Chapter 4 – Win One for the Grifter
Malcolm paced back and forth while Hugh paced back and forth in the opposite direction. They were in front of her home. Both of them exchanged worried glances with each other as they passed each other. The waning moon had risen high enough that they were able to look at each other in the moonlight to see exactly how the other was feeling at the moment about the woman they cared about who was inside with her Dad.
“So, what you are telling me is that Jackie used to be Jack?”
“Yeah, I would have told you last night, but you fell asleep just as I was beginning to talk to you.” Hugh knew otherwise, but let it slide. He was beginning to feel that Malcolm would have told him soon anyway.
Hugh stopped to look at her house to see what was going on. Malcolm stopped and looked along with him. “Have you explained it to her Dad yet?” They resumed their pacing.
“Yes. I broke the news to them this morning. I told him that we both would come over tomorrow morning. But, my uncle had to see for himself and interrupt your date. Sorry about that. I got here as fast as I could once I heard he was on the way. I didn’t expect him to frustrate your … um … you know, interlude.” The moonlight couldn’t show either man blushing, but both knew they were.
“When and where did she get the surgery?”
“About five months back. I won’t tell you where. That is classified in order to protect the doctor. I secreted her away to a doctor I found who would do it for cash only and no records. I didn’t want her to suffer the indignity of having to get referral after referral or dressing up as woman for a year. When family wasn’t around us, she was almost always dressed as a woman. Their interference would have destroyed her. I take full responsibility for helping her the way I did.”
“So she couldn’t have … “ Hugh’s voice trailed off. He realized that he was starting to talk about the ATM scam and cut himself off from revealing his ruminations to Malcolm. He figured that Jackie was getting the surgery and didn’t have time for pulling a heist. Nor would Malcolm who was clearly planning her transformation have time either. They were off the suspect list of having done it.
“Couldn’t have what?” Malcolm asked.
“Oh nothing, I was just thinking she couldn’t have done … you know … with a man yet.” Hugh said awkwardly.
Malcolm read between the lines. “Oh, yes. I see what you are saying. Yes, she is very much a … you know … in that department as a woman. I don’t know if Jack ever did it. I get the feeling he didn’t want to do it. I never wanted to know. She had enough pressure on her to be a dutiful son by the family. Recently, they had begun to pressure her to settle down and get married. I knew that would crush her.”
“You care that much for her?” Hugh was fascinated with this man. He had only seen him as a criminal. Never as someone who could care for others.
“Yeah, we were born a day apart. We were literally raised as fraternal twins. I protected her from bullies who thought she was a sissy at school. As kids, I let her dress as a girl and kept quiet about it.” Hugh gave him a glance as if he wanted to know more. Malcolm obliged, “We would play in a fort I built as kids near our two houses alone for hours. I let her be a girl there and play with dolls because she insisted it was a home and needed a woman’s touch and since there was no woman nearby to play with us, she would have to do. It made her so happy. So, I let her. I even pilfered clothes so she could look the part. I pretended it was a game and didn’t mean anything. But, I could tell it meant everything to her.”
Hugh found himself admiring Malcolm more and more. The way he talked about her wasn’t like even a boy friend. It was a deep relationship he had with her. A bond that went beyond just friendship or family. It was love. Pure love.
The door finally opened and they watched her Dad climb into his car and drive off. They came into the house finding her sitting in a chair quietly crying.
“Well?” The two men said in unison.
Jackie looked up them. “I am on probation. The family will have a meeting to discuss whether or not to accept me. They didn’t accept the lie that I was in Tahiti the whole time. They believe I was really in Thailand and came home early so I could adjust here.”
Hugh shot a glance to Malcolm who just shrugged his shoulders and looked up and rolled his eyes. This cinched it for Hugh. They couldn’t known anything about the theft in his mind. Thailand was on the opposite side of the world from New York and the intelligence reports said that about the time of the heist, she was getting the surgery.
Hugh went up and put his hand tenderly on her shoulder. He asked worriedly. “Do they mind us dating or am I yesterday’s news?” His look reassured her that he was genuine in his concern.
As she looked into his eyes, she couldn’t help but smiling at his gentle touch. She asked hopeful of a positive response, “You mean, you still want me?
“Yeah, I don’t see anything but a beautiful woman who brings out the man in me.” he said with a big grin on his face.
She put her hand on his and said, “Thank you for sticking with me.” Then she added the worrisome comment, “I think I will know after they grill me tomorrow if you are yesterday’s news or not, to be frank.”
Malcolm added, “Yes, and a big thank you from me. And, I am sorry you had to learn about Jackie this way.”
She reached out to take Malcolm’s hand. “Thank you Malcolm. But, Dad said your helping me would cost us big. You will have to help him with that special finance project he wants.”
“Yeah, I figured it would cost us in the end. We will discuss it later.” he said. Jackie looked away and sniffed. Her reaction encouraged Malcolm’s heart. “Guess we will have to do it now for your sake. I don’t mind. I love my cousin.” She returned her gaze back to her cousin’s eyes and smiled as if to say thank you once again.
