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Keith Spencer looked up at the clock on the wall and sighed. The crew-cut eighteen year old couldn’t believe that only thirty minutes had passed of the eight hours he was required to put in at the Roosevelt Park Tri-County Help Center. For perhaps the hundredth time this month alone, he asked himself how he had gotten into this fix.
A few years back, the local school board had passed a requirement that every student have a hundred hours of community service in order to graduate. While it did involve an investment of time and energy, most students had no problem meeting the task. They volunteered a day or two a month and finished up their prerequisite long before senior year.
But, in every class since the requirement had been instated, there were always a careless few who paid no attention to their obligation until their senior year. An even smaller few, and Keith fell into this category, didn’t do anything about it until their very last semester. Then, because of time restraints, they found that what would’ve been only a few hours a week, now took up half of every weekend.
To make matters even worse, all of the really good jobs were already taken by students who had been at them a while. All Keith had been able to come up with was the graveyard shift answering phones at the help center. A job he really thought sucked the big one. After all, who wanted to spend every Saturday night listening to a bunch of loser’s problems? Especially when they could be at the movies with Lauren Cusak.
Keith had been dating Lauren for three weeks now, and while he hadn’t gotten halfway to second base, he was sure that it was only a matter of time before he went for the gold. The word was that Lauren was the kind of girl who went all the way. You just had to catch her on the right night, when she was really in the mood. At least that was what he’d heard around the locker room.
The big problem was, with half his weekends tied up with this community service nonsense, Lauren wasn’t the type to spend her nights at home. So while she was dating Keith, she was also going out with Pete Hardy. The blond-haired teen was pretty sure that Pete hadn’t gotten any further with Lauren than he had, but that could change with the flip of a coin. It would be just Keith’s luck for Pete to be the one out with her on a night when she had a major case of hot pants.
“Roosevelt Park Help Center,” Keith said into the microphone of his headset as he answered another call.
It didn’t take more than a few seconds for Keith to realize that this was what was considered a Class Two call. Those he could handle, as they were usually just people who were lonely and wanted someone to listen. Class One calls were people with real problems and Keith always passed them along to the supervisor on duty without fail. He had enough problems of his own without trying to solve anyone else’s.
As he listened to his current caller’s tale of woe, Keith’s mind drifted back to the night one of his calls had turned out to be an obscene phone call. He had only been at the center three weeks and, thankfully, the supervisors had just stopped monitoring his calls on a regular basic. The female caller had been incredibly vivid in describing her body and all the things that she wanted him to do to her, and her to him. It hadn’t even mattered that she sounded a little old, because she had given him a major hard on. By the time she was finished, Keith had to hold a newspaper in front of him just to make his way to the bathroom.
The voice on the other end of the line this time was hardly as interesting as the one from that night, and Keith was glad when he was able to finally bring it to a close. The call had lasted almost a half hour. Only a dozen more like it and he could call it a night.
“Mr. Spencer, I’d like a word with you,” Peggy Diaz, the shift supervisor called out across the room. “In my office.” she added in a harder tone that meant right now.
“Great, what did I do now?” Keith asked himself as he took off his headset and punched the code into his phone position that would list him as being unavailable for incoming calls.
Crossing the floor to the small, glass walled enclosure in the far corner, Keith racked his brain for anything he might have done wrong and came up empty. It was an unusual feeling to not be guilty of something or other when called into the office, here or in school. He couldn’t remember the last time, if ever, it had happened.
“Yes, Mr. Martone, I’ll see to it personally,” Peggy was saying into the phone as she motioned to the empty chair in front of her desk. “No, it’s no problem at all. We’re more than happy to help out when we can. Yes, sir, you have a good night as well, and enjoy your trip.”
Peggy took another minute to make an entry in the folder on her desk before turning her attention to Keith. With nothing else to do during the short delay, Keith reviewed what he knew of the shift supervisor. In her mid-forties, Peggy Diaz was one of the Center’s few permanent employees, having bonus veren siteler been there for over ten years. She wasn’t married, he knew, and even with all of the gossip that got traded back and forth about who was seeing who, none of it had ever involved Miss Diaz. If she had a social life, it was kept quite private.
