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UnderstandingThe Business: Journal II
By Hollie Delaney
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Hollie Delaney
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI woke to the cell phone ringing. Not on the bedside table, somewhere on the floor. I looked at the clock, 1:00 p.m. I remembered. Sat up. Looked at James lying next to me wrapped in the blanket. Felt his cheek. Cold. Slack. No underlying tension. No breath. No movement ... but something. Not what I would consider dead, not really. There was something. I moved carefully not to disturb him. Smiled when it occurred to me that I couldn't.
The cell was in the pocket of my sweats. Mary had called. I closed the door when I left the bedroom. Let him wake in privacy. First night. I was in one piece. I assumed he was fine. Who knew? I made coffee, felt pretty good. I'd feel better after a much needed shower. Took the coffee to the library. Turned on the computer. Returned her call.
"Hey Mary, what's up?"
"Did I wake you?" She sounded excited.
"No. Not really. Just being lazy."
"Contractor's here working on the door and your window. Are you good with the final plans? They were in looking at the walls that need to come down. I think they plan to start the serious work."
"Yeah, I'm good. Thanks for asking."
"Did you forget something yesterday Victoria?" Rats. Sam last night. No, yesterday, lunch.
"I'll call Sam. Shit. Nina upset?"
"Not that I can tell. I'm going to have to pin notes to your coat. Nina said Sam called her and she had a lovely lunch. She told him you must have been OBEed, overcome by events. When you've made nice with Sam call me back and tell me about the man on the horse. I'm waiting." Mary hung up. I knew it wasn't forgotten.
I called Sam, made profuse apologies. Asked if he was interested in trying again. He didn't sound upset. A good faker or laid back. I didn't know him well enough to know which. We rescheduled for drinks tomorrow at four, same place. I penciled it in the calendar, wrote a big sticky note, stuck it on the refrigerator.
I realized that I hadn't looked at the calendar since Friday. Not good. Maybe I should learn to set the cell calendar so it would yell at me. Yesterday I wouldn't have gone, but at least I would have called with regrets. I went through the emails. Called Mary back.
"Sam's fine. Rescheduled. So what about yesterday?"
"I was on my way to the beach. You were on a horse with the guy from Billy's pen and ink without the body art. Just tell me yes or no so I can call Cheryl for the name of her shrink, ok?" Fuck it.
"I was on the horse."
"Vicky, the guy I saw before, right? With the tattoos? The guy from the picture. Right?" I wondered how far she would go with this.
I gave myself a minute to think. Felt the talisman buzz against my ankle. Heard movement in the bedroom, heard the door open.
"Answer her if you would like Victoria."
"He's there isn't he?" She asked.
"Yes. Yes to both." I waited for Mary to speak.
"Thanks Vic. Billy talked to me over the years. He was right, wasn't he?"
"What a hoot. Don't worry. I've never said a word about Billy's little talks. I'm not going to start now. Boy, what a relief. I though I was losing it. Does he have the necklace? Oh, he was in the funeral home. Ok. He let Billy go, right?" Click, click, click for Mary's brain. The pieces were coming together.
"I'll ask and yes."
"Can you talk?"
"Oh, yeah. That's not a problem. Just not on the phones. I'm not comfortable with the subject on the phones. That's all."
"Big time. Come in a little early tomorrow before your Closing. We can walk to the park, ok?"
"Good idea. Call if you need me. Thanks." I clicked off.
By the time I had finished with Mary, James was standing in front of me wrapped in the blanket I'd given him. I smiled, stood, gave him a kiss.
"Welcome back. Felt you wake but no tickle."
"Why say good morning through the talisman when I can walk out here." He wrapped me tightly in the blanket, held me. Returned the kiss. "Good morning. Did I bother your sleep?"
"No. I slept great. Just got up. How'd you do?"
"I woke. I am always grateful to wake. Thank you for letting me stay. It opens many doors for us. Waking to your voice made my heart sing. How is Mary?"
"Seems to be alright. She passed us riding to Ledge House yesterday. Had passed you coming here last weekend. Apparently Billy and she had talked about things over the years, yadda-yada. Much to my surprise Mary's started putting things together. You don't seem surprised."
"Yadda-yada?" He thought the expression was serious. I laughed.
"Just a phrase. Rather than saying etcetera." I stepped out of the blanket, grabbed my coffee. Returned to my chair. His eyes followed. I lifted the coffee cup. "I'm not a morning person, need the coffee."
"I am also not a morning person." James smiled. "I am not surprised Mary has begun to understand. She could not live with Billy for so long in complete ignorance. Victoria, Mary does not know that my wheel does not turn. Be cautious."
"Thanks. She wants to talk tomorrow. Do you have Billy's necklace? She's been looking for it."
"Yes, I have Billy's amulet. No. I will return it to Billy when I see him next." James looked at the computer screen.
"Can you access the information for the apartment next door?"
"Sure." A couple of key strokes later James was looking over my shoulder scanning the east condo information. I moved through the fact sheet into the pictures.
