Since Eve just turns off and stays turned off until I start moving around, and Leon had the operatives trick of sleeping like the dead, when he felt safe, I was the one who showered first. When I came out my hair was soaked and laying flat against my head in clumps.
I wore my morning outfit just as if I were home alone. I wore grey sweat pants and a red sweat shirt. The were shapeless but they were warm and easy to maintain. I could wear them an hour or two in the morning for a week before I needed to take them to Susu the washer woman.
“Aren’t you the beauty queen?” Leon asked rhetorically.
“Why yes, thank you Mr Gable,” I replied sarcastically.
“It is true that my clothes are crumpled, and I probably smell bad, but all that can be fixed. You, Ms. Stone. will still look the same more or less, when you get cleaned up.” he said with a smile.
“I am cleaned up asshole. I’m not so sure I want or need this much honesty in the mornings,” I replied.
Eve showed up only after everyone else had finished in the bathroom. Leon had used my leg shaving razor to shave his beard which completely wrecked the razor. While Eve ran the water in the bathroom, as if she were showering and doing other morning things, I decided to speak to Leon.
“So, Leon you used my shower and my razor. I’m going to have to run you around this morning so you my friend can buy breakfast,” I said.
“Of course, can we go somewhere they serve crepes?” he asked.
“Not unless you came up with a car over night. If you are dependant on me, it is breakfast at Helen’s, then a walk in the mall. After that we can start deciding whether you will stay or not. If you stay, you are going to need to build a life quickly.” I suggested. “I assume you have access to cash or a credit card, because I do not loan spies money.”
“I can get cash love, and yes I have decided to stay for a while at least,” he suggested.
It was almost nine by the time we got to Helen’s. I had the spicy eggs on a biscuit bag. Eve had a plain bagel with cream cheese and jelly, just to keep up appearances. Leon decided that he would try the eggs with bacon and cheese on a French roll.
Since we were late and there were three of us, I chose a small picnic table for breakfast. “This actually isn’t bad to have come from a bag. It isn’t a four star restaurant, but the food is good and the coffee is wonderful for a side of the road restaurant,” Leon admitted.
“If you drive twenty miles to Tryon, there are many good restaurants. Some of them are rated, but most aren’t. Just like you would find in any other town its size,” I volunteered.
“I am going to need a car for sure. Even if I don’t settle here, I am going to settle in the states. A car is the only way to get around. Why don’t you sell me one of the cruisers?” he asked.
“Because we have gotten along so far, the quickest way to have hard feeling is to sell you a car. I have no idea why, but if I sell anything to a friend it is garbage in a month and we blame each other for it. So. the answer is no on the sale, but you can borrow it or rent it for a couple of weeks, if you need it for more than a quick trip somewhere.” It was the best I was going to do for him, otherwise I would take him to Hertz or one of the other rent shops.
After breakfast I drove the three of us to the mall where we began to walk. After lap two, the dancer showed up. I never quite figured her out, so I wasn’t surprised when she and Leon took an instant dislike to each other.
“Phony bitch,” Leon said as we walked away from her. “She dresses and acts like she is European, but she is just Euro-trash wanna be. You would be surprised how much of that I see in the states.”
“I’m gonna have to take your word for it. I have no experience with Euro-trash real or fake,” I admitted with a grin.
“Then you are indeed fortunate.” Leon suggested turning his attention to a mens store which had just opened it’s grill. “You two continue on, I’m going shopping.”
“I am surprised that you are willing to shop in our little mall,” I admitted.
“Good clothes are good clothes, poorly made clothes are the same everywhere. At the moment I expect everything to be trash, so one trash heap is the same as another,” he informed me.
After a few yards into that next lap the dancer came up behind us just booking it. “Who is that dreadful man?” she asked.
“Friend of a friend, I am entertaining him for a few days,” I lied.
“Well he is so damned arrogant,” she said. “I don’t think I have ever met anyone so arrogant.”
“Actually I find him not quite so arrogant as most of the French people I have met. Still you would know better than me.” I admitted.
“How long is he going to be in town?” she asked. She didn’t seem near as frosty as she had when they met.
“He is likely to be around either a few days, or maybe move here permanently,” I replied vaguely. “He is looked for a place to retire.”
“Ah well, Aster is a good place for that,” she said without much conviction.
You have no idea, I thought. “I like it here, so his friend thought he might as well.”
While Leon was shopping the estimator for ‘His Laboring Few’ ministry called me. He informed me that he had arranged with Billy Ames to get into the two buildings. The Laundromat was open, so it was first. After he did an estimate to bring it up to code and made measurements for other things he would meet us at the drugstore. He figured it would be lunch before he could get Billy out there.
