In a Secret Garden
Chapter 1

Caution: This Drama Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Fa/Fa, Mult, Romantic, Reluctant, Mind Control, Hypnosis, Magic, Lesbian, Post Apocalypse, Humor, BDSM, DomSub, MaleDom, Spanking, Rough, Light Bond, Swinging, Gang Bang, Group Sex, Orgy, Harem, Polygamy/Polyamory, Interracial, Black Male, Oriental Female, Oral Sex, Anal Sex, Water Sports, Pregnancy, Exhibitionism, Body Modification, Needles, Slow, Violent, Prostitution,

Desc: Drama Sex Story: Chapter 1 - A divorced man's love luck slowly begins to change for the better, once he finds his own secret garden and prepares for a happier future while dark clouds of danger threaten all around him. Will his new lovers also find that this is the role that they've been waiting their lives for? A long novel length Romance/Mystery/Adventure EOTW story with lots of codes used, mostly involving erotic D/s role-playing between consenting adults. Slow... but much sex!

"Damn it Kurt!" My soon-to-be ex-wife Kelly cried out. "I'm tired of this mess everywhere! I'm sick and tired of the crap and junk everywhere in this pig sty ... I'm just tired of this shit and I've had enough!" She then stomped out of the house that Sunday afternoon and didn't return home that night. Sometime the next day I'd discovered that she'd returned just briefly to pack up most of her clothes.

She'd left a note that she was staying with some friends for awhile 'to think' but she didn't say whom or even leave a phone number. The next time I heard anything from her was when the process server handed me the divorce notice. Ok then ... I guess that meant she was really fed up this time and wanting to get my complete and total attention!

Ok, there was too much crap in the house ... and I won't even begin to discuss all of the other stuff that filled the garage to overflowing. Most of it I just can't help! I'm an antique dealer by trade and renting extra storage space costs money. Yeah ... but upon reflection, it would have been a lot cheaper than divorce!

Kelly had blustered, complained and threatened before, and I probably should have taken it more seriously the fourth or fourteenth time that she'd complained. She wasn't a total neatnik, obsessed with immaculate cleanliness or a vast wide open apportionment of our residential spaces, but the endless boxes and piles of my projects and other things to be 'organized and sorted' all over the house had finally tread on her last and final nerve.

Honestly, I couldn't blame her too much. It wasn't like I hadn't been warned before. Mea culpa ... my bad, sorry babe ... the shit will go, but just come back home again ... please?

She didn't. She didn't even much want to talk about it even through her lawyer. She'd crossed that last final line in the sand and was now sticking to her guns. 'She still loved me ... but she just couldn't live this way any longer', or so the message from her on an 'I'm Sorry' greeting card said attached to the divorce petition paperwork that was all filled out ready for me to sign, assuming we wanted an uncontested divorce. I had different ideas on the matter but it does take two to tango, and regrets notwithstanding on at least my part I decided to let her go without a fight, and about six months later the divorce was finalized without a tremendous amount of rancor on either part.

The worst part of the divorce was the financial separation of assets. I wouldn't owe her alimony (hurray for Texas law), but we'd need to sell our north Austin suburban house to split the equity, which was significant, and I'd also need to liquidate my antique business so that we could split all of the rest of the community property in half. I'd started the business right after our marriage ten years ago and legally it was half hers. I had no way of getting the money to buy her out and after five months of trying (and failing) to find a buyer for the business I just gave up and sent nearly all of my inventory stock to an auction house for a relatively quick and mostly painless liquidation. I wished that the sale had earned a wee bit more but we were both tolerably satisfied with the final outcome.

Kelly had even briefly arrived during the final day of the auction to provide a little bit of moral support. She hugged me briefly and even held my hand for a few minutes while we were watching some of our collected assets go under the hammer for disposal. Our divorce was already more or less final by this point and we were just waiting upon the payment check from the auction house to finish the last financial split. She'd probably realized looking over the auction catalog that I'd held back a thing or two (closer actually to a few dozen) from the sale. I'd held back the contents of one smaller storage warehouse which had some rather nice semi-irreplaceable goodies that were technically part of my old business property but I just couldn't abide the thought of selling, especially for about a quarter to half of their real value. These were mostly old antique hand-crank phonograph players and my rather extensive (and space consuming) collection of vintage records and early music cylinders.

