Mansion might have been too grand a word for the old Kringle home, but if so it didn't miss by very much. In 1905 when it went up it had been one of the larger homes in Middleton, and certainly the grandest. Prohibition closed the Kringle brewery, but the family kept things running in a grand style even through the Depression until the old brew master died in 1948. His son kept the home open and in reasonable repair into the late 1970s. By the time the son retired to Florida the Kringle mansion was the only single family dwelling in the neighborhood, everything else had been taken over and rented out to college students by landlords anxious to squeeze every bit of income out of the old homes with the least possible investment. For several years now it had been pointed out as a haunted house that children dared each other to walk in front of on Halloween.
“Sometimes in a moment of confusion and panic you think of a plan which sounds like just what you need. Everyone else in the world realizes you're wrong, but you stubbornly plunge ahead -- until you are committed too deeply to back out. And only after you've hit the point of no return do you realize that you have made the biggest mistake of your entire life.” That idea ran through James Possible's head not because of his daughter's actions, but because of his own. But for the first time he thought he had some understanding of why Kim could have done something as insane as convincing a criminal geneticist to help impregnate her with Shego's child. Some of his frustration toward Kim transformed into sympathy. How could he have been so stupid? Rocket scientists aren't supposed to make mistakes like this.
He wanted to blame the realtor -- who must have been lying about the gentrification starting in the area. But he really didn't know how to tell if that claim was true or not. He wanted to blame the contractor for steering him towards the most expensive kitchen in Middleton. But the contractor had simply suggested different materials and the choice of the highest end materials had always been his own. Waiting for items like granite countertops had thrown off the schedule. And while it might have been true that in the very long run that renovation wouldn't have cost more than rent, the reality of renovation was that it demanded a lot of money up front -- it could not be spread out over years the way rent would have been. Now he was left with a home unfit for human habitation with a fabulous kitchen. He considered just trying to cut his loses by selling the house -- even though he knew he would simply lose money on the transaction. And that, of course, would still leave him with the original problem -- what to do with his daughter, her partner Shego, the granddaughters, and Bonnie -- who had been told she had a job as nanny.
The three young women sat in front of him in the Possible living room, waiting for him to say something positive. And he had nothing good to say. “I'm sorry. I've messed up. The house isn't ready. I don't think there is any practical way for it to be fit for living any time soon. I don't know what to tell you.”
“Can we at least see the place, Dad?”
“If you want, Kimmie. Just don't hate me. I don't know what I was thinking.”
“It can't be that bad, Dr. Possible.”
“Let's go over, Bonnie. You can see for yourself.”
“But you always say anything's possible.”
“Kim, I may have lied to you.”
Jean Possible joined them for the tour. She hadn't seen the house in weeks and hoped it wasn't as bad as her husband described. The three young women sat in the back seat for the drive over.
“It's a great location,” Kim noted optimistically as they drew closer. “It's right by the campus and only a couple blocks from the coffee shop.”
“Yeah, a great location to pitch a tent,” James added bitterly.
“It's nice and warm,” Jean said as they stood in the huge entryway.
“Damn contractors forgot to turn down the heat. Yep, brand new furnace and hot water heater. Those weren't on my original plan when I thought about this, but they are the least of the problems. The wiring needs to be redone. There isn't a grounded outlet in the place -- most of them aren't even polarized.”
Bonnie had to agree with Kim's dad. This place was unfit for human habitation. How could anyone have imagined this place could be made livable? Kim and her mom thought it wasn't quite as bad as James imagined. And Shego stared around her at the high ceilings with crown moldings, huge rooms which opened off the entryway, and the shabby vestige of a once truly grand staircase. “Oh, God,” she said softly, “this place is amazing! There's got to be some way to make this work.”
Most of the rooms on the ground floor mirrored the condition of the entryway -- a variety of different sized holes in some of the walls, deep gouges in the floors and windows in need of replacement.
“And here is my grand mistake,” he declared as he ushered them into the kitchen.
Bonnie and Kim declared themselves willing to sleep on cots and live in the kitchen.
“James, why have you never done anything like this for me?” his wife demanded.
The kitchen only confirmed Shego's opinion. “There had to be a way to make this work.”
The second floor contained four huge bedrooms and a smaller room off the back stairs -- probably for the head of the domestic staff. Besides it's own bathroom the master bedroom also had what would have been the 'office' for the mistress of the house. Servants would have been called to the boudoir and given their tasks for the day. It was the size of a small bedroom and James had seen it as a perfect nursery. Conditions were very much like those of the ground floor rooms. The top floor, which could only be reached by the smaller, back stairs, contained three small bedrooms -- clearly meant for servants, a bathroom, and a huge empty area.
Twice as they toured the house Shego thought she saw movement from the corner of her eye, but decided it was only because Bonnie had told her the story of the house being haunted.
As they returned to a lower level James listed other defects. “The basement is filled with all sorts of junk -- they had a terrible time getting the new furnace and water heater down there. The garage was built for a horse and carriage. I'm told the upper floor has a couple small bedrooms for the stable hand and a gardener -- but they took the stairway out when they did mass rentals so there was more room for cars. I haven't tried to go up there and have no idea what shape it's in.”
