The very first thing I noticed about the abandoned drugstore was the floor. The tiles were black and white stone about a foot square. If that floor were to be removed carefully, it would be worth a bunch of money, I thought at the time.
The walls and ceilings were painted plaster with a lot of cracks from the building settling. They looked a lot worse than they were. That I had learned from the downtown house renovation. The preacher’s paint crew patched mine and yes the patches were visible but it was called character.
The front wall would need the dreadful chrome and glass store front removed and something classy installed. I had no idea what that might be at the time. I knew it wouldn’t be the granite block veneer of the original building. I was sure something striking could be done on a budget.
The second flood was one big open space. It had been used for storage even the wooden racks used to sort the boxes were still in place. There was probably better wood in that storage unit, than I could buy at the Home Depot or Lowe’s.
The third floor was also open, it was possible to see out the front windows while standing beside the rear ones. The floors in both of the upper stories seemed to be unfinished hardwood. That would not surprise me at all since it is what was in my Downtown House. The ceiling was cracked and damaged on the upper floor and the floor had water damage. Again I knew from my own house that it could be repaired by the ‘Few’. It wouldn’t be easy or free, but it could be done reasonably.
I checked the stairs in the rear and they were in very good condition. There had never been a real elevator, only a manual hoist for the movement of product between floors. The shaft was there but the block and tackle was laying in a heap at the bottom of it. Hemp rope didn’t last forever. Adding a service lift would be possible but expensive. The rear service stairs was the only way up the building. There was however a metal fire escape system in the alley on the north side of the building.
The fire exit for the two units on the south side of the building might be a challenge. The builder had used the same large windows on both sides of the building, so in theory a fire escape could be added to the south side as well. The major problem was that those would hang over the town’s pedestrian sidewalk. I wasn’t too sure how the town fathers would feel about that. There might be some horse trading to come.
I could work something out, even if it was a fireman’s slide pole, I thought. I was pretty well impressed with the building. Both the size and the condition seemed to be acceptable. Of course I was no structural engineer, that is why I had the ‘Few’ come look at all property I was considering.
“Okay Billy, are we going to do a song and dance, or are you going to give me your best price up front?” I asked.
“No song and dance and no negotiations, They are going to foreclose on this place in two weeks. If you can save it from foreclosure it’s yours,” he said.
“And what will that take?” I asked.
“Seventy five grand, plus a few more bucks,” he said.
“Who is holding the paper on the place?” I asked.
“Siler Savings and Loan,” he replied simply.
“Billy is this the only property you have going into foreclosure? How about the Laundromat on Church Street?”
“Max I’m losing almost all of it. That one I can keep only because it pays it’s own way. As for most of it, the more I can moved to someone else, the less my judgment will be. If I ever want to go in business again, I would have to get that judgment. I need to keep it low enough to one day pay off,” he said.
I was sure that he was spitting into the wind, but I didn’t want to burst his bubble. “Okay how much to buy the laundromat?” I asked.
“That one is about forty for the building, and ten for the equipment,” he said hopefully. What he didn’t know, was that I wanted that laundromat a lot more than the drugstore. I figured the fifty thousand was a deal, if I could get the ‘Few’ to sign off on it.
“Here is what we are going to do Billy, I am going to get my renovation crew to come inspect both these properties and they will tell me what the repairs are going to cost me. After that a commercial real estate appraiser will look at my plans and he will tell me what they will be worth when I’m finished. To me the buildings are worth half of that difference between the two figures. Do you understand?”
“Of course, that is more than fair. The Drugstore you will have to deal with the S&L though,” he reiterated.
“I got it. I can get the crew out to look at the laundromat today and maybe this building as well. So lets get started on that.” I said that as I dialed the number for ‘His Laboring Few Ministry’. Eve and I moved the bikes across the street. The homeless man was gone when we left the drugstore. I was sure that he would turn up again.
I got a call into Jen just before she left for the day. “Jen, Billy will be calling you if he hasn’t already.”
“He has. The man is desperate to dump that property. Not so much the laundromat, but the other one.” she said.
“I want the laundromat more than the drugstore, so make the deal dependent on that. Get me authority to deal with the S&L, before I invest any time into the project.”
“I’ll get it taken care of tomorrow. If the ‘Few’ give you the green light are you going through with it?” Jen asked.
“I’m pretty sure I will yes,” I said.
“You are going to setup a reception hall in the first floor?” she asked.
“That is the plan. I’m going to let Helen design it, I think.” I admitted.
That’s a big building isn’t it?”
“Yes it is,” I said, not sure where it was all going.
