By Cindy and Walt
Monday, after my early morning routine, was all about money. Finding enough white money to keep operating. Thus far I had been able to operate about 70% with black money. I had done that by operating small. Purchases under 10,000 and then the product just disappeared. I had lost track of the black and white money. It was just like Sylvia had said I would.
Her advice, to pay an accountant to juggle that money, was about to become an issue. I made the call that I had dreaded. The female robot answered, “You have reached, then she gave the phone number, please stay on the line and someone will be with you shortly.” I knew they were not busy, it was just a ploy to rid themselves of accidental or soliciting calls.
“How may I direct your call?” the same voice said, but she was real that time.
“I need to speak to Miss Porter, it’s Rose Seabold,” I replied.
A few seconds passed, then the voice asked, “Could you give me the name of the community where you live?”
“Farmer’s Grove,” I replied automatically.
“One moment please,” the voice said.
I held on yet again. “Sorry about the phone maze but you would be surprised how my people want to sell me aluminum siding,” Sylvia Porter said with a laugh. “So I’m sure this isn’t a social call what kind of trouble have you gotten yourself into now.”
I tried to explain about The Village, as I had come to think of it, but she already knew. The Church Camp crew kept tabs on their operatives, even the contractors.
“Let’s cut to the chase. I know how you manage your money and we have been worried about it for sometime. You barely slipped under the radar with that church purchase. You need to go see Simon Mellon in Metro City,” she said.
“What exactly can I expect Simon to do for me?” I asked.
“He will draw up a contract making him your Manager. When you need to clean money he will arrange a sale of one of your drawings. You deliver him a pack of money, he will take ten percent then send you a check for the balance. When the check arrives you deposit it in the white bank account. You will need to pay your income tax on the money so take that into consideration. Your new cover is that you are a reclusive artist and dabble in real estate. We can set that up for you.”
“That sounds like it will work,” I suggested.
“Of course it will work. Also hire yourself a local dumb ass bookkeeper who can pay your taxes and any monthly bills you have coming in. Arrange a method to transfer your money by debit card. A real one not that joke the SBI set up for you. In other words, Rose Seabold is going to become real.”
There was small talk after but that pretty much sealed the deal. I was going to become Rose Seabold artist and small scale real estate developer. I liked it a lot.
I waited two hours then called Simon Mellon for an appointment. I knew better than to mention Sylvia. She had made the call to him giving him the heads up about my call. The best he could do time wise was have the documents ready on Friday of that week.
Then I made a call to a local bookkeeping service named Anna Caraway LTD. It sounded cool, but her office was in Roaring Gap so she wasn’t a big deal.
“I keep the accounts for several local small business. Everything from a maid service to a ten store convenience chain. My favorite is a taco truck,” she confided.
“So what do I need to do to set up an account?” I asked.
“Bring me your shoe box with all your records. We can start from there,” she suggested.
“It’s going to be a mess,” I warned her.
“Come in at one and we will work it out,” she said then broke the connection.
Since it was only three hours I sat by the window and did a vector drawing of a photo. It was a photo of Janice Wetherly Allen. The vector drawing was pretty close to the photograph. It needed a little tweaking to disguise her identity, but it was a pretty good likeness of a generic Janice.
I barely got finished in time to get the records together and make my appointment with Anna Caraway. I drove to her small house trailer office on the road to County Seat.
“Miss Caraway?” I asked of the older woman.
“I am and that would make you the mysterious Rose Seabold?” she asked.
“I am Rose, but I’m not very mysterious,” I replied thinking I would need to stay on my toes with this one.
“So you are going to operate as a single proprietorship?” she asked.
“Yes it’s just me,” I replied.
“You would do better tax wise as a small corporation. You might consider that later on. So what do you want me to do for you?” the hundred pound over weight gray haired woman asked.
“Keep me out of federal prison for some tax mistake I make for sloppy bookkeeping,” I said.
” I will monitor your bank statements to make sure all debit card purchases and deposits are recorded for a flat $100 per month. When tax time comes around, I will have your records ready to go. So I will file your quarterly estimated taxes for $100 each quarter. Then the federal taxes I will also file for you and charge another $100,” she said. “In order to do this you must make all business purchases with a special credit card and no other purchases on that card. You can use your debit card for things like clothes, but if you buy a bottle of ink put it on the business card. If you buy a two by four, it goes on the card. I will not sort out purchases. I will only record what is on the card. I will call you when there are deposits to determine the source, since you are self employed.”
