In one massive swipe, Libby Kindly’s computer monitor gained airspace and smashed against the wall. “FRANK! I’ve had enough of this bullshit … you go get me a generator, ‘cause they’re not going to send it to us via eBay, an’ I’m sick of these power cuts.
Stuffs up my ‘puter…gives it the f’ing frizzies.”
“Y…You know I can’t sweetheart, please…” came the feeble reply from her tense husband.
Frank Kindly, fifty-three years of age, six foot tall and skinny as a rake cringed at the piercing drawl of his wife’s voice. He inwardly groaned. His beloved had gone through her dreaded three stage mood-mode.
Stage One mood-mode would be intermittent nagging. Stage Two mood-mode would be super flow nagging in the form of a barrage of rhetorical statements and questions such as, “why can’t we… because you won’t… why is it always…
He knew when she reached the Stage Three mood-mode – her less than charming verbal language skills attacked his ears like acid-tipped bullets, and usually, some innocent object meets its death – in this case, the computer monitor.
Frank and Libby Kindly had been married for thirty long years, the majority of them relatively happy. Though Libby occasionally exploded with temper tantrums, she was downright honest, practical, and a damn good cook.
Each night he gave thanks to his lucky stars that he was perfectly healthy. Well, at least physically. Psychologically, he was an utter mess; a naturally nervous lost soul who could not step outside his front door thanks to an extreme form of agoraphobia.
He had not left his house for God knows how many years. To his benefit, at a young age, he had made his fortune working for a company on the stock market, then lost everything, learned a few lessons, gained it all back and then some … then decided to work at home, which to him was a dream job thanks to his clandestine condition, which, ironically made things worse.
Generally, Libby, her cooking, and money made him happy. But the dark loneliness of the vacuum cupboard was his fetish.
His wife was a homebody too. Yep, she had somebody alright; a body morbidly obese via a slow journey of fifteen years. She had decided that cream cakes and chocolate were her real desire, constantly. At five foot nothing, last time she weighed herself, she was told she was around two hundred pounds.
She had once stepped on Milcrest’s food factory’s weight platform, which the local weight group used; but it groaned and creaked before she had a chance to study the reading. When some heartless soul had snickered ‘human bowling ball’ behind her back, she never showed herself again.
Now, it was all pointless, as three years ago she had a wrestling match between her and the evil front door. Trying to squeeze through (and squashing her favorite daily delivered cream cakes from the Fresh-a–Day baker’s store.) No matter which way she pushed, squeezed, panted an thrashed; she could not get through the beastly and evil front door.
She too could not leave her home.
There was no way she would let her husband force her through as she feared she really would get stuck (and what if she could not get back!) She did not care if she was in pain, or even died; only the fact she would be the butt end of cruel jokes from the firemen trying to rescue her. The cruel irony of her problem bred a stream of stress which only served to make Libby eat more.
So embarrassed she turned to the internet. All shopping and socializing were done using cyberspace. They’re solid, two-story brick and mortar stand-alone home that imposed protection, in reality, gave them virtual imprisonment.
Libby stood, hands outstretched over her rolling, mountainous hips and glared at Frank. She truly did not like picking on her husband, but whom else could she rely on? She knew what he was like just holding the doorknob in his hand. He broke out into shakes, then sweats, and then panic struck, and the predicted great race into the vacuum or linen cupboard took place. Sometimes it was hours before he would emerge.
Frank braced himself for the eruption.
Instead, he received a heavy sigh of resignation from his rotund wife. He watched her red painted lips spell out, “We need a roommate.”
They stared at each other, nodding in unison. They had discussed it in the past, and now, it was imperative. They did not like the thought of a stranger nosing into their personal lives. They had no choice; they were now at crisis point.
Next day, the advert journeyed into cyberspace. The promise of free room and board for running a few errands would be irresistible. Sure enough, within one day, swarms of replies came through, from people of all walks of life. Libby expertly utilized the delete key several hundred times that day.
They finally got it down to one reply. His name was Jed Richardson. 45, divorced, no kids, no fixed abode, now looking for a flat or board. No untoward habits and a clean bill of health.
He sounded normal.
He sounded perfect.
Libby sent him a message to come over for an interview.
When Jed read the address, something jolted his memory. Something was familiar about the address, but he could not put his finger on it.
Unbeknown to the Kindly’s, Jed was on the run from the Law, plus a few others he had double-crossed. Seeing the Kindly’s ad was striking gold.
Jed was a career thief by trade and made his living by ripping off innocent folk like the Kindly’s. So far, he had
never been caught as he was a master of disguise and a fast talker. Fortune smiled in the fact he had found the perfect hideout.
When he arrived, he almost turned on his heel and ran away. This very house he had targeted a few weeks earlier. He had broken into several neighbors successfully until he turned his attention on the Kindly’s. He had watched over the house for some time and initially thought no one lived there. No one came in and no one came out. Thick curtains and blinds were always drawn. At night, he could not even see any light – if there was any. His instincts told him not to push his luck and he walked away.
He did not like to take chances. He stood mulling it over for a few seconds. Still…
He cleared his throat and tapped at the door.
Keep cool Jeddy; you have nothing to lose …
… Except for his dinner; which he almost openly displayed in living color at first sight of the larger than life Libby. He quickly regained control before he blew his chance. Yes, this woman was obscenely gross, but he, Jed David Richardson, was in control.
