By Cindy and Walt
When I awoke the next morning, it was as if nothing had happened the day before at all. Sure I had a plan for later in the day, but I had to start with the same crap I started with everyday. I added wood to the smoldering fire, and lit the gas ring under the funky water heater.
I put on a couple of layers of clothes and my ski mask, then took off to the plaza for breakfast. I chose to eat inside, since it was far too cold to eat at the stone table outside. I took off most of the layers of clothes to enjoy the food. After the good food and the lousy coffee, I headed home.
Once I got home I stood by the fire and removed a layer of clothes and waited to feel warm, then I would take off another layer. I continued until I was naked. Once I was naked, I went into the bathroom and showered.
After my shower I felt better about my future. Being clean helped me face forward not backward. I dressed in the skinny jeans and a tight tee shirt, then I removed the throw rug that hid the entrance to the stairs leading into the hidden grease pit. Once I was down in the pit I looked for the case of grease tubes. Mixed among the full tubes were six tubes from which I had carefully removed the contents and replaced it with the cash from the drug deal that went down in the Atlantic Ocean.
I carefully removed nine one hundred dollar bills, and then I replaced the tube to the middle of the stack of grease. I had to laugh when I thought of Jeremy acting as though I should be upset with the manager for demanding cash. I could never explain why I was smiling at the demand. I would buy most anything for cash. Because I did that and I appeared to live frugally from the outside. Nobody questioned my bank account.
I went to College Hill to pick up my desk. I gave the women her seven one hundred dollar bills. In exchange she had two of her employees load the desk for me. Once it was on board I drove back to the Country Store to wait for Carlos and his son Jose. The desk was so heavy I would need them both to help me get it off the truck.
I skipped lunch, as was my habit. Instead of eating, I fixed a cup of coffee. While I drank the coffee, I searched for, and found the cameras I wanted to buy. They weren’t ordinary surveillance cameras. They were high resolution professional quality cameras. The resolution was the same as a high quality TV camera. The difference was there were many fewer controls. The cameras I bought had to be set up to a computer with a control panel because they were wireless.
I placed the order after I was sure the seller would accept a bank certified check. The cameras would be wall mounted, wireless, and very sophisticated. Then there was the laptop computer and software. The whole thing came in at just under five grand.
I went back into my grease tube safe for more money. I took the roll of bills to the bank before Jose arrived for his after school chore. With the cash in hand I drove to the bank. I went into the busiest branch I could find. I knew that it was impossible to hide completely from the surveillance camera, but I preferred that the teller didn’t recognize me.
I wore a really nice wig I kept on a wig form in the grease pit. It had been given to me while at Church Camp, along with a few lessons in make up. When I went into the bank, I was a redhead wearing a baseball cap and a body pad that made my belly look bigger and my breasts look smaller. I was again thankful for my time at Church Camp.
I was pretty sure no one was going to recognize me. Yes I did have to show the driver’s license. So I chose the one in the name of Lucille Billings. It was one of many identities I had on paper. You guessed it they too were stored in the grease pit.
Carlos probably knew something was wrong with me, since he fitted the hardwood panel so they looked as though they were a tight fit with the others. In actuality they made the trap door entrance. I felt like I could trust him, which is why I made sure to find continuing work for him or his family. It was kind of an insurance policy.
I parked the truck six blocks from the bank, then unloaded my bicycle. I was just familiar enough with College Hill from the purchase of the desk earlier that same morning to find the bank. I went inside to purchase the check, then went to the post office and mailed it still in the disguise of Lucy Billings.
Once the Bike was again in the rear of the truck, I rushed off home in time to meet Carlos and Jose. Yes I had worried about loading the bike into the bed of the truck where the huge desk sat, but it was a necessary thing. Fortunately the desk was covered with a tarp I had left over from the painting of the shop/living room. When I got the truck home, I unloaded the bike and then inspected my new desk. It looked as though it had survived my attempt at taking care of the camera finances. It appeared to come out no worse for wear.
I managed a cup of coffee and a check of the email using the computer provided by the SBI and the tablet purchased by me for the Phone Sex Lady’s email. Nothing in my life was easy, but then if it had been easy, it would also have been boring. I came to realize that I had become accustomed to the craziness, and probably would need it for the rest of my life. Maybe not in the role of slut for hire, but somehow.
