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Author’s note: Desperate Measures is an anthology consisting of stories related by theme, rather than by character, chronology, or storyline. Accordingly, they can be read in any order, as each installment is a stand-alone entry.
* * * *
“Hello, this is Tom Lowery.”
“Mr. Lowery, my name is Cynthia Webber. I’m calling from the office of Mrs. Gwendolyn Garrity.”
“It’s about the opening you applied for as the driver for Mrs. Garrity. Are you still interested in that position?”
“Yes I am. Very much so.”
“Good. I’m glad to hear that. Are you available to come in tomorrow afternoon for an interview?”
“Yes…sure. What time?”
“Is one o’clock good for you?”
“I can be there. I’ll need directions, if you don’t mind.”
“That won’t be necessary, Mr. Lowery. We’ll send a car to pick you up. Are you still at the address listed on your resume?”
“Uh, yes I am.”
“9516 NE 103 Ct.?”
“Very well. A car will be in your in front of your home at noon. Please be punctual. Mrs. Garrity does not tolerate tardiness.”
“That won’t be a problem, I can assure you.”
“Good day, Mr. Lowery.”
“See you tomorrow.”
* * * *
Tom rolled out of bed at his usual time of 10:00 a.m. He turned the television to the Jerry Springer show, set up the coffee maker, and then rode his stationary bike for forty-five minutes. He cooled down for fifteen minutes, and then popped some bread into the toaster and poured himself a cup of coffee. Thirty minutes later he turned off the television, jumped into the shower, shaved, brushed his teeth, and then dressed himself for the interview.
A creature of habit, Tom had followed this morning routine since he lost his job six months ago. At first, he got out of bed at six a.m., completed his morning rituals, and was ready to begin his job search by eight a.m. Over the intervening months he had pushed back the wake-up time in one hour increments, to the point that he didn’t start applying himself until noon or later. As a result, he found himself pressed for time when he still was not dressed at 11:45 a.m.
Fuck! I don’t have time to iron a shirt. I’m going to have to wear whatever is already pressed. Hmmm, grey suit and yellow shirt? No, that looks like shit. Black suit and yellow shirt? I’ll look like a bee. I should have taken the navy suit into the cleaners already. Fuck. It’s going to have to be the black suit and yellow shirt. I have no tie to match this combination. I’m out of time–I’ll just have to grab something.
Tom finished dressing just as the car pulled into his driveway. He stepped into a pair of black loafers, grabbed his jacket, and headed for the door. Stepping outside, he found an older, silver-grey, Mercedes S500 parked in his driveway. A large, African-American gentleman was holding the rear door open for him.
“Yes, I’m Tom Lowery.”
“I’m here to drive you to your interview.”
“You’re right on time.”
“Mrs. Garrity values punctuality.”
Tom entered through the proffered opening and took a seat in the rear of the vehicle. The driver closed the door for him, and then took his place behind the steering wheel. He backed the car out of the driveway, and then proceeded north on NE 103rd Court.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name,” Tom said to the driver.
“Mr. Wilson, I’m a little confused. Why does Mrs. Garrity need a driver if she already has you?”
“It’s just Wilson. I’m not Mrs. Garrity’s regular driver. I’m just filling in until she hires someone to replace the last one.”
“What happened to him, if I may ask?”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not at liberty to discuss the status of any present or former employees with you, Mr. Lowery.”
“I understand. I was just curious.”
“All of your questions will be answered at the appropriate time, Mr. Lowery. Please be patient.”
“I will do that. Thank you for the advice.”
“My pleasure, Mr. Lowery.”
Tom settled into the seat and looked out the window as the vehicle knifed through traffic. He had no idea where he was going–the job listing did not provide an address. As the car turned onto the southbound ramp of the interstate, he began to limit the options. It could be Star Island, Brickell, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, or Pinecrest–those are the wealthiest communities in this direction. I can’t imagine anyone with the money to hire a personal driver living anywhere else.
The driver veered onto the ramp exiting the interstate and headed toward the westbound ramp of the state highway. That eliminates Star Island and Brickell. Good–I wouldn’t want to battle that traffic every day. Unfortunately, it also means I would have a much longer commute if I get the job.
“Is the temperature satisfactory to you, Mr. Lowery?” Wilson asked.
“Yeah, no problem, just set it how you like it,” Tom answered. “Wilson, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course, Mr. Lowery. I might not be able to answer it, but you can always ask.”
“Where the hell are we going?”
