Homeless – CHAPTER 14

Adult story: Homeless – CHAPTER 14

by senorlongo

I had one more thing to do to ensure Jennie’s safety and I took the first step on our drive home from the Wilmington airport, stopping at Walmart in Leland for a cheap burner phone. I’d use this phone for one and only one call that I made from the parking lot.

One of my early clients was a famous and notorious motorcycle club. Most people would consider it a gang, especially since almost all of their activities were strictly illegal. They needed a firewall for their website so they could conduct clandestine operations without the authorities knowing or hacking into the site. Somehow they got my name—I suspected at the time from one of my MIT classmates—at a time when I was desperate for money to launch my first “Idiot” program. They paid me $100,000 all in well-used tens and twenties. They were still using my firewall and I hadn’t read anything about the government hacking into their site.

I had a small device in one hand to alter my voice and the phone in the other when I dialed the first number. This one would bounce the signal all around the globe, making tracing the call absolutely impossible. Both parties knew their phones were tapped. Next I dialed their number.

(Yeah?)

“How’s your firewall doing?”

(Good. How can I help you?)

“I need a meeting.”

“Okay…same day, same time, same place. Okay?)

“Yes.”

(Click) The call ended, I took a socket wrench from my trunk and smashed the phone after first removing the SIM card. I’d throw that into the waterway as soon as we were home. A minute later I was back in the car with Jennie.

“What was that all about, Doug?”

“Just keeping my promise to ensure your safety; I have to take a short trip Thursday, but I should be home by Friday afternoon.”

“You won’t be in any danger will you?”

“No…I’ve dealt with these people before. I’ll be fine.” Jennie was quiet all the way home, but I could tell she was worried. I made a reservation to fly to Chattanooga, Tennessee on Thursday afternoon the next day. Once I had arrived I rented a car at Rent-A-Wreck, paying cash, and drove south on I-59 toward Lafayette, a small city in the northwest corner of Georgia where I stayed overnight, again paying cash.

At ten on Friday morning I was sitting on a picnic bench under a beautiful cherry tree in a park just in front of the Parks and Recreation office. I had a small portable radio playing on the table behind me while I fed the birds with some bread scraps left over from breakfast. I heard my contact’s bike long before I saw him.

He was certainly dressed for the part—high leather boots, leather jacket with patches on the back identifying his chapter of the infamous national organization. He spoke even before sitting. “What’s with the radio?”

“Besides the music it’s also broadcasting white noise which will make it almost impossible to eavesdrop on our conversation.” I was looking straight ahead, still feeding the birds, when I slid a small sheet of paper along the bench toward him. “Know anybody in the Iowa State Penitentiary?” He just nodded in response.

“I’d like for this guy to have a hard time, like an occasional beating—not enough to kill him, but enough to cause a world of hurt, maybe even enough to put him into a wheelchair.”

“What’s he to you?”

“My wife’s stepfather; he raped her for years when she was a kid. He was the county sheriff so she couldn’t even go to the cops. Her mother was no better.”

“You must know we hate child rapists…almost as much as we hate cops. Okay, what’s in it for us?”

“I have a new firewall, actually three that work together. One of the biggest brokerage houses in New York uses it. You can have it for nothing. Just don’t try to make any adjustments. I’ll send an email with instructions on how to get in—you know, the password. It’ll be a new one, but it will only work once. Whoever goes to the site first will set a new one. Just make sure it’s different from your old one. I’ll have it in place by Monday.” The discussion was over. He got up and walked away.

I knew he was way down in the hierarchy just as I knew we were thousands of miles away from their national headquarters in California. I’d met other underlings in this park eight times almost ten years ago. These guys were scum—trading in drugs hijacking, white slavery, and illegal importing of cigarettes and booze, but they served my purpose. Harper would be beaten on a regular basis and hopefully crippled. It probably would have happened anyway, but why take chances?

I was back home with my beloved Jennie six hours later. She kissed me like I had been gone for weeks instead of just overnight. We began our planning for Charlie and Toni’s visit. Jennie had spoken on the phone with Toni and her daughters, Andrea and Allison, at least once a week. I’d sent a set of detailed directions to our house. I’d also told Charlie to leave his wallet at home.

