could tell her things had been gone through. Her drawers were the same way. Carol’s room was worse than hers. A total mess! The bathroom at the end of the hall smelled a little musty too. She flushed the toilet to put fresh water into it.
Janice’s room… the master bedroom… was by far the worst place in the house. The bed had been turned upside down and the mattresses had been cut open. Every drawer in the dresser was open and now empty. The closet had been emptied as well. There were only a few things in the bathroom. She flushed the toilet there too.
With a sigh, she went back out to the kitchen to see if there was anything at all that she could find to eat. Finding nothing interesting, she went out to her truck, afraid it wouldn’t start after sitting so long. She got lucky and the engine cranked up after only a moment’s pause. She went through the drive thru at Burger King – Carol’s favorite place. Fifteen minutes later, she was home again.
As she set the bag of food down on the kitchen table, she heard the washer kick off. Knowing it wasn’t good to leave the towels in there any longer, she went to the laundry room to transfer them to the dryer. But when she opened the washer, things inside didn’t look right. She reached in and pulled out one of the towels… and pulled out a number of hundred dollar bills that were stuck to it. She needed the laundry basket to get it all out. The wet towels went into the dryer. But the money went into the laundry basket. And there was a lot of it!
She ate her lunch while counting wet hundred dollar bills. One hundred thousand dollars! How had the FBI missed it? How? They had been very thorough everywhere else. Too thorough in cases! But that thought led her to wonder about something else. At a wide-eyed dash, she headed for the master bedroom. She had to push the big mattresses out of the way to get to the hidden hiding place she had created, and then climb over them again to get the glass puller out of the bathroom where it was still attached to the shower wall.
Opening the hiding place required a lot more effort than she remembered. But then, she wasn’t as strong as she used to be. But opening that hiding place revealed an amazing sight. The entire space was stuffed completely with money. From what Candy could see, she didn’t think another bill could have fit in there!”
And then she remembered something else that Janice had once told her about the money she was going to put in there. It was all safe money. It wasn’t on any watch list at all. It could be used anytime she needed it.
She hadn’t counted it yet. But Candy realized… she was rich! Thanks to Janice, she had more money at her disposal than she ever dreamed of. She was… rich!
The trees were bare, the leaves still littered the ground, and there was a frosty bite in the air the day that Candy pulled her truck out of the driveway. She stopped to look back. The house looked good. The new paint, the new porch, the sidewalk, even the new cement driveway that had been poured.
She hadn’t gone back to work for Mike at all. She had instead restarted her own handywoman business. But this time she begged the jobs that Mike found too small to tackle with his growing company. And Mike was more than happy to comply. But money wasn’t an issue for Candy anymore. There had been more than two million dollars stuffed in that little floor space. The space had been removed now. There was no sign that it had ever been there. With careful use, that money would last her a lifetime. But she would only use it when she needed it.
She glanced briefly at the real estate sign on the front lawn near the mailbox. The sold sticker had been put on it yesterday.
With a grin, she stepped on the gas and headed off. She had bought a new house to work on now. A new fixer upper. It was bigger than the last house, but it would be an even better project for her to work on than her last house. She turned the radio on in the truck and sang along to the music.
Candy Girl the Hand Girl was moving to a new home.