“So you are an accountant or a bookkeeper?” I asked.
“I am a Bookkeeping Service who gives good advice and has no interest in your personal affairs, or how you operate your company,” she said.
“Okay here are my records,” I said.
“Leave me a check for two hundred dollars since I am going to spend a couple of hours sorting through this crap. I will call you when I hit a snag, and I know I will,” Anna said.
“I’ll be expecting your call,” I said it as I placed two $100 dollar bills on the desk.
“Sorry, but write me a receipt since you will need it,” I said with a smile.
“When I left I went to County Seat to open a real bank account in the same bank Sylvia Porter used. If we went down, we would all go together, I thought. The bank set me up with the credit card account. I also did a bank transfer from the only line bank to the local bank for Jeremy’s money, and what was left of my clean SBI money. That came to just over $80,000. I could use it to pay for the Village and the cash to pay Carlos. I just needed to put enough money in the account for the material to fix up the houses and to pay my very small living expenses.
It was one hell of a mess I was getting myself into, but I was going to have a real identity when it was over. I sure hoped I could keep Rose Seabold a lot cleaner than I had my birth identity.
It was almost five when I called Janice. I left the following message on her voice mail. ‘Seventy five thousand, and if I don’t hear from you by Wednesday noon, I’m going to buy stock instead’.
I went back to my drawing and sent a copy of the portrait to Luis. His email was blunt. ‘It is a dull lifeless portrait… something a draftsman would draw for the label of a package for sanitary napkins’. His comment was a little more graphic, but you get the point.
‘Then you fucking draw it Poncho’,’ I emailed back to him. I began to wonder why I was concerned about him at all. I went through that stage for about three hours then. I knew why. He was so close to the grave that he didn’t have time for soft soap. He told me what anyone would think but no one would say. I still wasn’t an artist.
Then to add insult to injury I got his scanned drawing on notebook paper that was ten times better than mine. His women’s chest almost rose and fell as she breathed. ‘It’s all in the shading’, his accompanying email read.
‘Okay, I will try it again’. I used his picture as a go by and remade Janice. The second one looked less like a generic Janice and more like a real person, but not Janice. The features were the same, but she was somehow much more than the photograph had been.
I scanned it and then emailed it to Luis. It was so late that I was sure he wouldn’t see it until the next day. I drifted into a late night adult chat room. It was a bore, but it passed some time till I was exhausted.
I slept alone that Monday night. I missed Joan and Jose on one level, but not in the grand scheme of my life. So Tuesday I was off for my morning trike race before I fully realized the shit I had set in motion the day before. I was becoming a real person again. Church Camp had made that possible. They hadn’t said, now you are real, but they made it happen nonetheless.
I was just as real as Jeremy and Alice. Now that was a scary thought. Maybe they were as unreal as me and just had a really good cover, I thought.
“What are you thinking,” Alice asked over her eggs and grits platter.
“Just wondering do zombies know they are zombies?” I asked.
“Jesus what brought that on?” Jeremy commented.
“Hey, I was just askin,” I replied.
After my shower, I drove up to my studio. I got the fire going to kill the chill that was in the air. It wasn’t so cold with all my thermal shit on, but I was going to take most of it off when I started to draw. While I waited I took a look outside and saw a stray dog trying to find a scrap of meat in a bit of road kill. He was skinny dirty and wild as hell. I snapped several picture of him with my cellphone. When I examined the heart breaking photo, I found it so soft it was almost romantic, which was all wrong. That’s when I knew I was going to buy a decent camera on Friday when I was in the big city.
Still I blew up the picture and vectored it for drawing. I worked on it almost all day. My cellphone got no reception up at the studio, so I wasn’t bothered. I had a coffee pot on the stove, a six pack of canned diet coke on the deck, and several packs of peanut butter crackers in the cabinet. I was good till dark at least. So I stayed till it was almost dark.
I checked my email. From Luis I received … ‘much better… hearing scheduled for wed of next week at 1 PM. Pick me up at noon and we will do lunch.’
I answered, ‘can do.’ I made a note in my popup reminder scheduling app on my phone.
Janice wrote, ‘Bring a certified check to our lawyer’s office Monday next at 3 PM.’ She then gave me an address in County Seat.