We stocked up on beer and wine and Coke, Sprite, and ginger ale, mostly for our bonus room fridg. Jennie also bought two twin size air beds as well as sheets, pillows, and blankets. Our plan was for the girls to stay in our bonus room, a large room over our three-car garage. Jennie and I used it as our video room. We had a 65-inch OLED curved screen TV up there along with a Hi-Res DVD player, DVR, and ten speaker surround sound. The walls rose up five feet before taking the slant of the roof above.

There were three skylights with internal venetian blinds that were activated by remote control. A small bathroom off to one side near the stairs and a refrigerator for snacks meant we could stay there for hours if need be. My favorite, though, was the off-white leather sectional that curved slightly—just enough to facilitate conversation and to enable everyone to see the screen clearly. Even better; four of the seats reclined.

It was just a few days before we expected them that I received a phone call from my mother. As planned, she’d had her husband served at the faculty senate meeting. Her lover, Paul, had told her that dear old Dad was livid and had disrupted the meeting with his ranting until the dean—God bless him—told him to “either shut up or get out.” I loved it!

The Blasi family rolled into the driveway just after 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, last week in June, in their Toyota minivan. Toni had phoned as requested when they reached NC-179, the road our house was on about four miles away so the gate and garage door were open for them. Lady stood between us as they poured out of the vehicle’s doors. Charlie and Toni came right to us for hugs and handshakes, but their daughters were a bit tentative until Jennie stepped forward. “You’re obviously Andrea and you must be Allison. Welcome to our home. Come up and meet Lady. She won’t bite you—I promise.”

They held their hands out for Lady to sniff as Jennie gave the command to protect. A minute later they were petting Lady’s head and chest. Lady responded by wagging her tail wildly. I don’t pretend to understand, but her trainer John had told us that dogs could remember thousands of individual scents. Lady had obviously remembered Charlie and Toni.

We carried their bags into the house and when I opened the door to the bonus room Lady bolted up in anticipation. “Go ahead,” I told the girls. “You’ll be up there. Jennie or I will come up later and show you how to operate the shades and everything else.”

Fifteen seconds later we were greeted by their screaming and we could hear them jumping, too. Allison came running down the stairs seconds later. “Daddy…Daddy…you have got to see this room. There’s the biggest TV I’ve ever seen and this neat couch and a refrigerator full of soda. It’s the greatest.” Charlie and I followed her up the stairs. She ran; we walked.

I reviewed everything, amazed at the attention they gave me. I finished by sitting in one of the seats and reclining until I was virtually horizontal. Andrea followed my example and a few seconds later asked, “Would it be okay if I slept here? This is so comfortable!” I’d never realized that teenage daughters could be so funny.

I was preparing three thick ribeyes for the grill when the girls ran down the stairs with Lady. “Can we go outside and play with her,” Allison asked. I agreed, but only for about thirty minutes and only if she had a bowl of water. It gets hot and humid in coastal North Carolina in June and it stays that way until the last week of August at the earliest.

They were good girls, playing with Lady and having a great time, but stopping every ten minutes or so to allow her to drink and cool down. Jennie, Toni, Charlie, and I sat on the deck with soft drinks, relaxing and chatting until Jennie commented, “What are you and Charlie doing tomorrow? I’m taking the women shopping.”

I laughed. “One thing we’re not doing is shopping. How about fishing, Charlie? We might be able to get a couple of flounder…what we call fluke up north.” Charlie agreed and I started the grill.
Tonight’s dinner would be simple—Thick prime ribeye from the area’s only butcher cooked medium rare, baked potato, and a tossed salad made with fresh veggies from a local farm. It sounded good to me and I guess everyone agreed. We had no leftovers other than trimmed fat that Lady ate with her usual gusto.

We began Sunday morning by joining Charlie, Toni, and the girls at Mass. Jennie and I had both been raised as Protestants and we rarely attended any kind of church services. Personally, I viewed organized religion as just another big business aimed at separating people from their money, but this morning I said “Amen” and sang all the hymns, shook hands and hugged my beautiful wife when appropriate. I even placed a ten dollar bill in the collection plate.

Once we had returned home Jennie gathered all the women and Lady into her SUV for their shopping excursion while Charlie and I made sandwiches and carried several six-packs of Coke out to the boat. No alcohol during this trip; boating on the waterway and in the marsh could be dangerous. I already had rods and tackle in the eight-foot locker that was bolted to the dock.