There was another slightly larger storage shed full of mostly crap that hadn't been sold yet either. Stuff too mundane for an auction house but slightly too valuable to just throw away. Actually I don't think Kelly knew about the existence of this particular pile of junk and to keep the waters placid I didn't bother to reminder her.

Since Kelly had taken the vast bulk of the other household items and virtually all of the furniture and home electronics she didn't begrudge my minor skimming from the business merchandise anyway. She'd rather liked the old mechanical music machines herself, and several from our collection had been over a hundred years old. I was considering specializing in this antique genre if and when I could afford to reopen another business. Worse case, I might end up having to work for an antique auction house like this one to get my finances straightened out enough to get back into the retail side of the business again later. I was already really hoping that it wouldn't come to that.

Our lawyers received the auction house check promptly the next week and together with the proceeds from the sale of our house we then divvied up the final remaining marital assets, and about a week later the divorce decree became final. That was the last time I saw Kelly face to face for a long time. I'd thought about phoning her to beg for a last minute reconciliation before the judge finalized the decree, but I didn't. While she appeared somewhat regretful at our last meeting together she had also made it very plain that she wanted to move along with her life. I think she was even dating already, and looking to the future ahead ... and not the past. The divorce finally became final and we both got on with our lives.

Life goes on, but without either my spouse or my old business, I was having a rather difficult time coping and moving myself into my own next phase of life. I was feeling more than a tad regretful and more than a bit wistful about my lost relationship. Not actually quite bitter, mind you ... but getting somewhat into that general vicinity and ballpark.

I sent out a boat load of resumes and for the next few months got back exactly 'zilch' for replies. I could live on my share of the asset split for quite awhile, but I'd already handed over most of that pile of jack to my stockbroker to invest. Morose as I was feeling, I knew that I'd need to feel the pinch of some real financial pressure or else I'd just sit around on my ass and brood, and probably drink way more beer than was good for me or my almost flat waistline.

So, I'd been staying in a small monthly no-lease rental apartment fine tuning and polishing my 'poor pitiful me' act and waiting for life to give me a kick in the pants into some sort of direction as a bit of a wake-up call, when one of my oldest and very best friends that I hadn't talked to since well before the divorce called me up out of the blue with a 'can't miss opportunity'.

"Kurt, how have you been lately? I'd been meaning to pop by your shop to visit and catch-up with things for ages but time just flew by on me! I went by there the other day and saw that it was vacant. Did you move? What's happening bro?"

"Had to close up shop, Gary. Kelly and I split up and it was part of the community property. Everything must go, and all that jazz. I shouldn't bitch ... it really could have been much, much worse. She didn't even try and take me to the cleaners and everything was pretty evenly split down the middle without too much unhappiness or debate. We haven't talked since the split but we're still friends on Facebook and she gives me regular status updates there, and that's better than most divorces go."

"There is that." Gary agreed. He'd been divorced himself twice now and his first wife had tried to take him totally to the cleaners, but fortunately had failed. The fact that Gary had photos and emails proving that his ex was cheating on him and also conspiring to fabricate false evidence of spousal abuse had allowed him to turn the tables on her in court. His second marriage a few years ago was something of a rebound affair that didn't last very long at all, but that split had been slightly more amicable. Oh, he claimed that he was still getting all of the ass that he could handle but as far as he was concerned he was done with that whole 'love and relationship' thing ... at least until the next pretty pair of legs walked past him.

