Adult story: Homeless – CHAPTER 2
I set the house alarm and led her out to my Honda. It really was a pretty decent car. I’d bought it new when I moved here last year. There’s a big difference between buying a car in New York and buying one here. For one thing, the sales people actually make you believe they’re glad to have you in their showroom. Many times in New York I’d stood around for half an hour while they completely ignored my presence. I only give people like that one chance. I’d never go into that dealership again, but I always made sure to write an explanatory letter to the general manager. The biggest difference was that I paid for this car with a personal check. In New York an official bank check was always required and, even then, I had to sit around the dealership while they called the bank to ensure that it was real.
I opened the door for Jessie and backed out into the driveway. A minute later we were back on Beach Road headed toward the nearby village of Calabash. I parked in the lot at Boundary House. It was just after eight so the early rush of senior citizens was long gone. We were shown straight to a table by the hostess. Once we had our menus I asked Jessie, ”Would you like a drink? They might ask you for ID, but maybe not since I come here often.”
“It’s okay…I have my expired driver’s license from Iowa. What would you have? The drink, I mean.”
“I usually have a Margarita on the rocks. I enjoy it. You can barely taste the tequila through the lemon-and lime juice in it.”
“I think I’ll join you.” That was what we ordered when the waitress came to the table. I explained what I knew about the menu. “I’ve had the baked potato soup several times. I think it’s really good. When was the last time you ate?”
“Day before yesterday with the Canadian couple—a burger and some fries with a Coke for lunch.”
“Then you’re probably hungry enough that you can handle the soup. It’s pretty filling. Also, the salads here are big and really good with cheese, bacon, and almonds in addition to the standard lettuce and tomatoes. For entrees I suggest the shrimp—grilled or fried—the chicken fingers, ribs, or prime rib. They’re all usually pretty good. I had the filet once and it was okay, but just okay. I’m going to have the ribs.”
Jessie did order the soup, suggesting we share, the salad with Italian, and the ribs with baked sweet potato. I had the salad with bleu cheese and the ribs with baked potato. I toasted with Jessie once the drinks had arrived. “Here’s to better days.”
She smiled and took a sip. “Good choice; I really like it.”
Now I smiled. “Don’t like it too much. They can really sneak up on you. They’re stronger than you might think. That’s why I never have more than two.” A minute later our soup arrived and I could tell by the expression on her face that it was another good choice. I could also tell that she was reluctant to share, but, after eating about half, she pushed the bowl across the table. I only ate a little bit and returned the bowl to her.
I loved the salads here and the accompanying croissant was always fresh and delicious with its drizzle of honey butter. Jessie must have been really hungry because she finished everything and even agreed to share a dessert of New York cheesecake even though she told me she’d never had it before. “Your other suggestions worked out well. I’ll trust you on this one.” The restaurant claims their cheesecake is flown in daily from the world-famous Carnegie Deli in Manhattan. I couldn’t say for sure if that was true, but the cheesecake was always delicious. Apparently, Jessie agreed. I paid the check, adding a generous tip and we were back in the car a few minutes later.
“Feeling better now,” I asked.
“Much—I can’t remember eating such a good meal or so much in years. Thank you. Thank you for everything.”
“You’re welcome. I want to give your job problem a little thought tomorrow. There must be something you can do. I just have to figure out what. It’ll probably come to me while I’m sleeping.” I could see her confusion so I continued. “That’s when I always get my best ideas.”
We were back at the house and had walked in when I noticed how tired Jessie was. “You know what? I just realized that we didn’t get you any pajamas or a nightgown. I could let you use one of my tee-shirts and some gym shorts that you can tie. I’m obviously bigger than you, but I think it’ll work.” I disappeared down the hallway to the master bedroom, returning a few minutes later with a navy blue tee shirt from the Bulldog Saloon in Whitefish, Montana and a pair of grey nylon shorts with ties in the front. I said goodnight, reminding her that she could lock the bathroom doors as well as the bedroom door if she wished.
“I think I’ll trust you, Doug. You’re obviously one of the good guys.” She gave me a hug and closed the door. I walked into my bedroom, closed the door and stripped naked for a quick shower. Ten minutes later I was sound asleep.
I always get my best ideas when I’m unconscious. When I woke at 4:30 I knew what to do so I walked into my home office and started to write a short program even though I was still half asleep. It was 5:15 when I turned it loose on the internet. I returned to bed knowing I was done sleeping for the night. Instead, I lay quietly in the bed while I thought about the events of the past day. I rose and dressed around 7:00.
Jessie walked into the kitchen as I was just finishing the morning paper. “Did you get any inspiration last night?”
“Did I ever! I think I’ve solved your problem and I’m working on it as we speak. It’s really so simple. You have to become someone else.”
“I wrote a program that will search the internet for news stories on births and deaths. What we need is someone—a girl, obviously—who was born around the same time as you and who died shortly thereafter. If we can find one we can write to the county where she was born for a birth certificate. Then we can get you a social security card, a driver’s license, the whole works.”
