I retired several years earlier than I had planned, but I didn't begrudge my wife the almost year I spent with her. The first part of that year I simply had to drive her in for her treatments. There was a lot of time spent sitting in the reception room waiting for the doctors. Later I spent my time waiting in the same places for her treatments to end. Alice didn't like me sitting in the doctors examining rooms with her. Alice didn't think I should complain about things in my cop voice. She probably was correct to think it effected her treatment in a negative way.
I actually had no long tern effect on her at all. I couldn't have prolonged her life another hour. It was sad but true, they really had done all they could have for her. She spent all but her last week at home. That week she went into the Christ Hospice run by a group funded by the local churches and donations from the families of the love ones who ended their lives there departed. The hospice was nice. It should have been the gifts, insurance, and religious donations made for a nice budget. I shouldn't say anything bad about the employees there. I was never tempted to use my old cop voice with them.
The day after Alice passed through the veil of tears was a busy one. I hadn't left her side those last days, so I went home and crashed.
Since Alice had written her final wishes so my involvement on that day was to give our daughter the message when she arrived. "If you need any help call me. I'm going home to sleep all day." I said in a failing voice, then I disappear for the day. I woke almost twelve hours, to the minute, since Alice left me. I realized I didn't have a plan for the rest of my life.
I was empty when I took the shower, then two of Alice's sleeping pills. There were only two, or I might have taken whatever number was in the bottle.
I drifted back to consciousness. I awoke to answer the ringing land line. "Hello," I said into the phone.
"Tom it's Marta, I was so sorry when the church group leader called. Is there anything I can do."
"No Marta there is nothing anyone can do, but I do appreciate the offer. Sarah is taking care of me," I said. The truth was I didn't expect to hear from Sarah other than to settle Alice's estate.
After Marta finally hung up, I went into the shower again. I had been skipping showers the last week, so that day it was my plan to return to daily showers.
We had bought one of those single cup coffee makers a few months before. It had been the easiest method for us those last few weeks. I had a cup of coffee and would have made toast had I not found mold on the bread.
So instead of fixing breakfast I drank the coffee while contemplating emptying the refrigerator. During that contemplation I remembered I could rent a metal dumpster for a week. Since I couldn't imagine how I could get through the day without a project, I called the city to schedule a dumpster delivery
"Sarah, how you doing?" I asked when she answered her cell.
"I'm fine what do you want?" she asked in her no nonsense cold voice.
"Where is your mother and have you finished that part of her list?" I asked.
"Did you read her note," Sarah asked.
"I didn't read that part in detail," I informed her.
"Markam And Son transported her for a direct cremation. She had prepaid for the service. They will hold the urn for one of us to pick up," she explained. "Probably be a couple of days."
"Okay, I'm going to start cleaning out the house this afternoon. If there is anything you want come flag it tonight please."
"You aren't wasting any time," Sarah said.
"I'm trying not to go mad. If you want me insane, I will sit here and wait for you to come visit," I said it in my tough guy voice. "Oh that's right you almost never visited your mother. I don't expect you to ever visit me. I have work to do goodbye."
I went out to breakfast while I waited for the morning to pass. The trash container was due by 3pm.
I couldn't face the staff at the local restaurant where we had breakfast most mornings toward the end, so I drove to the fast food joint for biscuits and coffee take out. Then I took it to the lake to consume. I spent an hour over a ten minute meal. I watched the city's rowing team race their scull back and forth down the lake as I ate.
The drive back to the house was miserable. I sat in the short driveway staring at the two story three bedroom two bath house. It was a lot bigger than I would ever need again.
There was a one car garage without a car. It was filled with work benches and tools. They would probably all have to go as well as the antique furniture of limited value. We had bought the furniture buying what we liked when it was just old furniture, so I would be surprised if any of it had any real value.
The plan I formulated was to trash all the paper and junk. It should take me a couple of days to remove it. If the dumpster was full I would send it back before the week was up. When the house was more or less empty, I planned to have an estate sale.
I would tell Sarah only after I emptied the trash from the house. Alice had wanted her to sell the house, but she allowed me to get rid of everything else.
The dumpster came just after noon, so I began with the kitchen. I emptied all the food from the kitchen cabinets and the refrigerator. I moved all the cans from the cabinets to the rear pantry on the enclose back porch. Like every place else in the house it needed washing or painting.