Not that she was unattractive, at least not bad looking for a woman her age, Keith thought. She was probably pretty hot back when she was in high school. The Hispanic woman had a nice face, short, reddish brown hair and a body that, while not the kind of figure you’d find in some of the men’s magazines Keith liked to look at, was a lot better than his mother’s or most of her friends, who were around Miss Diaz’s age.
In fact, the only thing negative that Keith could really say about the woman was that she was a little too straight-laced for his taste. The center was probably her life and when she was on shift, she ran it by the book. There were three other shift supervisors, and all of them were a lot more laid back. Still, he had to also admit that, except for one time when he’d really screwed up, Peggy Diaz hadn’t come down on him too hard. So he really didn’t have anything to complain about.
“I have a special job for you, Mr. Spencer,” Peggy said as she closed the folder and dropped it into the completed box on her right.
Keith wasn’t sure he liked the sound of that. Her voice was a little too friendly, something that was never a good sign.
“Don’t look do worried, Keith, I have a feeling that this is going to be right up your alley,” Peggy added as she took note of the worried look on his face.
Her use of his first name didn’t exactly inspire confidence, but then again, maybe he was reading it wrong he told himself.
“You have a car, right?”
“Yes I do,” he answered.
“Good, I’d like you to go to this address, and see a …Mrs. Martone.” she answered as she handed him a small card with the address on it.
“And what do I do when I get there?”
“Basically, the same thing you do here, listen to someone’s problems.”
“Since when do we make personal visits?” he asked, thinking there was a lot more to this then she was telling him.
“Well normally, we don’t,” Peggy admitted, “but Mrs. Martone is a very special case.
Martone, Keith realized, was the name of the man she had been speaking to on the phone when he came into the office.
“Look, let me put it all on the table and you’ll see how this can work to your advantage,” Peggy said, he tone shifting ever so slightly.
This caused warning bells to go off in the young man’s head. It had been his experience that it was never good when someone wanted to tell you how something they needed done was to your advantage.
“Simon Martone, is one of the single biggest contributors to this center,” Peggy began. “His donations help keep us in business so to speak. So, when the situation calls for it, we’re willing to go a bit further than we normally would for other people.”
“Some pigs were more equal than others,” Keith thought, remembering a quote from one of his English courses.
“So what’s the problem?” Keith asked, when what he really was thinking, what can I get out of this?
“Before I go any further, I have to ask for your promise not to discuss this with anyone else. After all, Mr. Martone is an important man and he values his privacy.” she stated. “I can count on your discretion, can’t I, Keith?”
“Of course,” he smiled, suddenly remembering where he’d heard the name Martone before. There was a picture of him in the outer office turning over a check at some charity dinner. An old guy in his sixties, Keith remembered.
“Good,” Peggy smiled. “So let me explain.”
Keith was all ears.
“From time to time, Mr. Martone is called out of town to take care of his business concerns,” she began. “When he does, he usually arranges for someone to stay over with Mrs. Martone while he’s away. Unfortunately, this afternoon he was called away somewhat unexpectedly and it wasn’t possible for him to make those arrangements. When this had happened in the past, we have provided a substitute.”
“So what’s the deal with this Mrs. Martone. What does she need with a baby-sitter?” Keith asked. “Is she sick or something?”
“More in the area of something, I’m afraid,” Peggy went on. “Mrs. Martone is a lonely woman, and when she gets too lonely, she at times has a tendency to drink a little too much. That is something that her husband would rather she not do. It would only be for a few hours, her housekeeper has the night off, but will be home by midnight.”
“So I’m supposed to do what exactly?”
“Just keep her company, basically,” Peggy explained, “listen to her if she wants to talk. Just make sure that she doesn’t have anything to drink.”
“That’s it,” she smiled. “Simple isn’t it?”
“Why me?” he asked. “Why not Sandra or Billy, they’ve both been here a lot longer than me?”
