Fiction: Help4u.com

Dawn DeBraal

- Dawn DeBraal

Overwhelmed, Zoey looked at the hundreds of new emails in her inbox. She deserved this, entering contests trying to make a quick buck. Now they sold her name over and over. She was thinking about changing her email. 

It didn't seem like pushing the unsubscribe button helped. It did the exact opposite. The "sharks" circled in the water around her email account.

While deleting the emails, one caught her eye, and she stopped mid-push. 

"help4you.com" 

Well, what was that? Once she read the email and was hooked.

 Need help with anything? Can't find anyone? help4u.com can help connect you to the right people. Visit our site and see for yourself. Free! We are a secure referral service. You may enter our $2,000 rewards shopping spree! Try it today! Strictly Confidential!

After the ad, there were several testimonials from different people. 

Andrea from Chicago: I was looking for a reliable plumber in the greater Chicago area, help4u.com not only supplied me with several recommended plumbers, but I also received a gift certificate for $50 off for the plumber of my choice! My leak was repaired, and I got my repair at a reduced price!

Barbara from Elgin, here. help4u.com connected me with a wonderful landscaper. My yard is transformed. They did all the background checks for me, and I received a $50 gift card for using their services! Highly recommend! Thank you, help4u.com!

She deleted them all. 

Coming home from work, a hyper little dog greeted Zoey.

"Pepper, you poor thing, couped up all day." She snapped his leash on taking him for a walk. It just wasn't fair that she kept him cooped up so much. Zoey walked around the block again because she felt guilty. Cereal was on the menu tonight. She hadn't gone shopping. There was never enough time, she sighed. 

Opening her laptop, she moaned when she saw seventy-five emails. At least it was less than yesterday, and there was a new help4you.com.

"What have I got to lose?" Zoey pushed the soft link for "help4u.com." Instantly a live chat box opened. 

 'Hi, my name is Amanda. How can I help you?" Did she dare answer? She started to type. 

"I need someone to check on my dog daily and perhaps do light housekeeping. Is that a possibility?" Amanda didn't answer right away. 

"What is your address?" Amanda responded. "Hold on a moment. Let me look at our list of certified providers." Zoey was intrigued. Amanda didn't say no. She wondered what the cost of this little venture would be? Amanda came back. "I will email you within twenty-four hours the names of certified helpers in your location."

Zoey typed back, "Thank you, Amanda! I appreciate it!" 

In twenty-four hours, Zoey checked her email to find three recommendations along with testimonials in her inbox. One person, located a few blocks away from her apartment on Harbor Drive. She opened their profile. "

"I highly recommend Pat for the job. Trusting and friendly!" Sandra, from Chicago. 

Zoey immediately pushed the link provided by "help4u.com." She wrote a nice email letting Pat know she was highly recommended by "help4u.com" and that she was in search of a dog walker and light housekeeping, asking what her fee would be for five days a week daily walking, and once a week light housekeeping. 

 After finishing the email, she took Pepper to the dog park. The Yorkshire Terrier had a few ladies he was sweet on. Her friend Teresa's white Maltese, Gretta, whom Pepper preferred to another little dog, a King Cavalier named Vanna. 

Zoey sat down on the park bench next to Teresa, and they laughed, watching the dogs play with one another. Theresa gave her a hot coffee.

"Thanks. I finally broke down and went to this new site. I found someone to help me. It's called help4u.com. They match you with people who hire out, and the service is free! I asked them to find me a dog walker five days a week and a light housekeeper. I even emailed a woman named Pat, who lives near my building. She hasn't responded to my email yet."

"Is that safe? Don't you think that's a little creepy? Having a stranger in your house?" Teresa raised her eyebrows, questioning. 

"Well, they are background checked, and they come with personal references. I checked them out on the Better Business Bureau. Some minor complaints like mud on the carpeting, but generally everyone who used their services seemed satisfied."

Zoey stopped for a gyro on the way home, tying Pepper to an outdoor table as she ran inside to pick up her sandwich. Pepper sat patiently. 

When she finished her gyro, Zoey grabbed her laptop, opening her email. Forty-seven emails. Alright, she was getting a handle on them. She started to delete when she got a response she'd been waiting. Excitedly Zoey opened the email.

help4u.com/dog walker/light housekeeping response:

"Hello Zoey, my name is Pat. I am a graduate student who supplements my income with part-time work. Your gig sounds perfect. I can be available Monday through Friday to walk your dog early afternoon. I can be available on Wednesdays for cleaning. How big is your apartment? I could give you a better estimate of the cost when I see the size of it. Housekeeping aside, I ask $15.00 an hour for dog walking. I can't guarantee that your dog will be alone on walks, as there are other dogs in the area. I try to take them all at the same time, provided they get along. I take it you are near the East loop? I walk a small dog, a King Cavalier named Vanna, five times a week. Do you think your dog would get along with another little dog?