I was thinking those dark thoughts when Carlos pulled up in his truck. I saw Jose in the passenger seat. “Well hello you two,” I said in greeting.
“Hello Miss Rose,” Carlos said. Jose just smiled shyly and nodded. “So is this the desk you bought for the house?”
“Yes it is. I have no idea how much it weighs but I know it is too much for me. I would rather not wreck it. It is on wheels, so once we clear the door we should be able to roll it,” I suggested.
Carlos climbed into my truck and lifted one end of the desk. “Holy mother of god this thing is heavy,” he said. “Jose you come up here and roll this monster to me. I’ll get on the ground to guide it down. I am pretty sure I can hold it, while me and Rose lower it to the ground.”
And that’s what we did. After I helped with the rear of the desk I was told to get out of the way so the real men could finish. It was kind of cute because Carlos was pumping up his son’s ego. “Well I’ll just go in and clean the kitchen,” I said laughing at them.
When the desk was in place, it gave the room a turn of the century vibe. I loved it. “So do you need to get home Jose?” I asked.
“Not at all Miss Rose,” he said.
“Carlos what’s the chances of me hiring Jose to help me get a load of wood. I would love to have some more before the winter sets in,” I said.
“Have him home by dinner or call and let his mother know you have him,” Carlos said.
“I can do that,” I suggested.
“You should run by the shop. There are lots of scrap pieces you can use for kindling,” Carlos added. “I can’t burn enough to get rid of it all. Take all you want, but it is dry and burns too fast to provide much heat but it is good kindling.”
“Yes, I have been using some of your scraps from the roof project last spring, but they are about gone now,” I said. “So I would be grateful for more.”
“You going down to the lumber yard?” Carlos asked.
“No I pick up some fire wood from that co-op on the mountain. If they don’t have any, we probably will go down to the sawmill. All that shit down at the sawmill is green though. It burns hot but it fouls the firebox, and coats the stovepipe. They tell me it can catch fire in the chimney,” I said.
“Yes but I know the opening through your roof isn’t going to catch fire I put it in myself. Also your chimney is a piece of stainless steel. It is thick enough to withstand a fire. So you can burn that green shit. With that stuff you don’t have to stoke the fire as often.”
“Okay, I’ll keep that in mind,” I said. I knew I was going to buy dry wood, if I could get it. The stove I had could heat twice the space I had, so I kept the fire small and the drafts almost always turned off.
After Carlos left I asked Jose, “Are you hungry? Before I work your ass off, I can feed you.”
“No Miss Rose I am fine,” he said.
“Well then get in the truck and lets go get some wood.” With Jose sitting on the passenger side of the older model pick up, I drove up the mountain. First I went up a two lane state road. Then I went up a county two lane road which was poorly maintained. Then finally I turned onto a dirt road which led to a gated drive. I stopped there and blew the horn. Jose and I waited.
“So Jose, we are likely to be here a few minutes, tell me how you are doing in school?” I demanded.
“I am doing fine,” he said in the voice he would use to answer his mother.
“So what’s your favorite subject?” I asked a bit sarcastically but with a smile.
“I like Geometry,” he said.
“Holy shit, I never knew anyone who liked geometry,” I said with a laugh.
“Neither did I,” he said.
“My favorite subject was art, any kind of art,” I suggested. Just then an old, bent, gray haired man came to the fence riding a mule. “Remember me?” I asked.
“Yeah, what you want this time?” he asked.
“Thought I might see if you have a pickup load of seasoned, and split wood for sale,” I explained.
“Yeah, it’s one hundred dollars,” he said.
“Can we drive down to the shed and load it up,” I asked as I reached for my wad of cash. I was trying to do all the cash transactions that I could at one time.
“Do you know where it is, or do you need me to show you?” he asked.
“Well if you showed us, and help load it, you would be sure that we got the right wood, and didn’t take too much,” I said.
“You can’t get too much in this pick up, but I will come help you load it,” he agreed.
The three of us made quick work of the split logs. The truck was filled in much less than a half hour and Jose and I were on our way. We didn’t have room for the scraps from his father’s shop, so we went right to the country store. We made short work of stacking it on the deck and covering it with the same tarp I had used for covering the desk.
