So without the imminent threat from the Russians, I decided to go back to my old life at least a little bit. I still did not want the messenger service, but I wasn’t going to be Gwen’s bitch either. If that Yankee bitch thought she was going too make a few grand from holding my company a week, she was nuts. I was pretty sure Jen could stop the sale of ‘At Your Service’. The question became, if Lucas didn’t get it, who did.
“Good Morning Archer, Jen tells me I have some decisions to make.” I said it on the phone while waiting for my breakfast. I did have a cup of pretty foul restaurant coffee in front of me at the time.
“Yes we have been sitting around waiting for you to show up. Where did you wander off to anyway?”
“I went to a fall revival, no big deal. You know one of those first church of the missionary position things. They held it in the great outdoors.” I said.
“Yes, I know what those are. So now are you back long enough for ‘His Laboring Few’ to finish the renovation?” Archer asked.
“I expect so, I thought I would swing by the site and get them started again. So you just tell me what time and I’ll meet them there.”
“I’ll have the foreman call you, if it’s okay to give him your number?” he asked.
“Sure why not, it’s pretty hard to commit murder over the phone.” I said it with a rude smile which Archer couldn’t see.
It was too early to get Jen on the phone at work, so I decided to wait for office hours. I wanted her to handle Lucas. I was way to personally involved. I felt sure my shyster friend had built an escape hatch into the sale. I hadn’t specifically told her not to act like a lawyer, so I was reasonably sure she had played the part to the hilt. It was just what Jen did and I loved her for it.
“Hello,” the voice came through my cell phone. Of course only after it played the first few bars of ‘The Magnificent Seven’.
“Hello,” I said into it as much to shut it up as to communicate.
“Ms Stone, it Mark from His Laboring Few. I am on my way to your job site. If you could meet me there, we can get started again.” He sounded a little peeved because he had been pulled off the job for a couple of days. I knew that he would have been more peeved, if he had worked a couple of weeks only to find that he couldn’t collect for his work. I was pretty sure that having his funds tied up in my estate would not have been a lot of fun either. Oh well he didn’t have to know the details.
“Mark, I can be there in a half hour is that soon enough?” I asked
“That’s just fine.” he said, then the line went dead. He was either a man of few words or he really was pissed.
After breakfast, but before I left the restaurant I called Jen. After her receptionist put me through I asked, “Jen have all the papers been registered for the sale of my company to Lucas?”
“It’s a done deal. What’s the problem?” she asked.
“He told me last night that he and Gwen were planning to sell the business for a profit and move to Boston.”
“That little shit, I thought something was funny with him. At the signing he could hardly look me in the eye. So what do you want to do.”
“I want you to make him an offer he can’t refuse my fairy god mother. I am not going to be Gwen’s bitch, even if it costs me every dime of the sales price.”
“Are you sure you just don’t want to bury them in legal shit till they shout uncle and give it back to you?” she asked.
“You know that I’m not as spiteful as you. Make them one offer, I’m willing to refund all their out of pocket expenses. Let them keep the profits they made from the work, and wave goodbye to them.” I said. “Or we will let them stay here and operate the business in good faith as they presented that they would do.” I added.
“If they choose any other option, I will have them in court every week for the rest of their lives defending themselves against fraud suits.” Jen said. She actually sounded as if she were hoping they chose to fight us.
“Okay Jen, let me know what they have to say. I don’t want the messenger service back. However if I have to run it, I want to start before they run it into the ground.”
“Can do Max, good to have you back. Life was getting boring in only a week.” Jen said laughing.
I drove to the motel and found it had changed as much as Jen promised. Half the front doors were missing. There were signs everywhere of patches to the exterior walls. I knew that those were immaterial since the whole thing was going to get a coat of stucco to give it a Spanish flare in the end.
“Hello,” I said in greeting to the almost retirement aged man, who met me in the parking lot. “I’m Maxine, I don’t know if you remember me.”
“Ms Stone, no one forgets you. Good to have you back.”
“Thanks, I guess I’ll ask the question you get asked the most. Do you have any idea about how much longer before you guys are finished? I’m staying in a motel and I’m not happy about it.” I informed him.
“If you don’t mind the noise, we can probably have one of the units finished in a couple of days,” he informed me.
“Get me heat and power and I’ll live with anything else,” I informed him. “So what are the decisions I have to make?” I asked.
“Carpet first, here are your measurements. You can buy it anywhere you want, but Lowe’s has a pretty good deal on carpet at the moment. Ask for contractor’s grade. It is a good price for a fair quality carpet. Probably in this environment you are looking at ten years wear on it.”
“You are going to plaster over the concrete blocks inside aren’t you?” I asked.
“Yes we have a plastering crew, they can have this knocked out in a couple of days.” he suggested.
