the aftermath

Eric came out of the office supplies store on Union and put on his sunglasses. There were only a couple cars in the parking lot and even the traffic was slow during the middle of the afternoon. He put his backpack on for what would be a half-mile hike. Suddenly he heard a woman's yells. He looked to the right and he saw a couple of toughs grabbing onto a woman and dragging her to a pickup. Later he would damn himself for getting involved, but he didn't think but trotted over and yelled "Stop!"

The smaller of the two kept on dragging her, as she kicked and bit. The larger, who was larger than him, said "Beat it looser" and got in a stance like he was going to hit Eric.

Eric swallowed and said "Woman doesn't want to go. You best let her go." He got in a stance with his legs spread and his hands loose.

The tough swung at Eric and missed, and Eric quickly punched him in the solar plexus, followed by an uppercut to the chin. The tough fell to the ground, and the smaller tough ran while the woman stood breathing quickly.

Suddenly a police car screeched to a stop, and a female officer ordered Eric to the ground.

The woman began yelling at the police officer, and the officer kept yelling down. So Eric complied quickly.

Eric stayed down while the officer cuffed the tough, who was beginning to wake up After a quick conversation between the officer and the lady, the officer told him to get up. She told him to wait while she talked to the woman. First, she put the tough into the back of the patrol car.

Then, after an interminable conversation with the woman the officer came to him. "Well, Sir Galahad, let's hear your story."

Eric told her that the whole thing happened so quickly. He saw her struggling, and he went over to help, the tough attacked him, he responded, and he got arrested. the whole thing happened in less than 30 seconds.

The officer nodded. "I am going to have you make statements at the precinct on Alberta. " He told her he didn't have a car. She said, "Number six bus will take you right there." Then she got in the patrol car and drove off.

The woman came up to Eric. "Katherine. What's yours?"

He looked at her. She was wearing expensive jeans and a very expensive blouse. Something about her bothered him. He just shook his head. "I've a bus to catch."

She laughed. "Well, I've a bus to catch, we are going to the same place, and busses come by every 20 minutes, so do you want to wait all that time? Or do you want to save a lot of time and aggravation with me?"

He sighed. "I would appreciate the ride."

She smiled. "Come on then." First, she went to the pickup and turned off the motor, grabbed the key, and locked the pickup. Then she walked over to the Lexus in the office store's parking lot. She gestured for him to get in while she got in on her side.

Eric had never been in a Lexus before. He took off his backpack and gingerly got in the car. She just plopped in. She made sure he was belted and she went across Union and turned left on Grand.

"Thank you very much I've a bus to catch. Those two had me so frightened was thought I was sure I was going to pee myself."

Eric shrugged. "I didn't have time to think. I am surprised at myself."

She stopped at the red as the light rail went past. "Most guys I know would think it over and high tail it the other direction. I am sure a couple of them would still be running."

"That is unfair. I am sure most guys would help."

The light turned green. "I've a bus to catch, you are as naive as you are courageous. Or maybe you know a better class of people than I do."

"That is unlikely. You are unduly harsh. Most people don't have the need to do that kind of thing. "

They stopped at Weidler. She looked at him. "It is true I haven't had that kind of experience before, thank God, but I have had plenty of opportunities to test their metal. And all of the guys I know are pewter, except you, who I can see is pure steel."

He shook his head. "Nah, If I think, I run.

She looked right ahead. "We will never have an opportunity to test that, will we?"

He shook his head. "Nope, never. We just passed Fremont. Alberta is like four blocks up and the prescient is on the right. Better change lanes."

She turned the turn signal. "How do you know that?"

He said with a sour expression "We have a history." They were silent for a bit. He said "Turn here. Then go up the ramp for visitor parking. "

She turned and went up the ramp and parked. "So, I've a bus to catch, are you going to tell me your history?"

He said, "No, that is private." Then he got out of the car and began walking down the ramp. She had to hustle to keep up He went into a small door. He went to a small cubicle and said "Officer D'Amatto please." to the speaker.

Katherine came up to the cubicle. The cop inside gave a questioning look, and she gestured to the both of them. He stared directly ahead, while she fidgeted. "I really am grateful for what you did back there. I would have been in serious trouble." He shrugged but kept staring directly ahead. Officer D'Amatto came up to the door and led them in. She led Eric into one room, and shut the door. Then she led Katherine into another room, where Detectives Francis and Ostrander were waiting and introduced themselves.

