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A Kind Stranger 4 James and Megan’s life continues.
“Unbelievable,” James whispered to Megan with a huge grin, “What a day this has been. I still can’t believe that I have a daughter!”
Megan smiled at James and whispered, “And you’re soon going to be a grandfather!”
It was true, James was so busy thinking about his daughter that it slipped his mind completely that she was pregnant and he would soon be a grandfather. With social services now out of the picture he realized that her health and that of the baby… his grandchild, now became his responsibility.
James looked over Kim’s shoulder and smiled at Megan and whispered, “She needs to see a doctor.”
She nodded to him as she pulled her cell phone out of her purse and started pushing buttons. When the phone began ringing she turned and walked to the other end of the room.
Kim was still trying to make sense of it all. Yesterday morning, she was at rock bottom dreading the next few days when she knew that she would be living at an orphanage by week’s end. There wasn’t a single ray of hope of having any better of a life.
Then when all seemed lost, she, for some unknown reason went to the woman’s shelter and by chance she met Megan again. She still didn’t understand why Megan had taken a liking to her, putting her under her wing and washing away all of her fears. And how could it be that this woman was married to her father that she thought she had no hope of ever finding?
James and Kim held on to each other for several minutes until Megan came back to them. “I called my doctor,” Megan said quietly, “the one that delivered Katie and Tara and they set up an appointment for this Wednesday.”
James nodded to Megan as he released Kim from her hug and said, “Thank you Megan. Come on Kim, let’s go home.”
They all left the conference room and went back to the main office. Mrs. Parker told them that the DNA laboratory wasn’t busy right now so they left and had the simple test done.
When they arrived at home they all sat in the living room. James and Kim began telling each other their life story. When Megan brought the girls home from school she didn’t tell them of the day’s events, just that James had some news to tell them. Katie, Tara, and Mary filed into the living room and sat down on the sofa.
“Hi daddy,” Katie said in an excited voice, “What’s the good news?”
Kim was sitting on the other sofa next to James holding his hand in both of hers.
“Well I have some good news to tell you.” James said, “I’m not one hundred percent sure yet but I think Kim is my daughter.”
Katie looked puzzled as she said, “You mean you’re going to adopt her too?”
“I don’t think I will have to, I knew Kim’s mother when I was in high school and… well… I’m pretty sure that she is my daughter.”
Megan spoke up and explained, “They had a DNA test done today to find out for sure but I think that they look too much alike for them not to be related.”
“Really?” Katie said as they all jumped up off the sofa and went to Kim and they each gave her a hug welcoming her to the family.
“Wow,” Tara said with an excited voice, “We have another sister! That’s two in one year!”
Kim looked at Tara a little puzzled at her remark. “What do you mean?” Kim questioned.
“Katie and Tara are my natural children.” Megan began to explain, “I met James… I mean your father, a little over a year ago. We were much in the same way that you were. I was working at a dead end job with very little money. We were about to lose our apartment and go to the Women Shelter to live but for some reason I stopped here first to find out how much the apartment rent was and James took a liking to us and gave us an apartment to live in rent free.”
“Apartment?” Kim asked, “You have an apartment you rent out?”
“Not just one,” Megan said pointing toward the back of the house, “We own the whole complex behind the house.”
“Ya,” Tara piped in, “In the summer time we get to go swimming in the pool any time we want!”
“Wow,” Kim said turning to look at Mary, “then is Mary your daughter… I mean my sister?” Kim asked turning back to James.
“No,” James said in a somber voice, “Mary’s like me, an orphan, her last foster family was mean to her so we took her in and she will soon be adopted by us.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that Mary.” Kim said.
“That’s okay Kim,” Mary answered as she got up off the couch and went and sat on James’ leg putting her arms around his neck. “Those days are all in the past. I now have a real mommy and daddy that love and take care of me.”
Kim became excited as she heard Mary call James daddy, she was still getting used to the fact that she had a real honest to goodness family with a mother, father, and sisters. James was watching her and saw her face light up with excitement.
James smiled and asked, “What is it Kim? What are you thinking about?”
Kim smiled and shyly looked down and said, “I’m still getting used to having a family,” she looked up and grinned,” Is it okay if I start calling you mom and dad?”
Everyone chuckled as James put his arms around Kim and Mary and pulled them both in close for a hug and said, “Of course that will be okay. You can call us mom and dad or whatever you like too. I know what you mean though, I’m still trying to get used to having a daughter.”
The whole family moved as one into the kitchen to help prepare dinner. No one wanted to miss the stories that were bonding them together as a family. After dinner they all helped clean the kitchen and continued talking while they sat at the kitchen table.
James suddenly realized that Kim would need to be registered at a new high school on this side of the city. Memories began flooding into his mind of all the problems he had when he was forced to start a new school. Not only would she be the new student but she would also have to endure the endless teasing that went along with her pregnancy.
After they went to bed that night James expressed his concerns to Megan about Kim going back to school while she was pregnant.
Megan said as she turned on her side and put her head on his shoulder, “We could enroll her in a private school.”
Megan snuggled in close to James’ ear and gently probed the inside of his ear with her tongue. This sent a shiver down his body straight to his penis. He was having a difficult time concentrating on the subject at hand but managed to answer, “Yes we could do that but she would still be teased by the other students.”
She began nibbling on his earlobe while slowly running her fingers in small circles through his chest hairs. “Well then we could get her a tutor.” She said.
His breathing became irregular and his penis was rock hard as he answered, “That’s a good idea; she could stay here and be tutored full time in the library.”
Megan thought for a moment as she licked the side of his ear and said, “Maybe we could get a full time teacher to home school all four girls for the rest of the year. I think it would benefit Mary a lot having a teacher here to give her extra attention.”
Megan slowly moved her hand down his chest and dug her fingers under his shorts and began stroking his penis. He managed to move his hand to Megan’s breast and found one of her nipples and slowly tweaked it as he said, “That might work but where would we find a full time teacher?”
Megan momentarily released his penis and arched her ass up off the bed and pushed her panties down with her thumb down until she hooked them with her big toe and removed them, discarding them at the end of the bed and said, “We could ask the girl’s principal, he may know of someone?”
James did likewise and discarded his shorts and rolled over on top of Megan and said, “Ok let’s check into it tomorrow.”
The following morning when Megan dropped off the girls at school she went into the office and asked the principal if he knew of a teacher they could hire full time for the year. He said he knew of a couple of retired teachers that he could call and ask if they would be interested. Megan told him that they owned an apartment complex and could give an apartment to the teacher as partial payment for accepting the job.
Just before lunch that day, Megan received a telephone call from a retired teacher. She told Megan that her husband had passed away last year and she was thinking of selling her house and was interested in the job and the apartment. An interview was set up for the following afternoon at four P.M. when all of the girls were there.
Megan answered the door precisely at four the following afternoon. Mrs. Hilton was a very nice looking woman in her sixties with mostly gray hair. She was dressed in typical school teacher fashion with a below the knee dress and a sweater.
Megan smiled and said, “Mrs. Hilton?”
She smiled back and extended her hand and shook Megan’s hand saying, “Yes and you must be Megan.”
“It’s so nice to meet you,” Megan said, “will you please come in. Girls, James, come and meet Mrs. Hilton.”
All four girls being on their best behavior lined up in the living room and smiled at her. James walked out of the kitchen and shook her hand saying, “It’s nice to meet you.”
Mrs. Hilton asked each girl in turn what grade they were in and flattered them with a compliment on how pretty they were.
“Please come with me,” Megan said to Mrs. Hilton, “and I’ll show you where we think the best place to hold class is.”
They walked down the hallway and went into the library. As soon as Mrs. Hilton saw the room she smiled and said, “What a lovely room, this will be perfect.”
They sat at the research table in the library and talked for the next few minutes. Mrs. Hilton gave Megan and James a resume’ which they looked over while she told them that she would handle all of the paper work so each child would get full credit for the home schooling. She also said she would be interested in looking at the apartment as partial payment for her salary.
James retrieved the key and they walked out the back door of the house to one of the closer apartments that as vacant. James and Megan waited by the door as Mrs. Hilton walked through the apartment.
Megan whispered to James, “I like her, and I think she will be a good teacher for the girls.”
“I agree,” James whispered back, “if she likes the apartment we should offer her the job.”
Mrs. Hilton returned and said, “I like the apartment and I could live here if I get the job.”
“Then it’s settled,” Megan said smiling, “you’ve got the job.”
The girls were excited not having to go to the school building everyday but were saddened on their last day because they would not see their friend’s every day. Mrs. Hilton contacted the schools and had Katie, Tara, and Mary withdrawn from their classes. She also contacted some of her former colleagues and borrowed their curriculum and textbooks for each of the girls.
James and Megan bought each of the girls a new laptop computer with wireless connections. The stores computer geeks came to the house and set up the desk top as the master computer for Mrs. Hilton complete with passwords so the girls wouldn’t be tempted to cheat. When the girls were in their room studying Mrs. Hilton could tap into the laptop camera to keep an eye on them and also answer their questions without them having to come downstairs and talk to her in person.
On the first day of home school Mrs. Hilton arrived at seven in the morning and Megan invited her into the kitchen for coffee. After some small talk Mrs. Hilton said, “I’ve contacted a realtor and put my house up for sale. They say the house is in a desirable location so it shouldn’t take very long to sell it. I’ll be moving into your apartment very soon.”
Mrs. Hilton continued, “I also spent some time with each of your daughter’s last year teachers and looked over their grades.”
Megan was a little worried when she asked, “What did they say?”
“Katie and Tara are slightly above average and I’m sure that I can help them to become even better students by the end of the school year. I am very excited to be working with Mary, her teacher said she is very smart and needs to be challenged. Kim on the other hand is behind in her school work. I’ve seen her grades and test scores and it seems she began to slip behind in the fifth grade. It will take a lot of effort by all of us to catch her up in just one year.”
The girls began walking into the kitchen for breakfast one at a time. After they ate they went to Mrs. Hilton’s car and helped bring in her teaching supplies.
The first day Mrs. Hilton laid down the ground rules and gave the girls a schedule of their school hours. They were all to meet in the library at eight A.M. to hand in their work and get their assignments for the day. Katie and Kim would leave the library while Mary and Tara had class from eight to ten. Katie would be in class from ten to twelve and Kim would have class from one to three thirty. While not in class each girl was expected to go to their room to study and complete their daily assignments.
Megan took Kim to the doctor and they were both relieved that she and her baby were healthy and doing fine. They did an ultra sound and snapped a Polaroid picture so she could show James. Kim was told by the doctor to start taking vitamins and get plenty of exercise.
The following week the DNA results arrived in the mail. Megan called James who was working in an apartment telling him to come to the kitchen. When everyone was in the kitchen Megan held up the sealed envelope and said, “Here it is.”
James reached out and held Kim’s hand and said, “No matter what it says Kim you are still my daughter and I will take care of you as long as you want.”
He turned to Megan and exhaled nervously and said, “I’m too nervous you open it Megan.”
She opened the envelope and began reading the results. The first page told of the tests that were preformed and what the test percentages meant. She began reading the second page as James began to get impatient.
“Megan what does it say?”
Megan glanced at James and Kim and continued reading the third page. “Ah here it is,” Megan said as she pointed to the page, “It says that the probability of paternity is ninety-nine point four percent.”
She looked up from the letter and said, Congratulations, its official, you are father and daughter.”
The kitchen erupted into a scene of celebration, James hugged Kim as she began to cry, and the girls were jumping up and down screaming in fits of joy.
Jerrod and Connie were having a hard time making ends meet lately. Ever since Connie was laid off six months ago their money has been getting tighter and tighter. Last month when Jerrod’s truck had two flat tires in the same week, they were forced to use the last of their savings to buy a used set of tires.
Then last week when their daughter Sally became sick Jerrod had to ask his father for the money to buy a prescription medication for her. Jerrod had been upset ever since that day. He always prided himself on the fact that he could take care of his family on his own without any help from others. But when it came to the health of his children he reluctantly bursa merkez escort bayan asked him for help. It was a bitter pill for him to swallow but he had no other choice.
Several months ago Connie stopped buying the finer cuts of meat and other more expensive foods. They cancelled the cable television and cut their expenses as much as they could. Thankfully the children were oblivious to the shortage of money and food and were happy to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Last Friday’s paycheck was gone almost before it was cashed. There wasn’t enough to pay the electric bill so they only paid half hoping it would be enough to keep the electric on for another month. After Connie bought groceries for the week Jerrod put the last twenty dollars in the gas tank and hoped it would last until Friday. When Friday came there was more bad news when the boss came around with the paychecks.
He handed the check to Jerrod and said, “I’m sorry Jerrod, but this job is winding down and I’m going to have to let you go. You’re a good worker and when the next job starts we’ll hire you back.”
“When do you think that will be?” Jerrod said fighting to hold back his disappointment.
“I’m not sure, maybe a couple of weeks or a month.” He nodded as the boss left to find the next man.
‘Damn’ Jerrod said to himself. ‘Now what am I going to do.’
When he came home from work and told Connie the bad news she began to cry, “Jerrod we need to go down town and apply for food stamps and welfare.”
Connie had seen that look of determination on Jerrod’s face before. She knew what the answer to her request would be before he said it.
“NO!” Jerrod said stubbornly, “I’m not going to put my family on welfare as long as I’m still breathing. I’ll go Monday and apply for unemployment, which should hold us over until the next job starts.”
Jerrod was wrong, it wasn’t enough. Over the next few weeks they fell further and further behind. They paid half of the rent and the landlord granted them only two weeks to pay the rest. The power company wasn’t as generous, they demanded full payment or they threatened to cut the power off.
Jerrod was at the end of his rope as he sat in the kitchen that morning. Connie begged and pleaded once again for him to go with her to the welfare office. Jerrod held firm not wanting any assistance of any kind.
It wasn’t until Connie got down on her knees and hugged Jerrod’s chest while he sat in the chair and began crying a very hard cry that his heart started to soften. “Please Jerrod,” Connie cried, “We can’t live like this much longer, if we can’t take care of the children they will take them away from us.”
He was beginning to see reason in Connie’s argument so he sighed and said, “Ok, I’ll go with you but I can’t say one way or another whether I’ll sign up for it.”
Connie looked up and smiled as he helped her up and sat her on his lap and hugged her. “Maybe they have something else that we could get.” Connie said in high spirits, “Or maybe they can help find work for us.”
It was an early November morning; James was in the office looking over the latest financial statement from the brokerage house that they used. Just before the market crash a couple of years ago James had recognized the warning signs that David Williams had told him about.
There had been a couple of small down turns in the market and David had shown him all of the indicators that the market was going to go down. Sure enough, James and Megan had safely moved most of their money into safe investments when the market crashed.
“Watch the big guys,” he remembered David saying, “When they start to move back into the market, you do the same. It’s not going to be easy buying when everyone else is selling and all the news is doom and gloom.”
James watched the market very carefully and when he saw Berkshire Hathaway start to gobble up stocks at dirt cheap prices he did the same. Their latest portfolio statement showed that they had hit the market almost perfectly. He smiled as he looked up toward heaven and said a silent thank you to David.
James set the statement down and picked up his cup of coffee and walked into the living room and looked out the front picture window. It was going to be a good day, the first cold snap of fall had arrived and a harsh biting wind was blowing hard out of the north.
He had checked his schedule for the day a found that he had only one small job to fix a leaky sink in one of the apartments. Other than that he was free for the rest of the day.
He took another sip of his coffee as he watched several of the children walking by on their way to school. He was in a good mood and began day dreaming thinking about the large changes that had taken place in his life over the past two years.
He thought how lucky he was on that day when he first met Megan. But a shiver went down his spine as he thought how close he had come to just letting her walk out of the apartment without talking to her.
Had he not asked her if there was a problem on that day, he wouldn’t have gotten to know her, Katie, or Tara. And not knowing Megan, she wouldn’t have found his daughter Kim and he probably would still be living his lonely existence that he had known for so long. He was amazed at the split second decisions that are made that have such a profound effect on one’s life.
His focus came back to today as he watched two small children walking by. The young boy looked to be around seven or eight years old and the girl looked to be around six. They both walked together with their heads down into the strong wind. They both wore light jackets and no hats on their heads and it was obvious to James that their jackets weren’t doing the job of keeping them warm. His heart poured out to the little girl as she appeared to be sobbing because she was cold.
James sighed to himself as he wished there was more he could do to help people. After the two children were out of sight he walked back into the kitchen, filled his coffee cup and sat down at the table and watched Megan preparing breakfast for the girls.
Megan noticed the sad look on his face and asked, “What’s wrong James?”
James sighed as he looked up at Megan, “I don’t know, it seems now that I’m enjoying my life a lot more than I was before I met you, I’m seeing a lot more of the hardship around me. There are a lot of people out there that need help and… I don’t know… it just seems like I should be doing more to help people.”
“I know what you mean,” Megan said as she continued with breakfast, “It makes me feel good when I go down to the woman’s shelter and help out. Why don’t you come with me today and help serve lunch?”
James thought about his light schedule for today and said, “Ok, all I have to do today is fix a sink. I’ll go do it now and we can leave when the girls start school.” After breakfast James and Megan drove down to the women’s shelter to volunteer. James being the rookie was put on cleaning pots and pans while Megan made biscuits and rolls.
When the dining room opened Megan took his hand and said, “Come on, this is the best part.”
They walked out to the dining room just as the doors were opened and watched the hungry people come in. After the dining room had been open for a few minutes James saw Mrs. Parker walk in with a young twenty something couple. They stepped to the side out of the way of the traffic moving through the doors and Mrs. Parker continued talking to them.
The woman was listening to her talk but the man seemed disinterested. He was standing next to the woman with his hands in his front pockets and was looking at the floor. James recognized the behavior and realized the man was embarrassed to be here.
Mrs. Parker put her arms around the backs of both of them and guided them to the buffet line. She looked up and saw James and Megan and smiled as she left the couple in line and walked over to them.
“James? Is that you?” Mrs. Parker said sarcastically to him, “How did Megan manage to drag you down here?”