Wilson laughed in a deep baritone roar.
“We’re güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri going to another world, Mr. Lowery. It’s like nowhere you’ve ever been before.”
“Can you give me a hint?”
“Just sit back and enjoy the ride. And pay attention to the route we’re taking. Mrs. Garrity has an office downtown and she flies out of Miami International Airport every month, so you’re going to need to know how to get there.”
“My pleasure, Mr. Lowery.”
Tom settled back into his seat and looked out the window. The car streaked past the airport and continued heading west. Coconut Grove and Coral Gables are out. That leaves only Pinecrest. New money. Lots of professional athletes, also. Not so stodgy–this could be fun.
Tom expected the driver to turn south after passing the airport, but the car continued heading west. Where the hell are we going? There are some nice, newer communities out here, but no estates. The vehicle reached the end of the highway, and then exited onto Tamiami Trail. The driver continued to head west. What the fuck? There’s nothing out here but the Everglades and the Miccosukee Indians. Mrs. Garrity can’t be Indian. Can she?
The driver reached Krome Avenue and then turned left, heading south. Now I’m totally confused. We’re heading for the Redlands–farm country. I’ve never been in this area before. The vehicle sped south at nearly the same speed as it maintained on the highway. The car rocketed past farms and fruit stands, fields and groves–all the agricultural lands Tom had found even less interesting than the people who worked on them. After twenty minutes the driver slowed and then turned west, driving Tom into an area he never knew existed.
“How long have you worked for Mrs. Garrity?”
“It’s been almost four years now.”
“Do you enjoy it?”
“Best job I’ve ever had.”
“The location doesn’t bother you?”
“Believe me, you get used to it.”
“Do you ever think about leaving?”
“Nope. I hope this is the last job I ever do. I couldn’t ask to be treated any better than how Mrs. Garrity treats me. She’s good to everyone.”
“That’s all I can say, for now. But if she offers you a job, make sure you take it. You won’t regret it, I promise you.”
Ten minutes later, the driver slowed once again and then turned, passing through an iron gate bisecting a stone wall situated at the end of the road.
“Where are we?” Tom asked.
“Welcome to the Garrity Estate,” the driver answered. “We’re at the edge of civilization. Any further south or west and you’re in the Everglades. North and east is all farm country. Mrs. Garrity used to own all of this land, but she sold most of it off. All she has now is the twenty acres inside this wall.”
The car stopped in front of an old brick mansion. There was a garage on the right, and a guest house on the left. The driver opened the door and directed Tom toward the mansion.
“We’re just in time. Go on inside. They’re waiting for you.”
“Are you coming in?”
“No, sir. I’m going to park the car and then get back to my real job.”
“A real job,” Tom mused. “I need a real job.”
“How long have you been out of work?” Wilson asked.
“It’s been almost six months. I’m getting desperate. I’ve only had four interviews in six months. I have to do well today.”
“Before you get started, let me give you some advice. Keep an open mind, and answer every question honestly. This is a good place to work, for the right kind of people.”
“Thank you, I’ll remember that.”
Wilson returned to the driver’s seat, put the car in gear, and headed for the garage. Tom put on his jacket and walked toward the front doors of the mansion. Should I knock first? Wilson said they were waiting for me.
Tom hesitated for a second, and then stepped through the door into an opulent foyer. The first thing he saw was a round wooden table with elaborate engravings. Sitting on top of it was a large crystal vase with an arrangement of fresh-cut tropical flowers. To his right were two old but luxurious chairs with dark wooden legs and royal blue upholstery. The room was well-lit through tall windows dressed with light blue silken curtains. A spiral staircase with a heavy wooden bannister was located at the far end of the room. Next to the staircase was an old wooden desk with a telephone and a computer, behind which sat a young brunette woman in a modest navy blue dress.
“Come in, Mr. Lowery. I’m Cynthia Webber. We spoke on the telephone yesterday.”
Tom stepped around the table and walked toward the staircase. His shoes thumped with every step across the polished marble floor. He stopped at the desk, took Cynthia’s offered hand, and shook it.
“Hello, Ms. Webber. I’m Tom Lowery. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Please, call me Cynthia.” Her brown eyes fluttered as she smiled. “If you will come with me, Mr. Lowery, you will be meeting with Mrs. Garrity in her office.”
“Of course. Who else did you think would conduct the interview.”
“Oh, I don’t know. güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri An office manager or HR person, I assumed.”