“Could you work in a little lobby with a fancy set of stairs going up to the second floor?” she asked.
“You know the few can do anything, what are you thinking Jen?” I asked.
“I know you are thinking of making condos, so how about I buy the second floor. You won’t have to touch it. You just get the building solid again and I’ll do the rest.” she said.
“Jen you have a nice office and house, why would you want to move there?” I asked.
“It’s a class location and I’d have room to grow,” she admitted.
“Jen, it is not a class location by any means,” I said.
“Classier than mine for sure,” she said. “Plus I am right there for Helen to handle my Christmas party.”
“I had planned on each of the two floor paying half of the total cost of purchase and renovations,” I admitted.
“Then I’ll pay 50% of the building’s purchase and 50% of the repair cost including Helen’s space. I’ll draw up the sales contract, if you think you can trust me?” she said.
“Jen, you have my power of attorney. If you wanted to screw me, this deal would be the very least of my worries.” I said.
“Good then is it a deal?” she asked.
“You know that you can still back out anytime up till we close,” I said.
“I know. Now say we have a deal you slut, so that I can start picking out colors,” she said.
“All right, we have a deal,” I said.
That still left me two units I could convert for the newcomers. I doubted that any of them would want to stay there permanently. I also had my doubts that anyone would really want to settle in Aster.
It was late enough after my call with Jen so that Eve and I went to the Cowboy’s Bar and Grill. I hadn’t been there in a while and I had an urge for their greasy burger with chili, mustard, onions and slaw. Sarah, one of the two regular bartenders, greeted me with a smile and a cup of coffee.
“Sarah love this is Eve, Eve this is my cowgirl buddy Sarah,” I smiled at them both. After they nodded I continued. “Sarah I want one of your burger beer joint style,” I said.
“Yes ma’am, what can I get for you Eve?” she asked.
“I think just a beer please,” she said.
“What kind sweetie, we have about a dozen brands,” she informed her.
Eve smiled and whispered, “Surprise me, they all taste alike to me.” There was that hint of humanity again.
Sarah said. “One burger and one draft it is.”
I finally turned toward the room and looked around. Helen’s step daughter Julie was sitting in a booth against the back wall. I thought about running her ass out again, but she was working and as far as I knew had straightened out. Of course, I thought she was seeing Lucas, and it wasn’t Lucas who shared the booth with her. Since her love life was none of my business, I turned back in time to see Sarah set the burger down in front of me.
“Coffee, Burger and beer comes to $5.24,” she said. “Want me to start you a tab hon?”
“I better pay as I go. I never know when I will have to leave in a hurry.” I said smiling.
“Yeah, seems it’s either you leave all heated up, or with the cops escort you out.” Sarah said with a laugh. “Hey now I ain’t complaining,” she went on. “These cowboys need to learn to respect women. You are about the only one who can for sure make them.”
“Well I do try,” I said.
“Don’t let her kid you Sarah, Maxine never takes prisoners,” Eve said smiling.
“Are you trying to get me thrown out of here?” I asked after Sarah had gone.
“You have to be kidding, that chick has a crush on you.” Eve said.
“You are so full of it.” After I finished the burger and the coffee a man who I had never seen before asked me to dance. Not only did he ask politely, he had a very distinguished voice.
I was about to stand when Eve whispered, “It’s the homeless man.” I gave him a more serious look and sure enough it was.
“Would you rather go somewhere and talk or dance?” I asked.
“Dance first, then talk,” he said. “Actually I would prefer to dance with both of you. One at a time of course. then talk to both of you at once.”
“Oh, is talk what you have in mind?” I asked.
“Well at first anyway,” he replied. The man was a player for sure. He wasn’t a rough trade operative like me and Martin, he was a finesse operative. He was the one who slipped into the office over lunch and copies the files.
“Then lets find a table where we can leave Eve while we dance,” I suggested. Eve moved to a booth along the side of the room near the bathrooms. She wouldn’t need the bathroom but she could keep an eye on the room from her location. Not that the stranger and I weren’t doing it as well.
“So do you have a name?” I asked.
“Everyone has a name. In my case I have more than one, don’t you?” he asked.
“Not often, I work the other side of the street.” I said.
“What makes you think, I work anything?” he asked.
“You are a bum in the morning and a dandy in the evening.” I said with a nod.
“How did you recognize me?” he asked.
“It’s a small town. Two strangers approach me in one day. That is a coincidence and I always look a co-inky-dink in the mouth,” I said.
“Good policy,” he suggested.
“Now the name?” I asked.
“My favorite name is Leon,” he said.
“Then Leon it is,” I replied as we danced and I felt his penis stiffen.