I cleaned the table then placed all Alice's dishes on it. There wasn't room of course. So I filled the kitchen chairs and the kitchen step ladder with things.
By the end of the day everything was out on display for Sarah to view in the downstairs rooms. When she came that evening she would just tour the upstairs and her mothers bedroom in search of treasure.
Sarah came after I returned from my drive to pick up a pizza. I ate the small pizza and tossed the box in the dumpster before she arrived.
She searched through the house before she loaded her car for the drive home. "Tom where are you going?" she asked.
"Don't worry I won't be living with you honey," I said in my cold voice. It was how we had communicated since she was a teenager.
"You know Ralph and I would be happy to have you," she said.
"No you wouldn't and I don't blame you one bit. For some reason since you was thirteen we were like the two Koreas but with slightly better manners," I said
There were tears in her eyes when she left. "You always make me so sad," she said as she left.
"I don't try to do that. It's just how you react," I got the last word. It was one of the few times since I married her mother.
I got the estate sale in for the next weekend's newspaper classifieds and Alice's four year old low mileage car onto the Craig's list the second day after her death. By the time the dumpster was picked up the house had an empty feel about it. I stayed mostly in my bedroom and the kitchen.
The day before the estate sale Sarah called to offer her help with the sale. "Sure honey I would be glad to have you. Is Ralph coming as well?"
"No he is taking the kids to the club to swim," she said.
"Okay it will probably mostly be over by noon. So maybe you can join them," I suggested.
"Maybe, we will just have to see how it goes," she replied.
Sarah brought coffee and breakfast, so her coming was a good thing. The looky loos came at 7am. The coffee was gone when the local antique store pickers arrived. They found a few things that had some value. I let Sarah deal with them. I was willing to give them real deals, she wasn't.
By the end of the day most of the furnishing and my tools were gone. I man even came by to put a deposit on Alice's car. I considered the weekend a success but it was also sad.
At the end of the day a truck from a thrift store came buy to take all the left overs. Sarah had given me the money before she left.
On the way to the car she said, "Mom said to give you her ashes. She said you would know what to do with them."
I just nodded through the tears. I took the urn. Since I had made the decision it was just a matter of doing it then returning to the empty house.
"Tom I hate to sound like I'm rushing you but when do you plan to vacate the house?" Sarah asked.
We were standing by her car when she asked. "I have nothing holding me here after tonight." I said.
"Where will you go?" she asked.
"I'm going to take a temporary gig for a guy I know at the Department of Justice. I'll be a nomad for a couple of months at least," I explained.
"Then we have to go to dinner before you leave," she demanded.
"Absolutely," I lied.
After she left I waited until almost midnight then drove to the park by the lake. It closed at midnight but climbing the fence was doable even for a well past sixty year old man. I walked to the floating dog there I pour her ashes over the city water supply lake.
"Well you loved this place and I love that you have a kind of immortality," I said as I replaced the cover to the urn. I also threw it into the lake even though I think it cost five hundred bucks.
The sun was streaming through the uncurtained window at 8am when I finally got moving. I had been awake since 6am, I just couldn't make the body work so early. I had never noticed how the house looked so early. The small two story place seemed cavernous without the furniture. For the last couple of days I had slept on the floor.
I slept in the empty house in order to get rid of the last of my possessions. In that last week I discovered how much physical and emotional work it was to rid onesself of a lifetime of crap.
Anything that wouldn't fit in the large Camouflaged Duck Dynasty backpack had to go. I had promised Sarah to leave the house in 'ready to sell' condition. I even had a painter from 'Give A Drunk A Job' come in and repaint the place inside and out. After the estate sale.
Sarah and her husband should be able to flip it easily. The agreement was that she and her husband would keep half the profit, and send the other half to me.
After selling off of everything, including Alice's two year old car, the debts had been settled. It took the proceeds of the estate sale and most of our small savings, the part that hadn't gone for medical expenses during that last year. Looking in the mirror, while I brushed my handful of teeth, I saw a debt free man. A man who just happened to be almost broke.
I suppose that I wasn't completely broke, just badly bent and worn to the breaking point. I shut the medicine cabinet after adding all the pill bottles to the plastic bag which I would somehow fit into the 'DD' pack. When that was done, my plan was to drive to a fast food restaurant to get a breakfast sandwich, then to the lake where Lucy and I ate breakfast most mornings. When both of us were healthy enough, the last year those morning had been few. It was also where I would be going to talk to her one last time.
