93 Doing time in Casa Aster.
Since I had never been involved in construction, it was interesting for me to help out. I mixed plaster for the Mexican artisans and held windows in place for carpenters. It was quite an experience. After three days, I was able to move furniture into the center unit. It had once been the office, so it was mine. It would also have been the 6th unit, if I ever decided to rent it.
What had once been the lobby became my living room, and dining room. There had always been a small kitchen and bedroom with bath. I suppose the fact there there was very little to do structurally made the owner’s unit the fastest to get finished.
Even though the unit was technically ready to move in, I didn’t make the move right away. One of the reasons was that I was still paid up for a couple of more days at the motel. The other was that the boiler had not been thoroughly checked. I wanted that done before I had it fired up. Without that boiler on line there was no heat and no hot water, and that would not be acceptable even to me.
“You know this is going to be a screwy utitility system?” the heating and air tech said to me.
“Yeah I know. I will provide heat but not air conditioning. I have a reason for it. Some people will use much less air conditioning, if any at all, while other would wind it up and drive me to the poor house. With heat they can open their windows, if it gets too warm, or complain if it gets too chilly.” I said.
“I know,” the tech said. “What I am going to do to balance the system is wait until they are finished, then I am going to come in and adjust the rooms so that they all have the same temperature. Using those numbers we can work out the rest of it,” he explained.
“But I want the heat on now,” I said.
“I am going to get the boiler on and open the valve to the landlady unit. I’ll come back once the project is finished to balance it all out. Right now I want to make sure it won’t blowup.”
“I need hot water as well,” I replied.
“The utility room is outside your back door. Yours is the only unit that has a back entrance into the alley.” he informed me. “I will make sure everything is labeled. You will have to kill the hot water separately from the cold. There will also be a valve for the heated water for each of the radiators as well.”
“Just make sure everything is labeled and easy to turn,” I said as I turned him loose on my boiler.
By the time my rent ran out at the motel, my apartment was ready. It was the only one that was, but that was okay as well. I got a few of the guys from the shelter to help me move my things from storage to the apartment. I didn’t do it to save money, I did it to give the guys some work and to kill some time myself.
Vlad had been gone a week and one day when I moved into the apartment. I expected to hear from him any time during that week. He promised to chase down Davenport for me and get him extradited to the states. Davenporet needed to face a felony homicide charge for the ex-con who tried to off me.
Instead of Davenport, I got a package in the mail. The package contained a patch of dried skin. There was also a note.
I know you won’t take my word for it, so if you make a finger print from this patch of skin and compare it to the prints on file for Davenport, you will find them a match. If you have a forensic expert test it, he will confirm that the skin was removed from a cadaver.
Davenport resisted arrest, I am sorry. I know you wanted to do it yourself. If it is any consolation, I did it myself and it took him a while to die. He was truly repentant for attempting to take your life. You could probably forgive him now.
I felt certain that Davenport’s money in the former Soviet Union bank had disappeared. I didn’t even need to check to be sure. It would be the most logical reason for Davenport to have died slowly. He needed to be convinced to cooperate I am sure. No matter the reason, I mentally stamped closed on Davenport’s file. I also mumbled thank you to Vlad. He might not have been a great lover, but Vlad had proved to be an exceptional assassin.
Even thought I was living in the apartment complex, it was not finished by any means. On the first morning I awoke in the place it was to the sound of trucks with bad mufflers pulling into the parking lot. I took a shower in what had to be the hottest water I had ever felt. It took me forever to get the hot/cold mix bearable.
Men were still finding there way onto the site as I left my front door headed to breakfast. I didn’t get very far. I saw Helen’s catering truck parked just inside the entrance to my parking lot. Instead of driving to find her, I walked across the parking lot.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Have you stopped eating?” she asked.
“Of course not, I was on my way to find you.” I replied.
“Well these guys will do a better job with a good breakfast. It might not be hot off the grill but it’s better than most of the crap they would eat.”
“Helen, you know I thank you, but this is way too much for you to do.” I said.
“I stopped by, I’m not staying. Here,” she said pushing a brown bag out to me. Besides I paid for the gas with the others, you are just my good deed for today.” I paid her in spite of the fact that she didn’t want it.
I was in my work jeans covered in cement dust when the phone rang. “Hello Jen,” I said into it.