Detective Francis led it off. "Thank you for coming in and signing the statements. However, we are confused as to why they were trying to kidnap you."

"My stepfather has a great deal of money. He is Thomas Pickering of Gough and Watson the engineering firm. I got my name in the paper Friday and they apparently decided I was grab-able. I really should have been more careful. I really would prefer you would keep my connection to my stepfather quiet in your report."

They nodded their heads in agreement and Detective Ostrander left for a couple of minutes. Katherine leaned forward "I am really fascinated by the guy who rescued me. He has refused to give his name, and he said he had some unpleasant connection with the Police."

Ostander said "He is Eric Harrison, 19, on four years supervised probation for shoplifting from the Jantzen Beach Target where he was convicted of stealing a copy of Penthouse, a copy of Playboy, an Android phone, a backpack, and copy of Grand Theft Auto. I was his probation officer."

Katherine said "Supervised probation?"

Ostander nodded. "He needs to come here every two weeks and check in with his probation officer and tell what he is doing. And what he is doing for restitution. The Phone cost $890. The vig on the restitution is 21% he is making payments, but he is going backward. He works 30 hours a week at just a bit over minimum wage. And he is also working on his GED. He does not like us here. Here is the statement. Is this correct?"

Katherine read the statement and signed it. "Is he still here?"

Detective Francis nodded. "We are going to talk to him next. It will be a formality."

Katherine left the precinct house and waited for Eric to come out. When he finally did, looking thunderous, she greeted him warmly. "Well, Eric, where to next?"

He looked at her with disfavor. "The bus stop."

"Come now Eric, I still owe you. So far I admit I have been a pest, but I promise I will keep quiet and take you where you want to go. Please."

He Grumbled at her. "I am going way out of your way. I need to catch the bus to 82nd and Division. That is where you don't need to go, so I will just..."

She clapped and said "PCC? That is exactly where I need to go after leaving you off. Come on, you will get me ridesharing points. Please. Otherwise, I have to park way off from my classes!"

He shook his head and headed toward Alberta Street, to see the 72 bus going down Alberta Street, the next one leaving in half an hour. He stopped and balled his fists. He turned to her "No questions?" She put her finger in front of her mouth and made a zipping movement.

They went down to Fremont, turned left, and followed Fremont down to 82. He finally asked "Why didn't you take the freeway?"

"At this time of day, the Banfield is going 20 miles an hour because everyone is on the freeway. It is a mess. It is the only freeway going east. I much prefer the surface streets. I can do 40 on Sandy or Hawthorne. "

They arrived at PCC in plenty of time. Katherine said "It is only 4:30. Your next class isn't until 6:00. What do you say about dinner, my treat? No questions. I owe you so much and I would appreciate it so much if you would let me treat you."

He said, "There isn't a place to eat."

"Au Contrer, there is a very nice Chinese place on the other side of this abandoned movie place that makes a killer broccoli beef. Come on!"

He sighed and nodded. "I know this place. They make excellent Hot and Sour soup."

They walked down the street. She was feeling nervous because of his silence. "I didn't get the laser toner for the printer because of those two jerks. My dad is going to be so pissed. That and the new pens. He is always making cracks. But I ask you, almost getting kidnapped is a legitimate reason for not getting the toner?"

"You don't respect your parent?"

"Not really. Anyway, he is my step dad. My real dad lives in San Francisco with his boyfriend. My stepdad is mad at me all the time, so I think I will move out in three weeks when I turn 18."

"These modern families I find to be very confusing."

"We're here! I am paying, don't forget."

Katherine sat opposite Donna and Nancy. "I had an adventure yesterday. I think I found someone, but I need to check up on him first"

Donna looked skeptical. "I thought Bruce was going to be your fella."

Katherine shook her head. "Totally a broken reed. My stepdad sent a pair of inept kidnappers. Bruce saw one look at them and he raced off. A real man stepped up out of nowhere and put paid to the kidnappers. "

Nancy said "Young, old tall short, gay, straight...?"

Katherine smiled "You have a single-track mind, girl. He is 19. He is about 5'8"

Both Donna and Nancy looked approvingly as Katherine continued "He has sandy dark hair, and it is obvious that he works out."

Nancy interrupted "Where does he work?"

Katherine slumped. "This brings me to the bad part. He is an ex-con, and he hasn't finished high school. But he seems intelligent. But he went to jail for something incredibly stupid."