On my last morning I found that the lake hadn't changed much. There were just a few fishermen on the banks that morning. I mostly looked at the water and felt the emptiness. People talk about an empty space, after the loss of a loved one. Their descriptions don't even come close to the real feelings. Lucy had been gone only a month and I still saw her everywhere I looked. I wondered if she would ever be truly gone. Maybe that was what immortality was. "Well old girl I'm off to a new place and a new adventure."
The time came when I finally had to leave the lake. Not because I was on a schedule, I simply ran out of food and coffee. The lake still had an appeal, but not as much as when Lucy and I sat discussing the world. Most it was about the grand kids at the end. She made clear that her half of the assets were to go to the two grandson's college fund. She probably feared that left to my own devices, I would drink myself to death. Hell I still might.
I stopped at the dumpster on the side of the access road to toss my trash in on the way out of the lakeside park. Then it was on to the interstate highway, which ran almost directly to the coast. I should have taken the job and made the move five years ago before Lucy got sick. It didn't matter much I would have been alone on that day anyway.
The drive along the interstate was an efficient use of my time, but a miserably boring drive. It would have been more fun to choose a drive down the old renamed state highway system. It would have taken two hours longer, but I might have stayed awake. That two hours was the difference between arriving at my new job before the office closed, and arriving when everyone with any authority had gone home for the evening.
I made my one stop about half way. It was for gas and a sausage dog in a clear plastic wrapper. After the microwave destroyed the taste, I was left with the fat and calories. Those I could have done without, but nonetheless I ate it while I filled my coffee cup with the evil convenience store brew. It was almost as bad as the poison I made at home.
Once I left the highway there were some twists and turns before I arrived at the gates of the Manor House. The Manor House was what used to be called a home for wayward girls. Today it was classified as juvenile detention center. I arrived at 4:13pm exactly. The guard on the gate checked my driver's license against a list of approved visitors. He obviously didn't need a call up to the office to clear me.
"Sir, you want to stay right when the drive splits. That branch will take you to the office. The guard at the desk just inside will buzz you in and direct you to the right office," the gate guard explained. Night Staff officer of the Manor.
"I think I can handle that, and thanks," I replied. That was one job I could eliminate, I thought. That was going to be my new job. Revamp the alternative juvenile girl's detention facility. As with everything else the feds had taken over the detention facilities nationwide. They leased it to private contractors, then paid them to house the detainees. It was a money laundering operation any drug cartel would envy. I recognized it for what it was, as did every other real copper. There were very few of us old timers left. Almost none of the new ones could see what had happened. Crime finally did pay, it seemed.
The Thirty something bottle blonde guard standing behind the high counter was very soft spoken when she asked, "Mr. Phelps is it?"
"Yes that's me." I said looking at her name tag which had only her first name. "Janet."
"Would you sign in please. I'm afraid it's rather a long form since you are a first time visitor."
"You do know I'm not here to visit a detainee?" I asked in reply.
"Yes sir, but everyone who enters has to follow the same procedure," she answered.
"Then I will fill in the forms," I said trying to fake a cheerful attitude. I didn't dare say what I was thinking during the ten minutes while I stood by the tall counter filling in the form.
"Here you go," I said.
"Just one minute while I register you into the data base," she explained.
She is no doubt a poorly paid clerk in a uniform, I thought.
After a few key strokes she led me off to the office of the head of the facility. Miss Annabelle Jones was the name on the door. The clerk leading me had wide hips I noticed. They were accentuated by the uniform which always seemed to be the case. Her red knit shirt did nothing to hide her breast deficiency. She did have a pretty face. I had to admit to myself that it was her one saving grace.
She opened the door to the office of a woman much younger than me. My first impression was that I had entered the office of a bean counter. The desk was way too large for her. It was a hold over from the old days when the building had been a girl's finishing school, I expected.
"Tom Phelps," I said pushing past the clerk. I had no intention of letting the bean counter control the interview. The pecking order needed to be established between the two of us immediately. I wasn't sure that either of us understood it.
Since I didn't work for her she had no control over me. Since she didn't work for me, I had no control over her. It was a catch 22 situation which bureaucrats love. There was always someone else in line to take the blame.
