By Cindy and Walt
For all intents and purposes Janet Anton died at 3:15 PM on the first Friday in September. It had been a long summer and I was pissed because I spent most of the summer being Janet Anton. To be honest I missed Farmer’s Grove.
At 3:30 PM in the parking lot of the Office Plaza, Rose Seabold was reborn. I was ready to lose the uniform, but alas I had forgot to bring a change of clothes. Well technically I did have a change of clothes in the trunk of the Hyundai, but I couldn’t get to them before I got out of town.
I drove toward Farmer’s Grove and the Country Store, but I knew I would be meeting either Mission or Morris somewhere along the way. I drove for about an hour before the cell phone rang.
“If I had it, I would bet you ten bucks that is Morris,” Liam said.
“Since you don’t have it, we should bet ten million,” I said with a laugh.
“Now you are just being silly,” Liam said.
“Hello,” I said into the phone.
“About five miles ahead and on your right there is a Sheets Convenience store. Pull over and fill the tank. Then order dinner and have a seat, I’ll be along in a bit,” Morris said.
“What a bitch, she is going to have you wait in the open to spring a trap on anyone following you. That is, if the person following you doesn’t have you killed by the time she gets there,” Liam said.
“Come on Liam, you know it’s standard spy craft and you would do it yourself in a minute. You just don’t like her,” I demanded.
“You are fucking A I don’t like the bitch,” he said. “She tried to fuck everybody I worked with and it wasn’t a good thing.”
“Well she is probably going to fuck me as well, but I can’t do anything about it,” I said.
“Not yet you can’t, but collect the money and the people you will need to protect yourself,” Liam suggested.
By the time that conversation with myself ended, I was pulling into the Sheets Store. I used the Janet Anton debit card to pump the tank full of gasoline. Once the pump stopped, I moved the car to the parking area beside the store so that I could go inside for a pretty good hamburger and french fries.
Even after I finished the burger Morris didn’t show so I waited. I had been in the dining area for half hour or more before Morris showed. She walked up and sat down. “You look as though you gained a couple of pounds,” I said.
“Good to see you too,” she replied but she didn’t appear too glad to see me at all.
“So what you got for me?” I asked.
“So many things, it’s hard to know where to begin.” She began by handing me a prepaid debit card in the amount of eight thousand dollars. “That’s two months salary.” There aren’t any check stubs so take my word for it the taxes have been withheld,” Morris said.
I was against this one, but Mission said you earned it, so this box is for you,” she said handing me a cheap plastic box the size of those used to store recipes. “What’s in it,” I asked.
“A present from the DEA. It’s a reward for the tip that led them to the tunnel. Don’t expect any more when you read about a round up of players using a time share resort in Mexico as a cover for drug smuggling. That box is your only reward. I would never have given it to you,” she said.
I opened the 99 cent plastic box and found it to contain gold. From having seen the gold shows on TV, I guessed there was somewhere near seventy ounces of gold, worth at least $75,000. Most likely it was ill-gotten gains money. Something no one was going to bother reporting.
“Wow, that’s what I call a reward,” I said.
“Don’t worry it came from the raid, so no one is going to miss it,” Morris said. I made a note that she knew it wasn’t kosher. I might need to use it against her one day.
“I promise I’ll put it to good use,” I said.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t invest it. Hoarding comes to mind,” Morris said.
“Thanks for the advice, but what I want to know is what is with Jeremy and Alice?” I asked.
“They are an enigma. We can’t break their story, but we also can’t verify parts of it. So we can only suggest you stay away from them,” Morris suggested.
“It’s going to be hard to avoid them, if I continue living in the Country Store,” I replied.
“Well you can afford to move somewhere else now,” Morris said.
“My next move is going to be a homestead in Alaska,” I replied.
“Well not for a while anyway,” Morris said.
“Your truck is outside and your stuff is in it, including your scrubbed computer and phone. I’ll be taking Janet’s electronics,” she said.
“I’ve been gone over two months,” I said. I was ready to get back to my life such as it was.
“I’m sorry I can’t tell you any more, but we are just going to have to wait and see what if anything happens,” Morris suggested.
“Nice,” Liam said. “They can arrest Jeremy after the fact and bury you.” I gave him the half nod of my head.
“I guess that is everything,” she added. “I expect you are going to need a professional to cut the grass after two months.”
“Not a chance, have you been by the country store?” I asked.
“No why?” She replied.
