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Just Out For a Walk
Jimmy John was a good looking teenager. He wasn’t exceptional or breathtakingly handsome, but he had good bones. He wasn’t to that point in his life where he would be referred to as a “Hunk”, but he’ll probably get there someday. He was just a good looking all American type. Athletic build, darkening hair and deep blue eyes.
The big day was coming, and finally it’s here. Jimmy John turned sixteen. This was one of the biggest days in a young teens life. Of course, this meant one thing; a drivers license. Jimmy probably could have passed for 16 or even 17 and gotten a drivers license, but he knew that his parents wouldn’t have gone along with it.
Jimmy had been working part-time for some time, but he was still quite away from having enough money saved for a decent used car. He’d been doing this part-time yard work for over a year, but was forced to work close to home since he didn’t have wheels, and these jobs paid very little and wouldn’t get him more than four to eight hours a week.
What Jimmy really wanted was a job working with his buddy Earl Munkers. Earl worked construction for Larry Flemming’s rough-in crew and was making five times as much as Jimmy could make with the little jobs around the neighborhood. Jimmy was the oldest of his friends, but Jimmy was afraid that Earl will be getting a car long before him.
Jimmy and the guys were out for a “get out of the house”, walk on Saturday mid-morning. They stopped for a few minutes to watch a survey crew that was surveying a road right of way. The crew chief was working close to the boys, and the rest of the crew was about a quarter of a mile up the road. The chief asked if one of the boys would run the pole up to the crew. Jimmy jumped up, grabbed the pole and lickity split had it up the there, and was back in the shake of a leg. When Jimmy got back the Crew Chief, Ken Brown, thanked him and then he asked Jimmy if he might know of any local teenage kid (meaning Jimmy) that might be interested in a weekend job.
“I’d love to Mr., but I don’t have a car.” Replied Jimmy.
“Why don’t you have your friends go on home so we can talk? I’ll drive you home after we talk about the job.”
Jimmy hollered, “Hey, guys. Go on home. I’ll catch up with you later.”
“My name is Ken Brown. What’s yours?”
“I’m Jimmy. Jimmy John.”
“Nice to meet you Jimmy. Let me ask you this, and be perfectly honest with me. If I can overcome all your objections are you interested in the Job? Working with my crew part-time and learning Surveying? I really need a kid like you.”
“Sure Mister, yeah, but I don’t see how you can do that.”
“Okay Jimmy, what do I have to overcome?”
Jimmy really likes Ken, so here goes. “I don’t have a car, and I can’t afford to buy one. I really like the idea of working with you guys, but I have to make good money so I can buy a car before my best friend Ear, and Earl almost has enough to by Mr. Wright’s car, over on Wyoming street, right now.”
“What else Jimmy?”
“I don’t think my parents will let me work on Sundays. You know, Church.”
“Jimmy. I know where you’re coming from. When I turned 16 I couldn’t get a car because I didn’t have a job, and I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t have a car. The old proverbial catch 22.”
Jimmy asked again “What about Church?”
“That could be a tough one. Why don’t I go to your house and talk to your parents with you Jimmy? Do you think that might help?”
The two of them loaded into Ken’s pickup and headed to Jimmy’s house. Jimmy’s mom was there but his dad hadn’t gotten home from work yet, so Ken suggested going on in but not giving the whole sales pitch to mom yet.
“This sure is a neat truck Ken. I really like the color too.”
The neighborhood Jimmy’s family lived in was a very nice one. Not what most people would call “up-scale”, but never nice. Jimmy’s parents had a newer 4 bedroom home with a two car garage and a full basement. Jimmy’s friends were all waiting for him to get home. Jimmy introduced them to Ken and told buddies that he needed to talk his parents into letting him work for Ken on the weekends doing surveying work.
“Your mom won’t go for you working on Sundays.” Said Earl.
Ken told Earl, “We’ll do our best. I can be pretty convincing when there’s something I want.”
Jimmy’s dad got home and Jimmy and Ken followed him into the house. Ken was introduced to Jimmy’s parents and they talked for a few minutes before Ken broached the subject. He wanted to establish a rapport with them first. Then Ken gave Jimmy’s parents the jest of what he wanted. Jimmy’s dad spoke before Jimmy’s mom did.
“This all sounds interesting, but Jimmy doesn’t have a car, he can’t afford a car, and if he works every Sunday he’ll miss Church, and if I have to drive him to work, I’ll miss Church too. And trust me; we both need to go to Church.”
“Mr. John. Do you see that sweet pickup out front? It’s licensed, insured, and fully maintained by my mechanic. And it will be Jimmy’s as soon as this project is over. The work will probably only last about a year and a half.”
“You can’t be serious.” Said Mr. John. “That’s such a nice truck even I couldn’t afford it.”
The truck was about a 3 or 4 year old, a Chevy Silverado, it had a great looking paint job, and not a scratch on it. It was really good looking.