“Look, I will call you tomorrow morning. You need to talk things over with Malcolm and I feel like I am a fifth wheel right now.”
Jackie got up and hugged him. She whispered in his ear, “I really appreciate you staying. I didn’t know how much I needed you and your support.” She gave him a sweet kiss on the lips. He moaned. She leaned back and ventured, “Well, maybe next time we won’t get interrupted again and I can pay you back.” She giggled and remarked, “It has become a habit, hasn’t it?”
Hugh hugged her, “No problem. You are worth it.”
As Hugh drove home, he began to realize that the finance project must be laundering the money for the family. Fifteen million was pretty hard to hide and he knew that it would something difficult to handle. And he was now in the perfect position to be there. As soon as he got home, he eagerly wrote out a letter to his aunt in Nebraska and walked down the street to mail it. He then went to bed.
Early in the morning, he heard knocking at his back door. He let Agent Polk in and he recounted all that happened the night before. “I think you are right. They need him to launder the fifteen million. This is the biggest haul they have ever handled. The family usually handles ten to hundred thousand dollars. This is over the top. I can see why he didn’t want to handle it. And, they are using Jackie as the means to force him to handle it. With you guys out front last night, we couldn’t shoot a laser at their window and listen in. So, we don’t know what was said in that room.”
“How about after I left? Did you hear anything?”
“They brought in talent to guard her place last night. We couldn’t get close enough to eavesdrop with our laser. The family has put her in ‘protective custody.’ The are really putting the screws on Malcolm. He didn’t look happy when he left. This means they need him to launder the money. And you are in the thick of it, right where we need you to be.”
“So, what do I report to Captain Connolly?”
“That is tough. I think you should just say that circumstances are causing you to get closer to Malcolm and the prospects look good.”
After sending a message to his Captain, Hugh took a nap. About ten in the morning, he called Jackie.
“Hey beautiful, I am all out of ideas for a special date for the moment. How about lunch?”
“Yeah, I am under a kind of house arrest by my Dad. Why don’t you grab something and bring it for lunch.”
“Sorry to hear that. What would the beautiful prisoner like?”
“I feel like a Whataburger. Sorry, I am a Texan. It is comfort food.” She gave him the details of what she wanted and they soon were sitting at her dinning room table having lunch.
Hugh passed her the ketchup. “How can your Dad put you under house arrest?”
“He is afraid I will go off again. It is not real house arrest like I am in jail. He just wants me to stay home and be available again for family to come talk to me about what I have done. He isn’t too happy to lose his son, naturally.” She cried a little and blew her nose. “I have been dreading this day. I owe Malcolm a lot. He knew without him, I wouldn’t be who I was meant to be.”
“So, you didn’t tell your Dad? He never knew you wanted to do this?”
“No, only Malcolm really knew. Well, he knew that I lived as a woman. It was unspoken that I wanted to be one too. Although, he would have had to been a complete dunce not to know. Over the last three years, I was living as a woman about two thirds of the time. And I was a real jerk when I wasn’t being my real self. But, I can’t go into it more than that. I had a great job done on me by the surgeon. But, the doctor wishes to remain anonymous since he broke a few rules to do my surgery. Nothing illegal mind you. Just not ethically kosher. We have a contract with him not to divulge anything.”
“Well, I love the result. You look beautiful and if I had never been told, I would have never known.” Hugh gave her a big grin.
“Thanks. And thank you for not leaving me. You pleasantly surprised me.” She smiled and stroked his arm. A knock came at the door. Jackie looked apprehensive. She got up and went to her front door. Hugh turned around to see who was there. Jackie opened the door. A woman stood there with her arms folded. Hugh stood up. She was shorter than Jackie. “Are you going to invite me in, Jack?”
“Yes, Mom. Please come in. It is good to see you.” Her mother looked at Hugh as she came in.
“So, this is your boyfriend?” Hugh gave a little wave and a slight bow.
“Hi, Mrs. Hallard, my name is Hugh.” Hugh pulled out a chair for her and she came in and sat down. Hugh then pulled out another chair for Jackie and she sat back down too, only closer to her mother.
Before Hugh could sit down, Mrs. Hallard said, “Do you mind if I talk to my ...” she looked at Jackie for a moment, “… daughter alone for a few minutes.” Jackie looked at Hugh and he could tell she was hopeful he would say yes.
He grabbed his soda and said, “Of course. I’ll wait out on the front porch. Let me know when to come back in.” He went on to the front porch and sat down on the front porch swing. While waiting, another car drove up. A very young man came out and came up the walkway. Hugh looked at him. He resembled Malcolm, but didn’t, so he knew he was family.
“Hi, you must be the boyfriend. I’m Mark. Jack’s younger brother. What’s your name.”
“Hugh. You know her name is Jackie now.”
