I explained all about the tourist cabins from the forties. Since I judged her reaction as no interest at all, I dropped it. “So what are you two going to do for dinner tonight?” I asked. I was silently praying that Jennifer had arranged something for them.
“Jennifer and Bob are taking us out. Jen said to tell you are invited,” she said. “Please do come.”
Ruth was really good at the ‘be everybody’s friend’ thing social operatives specialize in. James hardly said a word. “I’m so sorry, but I already have plans.” I didn’t tell her that my plans were a dollar salad from the McDonald’s at the mall, and a cardboard frozen pizza hot from the microwave. Washed down with a vintage Sam’s cola. It was my tribute to the old days meal. I didn’t mind the bad food and it reminded me who I was. Something I had needed for the last year or so. It’s easy to get used to having money and forget that you didn’t always have it.
Ruth and James did the required ten minute walking tour of the downtown, then headed off to Jen’s office to get their offer for the farm ready. After they left I got to thinking about my own situation with capitol gains. I was about to be taxed on the profit from the sale of the apartments, if I didn’t reinvest the portion I had not used for the Downtown House.
The downtown house was in the middle of the first block, north of the railroad tracks. Yes trains still rolled through the downtown of Aster. Of course the Downtown House faced onto Main street. But it was only a few doors away from Railroad St NW On the south side of the railroad there was another street. It was called South Railroad Street, which also had a east and west side.
I was in a remarkable position to do a downtown high end apartment renovation. I could do the renovations and then let the place just sit empty, if I didn’t find just the right people. I could also do short term rentals for people like Ruth and James. People who for whatever reason, needed a place to rent for a month or a few months.
I loved the sound of the trains, but not everyone would, so the place was going to need heavy duty sound proofing. I didn’t think that would be a big problem, but it might. First I needed to take a look around town with fresh eyes.
Even though spring was on the way, the temperatures were still pretty chilly in the evenings and mornings. It was into mid afternoon when the swamp couple left for their meeting with Jennifer. I considered the slip over parka, but I opted for something with easier access to my small revolver. The revolver was my only weapon. For real walking I preferred a lightweight PVC cane. It was one I had made it myself from some scrap 1/2“water pipe and a couple of fittings left over from the Downtown House project. There were no guns or knives inside, it was just a lightweight prop for me to use now and then. After a couple of blocks or a lap or two around the mall I got a little clumsy from the weak leg. Otherwise I could keep on pushing through the pain.
So it was almost 5PM when I started my tour. Most of the older buildings were clustered around the railroad tracks, so I began walking in that direction. If I were to walk two blocks in either direction the density and age of the buildings changed drastically. Three blocks south of the tracks and one block over was Ed’s converted gas station. A couple of blocks east of main street four blocks down Jennifer’s modern building sat among other one story modern shops and offices. I didn’t plan to get as far as either of them.
The buildings north of mine in the same black were all filled with shops of one kind or another. Most were one story and were struggling for survival. My favorite was the ice cream and sandwich shop. I didn’t care for their sandwiches, but the ice cream was delicious. The Dog House and Kaplan’s Barbecue Shack were both several blocks from downtown.
The building which jumped out at me was the deserted railroad hotel of the forties. It was an old brick building three stories tall. Even in it’s hay day, Aster had been an after thought rather than a destination. I had never been inside the building, I did know that while I was away the first floor had been used as a night club. That was back in the eighties and nineties. My guess was that there had been a ballroom of sorts even when it was a small hotel.
Fortunately I had my cell phone with me so I called Elaine Brewer the Realtor while I stood in front of the boarded up hotel. “El how you doing?” I asked.
“I’m fine, how are you Maxine?” the woman’s voice from over the phone asked. My mind projected a picture of the thirty something woman who still dressed like a college girl.
“Just fine. I’m standing in front of the old railroad hotel. I was curious how much does the owner want for it.”
“Old man Davis want’s all he can get. I think he might be able to get 50k. I could probably talk him into taking that. These old guys forget that it isn’t 1950 anymore. Buyers are almost non existent for that kind of place.” she said honestly.
“For me to pay that there would have to be something special about it. Otherwise I would buy one of the tax repos.” I said. The city and county had property on the books which had been foreclosed and which didn’t even get bids at the courthouse steps auctions. They were willing to sell them for a few bucks with the understanding that they would be renovated within a year or so. Since that was my vague plan, I would have no problem with promising that. Those buildings would be just too small for the plan floating around in my mind.