We then went to the shop of his father to load a bunch of scrap wood. The scrap was all less than a foot long. Anything longer could be used sooner or later, Carlos had explained as Jose threw pieces of scrap into the bed of the truck. It took only a few minutes once we were back at the Country Store to fill two large covered plastic bins with the scraps. Some of the surplus pieces I carried into the house to use in the next few days, and some I piled loose onto the deck. I would try to get them into the house before they got rained on, but if not they would dry.
I drove to Carlos’s family home to deliver Jose. “Well Jose, you were a good worker and I want to thank you”. I said that as I slipped a twenty dollar bill into his shirt pocket.
“You do not have to do this Senorita,” he said.
“I know that but you were worth every penny,” I said smiling. Truth was I hadn’t needed him for anything but the desk. I could have loaded and stacked the split firewood myself. It would have taken me longer but it looked as though I had plenty of time. The other truth was I liked Carlos’s family and I enjoyed helping them out. It was never charity. It was always pay for work they did extremely well.
As I drove home from returning the teenaged Jose, I passed at least three restaurants. Some specialized in Mexican food and some specialized in so called American cuisine. I past them all by. I wasn’t in the mood to eat out. I really wanted to get home and check my mail. I might throw a frozen dinner in the microwave or make a sandwich of some kind.
I made a beef pot pie from the freezer and thawed a couple of fancy dinner rolls. It was an acceptable meal when served with some of the Mexican hot sauce. I took it to the counter where I used the laptop to check for SBI mail. I had no mail which was the same as every other day lately.
Then I went to the Church Camp secret mail using the small tablet I had purchased just for checking their mail. ‘Roses come home,’ was all the message said. I checked the time stamp. It had been send an hour earlier. I decided to wait until first thing the next morning. Before I went to bed I slipped into the grease pit to retrieve the small box of gold. If Liam was right, I might be able to make a trade.
It was a mistake to wait. I worried about the message all night, which made sleep almost impossible. When 5 AM finally came, I just got in the pickup and headed for the camp. I made it by 7:30 even after a stop at a fast food chain for a sandwich and coffee. The coffee wasn’t too bad, if you like fresh coffee. I didn’t but I didn’t complain since it was better than nothing.
I pulled my truck to the gate a few minutes later and waited. The speaker on the gate came to life. “We expected you last night. Leave your truck and walk around the gate carefully. Walk toward the compound you will be met.” the speaker said.
“Got it,” I replied and did as they said. Just as before an all terrain vehicle pulled up and took me to the compound. The escorts were always hard young men who were a pleasure to ride behind. Unlike last time, I got dropped at the administration office.
Once I entered I was greeted by a skinny woman with no boobs to speak of, and the worst hair I had ever seen. “Well Rose we finally meet,” she said.
“So you are the phone sex lady. Who are you really,” I asked.
“My name is Sylvia Porter and I used to be a Sheriff, back when there were such things,” she said.
“My God I thought that you were some kind of urban legend from the way they talk about you around here. I had no idea you were still alive,” I said.
“In this line of work Rose, you never know how long you will be alive,” she said with a laugh. “So I try to make the most of it. Actually I have been hearing a lot about you.”
“Oh I’m no heroine,” I said remembering the two gun thugs I stabbed in the back.
“You get the job done, and so far you have always found a way. Rose, with a Control like Morris you have to be able to take care of yourself,” she said. “But I called you here, because I need your help.”
“Name it and I will do it. I have a debt to work off,” I said.
“Don’t be so quick to jump into the fire Rose. Let’s go have some coffee and we can talk about it.
“Sure, but can I ask you something?” I asked.
“Of course what is it,” Sylvia asked.
“I have some gold that was given to me as a reward for some information I collected. I have come to realize that selling it will draw a lot of attention to me. I need to find a buyer from another country or something. I was wondering if you know someone?”
“How much do you have,” she asked.
“About five pounds I think,” I said.
“Yes that would be difficult to unload without drawing attention to yourself. If you will sell it at 80% of market value, I will buy it myself. I’ll check the market and give you an offer. If you would rather sell to someone else, I know an Israeli who buys and sells metals,” she suggested.
“Whatever you think is fair will be fine with me,” I said. By that time we had reached the dining room.