"Still working for Austin PD?" I enquired. Gary had always wanted to be a cop, even as far back as early high school, and really had both the physical build and mental attitude for the job. Unfortunately he was quite without the usual mean bullying streak that a lot of law-enforcement types tend to have. In other words, he was a good cop where most of his peers were flat out assholes. Promotions had been slow and the last time Gary and I had really talked about his job a couple of years ago, he had been suspecting that there was something of a whisper campaign against him. Didn't uphold the Blue Code of Silence or something like that, as Gary had on several occasions reported several other officers to Internal Affairs for various instances of misconduct.

"Nope, got a job offer about a year ago to be the Assistant Chief for Ranger Heights Village, south of Austin. Heard of it? Just four traffic lights long on a winding county road in a little master-planned gated community of McMansions surrounded by hills. It was supposed to be the next real shit spot for elite Austin suburbia when built in the late 1980's but it just never got trendy and the recent housing crash nearly killed it. That's why I'm calling, old buddy! The house right next door to mine has gone into foreclosure and is now up for auction. No minimum bid, must go, as-is, etcetera! Word is the bank is in deep doo-doo and loaded with bad debt from tons of dodgy mortgages and it needs to sell this place fast to get desperately needed working capital! I figure you could get this place for about half or even a third of its last appraised value ... which due to the burst of the housing bubble is about half again less than what the place went for the last time it was sold. They're looking for a cash buyer and not another finance job – they need the dough yesterday. It's win-win buddy!"

"Wow, sounds fun ... and better than the apartment that I'm in now. A cash deal just might be do-able if I don't have to pull out all of the cash by tomorrow. I've still got my half of the old house's equity money and my split of the business liquidation from the divorce sitting in my brokerage account. It's been making me a little money on the stock market the last two months or so, but for the right sort of deal I could liquidate it. Can't do a penny over $200 kay tops though, and even that's pushing it. I've been thinking about restarting the antique business again soon anyway, but I don't know yet if it is going to be internet only and working out of the house, or if I'll open another retail place. Would the homeowners association give me any trouble either way?"

"That should be fine," Gary decided after a pause, "the auction for the property won't be for another three weeks still. The HOA and the Village Council ... which are pretty much the same set of folks, used to be a lot more snooty and high-brow, but right now the entire village is at about an overall forty percent vacancy rate and ownerless houses don't help pay the city taxes! I know the Mayor and a couple of the Village Council enough to beg a favor, or get one repaid, and I'll make sure an exemption for a mail-order business is specifically granted in the HOA agreement. I think the last guy who owned that house ran a business out of it too, so that shouldn't be a problem. Otherwise, yeah, those clowns can be bastards if you cross one of their little written or unwritten rules!"

"Ok then ... no promises, but I'll at least take a look at the place. It's next door to yours you said? At least then I'll have at least one non-asshole for a neighbor and we can play touch football on our lawns! When can I look at it with you?"

"We can do it Saturday morning, anytime after 10 o'clock. The bank is holding a public open house there and if it's anything like the last one they held a few weeks ago there won't be much interest. Too many nicer places much closer to town or fancier shopping opportunities. The couple of new big local strip mall centers near us on I-35 just never caught on too much either and half of the commercial space there is still unleased as well. I think it was because of the high crime rate in the area. The County Sheriff's department thinks the problem is mostly that big group of Section Eight apartment houses almost next door towards us on the county road that is mostly responsible. Too many armed robberies, vagrancy, public drug use, drinking ... you name it. Welfare queens driving Lexus's and shoplifting anything not nailed down while their baby daddies are plying their trade at drug dealing and armed robbery. It's been a mess! The Sheriff's office has a fast response task force in the area now but I haven't seen any signs of progress myself yet! If you're willing to give it a try, the property management firm is probably offering some really reduced leases, if you want to open for retail again sometime it's about five minutes from home."

"This may seem a bit harsh, however, it is my belief that anyone who uses the phrase 'My babies' mamma ... or daddy' should be immediately euthanized, but if I'm going to reopen another antique show the rent's gotta be cheap. Being right off of I-35 would be a big plus for getting customers from San Antonio too, or even Houston. It's a thought ... and not out of the realm of impossibility either. Cheap and I are very close old bosom buddies and I've got a handgun I can keep under the counter for dealing with the rabid animal population if they try and get too upclose and personal!"