Charlie joined me at the helm as I drove the boat north to Ocean Isle Beach where I knew I could get live mud minnows and Charlie’s fishing license. Getting caught without one would be expensive. “I’m taking you to my secret spot, Charlie. I can only get in there when the tide is high. There’s barely eight inches of water under the hull in spots.”

“Won’t the engine hit bottom?”

“Yeah, but we’ll be using an electric motor. It runs alongside the hull, not under it. Believe it or not, I’ve taken some big fish out of this area. The marshes are breeding grounds for small fish and crustaceans. The tidal currents move them in and out of the marsh so the big fish just lie there in ambush.” We were on the water again fifteen minutes after docking at the fishing center and headed for the northern end of Sunset Beach.

There were extensive marshes all along the waterway, but drainage ditches had been dug behind many of the island chain in the Carolinas. I stopped the boat in the waterway and we baited our hooks, running them through the minnows’ lips before dropping them into the water. I positioned the boat so we would be able to ride all the way up the channel on the incoming tide before using the small electric motor to get us back out again. Later, when the tide had turned the motor would carry us into the inlets and the current would bring us out.

I showed Charlie the best approach to dealing with these fish and we settled in to fish. “I wonder what the women are up to.”

“No good, I suspect,” Charlie responded with a laugh. I was about to join him when I felt weight on my line. I dropped the rod, lifting again about five seconds later and repeating once again. Certain that the fish had the opportunity to swallow the hook, I lifted my rod and began to reel in line with my Shimano Stella reel. The Stella is one of the best spinning reels made and it was severely tested that day. This was a big fish; it pulled line six times as I held the rod high to keep my prey from swimming under a submerged branch or running the line over some sharp oyster shells. I spent almost ten minutes subduing the fish and when I reached for the net I could see it was a monster. It was well over two feet long and its body was thick. I slipped the net under its head and pulled the nine pound six ounce fish into the boat. It was the biggest flounder I’d ever caught.

“You must be good luck, Charlie. This is my biggest ever. Wait until Jennie sees this.” I backed the hook out of its jaw and carefully lifted the fish into the live well. It flopped wildly, but there was no escaping the deep well. I moved the boat out to the waterway to repeat the drift and we continued fishing. This time Charlie picked up a fish, another big one—roughly two-thirds as big as mine, but still a very respectable fish. I took a photo with my phone and we tried another drift. We had four keepers by the time we decided to call it a day.

We were home on the dock relaxing with some cold beer when Andrea and Allison ran out the dock to join us. Lady overtook them about halfway, almost knocking them into the marsh. “Did you catch anything, Daddy?” Charlie grinned as I removed the fish from the live well to the cleaning table I’d installed. Charlie actually caught three of the four keepers. That’s the way it is sometimes. The fish have no idea who’s on the end of the rod. Amateur or pro, it makes no difference.

The girls ran back to the house, Lady on their heels to fetch their mother. Toni and Jennie joined us, Toni ecstatic at her husband’s fishing prowess. I sharpened my knife while they took pictures then I filleted the four fish in about ten minutes, dumping the skin and skeletons into the swiftly moving water where crabs and small fish would make short work of them. I sometimes thought of this as the baitfish’s revenge on the big predators.

Jennie and I baked the fish for dinner and after we were treated to a fashion show. Andrea and Allison modeled Myrtle Beach hoodies, tee shirts and shorts as well as some fashionable outfits. Toni and Jennie also modeled what they had bought. Then came the swimsuits and I thought Charlie would flip. They had all bought skimpy bikinis and, while they did look great, I wouldn’t want my daughters showing so much skin either. “Doug, pray for sons. It’ll be a lot easier—believe me.” I laughed. I understood exactly what he was telling me.

We had a wonderful time that week, taking the boat to the beach, going to the driving range to laugh at Charlie’s feeble attempts to hit the ball, eating in restaurants and going to live theater like the Carolina Opry and the Alabama Theater. It was after one of those evenings when the girls were in bed that Charlie told us that he and Toni felt guilty that we were spending so much money on them.

“Please, don’t,” I replied. “Did you ever hear about a guy who invented a super efficient gasoline engine and the oil companies paid him millions not to develop and market it?” They nodded in response. “That’s an urban myth,” I continued. “However, something similar happened to me. I get my best ideas when I’m asleep. One morning about five years ago I woke up with an idea to write a program unlike anything ever done before. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I was able to use it for about two years of testing and I made millions because of it. I made so much that the federal government investigated. The investigation was supposed to be confidential, but someone tipped a major company. I’m talking Fortune 50 or bigger. They wanted to buy it for their own use and their initial offer was $500 million.” They gasped.