Nancy inquired "Any interesting tattoos?"

Katherine shrugged. "None that I could see."

Donna looked skeptical "So he is good at saving your bacon, but he might be worse when he gets you to himself"

Katherine nodded. "That is why I am going to have a private investigator look into him. See what his deal is. Right now I think he is perfect. But I am going to find out all I can. He is almost too good to be true in some regards. He is dangerous beyond belief in others. I am going to move very cautiously."

Katherine sat down in Williams' office. "What can you tell me?"

"A whole lot of bad news, perhaps. This is all public information. It just needs collation. It conflicts with other information, so it is up to you to decide what to do with it. "

Williams handed over a thick pile of paper held together with a binder clip. "First, a bit of background information. He is the third of seven children. His parents belong to a militant form of evangelicals. They have disowned him because of his arrest and conviction. They don't have anything to do with him anymore, and he is not welcome at the church anymore. They are very upset with him. There is next to nothing about them, but I got that much."

"The next thing I got is something I got from the church and public records. The church is big on martial arts for some reason. Their website has the slogan 'Put on The Whole Armor of God' and they do judo and boxing as part of their ministry. Eric came in sixth in his weight class in boxing in the Northwest regionals, and he came in Eighth in the Judo regionals. This means a lot. There were lots of competitors, 40 boxers, and 120 judo competitors. He is very good if he isn't going to national competitions."

"Next academics. He got a 3.6 GPA in the last term he completed. A pretty good, even outstanding record. 35 kids got better GPAs, but there were 190 kids who did worse, and there were 60 kids who dropped out from his intake. He was taking advanced placement math and chemistry. A pretty good kid so far."

"Now the not-so-good things. He was arrested three weeks after his 18th birthday for shoplifting. He is convicted of taking a really weird collection of stuff. A copy of Penthouse, a copy of Playboy, 40 packages of condoms, a backpack, an Android phone, 12 women's panties. 2 bras, and a copy of Grand Theft Auto. In addition, he had a fifth of Johnny Walker red, which he wasn't supposed to have as a minor."

" He was convicted and sentenced to two years, first offense, and he was a model prisoner. In addition to two days off for every day of good behavior, he signed up for, and took every class he could, including sheet metal shop, transitioning to civil life, etc. He didn't get any GED coursework. It is given to long-termers first. He did the psychological evaluation as well, so he only served six months. The psychological evaluation was part of the packet, so it is part of his release paperwork. According to this, he is not naturally violent but could be if provoked, especially if someone is being picked on. He has an enormous chip on his shoulder, feels put upon, and is suspicious of people. He would find it difficult to get a job when released"

"Which seems to be the case. He had it very hard to get a job. The job he got is minimum wage and does not have interaction with the public. If he could interact with the public his boss would love to have him work the maximum. But...."

"So, the thing most employers see is a high school dropout, a felon, a guy with psychological issues, His applications get round filed immediately."

Katherine said "Interesting. Would you hire him?"

He thought for a moment. "Let me preface this by saying I couldn't by terms of my license. He is a felon on probation. And there are some jobs I wouldn't hire him for at all. His psychological issues make any kind of dealing with the public job a total non-starter. But for any intellectual job, I would in a heartbeat. There are lots of jobs that he would be ideal for."

She picked him up at the bus stop on 47th and Division. "Please get in, I need to talk to you. It is important."

He stood in the pouring rain and shrugged. And he gave in and got in the car.

She got out into traffic. She said "You know, this is a Lexus, last year's model. And I own it free and clear. You can look at the title if you want. " He just looked at her. "I Am relatively wealthy. Of course, most of the money is in various trusts, set up when my mom was my age and relatively wild. There is a lot of money in trusts, but I have access to a lot for day-to-day stuff, but I haven't splurged that much. I get to move out in three weeks. I have already boxed up a lot of my stuff, and I have my apartment already." She looked at him This brings me to the next point. If I die, all the money goes back into the trusts. And the beneficiaries will be my step-brothers. They currently get nothing. They are children of a different mom." He was still quiet. "That little drama yesterday wasn't a pair of random stupid jerks. I am sure my stepdad sent them there. He sent me to the office store knowing they would be there. He won't let me hire bodyguards, per se. I need a boyfriend or something. I need you to be my bodyguard. "

He shook his head. "No, I don't think so."