“Is there water in the bathrooms?”
“Oh, they can all be used -- except maybe the little half bath behind the big stairway. But you saw their condition.”
“I wouldn't want to use the one on the second floor,” Bonnie declared.
“They weren't that bad. Be glad you've never had to use some of the things I've seen when I was on the run,” Shego told her.
As they reached the ground floor James sighed, “Well, girls. I don't know what to tell you. Do you have any ideas? Shego, do you think we could rent space for you at Drakken's Lair?”
“Talk about a place that isn't childproof… Actually, I do have an idea. Kim, could you take Bonnie to the kitchen? I want to bounce an idea off your dad.”
Once in the kitchen Bonnie spoke to Kim, “If we end up living here, we have to get Ron in the house with us.”
“First, this isn't the best neighborhood in town. I'll feel safer with a man around the house.”
“Bonnie, I think Shego is as tough as Ron, and I'll be back in shape eventually.”
“Maybe, but a man around is a deterrent.”
“Ron the pit bull,” Kim giggled.
“And second, I don't want people to think I'm living in a house filled with lesbians.”
“Everyone thinks Ron and I are an item. People will just think you and Shego are a couple.”
“Come on, Kim. Ron cooks.”
“Oooh, you saved your best argument until last. I'd love to see what Ron could do in this kitchen.”
“You're welcome to see it,” Bonnie laughed. “I want to taste it.”
Back in the entryway Shego spoke to Kim's parents, “I really appreciate what you're doing for Kim, and for me. You're doing so much I'm not sure how to bring up my questions without sounding ungrateful.”
“Please, go ahead. We'll give you the benefit of the doubt with them.”
“Well, you say you would like to get the old place fixed up as soon as you can. I think a lot of the work is fairly basic labor. If I can find a way to supply the labor will you supply the materials?”
“You would pay for labor?”
“If I have to, I'll see what kind of deal I can cut with them. But if it works I can have a very large crew here on Monday. I'm not sure about some of the finishing work -- and I don't think any of us will know a thing about plumbing -- but I'm hoping I could get most of the basic repairs done then. And I've worked for Dr. D long enough that I think I can handle the rewiring if I can get the help I'm looking for. Your contractors would still end up doing to bathrooms and some of the fine woodworking.”
“-- and the painting.”
“Actually, I'm thinking Bonnie, Ron, and I could do the painting. You'd be welcome too -- we could make it a party.”
“She'll stay at your house while we're painting. I don't want her breathing the fumes.”
“Shego, if you can supply labor I'll open an unlimited account for you at any home store in Middleton.”
“I really feel bad about making this call, “ Shego explained. “I'm afraid you're going to think last week was all a set up to beg for a favor. But I really need your help. When do classes start again for you?”
“Classes don't start until the twenty-second,” one voice said.
“But we're not promising anything until we know what the favor is,” a second added.
“The two of you said you worked construction over the summer. There is an old house here, a great old place suffering about twenty years of neglect. I'm thinking some plastering on walls, replacing windows, maybe some floors can be refinished but I think most of the house needs a new laminate put down. Then there will need to be trim around the new windows and mopboards for the floor. The kitchen has already been done and it is gorgeous! We'll have local contractors redo the bathrooms and some of the skilled carpentry -- you might be able to do that but the fine work takes time and can be put off for now. We need the basics done fast. What kind of damage am I looking at from you? Any sort of a family rate?”
One of the Wegos went into a raspy-voiced Marlon Brando impersonation, “We would love to help our beloved sister. And someday we may need to call upon you for a favor.”
“Yes, Godfather. Now, seriously what will it come to?”
“Let's see -- roundtrip air tickets,”
“a rental car when we get there,”
“motel room and meals,”
“all tools and material provided… Can you think of anything else, Ed?”
“Not off the top of my head.”
“Uh, guys, I mean how much will I need to pay you?”
The Godfather came back on the line, “From our beloved sister we would not accept anything as crass as financial gain.”
“But like he said before, someday we may call on you for a favor. Oh, we left off the beer. All the beer we can drink. And we want good stuff. Is there any sort of good microbrewery there in Middleton?”
“You're not going to tell Mom, are you?”
“Sis, that would mean telling her we've been drinking, remember?”
“You're not going to get too plastered to plaster, are you?”
“Give us a break. We may be underage, but we're already responsible drinkers. We've learned it's dangerous to handle power tools when you're drunk or hung over.”
“Can I tell her how you learned that lesson?”
“Shut up, Ed.”
“You two are great. Mom has the email address for Kim's mom. Email me a list of the tools you need. I have to call Matt now. I'm hoping he can come for a day and help me do some rewiring.”
“You're going to call Matt?”
“Yeah, I figure rewiring would be a snap with him.”
“Good luck on getting him. He may not be as willing to drop everything to help family as we are.”