“Hello Maxine dear, are you ready for the news about you little business?” she asked.
“Depends, do I need to sit down?”
“Only if you want to jump up and sing my praises. Otherwise you can remain standing.” Jen said.
“So what miraculous thing have you done?” she asked.
“You know I’m not kinky, but I managed to truly fuck your two friends,” she informed me.
“I am not happy that you screwed over Lucas. Gwen I’m not concerned with.”
“I found out who had made an offer for your business. It’s a couple I know. The guy is assistant clerk of court. Thomas Raines is his name. You have seen his name on court orders more than a few times I’m sure.”
“Ah, so he knew the story?” I asked a little unhappy about it.
“No, he did not know that you made Lucas a sweetheart deal. When he found out how little Lucas had invested he was more than a little pissed. To make a long story short, he pulled his offer.”
“So now what?” I asked
“Now we just wait. Your offer to return their money will seem pretty good when weighed against my threat to tie them up with a fraud suit.”
“Get them to decide and we will make Raines an offer, I don’t want it back I just don’t want to be used by that Yankee bitch.” I said into the phone.
“Just leave it to me. I know what you want and it will be exactly as you wish my dear,” she said with that condescending voice all lawyers have in their reserve bag of tricks.
“Call me when you need me to do anything,” I suggested.
“No, you call me if anything fun comes up,” she said with a laugh.
I put the business, which was no longer mine anyway, out of my mind and concentrated on the renovation. To avoid boredom I threw myself into everything. I am sure the foreman wanted to ban me from the site, but I did own the damn thing.
“On day one I mixed plaster. All the carpets have been removed and the patchwork masonry work was done. The Mexican Artisans went through the plaster work like a Israelite tribe at war. They literally attacked the walls and ceilings. The finish was very much adobe, except the color was wrong and the finish was much harder.
I had the only ordinary exit into the alley, but each unit had to have an emergency exit in case of fire. In our case it was a very large window which opened onto that same alley. It could be pushed out completely with just fifty pounds of pressure. Even an old lady could manage that. There was a catch. The window had to be unlocked from the inside to do it. A pickup truck would be needed to pull out a locked window, I was assured. The plaster workers had to be very careful not to hide that lock. I was constantly on the lookout for that mistake.
On day two of the great plaster campaign one unit had to be finished, then the workers moved to the outside. The concrete blocks were treated differently one the outside. The concrete mix was different and the blocks were soaked with some chemical to help the raw plaster attach itself. The foreman assured me that it was safe, even though he and the others stayed away while it was sprayed on by a man in a plastic suit wearing a respirator. I didn’t feel all that good about it, but then again it would be sealed inside the plaster. At least that was the plan, I was assured.
On day three of my occupancy the paint crew arrived. They had their brushes and the foreman had the paint. They went through the inside of the five units in one hell of a hurry. Not having any carpet or other trim to slow them down, must have been a great way to paint. The four painters just rock and rolled through the five units. Before they left for the day, they even managed to cover the outsides of the windows for the next day’s work.
Day four the property reassembled a bee hive. Inside men hung cabinets and laid carpet and linoleum. Outside men painted as if their lives depended on finishing it that day. Since they were using spray guns and putting down heavy coats the work progress steadily, but they used a lot more paint than spraying would normally use.
While all that was going on for those three days, the heating and air man worked quietly in the utility room. He had cleaned the boiler and checked the burner before I moved in. He had waited until I was in residence, before he installed new valves to each unit’s radiator and hot water lines.
On day three while everyone else was finishing up, he and a helper managed to install the five through the wall window type air conditioning units. Those were wired to the units electrical circuit making their power billed to the individual units.
For the next few days it was odds and ends to get the place finished completely. I was happy to see a crew building the fake adobe fence around the place while others did the finish work.
Yes I had hung around most of the time partly to help, but also because I didn’t feel safe returning to a building with no security system. I didn’t have any new enemies, but one never knew when an old one would decide he had waited long enough for revenge. Just ask Vlad, I thought.
It was over a month since I agreed to buy the place from Reverend Archer, when it was officially handed over to me. I had owned it all along, but His Laboring Few were working on it everyday. It didn’t feel like it was mine until they handed me the key to the gate.