"I will pay you $22, and you will stay in my apartment. I am frightened of my stepdad. I have seen you at work. I need you."

"Let me out here..."

"No way! OK, that is the carrot, let's get out the stick. I will get you fired. That means you don't have a job which means you go to jail. And you don't eat. I will get your landlord to evict you for cause. Which means you are out on the street which means you are back in jail. So your choice. You get paid 45 hours a week, with overtime, $22, and free rent, or you get evicted from your roach motel and you lose your 30-hour burger flipping hell hole. You will have a long time back in Salem, which is a lovely town, with all those delightful people that make that facility so wonderful. Which is it going to be?"

"I'm thinking it over."

"Ok, think. But on the 21st, you will be working for me, or you will be heading to Salem"

"What would prevent me from working for your stepfather?"

"I know you. I have my detective reports. It is extremely fulsome. You are incapable."

She turned into the community college and drove to a parking spot. "I don't know why you are so pig-headed about this. I need you. I can't survive without you. I am in fear for my life but I can't move until the 20th. And after the 20th, he is going to be that more dangerous."

He shook his head. "I don't believe, that he would try and kill you. You are watching too much TV. "

She made a mou of displeasure. "You don't know him. I do. Anyway, think it over." She watched him as he went to his class. Then she got out herself and grabbed her textbooks and walked to a place inside where she could watch the door to his classroom.

When he came out of his classroom she waved him down. He sighed and sat down next to her. She put her books away and took a notebook out. "You will be through your GED next week, correct?" He nodded. "We will need to get you signed up for PSU by September when I plan on starting there. You should have no problem getting in now you have your GED. All we have to do is take your SATs, which given your GPA should be a doddle. I will be taking my SATs in April too. "

"Why will I be taking classes at PSU? "

"Bodyguarding me means we will be taking the same classes. You will be taking Structural Engineering classes. It is a requirement of my grandfather's trust. I take classes or I loose out on 3.4 million dollars. So I need to pass into the program. And I need you to watch over me. Since the classes will be in something other than your favored underwater basket weaving, I will pay for your classes and we can share books."

Eric nodded. "That will be very kind. Might I suggest you take the SAT's in Eugene or someplace equally distant? If your stepfather is as powerful as you suggest and this will an expensive test for him, he might be able to bribe a proctor."

She nodded and leaned forward. "I already thought of that. All my SAT stuff goes to our new address. And I will be taking the SAT exam in Seattle. As will you."

He shook his head "Your new address. You scare me. Not your stepdad, you. I can't take the SAT in Seattle. I can't go to Washington. Also, I still think returning to Salem would be preferable"

She leaned back "Oh come now. Why do you make so much trouble? And you know as well as I do they don't have cops checking to see if any probationers are crossing the border. "

"You look like someone who would cause legal troubles when you tire of me. I want to be done with the law totally. You are the legal spider inviting me to her parlor. "

She laughed. "OK, think it over. How much do you have to do on your GED?"

He shrugged. "I am done. I just finished the last course and I just finished my final."

"Then I will take you home and let you stew over my proposition. I am not dangerous. I am a little kitten, OK, totally undangerous. It is still pouring out there. You don't want to face this going home."

He stood up and made a "go on" gesture. She laughed again.

The trip to Eric's apartment was silent, except for the hiss of the windshield wipers. She decided to let him make up his own mind. Pushing too hard would result in him digging in his heels. When they got there, there was a confusion of fire trucks. She couldn't reach the parking lot, so she had to park half a block away. They got out of her car and walked to his apartment house. Firemen were putting away hoses and putting up crime scene tape.

He walked up to the fire captain and introduced himself as the tenant of apartment 27. The captain shook hands and said "I am very glad to see you! It means we don't have to search for a body when this cools down." He pointed to the structure " The tenant of 25 was cooking some meth and it caught fire and it was very fast and ugly. We are having to put up everybody into emergency housing. This is not a good option, so we are hoping you have someplace else you can go"

Katherine said "He has alternative housing"

Eric said, "Where is the alternative housing?"

The fire captain said "102nd and Foster. You know the place?"

Eric nodded. He turned to Katherine "Where is this alternative housing."

She smiled "You will like it, I promise. But we will have to go to Safeway and get you some breakfast first. There isn't anything in the kitchen or the bathroom, and there is only a camp bed and some old blankets. I think there are some sheets? We can go to Sears and get some better sheets and Blankets too."