"May I?" James moved the trackball around the pages before they could load. "It is a mirror as you said. It would be good if we controlled the apartment. Would that be acceptable Victoria?"
"For Padma and Raam? They should see it first." I thought about my standard objection, clients for neighbors. Yeah, it would be easier. No need to hide from strangers. "James, I have a rule that has served me well over the years. I make it a point not to have clients for neighbors. Mary, Carolyn and my kids know I live here. Of course, Jay Matthews. No one else. It's kind of ... well ..." I was trying to come up with a phrase less coarse than I normally use.
"Victoria, you do not have to be gentle with me." James had a chuckle in his voice. He stepped back from my chair turning it to face him. Yeah, big smile. "It is the truth of your thoughts. Gentleness can hide the truth. Our homes are our refuge. Visitors in my house cannot feed within thirty miles of the property. They cannot avail themselves of our Family. I am still defining our area here. We have rules after hard experience. I do not believe you would have problems with Raam and Padma. We could leave it vacant. It does not matter to me. Unknowns should not be allowed residence." He was right. It would be a relief to me not to have any neighbors. "Please. Give the lawyer, Matthews, a call. I will tell Johnathan." James turned, walked into the living room.
"Hey Jay. Our friends want to purchase the condo next to mine. I'm sending the sheet as we speak."
"Good morning Victoria. You've been a busy bee. Price?" He asked.
"$550, no conditions. Mr. Keirns is going to call you. Same company I think. Same privacy clauses. Listing is Tina Daniels. Could you fax the privacy clause to her?" James returned.
"Sure, no problem. Seen the paper today?"
"No. I'm not in the office. What's going on?"
"Go to the local front page on the net. Apparently Father Williams met with our paper's star reporter over the weekend. The reporter, Jim Olsen, is being charged with aiding and abetting felons as we speak." Jay laughed. "I'll never get over that name. Anyway, he was picked up the minute the paper hit the street. About an hour ago. The Editor is raising holy hell."
I'd opened the paper on the web while Jay was talking. Front page pictures of Kenny, Father Williams and Charon on the right side of the page. Ledge House on the left. Charon playing property manager still made me smile. His illusion to the public and his reality were visually not that different, really. He retained the strawberry blonde hair, his navy blue eyes but somehow he had added a few wrinkles around his mouth and eyes and minor age to his skin to imply humanity. Comb his hair straight, add a suit, a slight tiredness to his shoulders dropping his six-foot frame to five-eleven, a little more weight and he was everyman. I waved James over. He glanced at the page, left the room.
"I'll point it out to Keirns when he calls. Let you know when you can present the Offer to Tina. The phone is ringing, got to go. Have a good one." Jay clicked off. James walked back through the door, a bit distracted.
"Victoria. I must go back to the house." His expression moved to concerned, then vanished. "Ride later?"
"A large crucifix was placed upside down inside the gate earlier. Zara, her girls are quite upset. Do not be concerned. It will be resolved. Also, I need to feed. I will be back in a couple of hours." A smile. "Dress warmly." A quick kiss.
James returned to the bedroom. A second at the alarm pad. He was gone. Another phrase took on another level of meaning; moved like a bat out of hell. No, I'd have to think of a substitution for hell.
Figured I'd give Tina a quick call about Jay's fax and the coming Purchase and Sale Agreement Offer. The more I spoke to Tina, the more I thought about it. James was so right. I didn't think I would have used the phrase "control of the apartment" but it was the truth. Tina didn't hesitate once when I explained the confidentially request that would be faxed, nor when I asked her "... to please honor it".
Tina was a 'no biggie' kind of Broker when requests were made. Actually, she was happy to hear about the P&S. If there was a sale it would return the up-coming summer to her.
I had spoken to Tina one time about moving her license to my office. She would have made a great addition. As she had promptly pointed out when I'd broached the subject, the little agency she was with was located down the street from her house. She was comfortable. '... if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.
Tina did live off Island; Little Compton to be exact. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes by boat off the east side of the Island. In the summer, a traffic-clogged drive into Newport of about forty-five minutes or more. I knew exactly what she was talking about.
I had picked up a couple of listings in her area a few years ago. Showing them killed most of a day. Not to mention starting over with their Town Hall; getting access to information, people; learning the politics of a town government I visited about once a year. The summer that year was lost for me. Taking the Purchase and Sale Agreement to her now would probably take twenty-five minutes or so. Not bad. Tina and I had a very nice, quick talk resolving to get together for a social dinner.
I took the time after my call to Tina to make the bed, shower. I made appointments for summerscaping myself when I realized wax had not touched me since fall. Uck. In the assessment of my needs I had one unmarked leg. An unintended Brazilian. Funny. Apparently hair didn't exist where the tattoos - wrong word - spirits resided. Nor did hair survive them, much to my surprise. I'd figured James's lack of body hair was genetic. Maybe not so. Add it to my massive list of questions that would probably never get asked. The cell rang before I was dressed.