“I turned that down, but I did accept their ultimate offer of 1.5 billion. Of course, I had to pay taxes so I wound up with somewhat less. The company wanted to expand their use of the program and I met with them while we were in New York. They paid me fifty million for roughly two week’s work so—please–don’t worry about our spending money. We have it and it gives us a great deal of pleasure to spend it on our friends.”

We asked Andrea about her plans after graduating high school. She was going to be a senior in the coming school year. “I want to go to Villanova, but it’s so expensive.”

“I was able to get financial aid at Harvard and MIT and I think you’ll be able to get some from Villanova, too. I hope you apply and ask for assistance. I think you’ll do well.” Jennie and I waved as they left early Saturday morning a week later. However, we knew we’d see them again in just three weeks.

They’d asked if we were going to take a vacation. I’d kept my plans a secret to surprise Jennie, but between her pressure and questions from Andrea and Allison I gave in. “Four nights in London followed by five nights in Paris then we’ll take the train to Amsterdam for a river cruise down the Rhine, Main, and Danube to Budapest. All told it will take us just under a month.” I was about to ask Jennie if that was okay with her, but the expression on her face told me everything I needed to know. Her eyes were as big as saucers.

“Are you taking Lady,” Allison asked.

“No…we can’t. Countries have rules that require quarantine for animals to prevent the spread of disease so I think we’ll have to board her with her trainer.” I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth when Andrea and Allison were all over their parents, begging to be allowed to take care of Lady while we were gone. “I can’t ask you to do that. It’ll be a lot of work and time.”

“You’re not asking us, Doug. We’re asking you.”

I had no answer so I looked to Charlie for help. “Actually, that sounds like a good idea. I think we should do it.” That’s when I decided I could kill two birds with one stone. The Monday after they left I telephoned the President of Villanova University asking for an appointment. “It’s about a sizable gift for the university,” I told the secretary. Not surprisingly I got an appointment with no difficulty.

We drove to Philadelphia two days before we were scheduled to fly to Europe, staying overnight just outside Philly. I had an appointment at 9:30 the following morning and we were shown into the president’s office almost immediately. I got right down to business after introductions. “We’re willing to donate twenty million dollars to the university, but I’ll tell you up front that there are some conditions. However, I doubt that you’ll find them much of a problem. First, we expect a receipt, but other than that you’ll record and publicize it as an anonymous gift. Second, you will receive an application from an Andrea Blasi who will be a senior at St. Anthony in Jersey City this coming year. She’s a straight ‘A’ student and a wonderful young woman. We want her to be accepted and given a full scholarship. We’ll give you an additional $300,000 to cover that expense. I’ve had our attorney prepare a simple agreement stating exactly what I’ve told you. Jennie and I have already signed and the signatures have been notarized. I have a certified check in my pocket that we’ll sign over once you’ve agreed.” I pulled the two copies from my briefcase and showed them to him.

“What’s your interest in this?”

I explained how we had met Charlie and Toni and how we became friends. Mostly, we talked about what a wonderful person Andrea was and how we wanted her to have the best educational experience possible. I pulled out the check made payable to Jennie and me. He seemed to be amazed. “You’re obviously a good friend. I agree.” He signed both copies, his secretary notarized, and Jennie and I endorsed the check payable to Villanova University. We were back on the highway to New Jersey fifteen minutes later.

Toni and the girls greeted us eagerly when we pulled into the driveway. Lady jumped from the car, running to the girls as they knelt to hug and pet her. We spent a few minutes getting Lady’s bed, food, and bowls into their house. David drove up with our limo a few minutes later. We hugged and kissed Toni, Andrea, and Allison before leaving, but I took a minute to talk about Lady. “Lady will come, sit, shake, roll over, and heel. Don’t try to give her any nonsense syllables because you just might give her an attack command. She will protect you if necessary. You’re both intelligent and responsible girls so have fun with her, but don’t do anything you might regret. Having a dog like Lady is a real responsibility. You don’t have her Service Dog vest so you can’t take her into restaurants or the movie theater. Do we understand each other?”

“Yes, Doug,” Allison answered. “You can trust us…honest.” I hugged her again, petted Lady and told her to obey then I joined my wonderful wife in the limo.

——————

Parent Post: Homeless – by senorlongo

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