Mike is a long-time supporter of procrastination and enjoys doing as often as he can.
The Story So Far
After Janice finds money and a gun in the safe, she tries to find out more about her client's wife Ave until he was found dead in his home. Stanley Franco hired her to help him with a divorce, and the mystery that is Ava.
While all this is happening, Janice is getting ready to move out of the house she and her husband Bill shared with their late son Brandon who died while playing soccer. Janice is hunted by his memory and her guilt in not being there.
- Private Voices: Part 03
The plot deepens as Janice opens a safe in Ava's office. Back home, Janice has to deal with the sale of her home.
Janice and Bill stared into the fire as they lay on the floor, naked underneath a quilt they bought in Amish country. When Bill lit the fire, he realized this might be the last fire he ever starts in this fireplace. His new place didn't have a fireplace. He signed a lease sight unseen and didn't know about the quirks until he moved in and found that the hall closet was the furnace. He got up and put another log on the fire and went back to rejoin Janice.
Janice said, "stop."
Bill stopped then said "what" with his shoulders.
Janice said, "I just want our nosey neighbors to have one more look at you."
Bill looked around and realized that all the drapes where gone. He started to jump to the floor when something came over him, and instead, he pulled Janice up, letting the quilt fall. Bill picked her up and carried her to the sectional style couch. As he entered her, Bill thought this might be the last time they made love in this house. Janice just wished she could find a way to trap this memory in her head, so she could dream about it and not that soccer field.
In the house next door, two teenagers watched them wishing that their phones could record what was happening in the dim light. Both were students in Bill's class, and he would be the talk of the grade, but with no proof, there would be no talk. On the street was a van with out of state license plates and two men in dark blue suits recording the events of the night as if the FBI paid them to be peeping toms. In another house across the street was an elderly man. He was tied up with a gag in his mouth, and his throat slit as Ava watched Bill, Janice, The FBI, and the two teens wondering just how she was going to get Janice alone and find out just what she knew. Ava picked up her phone and called someone she knew in the police department in Akron. She paid him for information and if anything was mentioned about her, and she got her money's worth. The officer gave her the complete file, including copies of everything Janice gave them.
The next morning Sean called and asked Janice to come to the bar. Although there was a prohibition on having a bar open in the morning, Sean's bar was frequented by the police who just didn't see the need to enforce that law. Janice didn't want to get out of bed, but Sean never calls. He asked her to bring the money she found in the safe with her.
Sean asked, "Hey, babe, you got those bills?"
It was around six in the morning and just a little early for Janice to put up with being called babe, but when was there a good time for such a thing?
Janice arrived at the bar and found Sean.
Sean took the bills and put them on a place in the bar with a glass top and an ultraviolet light.
Sean asked, "do you see it."
Hidden in the bill was a QR code that wasn't visible in normal light.
Sean said, "this code linked the scanner to a site that reprogrammed it to recognize any bill as genuine. They knew that everything today is connected to the internet, so hiding the code made hiding counterfeit cash easier."
Janice half asked, half said, "so the bills are counterfeit?"
Sean said, "as phony as the love my second wife had for me and not my brother."
Sean turned off the ultraviolet light than said, "I called this fed I know with the secret service, and don't worry; I told him someone passed the bill to me in the bar. He said he would be here today. Listen, babe, this guy is flying in from Washington, and I mean the state just to see the bill, so this might be bad."
Sean suggested she shouldn't stay just in case this became a federal case, and she had to answer where the bills came from, but it also meant that she wouldn't hear firsthand what was wrong. That was until Sean suggested she act as the waitress that took the bill. He would say that Janice had a stake in what was happening. Janice looked at one of the waitresses in the mock Hooters cosplay and wondered if this was just a way to get her near-naked.
Janice asked, "OK, I'll need a pair of shorts and that top. Do you have any?"
Janice stood behind the bar, feeling exposed and constricted in the top that was about a size too small. She was surprised to see that she fit in the outfit, and it made her look younger. The tank top had a built-in underwire that helped make a convincing cleavage. She even thought about keeping it after this was over, then she thought about Sean and what he might do with it after she had it on and decided it was hers no matter what. Vanessa was one of the young waitresses at the bar.
She said, "dam I can't believe that's you. You look so hot. The guys see you, and you won't just get a tip; you'll get the entire shaft."
Right then and there, she felt like she was getting shafted.
Sean called Janice over and said, "I was going to say you were off work today, but after seeing this, I'm glad you jumped."