“Because I have a lawn care professional. Her name is Molly,” I said with a laugh.
“Well good, the grass can get awfully high in two months. You don’t want the place to look vacant. We sure don’t want anyone poking around. I know you have a clean operation, but you just never know what someone might stumble across,” Morris said.
I wondered how much Morris knew. She might know something, but she most likely did not. I had a feeling she didn’t want to know much.
“So how much can you guess about Jeremy and his sister. They claim to be trust fund babies, so is there a trust fund?” I asked.
“They don’t work and they have healthy bank accounts and there is an investment account with a pretty good chunk of change in it,” she said.
“So they do seem on the up and up?” I asked.
“The investment account could be from anything. They claim it is an inheritance, but it could be from anything,” Morris replied.
“Okay well at least they don’t seem to be active in anything too illegal,” I suggested.
“If we thought they were, we would get you out. If they are doing anything wrong, it is most likely a moral offense not a legal one,” Morris said.
“Just so I know, what kind of yearly income do they draw from the investment account?” I asked.
“Around half a million,” she said. “That is each. They moved to the country to find that proverbial small pond. That is a hell of a lot of money in the mountains, but not so much in New York or Miami.”
“That makes sense. But then it is a good place to retire from a criminal enterprise as well,” I added.
“Like I said, just wait and see,” she suggested.
“Not much else I can do,” I replied. “Well I guess I will head home. You want to leave first or shall I?”
“I guess you should, since you have been here the longest,” she said.
Before I stood to leave I made sure I had left all the Janet Anton ID material, then I recovered my real ID. Well as real as it gets for me, I thought.
I found my bag of dirty clothes in the passenger seat, but my backpack was in the bed of the truck. I was happy to drive away from the meeting with Morris. The almost 75K reward from the DEA was a nice surprise. Then there was the no surprise about Jeremy and Alice. I was happy to see that as well. All in all it was a good meeting.
I had about a two hour drive before I made it to the Roaring Gap exit. It was also the access road which held the two plazas. I didn’t plan to stop since I had no idea what I needed after being gone two months.
The time passed slowly as I tried to remember all the things I had planned to do, while I waited for another job to come along. For one thing I could finish the Country Store house. The main thing left was decorating. It was one of the many things I had absolutely no talent for whatsoever. I decided to see if I could get either Alice or Rachael, or both, to give me some advice.
Then I also needed to get back out to the school to pick up my drawings and the critique of them. I would like to know if I had any talent or not. If not I decided I would switch to welding. I figured I would look better in a welding helmet than the girl from flash dance, or maybe not.
I pulled into my driveway and noticed the landscaping was much better than it had been two months before when I left. Molly the goat had taken care of all the weeds and vines, leaving me a nice clean wooded area behind the house. The shrubs along the front were low enough to showcase the thin vertical windows. Hell, there were even flowers lining a new walk from the driveway to the small porch.
In the rear of the house there were several rosebushes trying to take hold before the end of growing season. It was on the verge of ending in the mountains, where my ‘country store’ house was located. I took a better look at the different looking ‘knock out’ roses as I entered the side door of my house.
The side door was a hold over from when the building had been a 1950 something filling station. It was the only way one could enter the office area from the outside. When the roll up doors were removed, other doors had been installed. The side door had been reopened by Carlos. I entered the small office that I converted to a galley kitchen.
I had driven two hours since I drank four cups of coffee, so I immediately made the sharp right turn into the huge bathroom. After I did my thing I decided it was too cool to shower just then, so I left the light on in the bath. The switch also controlled the ceramic electric furnace. I knew that I had about a twenty minute wait for it to heat the bathroom, so I closed the door and continued on into the main part of the house.
I managed to fire up the wood stove. I was still agonizing over having a gas burner unit installed, but for at least the tenth time, I decided not to decide. Instead I began a small fire in the stove. The warm air from the stove would rise naturally into the sleeping loft eventually. In the meantime I could sit in the kitchen or even the bathroom to stay warm.
With a pile of clothes on the floor and my funky hot water heater finally up to temperature, I stripped off my clothes and entered the giant shower room. I turned on the pump and opened the valve so that the heated water mixed with the cold then poured onto me. I had forgotten what it was like to have a really quick shower, and then just stand under the showerhead until the water ran cold.
By the time the water turned cold, the bathroom was very warm, so I was still comfortable as I dried off. Then I stepped into the bathroom section of the huge double room arrangement.