“Mrs. Garrity is not only the CEO, she is also the office manager and the human resources department, Mr. Lowery. Let me assure you, Mrs. Garrity is a very hands on businesswoman.”
“I see. Well in that case, please lead the way.”
Tom followed Cynthia up the staircase to the second floor. She led him down a narrow hallway, before stopping to open the last door at the end of the hall.
“Please have a seat, Mr. Lowery. Mrs. Garrity will be with you in a moment.”
Tom turned and watched Cynthia depart. Beneath her modest, knee-length dress, Tom managed to discern a shapely figure featuring a heart-shaped bottom, narrow waist, and small, perky breasts. The legs and arms emerging from either end of the dress were toned and tanned, suggesting that Ms. Webber possessed an athletic body that would be a perfect fringe benefit of employment. Tom licked his lips as Cynthia closed the door behind her.
Tom surveyed the office. Other than the modern, ultra slim computer sitting on the desk in front of him, everything else in the room looked old. “Old” did not feel like the appropriate adjective, however, as every piece of furniture and every decorative notion was made of rare materials by skilled crafstmen, and appeared to be in mint condition. The curved, lightweight wooden desk was made of highly polished tiger maple. The top had beveled edges all the way around, and it was supported by Queen Anne style legs. There were no drawers and it had no privacy panels. It looked expensive and emanated a feminine power and prestige with which Tom was not familiar. Other than the ultra slim computer, the only adornment on the desk was a marble pen holder with two gold pens. A manila file folder sat in the middle of the desk. A chair made of the same wood and covered in blue velvet sat behind the desk.
Behind the desk, a mirrored credenza held a silver service set and a cobalt blue crystal decanter with two matching tumblers. A circular table with two chairs sat in one corner of the room, and a small sofa with a mahogany cocktail table was situated across from it. A vase with fresh-cut roses sat atop the cocktail table. A wooden cabinet resembling a liquor cabinet sat next to the sofa.
The upholstered leather chair in which Tom sat had to be at least fifty years old, but it was solid and surprisingly comfortably. There was a small wooden table next to his chair. Original oil paintings adorned the walls. Thick Persian rugs covered the dark wooden floor. Tom felt as though he were sitting in the midst of a museum display.
The door opened behind him, and Tom instantly rose to his feet. He turned to see a spry, elderly woman closing the door and walking toward him. She was medium height, slender, and her grey hair was cut in a long bob parted on the side. She wore a skirted suit consisting of a white jacket with black piping, and a black pencil skirt. She’s an attractive and rather stylish woman for her age. I wonder if she’s had any work done on her face? She had to–but I don’t see any obvious signs of surgery.
“Mr. Lowery, I’m Gwendolyn Garrity,” she said as she extended her hand. “Please be seated.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Garrity. I’m Tom Lowery.”
Tom waited until Mrs. Garrity was seated behind the desk before returning to his chair.
“First of all, I want to thank you for coming in to see me on such short notice. I apologize for that. Secondly, can I offer you something to drink? Coffee, tea, soda?”
“No thank you. I’m good right now.”
“Fresh squeezed orange juice? As you can imagine, we have an abundance of that around here.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“Well, then let’s get down to business. Mr. Lowery, I have an opening on my household staff for a driver, or chauffeur if you prefer the French pronunciation. I invited you here today so that we could discuss your qualifications for this position.”
“Yes, ma’am. That’s why I’m here.”
“Let me begin by telling you a little about myself. I am a widow, Mr. Lowery. My husband died fifteen years ago. He was a very wealthy man, and we had no children together. He did have two children from his first marriage, but sadly, those two were indoctrinated by their mother to despise my husband. Oh, they loved his money, but they had no affection for their father. He only heard from them when they needed money, and he only saw them when they were picking up a check. Holidays, birthdays, weekends–it didn’t matter to them. They couldn’t be bothered to visit or even telephone their father. As a result, my beloved husband left nearly his entire estate to me. He didn’t cut the children entirely out of his will, but what he left for them reflected the status of their respective relationships.”
Gwendolyn opened the folder on her desk and pulled out a stack of papers.
“Before we go any further, Mr. Lowery, I have a non-disclosure agreement that I would like for you to review and then sign. Would you mind?”
“Um, yes, I mean no, I mean…let me take güvenilir bahis şirketleri a look at it first. I understand the need for a confidentiality agreement, but aren’t these usually done upon accepting the job?”