I answered, ‘I’ll be there.’
“It looks like we will be working by Wednesday of next week. Over the weekend pick out two houses for demolition,” I suggested when I had Carlos on the phone.
“Si Senorita. I will pick out two but it will be Thursday before I’m free. I will also find a helper. We will require one hundred and fifty dollars per day in cash.” Carlos said.
“That’s fine, if you earn it. You know how I am. I pay well for good work, but I also do not tolerate slackers,” I said it just to be sure he understood who was boss.
“It will be as it always has been between us,” he assured me.
I spent the time until my appointment with Simon Mellon who I thought of only as the Manager doing research on the Web. The almost two hour drive to his office in Metro City was a bitch. His office was on the third floor of a fancy new bank building.
We met and I signed the contract and handed over a box with fifty-five thousand dollars inside. I gave him the bank account numbers and he provided me with a transaction number which would verify the movement of the 50k into my accounts at the local bank. His five thousand was explained in the paper work as commission on the sale. An electronic receipt would go to the bookkeeper as a business expense. It was all above board except that I delivered a half ass ink drawing of Janice for the fifty five thousand. What happened to it after I left, I had no idea. I expected it would be landfill by the next day.
I also stopped by and purchased a five hundred buck Panasonic digital camera. It had a very high customer satisfaction rating. I paid for the camera with cash. Like everyone else in the world I tried to avoid taxes. In my case I did it by using cash from my grease pit.
Everyday since I made the picture of the stray dog, I had been leaving a can of dog food on the deck. It took a couple of day but something found it. I couldn’t be sure but something was eating it by the third day. That day also happened to be the morning after my new contract signing. After a marathon of drawing with pen and ink, some research and some chat room masturbation, the time till Monday passed. I made it to the lawyer’s office on time. I handed over the certified check from my bank for the purchase of The Village. The lawyer promised a deed would be registered and ready for pick up by the end of the week.
I went directly to my studio to draw, and get my blood pressure back to normal. I opened a can of dog food and put it on the porch step. It would be nice if the dog found it before the raccoons, I thought.
My mind switched to all of the sudden changes in my life. Since I was going to be real, I decided I really needed to find a man. Someone I could go to for sex at the very least. Someone who didn’t have an Alice with whom I would have to share. Still it had to be someone who wasn’t too curious. That might be a problem. I still had to maintain some elements of my cover. Every one in Farmer’s Grove had to believe I had a reason to just disappear for a few days or a few weeks. I could use the weird artist excuse for a while, I thought.
I was going to be coming up with real money for real drawings so maybe it would all work out, I thought. I could say that I was drawing in the studio with no phone service. If anyone came looking, I had just left to stay with an out of town boyfriend, or some such bullshit. Then again I might be just creating intrigue where there was none. It might never come to serious questions. Anna could be instructed to pay any invoice submitted by Carlos, and I could handle them when I got home.
Monday night I began to seriously think about an out of town boyfriend. Why not find a real man to help with my cover instead of a fictional one. I knew I wanted someone who was looking for a similar arrangement. Someone who had a good clean background, and was willing to accept a parachute girlfriend. One who dropped in and then after a few days was gone again. He could also become, if not a permanent part of my life, at least a permanent part of my cover story.
I was pretty disgusted with myself, but I joined a matchmaker’s website. Long distance lovers. For men and women who have exhausted the local dating scene and were willing to travel to find love. In my case it would be for good sex. Maybe I even needed more than one lover, I thought with a smile.
I had a few men contact me by email or in a chat room the matchmaker’s site operated. The chat room was very different from the ones in which I usually found myself. There was more talking about what things the people liked and disliked. The men seemed to be trying hard to make a real connection. I decided I would try two men out. Not meet them to screw, though I really wouldn’t be afraid to do that, but I decided to at least do a background check on two of the people in the room.
So the first one was named Michael. Michael asked me to come for a visit. He lived five hundred miles north of me. He seemed like a really nice guy. He was thirty three years old and never been married according to his profile.
I contacted Andrew and explained, “Andrew I need a boy friend out of state. He could explain my sudden absence to people I know in Farmer’s Grove. I could just say I’m going to visit whoever.”
“You don’t really need one in the flesh. We can just create one for you. But I have to admit it would make more sense to the people who know you than that awful SBI cover,” he said.