She looked worried. “Is that legal?”
“No, but if we can find the right one we’ll never get caught. We’ll find one. It’s just a matter of time. Later today I’ll phone my doctor and get you an appointment for a complete checkup. I think you should see my dentist, too. Let’s get some breakfast—scrambled eggs, French toast, or pancakes? Bacon or sausage?”
“What would you like?”
I had to laugh. “I knew you were a survivor! Talk about tactful! Okay, how about scrambled and sausage links? Help yourself to coffee. Ever use one of these single-cup machines?” I gave her a quick tutorial before opening the refrigerator and pulling out six eggs and eight links. They went onto a hot griddle while I broke the eggs and stirred them into a homogeneous batter with a stainless steel whisk. I had everything cooking in less than a minute. Jessie had just taken her first sip of coffee when I pointed her to the cabinets for plates and silverware. I served her a generous helping before serving myself and dropping the frying pan into the sink.
We sat in the large eat-in kitchen overlooking the back yard and the marsh beyond that led to the Intra-Coastal Waterway. I had a long dock four feet wide with railings over the marsh leading to a 150 square-foot area where I kept two boats high above the water on hydraulic lifts. “So, you drive a Honda, but have two boats?”
“Of course! One must always keep one’s priorities in order besides…fishing is much more fun than driving. There are some great beaches nearby, too.” She held herself as though shivering from the cold although it was a toasty seventy degrees in the house. “Well, there are great beaches nearby when it’s warm enough.”
“Why two boats?”
“One is perfect here in the ICW or in one of the inlets, but it’s much too small to use in the ocean. That’s why I have the 33-footer, plus it has two engines which are a big insurance factor when you’re offshore. They’re both from Grady-White, known for over-built boats for generations. The outboards are all 250-horsepower Yamaha’s—the best outboards that plenty of money can buy. What the hell, I have to spend it on something.”
Now Jessie laughed. “You are human, after all. Great eggs, too—you’re going to make me fat.”
“I doubt it, but you look like you could use a few extra pounds. I know you’ve had a tough time.” We chatted for a few minutes then I dumped the dishes in the sink for later and took her on a tour of the house, stopping first in my office. She looked in awe at my computers arranged vertically on a steel rack.
“What on earth is that?”
“That is actually my computer. There are four servers, each capable of handling dozens of individual work stations, hooked up together. I have more speed and power than Merrill Lynch does in their Manhattan office. Let’s see if we’ve gotten any results yet.”
My hands flew across the keyboard. Shit! I had results—too many. “Okay, when’s your birthday?”
“August 6, 1992; why?”
“I need to narrow the parameters on this search. I already have 15,000 matches. I was kind of asleep when I wrote it. Also, I forgot to input your sex. Finding Robert or Mark or Thomas isn’t going to help us.” Again, I typed quickly and the number of matches dropped to 76. “I asked for July through September of 1992 and added ‘female only’ to the search parameters. We can look at them later. Right now I have to make some phone calls.”
I phoned my doctor and made arrangements for blood tests tomorrow morning. “I also want testing for STD’s for my friend. She’s had a tough time surviving. I’ll go into detail with Dr. Whitney next week.” After ringing off I dialed in to my dentist, making an appointment for a cleaning and exam on Friday morning. Money talks; I learned a long time ago about the power of cash.
Jessie and I made short work of the dishes then I walked her to her room where we worked together to make her bed. We hadn’t found any lice on the sheets or blankets, but I still suggested that she wash her hair again. I hesitated to ask her about her other areas out of respect for her privacy. However, she readily volunteered the information. “I shaved my legs and underarms last night after using the shampoo. I thought about my pubic hair until I realized that I would have to comb the hair there. That cinched it for me. It’s the first time I’ve been bald there since I was eleven.”
“That was entirely your decision. All I care about is your health.” She looked at me for a few seconds as though to ask me a question then she smiled and went back to work. I left and Jessie closed the door. I noticed that she didn’t lock it, not that I would ever dream of intruding. Hearing the water in the shower, I turned and walked into my office to check the results of my search.
My computers were so powerful and so fast that they could scan millions of birth and death notices in a single second. It might take another second to compare them in search of a match. I had designed the program to begin searching births in the southern states and the deaths in the mid-west. After exhausting those it would automatically shift areas, concentrating wherever possible on pairs that were geographically different. The program had already identified 86 pairs. I had never realized that there were so many cases in which children died shortly after being born.
First I printed out the highlights—date of birth, place, date of death, and place. I automatically rejected any in which both places were identical, assuming that people would know the family and identify their tragedy if I made an inquiry regarding the child. That removed more than ninety percent of the pairings. I now had exactly seven examples to investigate. I eliminated another two almost immediately. In one the father was a mayor whose two-month old daughter had died on vacation. In another one parent was a relatively well-known entertainer. It was the third in which I thought we hit pay dirt. I couldn’t wait to share it with Jessie.