Actually, I was already a tad unhappy about having any sort of business within staggering range of a group of subsidized housing complexes. Section 8 is the second lowest rung on the ladder (just above homeless). Since most of the lazy and/or criminal elements in our society will fall down the ladder, eventually they'll end up in Section 8. Some will choose to pull themselves back up and those are the sorts of folk worthy of a helping hand up ... but far too many won't. We'd received our share of Katrina refugees a few years ago and while our crime rate didn't sudden skyrocket like Houston's, things did get noticeably worse for awhile before gradually improving.

"Hey, don't call them thieves!" Gary laughed. The new politically correct term is 'unlicensed invasive extrajudicial wealth redistributors', or 'freelance wealth redistribution specialist'. Just like calling them murderers is a very hateful and hurtful word too, us professionals in law enforcement prefer to call them 'metabolic impediment expeditors'".

For the next twenty minutes we caught up a bit on some old and not so past times and swapped rumors, innuendo and hearsay about several other old school friends from high school and college. We'd played football together for both schools and had a few isolated tales worth remembering of past glory but neither of us had a prayer of becoming professional, nor did we particularly have any regrets ... well about our past school days of glory anyway!

At first glance, I was none too impressed with the house and I could see why it had remained vacant for over three years. Everywhere I looked I saw damage that needed repairing or outright replacing! It was an unimpressive appearing 'A'-frame all-timber house built in the style of a McMansion crossed with a mountain hunting lodge, with an enormous sunken downstairs garage that might have been even bigger than the entire main first floor above. The main floor was mostly for fun and show with an extremely large bar, living room and dining area, an entertainment room that once might have been a home theater and a rear game room. On a slight wing to the right was the kitchen ... or rather a bombed out wreck of where one ought to have been at one time.

Upstairs on the smaller second floor were several bedrooms and a master bath, then above it at the apex of the 'A' was a tiny third floor study or home office and a smaller master bedroom & bath. The main and second floors sported a pair of exterior walk around wooden decks partially surrounding the house on its front street side and wrapped around to the right, eastern side of the house.

The roof itself was covered in some weird black ceramic/rubber composite that allegedly (according to the banks rather flamboyant and perhaps overly optimistic assessment of the property was state-of-the-art for both collecting solar panel energy and also providing 'all-natural earth-friendly' hot water heating and cooling. It didn't look too ugly I supposed, but it wouldn't have my first preference for how to blend into with the neighbors. No one, the bank foreclosure agents included, had any idea if this rather complicated alternative energy system actually worked, especially now that the house had been vacant for about three years and extremely thoroughly looted and vandalized. A lot of weasel words were offered and vague assurances that by no means should be confused with actual promises were given and I decided to just assume that nothing worked and I would need to make more conventional alternative arrangements.

From the street view, the first overwhelming impression was that the overall architectural design was extremely old Norse or medieval Anglo-Saxon. Very Tolkien inspired actually, right out of Lord of the Rings, especially in sort of Riders of Rohan sort of way. There was even a mirrored pair of wooden horse heads crowning the very front peak of the timber A-frame! The sales listing said that the house was 4,900 square feet but when I examined the math a little closer I found that a lot of this area was for the garage basement alone, where the former owner had expanded and built out his home recording studio. The actual house upstairs was much less remarkable. Frankly the vast majority of the house's valuation was sheer physical real estate value alone, with the actual value of the improved property, i.e. the house itself being largely negligible. If the house hadn't looked like it had been in a war zone, it might have been a fancy bit of real estate once upon a time ... but not at the moment.

There was virtually no back yard space! The rear property line included all of a rather steep hill, but there seemed to be fuck-all that anyone could do with that bit of property. The main ground level and even the second floor abutting directly against the hillside, and what little there was left appeared to be nearly vertical terrain unsuited even for walking let alone any back yard amenities! The left side of the house abutted nearly right upon a low stone fence marking the property line and on the right side there was a sloping ground level wooden deck with a very small side yard. As for the front of house, nearly all of the frontage was taken up by the sloping driveway that descended towards a garage which was big enough to load or unload a semi-truck and there was just a small bit of grass and rocky verge to its right.