"That isn't necessary. I have to go to work early and I want to go to sleep early."

She shook her head. "You are working for me now."

"I still don't know about that, and my boss is depending on me to do prep."

She sighed. "Ok, we will go to Safeway. "

She drove across the river and went up Columbia Street. When they reached 15th Street she drove to a garage under Safeway. She parked and got out a key card and drove under a parking structure different from the one that serviced Safeway. "Our place to stay. I am going to my parents' house after I get you situated. There are six floors of parking. The ground floor is Safeway, the first and second floors are section 8 housing, they have a different entrance, and the next five floors are condos."

She parked the car. "The parking is assigned. " She led Eric to the elevators. "These elevators go to Safeway and the condos. To get to Safeway you key in 333." They waited. for the elevator and when it arrived they got on. "This place is really bats about security because of the section 8 people. In order to build this they had to provide the section 8 housing, but they really didn't want to. You will have to do all kinds of things to keep the druggies out. " When they reached Safeway she grabbed a cart. "So, what do you want for breakfast?"

"He picked up a basket. "All I need is instant oatmeal, skim milk, and some dates."

She sighed again. "Dairy is to your right, I think cereals are in aisle 4 or 5, I have no idea where the dates are."

They made a quick run through the store. In addition to the dates he also picked up some almonds. She grabbed a set of bowls, a glass, some silverware, some soap, toilet paper, shampoo, and a set of towels. After a swift argument that he won about who would get the check, they headed to the elevators. She used the key card to get into the elevator cubicle. She keyed in 6B3 into the keypad. "You enter the complex through here in Safeway. They are open 24 hours. You have the key card, you enter a three-digit code to get to your floor. The number changes every month. Then when you reach your floor you have to enter a five-digit number to enter your unit. They make you change it every three months. They are paranoid about the people on the second and third floors. No one gets an unauthorized entry." The elevator arrived and they got on. There were no floor buttons, only emergency call buttons. The elevator went up very swiftly. When they got out they saw two rows of doors. No numbers. She went to an anonymous door on the left, opened the keypad and entered 5612A, and waved him in. She turned on the lights and told him "Kitchen to the left."

He went to the left and put his bag on the counter. He put the milk in the fridge and looked around. The apartment was almost totally bare, except for a gas range, a microwave, and a refrigerator. She said, "I wasn't ready for living here yet, so you will have to live rough." She went to a drawer and pulled out a key card. "This gets you into the elevator. You need 6B3 to get to this floor, and 5612A to get into the third door on the left. I will write it down before I go. Make sure you go to the correct door. Entering any number into the wrong door will have security on your neck." She handed him the card. Then she turned to the right. There were two doors there. "The door on the right is my room. The door on the left will be yours." She opened the door. The room was very small. She proceeded him into the room. She opened a glass door. "Shower and bathroom. Not much. It is supposed to be for a servant or just a small office. Well, that is all there is right now. Be waiting here for me at 4:00 when I get off of school, OK?. We need to do some stuff. But for right now, I am going to call it a night. See you tomorrow at 4:00, please." And with that, she wrote some notes on one of the grocery bags and left.

Eric walked through the empty apartment. There was a picture window that looked over PSU. Off to the left, there was the river and the mountain. He would enjoy the view tonight. But he would go back to his place. He lay down in front of the window. Amazing.

Eric woke up early. He had no idea what time it was. It was still dark, but there was the blush of sunrise behind the mountain. He quickly ate his oatmeal, dates, almonds, and milk. Then he went to the elevators and entered 333 on the keypad. The elevator took him down and he raced to the bus stop for the number 14. He made it for the 5:15 run, so he felt lucky.

But his luck seemed to run out when he got to work. The boss, Mr. Sanderson, was there, he usually didn't show up until 7:30, when the place had already been open for an hour. And Mr. Sanderson was surprised to see him. "Your lady friend said you had a different job already, you wouldn't be here.." Eric shook his head. The job was very slow today. There were only five customers by 10:00, quitting time. When Mr. Sanderson called him into his office.