Ken continued, “I’ll even provide all the maintenance for the truck since I want it properly maintained, and I’ll give Jimmy gas money too since he’ll be using it for work. For all practical purposes the truck is already his.”
Mom spoke next, “But he’ll miss Church every Sunday!”
“I understand totally where you’re coming from Mrs. John. How about this, “Every other Sunday Jimmy doesn’t come to work until after Church, and if there is something special that he needs to attend, if you let me know at least two weeks in advance, he can go. Would that be fair?”
Mr. and Mrs. John looked at each other. The y like what they heard, but neither knew what the other was thinking.
Ken knew he had them, but he wasn’t going to let the conversation go in the wrong direction.
“Here’s the kicker folks. Wages. Jimmy told me that he wants to work on Larry Flemming’s rough-in crew so he can make as much as his buddy Earl. Everyone that knows anything about rough-in work knows that it’s dangerous, lots of injuries. Surveying isn’t. I’m prepared to pay Jimmy twice what Earl is getting, and he’ll learn a trade that could last him the rest of his life if he so chooses.
Jimmy’s dad was breathless. “Okay Ken, you got yourself a weekend boy.”
Ken looked at Jimmy’s mom and said “Is it okay with mom if Jimmy drives me home in his truck?”
After Jimmy dropped Ken at his place, Jimmy made the rounds to every one of his friend’s houses to show off his new truck.
All the other boys were beside themselves with jealousy. They could hardly see straight, especially Earl who just knew he would get the first wheels of the group.
Jimmy’s first weekend was great. He couldn’t believe how fun it was, and how easy. He couldn’t believe he was earning so much for so little. Ken was the oldest on the crew of four, and he was only in his mid to late twenties (or so Jimmy thought). The first Saturday Jimmy worked his mom brought him his lunch and met the crew. Ken wasn’t rude to her, but he was a little abrupt. He let her know that she didn’t need to bring lunches because he always provided lunch for the crew and they never took lunch or breaks at regular times.
That night Mom asked Jimmy how his first day went. Jimmy told her it was fantastic. Mom said, “I’m glad you like the job so well. It’s always important to like the job you’re doing. And another thing, I know that I may be prejudice about how good looking my boy is, but I’ve never seen any kind of crew with so many really good looking guys. What a bunch of hunks.” Jimmy laughed with glee and told Mom, “Don’t worry Mom, I won’t tell Dad. Ha-ha.”
Jimmy worked with the crew through the Summer, then Fall and Winter. Spring was a welcome arrival. Warmer weather and less cloths to have to wear. Out came the shorts. Everything was going well, but there were a few things that were really starting to bother him. Like he wasn’t learning very much about surveying. Mostly he just ran errands taking stuff to the other crew members. And even this was usually stuff that Jimmy thought they should have remembered and taken with them when they first left to go out to the staging area.
The other big issue in Jimmy’s mind was that it never seemed like anything was ever getting done. The crew would survey a neighborhood street, stake it out and flag it like if something big was going to happen, but there were never any follow up construction crews working on the areas they had surveyed. Sometimes Jimmy would go by the areas they had surveyed a month or two earlier and their work looked abandoned. The flags will have been knocked over or pulled out by people, and all the paint on the streets and curbs had been worn off for the most part. Jimmy knew this neighborhood well. Not only had he lived here all of his life, but he had walked these streets hundreds, if not thousands, of times, so he would have known if there was anything changing.
And another thing. There was a peculiar pattern to how things were done in Jimmy’s opinion. The crew would survey about 1/3 rd let’s say First Street, then they’d turn the corner and survey 1/3rd of Main Street, then they’d turn the corner and survey 1/3 of Second Street, then turn the corner and survey 1/3rd of Truman Street. Jimmy found this very strange.
By doing this the crew stayed on the same one square block for weeks on end. Then they would start over with the second 1/3r of the streets, and then finally the top 1/3rd of the streets. Each of these 1/3rd surveys would take two to four weeks. Jimmy thought this was an awful long time for no more than they were accomplishing. Jimmy tried unsuccessfully to put it out of his mind. He told himself, “Hey, money’s money!”
Jimmy’s curiosity grew and grew. He even made a few trips to watch other survey crews in town. They might work on an entire street for maybe one or two days, not weeks, and then move on. Within a few days construction crews showed up to tear out the streets, curbs and sewer inlets, and then begin putting things back together. These other crews stayed together or in close proximity to one another. On Ken’s crew it was like there were always two of Ken’s men working together while the third one stayed with Jimmy. Ken would mix up the men as far as who stayed with Jimmy, but Jimmy never left to go out on the actual survey measures except to make what seemed like unnecessary errands. Most days Jimmy couldn’t even figure out why Ken had hired him.