“It is more than that. I need sex now and then, and I would like it to be with someone I trust,” I explained.
“There is some benefit in that I agree. Okay but tell me why we should do a background check?” Andrew asked.
“Because, if I get to West Virginia and he turns out to be an abusive dick head, I might have to kill him, then where would you be. Maybe he turns out to be a serial killer and he kills me, you wouldn’t like that, would you?” I replied.
Okay you have a point. I will authorize a computer check on your friends. I can even get you phone number of his previous employers, but you will have to do your own contact work. I will not waste man hours on your love life, or lack there of.
When I explained to Michael that I was about to run a criminal background check on him and needed his address, he ran like a thief in the night. So did two other men I spoke with. I was just about to give up when I spoke with a man named Robert.
Robert said…Hi there Lilly.
Me…Hello Robert. Where are you from?
Robert…I’m from a small town on the banks of the Ohio River.
Robert…the West Virginia side.
Me…Lots of you West Virginia boys here.
Robert…Really? There don’t seem to be many women from West Virginia.
Me…I’m not from there either. I’m from Florida.
Robert…I wish I was from there right about now. It is warming up here but not spring yet. Going to be down in the thirties.
Me…So what do you do Robert?
Robert…I’m a pharmacist. How about you?
Me…A very small time real estate developer.
We engaged in small talk for about thirty minutes then he had to go. I was surprised that he didn’t ask to meet me or role play. He seemed to be on the up and up. Just a lonely guy who was playing the long game.
I slipped into an adult chat room for a little one on one fantasy. When it ended I went to bed feeling pretty good about everything. I even got to bed shortly after midnight for a change. I had been in bed much earlier, when Joan and Jose were there waiting for me.
After my usual morning ritual, I gave some time to the date site again. I found a very nice man who stated he worked in the medical field. Since he didn’t say doctor, I thought it likely that he was some type of technician, which really was fine with me.
The reminder rang my phone two hours before the hearing at the housing authority. I had time to call Luis to be sure he would be ready on time.
“So Luis, are you ready for the meeting?” I asked on the phone.
“I will be by the time you get here,” he said. “Just in case I lose this hearing, I have a place to go. My daughter Maria is going to share her house with me.”
“Are you sure you will be able to maintain your sanity there?” I asked.
“Probably not, but I would never fit in at the shelter,” he said.
“I think I’m going to withhold judgment till after the hearing. Then we can talk about alternatives,” I suggested.
I found Luis waiting in the lobby. The hearing was to be at the housing authority office. “We got a few minutes, would you like a cup of coffee?” I asked. “We could get it to go, so as not to be late.”
“It is not going to matter. They are going to ask me to leave no matter what time we get to the hearing,” Luis suggested.
“Humor me,” I said as I pulled into the drive thru window of a McDonald’s. We didn’t try to drink the coffee until we were out of the truck at the housing authority office.
Mine was gone when the woman called us in. “There will be no notes since this is not criminal investigation. We just want to know if Luis here tattooed a 15 year old girl without her parents permission,” the man in charge asked. “So Luis did you do that?”
“I did, but I can explain,” Luis tried to say.
“All in good time. Did you receive payment for this tattoo?” the man went on to ask.
“Yes, her boyfriend paid me. I only did it because he was a gang member and he threatened me,” Luis explained.
“But you did take his money?” the director asked.
“Yes, he put it on a table on his way out of the apartment,” he said.
“Did you call the police, if you were threatened,” The director asked.
“If I called the police, he would have come back and killed me,” Luis said.
“So that is your story and you are going to stick with that?” a man asked. I presumed he was the security officer on the desk the date of the incident.
“Yes it is,” Luis said but he didn’t sound so sure of himself.
“Did you know there was a closed circuit TV system in the lobby?” the security man asked.
“No,” Luis said.
The security officer turned the laptop around to Luis. That is the girl in question. The two of you are walking up to the elevator alone. No one, other than her, gets into the elevator with you. She stays in your room for six hours, which is not all that long for a tattoo, I’m told.” the officer suggested.
“Okay that’s enough, the girl met me in the park. She offered me oral sex for the tattoo. I did it and collected the payment,” Luis said belligerently.
“I suppose we have to hear from your friend,” the security officer made it sound like I was a prostitute as well.
“It won’t take long. Just answer this one question honestly gentlemen. Would you have refused, if you were in Luis’s position,” I asked.