Thank you for asking about my services. I know that help4u.com sent my references and background check to you. 

Sincerely, 

Pat Atkins

 

Zoey squealed. She sounded perfect! And seriously, could there be two King Cavalier dogs named Vanna in this neighborhood? 

Zoeyfrance@discovet.com

When can we meet? Saturday at three p.m. works for me.

 

help4u.com/dog walker/light housekeeping response:

 "I am happy to meet you Saturday at three p.m.in the lobby of your building. If you decide to hire me, please arrange to have apartment security let me into your apartment to walk your dog. I do not want to hold the keys for legal/security reasons." 

Sincerely, Pat

On Saturday, Zoey stood in the lobby shortly before three o'clock with Pepper on a leash. Precisely at 3 p.m., an Adonis-looking gentleman came through the door. She would have brushed him off, but he wore the "help4u.com" identification badge on his shirt. Zoey took a deep breath. Pat wasn't a woman. Pat was a man. She held up the paper that said, "help4u.com". He smiled and quickly knelt near Pepper, not saying anything. Pepper glared at him for a little bit and then went to him to accepting Pat's scratching behind his ears. Pat looked up and said quietly. 

"If you don't mind, I'd like to take him out on the street just to see if he trusts me." Zoey nodded. "What's his name?" Pat asked.

 "Pepper." She answered. Pat called Pepper by his name, and the dog responded. "Such a good boy. Do you want to go outside for a walk?" Pepper's tail wagged, and he followed Pat out the door. Returning a few minutes later, he handed her the leash.

"He's a nice mild-mannered dog. I think Vanna, the other dog I walk and Pepper's personalities, will be great together." Zoey decided then and there she would have Pat start walking Pepper. Pat gave her a cleaning bid.

"It shouldn't take me more than an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes if you keep it this nice. If you want it vacuumed, dusted, bathroom and wipe down of the kitchen, no extras, I'd say $50 a week." Zoey thought that sounded reasonable. She asked Pat what he was going to school for. 

"Mental Health Counseling. I only have three semesters to go. I've fallen in love with the Chicago area and would like to stay here. My heart appreciates the amenities of city life." Pat made perfect eye contact with her. He was courteous and on point with his answers. Pepper jumped in his lap.

 "When can you start?"

"When would you like me to start?"  

"Monday." Zoey took Pat down to the security office and introduced him to the management. They asked him for his references, which he was able to produce.

Monday morning, Zoey found herself picking up the apartment, knowing that Pat would be there that afternoon. She said goodbye to Pepper after setting up the nanny-cam on the fireplace mantle, aimed at the front door. She felt a little guilty, but she wanted to make sure Pat was a good fit. Upon getting home, that evening, Pepper was his happy-go-lucky self. Zoey took him for his walk and then brought him home to watch the video. 

At twelve-fifteen, there was a knock on her door. Pepper barked. The front desk person opened the door.

"Pepper? Come on, boy, let's go for a walk." Pat said excitedly, picking up the leash. That was all it took. Pepper allowed Pat to put his leash on. About fifty-seven minutes later, the door opened. Pat took Pepper off the leash and hung it on its hook. 

Zoey was thrilled. She worried that this wouldn't work all day, but Pepper got to see his lady friend Vanna, and he seemed to be alright with Pat taking him from the apartment. On Wednesday, Pat spent about an hour cleaning and then took Pepper for a walk. Zoey walked into a fresh-smelling apartment, watched the tape, and saw Pat thoroughly cleaning. She was highly pleased. After a week of watching the nanny cam, Pat had proven himself trustworthy. Zoey emailed him, asking him how she should pay him? 

Pat asked her for a check. That way, he said it was more secure. Zoey agreed and left a check on the counter made out to Pat Atkins. 

Another week went by. Zoey was so pleased with the service after the third week; she pulled up the help4u.com website and typed up an excellent letter thanking help4u.com for the recommendation they had given for Pat Atkins. Zoey was delighted with their security measures and the caliber of the person they'd sent to represent their company.  

"Feel free to quote me on your website!" She signed it "Zoey from Chicago."

The following week Zoey stopped at the coffee shop to buy coffee to take to the dog park. She was meeting Teresa.

"I'm sorry this card has been declined," said the cashier.

"What? That's not possible. Please, try it again." the cashier rang the two coffees through again, the card came back declined. 

Electronics! 

Zoey pulled open her wallet and handed the cashier a twenty. He gave her back her change. She was fuming when she got to the dog park. Pepper was happy to see Gretta. Zoey handed the coffee over to Teresa. 

"Hey, thanks! How's it going?" Zoey plopped next to her on the bench. 

"The coffee shop declined my credit card. That's how good it's going; otherwise, it's all good."

"Maybe the card is scratched; call the company." Zoey agreed that's probably the case. After the park, Zoey stopped in for her gyro. 

