Eve and I left the the fortress, which had once been my downtown office. I no longer had any need for an office. I hadn’t hadn’t needed it even when I renovated the building Lucas occupied at that moment. The bike ride back to my downtown house was only five minutes. Traffic was light as it almost always was in the downtown. If for some sick reason, one wanted to ride in real traffic, she would be forced to ride to the mall area.
There were a few old established neighborhoods around town whose streets could be used for exercise. I knew where they were and the best times to ride through them. Anytime actually was good for the classy old neighborhoods, since traffic was always light there.
There were also a few areas best left off the bicycle route. Those were some housing projects built in the seventies and eighties with government money. They were still subsidized for the poor. The towns more violent youth seemed to be spawned in those areas. There was also a high rise government subsidized apartment building two blocks north of my downtown house. It was filled with the gray hair and aluminum walker generation. It was the least violent area of town.
There were a lot of buildings in the downtown that were empty, but just as many with small businesses of one sort or another. The mills were pretty much all gone, but there were other things springing up now and then. Even so, overall the job situation was not good in Aster. There weren’t a lot of jobs in Tryon either. All in all the job picture in the whole state was pretty depressing.
It was not pleasant to know that those very conditions were going to help make the retired operatives lives better in Aster. There would be a lower cost of living, than in most other places with as mild a climate. The retired operatives would bring a different economy with them. Their wealth, such as it was, came from outside Aster. How that would play out remained to be seen.
I was not making plans based on an operative economy. I also didn’t plan to ignore them. What I planned, was to put some of the money I had made, and some of the local people to work, if possible.
The pool hall project was my first step. Helen had complained for years that she needed a place to have a local wedding reception. At the moment she had to drive to Tryon to find a hall to seat a hundred or more people. Well one that had any class anyway, not everyone wanted to have their wedding reception at the VFW club.
Once we were home I took a shower, then we each drifted off to our own thoughts. I hung around on the Internet checking out this and that. My interest ranged from sex chat rooms to new industries in the emerging countries of the world. I knew there were far too many regulations for me to build cheap automobiles, or any of the other products built in developing nations. We were allowing them to rape their environments for our convenience. Some of the cheap products found their way to the United States, but there were plenty of regulations to discourage the cheapest of the cheap from making it here.
So I went to bed with no new ideas, just a determination to make a difference and still make money. I had all kinds of nightmares, which made it a pretty normal night for me. I never slept really well, though I didn’t realize it since I seldom remembered the nightmares. That night they woke me. I had the sensation of choking on a penis. In spite of what men think, women do not love that sensation. Choking is choking. I doubt that anyone would ask a person whose airway just got cleared of a piece of steak, “Was it good for you honey?”
Eve was by my side when I awoke. She was looking up to be sure that I wasn’t in any real danger, “Bad dream?” she asked.
“Yes, one of the worst,” I rolled away from her and promptly fell asleep again. I could sleep most anywhere and at anytime. It was one of my better traits, most likely a lifelong training result.
Morning finally came. Even thought I had slept most of the night, I was glad to see the sun shining through my large windows. The building faced east, so if I was awake in time, I could see the sunrise over the lower building in front of mine. The ground clutter wasn’t all that great of a view, but the sunrise some mornings was spectacular.
After a morning cup of coffee and a quick email check, I was ready for a bike ride out to breakfast. The bikes were both probably in need of expert service, but with Eve it wouldn’t matter at all. She wouldn’t know the difference. She was forced to throttle back as far as possible, I’m sure, so that she wouldn’t ride off and leave me in the dust.
In my case the work out was good for me, but I did intend to read up on how to maintain the bike a little better. Nonetheless, I made it to Helen’s place which was a mile north of my downtown house at the very least. Eve and I parked our bikes in front of the building, in a space between the cars and the sidewalk. There was barely enough room, but we made them fit.
Eve drank her coffee, while I ate breakfast. “Maxine, would you give me your autograph?” one of the cops asked.
“Steve, why the hell are you bustin’ my balls this morning. It’s way too early for this shit,” I said.
“Come on Maxine, you are the only celebrity in town,” his sergeant said.
“I ain’t no celebrity. I just happened to be the victim of circumstances and my own greed.” I admitted.
“There is talk that you might win an Emmy. I would love to see you two in designer gowns,” one of the paramedics added.
“When pigs fly,” I said.
“Which? when you win an Emmy, or wear an evening gown?” The female paramedic’s partner asked.
“Either,” I suggested. “There is nothing entertaining about that show. You guys just watch it to see if you show up in the background,” I said it loud enough for everyone to hear.
“Come on Max, there is something appealing and humorous about you trying to be sexy,” one of the younger cops said.