My job title was temporary security consultant. My directive was to assess and handle all things related to the facility and inmate security. I would never call them inmates in a written or oral communication, but that is what they were. They were females between the ages of 12 and 18 from the thirteen county eastern district. The county detention centers had been closed and regional ones set up when the local law enforcement take over was finished.
The Mayweather Group had spent a lot of money to modernize the facility while still keeping its Gothic look, on the outside at least. Their desire to stop bleeding money was understandable, but the need for real security was also urgent. There had been several escapes which usually were ended by a call to the local constabulary. The one exception was the breakout of two 17 year old girls. They weren't on the outside long. They were picked up after they stabbed a man in the western district of a nearby large urban area.
The so called victim had given the two young girls a ride, then demanded payment. One could argue that he got what he deserved. The newspapers turned a small crime into a national disgrace, but only after the guy took a turn for the worse. His family went on national TV to complain. An investigation was begun immediately. I got the job of cleaning up the mess, but more than that I was commissioned to set the detention center on the right path, security wise.
"Annabel, how about having the security staff show me around. You and I can meet in the morning to discuss what I see at first glance. We can arrange interviews with staff over the next few days," I suggested.
"I hope you have a proper understanding of our very different roles here. You do know you are merely a consultant," she said with a smile.
"Of course I understand. You understand that I do not report to you. My report goes to the office of prisons in D.C." I said it with a smile. "We can discuss item of minor concern, so long as it is a civil discussion. If not, I will simply leave my post and deliver my report to the director of prisons in person."
"I'm sure that will not be necessary. As for what should be done today, I will get one of the counselors to show you around," the almost attractive Annabel Jones suggested.
"I would like to keep casual contacts with your guards to a minimum. So would it be possible to have the guard who brought me here give the tour?" I asked.
"Of course I'll make some calls. I have some other business calls to make, so could you wait in the hall?" Annabelle asked.
"Of course," I said not at all interested in playing whose is the bigger prick at the moment.
I spent the moments waiting for Janet looking at the framed photographs of the Mansion in its better days. I heard the click of her heels on the hardwood floors as she approached. Since she wasn't a real guard I was tempted to ignore it completely.
"You do know you can never sneak up on anyone wearing those heels?" I asked.
"You do know I'm not a guard? I am a simple receptionist." Janet replied.
"Hardly simple," I commented. "If someone is bent on doing you harm, they will be able to track your movements very easily. Is that better?" I asked then laughed.
"Much," she said. "If you will follow me, I will be happy to explain the purpose of each building," Janet said.
"If you are going to be on overtime, you can just make it a brief tour," I suggested.
When she opened the rear door with her swipe card, she revealed the three newer building completing the garden enclosure. "Who maintains the garden?" I asked.
"The residents all have jobs. There is a group who maintain the grounds. Those are the most trusted," she informed me.
They would be the most likely to come into contact with persons other than staff?" I asked.
"Yes I suppose so. Some jobs in the Manor are so technical that outside vendors and contractors come to work here, so everyone could have some contact," she said.
"Are you familiar with the protocol when outsiders are working in the building?" I asked.
"No Sir. For that you would have to talk to the security counselors." she suggested.
"So if you saw an outside worker alone with a resident, you wouldn't know whether or not to report it?" I asked.
"I know that isn't right. I would have a security counselor check it out," she snapped.
I nodded my head then moved on. I found that the buildings were numbered from left to right. Building two was to my left as I stepped into the garden. That one two story building housed close to one hundred kids. They were housed two to a room.
"Building three was set parallel to the Manor House and directly to the rear. It was the newest building and held the services units. Medical, food services, laundry and a couple of workshops designed to teach the older girls a trade. The trade shops were suppose to be a highly sought after assignment. The girls who worked in those were paid a slightly high wage than the slave labor wage of the maintenance jobs.
Building three was the right border of the garden. It housed another hundred or more residents. The capacity could be doubled easily if needed. Crime was going to be a growth industry, or so everyone speculated.
The campus was located on several acres of the old estate surrounding the Manor house. Consolidating the detention centers for young residents had made the visiting of the detainees difficult. Difficult for all but the most local of the residents. In turn it also make smuggling drugs into the prison much more difficult. In theory at least it make it impossible. That theory could not be proved since no one really knew how bad the drug problem was in a private juvenile center. It was one of the things with which I was tasked. The government wanted me to get a handle on the drug situation.