“So it’s noon at the drugstore,” I suggested.
“Yeah, I’ll call you, if there are any changes.” he promised.
“We had an hour and a half to kill, so Leon do you want to start looking for a place to crash, or do you want to look for a car to rent?” I asked.
“Actually, I want to look for Vlad, he is supposed to be coming in on a plane today. So, can I borrow one of the cruisers to pick them up?” he asked.
“Of course, what time are they due in?” I asked.
“The plane lands at 12:30. I should have them clear of the airport by 1PM I think,” he said.
“Do they have a place to stay?” I asked.
“They know a motel that doesn’t ask questions and isn’t too seedy,” Leon admitted.
“Well why didn’t you stay there last night?” I thought about it just a second then said, “Don’t answer that, it would be embarrassing.” Leon just nodded.
When we got back to the Downtown House, I gave him the keys to the Woodie. I wanted to keep the Maroon Cruiser just in case we wanted to take the bikes somewhere. The walk had been longer than usual, because Leon was a picky shopper. It took him two hours to do what I could have done in five minutes.
I sat looking out my big front window, while I drank another cup of coffee and tried to decide how I felt about the drugstore. Even more importantly, how I felt about having Jen for a neighbor.
Before I knew it, I recognized a man on the sidewalk as the “Few’s” foreman. He was walking around outside the drugstore. I left the coffee cup and jaywalked across the street.
“So what do you think?” I asked.
“I think the laundromat is a good deal as far as renovations are concerned. Billy kept it up pretty well, not great but pretty well. It’s also built more recently and was built for simplicity. Nothing fancy there.” he said.
“That’s what I wanted to hear,” I replied.
“This one I don’t know about yet. It’s steel post and beam construction. It’s how they would have built it, if it were 1800s construction, only it would have been wood. I can give you an idea in a few minutes then you can decide if you want the full repair estimate.”
The deal we had worked out was a free preliminary estimate, then a hundred bucks for a full detailed estimate guaranteed to within five percent. The hundred would be deducted if they got the job. That being the case I just nodded to him my agreement. Since there was no place to get a cup of coffee and my place was right across the street, I decided to leave the two of them to their walk through the building. “Come on over when you finish and I’ll give you a cup of coffee for your efforts.” I said.
“Fair enough,” the reformed drunk agreed.
“I have to get back to the office, but thanks for the invitation, another time?” Billy asked.
“Sure, Jen said she would call you to set up a time to do the paperwork for both places at once,” I explained to Billy. He nodded, then the two men went back inside the building.
It was almost an hour since the foreman took measurements and gave the building a good look see assessment. He had plenty of time for the preliminary estimate. I had the coffee on and fresh. I was also dressed in jeans and a clean sweatshirt.
“So what’s the bad news?” I asked as I handed him the coffee.
“My first guess is 75K to 125K as a first guess. That is just the structural repairs and adding some kind of fire escapes. You know you will need those to pass code.” he reminded me. You are still going to have heat and air for it and plumbing and electrical. I have reviewed your preliminary plans and it will be close, I think. If there is any profit it will be long term.”
“Yeah from the Downtown House, I learned to think long term. since I’m not a real estate developer, I’m not too concerned with the payback time on it. I just want to fill a need I see. So. let’s see if I can work out something with the bank. If I can, when can you get with me to give me a binding estimate?” I asked.
“Most any time Maxine, you are our best customer. Not the biggest, just the one that is the most fun.” he said it flashing me with his almost toothless smile.
I called Billy at his office, “Give me a price for the Laundromat, and then plan to sign a release on the drugstore.” I said.
“I decided that I want a thousand dollars cash to sign over the drugstore,” he said.
“How the hell did you ever stay in business Billy. All you had to do was to add that to the price of the Laundromat. You are about to blow this deal because you are a stupid negotiator. Give me a fucking price you dip stick.” I said angrily.
“The laundromat is paid for so it’s 45K for that and the release,” he said.
“No way,” Sorry to have wasted your time. We are through.” I said. In his case, it was a mild shut down, not a final word.
“What do you have in mind? You know the Laundromat is worth that?” he made it a question.
“I’m getting a laundromat I don’t really want, and a building that is going to cost me a fortune. Now there is a real deal. I can just buy a downtown building and turn it into a laundromat for half that.”
“Alright Maxine $39K for my interest in the downtown drugstore and the laundromat.” he said.
“I’ll call Jen, and have her girl call you with a time to do the papers.” I said.
“This is cash Maxine, I’m not carrying any paper.”
“Not to worry Billy. it’s all cash but probably an escrow check from Jen,” I said as if I were talking to a child.