No Controlling Legal Authority Ch. 09byTheScribe©
It only took Anne a few minutes to initiate the process of reformatting the hard drive on Rufus' computer. Only a few key strokes were required to enter the necessary instructions; "format c:\ [enter]." Amazingly simple, she thought, given the totality of the process' destruction. Serves the bastard right, trying to sell her pictures. She swiveled her chair to face him, and the computer clicked and whirred behind her lobotomizing itself with sterile efficiency.
"You know, Rufus, I am helping you only because those are pictures of me on there, don't you?"
"I know that, Anne." Rufus was sweating, rubbing his palms on his pants, and he kept glancing nervously at the clock above his door. "Will that take care of it? I mean, did you get rid of the pictures for good?"
"I don't know, Rufus. I'm not a computer expert, but I think reformatting the hard drive wipes it completely clean. It's possible that some expert has a recovery program of some kind that might retrieve some files, or parts of files, but with pictures, I have to think not much recognizable will be left on there."
"I sure hope you're right."
"Whether I am or not, there are still some things left for you to get rid of,” she said, giving him no time to savor his relief.
"Huh? What?" He looked freshly concerned.
"The photos and videos you bought from Cletus. I want them." Her tone was steady and measured, and she watched him shifting uncomfortably in his chair.
"The hell you say. I paid good money for those pictures, and I intend to keep them."
"Why, so you can put them back on your computer as soon as you think the coast is clear and sell some more of them? I don't think so."
"No, not to sell, but they're mine. I bought them, and I am going to keep them."
"What if I tell Imogene what you've been up to around here; blackmailing me into having sex with you all over the school and stashing porn pictures in your desk."
"She wouldn't believe you."
"She will when she sees Archie's photos of us together right here in your office."
"She won't see them, nobody will, I've got that covered."
She looked at him closely. He hadn't been completely forthcoming after all, and she tensed in anticipation of another revelation. "Yeah, how'd you cover that little problem, Rufus?"
"Nancy's got them put up in a safe place, and they won't see the light of day, unless you or I do something stupid."
"Hell! Of course she has them. Why didn't I think of that? She probably put Archie up to taking them in the first place after she fixed you up with Cletus, so you could blackmail me into fucking you, so she'd certainly hold on to them afterward to keep you and me in line, especially after last night's fiasco with lover boy. I guess she told you to tell me to keep my mouth shut about last night, unless I want those photos plastered all over town, right?"
"More or less."
"OK." She spoke the word slowly, lengthening the "K" to buy herself time to think. "I bet she told you to tell me something else too, didn't she Rufus?"
"I don't know what you mean, Anne. What else?"
She snorted in disgust; the man was a pathological innocent, constitutionally incapable of dealing honestly even when confronted with hard facts.
"Don't be obtuse, Rufus, it doesn't suit you. She told you to fire me, didn't she? I'm too hot for you two to handle all of a sudden, and what's more I hurt her little darlin's feelings last night and she's mad as hell about it. Am I right?"
"Only `partly?' Tell me, Rufus, what part did I not get right?"
"She's not mad because you hurt Archie's feelings, Anne, she wants you out of here because you tricked him in to telling you about the two of them, Archie and her. She thinks you're a danger to her now, and she wants you gone."
"How's firing me supposed to keep me quiet? What's to keep me from blowing the whistle on her and Archie anyway?"
"You have no proof, Anne. It's just your word against theirs; who's going to believe anything you have to say? Besides, Anne, who are you going to tell, the sheriff? I think I've told you enough about last night that you can draw your own conclusions about how much help he'll be giving you if you go up against the Farbers."
"And, of course, you won't back me up either, will you Rufus? You'll forget all about setting me up to go down there and be raped by Archie last night on Nancy's instructions, won't you."
"It never happened, Anne."
"I think you better go. I'll give you an hour to clean out your desk and vacate the premises."