After the tour, I walked back to my truck in the small parking lot. During the walk I wondered where I was going to spend the night. I should have asked someone at the facility I thought at first. On second thought, I was glad I hadn't I wouldn't have to worry about a coworker visiting without warning.
I left the Manor house at half past five almost exactly. I drove my old Ford pickup toward the highway entrance because I knew for sure there was a restaurant just off the highway's interchange. I had seen it as I pulled off while headed to the Manor.
Even better for me, there was a convenience store staffed by local residents. It wasn't one of those chain grand convenience stores. It simply sold gasoline from the pumps outside and had a bar with coffee and slushies machines inside. There were even snack food items hanging along the wall. There were cigarettes behind the register of course.
The information from the very thin middle eastern man was free, if one could understand it. He advised me, in a heavily accented voice that the local motel was on the same road as the Manor house. It was a couple of miles past it in the general direction of the downtown. Just follow the signs for the inland waterway," he advised...
"The waterway runs though the downtown if you can call it that," he added.
I left the convenience store with a cup of coffee and a new direction in mind. I drove past the Manor House and into the town of Spring Branch. Like the foreigner had implied, it wasn't much of a town which suited me fine. Since I worked thirty years in a major city's police department I was ready for a little boredom. The excitement had taken a tole on my body and soul.
As I drove along the old state road which connected the town to the interstate highway system, I realized how flat the topography of the area was. It looked like a good place for me to get some badly needed exercise.
Just past the town limit sign I saw what could have been a 1930 tourist court. I only recognized it because I had seen the old black and white Movie, 'It Happened one night', on TV many years before.
Inside the cabin with the neon 'office' sign blinking, I found a young very black female. "Good evening, do you have a vacancy?" I asked. I was pretty confident that there was room for me in that Inn.
"Yes sir," she answered in a British laced accented voice. The half cabins are $45 US dollars per night. Check out is noon," she informed me.
"Do you take visa," I asked. It had a DOJ visa card meant for expenses only. Since she nodded her agreement, I swiped the card, then followed her directions to my assigned cabin located along the circular drive bardering the parking area.
"Do you know a good cheap restaurant?" I asked.
"It is my experience that one can have good or cheap but seldom both. There is a very small choice here in Spring Branch either way." she said in her clipped voice. "Try Aunt Lucy's restaurant down the a Ways. It's the best of the two mediocre restaurants in town," the black girl informed me.
First think the next morning, I ended up getting two biscuits with bacon and egg to go from Aunt Lucy. There was no drive through, so I had to wait inside on a round stool while she fixed them on an open grill behind the counter.
Because I had to wait, I was late to the Manor. I didn't have office hours but I had wanted to arrive before 9am.
Once at the Manor house it was simply a matter of jumping through the same hoops as the day before. Janet had me sign the same sign in form, then sign for another identification card, which would allow me temporary access to the facility's administration building.
"To gain access to the other buildings you must wait for a permanent Photo ID," Janet explained.
"So, for now to get anywhere I an forced to have a Tonto?" I asked.
"A what?" she asked with a bewildered expression.
"An Indian scout," I replied."
"We prefer the term escort," Janet explained.
"Considering the nature of this place I would think escort would be off limits," I said with a smile. Janet appeared to be a few watts short of fully bright bulb.
"The director has assigned you a space in the pool for now," Janet admitted shyly.
"Oh there's a pool. I should have brought my swimsuit." I said with a laugh.
"No, not that it is just the large room with work stations for the security staff to do their paperwork," she went on to explain.
"Sounds lovely," I replied sarcastically. "There are some records I need, so who do I ask?"
"I suppose for now you can give me a list and I can arrange delivery," Janet suggested.
"Check with the director to make sure before you agree to anything," I suggested. "I do have one urgent request. Point me to the coffee pot."
"Your desk is the office a the end of the hall. It is the one with the large window on either side of the door. The door off to the right of it is our tiny kitchen," she informed me.
I nodded my understanding, then headed off to settle in for my short stay in the fish bowl.
I walked to the end of the hall and opened the door. Inside I found a couple guards with snacks and coffee cups. I nodded to them threw my bag from the local restaurant onto a somewhat empty looking desk. Then I walked out into the hall, turned left and entered the kitchen area. I found a small refrigerator and a large coffee pot. I poured myself a cup before returning to my newly pirated desk.
I still hadn't spoken to the officers. I opened the sandwich bag and began unwrapping one of the aunt's biscuits.
