“You are going to need to start looking for a car. Your check has been mailed it should be in your hands by the end of the week.” the insurance agent’s secretary told me.
“Okay well I guess I’ll have to take a look around to see what’s available.” I suggested.
“Yes, when the check is delivered we expect the rental car to be returned that same day,” she said.
“That certainly sounds reasonable enough,” I said into the phone.
When the call came in, Sylvia was sitting at the industrial stainless steel table used in my house for a dining room table When the call ended she asked, “Are you going to buy another car like you had?”
“Lord no, I would have to go all over hell to find another of those. Since they are off the phone, and I know I’m getting paid for the stolen car, I am going to go to Craig’s list and look. While I do that, you call the A1 people. I want that building.
We were both on the phone for a few minutes at a time. I called three people until I found one who had what I wanted. For the last couple of years I had been wishing for a small pickup truck. It seemed to be the right time to take some concrete steps toward one. By 3pm I had an appointment to see a bright orange Nissan pickup. It was five years old, but the owner swore that it had not been abused. The guy agreed to ride with me over to my mechanic’s place even.
Since I saved the mechanic’s ass, he should be up to checking out the truck for me. Problem was that he got sick of the thugs and moved on. I knew one more mechanic. I drove the truck, with the owner inside up to the back of a mill house. When I beeped the horn a man in coveralls came out the door.
“Is that you Maxine?” the man my age asked.
“Yeah its me Simon. So how you been?’ I asked.
“Oh I been good,” he said.
“You still mess with cars?” I asked
“Yeah, I still buy and sell them now and then. What you need sweetie?” he asked.
“Take a look at this pick up and tell me how bad I’m gonna’ get stung,” I demanded. It looked as though the owner wasn’t going to take offense.
“Well, if the mileage is right it is mid range. The motor looks clean and sounds fine. Brakes and clutch seem strong. Tires are not too bad, it say this truck is in average to slightly above average condition. Hold on while I get my laptop.”
“The owner said, “If he tells you it worth more than I’m asking, do I get the difference.”
Simon came back and told me the truck was worth about two hundred bucks less than the owner was asking. “You heard the man,” I said smiling.
“Well I have wasted a lot of time with you, so let’s do the deal.” the owner said.
I showed him the wad of money in my shoulder bag. “Lets go where there is a notary public.”
“Suits me,” he replied.
It took the rest of that day to get the tittle straight and the registration. I explained about the stolen Cruiser at least five times. I did finally get permission and paperwork to drive the truck home for the evening.
When I walked through the door just before five, Sylvia was waiting. “Is there any reason we can’t take another look at the A1 building tomorrow?”
“None that I can think of,” I replied.
“Good, I have made us an appointment, 1PM.” she said.
“We should be able to do that no problem,” I suggested.
Sylvia was in a rush to leave, so I assumed that she and Peter were doing something. I really didn’t want to know what they were up to. It was none of my business, so I set my mind to other things.
I went into rest mode and tried to power down. It was hard to power down, but I did manage. The operation we had just finished ran through my mind. I wondered how much the CIA knew. I firmly believed that they had turned the Senator. I had my doubts about his good intentions, but blackmail is a strong motivator to do the right thing.
Before I realized it a new day had begun. I did my usual things. In other words I did nothing constructive till almost noon. Still there were only three days till Christmas. Not wanting to get involved in anything that was going to drag out seemed reasonable to me.
Before I even got back from my morning walk the phone was ringing. I was half way around the top floor of the mall for the third time when it rang. “Hello,” I said cautiously.
“Maxine it’s Reverend Archer, I need a favor.” the voice said.
“Oh what kind of favor?” I asked.
“There is a turkey processing plant in Wilkins. That’s about a hundred miles away. Anyhow they are having labor trouble, so they had a plant walkout last night. The supervisors managed to get the birds into the freezer. So now they got a couple of hundred turkeys they will donate to the Christmas dinner, if we pick them up.”
“When do we get to the ‘why you need me’ part of this fairy tale?” I asked.
“They have some bad ass labor agitators from New York. I don’t want my people to get hurt, but these people need to eat as well.” Archer said angrily.
“Reverend you better not be selling my services as a strike breaker. You know you don’t want me pissed at you,” I informed him.
“You can buy coffee and dough nuts for Jimmy Hoffa as far as I’m concerned. I just want that food for hungry people.” The Reverend sounded convincing, I will give him that. I let him stew a little, then agreed. Hell I wasn’t doing anything else.
“Can we hold off till three?” I asked.
“I will have a truck in the parking lot behind your house at three pm,” he said.
“Fair enough,” I agreed. What I didn’t say to him was that I would be up to my ass in real business until probably the last second. It was hard to concentrate on finishing the walk after the call but I did anyway.