"It'll be my pleasure, Rufus, believe me. I could almost kiss Nancy for getting me off the hook like she has; I was afraid I would be stuck here for years with you blackmailing me the whole time. It'll be a relief to go, buddy, trust me."
"I told her you would be reasonable about this."
"Oh, I'll be reasonable all right, just as soon as you open that drawer and hand over the videos and photos you bought from Cletus."
"We settled that already. They are staying right where they are."
"Oh Rufus, Rufus," she began, shaking her head in mock disbelief, "aren't you forgetting a couple of things?"
"We've been over that already. Tell her if you want to; she won't believe you."
"How about that thirteen hundred dollars that's missing from your savings account?"
"Doesn't prove anything, does it? I'll just come up with an explanation for it. Hell, maybe Nancy will lend me the thirteen hundred for a while; just long enough to cover any questions Imogene has." His confidence was building, his story had legs, and he could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"Jeez, Rufus, you're too smart for me, I guess." She let her shoulders drop a little and tried to look dejected.
"Look, Anne," he began, his voice acquiring a conciliatory tone, "I didn't intend for it to end..."
She cut him off with a wave of her hand. Squaring her shoulders, she put her hands on his desk and leaned across the polished mahogany. She angrily thrust her face toward him and hissed, "Can it, Rufus, I don't want to hear it; if you were half as smart as you think you are, neither of us would be standing here talking about this shit."
"But," he sputtered, jerking back in his chair to put some distance between them.
"No buts, Rufus, here's the deal. Remember that night when Cletus sold you the pictures?"
"And you got so excited looking at them you jacked off and shot cum all over my face?"
"Yes," he croaked.
"You gave me your handkerchief, a monogrammed one with your initials on it, to clean up with. Did you ever wonder what happened to that handkerchief?"
"Huh?" He stared at her blankly, struggling to comprehend her meaning.
"I didn't think so. Clean slipped your mind, didn't it, Rufus?" He was obviously becoming rattled, and she continued without waiting for an answer. "It wound up in my freezer, Rufus, in a plastic Zip Lock bag, along with the bra and panties I was wearing that evening. Can you imagine that?" She smiled innocently at him, and he gulped.
"What's the matter, Rufus, cat got your tongue? You would not believe all that cum, baby. You must have squirted a quart, and I got all of it on that handkerchief. Of course, some of it is on my underwear now, but I guess that doesn't matter considering it all came from the same source."
"Ahhhhh, ahhhhh" he was beginning to perceive, and his face flushed bright red.
She continued, "It's all frozen now, you know, like one of those lab experiments where they try to preserve the specimen for a long time. Kind of like a giant cum ice cube with my underwear and your handkerchief all mixed up in it."
"That's not..." he started to argue, but she waved him off again.
"Beginning to sound a lot like Monica Lewinsky's blue dress, isn't it, Rufus? Of course, this ain't the Oval Office, and you sure as hell aren't the President, are you, buddy, but I have enough of your DNA in my fridge to identify you at least a couple of billion times."
He shook his head vacantly, as his mind explored the ramifications of her disclosure.
"Oh yeah, Rufus, there's a spot or two on your rug down here, ‘cause I made sure to rub some on it, so there would be no doubt you were up to something in here. Oh, and there are a couple more places around here with your cum on them too, but I don't think I'll tell you where they are just now. Maybe, if I have to tell her about all this, Imogene'll tell you where they are and you two can come find them together. Sound like a fun afternoon to you, Rufus; you and the little missus together on a scavenger hunt for cum spots?"
"Anne, you wouldn't."
"You bet your ass I would, ‘cause I have nothing to loose, have I? I'll just collect my things and pop on over to your house to have a chat with Imogene on my way out of town. What you want to bet that, after she hears what I have to say and checks your bank account for a recent, rather large withdrawal, she'll be eager to follow me home to collect my little frozen specimen and hang you out to dry with it? Unless, of course, you can come up with something to tell her that will explain how I came to have a quart of the Headmaster's precious reproductive fluid in my freezer."