"So, if there is anything you wish to know about me. If so now is the time to ask," I advised them.
The offer might have been ill advised. The staff of all phases of the Manor drifted in for the rest of the day for short little chats. They wanted to know everything from my plans for the review, to my taste in music. My Marital status came up several times.
In the end it was probably a good thing to have done. Getting the facts out usually prevented wild speculation. Speculation was almost always wrong. It was more likely to be harmful as well.
There were a large number of women and older men. Some nearing retirement, others just past the prime age for chasing prisoner through the night. Even to those I must have seemed a senior citizen, since I looked about ten years older than them.
I did ask several of the security staff and asked them to spread the word. I was looking for a piece of property with a short term lease available. I was disappointed at least until the woman in her mid twenties, who monitored the CCTV system for the day shift come to see me. Her duties all day long was to look at the CCTV monitors. I had to assume she was bored to tears.
When she showed up for her a second visit I was a little surprised. "Hi I'm Ruth my shift has ended, so I stopped by on on my way out of the Manor."
"Hello there, Ruth wasn't it?" I asked.
"Yes, I was thinking, you seem like an off the main road kind of man," she said.
"Well, I suppose I am somewhat," I agreed. I was trying to sound more interesting than I really was.
"I have an uncle, everyone here is related." she admitted. He has a marina with several house boats. He usually has something for sale. You might want to stop by and take a look. If you buy a boat you could move it anytime you want," I'm going to greet the night staff but would you call and see if he can see me tonight?" I asked.
She used her cell phone right from my office. "I told him to expect you this evening. You might want to make it as early as possible to catch him sober," she said with a wicked smile.
She was almost out the door before I did an assessment on her. She had a fun loving air about her. She was a chubby little blond. I was sure she rented the blond color, since there were far too many subtle shades to be natural.
"Ruth, if it isn't too much trouble could you meet me there. You might be able to negotiate some kind of deal with your uncle?" I asked.
I would but my husband would have a fit and I doubt that I would be much help. Uncle Jess got ten years in the state penitentiary because of me. I testified against him." Ruth said.
"Oh have you already come to dislike me enough to send me to my death?" I asked only half kidding.
"Jess is no threat to you," she said looking at the floor.
"Oh" I said.
"Not unless you are a teenage female relative," she replied.
"Okay," I said not understanding the family dynamics at all.
"After meeting the evening people, and stopping for dinner, it was 7pm when I arrived at the twenty slip marina just off the inland waterway. It was a bit rundown, but it wasn't unbearable. Before I went in search of Uncle Jess, I went into the men's bathroom. I was happy to find it surprisingly clean.
Other than the three toilet stalls on the right side of the block building, there were two shower stall on the left side. The floor was made of open wood slats worn smooth by years of human bare feet. The end walls were covered with hanging janitor soapstone type sinks.
There was a small convenience type retail area between the two bathroom. I found it to be all vending machines when I checked it out.
"You Uncle Jess?" I asked.
"I'm Jess? But I don't think I'm your uncle," he replied in a gruff voice.
"Probably a good thing for both of us. Your niece Ruth tells me you got a small house boat for sale.
"I do," he answered tersely.
"Well could I see it?" I asked.
"Sure," He replied.
I followed along behind him until I came to a slip with a new looking pontoon boat.
"Tell me about the construction," I demanded.
"Basically it is too very long hollow PVC tube devices, like water tanks. They were designed for a fifty year life. We pump them full of a foam material so they will never sink. Then we attach a 10x20 PVC cabin on top of it. After that what happens to it is up to you," he said.
"I see you have a few of them around," I said. "They seem to be in different stages of completion."
"I guess it ain't for everybody," Jess said. "I have sold a few."
"So, if I decided to buy it, could I just leave it here till my job ends. Then pack it up and haul it to a pond somewhere?"I asked.
"Sure you should best keep it out of the ocean or any type of white white water period. It wont sink but it might tip over. Make a hell of a mess, if it rolls." Jess said.
"Okay, what's the deal?" I asked. "How much."
"Ten grand as is," Jess said.
"The marina, such as it is, What is the fee to tie up," I asked.
"Two hundred a month or two thousand a year. That includes your limited utilities. You are limited to one 15amp electrical circuit and potable water you carry on by hand. If you want to heat or cook with propane, we sell it in the store." Jess informed me.
