Saturday, October 8, 2016

'A Curious Arrangement'

From my latest short story, available in its entirety from Lulu as noted on my September 26 post.  This will be the only snippet. Enjoy. Meanwhile, comments and feedback are welcomed.

Next week, another short story. 


A Curious Arrangement

Copyright 2016

By Chris Bellows

Pamela Owens pulls into the brick driveway 15 Rosedale Lane. She stops before the massive gate a finger pressing to roll down the window of her Mercedes. As she punches in the code for the ornate barrier, she notes a large envelope stuffed into the nearby mailbox. She lets the car roll forward, snatching the missive as the heavy ironwork swings open.

It cannot be mail, she tells herself. That is all forwarded to the attorneys. She notes the sender, MacAdam Dentler CPA’s. Yes, it’s the quarterly accounting report for Hanson Industries delivered by messenger. Tossing it to the passenger seat she guns the engine to proceed up the steep incline, entering the vast estate of Robert Hanson, wealthy entrepreneur, retired and now... well... how should one describe his preoccupation?

In slowing the car before the porte cochere, Pamela Owens recalls her first visit, the interview, the apprehension, the unknown, the Craig’s Listing vague, it’s wording cabalistic.

    Part time position for an experienced nurse offering treatment for a man with special needs. Must be physically capable, assertive, skilled in handling the incapacitated. Flexible hours, generous compensation for the applicant with an aptitude for exacting discipline.

Something intrigued. Something brought alarm. In the medical profession, one does not offer treatment or ‘handle’. One cares. And to have an aptitude for discipline? Exacting? How is one to interpret that?

Pam smiles to herself, now knowing the answers.

She grabs her bag and the envelope, steps from the car and enters another code for the front door. She must move quickly having forty seconds to enter and press a third code into the alarm system.

So many numbers!

Deed accomplished she pauses before a full length mirror in the foyer. Professionally attired in white, nurse’s cap included, she finds her reflection to be acceptable. At age thirty five, though no longer girlish, she considers herself remaining attractive. Running a hospital ward supervising a bevy of nurses has somewhat beleaguered but there is youthfulness. And regular gym workouts have forestalled the gradual plumping of approaching middle age.

She adjusts her cap, smooths her white skirt and reaches into her bag, grasping a ring of many keys. Looking at the envelope, she asks herself if she should bring it with her. Marked personal, confidential, for the eyes of Robert Hanson only, she shrugs and brusquely tears it open.

Robert Hanson won’t object.

Medical training extensive, business and numbers are not her thing. But she does know that nine figures... no decimals... is a large number. And she does understand cash... short term investments... and that Hanson Industries owns little else.

The assets of the active business sold months ago, Hanson Industries, now a holding company, is liquid... abundantly liquid. She can taste and smell the wealth. It brings giddiness, an odd rush in realizing that she is so close to financial liberation.

She tucks the report into her bag. She’ll bring it with her, perhaps Robert Hanson will have an opportunity to review it. But perhaps not. She’ll decide later.

Bag in left hand, keys in the right, Pam begins the journey, short but time consuming.

First comes the door yielding to the basement stairs. Two locks. Then a light switch, a single bulb illuminating below. Pam steps inward firmly closing the door to hear the latch and locks click, ensuring isolation. Down the many stairs, treading carefully in the dimness. The space is barren, some boxes, old tools. The emptiness, the bare concrete walls, bring a shudder. With the solid door above double locked, its thickness dampering any sounds, one could be trapped, die and not be found, strident pleas for help not to be heard. 

Pam Owens puts aside her bag. There’s a thin well worn rug to be rolled up. A trap door beneath. Three locks to be opened. The hatch is a heavy plate of steel, Pam’s physique is needed to lift... her physical capability.

Near six foot, her regular workouts challenging, still two hands are engaged and thigh and back muscles somewhat strain in raising. The door lifts. When arms offer a final pull and hands release, the plate of thick metal flips to the rolled up rug with a thud. Below is a sub basement, purportedly carved out of the rocky soil when the mansion was constructed during the prohibition era. It’s a secretive wine cellar, now otherwise utilized.  

Pam shudders anew peering down into the empty abyss.

“Close your eyes,” hearing her voice echoing below.

Her bag yields a flashlight. It beams permitting Pam to carefully negotiate the steep ladder like stairs. At the bottom she finds the light switch. With a click the surprisingly large chamber erupts, dozens of halogen fixtures turning the cave into a well lit Broadway stage.

Looking to the low steel barred cage, she sees the nearly naked form of her employer Robert Hanson. He moves. This always brings relief. He’s alive, eyes pressed closed, the extreme darkness ending in a painful burst of high wattage. Pam Owens takes a deep breath, fortifying herself, her ‘treatment for a man with special needs’ to begin.

“You need changing,” her admonishing tone both bold and commanding.
“I’m sorry Miss Pam. It’s been long since your last visit. It is morning?” the voice quivers in meekness.

“That does not matter,” the utterance stern.

Pam steps forth, selecting another key on the ring.

“Wrist first.”

Robert Hanson offers his right hand, the tethering chain clanking on the bars and concrete beneath. Pam once again unlocks. The manacle is superfluous, the formidable bars of the cage not to be breached. But in further restricting mobility, it is wonderfully symbolic. Even in the waist high cage, the movements of Robert Hanson... special needs Robert Hanson... are subject to another’s will.

“Ankle, “ Pam directs, moving to the opposite side of the cage.

Robert Hanson squirms, a second chain clanking as he offers his cuffed left foot. Though the chains are somewhat slack, the forced position is ungainly. Robert cannot turn in his enclosure, even rolling over a frustrating chore.

“You smell. You happy to see your nurse? Glad to finally be changed?” the shackle released.

“Yes, Nurse Pam. I’d like that,” the somber voice somewhat gladdening.

Robert Hanson thrills. Limbs finally unfettered, he moves about in the small cage like a released zoo animal.

“Calm yourself,” Pam commands moving to a nearby wall.

There she retrieves a pair of Posey cuffs, nylon, lined in foam. She returns to the cage and Robert Hanson knows to present his wrists.

“How do you feel? Your proclivity well addressed? It’s been awhile.”

“I feel... I’m...”

“Kept? That’s the word you used during the interview. You wanted to feel kept.”


“Yes what?” Pam reminds has she encircles right wrist then left.

“Yes, Ma’am. And owned.”

“Yes... owned. We’ll need to discuss that aspect. The sense of ownership... that’s somewhat incomplete, wouldn’t you say?”

Pam checks the securing Velcro straps, assuring tightness. She then twirls her index finger. Robert knows to shuffle about on his knees to turn. With a click, click, the Posey cuffs are secured together, rendering his hands useless behind his back.

“Bath first? Or feeding?” the tone turning maternal, as finally the cage door is unlocked.

“It’s not for me to...”

“I know, I know. I’m not ceding my authority, Robert, just curious as to what is your most urgent need. Ultimately I’ll decide.”

With Robert Hanson’s meek protest, Pam Owens’ thoughts return to the initial interview many months before...

No comments: