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American Contemporary Fiction

“We have plenty of time, Sis.” There was much to learn and organize.

 In warp speed, they invested every waking moment to this idea. It seemed like the possibilities could be endless. The beauty of a plan like this is it can be used over again. Once established, it’s all reusable. Complete details were to be logistically thought through and ironed out. It would be some time before this business would be able to be put into action, but time wasn’t of the essence, perfection was.

“Hello.. anyone home? “Quietly she steps inside listening carefully for any sounds of the previous owners or their representatives rummaging through the attic to gather their last bits of personal belongings. It seems as though they are all cleared out. Great she thought, this is a hot one and I need to move along quickly. Dialing. “Okay, it’s a go! Send the trucks.” Her phone rings. “This is Marilyn.. Oh, yes, hello Chuck, it was my pleasure, and please let me know if you need another space and I will gladly accommodate you with one of my other properties. She continued; my homes are your

homes……anytime.”

Marilyn quickly turns to walk the long narrow walkway to the dome. She hurries to be sure the doors were opened allowing the white box trucks to pull right in. The house was spotless as she had it cleaned to perfection. Walls, windows, kitchens, baths all sterilized.

This home majestic and timeless, a 1920s federal center hall colonial, located in a sought-after historical district within this splendid neighborhood.  At 100 plus years and renovated to modern standards and design, this homes juxtaposition combined tomorrow’s mindreading A.I. perfectionism with the old-world workmanship of yesterday.

Seated along the Atlantic Ocean and behind 10-foot stone walls, this home screams shelter and privacy and safety from the world.

Marilyn’s early life taught her to be shrewd and clever. She and her twin sister Helen raised themselves from the age of 14. Their mom passed away instantly after being killed by a hit and run driver when she was 34. Their dad raised them as best he could but struggled with depression and alcoholism which worsened after his wife’s death. The twins buried their dad when they were only 17.  Together they had to navigate a world that offered very little hope or opportunity. No college in their future. No funds to rely upon. Dad was a union electrician who had some benefits but lost so many days from his issues that his bank account reflected how infrequently he was able to work. Forced to sell their parent’s home yet excited by how much equity was in the house, caused them to take a hard look at real estate.  The seemingly fast cash could hold them for a few years, but they didn’t consider that the house was building equity for a number of years.  With appreciation, they gained 300K but that was after 20 long hard years of their father fighting to keep the home. There were many instances when the bank was threatening foreclosure but somehow, miraculously, his union bank would find ways to help him save it.

The sound of diesel engines roaring was the signal to Marilyn that the trucks were arriving. The security gates opened, and the trucks entered. Displayed on the truck panels was Pentagon Twelve.  They pull up into the winding treed driveway, the sounds of tree branches snapping as the trucks didn’t have time to enter the property gingerly. In they went and down came the dome doors with just a quick A.I. verbal command.

Ten people jumped out of the trucks and got to work. In just 27 minutes, the house went from the echoes of the Grand Canyon to Carnegie Hall worthy acoustics. Carpets, furniture, bedding, drapes, tables, chairs, knick-knacks all dropped off at breakneck pace.

Like a pit crew perfectly aligned and focused. Practice runs over and over to create the fastest, cleanest, most pristine drop-offs. No detail left to chance. All pieces that required assembly were preset just waiting for fast hands to drill down the screws. With precision, furniture unloaded and placed, the kitchen and bar fully stocked and all accoutrement’s ready for staging, as the 2 trucks pull out. Marilyn has 10 staff members with 8 remaining as vacation attendants, each with a specialty including a married couple who serve as their world class chef and sous chef/sommelier respectively. At the vacations two weeks end, they will all leave when the truck comes back to breakdown the staging.

Impressed and excited, Marilyn said, “We broke our own record. Excellent work. “

“ Done up there? Guests arriving in 20 and we need to have the patio complete with poured champagne, fire roaring and fresh hydrangeas placed in the custom glass blown vases and hundreds of white lilies on flamed tea lights floating in the reflecting pools.

Oh, and don’t forget to put the bespoke bouquets in each designated room throughout the house”

The vacation must begin with an outstanding welcome and the atmosphere must create emotions that calm the soul. Cold champagne, a stirring fire, hundreds of floating lights all overlooking the moonlit ocean with the sounds of waves breaking gently against the beach as they slowly roll back to sea. The scent of the sea draws paradise into all the senses.  The terracing has its own structure with an enormous cava brick fireplace surrounded by soft auburn clay trim encircling the focal point, with a 100 Inch drop screen floating from above. With the snap of a finger the screen and projector silently come down from the projection housing hidden in the tongue and groove mahogany ceiling just low enough to view but high enough to leave the roaring fire visible.

Cream-white silk drapes flanking all openings, for a flowing affect when the evenings cool-breeze blows off the ocean.

 Custom, couches made to be ultra-comfortable with a cooling affect, state-of-the-art kitchen built into the structure next to the patio, allowing for total privacy as the staff prepares the meals and drinks for their guests to perfection, creating the drinks and epicurean delights that one can only dream about.

Marilyn quietly waits for her guests to arrive while she anonymously hangs back in the wings as she can never be seen by the guests. Her role is to make sure all is as promised for 100K per week. Reasonably priced for this type of platinum glove experience within a magnificent ocean front home completely designed to their guests’ personal preferences.

“Hi Hel, it’s me, your sis...do you have the numbers and timing on the Majewski deal yet?” Helen is Marilyn’s business partner of the Pentagon Twelve Logistics Company; a fact that is not known by others. Marilyn is a licensed Real Estate broker employed by a local company, while Helen is a licensed Mortgage Broker and Closer employed by Ocean Trust, a global player in the banking world. The Pentagon Twelve is a covert business. “I’m working on it, sis, I’ve been incredibly busy. How’s the stagecay going? “It’s perfect boasted Marilyn. Best timing ever!” “Glad to hear. I’m all over the work, I know we need to move quickly in this market. So many buyers and stagecayers out there.” Marilyn agrees.

The pandemic has really changed how people live and play. Privacy and lots of home entertainment items are all the rage. There’s so much money out there and this scare has people parting with their fortunes. Perhaps this pandemic has served to put life and the value of good health in a new light and perspective.

Marilyn and Helen have very different memories of their childhood and Mom. Their relationships varied largely due to how much Marilyn and Helen were so very different. Marilyn a risk taker with an enterprising and bodacious edge with a love for danger, while Helen was the practical, careful, and cautious of the two. Their mother was much more reserved and had an affinity for Helen. While she adored Marilyn, she just couldn’t relate to the challenges she brought into their lives. Marilyn may have been on her mother’s mind when she was hit by that car. Marilyn would cause enough chaos in their lives to derail anyone’s thinking. She started out with small childhood type of scams but with each success came the desire and need to create more daring challenges. In her earliest years she would quietly and demurely lay back when they all went shopping together. She would fill her pockets with candy, toys, or whatever she could fit into her deep tote that was clad against her body under her coat with the view of bringing the items to school and making some money. No one knew. She never got caught. Marilyn always had small amounts of cash on hand as she sold the stuff for tiny amounts of money in order not to bring attention to herself. Smart and entrepreneurial, her schemes grew from there. She always made sure that whatever she did, was small enough to go unnoticed. Helen would ask, how come you always have money?  Mom only had a dollar to give me today. You have $15. Marilyn would simply say, I saved. Helen accepted her answer but, in her heart, she believed her sister was always up to something. The stakes were getting larger and larger as money was becoming tighter and tighter especially after the death of their mother. Marilyn knew their dad was struggling to pay for the funeral and she took it upon herself to find a way to raise money. She knew a quick and easy way to raise fast cash without suspicion was to collect for a charity going door to door in her neighborhood, especially since the community knew about her mother and felt so badly for them. This would be easy. An officially labeled collection can stole from the local supermarket with the idea of keeping all the money that she would collect. She would go daily after school and on weekends and walk as far as she could raising about $500.00 over 2 weeks. She would empty the can before going to each home and jiggle it so people would subliminally understand that it was empty. She used her sweet voice and a gentle smile and her little girlish fake demure attitude to get as much as she could. Marilyn learned how she had the power and the grit to manipulate people allowing her to attain her goals.

With her success of small scamming ideas that she believed didn’t really hurt anyone, she decided she was up to creating more challenging opportunities. She really wanted to bring Helen in, but she knew that would be the hardest sell of all. Helen was too frightened and straight to play against the rules. It could only happen if Helen believed the rules were being bent so very slightly, but not hardcore broken.

Occasionally she would garnish Helen with irresistible gifts while alerting her to the fact that it was stolen. Ever so slowly, Helen started to get used to the idea of loosening the rules. She didn’t love it, but she did love getting those items that she thought were unobtainable. She would bring her mom gifts like perfume, or flowers, sometimes clothing that would always be out of her reach. Her mother suspected that they were stolen but she didn’t have the heart to turn in her child or the willpower to turn away the goods. Slowly over time, her parents and sister started adjusting to Marilyn’s style not realizing how insidious her behavior had become as it was so constant and convenient, that they just silently chose to stop seeing it.

When their dad passed away, they had to sell their home. A very deep and dramatic turn of events for these sisters. Where would they live? No family, no money.