Nope, even Garry's front yard to the left of mine was scarcely larger and it possessed enough loose gravel and limestone to make even the thought of touch football cringe worthy. No thanks ... my knees and ankles still hurt enough in cold wet weather as it was!

Physically, the location was alright, being just about in the center of a small gated cul-de-sac of eight fairly similar two story houses nestled against a group of small hills that more or less formed something of a canyon off of the twisting main country road. The one behind 'my' house was the largest of the three hills and as I mentioned it entirely abutted right up against the very rear of the house. The subdivision and the small incorporated village it resided in were considered 'upscale' and still very desirable ... but not elite, and it was only a very short commute east along the local county road to hit I-35, just south of Austin.

The garage kept drawing most of my attention, mostly because it seemed to display the worst damage in the entire house, appearing as if it had been blow up halfway to bits, with artillery or bomb sized craters everywhere I looked! I did have a storage warehouse of things that needed storing for both my own collections and for restarting my business. To say that the garage was by far the largest set of rooms in the entire house would be something of an understatement. It was completely sunken underneath the entire length of the house and providing its foundation via a pair of columns of concrete and steel pillars. This entire basement area was massively huge and cavernous and had been subdivided into three rooms, with the largest one divided about in half with a soundproof glass partition that ran east-west across most of the room, dividing the space nearly in half.

This was where the record mogul had built his home recording studio but vandals had smashed it all up long ago, but the framework was still there. Down here in the two basement rooms and the main garage area was where the spree of vandalized damage seemed to be the very worst. The concrete walls and flooring showed the marks of picks, jackhammers and even explosives nearly everywhere. In places, especially to the rear of the basement, the cement had been penetrated down to foundation level or even beyond, down into the raw limestone below it. No, there didn't seem to be any secret stashes down here, now or ever! Nothing obvious anyway to my casual inspection.

In the left rear corner of the basement/garage there was an elevator leading up to the main floor but there were no stairs down here. The elevator was trashed out too, with the doors pretty much ripped right out and the metal walls cut up into shreds. Even with no electrical power I was pretty sure that this elevator had made its last trip up and down and would need to be completely replaced.

The way the driveway sloped down into the garage basement made me wonder about the likelihood of drainage problems during rain storms, but this large storage area was perfect for a shameless hoarder and antique collector like me! There was a large iron covered drainage ditch just outside the heavy garage door to collect and carry off all of the rainwater flowing down the sloped concrete driveway, and I looked hard inside for old traces of flood water damage but didn't find any. I didn't care too much about the physical excavation damage to the walls and floors. I thought I could just slap some fresh concrete into the worst of the pits and easily level them off again. I just needed a reasonably dry space to stash old records and other antiques.

Otherwise the only access to the main house from the basement and garage was up the long slope of the sunken driveway and then around and back up the pathway to the house on the right to the front porch and the front door. There was no back door; the only other way into the house was a pair of French doors on the south side of the kitchen extension, right next to the dining room on the main level that looked out over the ground decking, the built in hot tub, and then a small kidney shaped swimming pool or water garden pond that filled up most of the rest of this small side yard. There was too much old debris filling it to tell just quite what it had once been.

This route seemed to be the primary entrance used by the successions of treasure hunters and vandals, with the door frames showing significant damage as if they'd been kicked in repeatedly. I liked the side view, but from a security aspect these doors were trouble still waiting to happen.

On the face of it, the property had very little curb appeal for the average homeowner, but it might be just right for an odd sort of fellow like myself!