"I made some quick calculations and some uneducated guess. I figured I could heat the house in the winter, if it was as mild as I had heard was normal for the area, with an electric ceramic heater. Of course that could be the only thing on the circuit. I would most likely need a propane heat source since I would find other uses for my fifteen amps. Passive solar would be the best way to supplement the propane, but it was unreliable. As you might guess, I didn't like being cold, but I wasn't very good at figuring the cost things.
"Jess, I can buy a real house boat and it be complete for ten grand. I would have furnishings and a working motor. On the boats downside, It would not be here and most likely would need some repair so, I'll give you 7K right now, but you must throw in one year of marina and utilities fees. That's my one and only offer," I suggested.
"10K and six months docking fees," he said.
"8.5 and one year. The job may end anytime. I might not be here a month," I suggested.
"All right you come by tomorrow and I'll have the paperwork ready and you bring your checkbook," he said.
"When I write the check, I move into the houseboat," I said.
"Suit yourself," he said. "There are three which one do you want,"
"They are all the same aren't they?" I asked.
"Yeah, why don't you inspect them in the light and pick one tomorrow," He suggested.
"Fair enough," I agreed.
After our negotiation I was exhausted, because of that I drove back to the motor court on the feeder road.
"Hello there, It's me again," I said to the same black girl with the clipped British accent.
"I see, couldn't stay away?" she asked.
"I guess it's your charm and warm personality," I said.
"Oh you sweet talking yank. Keep that up and you'll have me out of my knickers," she said with a laugh.
"Sorry, that would be the death of me," I said.
I showed up at the manor the next morning with a bag from aunt Lucy's restaurant. I drank night shift coffee and talked to all of them until shift change. I allowed them to ask questions, which I found remarkably bland.
I answered the number one asked question at almost every post. "My first job will be to make recommendations to the government oversight team." I made it clear I was not going to be an advocate for either side in the security staff verses administration staff debate. The administration was tasked with the day to day operation of the Center.
The next thing I did was to leave a voice mail on Annabel's phone number. I explained that I had met the complete security staff and would be taking the weekend off to make my initial assessment of the staff as a whole.
My house back home was being sold by my daughter and her husband so I really wasn't concerned about it. For all intents and purposes I was finished back home. I was sure I would go back to see the kids now and then, but not anytime soon.
I had transferred ten thousand dollars into my checking account the night before at the motel. It gave me access to a total of$15,000 for my meeting with Uncle Jess and his lawyer.
The obviously cheap shit kid lawyer agreed to meet us at the town's other restaurant for a late working lunch.
He brought out a sheath of papers from his case and began quickly. "The purchase price agreed to was $8,500 plus tax sales and county property tax."
"Hold on there Sparky. Taxes were never mentioned," I said.
"Tax, there are sales and real property tax. It is the same as when buying a recreational vehicle," I could tell that leaving out the property tax and sales tax were standard practices for Uncle Jess.
"What kind of money are we talking here?" I asked. I knew damn well we were in for a new negotiation.
"Just a little under a thousand dollar for both taxes," Uncle Jess said.
"Looks to me like you are going to have a smaller profit," I said firmly.
"Then the deal is off," he said.
"So be it, you old pirate. I already had a case of buyers remorse, so now I have an excuse," I replied.
I stood to deliver the final shot. "When I walk out the door, I'm going to pretend you never existed." I said faking anger.
"Oh hell it's only money. I'll pay half of the taxes," Uncle Jess who was at least wearing clean clothes to the contract signing.
"Give me the account number and bank information and I'll transfer the money right now," I said. "That is if there is a WIFI to piggy back onto nearby."
It took another fifteen minutes for Sparky the kid lawyer to write the contract and verify the bank transfers and registration of the boat.
I followed Jess back to the marina. I was about to board my new house boat when Jess called out to me,"Hold up there."
"What you got up your sleeve now?" I asked.
"I got some first class guys who know all about these things. I can give you a hand with it," Jess offered.
"I have a feeling it won't be giving me a hand. It will be another way of robbing me," I suggested.
"Well I just wanted to let you know it was available," he said shaking his head.
I watched him leave before I stepped onto the pontoon barge with half of an industrial pvc gas station type storage tank sitting on top of the main deck. That PVC half/tank was meant for a cabin. It looked like an old army Quonset hut. As I expected the cabin needed everything. It didn't even have access doors. It did have a hole on each end. It was late afternoon when I made my shopping run.