“Billy bedava bahis is a nice enough kid, but I really wouldn’t trust him to go out with the dinner order, much less something like this,” Peggy said. “Sandra is the best I have, which is exactly why I need to keep her here. I have few enough phone reps that can handle Class One calls as it is.”
That was exactly what Keith wanted to hear. Now that he knew how much she needed his cooperation, he could gauge how much he could get for it.
“So want do I get out of this?” he asked directly.
“What do you want out of it?” she countered just as directly.
It suddenly occurred to Keith that he really had no idea what he should ask for. Something that was reflected by the look on his face as well.
“How about I make this easy for you,” Peggy offered. “You baby-sit Mrs. Martone, as you put it, and I’ll count the time you spend doing it at two, no let’s make it three times the rate we count it here. I’ll even count the part of your shift you already worked.”
Keith quickly did the math. Not counting tonight, he still had thirty-two hours of service to go. Twenty-four hours would just about wipe that out. Still, why not go for broke?
“How about we make that four times?” he said, holding his breath for the answer.
Peggy didn’t give him an immediate response. Instead, she seemed to be considering her options. It was obvious that she knew that would totally complete his graduation requirement.
“Why not,” she finally said, bringing a smile to Keith’s face. “To be frankly honest, it’s not as if your work here has been much of an asset.”
Keith couldn’t help but agree with her, not taking any offense at her assessment at all.
“But there is one condition,” she added, grabbing his full attention. “You have to make totally sure, above all else, that Mrs. Martone doesn’t get at the booze,” she emphasized. “If that happens, the deal is off and you have to come back here to finish the other twenty-four hours. Think of that as an incentive to make sure the job gets done. Do we have a deal?”
It didn’t take a moment for Keith to say yes. After all, how hard could it be to keep one old lady sober for a few hours.
The address Peggy Diaz had given him was just outside of town in the suburb of Two Oaks. A small, private upper class community, populated by businessmen and professionals. He had little trouble finding the house, a large two story colonial with a two-car garage.
Looking at a house that was far beyond the one he lived in, Keith wondered if maybe he should’ve changed clothes before coming over. Peggy had said that the T-shirt and shorts he had on were fine, but now he wasn’t so sure. Some older people had a strange way of looking at things. This Mrs. Martone might take his casual dress as an insult.
Well it was too late now, he thought as he rang the doorbell. If she had a problem with his clothes, there was nothing he could do about it now.
A minute passed, then two, and Keith was beginning to think that maybe the old lady had just fallen asleep, or maybe she was hard of hearing. By the time a third minute passed and he tried the bell again, he wondered if he’d still get some extra credit for just coming out here.
“Who’s there?” a voice called out from behind the front door.
“My name is Keith Spencer,” the young man responded, “Miss Diaz sent me. I’m from the Tri-County Help Center.”
Another long minute followed, during which not another sound came from behind the door. Keith figured the old lady wasn’t going to let him in and turned to head back to his car.
“At least I can take my time heading back to the center and kill another hour or two,” Keith thought as he reached the porch steps
The sound of the door opening behind him caused Keith to stop and turn around. He retraced his steps but it wasn’t until the porch light came on that he got his first real look at Mrs. Martone. A look that left him greatly surprised.
Based on the picture of Mr. Martone at the center, Keith just naturally assumed that Mrs. Martone would be just about the same age. If he hadn’t already been told that the housekeeper had the night off, he would’ve assumed that she was the one standing in the doorway.
Standing two inches above his own five foot five, Anna Martone had short curly red hair and a build that even nicer that the one on Peggy Diaz. He’d remembered seeing some adult magazines on the newsstands that had women their age, not that he could’ve imagined himself looking at them, but Mrs. Martone was the kind of woman they must feature. She was just that impressive. Keith would’ve thought her even more impressive if he’d know that his guess at her age was almost seven years short, and that she’d passed her fiftieth birthday two years ago.
Seeing the casual sun dress she was wearing, the sort he had seem his mom wear a hundred times, Keith no longer felt himself underdressed. Still, he was so taken by her appearance not deneme bonus being what he had expected, the teenager hadn’t heard what she’d said to him as she also looked him over.