“Indeed, Mr. Lowery, you are correct. However, I have to be sure that absolutely nothing we discuss leaves this room. Mr. Garrity’s children would just love the opportunity to reopen his estate and drag me back into court. I have to be sure that will not provide any assistance to them, you see.”
“Of course. I understand.”
Gwendolyn handed the papers to Tom, who flipped through them without reading more than a few sentences. Of course I’ll sign them. I’d sign anything she put in front of me. I need this fucking job.
Turning to the last page, Tom located the signature line and then looked up at Gwendolyn.
“Do you have a pen?” he asked.
“Of course.” Gwendolyn flashed a smile. “Just one second.”
Gwendolyn picked up her telephone and pushed a key.
“Miss Webber? I need you in my office, please.”
Gwendolyn replaced the telephone and smiled at Tom.
“Pardon the interruption. Miss Webber will be witnessing your signature.”
A minute later the door opened and Cynthia entered the room. She walked toward the desk, stopping next to the chair in which Tom was seated. Tom inhaled her perfume, but did not look at her.
“Are you ready for me?” Cynthia asked.
“Go ahead, Mr. Lowery. You can use my pen.” Gwendolyn waved at the gold pen set on the edge of her desk.
Tom reached for the pen and then placed his signature above the line bearing his printed name.
“Ms. Webber?” Gwendolyn looked up at Cynthia.
Cynthia took the pen from Tom and stepped between his chair and the desk. She bent at the waist, leaning over the desktop and the papers. As she bent over the back of her skirt rode up several inches, revealing the backs of her tanned thighs. Tom’s heart skipped a beat as he stared at Cynthia’s smooth skin protruding from beneath the hemline of her dress. He tried to look away, but instead found himself staring at Cynthia’s ass, which was filling his view at eye level. He became aware of her subtle feminine scent. It was a faint aroma, barely penetrating her more aggressive perfume.
It took Cynthia much longer to sign the document than Tom thought necessary. He felt his face become warmer, and then noticed a lump forming in the front of his trousers. He tried to think of numbers and letters–anything that would take his mind off Ms. Webber’s thighs and ass. He only succeeded in wondering what color panties she might be wearing. He searched for her panty line, but couldn’t find one. She must be wearing a thong. Or nothing at all.
Tom tried to suppress a smile. His erection strained against his trousers as he imagined the color and shape of her bush–or whether she was fully shaved.
After thirty agonizing seconds, Cynthia finally stood up and replaced the gold pen in the marble pen holder.
“That will be all, Ms. Webber,” Gwendolyn said. A small smile formed in the corners of her mouth.
Cynthia stepped away from the desk and walked out of the room. Tom breathed a sigh of relief when the door closed behind her. His sense of relief was short-lived, however, as he realized Mrs. Garrity had an unobstructed view of his crotch.
Mrs. Garrity returned the agreement to her folder, moistened her lips, and looked at Tom.
“As you may have guessed, the bulk of my husband’s estate consisted of farm land and fruit groves. I inherited over 10,000 acres of farmland, orange groves, avocado groves, mango groves, a packing plant, fruit stands, trucks, tractors, and other farming equipment.
“I had been a farmer’s wife for over thirty years, Mr. Lowery, but I had no interest in continuing the farming operations. I decided to sell the land and live off the proceeds. As luck would have it, my decision to sell the farming operations coincided with the real estate boom. I sold some of the groves to other farmers, but most of the farmland was purchased by developers. I kept only the 20 acres with the house and garage. I added a guest house, put in a pool, and converted the old farmhouse into this mansion. I was prepared to quietly live out the rest of my days in luxury.”
Gwendolyn creased her brow. For the first time, Tom detected a hint of stress on her face.
“Due to an accounting mistake in the handling of my husband’s estate, however, I subsequently owed millions in capital gains taxes to the IRS. My only options were to settle the debt by paying millions to the IRS, or donate most of my wealth to charity. That’s when I formed the Garrity Foundation.”
“What does the Garrity Foundation do?”
“I’m glad you asked, Mr. Lowery. Our mission is simple. We provide educational grants for unwed mothers and victims of domestic violence. We are currently funding thirty-seven women with fully paid scholarships, daycare for their children, and a modest living allowance. Our goal is to help these women gain the skills and training to be self-sufficient. We have ninety-four graduates from the program–all of whom are employed and living in their own homes. I like to think that we are making a difference in this community. That was really my choice–pay my money to the IRS and let Washington spend it on bombs and airplanes, or establish the Foundation and keep it here. I chose to put my money to work where I could see the results.”
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