Yes, the master was in control, always in control, he told himself.
He took in the Kindly’s and discretely memorized their worldly possessions, which, in his professional opinion, would be worth a nice tidy sum to a mastermind criminal like he. He still had some private shopping lists he needed to make delivery on.
These simple people would become putty in his hands.
He sat opposite them as Libby briefly skimmed over their home situation.
Behind his polite smile, he totally resented them. Even more so, he had to fight the mixed feelings towards Frank’s condition; pity for a man to have such a pathetic weakness and anger towards him for not doing anything about it.
Jed reminded himself why he was there, remembered the fact it was the perfect hideout from the world, and the ones seeking to have more than a wee chat with him. You don’t turn down free board in exchange to run a few silly errands, no matter what weirdo’s you come across.
He threw them a few false scraps about himself; traveling the world and looking for somewhere to live just while he worked on some new software to develop interactive websites, which was how he made his living. That was at least bordering on a half-truth – he was a damn good hacker.
Libby and Frank liked him immediately. Jed knew he was in. Having already mentally added up their belongings, he knew this was the big one; he could retire for life.
Next day Jed moved in and the first item Jed got them, free of charge, was a generator. He had several in a nearby locked warehouse.
A few nights later he overheard them talking about having no one to leave their assets and money too. Jed had run a check on them and knew they had no children or living relatives. He decided now was the time to be indispensable.
He devoted a lot of time to make sure he got to know both Kindly’s and became exceptionally helpful and whenever they needed something done, he would do it.
One night he asked, almost sheepishly, if he could personally help them both with any substantial problems.
With a dash of charm, sympathy and a couple of glasses of wine, he coaxed them to share, in depth, their misery. Jed knew full well both needed professional help with their personal demons. But he was great at pretending, stating he had a background in psychology, even presenting a certificate to prove it. He could fool anyone, and these two were no exception.
With gentle persuasion he began to proactively help Libby tackle some gentle stretching and aerobics to videos, even purchasing calorie controlled meals. More importantly, he helped develop her confidence and was there to support
her when she had a depressive bout. He did not completely stop her ordering her fetish foods, but restricted how much she received, by helping himself to a few delicious cakes himself.
For Frank, he gently, but assertively encouraged him, step by step, even holding his hand to make it to the front door downstairs. Each time Frank did a runner, Jed had to hide his mirth; which took time, but he did it!
Indeed it took time, painful time, but after constant encouragement and reassurance, he managed to get him to touch the doorknob without shaking or dashing to the nearest closet. Jed’s never-ending dedication began to slowly take its toll as he worked with them day in and day out. Sometimes, Jed would only have a few hours a day of free time. The more he succeeded with them, the more he despised them, but he persevered knowing he would obtain his ultimate reward soon.
Six months of non-stop concentrated effort, and one fine Monday morning, Frank made an announcement; he was ready to go outside – with no help. A noticeably slimmer Libby, curious to find out how much weight she had so far lost, insisted to accompany her husband.
Both sat Jed on their favorite couch to tell him they wanted to give him something for all his hard work and never-ending devotedness.
Plus “a little something for being such a lovely friend and companion,” Libby added.
“It will be a new experience!” a delighted Libby laughed, hand in hand with a glowing, confident Frank.
Jed watched them leave the house, like a couple of excited teenagers, laughing and hooraying!
“Suckers!” he smirked to himself.
Next morning, when he woke, he found a note and a large box.
“Thanks for everything Jed, but we are not coming back. I’m sure you will find everything you need … it is all yours. Just our way of saying thanks for giving us our freedom!”
The box was chock full of cash, and the title deed in his name to their dwelling.
Jed was ecstatic, totally over the moon. He had achieved his goals and now had a house to himself. He could, at last finish fulfilling those damn shopping lists before he got himself a bad reputation.
He grinned, wondering who next he could prey on, as he sat at Libby’s computer to skim over the ads for housemates wanted. Before he did, he decided to nose through Libby’s files. Nothing stuck out until he saw a media site he did not recognize saved in her ‘favorites.’ It was a site dedicated to unsolved mysteries. He opened it up, scrolled down and stopped when an old newspaper clipping, popped up. The headlines impacted on his brain:
DEAD COUPLE FOUND INSIDE HO– USE – CULPRIT NOT CAUGHT.
His jaw dropped … the description was uncanny. Frank and Libby Kindly – quiet, unassuming couple, who kept to themselves, found murdered inside their house. The assailant had never been caught. Police had put the motivation down to a burglary that got botched.
It could not be his couple, surely.
He saw the monochrome photo – it was them alright as if it was only taken yesterday. They were the same age! He felt confused and sick. He felt even sicker when he saw the newspaper clipping was sixty years ago!
All instincts told him to leave, but an incredible sensation of panic and dread gripped him. A cold sweat
laced around his body as he rested his hand on the doorknob, and then he sprang back like a scalded cat.
He could not leave!
His hands and body vibrated like a cocktail shaker. He pulled himself along the hallway wall toward the warm, dark vacuum cupboard, struggling to squeeze in thanks to a sudden awareness of his thickened waistline. Gripped firmly in his sweaty hand was a large bag of fresh cream buns from the Fresh-A Day bakery…
…as a final thank you from the Kindly’s.