Mr. Sanderson was blunt. "You see the number of customers we got today? It has been like that for the last week. I have been dithering between letting which of you two to let go. Your girlfriend made the decision easy. Frank is going to have his hours cut back, and I can use him at the front counter. He is kind of dim, but he has a wife and a kid, so I was leaning toward him. This makes the decision so much easier. No hard feelings?" Eric shook his head. "Cool. Here is the check for your wages. Including today. I can't let you cash the check out of the till. You would clean me out. " He stood up and led Eric out of the office and to the front door. "You have been a great worker, and your new boss will be very fortunate. I have hired a lot of guys out of the office. You have been the best. "

Eric walked to his apartment. When he got there there were men in HazMat suits cleaning out the four apartments. He looked for someone in authority and he saw a woman with a clipboard.

"My apartment's number 27. Is there anything I can rescue out of my closets...."

The woman said "You are from 27? Here." She handed him a notice from the county that said his apartment was a superfund site. She nodded at the apartments. "The guy in 25 had some serious stuff in his unit. They are going to have to take the whole structure down. And no, you can't go closer than three meters to your unit. Sorry. I thought they explained that in the shelter last night."

"I had someplace else to stay last night."

She grinned. "Stay there then. The shelter is the pits"

Eric turned and began walking toward downtown. Then he began running. He ran 47 blocks down to the river, and then he ran across the bridge. He ran faster when he got to the other side, then he headed north past the Morrison Bridge, past the Burnside Bridge, past the Steele Bridge where he turned around at the railroad, then he ran back again, Burnside, Morrison, Hawthorne, where he finally stopped, exhausted. It began to rain gently. He looked around and after a minute, he began walking. He walked up ten blocks and turned right, and he finally reached the library and went inside when it began raining heavily. He went into the popular library, looked at the clock on the wall, grabbed a science fiction book at random, and began reading.

Eric read until 3:50, whereupon he put his book down. He sighed. He left the library and began the trek up to Columbia Street. He reached Safeway at five after. He saw Katherine waiting for him. She stood arms akimbo. "Why didn't you take your key card? Why didn't you take the instructions? You are almost more trouble than you are worth."

"I am here, unwillingly. What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to get in the car. We have to get you settled. Into Safeway and to the elevator." They went into the store and into the elevator. She entered AB4 into the keypad. "You go to your workplace?"

He nodded. "He fired me. Not unexpected. The traffic has been slow for the last week."

She nodded. "He pay you for your last day?" He nodded. "Where do you bank?"

"I don't. He usually lets me cash out of the till on payday. Today he couldn't. I am going to have to go to one of those check-cashing places. "

Her jaw dropped. She shook her head. "One more thing to do today. My stepdad banks at US Bank. I bank at Wells. So you will bank at Wells too. Do you object to a joint checking account? My balance is large enough that my banking is free." She drove out of the garage and drove down 10th. "I had the beds and the couch delivered today. And the dining table. We are going to get you some clothes. And some blankets and so on. We are going to get some place settings too. but first, the bank."

They went to the bank. She insisted on getting some ocean view checks. He didn't know where he would use them.

Then they went to Sears. She started in men's furnishings. She insisted on choosing his underwear, much to his discomfort. She chose dockers, he preferred the Sears generics, but she insisted. He went for the lumberjack plaids. She made a mou of displeasure, getting him some Acosta sport shirts. She chose some speedo swim trunks, he turned bright red and put them back, finally compromising on some loose swim trunks. He insisted on white socks, and she wanted him to try the colored ones.

She had the clothes sent to the pickup area. Next, they went to buy the bedding. She pointed to the double size for him, while she chose queens. He chose the simplest sheets and blankets. He chose a single pillow when she insisted on a second pillow.

Her choosing her bedding took a while. He knew it would take a while, so he just let flow. the bedding chosen, they had them sent to the pickup area. She spent a long while over the place settings. She ordered six sets when they were chosen.

Then she moved down to the appliances. She asked him which TV they should get. He shook his head. "Where the TV is, I will be elsewhere. TVs are evil." She looked at him like he had grown five heads. Then she moved down to the washing machines.

"I will have to do this for myself in three weeks. " She looked confused by the choices. "We always have had a maid do this kind of thing."

He pointed out a washer and dryer combo. It had a relatively small drum. Eric said "We are two people only, and I think this is the most ecologically sound system. But it is the most confusing. And it uses the least space."