“So anything besides carpet I need to choose?” I asked,
“Plaint and appliances need to be picked, might as well do it all at once. Don’t choose anything too fancy or too large. There is a small space set aside for the kitchen.”
“Do I need to choose bathroom fixtures?” I asked.
“Frankly the ones in here are better than anything you would buy. You can get someone to give them a good cleaning when we are finished. If we do that and do the repairs, you won’t have to pay for any bathroom renovations.” Reverend Archer said to take it as easy on you as if you were one of ours.”
“That’s good, I can always use the help. I saw the original design and I thought whoever drew it did a heck of a job at keeping the renovations to a minimum.”
“I did that and thanks, we tried to make the property a good deal for the buyer and for the ministry.”
“Well, we will see how it works out, but so far it looks pretty good.” I admitted.
“The Reverend says you are planning to live in one of the units for a while?” it was a question.
‘Yes, I am planning to live in one of the units. That leaves me four to rent do you have any ideas for tenants?”
“Well where this place is located you aren’t going to want families with children for sure. I’m thinking retires or college kids maybe.” Mark suggested.
“Both of those sound reasonable. I will have to give it a lot more thought since they won’t just be tenants. They will also be neighbors.”
“That’s true enough. If the Reverend is telling the truth about you, whoever they are they won’t be bored often. Archer says something is always going on around you, even if you aren’t involved.
“There is some truth to that,” I admitted. “Well, I’m off to Lowe’s I suppose.”
“This is my card,” he said as he handed me a business card for His Laboring Few. “Call me when you have decided and I’ll send a truck to pick up everything. If you don’t mind, I’ll make a list of items we need for the actual construction and just have them add them to your bill at the same time. It’s easier that way.”
“Okay, but I want to see the list. I have your records from phase one. I still need to go over those as well.” Most likely I would never balance the accounts, but it was a good idea that they didn’t know that.
I spent way too much time with the Lowe’s sales lady. She happened to be, arguably, the only female in Aster who knew anything about hardware as well as decorating not to mention she was sexy as hell in her little red vest.
We determined that it would be cheaper for me to provide hot water than to install a hot water heaters in each unit and then wire for them.
I chose small stoves and small refrigerators for the units. There was nothing at all fancy about the appliances. The apartments were going to be very austere, but that was okay. I kept remembering how impressed I was with Gus’s place. I tried to model my units after that. The list of choices was a lot longer than I had expected. Kitchen tiles to cook stoves, it all took time and my input.
It was shortly after lunch when I left Lowe’s, so I drove, first to the best hot dog stand in the area, then to the marina to devour them with a bag of barbecue chips and a Coke.
When I got back to the job site, I found a heating and air conditioning service truck waiting for me. Since each unit already had a heating and an air conditioning unit of sortys, I wanted them checked. I didn’t expect that they would be be in very good condition, but that was something for a service company to tell me.
His Laboring Few had a heating and air conditioning service unit. They were the ones waiting for me. I was surprised that the technician didn’t look like a an older reformed drunk. He looked to be in his early thirties and reasonably clean looking. “Are you the owner?” he asked.
“Yes I am the owner, and you are my heating and air conditioning expert?” I asked
“That’s what they tell me. So you are going to turn these into apartments?” he asked.
“That is the plan.” I went on. “They are most likely going to be low cost units for the elderly so keep that in mind. And even though I want your opinion, I also want options not just what you think will be best.”
“Well I’ve got bad news and not so bad news.” The technician said half hour later. I spent a the time away from the job site, so that he had time for his examination.
“Well that’s better than bad and worse news, I suppose.” I said that smiling before the bombs fell.
“The heating system is s split system. The heat is actually a gas fired boiler. It supplies hot water for heat and bathing. Now I suppose it will be for cooking as well.”
“So even though it isn’t my first choice what is the condition of the boiler?” I asked.
“Those gas fired boiliers last forever. It could use some maintenance but it is minimal.” He suggested.
“How about the radiators in the units?” I asked.
“The good news is they are in decent shape. Just a few things need attention, but the bad news is they are in the wrong place.”
“How so?” I asked.
“None in the bathroom, or what will be the kitchens. It’s all at the front of the units.”
“So what can we do about that?” I asked.
“I would suggest an electric ceramic heater for the bathrooms. The resident can use it if they want to pay for it, if not they can live with the cool spots. We can wire it to the light switch. I can do it for about a hundred bucks a unit. We can run it through their individual power bill.”
“We are going to do that with the air conditioning as well I hope.” I said.
“Yes there is a line for them already in place. The worst job is we are going to have to separate the wiring for meters. Also each unit will have to have their own breaker boxes. You won’t need a large box if you furnish the heat, but it will need to be done to pass code.”
“It sounds like a reasonable plan. Get me some prices and if they are reasonable, we can go for it, I think.”