“Well Maxine the building was last used in the early 2000s. There was a buffet supper club thing, complete with a dance band. They used the whole first floor. Each of the upper floors has eight rooms with two shared baths, one at the end of the hall.” she informed me.
How about letting me and my contractor take a walk through it,” I suggested.
“Just give me a time and I’ll make it work,” she said.
“I’ll get with him tomorrow and call you from his office,” I suggested.
“Cool,” she said with that stupid college girl voice.
I went back to my downtown house, put on some warmer clothes, then fired up the bicycle and headed out to McDonald’s for their $1 salad. I ordered through the drive through and put the salad in my basket. On the way home it happened. To make my day complete, there was a pop and the the motor became a brake. It locked up tight at about fifteen miles an hour. I went into a spin, but I managed to get control of the bike before I laid it down.
I lifted, then locked the motor in an upright position and pedaled the bike home. I was huffing and puffing, but I made it. I rolled the bike into the storage room knowing that I couldn’t fix it myself, and that the West End Bike Shop was closed after 5PM. Since there was nothing I could do, I took my salad and resumed my plans for the evening.
When I only had one car, the bike had been my backup, so I had always rushed to do the upkeep. With two cars the pressure was off of me. I really didn’t plan to keep both cars, so I expected to take the bike to the shop after breakfast the next day.
In the meantime I had my cardboard pizza and salad. It was one of those keep me humble things. I did it because my dad had always made me promise not to forget from where I came . Mom and dad had both worked in a cotton mill. I grew up borderline poor, but that was okay. I didn’t miss hot meals as much, when I was staking out a building, or running through some crap hole jungle.
Since I no longer had a television, I cranked up the computer. I went through all the news channel sites and read their latest. Then I switched to one of the free ‘upload a TV show’ sites. I went to them often to find a TV drama I had missed. Sure I could afford cable, but why would I want to pay for something that restricted me to viewing a show when they wanted me to do so. Why not watch TV on my schedule and more or less free.
It was about 9PM when I got too bored to watch anymore TV, so I changed yet again. I wore jeans and a knit top with nothing underneath the top. I wore my usual bikini panties under the jeans since I have sensitive skin down there.
Instead of a hide away holster, I slipped the .38 into the side pocket of my leather jacket. I used the pocket because it had a button down flat. It would never do for the pistol to fall out on the dance floor. That could really kill the mood, especially if it went off.
Once I was dressed, I headed to the Cowboy’s Bar and Grill. When I entered, I noticed that Sarah, the bartender, was deeply involved in a conversation with a way the hell over made up chicklet, who looked to be about fifteen.
Then the chicklet looked up and I almost recognized her. I wasn’t sure, but she did look familiar. “Maxine, don’t you remember me?” she asked.
“I almost do, so who are you sweetie?” I asked.
“I’m Julie, Jack’s daughter,” she informed me.
Damn I thought, Julie is the only minor I ever knowingly slept with and I had forgotten her. I really was slipping. “Julie when did you get home?” I asked.
“Yesterday,” she said.
“And here you are in a beer joint.” I turned my attention to Sarah. “You do know this one is underage?” I asked.
“Oh yes, I was explaining why I can’t hire her.” Sarah said.
“Okay, Julie do you need a ride home?” I asked.
“I have my dad’s car. I guess I do need to get home, unless yo u have a better offer for me?” she said looking at me. Julie hadn’t changed a bit.
“No offers from me. That time passed with the dead Russian and the closing of the party house,” I said. “It was just business anyway.”
“Just business my ass, you loved it, same as me,” she said it angrily as she stormed out.
“What the hell was that all about,” Sarah asked.
“History, and not good history,” I replied shaking my head.
“Hey Maxine, you got a minute,” the male voice came from behind me.
“Sure Eddie, I came to talk to you anyway,” I said.
“I’m flattered,” he said.
“Don’t be, it’s about Ruth and James. I just wanted to warn you. You really need to play straight with them. They are not people you want to piss off.” I said.
“Since they are friends of yours, I would know better without the warning. Plus I kind of got that impression just looking at them.” He paused a moment to let it sink in then changed the subject. “So you wanna dance?”
“Why not,” I replied.
During the dance he said, “You know there is probably a way you could make the deal go easier for your friends.”
“Ah, I’ll bet that if I put out for you, it would go easier right?” I asked smiling wickedly.
“Something like that,” he replied.
“But the land belongs to your daddy, do I have to put out for him as well.” I asked.
“If you wanted to, I expect he would go along with it.” Eddie said with a laugh.
“How about I just go for him, and cut out the middleman.”