Before she could say a word, Sean pointed at the door and said, "OK, babe, here's our guy."
The secret service was a part of the treasury department with officers dealing with things other than running with limos. Even after it became a part of Homeland Security, they still investigate such crimes. Sal Gamut was not the kind of guy that would protect any official from anything. He was five-foot-five with a beer gut and a swirling combover dripping with either sweat or hair gel. He was dressed in a tan suit with a light blue shirt and bolo tie. His look screamed Arizona accountant rather than a special agent. His glasses were so thick that it was hard to see how they stayed upright on his face. He came over, and they did the usual introductions. Janice didn't know if he spent the entire time staring at her chest or if it was just the effect gravity had on the soda bottle bottom glasses he had on.
Sal pointed at the serial number on the bill and said, "you see this. It isn't a number; it's a code for that program that took control of your system. This code gives the operator on the other side access to your computer, so they can easily go in and steal you blind."
When he said blind, he pushed up his glasses on his face.
He went on, "if you were a bank, then they could eventually hack your accounts and drain every digital dime. This is the worst thing we have ever seen in the business. They're using our own need to connect everything with WIFI as their way in."
Sal took a sip of his Jack and Coke then asked, "and they just used this to pay for a drink?"
Sean replied, "you can never underestimate the stupidity of the average criminal. I guess that someone who works with whoever this is wanted a drink and thought that they wouldn't miss the money."
Sal snorted then said, "yeah, but I bet that guy is missing his nuts about now."
Janice finally found her voice and asked, "how so?"
Sal said, "well, you see something like this wouldn't hurt a business such as a bar, but at a track, casino, or bank, it would be worth millions. But now that we have a sample, we can track the routing back and find the site. In fact, what we needed was a second bill, and now that we have it, we can break this thing wide breasts."
His face turned red than he said, "I mean open."
Janice left the two men talking about old times and went out the back and up the stairs to her office. There she met up with her part-time assistant named Jennifer Gordon. Jennifer was a college student going to Kent State and working when she could, but when she was there, she made sure to dress the part. She was nearly six-foot-tall with long straight auburn hair with horn-rimmed glasses. Today she was in a tan pleated skirt and white sleeveless shirt that seemed just a little too formal for an office, but she wore it well. People called her JG, and she let them.
JG looked Janice over then asked, "so things aren't going well, huh?"
Janice smirked then said, "don't worry, you won't have to start looking for a new gig just yet, this was for a case."
JG asked, "a case of vodka or gin?"
JG finished filing the papers closing Guy Franco's account, then she got up and went to leave. On the way out, she looked to the urn then back to the closed door to Janice's office. Part of her wanted to talk to Janice about Brandon and just maybe do something, but another part just wanted to go. It was hard for JG to watch Janice slip away because of this one tragedy. JG new she owed her life to Janice, and now she could return some part of that by just taking the urn. She looked back to the door then turned around and left, leaving this for another day while wondering just how many days there will be before Janice finally snaps. Janice watched JG using a nanny-cam hidden in a clock on the wall. She knew that with the third anniversary of Brandon's death, it was about that time when JG would ask if she wanted to "do something" with the ashes. Janice didn't want to have that conversation with JG because she wanted them to remain friends. Bill didn't want Brandon to be cremated, and when it was done behind his back, it started the argument that eventually had her point a gun at him and forced him out of the house. About a month later, Bill bought a grave with a headstone. He had a small coffin with some of Brandon's favorite things buried there. That same day she had both divorce papers and a restraining order given to him.
Janice picked up her old-style desk phone.
Bill said, "say hey, I'm closing the house, and if you want anything, you should go through and just take it. I'm packing up the pictures and other crap than anything else I'm giving away."
Bill asked, " do you want any of the furniture?"
Janice said, "no, I'm not even taking my clothes. I want a clean break, and that will start with a new place away from that field."
Bill said, "wow, that's great."
Then after a long silence, he asked, "that break…. Will that…. Include us?"
Janice not only knew this question was coming, but she also steered the call so he would ask it.
She said, "well, maybe we could find a place we could start over together."
After a long silence, Bill said, "the only way we can do that is if you bury our son."
Janice looked at the screen showing the outer office. The twelve-year-old Brandon was standing there, staring at his urn.
Janice said, "Bill, there is something I think I need to tell you."
- Private Voices: Part 05
Janice recalls how she and Bill met as she tells him what she knows about her most recent case.
© 2019 Michael Collins aka Lakemoron