“Yeah, I know. Sorry. I really am cool with it. My parents’, maybe not so much. It will take my folks a while. I am now the oldest man in our family which makes me the new boss. That is the way my family rolls. You will have to get my approval to date my sister if my Dad isn’t around.” He chuckled. “But, don’t worry. I hear you are a nice guy. My Dad says you took it well last night that Jackie was originally Jack and didn’t disrespect him, I mean her, by getting all macho and mean.”
“How old are you?”
“Nineteen. How old are you?”
Mark went into the house. A moment later, another car came up and a bunch of people came out. Two women and two men. They didn’t bother to introduce themselves to Hugh but went straight in. Finally, a car showed up and Mr. Hallard stepped out and came up. Instead of going in, he came up to Hugh.
“I think we need to talk young man.”
“Yes, Sir.” Hugh said politely.
“Malcolm says he vetted you already and checked you out. He says you are okay and worthy of my daughter. I trust him. It may be a cliché, but I have to know. What are your intentions with my daughter?” He was clearly having trouble saying the word daughter.
“I think she is beautiful. I enjoy her company. And, I am falling for her obviously. She is a charming and lovely woman.”
“Even though you know what she once was a man?”
“Only you know her as she once was. I have only known her. And I find her to be awesome.”
“Good point.” He sat down on a chair.
“Bet you think I am an awful dad?”
“I wouldn’t say that. Sounds like you love her. And, I can understand since she didn’t tell you right away. Must be a lot to absorb.”
“I do love her. And it is a lot to absorb. But I loved Jack too. He was a good son. I am going to miss him terribly.” He was starting to get emotional, so he changed the subject. “So, are you a Yankee’s fan?”
“No. New York Met’s, all the way!”
“Well, at least you aren’t a Yankee’s fan. Giant’s fan?”
“No. I prefer the New England Patriot’s. And I could care less about basketball or hockey.”
The door swung open. “Go talk to her, John. It’s my turn with him.” Mrs. Hallard came out. He stood up to greet her again. She smiled at Hugh warmly. “Very good to meet you. Hugh, is it?”
“Yes.” Hugh pulled up the chair once more and offered it to her.
“Thank you. Nice to see a New Yorker with manners. I must say, you are the one that has changed our impressions of Jackie. Or, rather, my husband’s mind.”
Hugh sat down on the swing feeling confused by what she said. “How is that?”
Mrs. Hallard smiled and relaxed. “John’s first encounter with Jackie, the woman, our daughter, was seeing you kiss her passionately on her doorstep. It isn’t what he expected as he waited for her to come home. He was thinking he was going to come here and find her alone and miserable. He said to me before he came last night that he was certain coming over here he was going to be picking up the pieces of a damaged child’s foolishness. He said he was going to give it to her for what she had done with her life and then see how we could fix her awful mistake. But, you changed all that by kissing her like you meant it, accepting her like we should have, and holding her like she was a real woman. It opened his eyes. And then he saw her as you saw her. Beautifully dressed, charming, fetching, and invitingly sophisticated. What my husband saw was all woman and no hint of boy or man. I agree. Frankly, he didn’t know whether to kill you for man handling his gorgeous daughter lustfully like you were or hug you for showing him how beautiful she could be to a real man.” Hugh blushed.
“Thank you. I like discovering her charms.”
“Do it again, Mister, and I’ll use a cattle prod on you myself. But, I am pleased to hear you think of her like that. And yes, that sounds contradictory too.” she said firmly. The door opened and the two women and men came out. Mrs. Hallard continued, “These are Jackie’s two sisters. Alison, with her husband Alan, and Rebekah with her husband, Nick.” Hugh stood up and shook all their hands. The sisters were blond like Jackie, but facially like their father. They said a brief hello and goodbye while Mrs. Hallard remained.
Soon, Mr. Hallard came out and announced, “Well, the house arrest is over. She has been accepted by the family officially. Just so you know, this is Texas.” He tossed Hugh a .357 bullet and he caught it and looked at Mr. Hallard with surprise. “These fly faster at you if you harm one little hair of my daughter. Got it?”
Hugh looked down at the bullet, smiled at the implication, and said, “Yes, Sir. I understand.”
“Good!” Mr. Hallard said. "You may date her then."
Mrs. Hallard got up and joined her husband. After they left earshot, as Hugh came in line with the door, he could see Jackie standing inside the doorway watching him and her parents. She had a big smile on her face. Mark, her little brother came up next to her. “I am to be your chaperon.”
Jackie rolled her eyes. Mark said, “Don’t worry, Sis. You let me get away with stuff too many times for me to stop you two from having fun.” She leaned over and kissed Mark on the cheek, “Sorry, I know you aren’t used to it. But, thank you Mark.” Mark smiled and went off to play on her Xbox.
Coming back into the house, Hugh took her into his arms and said, “Now where were we when we were so rudely interrupted?”
She looked up at him and playfully said, “Are you saying my father is rude?”
Before she could continue her teasing, he bent down and kissed her and they resumed melting into each other where they left off the night before.
Copyright © 2017 by AuP reviner
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