Jimmy watched other crews as well as their tools. The crew’s survey tools looked more modern than Ken’s. Ken’s tools looked more worn out and antiquated, dirtier and more abused too. He noticed that Ken’s tools included several larger boxes and cases than what other survey crews had, and Jimmy was never allowed to handle these boxes. Whichever men went out without Jimmy were always the ones that took the mystery boxes. But the money was good and Jimmy got paid like clockwork. And don’t forget that truck. Above all else, Jimmy could never forget about his truck.
Time wore on, but Jimmy couldn’t let it go. By the time Summer was going strong Jimmy had himself convinced that Ken, Lou and Walter were a criminal gang up to no good. What if he were being duped into a life of crime? He often thought about what his mom had said, “The whole crew was total hunks”. Maybe they were so good looking because they were running cons on unsuspecting housewives. This was a perfect cover for con men or burglars because good looking people always make other people feel more comfortable.
No matter how much Jimmy tried to guard against his suspicions being known, he grew more and more distant to Kenny, Lou and Walter. He became jittery and would jump out of his skin any time he was deep in thought and someone would catch him off guard.
Mom noticed the change in Jimmy, of course, and she and dad had a talk with Jim. They wanted to know exactly what was going on with him. Jimmy stammered around for a few minutes and tried to be evasive. Finally he decided to fill them in. He let them know that what he was going to tell them would sound silly, and he was sure that it was, but he couldn’t help feeling this way.
Jimmy told this parents all his concerns and suspicions. Mom and Dad couldn’t believe what Jimmy was telling them at first, but on the other hand, they couldn’t but help thinking, “What Jimmy said made sense”. From the very beginning there were signs. Ken’s smooth way of convincing them to let Jimmy work for him. The over generosity of the truck and the pay. Ken’s willingness to bend on Sunday work. There was also the fact that Ken acted as if money was no object. And mom; she never got over Ken’s reaction to her bringing Jimmy his lunch on the first day. Ken made it abundantly clear that he didn’t want her around.
Mom Dad and Jimmy decided they had to take their suspicions to the police. After all, it was quite possible that all their suspicions were foolishness, but Mom and Dad knew that they had to look out for what was best for Jimmy. Their young son was the most important thing in the world to them, and it was their job to protect him.
The entire story was conveyed to the police. Mom wanted Jimmy to quit immediately, but the detectives asked Jimmy’s parents to let Jimmy continue to work for Ken so as not to alert him to the fact that the police were on to them.
The John’s weren’t sure about this, but Chief Cooper convinced them that Jimmy would be perfectly safe. They would have surveillance on Jimmy at all times. Mr. and Mrs. John finally consented to let Jimmy stay on, even though it was against their better judgement.
Jimmy continued working with Ken and the crew. By now he was only 17 and this was very nerve racking and made the entire family extremely nervous. There was lots of anxiety at the John household. Jim’s stomach was upset all the time and his parents thought the tension of being under-cover might be too much for him, however Jimmy was a trooper and carried on.
Another precarious two weeks passed. Jimmy kept wondering, “When are the police going to get the goods on Ken and the crew so he can quit.” He was not liking this and ready to give it up.
That evening there was a knock on the front door of the John’s home. When Jimmy opened the door there stood Chief Cooper and Ken Brown.
“Can we come in Jimmy.” Asked Chief Cooper.
They went into the living room where Mr. and Mrs. John were watching TV.
The Chief looked everyone in the room one by one and said
“I’d like to introduce you all to Special Agent Larry Hastings of the FBI.”
You could have heard a pin drop.
Special Agent Larry Hastings (Ken) explained that he and his men and he were conducting extensive surveillance on a well structured criminal organization, and now they are ready to move in and make their arrests. The surveillance was taking so long because they wanted to shut down the entire operation, not just the little guys. The organization had connections in China, Europe and the United States. This was a huge feat to be able to bring down this entire operation. Ken explained that they always protected Jimmy at all costs and they kept Jimmy away from any actual surveillance work.
“Jimmy was the perfect cover for us. Who would ever suspect a teenage boy as being part of an FBI sting operation? We felt this was the best way to do it since we knew we would be working on each street for several weeks. We could not afford to leave our target area.” said Ken.
Even though Jimmy’s parents were more concerned than ever regarding Jimmy’s safety, they were very relieved to know it was now over. The main person that expressed concern about the assignment being over was Jimmy.
“What about my truck? Will the FBI be taking my truck back?”
Agent Hastings laughed and put his arm around Jimmy and gave him a big hug. He smiled and said, “Don’t worry Jimmy, the truck is yours free and clear, but I won’t be paying for your gas anymore.”
Everyone had a good laugh and an extreme break in the tension.
Hastings continued, “The truck is yours, and after graduating high school, so is a full four year college scholarship to any State college that you choose, compliments of the FBI.
And by the way, if you’re ever interested in being an agent for the FBI you’ve got experience, and more importantly, a reference from both myself and J. Edgar Hoover.”
This work should be considered FICTION whether it’s true or not.
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