She called me from the bathroom so I left the data for later. I found her seated on the stool, the towel wrapped tightly around her slender body. I parted her hair with the comb and began a methodical combing that I hoped would cover every hair on her head. Whereas I had uncovered roughly a hundred nits last night, this morning I found only three. More importantly, I didn’t see even one live louse.
I was about a minute into the combing when I remembered to share my news. “I think I’ve found the perfect new identity for you. The child—Jennifer Marie Townsend—was born on August 4th, 1992. There was a news story from the local newspaper in Whitehead, Tennessee that the family was driving north on I-65 to Chicago where the father was going to accept a new job when mom began to give birth. They pulled off the interstate when they saw a hospital sign, stopping at the emergency room of the nearby Marshall Medical Center. Jennifer was born and her birth is registered there in the Marshall County records. They stayed there for three days before continuing north, again on I-65 en-route to Chicago. Unfortunately, they never made it. A day later they pulled off I-90 near Hammond, Indiana. According to witnesses, Mr. Townsend attempted a right on red from the exit ramp when his car was struck by a tractor-trailer doing 55 with the light. Either he was distracted or something, but all three in the family were killed when the car broke apart and flew almost fifty feet through the air.
Apparently, there was an extensive police investigation, but they never found any relatives to claim the bodies so the company the father was going to work for paid for cremations. The ashes were never claimed and were disposed of by the crematory. It’s a sad story, but perfect for you. That the death was in another state means there is unlikely to be any tie-in between the agencies.”
“I almost feel guilty taking her identity.”
“Don’t. Why don’t you look at it as being a second chance for her…and for you, too? It’s the only thing I can think of to throw your stepfather off your trail permanently.” She gave me a coy smile and nodded.
I lent her one of my college sweatshirts and we walked together to the garage for a ride down to the nearest big shopping mall. She needed a warm jacket badly and we hadn’t found anything in Walmart last night. Looking down at her chest she asked, “MIT?”
“Yeah, I was a grad student there. Having a PhD. is almost a requirement in the software development field unless you’re under eighteen and a genius.”
“I thought you were a genius.”
“Thanks for the compliment, but I was eighteen when I started my undergrad studies. I was already too old when I decided this was what I wanted to do.”
“I hesitate to ask where you went to college.”
“Then don’t; let’s get into the car and get you a jacket. That’s a bit more of a priority than my personal history.” She shrugged her shoulders and I drove down to Myrtle Beach.
The Myrtle Beach Mall in northern Myrtle Beach has JC Penney, Belk, and Bass Pro Shops which actually had quite an extensive assortment of clothing for both men and women. I liked BPS so we went there first. We had just entered the ladies department when I spied several jackets.
Unfortunately, they were more suitable for spring or fall, but there were several others nearby. Jessie tried on a few before picking out a down-filled jacket by Columbia. Rather than pay I led her to the back of the store where we found the large salt water aquarium. The store was almost deserted so we sat on a nearby bench to watch the fish.
“I never would have guessed,” Jessie said just above a whisper.
“Yeah, there are a lot of things on display—bears and deer over on the right in the hunting department and loads of deep water fish replicas up by the ceiling in the fishing department.”
She looked right first and then at the fish models. “Wow!”
“If you like these I think you’ll love Original Benjamin’s.”
“Do you like seafood?”
“Yeah–when I can actually get it.”
“Original Benjamin’s is a big seafood buffet restaurant just down the road in Restaurant Row. There’s a huge model of the Queen Elizabeth in the entry and the restaurant is decorated like a museum.
The food is pretty good and it’s all-you-can-eat—right up your alley”. She gave my arm a playful punch before I continued. “The crab legs alone are worth the price. Let’s try it tomorrow. I’ll cook up a steak tonight. We can have hot dogs for lunch if you like.”
“Three meals a day; I don’t believe it.”
“It’s the least I can do. How could I save you from the cold and allow you to starve? That wouldn’t be much help, would it?” I looked over to her and received a shy smile for my efforts.
After charging the purchase we detoured to customer service where I was able to cut the tags from Jessie’s jacket. She held her arms out and I slipped it onto her shoulders. She smiled again and we were on our way home.
Parent Post: Homeless – by senorlongo
- Homeless - CHAPTER 2
- Homeless - CHAPTER 3
- Homeless - CHAPTER 4
- Homeless - CHAPTER 5
- Homeless - CHAPTER 6
- Homeless - CHAPTER 7
- Homeless - CHAPTER 8
- Homeless - CHAPTER 9 - 10
- Homeless - CHAPTER 11
- Homeless - CHAPTER 12
- Homeless - CHAPTER 13
- Homeless - CHAPTER 14
- Homeless - CHAPTER 15
- Homeless - CHAPTER 16
- Homeless - CHAPTER 17
- Homeless - CHAPTER 18
- Homeless - CHAPTER Epilog