"You will do the laundry. You have experience." She smiled. "I really don't want to deal with it, so it becomes your employee responsibility." She purchased the washing machine and dealt with the complicated instructions for having it delivered Then she turned to him "I think I have done all the shopping for what we need for right now. You go to the pickup area, I will meet you there. "

After they got all the purchases together she drove to the Athletic Club on 18th. She reached in the back for his swimsuit, which she tossed into his lap She smiled. "One of the places we will be going a lot is here. Only members can enter, and there is no loitering. So we need to get you a membership."

He grinned. "I have always wanted to go inside here. I hear it is wonderful."

She got out of the car. "I wouldn't call it wonderful, but for what it is, .... well, it is the second circle of hell."She marched toward the entrance and he followed.

He waited as she did the paperwork of getting him signed up for membership. He remained quiet, though the information she had on him made him nervous. Grabbing the towels and handing him one she showed him the way to the lockers to the swimming pool. Changing swiftly he went into one of the slow lanes and began slow and steady laps. After After 10 laps he saw a hand in the water so he stopped and looked up.

"You are supposed to wait on me!" she said. He looked at her. She was wearing a two-piece bathing suit where the top was extremely skimpy.

"This job is very new to me." He said.

She looked around. "What I do is rest in the jescussi. I didn't realize you are a shark in the water. Tomorrow you can do laps. For now, sit in the hot tub for 30 minutes."

"So tell me about this 'bodyguard' you have hired '' Nancy inquired archly.

Katherine exclaimed "He is legit. I found him when I was kidnapped. I am sure my stepfather wants me dead. I have been getting ready to move out on my birthday. That is when the first of my trusts vests. The next one is a biggie, $100,000 when I start school. He is going to have to refresh it or go to jail. I think he is going to have to sell something at a major loss. Hence the kidnapping. "

Donna said "We know. Don't sidestep the question. Tell us!"

Katherine took a long pull on her straw. Dona and Nancy stared at her. "He is paranoid. And he doesn't talk about himself. All I know is what my detective got from public sources."

"You went swimming with him," Nancy said waving her hand in a motion that said more. "We want to know how he looked in a speedo."

Katherine said "He refused to buy a Speedo. Totally refused." She paused. "But he has a six-pack of abs. Not 8 oz cans, but 16 oz. And he had muscles on top of muscles. When I got to the pool, he was already swimming laps and was going through the water like a hot knife through butter. He was incredible."

Donna said, "How is he in bed?"

"He is paranoid and deeply religious. Not the kind of religion where he is mostly in a congregant's skirt. He really is sincere about everything. "

Donna and Nancy gave incredulous looks. Katherine continued. "Not that I don't want to find out. But I have to go at his own pace. "

Nancy said, "You really should have got him the speedo."

Katherine grinned "Lord knows I tried. I picked it up and he put it back and said 'NO.' I asked why not and he turned beet red. He just said 'no' and looked so unhappy so I gave up."

Donna asked "What did he think of your swimsuit? The one with the light pink top?"

Katherine laughed. "I am so used to guys who talk to my chest. He didn't do that, but boy he wanted to! He resolutely talked to the space above my head, but he so much wanted to stare at the girls."

Nancy said, "Maybe he is gay?"

Katherine said "No. He was suffering. He definitely had a hard-on for me, rather than the lifeguard. He tried to hide it. It was a loose pair of swim trunks, but there was some long and hard under the fabric."

Eric got off the bus across from Wilson High. He looked around and saw the library. He sighed and walked up the ramp to the entrance. He hoped she would have decided not to continue this face. He had looked into some jobs, but no one was interested in hiring an ex-con. He stood in the doorway for a moment and finally walked in. She was at a table directly in front of the doorway and waved him in.

"Right on time!" She stood up and grabbed him by the shoulder and grabbed her notebook. Then she led him to a secluded table. "We are going to have to do some things a bit differently about your pay. You need an employer that looks legitimate for the state. You can't work for a security firm. But you need a company. You can't work security period in this state with your record. Fortunately, setting up a company in this state is easy, until you have to pay the taxes. Then it becomes really really hard. Taxes are going to be the death of me. So, .... First setting up the company. That was pie. You are now employed as of next Monday by Willamette Records. I even got a Taxpayer ID online. I filled out the W-2 for you, all that you need to do is sign it. I told you that you would get paid $22 an hour. This is the bill I send myself every month. I have to pay Social Security of almost 8%, and I have to pay a tax on the company's sales, and I have to pay a 2% wage tax to the bus company. Willamette Records will buy your textbooks and so on. I will have to think of something you can sell. You have to do something to make money."