"Miss Zoey, how are you? Look at your beautiful, good boy!" Mr. Aganos handed her the gyro as he looked out the window at her patient dog. She gave him her debit card. He swiped it, telling her to have a good evening. The machine beeped.

 "Oh, your card was declined," he said. Zoey thought she'd given him the wrong card in error, but this one was a different card. 

"Oh, I'm so sorry, I think it got scratched, and now it won't go through the reader. Here." She handed him the remainder of the twenty. She would call the bank tomorrow. 

 Once home, Zoey checked her emails. Raising her hand in victory, she was now down to twenty-five emails. She was starting to reel in those swindlers! 

Tomorrow, Pat would be there to clean, so she put her dirty dishes in the dishwasher and picked up her laundry. Having a housekeeper was a good thing. It kept her on her toes, picking up after herself. She wondered if she should give Pat the key to the apartment, then she wouldn't be bothering the front desk every day. Zoey did leave an extra key the following day with the front desk, saying they could give the key to Pat, and he would return it after the walk. She'd already told him she'd left a key at the front desk. 

When Zoey arrived home from work that evening, she fully expected a clean apartment. What she got was a cleaned-out apartment. Empty, not a stick of furniture, not anything. 

Pepper! Where was Pepper! 

She punched the ground floor button over and over, standing in front of the elevator door in the hallway, running to security when the door opened. 

"I've been robbed!" she exclaimed. The man behind the desk shook his head, saying. 

"Your boyfriend has already moved you to the new place."

"What new place, what boyfriend?" Zoey shouted. 

"Please, miss, calm down. You are upsetting our current tenants," said security. 

"I'm a current tenant!" Zoey hissed. The security man believing her story, ran the video. Pat came into the building a little afternoon. The doorman gave him the key. A couple of hours later, he walked through the lobby with Pepper on a leash. Pat returned the key to the front desk. The time was three forty p.m.

Zoey grabbed her phone. She logged into her email. Three emails.

help4u.com/response. 

Dear Miss Zoey France, 

Thank you for the glowing letter for the services you received, but we are confused. We only have a record of your initial contact. Unfortunately, we had no one to recommend at that time. I informed you of this in our email. 

 We are glad that you could find someone you are satisfied with, but we cannot take the credit. 

Sincerely, 

help4u.com

 

Dear Ms. France, 

We are sorry you were dissatisfied with our banking services and have withdrawn all of your funds. Please allow us to rectify the situation. You may call my cell xxx-555-1243.

Sincerely, 

Robert Wade

 

Dear Miss. France, 

You have reached your credit limit on your Express Pass Credit Card……

 

How could she be so stupid? Where was Pepper? She'd filed a report with the police department. The apartment complex felt so bad; they gave her a worn couch from the lobby to have something on which to sleep. 

Zoey sat in shock in the middle of her empty apartment. The cell phone made a sound. She'd gotten an email. She opened her phone. There was only one email. Yes, she had her life under control now. 

She shuddered when she saw the email. 

help4u.com/lost dog/Pepper

"I understand you are looking for a Yorkshire Terrier. I know where you can find one for a great price." Sincerely, "Sandra, from Chicago"

It was all a scam. From the moment Zoey answered the "help4u.com" email, she had blindly given everything away. 

The phone pinged again. 

"You will find the little dog tied up at Aganos Gyros." Zoey raced out of the building, running as fast as she could. When she rounded the corner, there sat Pepper tied up to the table outside. Pepper wagged his tail when he saw her. She picked him up, smothering him with kisses. Mr. Aganos came outside. 

"I was wondering where you were when I saw him tied up out here," Zoey asked Mr. Aganos if he had seen anyone with Pepper. Mr. Aganos shook his head no. He was putting a sign in the front window. "Apartment for Rent, Inquire Within"

"Is it true, you have an apartment for rent?" Mr. Aganos nodded.

     "Fully furnished. And we allow small dogs," he smiled brightly at Pepper. Zoey didn't even need to look at it, but she did. Close to the dog park, fenced in the back yard, and her favorite gyro restaurant downstairs. 

"Take the sign out of the window, Mr. Aganos. I would love to be your tenant," she said after the tour.

"I have to contact the other person coming to look at the apartment. Someone sent by "help4you.com," Zoey asked when the person was coming. Mr. Aganos told her they would be there in a short time. She requested that Mr. Aganos take the appointment to walk through the apartment, then she called the detective on her case.

When Pat Atkin came to look at the apartment, the police were waiting for him. Zoey stood beside the squad car holding Pepper in her arms. Taking Pepper's paw in her hand, she had the little dog wave goodbye. 

Her phone pinged. 

One email. Yes. One email! "How about meeting me in the dog park? Gretta is waiting. I have your coffee. Teresa."

 Zoey quickly wrote back. "On my way!"

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