When we walked in everyone stood. “For God’s Sake this is not the SAS, the royal Marines or Mossad, sit the fuck down.” When she was seated she said to me. “Colonel Martin was a hell of a Commander but he was really old school. I’m still working on keeping the discipline, but getting rid of the rigid rules.”
“You are running the larger operation aren’t you. Church Camp is just a part of the thing whatever it is?” I asked.
She just smiled. “See those people sitting around in here?” she asked.
“Yes of course,” I replied.
“They are training for a mission and some of them are likely to die. You can keep a few of them alive and maybe even of few of the guys on the other side. There is no one better for the job than you, but you are not the only one. If you decide this is not for you, I will understand,” she said.
“I don’t see how I can help. These guys are in way better shape than me. Hell even the women could kick my ass ten times over,” I said.
“Take a look at the women,” she said. “They are skinny have no boobs and speak like the soldiers they are. The mission can go one of two ways. We can go in hot and kill everyone but then the information has a very short shelf life. Option two is to go in cold and get the information and get out. If would be nice if we could do it without leaving a trail but we have to have the information. If they don’t know we have been there, we can act thoughtfully rather in a hurry.”
“So you want me to run an operation to clone the information you need?” I asked.
“I’m afraid it isn’t that simple. The place has heavy security, but it is mostly automated. We can get past that but there is one technician on duty at all times. That technician monitors the surveillance cameras. We could take out most of the cameras but not all. It would only take one to turn it into a kill mission,” Sylvia said.
“So you want me to keep him occupied while you steal the information,” I asked.
“Yes not only that, we want you to erase the tapes. The Geek tells me you can insert a virus that will do it and will take months to trace back to the tech.”
“And if they do trace it back before I get away clean?” I asked.
“A long slow painful death will be your reward,” she said. “And a plaque on one of the post in the dining hall.”
“Wow you really know how to sweet talk a girl,” I said. “Since this is much larger than the favor you did me, I want full market value for the gold.”
“Done,” Sylvia said smiling. “Now go home, get your affairs in order, then pack a bag and meet me at Shoney’s restaurant on I-40 Wednesday at 3 PM. I will take care of Morris,” she said knowing I would ask what if the SBI wants me.
“Fair enough, at least you gave me two days. Morris usually says leave last night,” I said with a chuckle.
“Well do the best you can on this one, and I’ll try to give you some cover when it’s over,” Silvia replied. “Okay you had your coffee and now it time to go say hello to each member of the team. They won’t know who you are, but I want you to know them.”
When I got back later that afternoon, I was exhausted. The early drive, the constant plotting, and rationalizing and then meeting those young people. None of them older than myself and their lives depending on me doing what I did best. Telling a convincing lie and making a man willing to sell his soul for me. It was a heavy responsibility. I told myself that I had no choice. If I didn’t try those young people would be put in a kill or be killed position.
I had two days to get my affairs in order. That’s how Porter had put it. That made it sound really serious, but then it couldn’t be more serious than a drug cartel after your skinny white ass, I thought. Still according to all I had heard Porter played fucking rough. If she was warning me, then it really was dangerous.
The good news was I had a bag full of money after selling Sylvia the gold. $82,000 rounded off to the nearest thousand. “I am going to have to find some more empty grease tubes,” I said to myself.
I checked my mail then went to bed. I set the laptop on the built in table beside the sleeping loft bed. I used it to watch pornography for half and hour. Yes I masturbated as well. When it was over, I just shut my eyes and was asleep instantly.
I found that two days was way too long to get my affairs in order. I probably should have used the time at Church Camp to learn more self defense skills. I even mentioned it to Silvia when I returned to Church Camp.
“Well it’s up to you but I found that if you know how to hurt people, you do that rather than think. It’s easier to stab them, than to figure out a way to out smart them. We are all basically lazy. We take the path of least resistance. We want to get in and out without anyone knowing,” she said.
“You know in order to do that, I will have to stay in place a few days after your raid, to deflect suspicion in case anything comes of it. The best cover I have here in Country Store is not to have anyone looking for me,” I said.
“That is exactly why I want you for this. You know how to out think the bad guys. When the shooting starts, they won’t even consider shooting you,” Porter said.