"You have been busy."

"Oh, I almost forgot. " She dug into her purse. "Your phone. I get the same make and model as mine. It makes paying the bill every month easier. But my phone has stickers all over it. We shouldn't confuse it."

"You shouldn't have"

"I am going to keep you on a very short leash'. And taking of cell phones..." She opened another section of her notebook and took out a sheet of paper. "...this is the bill you owed for restitution to Target. Paid in full. I must say the restitution at 21% was kind of harsh. No way you could have paid that off "

"You borrow money from any credit card, 21% is light interest."

Katherine tapped the paper. "Do you want to explain why you bought bras, panties, condoms...."

Eric leaned back angrily "No, I don't want to explain myself." He glowered.

Katherine patted the air gently "Take it easy. I don't see you buying any of this stuff. I just wondered what the story was"

He just sat and scowled.

Katherine smiled and said "Well! ok then. Next up are your hours. We need to go to an office supplies store and get a time clock. How do you want to do your work schedule? During the rest of the school year, I suggest we do six hours a day from 4:00 to 10:30."

He scowled some more. "I don't work on Sunday. I don't go shopping either. "

Katherine looked at him. This would be a deal breaker for him. "Fine, 4:00 to 11:30 Monday through Saturday. but you are going to be near me all day Sunday."

"I will be at church for morning and evening services on Sunday, You can come with me or not. "

She looked at him skeptically. "This is not your usual church, is it? Where is it? And we have to get you a suit, I think. They aren't going to like you showing up in dockers and a lumberjack shirt. I will have to get a demure skirt and blouse, I think."

He looked thankful. She shrugged. She reached down into her backpack and pulled out another packet. "This is the application for the SAT. I filled out most of it, but like the W2 you have to sign and date it. And get your picture taken. You don't have to have your final grades. I would appreciate it if you could get this done and in the mail pronto. They take their time, so you can't. I would like it if you could take it at the same time as I am. "

He nodded. "Can't you take a picture of me with your cell phone and print it off yourself?"

She shook her head. "You need to go to one of those passport photo places. As a matter of fact..." She looked through her cell phone. "Yes! There is one very close by here. Let's do it now. We can do that and we can probably get it in the mail before 5:00." She began packing her things up. "No time like the present. Can you take my books for me? "

He smiled sardonically. "Sure! Part of the service."

They walked the seven blocks to the passport photo store while she chattered about the problems of high school. He just walked along and thought of his time in high school. he said uh huh every so often. She didn't discuss boyfriends.

They got his picture taken and they walked back to the car in front of the library. She huffed and said "Well, the news! I decided that A, I didn't want to live in the same house as him, and B I told him I had prepared for the eventuality that I died or was kidnapped. So, I am moving in! "

He looked at her.

She looked back. "You have to agree that he is scary! And living there is fraught at the best of times. He looked like he was going to hit me. I pointed out that wouldn't look good on his arrest report."

He shook his head. "There wouldn't be an arrest report. Men like him never have arrest reports" he said cynically.

She laughed. "That is where you are wrong! He has had several! There is someone in the police hierarchy who hates him. The doors unlocked"

He got in the car. and at the backseat which was piled high with boxes and clothing "You are ready for your move"

"Past ready! I have been ready since the day mother, using the term loosely, brought him on our doorstep two years ago "

He looked at her speculatively. "Doesn't your mother know your feelings?"

"She knows."

He was quiet for a while. He looked out the window as she drove. When they got to slower streets he looked at the boxes jammed in the back seat. "It was quite a chore getting your car loaded. "

She nodded and smiled. "it will be a breeze unloading it. There is a set of trolleys in lockers in the loading area. We should be done in two trips. Then we will be off to get you a laptop."

"You shouldn't do that. It is expensive".

She looked at him speculatively. "Well, not you, but the corporation getting a laptop for the employee to use. There will be chores the staff will need a computer for. Emails, and so on."

He laughed. "The corporation needs a computer for the staff."

She put on a mock-serious expression "And the staff member who uses the staff member gets to choose the computer."

"You don't know the way corporations buy things for their staff! My father could tell you stories. " He shook his head. "That is not the way corporations buy things for the staff."

"My corporation will be a trailblazer than. " She parked the car and pointed to a closet nearby. "The trolleys are over there."

He stred at her for a moment, and then grinned. She was the boss.

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