“Call back if he turns you down.” The Godfather got back on the line, “Our older brother sometimes forgets his familial duties. Fortunately he owes us a favor. Of course, should we need to call in the favor the burden of its fulfillment will transfer to you.”
“Sounds like I'm selling my soul.”
“Yeah, essentially. Say, can you tell us what happened to Hego after you left?”
“I've got no idea. I want to hear what you know when I see you. Let me call Matt now. I'll call you back if I need you to try and work on him for me.”
As she finished her second call to Will and Ed, Jean Possible's voice came up the stairs, “Shego, time for supper.”
“Down in a minute, Jean.”
As the meal wound down Jean started a pot of coffee. “James and I want to talk with you, Shego. What do you plan to do now that you're out on bail? I hope you plan to stay out of trouble.”
“Actually, I have a lot of plans… I don't know if they're all realistic. But I'm really hoping to change my life.”
Jim interrupted, “Mom, can we leave and see a movie if you're going to be talking about this stuff?”
“I suppose so. Will you need a ride to the theatre?”
“Sorry, but your father and I think this conversation is important. You need to ask Kim.”
“Can you give us a ride, Kim?”
“No! I want to hear this.”
“Do you think mom and dad want to hear about the time you--”
She pulled her keys from her pocket and threw them at a brother, “Here, just don't hurt my car. I know where you live.” The two had just gotten their licenses -- and neither parent was willing to trust them with the newer cars.
Jim and Tim smiled and gave each other high fives. They really wished they knew what Kim felt so guilty about, but were perfectly willing to threaten her with exposure for as long as it worked.
Jim and Tim left as Jean served coffee and fruit. Shego felt three pairs of eyes on her, and wondered where to start…
“I probably need to get my finances in order. I think I've got a lot of money, but it's in different banks around the world. I'll need to talk with a good accountant -- and maybe a lawyer. I think Dr. Drakken has a cousin who's a tax lawyer --”
“You're babbling. I asked about your plans, not your finances.”
“Well, isn't it part of the same thing? I'm trying to say I don't know if I can take over any responsibility for Kim's education--”
“Wait, wait!” James interrupted, “You're talking about financial responsibility for Kim?”
“Well, yes. If we're living together shouldn't I have some responsibility?”
“You don't need to. Kim is our daughter.”
“Blame my dad. He always stressed taking care of family. With the twins on the way I feel like I need to take care of my new family.”
“I like her,” James said to his wife.
“Do I get to say anything about this?” Kim grumbled.
“I need to figure out just how much money I have. I don't know how much of it will need to go into restitution. I want to try and get some of the small crimes off my record without punitive damages. I don't know how much that will take. And tuition and books are going to take a chunk.”
“We'll take care of Kim.”
“I'm not talking about Kim, I'm talking about me.”
“What?” three voices asked at once.
“I'm registered at Middleton U, I'll be starting this semester. With the credits from before I left school, some life experience credits, I hope to get some AP credits in science -- my time with Drakken had to be worth something, and the classes at University Ottawa this last summer I should be able to graduate with a BA in English Lit. next December, if I take a couple extra classes -- and assuming I'm not back in prison.”
“You're going to take extra classes?” Kim asked.
“We have the same advisor -- Dr. Kemal agreed and I didn't even need to threaten him.”
“What are you hoping to do with a degree in English Lit.? Teach?” James asked.
Shego drew a deep breath. “Well, I hope not. I haven't finished the application for the test yet, but if I do well enough on the LSAT in February and get accepted I'd like to start Middleton Law School next January. The judge who let me post bail is on the faculty there and thinks I can do it.”
“Did you hear that, James?” Kim's mom asked her husband. “Grad school. And she's willing to take heavy course loads.” She moved over and gave Shego a hug. “I think we've found our missing daughter.”
James joined his wife in hugging the pale woman. “And I like her sense of financial responsibility. She's the daughter we've always wanted.”
Jean kissed Shego on the top of the head, “You'll take care of that redhead you're living with, won't you dear? It's wonderful how you're setting a good example for her.”
Kim glared at the three of them, “That is so not funny.”
Shego patted Jean's hand, “I promise to take care of the redhead, Mom. It's probably not her fault. I'll bet it was the way she was raised.”
They all laughed.
As they got ready for bed Kim asked Shego, “What's this LSAD thing?”
“LSAT. Law School Admission Test. All the good schools and most of the poor ones want you to take it.”
“Will you be able to cram for that and take other classes?”
“It's not a test to see how much law you know. You learn that in law school. It measures how well you understand what you read and how you reason. I think English Lit. is as good a preparation as anything. I took a practice test on-line while we were with my folks. I did very well. I'm really more worried about the LSDAS, the Law School Data Assembly Service that puts together a standard application packet for me. It may not be easy for me to get letters of recommendation.”
“But you're finally going to be an honest woman?”
“I said I hope to be a lawyer. Don't you know the old saying? 'A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more money than a thousand men with guns.'”
Translation: Abyssus abyssum invocat - Hell calls hell; my rough paraphrase: One damn thing leads to another.