Her words connected in his consciousness like a couple of overweighted freight cars coupling in a railroad switchyard. He turned white as a sheet, and his mouth dropped open. Subconsciously, he reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a handkerchief to mop his brow, and she snickered at the gesture because he revealed himself in it.
"All right, all right, you win. You can have the damn pictures." Even as he spoke he was fishing his key ring out of his pocket.
"Good choice, Rufus. You give me the photos, and I am out of your life forever."
"What about the handkerchief?"
"You'll just have to worry about that for a while, baby; I'm hanging on to it till I feel safe from you and everybody else around here, and then I'll throw it away. `Till then, it's my insurance policy that you won't do anything too stupid where I am concerned."
"How do I know I can trust you?"
"Brother," she said in exasperation, "don't be a moron now. You got no alternative, do you, buddy; you either give me the photos and trust me to keep quiet, or you hang on to them, and I give your wife your cum rag and point her toward your pecker tracks around here and the bank. Best course for you to take seems pretty clear to me."
"All right, Anne," he sighed, recognizing defeat when it was staring him in the face. He pulled open the bottom drawer and extracted a stack of glossy photographs and the three videos. He tossed the materials on his desk, and said "There, take them."
"Not so fast, Rufus." She stepped around the desk just as he was pushing the drawer closed. "Open it up and let me see if you forgot something."
He leaned back in his chair and glared at her, but she ignored the look and bent to open the drawer herself. He didn't move to stop her, and the drawer slid open easily. It was nearly empty, but on the bottom, lying face down was what appeared to be another photograph.
"Rufus, you scoundrel, you're holding out on me, I do believe," she said, scolding him like a schoolboy. She retrieved the photo, and three others, which were concealed beneath it, and flipped them over to confirm that they were a part of Cletus' package. She laid them carefully on the pile of photos already on Rufus' desk.
"Count `em, Rufus, and there better be a hundred of `em there, or Imogene's going to have something to put in her freezer tonight and it ain't gonna be a frozen dinner, unless of course you consider cooked goose to be dinner."
He counted the pictures and satisfied her that all were accounted for. She collected them, pushing them into a neat pile, and walked to the corner by the coat rack, where Rufus' briefcase leaned against the wall. She picked up the briefcase and dumped the contents on the floor. Then, she began placing the photos and videos into the empty satchel, and blithely disregarded his venomous looks.
"Nice briefcase, Rufus," she said admiringly as she snapped the clasps shut, "`Mark Cross' no less, it must have cost you a bundle. I know you don't mind if I borrow it for a while, do you? I don't think it would do for me to be traipsing around school with these pictures under my arm, don't you agree?"
"Get out. Just go. I want you out of the building in an hour, understand?"
"Oh, I surely do," she replied sweetly, and she blew him a kiss as she walked out the door.
* * *
She didn't go to her classroom. There was nothing personal there to collect, and she had no intention of hanging around to pack a few pencils, rulers and a handful of papers, while the authorities, or worse, Cletus and Nadeen, closed in on her. Instead, she bypassed her classroom and slipped unobtrusively out of the building through a seldom-used exit at the end of the hall and bolted for her car.
She glanced nervously around the faculty parking lot, fully expecting to see Cletus' beat up van lurking in the shadows, but she saw nothing except familiar sports cars and expensive SUVs, and she breathed a sigh of relief. She sped down the drive to the highway and turned toward home, thankful that she had been careful to give the personnel office a false residential address. It was one of those things that had become ingrained, second nature to her, and as a result, she never left tracks or a trail wherever she went. She also collected little in the way of material things, expressly for times like these, so she could pick up and disappear in a matter of minutes. A morbid fear of Cletus and Nadeen compelled her to behave like a fugitive, and she had moved twice since Cletus’ appearance with the pictures a couple of weeks earlier. She had refined moving to an art; her worldly possessions, a desktop, TV and toaster and a couple of suitcases of clothes, fit easily into the trunk of her car, and, start to finish, she could be packed and gone in under a quarter hour.