"Hi Jay. Can I give you a call back in a minute?" Even though I couldn't be seen, I needed to slide on cords and a tee shirt to talk to Jay.
"Hi Jay, sorry 'bout that."
"No problem. It's ready for you." Jay sounded pleased.
"That was fast."
"Very. All I had to do was plug in numbers, Seller's name and date. Universal replace is a wonderful thing. Check is here too. Tina's Confidentiality Agreement is faxing as we speak. I assume you've spoken to her. Is there going to be a problem?"
"No." I answered with certainty. "Not with Tina. She's happy as a clam. No lost summer. Jay, I'm going to have to clear some stuff before I pick it up. I didn't expect this today. I'll be by; just not sure of the time. Oh, did you tell Mr. Keirns about the article?"
"Yeah. He thanked me. No comment. Asked me to call him when the Agreement was negotiated ... completed. I asked for parameters. Keirns said what ever Mrs. Hamilton could manage would be fine. That's a first Victoria. Care to explain?"
"First I've heard of it. Mr. Keirns still has to sign. Is he stopping by?"
"Said he would momentarily."
"I guess he's just not interested in the back and forth bull. I don't blame him. Anyway, got to go change some stuff around, but I'll be by." I hung up.
As I thought about it, I couldn't picture James or Johnathan being involved in this type of a negotiation. To them it would be, well, not interesting. Come to think of it I bet neither of them spent time on things that didn't interest them.
I slipped a sweater over the tee, finished tying back my hair. Leave a note on the garden door or call Johnathan? Probably should call. After another five minutes of debating with myself, I called. No answer. Left a message for James.
Walking back to the car from Jay's office Johnathan called. When I answered there were a few clicks before the connection was made. "Hello. Are you there?" Silence for a second.
"Yes. I think my phone's being weird. I can hear you now."
"Do what you need to do Victoria to acquire the apartment. James will catch up with you later as things are taking longer than expected. Do not worry." Why would I worry?
"Consider it done. Please tell James I'll see him when I see him." A moment or two of quiet.
"Fine." Johnathan hung up. I wondered what he really wanted to say. Oh well. I called Tina, asked if she had the Confidentiality Agreement in hand. She did, was faxing it to the Owner.
"The P&S is done. Can I come up? Will you be there?" Might as well do it, there wouldn't be time tomorrow. Guess riding was out. I loaded one of my favorite CDs. Kicked the volume. Took the drive to Little Compton.
Tina's office was in the center of Town. Population somewhere around 3,500 give or take. One elementary school, one fire department building, small police department - two cars – or was it three cars now? An old-fashioned Town Hall. No Town water - private wells. No sewer - private septic. Minimum residential lot size - two acres and a conservation tax of four percent after the first $75,000 of the sale price. Given that a house price is commonly over $200,000 ... well, do the math. That's it. That's Little Compton. Need milk at night after the local store/lunch counter closes? Take a twenty-mile or more drive. I don't know if I would ever be organized enough to live out there.
Tina was waiting for me when I walked in. "Let's go into the conference room Vic. I'd be more comfortable. How was the ride out from the big city?" She was laughing.
"It was good. Nice break. How's the farm? I don't think we've spoken since last fall. No. I saw you at a Christmas party didn't I?"
"Oh, right. I think we had time to bitch about Christmas presents. Farm's fine. Too much work, but fine. How's your world? Congrats on Ledge House. Good sale and Mason the same week. Why aren't you retiring?" She may be in the boonies, but Tina kept her finger on the pulse of the business.
"I think it crossed my mind. But hey, what would I do? I picked up the space next door so we'll have a real conference room and our own bathroom. You know you're always welcome Tina." She can tease me, I can tease her.
"Actually, the owners of this place are going south. I'm playing with the idea of picking it up. You interested? I was going to call you anyway. This is fortuitous." Tina looked at the envelope in my hand. "I didn't see you with anyone at the open house. These Buyers haven't seen the condo?" Too much information.
"Tina, think I could grab a cup of coffee?"
"Sure, cream or milk, can't remember. I should have one too. I have a mare that I swear is going to foal tonight." Tina was out the door of the conference room. Gave me time to think.
Another office? I wouldn't consider it alone. With Tina, food for thought. She returned with two cups that smelled, well, like our coffee. I had shared my supplier with her a few years ago.
"Tina, were you serious about picking up this brokerage? Have you given any thought to a business model; how you would run it?"
"Yeah, I have. Think you might be interested? Victoria, the only way I would do it was with permission to use yours. It seems to work. Minimal hassle for me. Has anyone ever left you for another agency?"
"I hear you've turned people down."
"Yeah. The first inquiry I had told me that the model seemed to be working. I did turn him down. He was the guy who told me I was out of my mind when I started. It felt good. When you have some numbers and stuff together, give me a call. It could be fun with you. I wouldn't consider it with anyone else. Now let's get to real business."
"Your Buyers going to live there full time?"
Excerpted from Understanding by Hollie Delaney Copyright © 2011 by Hollie Delaney. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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