“I said, are you going to stand out here all night, or are you coming in?” Anna repeated, this time getting his attention.
“Oh yeah,” Keith grunted as he stepped inside into the foyer as the door closed behind him.
“I guess you drew the short straw,” Anna said as she turned the lock.
“Whenever my husband goes out of town on short notice, he arranges for the help center to send someone over to baby-sit me,” she laughed as she led him through the hallway into a large, well furnished living room. “He’s always worried that I can’t handle myself and I’ll go on a bender, you see.”
“Well I …” the teen started to say, realizing that this might be more difficult than he thought.
“It’s okay, I know you’re just some student working off his community service requirement,” Anna went on. “And it’s not your fault. I’m even going to make it easy for you. There’s soda and snacks in the fridge, and over two hundred channels on the digital cable. I have no plans for the evening other than curling up with the latest Cathy Donohue novel.”
“Great,” Keith thought as a smile filled his face as his momentary worry faded. “This is going to be even easier than I thought.”
True to her word, Anna Martone curled up on a comfortable chair to read her novel, leaving her “baby-sitter” the wide couch and possession of the remote control. She didn’t even seem to mind when he channel surfed to one of the sports channels to watch a baseball game.
“That book must be really good,” Keith though as he glanced over in Anna’s direction, “she hasn’t looked up from it in over an hour.”
But books weren’t really his thing, and he only cracked one when he absolutely had to. Turning his attention back to the game on the television, where the two pennant contenders were locked in a 4-4 tie, Keith tossed another mouthful of popcorn into his mouth and washed it down with his soda. He could already see the end of the night, and his community service requirement going the way of a bad dream.
During the middle of the seventh inning, Keith glanced over at his charge, and was surprised to see her drinking a glass of water. Had he been so involved in the game that he didn’t even notice her getting up to get it?
With the first batter slamming an opening pitch for a triple, Keith’s attention turned totally back to the game. The next two batters went down swinging and there was a pause in the game as the home team called for a pitch hitter to take the place of the pitcher. While the station went to a commercial break, he again looked over at Anna and her book.
“Holy shit!” Keith gasped, spilling his soda and knocking the bowl of popcorn onto the floor. The baseball game was suddenly the furthest thing from his mind.
In one hand, Anna was holding the glass of what Keith had taken to be water. In her other, was a quart bottle of Russian vodka that she was in the process of hiding behind her chair.
“I don’t think you’re supposed to be drinking that,” Keith said as he saw his sweet deal coming undone.
“Oh it’s just a little bit,” Anna smiled as she lifted the glass to her lips and drained almost half of it. “Just a taste really.”
Keith might have just let it go at that, but no sooner had Anna brought the drained glass down, she was again reaching for the bottle to refill it. Not knowing how much of the half empty bottle she had already drank, Keith didn’t think it would take much more to get her plastered.
“Maybe I should take that,” he said as he reached over from the edge of the couch and took hold of the vodka bottle.
At first, Keith was worried that Anna was going to give him a problem as she resisted letting go of the bottle. He was a lot stronger than her of course, but he doubted his instructions to keep her from drinking extended to using physical force.
Then, just as he felt her trying to pull the bottle back, the redhead unexpectedly released her grip on the base of the bottle and let Keith have it. Relieved, he quickly dropped back onto the couch and put the still opened bottle against the large cushion to his left.
As if to show she hadn’t totally lost, Anna lifted her glass, which was still a quarter filled with vodka and almost dared her baby-sitter to take that away too. Keith quickly decided that the bottle was the important thing and it was better to just leave things as they were.
Once she realized that Keith wasn’t going to try and take the glass as well, Anna defiantly drained the rest of its contents. Then, again to the young man’s relief, she went back to her book. After watching for a few minutes more, he concluded the crisis had passed and he went back to catch the last innings of the game.
The top of the order went up and down in quick succession, but Keith found that his mind wasn’t really on the game anymore. He found himself picking up the vodka bottle to look at it. The label was written almost entirely in Russian, so he really had no idea what it said. Curious, he sniffed the contents, only to find that it really didn’t smell like anything.
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