At noon when Sylvia arrived, I had been home two hours at least. After I explained everything to Sylvia she said, “So this is your good deed for Christmas?”
“Something like that, but we still have to look at the A1 building,” I said.
“Yes but we have a few minutes. I need to talk to you about something,” she said.
“Okay let’s hear it,” I suggested.
“Peter is going to talk to you about a computer and game store. Please be kind to him.” Sylvia said.
“If he has a good argument, I will go along, if not, I won’t, just like anyone else,” I admitted.
“Then I will tell him to be sure he has all his ducks lined up,” she said.
“Yes, he needs to have the answers to the most obvious questions,” I replied. Now we need to go meet the Realtor for the A1holdings.”
The Realtor was a man, who had more hair in his brush, than on his head. He seemed to be very bright though. He explained the company thinking, then I explained my thinking. After he heard what my intention was he shook his head.
“I know you have checked my reputation. So trust me when I say I will go through with the deal as I have set it up. I will pay off their building and leave their credit history reasonably clean.” I said.
“I am sure the company will be glad to hear that. I do know they expect something for the expenses they incurred with the building. The appraised value of the building is 110,000.“
“What date was that appraisal?’ I asked.
“That was the value when the building was purchased,” he said.
“For the first time in my memory real estate is worth less to day than it was last year,” I said.
“So the equity is inflated at the moment,” the Realtor said. What kind of equity deal are you willing to work out?”
“Twenty thousand cash for your client and I will pay off the mortgage,” I suggested.
“Well, I will submit the offer,” he said.
I suddenly lost patience. This was the second time I had contacted them. “Well sir it’s like this, if they want to discuss this further have them bring the papers and we will meet at the bank. If I don’t hear from you before the first of the year, then we are finished.”
“That sounds fair,” he replied.
“I’m glad you think so.” I said.
I found time before I met the Reverend’s truck to return the Chevy. I got all that done and was still sitting in the parking lot at 3PM. Parked several yards from the truck I noticed a small compact car. There was seldom a car parked in the lot, so I did a little quick checking with Peter. He was able to identify the car without any throuble. The car belonged to Channel 6 news. The only reasonable explanation was that they planned going along on the road trip.
The reverend expected some kind of confrontation that’s why he called me. I did not need the press tagging along. That would be one of those do you still beat your children moments. Things would be much better if they happened in the dark.
I knocked on the window of the passenger side. I was surprised to find the early twenties redhead. “Tell me you don think you are going with us?” I asked rudely.
“Either going with you or following you there,” the redhead said.
“Do your damnedest,” I said returning to the truck.
I rode two and a half hours to get to the plant. I h ad hoped that by the time we got there the picketers would have gone, No such luck. I walked to the gate even though the outside was blocked by strikers.
“Maxine Stone here for a pickup,” I said.
“Bring your truck on in,” he said.
“Gentlemen you might want to move I am a terrible driver and that is no joke,” I said.
The TV Lights came on and I knew there was going to be a row. How bad it was going to be was anybody’s guess at that point. He came from the rear of the crowd. He had either just walked up or he had been lurking waiting for the optimum TV moment.
“You can’t cross this picket line,” the man said.
“I can empathies with you, but I have several homeless people who need this food. Surely the unions wouldn’t deny hungry people food.”
“Of course not,” he said
“Good then stand clear,” I replied. I was being perfectly reasonable, but I had my hand on the butt of the .38 which rested in my parka’s pocket.
“I feel for your homeless and hungry, but we can’t allow food to leave this plant. How do we know you are who you say you are.” he asked.
“Because I told you who I was. That should be way more than enough,” I suggested. Sure there were some jeers. I just smiled. I had expected that and worse and the worse was yet to come.
“You are not passing,” the union man said again.
“Yes I am, actually, I thought I might get a handful of your guys to help me load this truck, in the spirit of Christmas.” I said.
“Woman or not I will stop you,” he growled.
“Your friends might, but I promise you will be dead. You are the first mother fucker I’m going to shoot. Count on it.” He obviously did not believe me at first, but then he saw my face and he understood that I wasn’t joking at all. He would indeed be the first dead man on the picket line. Being a martyr in theory is a beautiful thing. It just isn’t as cool when you are looking someone in the eyes of someone willing to make it happen for you.
I made damn sure none of my words got filmed for the channel 6 news. Unlike the union bosses, I had no use for the coverage. The union thug, as I characterized him, had to decide between, making a grandstanding feed the homeless speech, or being dead. He made the right choice.
I let his version of the ‘magnanimous union’ stand. Why not no one cared. It was a long drive but I arrived home at midnight. Most importantly I got the job done and had no blood on my hands. I considered it a good day.