 All they had was their home and each other and if they didn’t do a short sale for less than market value, they would have had nothing. Underage at the time of his death, it was probable that they would have to live in foster care, possibly apart, and that was too much to bear. Losing their mother tragically, their dad, and then each other? No. Too much pain.  Marilyn begged her sister to let her devise something that could put them on top. An idea suddenly dawned on her. The timing of when they had to be out of their home and when the new people were to move in, was at least 2 weeks. Why is the house sitting unused, empty? What a waste. Why not market the house during that uninhabited period and gain some free cash? Kinks had to be worked out. They needed to learn the ropes of these types of transactions to determine if this concept was a viable option. Marilyn proposed that they get jobs in real estate and mortgage banking to be able to set up this period as a sort of “Free Zone Time” so they can develop a staged vacation, a stagecay only working within very expensive neighborhoods so the on goings would go undetected. The homes had to be behind walls or high fencing and not seen from the road. Nosey neighbors could pose a problem and to offer the type of experience they wanted to provide; people needed to have large sums of cash available. Brilliant plan and once the girls were able to secure their respective positions and troubleshoot all possible issues, they could be on their way to a clandestine business.

The logistics were mind boggling, but more worrying was how to schedule this Free Zone time without anyone knowing what was going on. The process of buying and selling homes did not make this easy. Buyers and sellers were scheduled by banks and attorneys, which took scheduling out of their hands. How could we get around this issue? Marilyn, crafty as she was said it’s simple, “MONEY.” All we must do is offer our buyers and sellers money to stay away. We wouldn’t package it like that but, we can sugar coat a financial deal letting them know that they cannot be at the home during that time frame.

Marilyn and Helen role played until they felt comfortable with a scenario.

Marilyn (as seller) to Helen - If you would be willing to leave the house by August 1, the buyers are willing to pay you an additional x amount in cash.

AND

Helen (as buyer) to Marilyn -If you would hold off on moving in and closing on the house until August 15th, the seller is willing to pay you x amount in cash.

If the numbers had to be tweaked a bit, so be it. There was plenty of money being earned to have room to negotiate. One stipulation to the client, keep this to yourself. Do not mention this plan to anyone including your attorney. Otherwise, I can’t offer you this deal.

With the money they received from the sale of their family home, working in the respective jobs minus a couple of years of light living expenses, they were able to make significant purchases, filling up a warehouse with luxury staging items. The last piece to be addressed was they could not pull this off alone. They needed a staff that they could trust.

Marilyn understood the pain of financial struggles and she knew the power she had if she could offer relief for those struggles, especially for single mothers trying to accomplish stability for their kids. When you are breaking rules for the good of yourself, there’s much to wrestle with but if you have your kids in mind and believe you will be offering them a better life, the motivation changes dramatically. Marilyn purchased a local list of recently bankrupted single mothers from the internet for $1500.00 and for another 500.00, there was a package that included all local bankruptcies. She knew this was the way to find people who they could trust as those who are desperate are more easily hooked and therefore, may prove to be the most loyal.

One by one she carefully interviewed young mothers and fathers who were healthy and strong and willing to do whatever it took to change their financial lives. Marilyn and Helen conjured up strategic tasks to judge their abilities and to get a sense of how far they could be pushed.

Marilyn: Hello, my name is Marjorie Stills and I have a series of questions and tasks to ask you to participate in, some by yourself and some involving others. I will ask you not to question why these tasks are assigned and not to discuss anything with others that you might be paired with. If you feel you can take this risk without further information, you will be paid handsomely for your time whether we offer you the position or not.

The criteria for this position are physical strength, mental strength, and implicit discretion. You will not be asked to perform any illegal activities yourself, but you will be overtly involved in unconventional planning. I will not give you further information for your own protection. There are specialty skills that offer significant bonuses, such as professionally trained chefs, masseuse, mechanical expertise in electrical systems and, plumbing, and highly sophisticated tech skills.

The duo had 150 applicants for 10 spaces. More than half walked away before taking on boot camp once they heard about possible illegal involvement and another half left within the first few days of boot camp, leaving 35 applicants. After weeks of vetting, training, exploring, and treacherous physical tasks combined with testing mental acuity, they had their team.

They secured an excellent staff. Each specialty covered. The team breakdown was 3 woman and 7 men. They were from varying backgrounds and education levels. Two were detectives.

September 10, 2021 13:22

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4 comments

Kerry Williams
07:45 Sep 19, 2021

I really enjoyed this story, and found it fascinating to hear about the sisters' schemes and how their business came together. I felt that it ended somewhat abruptly. I'm not sure if you were struggling with the word count, but I would have loved to read more. Looking forward to reading more of your stories in the future!

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Noelle C. Lee
20:04 Sep 19, 2021

Thanks so much Kerry- I was hoping for the comment -about reading more… I wanted to see if the story was interesting enough to continue and yes because of the word count I stopped there… leaving it open!

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Kerry Williams
07:09 Sep 20, 2021

I definitely think it's worth continuing!

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Noelle C. Lee
12:36 Sep 20, 2021

So appreciated!!! Thank you!!

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