James grinned and said, “I thought I’d come down here to see where Megan is spending all her time.”
They talked and joked with each other for a couple of minutes until Megan changed the subject.
“James and I were talking this morning about how we wished we could do more to help people.”
“Well,” Mrs. Parker said, “There are a lot of thing you can do if you want. For instants, do you see that couple behind me that I came in with?”
Megan and James both nodded their heads.
“That’s Jerrod and Connie, they have two young children. Jerrod is a very proud man and it took his wife Connie a week to convince him to come in and ask for help. I’ve talked to him all morning and he refuses to sign up for welfare and food stamps. It was all I could do to get him to come here for lunch. Connie was laid off over six months ago and Jerrod was laid off last month. What he wants and needs is a job.”
“What does he do for a living?” James asked.
“Mrs. Parker replied, “He a carpenter.”
A light bulb went off in both James and Megan’s head at the same time as they turned to each other and said simultaneously, “The kitchens!”
Mrs. Parker looked puzzled as James explained, “Our apartments are old and we’ve had a difficult time keeping them all rented. We have talked about remodeling the kitchens and bathrooms in all of the apartments but it’s too big of a job for me and besides I’m not a very good finish carpenter. We have been talking about hiring some carpenters to do the work. Right now we have three apartments that are vacant so we could keep a couple people busy for a month or two.”
Mrs. Parker stood there and listened as the plans unfolded.
“Probably longer then that,” Megan said, “As the apartments get finished and others open up we could probably keep him busy for a year or two by the time we get through all forty apartments.”
“That’s just what he needs.” Mrs. Parker said and then changed her tone to a whisper, “Jerrod and Connie are at the end of their rope and the rent is overdue on their present apartment.”
“Say no more,” James said, “They can move into one of our apartments and if things work out they can pay as they go with no upfront deposit.”
“James, you’re a life saver,” Mrs. Parker said, “When they’re finished eating I’ll introduce you to them.”
James and Megan returned to their duties in the kitchen while Mrs. Parker joined Jerrod and Connie at their table. She smiled at Jerrod and said, “I have some good news, I think I may have found you a job.”
Jerrod looked up from his plate and sarcastically said, “Doing what?”
“You’re a carpenter aren’t you?” Mrs. Parker said with a firm tone, “It will be carpenter work.”
“Really?” Jerrod said with a surprised tone, “Where? Doing what?”
“I don’t have all of the details,” Mrs. Parker said, “but there is a couple volunteering their time here, they own a large apartment complex and they want to remodel all of the kitchens and bathrooms. It may be steady work for a year or two. When you finish eating I’ll introduce you to them.”
Jerrod and Connie quickly finished their lunch and followed Mrs. Parker into the kitchen. They stood by the door and she called out, “James, Megan!”
They walked over to them and Mrs. Parker introduced them to each other.
“I understand you have some carpenter work that needs to be done.” Jerrod asked.
“Yes,” James said as he shook Jerrod’s hand, “we’ve been thinking about remodeling the kitchens and maybe the bathrooms in the apartments that we own.”
“Well,” Jerrod answered, “I’m the guy you need. I’ve got a lot of experience in new construction and remodeling. I’d be very happy to take a look at what you have.”
With lunch almost over they said their goodbyes to the women’s shelter staff and left with Jerrod and Connie. James rode with Jerrod while Connie rode with Megan. When they got close to the house James pointed and told Jerrod to pull into the driveway and park. Megan and Connie were right behind them.
“Wow,” jarred said, “Is this your house?”
“Yes, this is it.” James answered.
“I’ve always wondered who lives here; I’ve studied this house while I was going through trade school. The school has a lot of close up pictures and blueprints of this place.”
As Jerrod got out of the truck he was excited as he pointed to the gingerbread molding above the second story windows.
“All of that trim work up there on those dormers is hand carved. One of the projects I had in school was to carve exact copies of that scroll work above the windows.”
“You’re kidding me.” James said.
“No I’m not. This house was built in the eighteen eighties; it was one of the first houses to be built in this area.”
They walked onto the front porch when Jerrod stopped and used his knuckles to knock on one of the large posts holding up the porch.
“These posts are over one hundred and twenty years old and as solid as the day they were installed. They’re made of solid southern live oak, the same wood that the ship ‘old ironsides’ is made of. They didn’t cut any corners back then, they really knew how to build things.”
James unlocked the front door and they all walked into the foyer. Jerrod ran his hand over the front door as he said ‘wow’ under his breath. Then he was distracted by the oak staircase that leads to the second floor. He walked over to it and ran his hand along the handrail and then tried to shake it to see if it was loose, which it wasn’t.
“I’ve often wondered what the inside of this place looked like. This staircase is incredible, it must have taken hundreds of hours to make,” he looked back at James and said, “they didn’t have routers or other power tools back then, this was all handmade by a master carpenter.”
“I’ve always thought that it looks nice, James said, “but I didn’t give it much thought as to how it was made. After we’ve looked at the apartment I’ll give you a tour of the rest of the house.”
“Thanks,” Jerrod said, “I’d really like that; my instructor from trade school will be green with envy when I tell him.”
James retrieved a key to one of the apartments and they continued talking as they went out the back door towards the apartments. “He’s welcome to come by and take a tour if he wants and maybe some of his students as well.”
They walked into the apartment kitchen and Jerrod looked around. “What do you have in mind James?” Jerrod asked.
James looked at Megan and said, “We don’t have anything specific in mind, maybe a new floor, cabinets, countertops, and fixtures.”
Jerrod was nodding his head as James listed his needs. They walked through the living room and Jerrod looked at the bedrooms and the bathroom.
“These are nice apartments,” he said while thinking, “I’ve got an idea, I know a woman who is an interior designer. She does a real good job of highlighting the best features of living spaces. She knows how to pick the right colors and fixtures to really make a space look good.”
“That sounds like a good idea.” Megan said.
“As for this apartment, I agree with everything you said except for the cabinets. They look to be in very good condition except for the finish. I can take the doors off and strip the paint off, sand, spray paint, put on new hardware and they would look as good as new.”
James nodded bursa merkez escort bayan his head at Megan as Jerrod continued, “I can do the same for the doors, windows, and trim. I can also sand the walls and ceiling, retexture, and paint. I can sand and refinish the oak floors in the living room and bedrooms and put a new ceramic floor in the kitchen and bathroom. When new countertops, sinks and a new shower/tub are installed the place will be brand new. The majority of the cost will be labor.”
James asked Megan, “What do you think?”
“I think it sounds good,” Megan said, “I also think we should have the interior designer look at it too.”
James nodded his head and turned to Jerrod, “How long do you think it will take?”
“Well,” Jerrod said as he looked at Connie, “If you hire both Connie and I it should take five or six, forty hour weeks, but the more apartment we do the faster we’ll get. We can start work today if you like.”
“Ok Jerrod,” James said, “We’ll hire both you and Connie to do this apartment, and if we like your work we’ll probably have you do the others as they come available.”
Jerrod shook James’ hand and said, “Thank you, you won’t be disappointed. “
James smiled and said, “Call the interior designer and make me a list of things that you need to get started. We have to keep detailed records for tax purposes.”
Megan’s thoughts turned to what Mrs. Parker told them at the woman’s shelter about Jerrod and Connie’s money problems. In order for them to save face and not having to mention the money problem to them Megan offered, “If you would like to live closer to your work, we will offer you an apartment with a discount on the rent and wave the security deposit.”
Connie smiled and nodded her head as Jerrod looked at her. “Yes that would be nice,” Jerrod said, “It would also be a shorter walk to school for our kids.”
“Good,” James said, “Let’s go back to the house and fill out the paperwork for the apartment; you can move in to this apartment and start work when you get settled in.”
As they walked back to the house Connie talked with Megan, “Thank you, thank you! We have been out of work for a long time. I was beginning to get worried.”
“I’m glad we could help,” Megan patted her on the shoulder and continued, “With the turnaround we have in the apartments, we should be able to keep you two busy for a couple of years.”
As they walked back through the house Jerrod pointed at a closed door, “This is the library, right?”
James said, “Yes, our children are home schooled and are in class right now.”
When they walked into the office to fill out the paperwork Jerrod said, “You made this into an office? The blue prints I’ve seen show this to be a bedroom.”
Jerrod pointed at the wall between the office and the library and said, “There should be a long closet there and a built-in bureau there.”
“Where did you get blueprints for this house from?” James asked.
“My trade school instructor said he bought them from the estate sale of the architect who designed it.”
“That’s interesting,” James said, “I’d like to see them.”
“That’s not a problem; if you want we can drive over to the trade school right now and see the instructor Mr. Karl.”
“Megan,” James asked, “Can you take care of this? Jerrod and I are going to the trade school. I’ll be back in an hour or so.”
“Jerrod parked behind the school and they walked into the large carpentry shop. James saw about fifteen students working on different projects all around the room. Jerrod pointed to the far wall and sure enough, James saw two exact replicas of his upstairs bedroom windows hanging on the wall.
An older man approached them and extended his hand and said, “Jerrod, it’s nice to see you!”
They shook hands and he said, “It’s nice to see you too. Mr. Karl, this is James, he owns ‘the house’.”
Mr. Karl looked surprised at James as they shook hands, “You’re the owner of the big Victorian on Main Street?”
“Yes,” James said, “it’s nice to meet you Mr. Karl.”
Jerrod told Mr. Karl about all of the architectural detail he saw while he toured the house.
James spoke up, “I never realized that people actually studied the house, you and you’re students are welcome to study it close up if you like and you’re welcome to tour it.”
“Thank you James, Mr. Karl said, “I’d like that very much.”
“Mr. Karl, Jerrod asked, “The reason we came is James would like to see the blueprints for ‘the house’.”
“That’s not a problem; in fact I’ll give you a set that you can keep.”
He went to his office and returned with a large roll of prints which contained about twenty separate pages. Mr. Karl spent the next few minutes showing James the window replicas and they watched a few students that were working on hand carving several of the ornate pieces that made up the window.
James and Jerrod returned to his house and he placed the blueprints in the office. On Saturday morning with the blueprints in hand he spread them out on the large table in the library.
When he looked at the first floor plan he noticed that his office was labeled ‘bedroom 3’, he then noticed the closet that Jerrod had told him was supposed to be there. That wall, which separated the office from the library, closest to the hallway showed a plumbing chase where the water pipes and the waste lines ran from the second floor bathrooms to the basement.
The center of the wall showed a built in bureau like the one in the master bedroom and the wall closest to the outside of the house showed a closet with a wide set of double doors. It was obvious to James that these prints weren’t the final ‘as built’ plans and he wondered why the change was made.
He went to the wall in the office and tapped on it to see if he could find the header that would have been put in for the closet door. As he tapped, he didn’t find the header but he did find the studs in the wall. He thought it was strange that there appeared to be several horizontal braces running side to side between the studs.
‘Why would they put braces in the wall?’ he asked himself. He didn’t find just one brace but several braces between all of the studs on the outer half of the wall where the closet and bureau should have been. The braces were spaced about eighteen inches apart starting at the bottom of the wall and running up about half way to the ceiling.
James next went into the basement and found where the plumbing pipes came down from the upstairs bathrooms. He then looked at the joists under the wall and noticed a double thick oak joist running the full length under the wall supported by two posts.
‘It must be there to support the extra weight of the books on the library shelves.’ He thought. James looked at the plumbing lines again and realized that there had to be at least a two foot space between the office wall and the back of the library shelves. The walls in the office and the library were straight with no jogs in them.
Then it dawned on him, ‘the wall is at least two foot thick all the way from the hallway to the outside of the house! ‘I wonder why they did that.’ He asked himself.
James went back upstairs and found a long tape measure. He measured the distance between the library door and the office door in the hallway. He then measured the distance from the wall inside the office and library to the door opening. When he compared the numbers his hunch was right, ‘that wall is three and a half feet thick’ he said to himself.
Suddenly thoughts of secret rooms, and hidden passages began running through his mind. He went to the living room and found Megan. “Megan, are you busy?”
“No not really, what do you want.”
“I was looking at those blueprints of the house that I got the other day and I discovered something interesting. Let me show you.”
James showed Megan the measurement he made and told her, “This wall is three and a half feet thick.”
“Why is it so thick?” Megan asked.
“James chuckled and said, “The first thing I thought of was a secret room.”
Megan laughed, “You’ve been watching too many old movies.”
James laughed with her and then held his hands about four feet apart and said, “Ok smarty, why do you think that wall is this thick?”
“Megan seemed surprised, “If it’s that thick you could probably walk in there. How would you get in? Where would the door be?”
“The office side is solid; the only place there could be a door is in the library.”
“Ok, let go and see.” Megan said leading the way.
James picked up his flashlight and followed Megan into the library. The library shelf’s on that wall were eight identical units each one being about three feet wide and sixteen inches deep. Megan walked to the shelf and leaned a book out from the top and said, “In the movies they always leaned a book back and the secret passage magically opened.”
James laughed and said, “Ya I think I saw that movie too but I don’t think it works that way, if one of these units moves there is probably a latch or lock of some kind.”
James looked at the top of the shelves where the top molding of the bookcase met the paneling and didn’t notice anything strange. He then went down on his hands and knees and used the flashlight to look where the bookcase kick board met the floor. Everything looked the same until he got to the bookcase closest to the outside wall.
He crawled on his hands and knees to it and looked again and noticed a one quarter inch gap between the bookcase and the floor. He shook that bookcase back and forth and it appeared to move slightly but only about one sixteenth of an inch. He tried to move the bookcase next to it but it was as solid as a rock.
He stood up and put his hands on his hips.
“What are you thinking about?” Megan asked.
James pointed to the other seven bookcases and said, “Those bookcases are all touching the floor but this one,” James said while pointing at the bookcase on the end closest to the outside of the house, “has a gap under it and this side moves a little.”
“Do you think it opens somehow?” Megan questioned.
He pointed at the small section of paneling between that bookcase and the outside wall and said, “If there was a hinge on this side, you could push this bookcase flat against the outside wall of the house and you would have access to the back of the other seven bookcases.”
“Well,” Megan said, “the only thing we can do is take all of the books out and see if there is a door knob of sorts.”
Five minutes later all of the books were stacked in piles on the floor in front of the other bookcases. James and Megan both looked at the empty bookcase and the only thing unusual was a small hole on the bottom shelf in the left rear corner and an identical hole on the top left rear corner of the top of the bookcase.
James thought for a moment and said to Megan, “I was watching a television show about prohibition a while back. There was a liquor vault in the basement of a ‘speak easy’ that the police never found. It was behind a thick stone wall and the only way to open it from the outside was to stick a five foot long rod through a small hole to unlatch the latch on the inside.”
James pointed to the holes in the bookcase and said, “There might be a latch that needs to be undone inside them holes to allow this side of the bookcase to swing free.”
James thought for a few seconds then asked Megan, “What would the key look like to unlock this?”
“Well,” She began, “It would have to be small enough to fit in the hole, and it could only be as long as the shelf it high or you wouldn’t be able to put it in the hole.”
“I have an idea” James said snapping his fingers, There’s an old rusty wire down in the basement.”
And he took off to go look for it. It was hanging on a nail and had been there for as long as James could remember. It had a ring on one end a little bigger than the size of a finger and was about twelve inches long with a small ninety degree hook bent on the end. James brought it upstairs and showed it to Megan.
He slid the hooked end into the bottom hole in the bookcase and began fishing around for the hook to fit into something. Almost immediately he felt something and pointed the hook toward it. He slowly scratched the hook against it until he felt the hook fall into a recess. He reasoned that because whatever he had the hook in was below the bookcase he should push down.
He slowly pushed down until he heard a snap and felt the hook fall away. He pulled the hook out of the hole and saw that the old rusty hook had broken off.
“The hook broke.” He said to Megan.
“Now what are you going to do?” Megan asked.
“Well, James said, “I could cut the hole bigger and ruin the bookcase to see what’s down there. I’m just guessing if I should push, pull, or I might even be in the wrong hole. I think I’ll go and buy one of those miniature telescoping cameras and push it in the hole to see what’s down there.”
“While I’m gone,” James said to Megan as they walked over to the blueprints that were still on the table, “would you please get on the internet and see what you can find out about the architect and this guy.” Ed said while pointing at the owners name on the blueprint.
James returned an hour later with the camera and began assembling it and testing the operation. Megan met him in the library with a printed report in her hand.
James asked, “What did you find out?”
“There wasn’t anything about the Architect,” Megan said while looking at the report, “but I did find out a lot about the man who had this house built. He was a workaholic Entrepreneur who bought and sold machinery mostly with businesses on the west coast. He wasn’t married and when his sister’s husband died in eighteen eighty one she moved in here and he took care of her until she died in eighteen ninety four.”
Megan continued, “It says he had this house built in eighteen eighty two and shortly after that he became eccentric and a recluse doing most of his business out of this house. There’s even a picture of this house when it was built in eighteen eighty two. He died in nineteen-o-two with no known relatives; the house and his estate were awarded to the state.
James said, “That’s ashamed he died without a family.”
James had the camera working and he took it to the bookcase and slowly pushed it down the hole. What he saw was pretty close to what he thought was down there. It was a large rusty custom made dead bolt that had a hole in it for actuating it.
He saw that the bolt would need to be raised about a quarter of an inch and then moved to the left a quarter turn and then pushed down. The problem was the bolt was badly rusted and it looked like it hadn’t been moved in one hundred years.
“There is definitely a latch holding this bookcase,” James said, “so there is a room of sorts back there. But it’s going to take some time to free up that rusty bolt action.”
Megan was excited, “What do you think is in there?”
“There’s no telling,” James smiled and said, “We might find his sister back there.”
“Dear lord,” Megan said, “I hope not.”
“I’m just kidding; we’ll probably find nothing or a stack of his old papers.”
James went to his shop and brought a can of spray lubricant back to the library and sprayed both latches and looked with altıparmak escort the camera to make sure he covered the bolt with the spray. He went back to his shop and took a long skinny screwdriver and hammered the tip so it would fit into the hole. He then heated the tip with a torch and bent the hook at the tip with the vise and cooled it with oil to harden it.
He worked on freeing the latches all afternoon without any luck. He was entertained by the girls telling each other stories of what they would find. They talked about everything from valuable oil paintings to rare books and civil war swords.
James thought that there would be nothing in there, but you never know what an eccentric old man may have stashed back there he thought. After dinner he tried again finally giving up for the day around nine-o-clock.
James and Megan both found it difficult to sleep that night wondering what was in there. The next morning after breakfast he started working again. Mary was sitting by his side keeping him company when the lower bolt finally began to move. He slid the bolt sideways and it dropped freeing the bottom of the bookcase.
Mary went and told the rest of the family and in no time everyone was in the library watching James work on the top bolt. Finally the top bolt started moving. After a couple more sprayings he managed to move the bolt up and out of the way.
Everyone moved in close next to James as he forced the bookcase back and the musty smelling air hit everyone.
“Eww that stinks,” Katie said.
James pushed the bookcase far enough back to look into the dark recess. “Megan hand me that flashlight please.”
James pointed the light into the cobweb infested passage and couldn’t believe his eyes. “Good Lord,” he said, “You’re not going to believe this.”
James reached in and pulled his hand back out and showed everyone in the room two rolls of coins. He handed them to Kim who began to open them.
He looked back in and then back out at everyone and said, “There are rolls and rolls of coins stacked on shelves and in the back there are a bunch of bags that look like their filled with coins.”
The room erupted into screams of joy and laughter. James stepped out and handed the light to Megan who stepped in and said, “Good Lord, there has to be hundreds of rolls of coins in here.”
By then Kim had one of the rolls open and screamed, “Mom, Dad, there gold coins! They say United States of America, twenty dollars! There gold coins and they all look brand new!”
Megan backed out of the passage and handed the light to Katie and let her look. Each of the other girls also had a look before James said, “Not a word about this to anyone.”
James rolled up the blueprints that were on the table and asked Kim, “Kim will you please get a blanket to cover the table?”
“Yes daddy.” She said as she left the room.
Megan said, “James I’m going to call my dad, he collects coins, I’ll tell him to bring his coin book so we can find out what some of this is worth.”
“Good idea,” James said, “Mary, go get your laptop and get a spreadsheet built. It will be your job to keep track of everything.”
Mary smiled as she left the room to get her laptop. She was happy that her daddy had given her such an important job to do.
James scratched his head and said, Tara, “Go get two big metal cake pans out of the kitchen so we can get these coins out of here and on the table.”
For the next half hour they carried the coins and organized them on the large research table.
When the door bell rang Megan said, “That’s probably my mom and dad.”
She went to the door and let them in. Linda asked, “Megan what’s going on? You sounded excited on the phone.”
Mom, dad,” she said taking a deep breath, “You’re not going to believe this but James found a secret compartment behind the book cases in the library and it is filled with gold and silver coins.”
George asked, “How many? What years are they?”
“That’s why we called you,” Megan said as they walked down the hall to the library. “You’re going to have to tell us what they’re worth.”
George and Linda walked into the library and saw several rows of rolled coins on the table and several canvas coin bags lying on the floor. His mouth fell open, he saw that one roll of gold coins on the table had been open and asked, “What kind of coins are they?”
Kim pointed at a long row of about fifty rolls and said, “These are all gold, they say twenty dollars on them.”
George quickly said, “Those are double eagles.”
Kim then pointed at the other four rows which contained a couple hundred rolls and said, these are all silver dollars I think.”
George sat down at the table and opened his coin book. “Tara, what years are those gold coins?” he asked.
She picked up three coins and said, “they’re all eighteen eighty nine’s and they look brand new.”
George looked in his book and asked, “Look at the back, on the bottom. Are there any letters?”
She turned them over and said, “Yes, they all have a small CC on them.”
He checked his book and looked up at Linda and Megan with his mouth open.
Megan asked, “What are they worth?”
Well, he said, “When it comes to coin value the condition of the coin is everything. If those coins are uncirculated or brand new as Tara said. They are worth between six and twenty thousand dollars… Each!”
Mary stopped typing on her laptop and said as she quickly added up their value in her head, “You mean those twenty coins are worth over a quarter of a million dollars?”
George slowly nodded his head and said to James and Megan. “Yes, it could be less or it could be a lot more. They need to be professionally graded. One thing is for sure though… you’re rich beyond the dreams of Avarice.”
James looked at Megan and smiled, then looked back at George and Linda and said, “You mean WE’RE rich, there’s no way we’ll ever be able to spend all of this. We’re going to need your help.”
After the initial shock of how much the coins were worth, the cataloging of the gold coins took about two hours. All of the rolls were brand new original bank rolls from the San Francisco mint except for eight rolls that were from the Carson City mint.
Mary added the formulas to the spread sheet that automatically added up all of the coins and said, “That’s nine hundred and sixty gold coins worth a little over five million dollars.”
George said, “That’s a conservative estimate. If the coins are a higher grade they could be worth three or four times that much.”
As the coins were dated and counted James stacked them in a dish towel lined cake pan and put the seventy pounds of gold back on a shelf in the ‘secret passage’ as they began calling it.
The silver coins in the bags had an assortment of mixed date with around two hundred of them coming from the Carson City mint and the majority of the others coming from the San Francisco mint. Some of the coins had a possibility of being quite valuable but George wasn’t sure how high they would be graded.
They separated the coins that George thought were worth more than five hundred dollars to better protect them and James put the rest, around four thousand coins, back in the bags and Mary assigned a value of fifty dollars each to them. George said, “Most of these coins will be easy to sell.”
They began opening the silver dollar rolls and found that most of them were original bank rolls from the U.S. Mint in San Francisco where the original owner of the house did most of his business.
Megan told everyone, “The internet said he was eccentric, he must have had a mistrust of banks and insisted in being paid in gold and silver.”
Most of the rolls they opened were from the early eighteen eighty’s to the late eighteen ninety’s. After they opened a few dozen rolls, Tara and Katie each opened a roll of brand new eighteen eighty four ‘S’ silver dollars. George looked at a few of the coins and said, “I’m just not sure about the grade of the coins, they could be worth anywhere between five thousand to three hundred thousand dollars each.”
Several more rolls were opened that had a large swing in their value and James told Mary, “Whatever your grandpa says just put the low value in your spreadsheet.”
They continued opening the silver dollar rolls and were about half finished when Kim opened a roll and said, “Grandpa, I got another roll of new coins that are all the same date.”
George asked, “Ok Kim, What year?” She looked at a few of them both front and back and said, “Ah… they’re all eighteen ninety three with an S.”
Mary typed the information into the computer.
“Ok Kim,” George said with a surprised look on his face, “Very carefully set them down without letting them scratch each other.”
When George said that everyone stopped working and watched Kim gently set them down on the table with both hands. They all watched George as he stood and began carefully separating the coins one by one while he looked at them.
Linda was sitting next to George and pulled the coin book in front of her and looked for the date. When she found it she let out a shrill gasp and put her hand over her mouth.
George began speaking to no one in particular in a reverent voice, “I’ve only seen one of these coins in person at a coin show and it wasn’t in as good of condition as all of these are. They call the eighteen ninety three ‘S’ the king of the Morgan dollars. There are only a hand full of these coins left that are in this good of condition.”
After he had them all separated from each other George was still in shock and quietly said as he looked at James and Megan, They’re worth around a half a million apiece. If some of these coins grade at the top of the mint state scale you’re looking at one million dollars.”
They all looked at each other in stunned silence; Kim broke the silence by quietly saying, “You mean I was holding over ten million dollars in my hand?”
James smiled at her and said, “You handled the pressure like a pro.”
George looked at Megan and said, “These coins have to be put into protectors, one little scratch could cost a hundred thousand dollars.”
A few seconds later Katie continued opening the roll of coins she had in her hand and looked into the end of the roll. “Grandpa did you say eighteen ninety three?”
George looked up at her and said, “Yes Katie.”
Megan was standing behind her as she gently set the roll down and said in a nervous voice, “Mom, there’s a brand new eighteen ninety three on the end of this roll.”
Everyone stopped again and watched as Megan held the coins together between her thumb and finger and began slowly tearing the paper away. When the coins were exposed, she took the first coin away and giggled as she read the date. “It’s an S!”
She pulled the second coin away and said, “S,” she continued saying ‘S’ until all of the coins were safely separated from each other.
Tara held her open hand up to Katie and she gave her sister a high five and said, “YES!!!”
Mary installed the formulas in the spread sheet that automatically added up the figures for the silver dollars. “I’ve got eight thousand four hundred and twenty two silver coins with a value of four million six hundred and seventy thousand, not including the ‘Kings’ and a grand total of just over thirty million dollars for everything.”
“Wow,” George said, “And that’s a conservative estimate! A lot of the coins I looked at could be worth five hundred dollars or fifty thousand dollars depending on how they’re graded. We could easily have fifty to seventy five million dollars worth of coins!”
James, Megan, George, and Linda sat at the library table and discussed what they would do with the coins for the next hour while the girls went to their room to look up information about the coins on the computer.
Megan was worried that if the State found out there was coins in the house left by the original owner that it would try and claim them. So it was decided to tell everyone who officially asked, that George and Linda ‘found’ the valuable coins hidden in their house probably by Linda’s grandfather who previously owned the house. They would make up a story that he worked on rebuilding San Francisco after the great earthquake of nineteen o six and probably brought the coins home with him.
James would ‘suddenly’ become a great collector of coins who had been collecting them for many years and now had thousands of them that he wanted to sell.
Kim and her sisters came back into the library with a laptop and set it on the table, e-bay was on the screen.
Mary spoke, “Daddy, we have been looking on the internet and found that e-bay has thousands of coins for sale. Most of the coins that are selling for more than five hundred dollars are coins certified by one of two, third party grading services. I’ve read articles about them and it seems people trust the grade of the coins when they’re certified by these two companies and will buy them unseen.”
Katie set some printed papers on the table in front of them. The adults looked over the papers as Katie explained, “This is what to costs for coins to be graded by those two companies. You have to buy a membership in order to submit coins for grading.”
Tara set some more printed papers on the table, as they looked at them she said, “Both companies have detailed lists of every year and grade of coin and their value.”
Kim added, “We compared the prices of the coins on that list,” she said while pointing to the papers,”with the selling prices on e-bay and they are very close or slightly higher.”
The girls all stood quietly and waited for someone to speak. Megan looked at James and he nodded his head. She then looked back at the girls and said, “Very nice work girls. We have decided that you four will sell the lower value coins. I’ll go to the bank tomorrow and open a checking account in all of your names and you can start selling some of the low value coins on e-bay.”
James said to the girls, “It will have to be done slowly, with checks and cash in amounts of less than ten thousand dollars or else the IRS will be notified. It’s going to take several years or possibly a life time to sell off everything. This is also going to be very time consuming and a lot of hard work.”
James continued, “When the money starts coming into your checking accounts, we’ll divide it equally among all of you, then I’ll show each of you how to open a brokerage account. You’re mother and I need to show all of you how to invest the money in stocks and mutual funds. You’re all going to have to learn how to manage money because in a few years you will all be millionaires.”
The girls were all smiles and began high fiving each other. Kim suddenly began crying and James asked, “What’s wrong Kim?”
She went to him and held him tight and began to cry harder. He gave Megan a questioning look and she said, “She’s ok James, her hormones are kicking in.”
Kim sniffled and looked up at him and said, “I’m so happy I found you. When I first became pregnant I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to take care of my child and they would take it away from me. But now I’ve got you and… (sniff) I’m going to be a millionaire and… (sniff) and…”
The flood gates opened and she began crying again, her sisters went to her and they all hugged her. Mary looked up at James and smiled, “Me too daddy, I glad I found you.”
He looked down at her and smiled, then looked at everyone else. “Me too, I’m glad I found all of you.”
I have some ideas for A Kind Stranger 5 but it will be a while before I can get it into the computer. I hope you’ve enjoyed the story so far.
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