She picked Trash Can at random out of a phone book and took a circuitous route to his office, driving a hundred and twenty miles to cover what a crow could do in twenty minutes. She had known nothing about lawyers beyond what little she had learned during the probate of her father's estate, but she thought his picture in the Yellow Pages made him look gentlemanly, and the fact his office was located well away from the usual business traffic way was reassuring. She had appeared at the U-Haul office unannounced and without an appointment, but Trash Can hadn't been busy and saw her immediately. The interview stretched into the evening hours, because she was skittish and reluctant to divulge many of the details of the events he had asked her about. Well after dark, he convinced her that she would be safe in the local motel and drove her there himself, leaving her car parked out of sight in the U-Haul repair shed behind his office. She was still at the motel when Trash Can called for help.
* * *
Caleb finished reading and dropped the report on his desk. He checked his watch. It was nearly 2:00 a.m. and he was mentally and physically exhausted. He quickly gathered up the report and his notes and returned them to the folder. He picked up the photo of Gweneth Paltrow and, laughing at himself a little, said aloud, "In you go, imposter," and he stuffed the picture into the folder with his other papers. Finally, he took the folder and locked it in his file cabinet, before turning off the lights and locking up his office.
He went directly home and packed an overnight bag, because he didn't know how long he would be gone. He wrote himself a note to call Mildred first thing in the morning to have her cancel court for the day and his afternoon appointments, and then he went to bed to get a few hours sleep, but he was too anxious, keyed up, he rationalized, by the anticipation of meeting the woman in the report to actually sleep, so he wound up watching an old movie on the TV, and, by the time the sun was up, he was already an hour west of home and had the new bridge over the Mississippi River in sight.
His course to the river took him through the broad, flat plains of the delta along roads that ran straight and true atop endless, interconnecting levees, which had been built to protect soybeans and cotton from the inevitable floods. He turned on the CD and in seconds "The City of New Orleans" was playing, and he and Arlo were rolling "past the houses, farms and fields, and the graveyards of the rusted automobiles," and he was exhilarated by a newfound sense of adventure. The fields he passed were quiet, dark and brown, withered by fall's heavy frosts, and the farm- to- market roads through them were virtually empty, so he traveled in the dim, half-light of the early dawn with out distractions or external stimulation, and his thoughts turned to the girl he was rushing to meet and his soaring expectations.
She would be pretty, of that much he was sure; all of the sources in the report had agreed on that point, and he had Moon Dog's judgment, and Terrell's, to corroborate them. Not that beauty was the only consideration, but it certainly didn't diminish his convictions any, when the people he set out to help turned out to be desperate and attractive, too. And, this girl surely was desperate for help from someone, after all that she had been through already and, now, with the added threat of being hunted and pursued by people with pretty apparent reasons to do her harm, she had cause to be panicked. She also had an amazing sexual appetite that wasn't, so far as he could determine, fettered by much commitment to modesty, and she had no reluctance whatsoever to putting her sexuality to use for her advantage whenever and wherever she could. The way she had used her body to manipulate that Justice guy, and then, the way she had stood up to him and had gotten her pictures back in the end, were nothing short of impressive, and he suspected that she was more of a force to be reckoned with at the Caruthers' household than either she or Nadeen would admit.
She was a complex mixture of contradictions; sweet, innocent vulnerability on the one hand, ruthlessly cunning culpability on the other, and the prospect of learning how she balanced those conflicting characteristics intrigued him. It was the certainty that he was about to meet a beautiful woman, who desperately needed his help, and who was willing, even eager it seemed, to use sex to get what she needed, that sent him hurtling toward her through the pre-dawn darkness, and it was almost more than he could manage to keep the throttle off the floorboard.
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