Saturday, July 20, 2019

'Submersed' Second Snippet

Military Training - Corrections Career  

Poverty left Aida Benson with few options despite excellent academic achievement in high school. For her it was the army. And once again her achievement excelled. Out of basic, it was into medical training, trauma surgery. There her efforts were noted, competency at the top of her class. But it was her cool confidence that most drew the attention of superior officers.

‘We need those who can function while being shot at and under attack,’ noted one officer.

Next step, ranger school, training with special forces, bonding with those most in the line of danger... and most likely to be in need of her skills. Her ultimate assignment was to be at the front lines of combat, treating the wounded at the place of battle... ostensibly.

Yes, ostensibly. Her tour was a cover. Indeed, Aida Benson went to the front lines... the middle east... the battle lines of terrorism. But it was not so much her wounded comrades... potential wounded comrades... who became the recipient of her skills.

Working with the Central Intelligence Agency, she was to tend to prisoners... committed terrorists... killers of innocent women and children. The goal... keep them alive for questioning... and make them eager... to tell their stories... to talk... to confess... and for those who didn’t... to have them begging for a merciful end to their lives.     

Surgical nurse Aida Benson assured such an end was not to come.

Many tours, many years, Aida mustered out and returned home to Alabama, all records of her service were sealed, despite her valor, despite her meticulous efforts to assure retribution came to the deserving... slow and unending retribution.

Job opportunities for her sophisticated skill set were rare in the rural south. With the prospects of an ailing mother facing the end of life alone and with limited access to care, Aida Benson returned home to the large, Civil War era decrepit house on the Mobile River. There she offered care and found employment at the only local facility in need of her skills... the nearby state penitentiary... the hospital ward.

It was there she encountered Pansy... a part of the story to be later told. And there once again her cool confidence in a challenging environment... amongst killers and rapists... impressed her superiors. For after years in combat, proximity to terrorists, her cool confidence had been augmented by insouciance for the male. The machismo was all superficial, she learned... not a terrorist under her purview failed to break.  

‘I’ve squeezed my share of testicles,’ Aida Benson offered in response to a question posed during her job interview with the penitentiary’s warden... the question being her ability to handle threatening male brawn.

Warden Grace Addison stopped the interview. Aida Benson was hired.  

Some three years into her second career, mother passed on, leaving the mansion to daughter Aida. With its run down condition, Aida looked upon the bequeathment as an ironic opportunity to exhaust any excess funds from her modest government salary. For on her deathbed, Mother Benson beseeched her daughter to keep the house... and if sale needed in financial desperation, to first return the architectural gem to its antebellum splendor. Aida nodded her consent... yet knowing that restoration would require many years and much cash.   

Months later, on a Saturday afternoon, refurbishment beginning with a spare bedroom, there came a discovery. In preparing to remove ancient wall paper, Aida noticed that a patch which was behind an armoire was relatively recent. Someone had replaced the decades old covering, poorly attempting to replicate the design, the armoire positioned to cover the feeble attempt to match the pattern.

‘Pansy, let’s start here.’

They did. Peeling away, they found that an old closet had been covered up, the door hastily replaced with cheap wall board which quickly yielded to hammer blows. Sunlight revealed some steamer trunks. The illumination of a flashlight revealed the contents.

Someone in the family of Aida Benson robbed banks... or houses... or both. Cash and jewelry, a treasure trove, Mother Benson most likely aware yet too shamed to utilize the small fortune for household needs and medical care.

Thus her deathbed request... if in need... restore the house before sale.

Aida Benson kept her reason. She thought about her impoverished upbringing. The lack of funds for college. She both cursed her mother’s memory for withholding the benefits of such a stash, yet admired her integrity... the refusal to sully her hands with ill gotten gains.

Still she allowed the small fortune to remain in place. Not to be revealed, not to be turned over to the authorities. Mother Benson lived a life of conflict... guilty silence... yet silence of self sacrifice.

For Aida Benson, there had been enough self sacrifice.

No flashy displays of new found wealth. She instead slowly siphoned... weekly depleting the steamer trunks. A bank deposit here... the purchase of savings bonds... a brokerage account there... occasional visits to far off jewelry dealers. The latter effort was the most precarious, she realized. But after some half dozen trips to major cities, she concluded the presumed burglaries were many years in the past... no buyer suspecting or reporting her stash as potentially stolen. Yes, Aida Benson was cool enough not to press for immediate cash... never taking a low offer which would signal to the buyer an insignificant investment in what otherwise appeared to priceless rings, bracelets, earrings, watches, and necklaces. Instead she patiently bargained, maximizing all sales.

The task required nearly a year, but when all was turned to liquid accessible assets, she had a seven figure net worth. Not yet age 40, Aida Benson retired, humorously explaining to Warden Grace that she had milked her last prostate gland.

‘You’ll be missed, Aida. Your efforts calmed the prisoners so well.’

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