I was finally clean and getting used to my quirky house again after the tiny Capitol City apartment. I sat by the fire in the newly completed living room to check all the emails I had not seen since I went back under cover. I checked because I would not have been able to answer them over the last two months anyway. Part of the spy code was when undercover stay away from your real life completely. Well my real life wasn’t real but it was the one worth protecting.
There were several messages from the school and a huge pile of spam. I had no idea what I would do with Viagra even if it was dirt cheap. Also who would have thought there were so many oriental girls desperate for boyfriends.
I looked in my small refrigerator and found that the mustard, ketchup, hot sauce and two canned cokes appeared no worse for wear. In the small chest freezer were the TV dinners and pot pies I subsisted on when I was fixing meals for myself. There were lots of cans of food on the old display shelves along one wall, but those would hardly make a full meal.
So my choices were limited. It was after nine, so the restaurants at the Plaza were a possibility, if I hurried. The fast food drive thru type restaurants were a possibility as well. There would have been Helen’s Crossroads Diner, if it were before 8 PM.
What the hell, I thought as I opened a can of beef stew. I found some muffin mix and frozen milk. I spent ten minutes mixing the corn muffins. While they cooked, I began a grocery list. It was nice to be back in the familiar place. I had some peace of mind in the Country Store.
After I finished the less than four star dinner, I sat at the computer to check out the results of my information. It had been in the news, how the Mexican Federales had closed down the time share resort where the tunnel was found, and how they, along with US Customs, had rounded up the unusual suspects.
There had been no mention of Michael Gold at all. The cartel might not suspect his ties, unwitting as he was, to the operation. Even though he knew nothing, he would die for his involvement. I, of course, would suffer some serious pain before I died. I planned to sleep with the pump shotgun handy for a while.
After catching up on the news and finding no real updates, I tried to find something to do in a couple of adult chatrooms. There were of course no good conversations to be had when I really wanted one. I found an amateur pornographic site and spent most of the evening looking for images of men in adult situations. Most of the pornography was of women since men tended to post those things and women didn’t.
I found enough to get my heart beating harder while I masturbated. It was difficult to see those people as real, but the quality was so bad, I had to admit that they probably were. At the very least the quality was bad enough to convince me it was amateur work. That in and of itself made it more arousing.
When I awoke on day two of my new life as the old me, I got my Farmer’s Grove bike out of the living room where it had been stored and headed into the cool morning air towards Helen Crossroads Dinner. It didn’t take long for the chilly morning air to cause my lungs to burn, but that didn’t matter. I managed to make it to Helen in record time. I was cooled and then I was in pain, so I hurried to get to the warm dining room. I knew that it was going to be worse on the return trip home, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get inside the warm dining room.
It was a bonus that Rachael would be working, I thought. When I opened the door I looked around for Rachael but she wasn’t to be seen. I sat at the counter as I always did but the girl waiting tables was a Goth looking young woman covered with some dark black and gray tattoos.
“What you gonna have?” she asked.
“Make it the special, with the eggs soft and the bacon hard. I would like coffee to drink,” I said. Then I added, “Is Rachael not working today?”
“Rachael doesn’t work here any more,” Goth Girl informed me.
“Really? I have been gone a couple of months do you by any chance know where she went?” I asked.
“You need to ask Helen, I really don’t know,” she said.
“Okay would you tell Helen I’d like to talk to her?” I suggested.
“Sure,” Goth Girl said and went to give my order to Helen. It took her a few more minutes after Goth Girl served my order, but Helen eventually showed up to talk.
“So Rose, you want to know what happened to Rachael?” she asked.
“Yes I do. I have been out of town a few weeks,” I said.
“Yeah, I know what you been up to. Rachael don’t need no part of it, so why don’t you just stay away,” Helen said.
“What you talking about?” I asked.
“After that party you took her to then disappeared, her parole officer came looking for her. I don’t know what he wanted. They talked and she left the next day. She left willingly, but we ain’t heard from her since. I’m thinking you got her into some shit Rachael shouldn’t have been into,” Helen said. “If it wasn’t for that parole officer, I would have figured Rachael was with you. Now I got no idea where she went.”
“Well Helen, I had no idea about any of this. When I left Rachael was fine and not into anything. I will ask around to some of those people at the party that night. Some of them might know where she is,” I promised.
“You do that,” she said as she walked away. She didn’t seem angry, she just seemed tired. She probably would prefer I ate somewhere else for a while. The fast food restaurants at the plaza were a bit farther away, but I could still manage it on the bike.
I couldn’t start running around checking on this and that. Asking a lot of question without knowing what was going on would probably blow my cover, if it wasn’t already blown. I had to figure out what I needed to know first. One thing I needed to know was Rachael’s last name.
I stuck my head through the open area and asked, “Helen, what is Rachael’s last name?”
“Rankin, Rachael Rankin,” she said then turned her back on me.
I rode the bike directly home fortunately it gave me time to think. My first impulse was to see if Rachael was back in the system. I thought I about making a call to the Controller on the emergency number and demanding she check. I gave that some thought on the way home and came up with a better plan.
In the dummy email I explained about Rachael disappearing after her ‘date’ with me. I suggested either the Geek or the controller check to see if Rachael Rankin a parolee from Roaring Gap had been violated. If not, I wanted to know her current address, if possible. It was important that I know she wasn’t collateral damage because if she was, obviously we needed to take steps. I hoped the way I phrased it would cause them to deal with it immediately. If there was no answer, then I might have a problem. It would be the first time I raised a security concern. It would tell me a lot about where they felt I fit into the scheme of things.
After I stored the draft email I decided to let the Rachael problem cook off a while. One thing I had learned was not to go off in ten directions at once. Pursue the most likely answer first, then go to the next most likely if the number one failed to materialize. I hated to admit it, but being in violation of her parole was the most likely thing.
With that taken care of, I took my shower with all the usual quirky steps. It was very ritualistic and I just love it. I was sure that if I ever landed a man, all this would have to change, since men are not all that detail oriented. They really don’t like to wait either.
Since I had the hot water heater on while I rode the bike, I didn’t have to wait for it to heat up. I took the shower and soaked up all the hot water available. It really did feel nice to be home.
After my shower I dressed in a sloppy sweatshirt and baggy cargo pants. I even wore a pair of work boots. I mean real work boots, not some high fashioned ‘look a likes’. When I was dressed, I drove over to Carlos’s house.
“Hello,” I said to his wife.
“Senorita Rose please come in. Can I get you anything?” she asked.
“No not a thing.” A second passed before I asked, “Is Carlos or his brother around?”
“No, I am sorry Senorita but Carlos and his brother are working on a job for the Home Depot,” she informed me.
“They took jobs at Home Depot?” I asked.
“No, they go out to do installations for them,” she said.
“Oh I see, would you ask one of them to call me please. I was thinking about doing some thing else to the Country Store while I have the money,” I said with a laugh.
“I will be sure to tell my husband. I know he will be happy you have returned. He wanted to talk to you about something but he didn’t know how to find you.” she added.
“Yes sometimes I get lost for a while. I have been on one of those trips,” I said. “I should be going.”
“It is good to have you home again,” she said. I nodded and then left.
I sat in Carlos’s drive and made the call to the college. “Could I speak to Professor Bradshaw please,” I asked the young sounding woman who answered the phone.
“In reference to what?” she asked.
“I’m Rose Seabold. I am one of the Professor’s online students. The Professor suggested we have a conference. Actually I have been out of town and just got the message. It was left a month ago,” I said.
“I see. Are you going to be available today,” the young sounding voice asked.
“Actually I am,” I replied.
“Good, how about I make your appointment the first one after lunch,” she suggested.
“It looks as though that will work just fine,” I said. After she hung up I remembered that I wanted to do some fishing, but really didn’t have a plan for it. I went to the Plaza at the Roaring Gap exit of the Interstate Highway.
I had no idea what I would do till 1 PM, but I knew there was no sense going back to the Country Store. I walked around several of the stores in the plaza. Like all women, I could spend two hours browsing around the clearance sale tables in department stores. I found that there were several items marked down enough to make the prices even lower than a Walmart regular price.
I bought three tee shirts the same style. They were each short sleeve but thermal weave cotton. The fabric looked like a waffle iron. I wasn’t sure how warm they would be, but they were billed as workout tee shirts, so maybe they would retain heat. I suppose the big sale was because summer was gone and even the temperature in the middle of the day we getting pretty cool. I hadn’t noticed it nearly as much in Capitol City, but here in the Farmer’s Grove community it was noticeable. Technically the area where I shopped was a suburb of Roaring Gap.
I managed to waste the time till 1 PM without having the lunch, which I didn’t really want or need. I left for the short drive to the Community College just outside of County Seat. As I remembered it, the campus was a mixture of historic and prefab looking buildings.