“Now that’s the kind of talk I expect at the Cop Out, not here,” I said only half kidding.
“Then you need to come to the Cop Out more,” the sergeant suggested.
“You don’t want my company, you just want the free pizza,” I said with a laugh.
“That too,” one of the paramedic chicks suggested with a laugh.
“Come on Eve they are not going to let us eat in peace. You EMS guys might want to cruise through Emerywood in about a half hour. We are going bike riding out there. One of the old money crowd might shoot us for trespassing,” I admitted.
The ride was about three miles out and three miles back according to the gps information on my cell phone. I was exhausted when I got back to the downtown house. I managed another shower before I dressed for the day.
“So what’s our plan for today?” Eve asked.
“You are going to do some research. I want to know, who owns the Cop Out Club and Cowboy’s Bar and Grill,” I said to Eve.
It took Eve thirty seconds to break into the country’s tax records. She pulled the business licenses of both places and gave me a print out. Both clubs were owner operated, so that left me with a less than easy row to hoe. Convincing one of them to sell might not be so easy. I had no idea whether the owners were making any money or not.
“You want me to pull their income tax returns?” Eve asked.
“You are something else. Sure, why not, let’s see if they are making any money,” I agreed.
“The Cop Out declared a profit of $78k and change,” Eve said in a voice remarkably like my own.
“Cowboy’s did considerably worse,” she said. “After all their expenses they made only $33K.”
“My guess is that they both make a bit more than that, but those figure were what they couldn’t hide. See how much they each paid their managers,” I suggested.
“The Cop Out paid their manager $50k plus a small bonus at Christmas. Cowboys paid $35k no bonus.” Eve informed me.
“So my guess is the owner/manager of the cop out made $125k and whatever he could skim. He has a pretty good thing going. He isn’t likely to want to sell out at a bargain price. Cowboy’s has the right price, but the wrong atmosphere. If I bought it, I would also be buying the baggage.” I said aloud. “Can you draw the floor plan of the pool hall from memory?” I asked Eve.
“You know that I can,” she said almost surly.
“Hey watch that attitude,” I said with a smile. That had to be the controller in charge. It was getting harder to tell the difference. Eve did something with the computer and a couple of minutes later a floor plan of the building appeared on the screen.
“Okay on the second floor we want a wall right down the middle from north to south.” A second later it miraculously appeared. “Good now in the front room we want an industrial steel pipe hand rail like you would see in a parking garage.” It appeared as a dotted line.
“Now shade in an area behind it about twelve by fourteen. Then show the floor raised a foot and designate it the dining room. Put another hand rail to separate it from the kitchen. Then designate the wall over the parking lot as the kitchen area.”
“Now at the dividing wall between the two units measure 20 feet and add a wall between the space and the dining room. Designate it the bedroom. Cut off a section on the parking lot wall adjacent to the kitchen to use as a bathroom and dressing room with a giant closet included.”
“Now flop that plan for the rear unit,” I suggested. “We will have to add big fancy windows on the rear. We need to do it, even though they will overlook nothing but the park back there. The sunset might be nice, I really have never noticed it. My rear looks out onto an alley and the rear of another building, so I have no afternoon view.” I admitted.
“So what about the first floor of the building?” Eve asked.
“That is going to be Helen’s banquet hall,” I suggested. “You know we could use it for special occasions, if we get enough people here.” I said it thinking out loud more than anything else.
“And what about the basement?” Eve asked.
“To be honest, I hadn’t planned to do anything at all with it, but after having checked out the only two clubs in town, I might just open a watering hole there.”
“Maxine’s Cafe American?” Eve asked. At that point it was obvious that she was the controller.
“Hardly,” I said with a laugh. I stood looking at the plans quite a few minutes before the phone rang. I let it grudgingly pull me from my schemes. “Hello,” I said into it.
“Maxine, I was wondering if you would consider speaking at our high school graduation?” the voice asked.
“Who the hell is this and it’s a lousy joke,” I said angrily.
“Maxine, it’t the mayor and it’s no joke,” she continued.
“I’m sorry Mayor, you don’t want me to speak at anything official. I’m sorry, I’m just not the inspirational type.” I was scrambling trying to think of someway to easy my initial response. I sounded like the awful bitch that I am in reality.
“Nonsense, you are the first celebrity to ever come from here,” the mayor said.
“Have you seen that TV show Mayor?” I asked.
“Of course,” she said.
“I’ll make you a deal. I’ll send over the episodes that have already run, after you see them, if you still want me to speak, I’ll do it.” She reluctantly agreed. “I;m going to be me, so be sure you really want that.”