Inside, the house both upstairs and down screamed DIY. In fact every room had suffered major damage to virtually all of the walls and floors as if some very annoyed folks equipped with sledgehammers and fire axes had decided to conduct their own major renovations and see how much destruction they could reap. Most of the rooms were nearly completely ripped apart down to the very foundation and structural timbers, very much giving the impression that a bomb had gone off in here. Some of the original internal support framework was still intact, especially anything above hand-held power tool level, suggesting that the interior woodwork and frames had possessed some rather nice decorative hand-carving work. Also very Tolkien-ish in influence, with very pronounced and intricate Celtic designs. Even my friend Gary sadly shook his head repeatedly as we surveyed all of the rather significant damage.

"50k worth of damage? Or more?" I asked. "The roof and main structures seem fine, but every single room has been utterly trashed! You can barely even tell that there used to be a kitchen there ... it's like a bomb went off! Even the basement looks like someone took a jackhammer to at least half of it! Were there lots of pissed off looters wanting to steal all of the copper piping and electrical wiring or did a group go all wild-west prospector while tearing this place apart?"

"In your dreams bubba ... one hundred grand, at the very minimum, and probably a lot more than that!" he sadly agreed. "That's part of what'll keep the auction price down. This ain't a half-million dollar plus showpiece estate anymore ... barely half of that now, even if it was in good shape. Your competitors are going to want to buy the place just to flip it, and they know they'll have to dump a lot of time and money into it and even then it's still a buyer's market out there. I'd guess that most buyers would just tear the place down completely and rebuild from scratch. They've got to buy this place cheap then, really dirt cheap in order to ever hope to make anything on the deal when reselling in the future. This sort of works in your favor, since you're not the fussy type and used to living in a pigsty ... heck, I still remember what your dorm room looked like. No wonder Kelly left you!"

"And...", he added sort of wistfully, this place does already have a bit of a history and there have been more than few people breaking in this place in the last year of so. Rumor has it that there is or was something of a lost treasure here, but as far as I'm aware no one has ever found it ... so I call bullshit on the whole thing. This all happened just before I joined RVPD and moved down here myself, but here is the gist of the story anyway, from what everyone has told me."

Back in the early 2000's a local urban scene music producer by the name of Douglas Dain "DD" had bought this property at pretty much the very height of the housing market to use as a home recording studio, and he expanded out the existing downstairs garage, added the two extra rooms and excavated out the length and depth of the main garage as well.

Young and rich, and still in his early thirties, DD was an enthusiastic fantasy role-player and extremely active within the Austin gaming scene and was a prominent leader of a Tolkien 'Lord of the Rings' fan group that often held costume reenactments. His alter-ego was 'Thror', a famous dwarf-lord and father to one of the lead characters (Thorin Oakenshield) in Tolkien's novel 'The Hobbit'. He even looked the part as well, being short and already rather stout and possessing a rather full and entirely natural beard that he kept in a braid. Even in good light, DD made for a rather convincing and rather authentic dwarf ... complete with a costume of custom made chain link armor and a massive and very genuine custom forged steel battleaxe. From the looks of some of the damage inside of the house, his very own fantasy weapon had been involved in not a little of wholesale destruction inside the house ... and this in fact had been the actual murder weapon used to cause his own death!

While DD never became particularly famous in the local music scene, nor had he produced any other musical acts of any particular fame or merit, the kid had apparently done alright for himself. He'd made enough scratch to be 'burn money like crazy' rich and he hosted some wild and rather infamous parties at the house. And yes ... many of these parties were Tolkien or fantasy themed events. Some of the local village police officers had even been invited as a courtesy to one or two of the tamer parties (or had been paid to assist with parking and traffic, off-duty) and noted that the booze was all top shelf and the faux elf-babes hanging out by the small pool (with pointed ears and topless) were escort quality fluff. No drug use was ever noted (in public), but pretty much everything else went on. Austin is a pretty liberal and tolerant kind of place ... even in most of the independent incorporated suburbs too.

The local police had never found any reason whatsoever to suspect any unusual or illegal activities were taking place here. When DD and several of his associates were murdered by persons unknown right inside this house three years ago, the story suddenly began to shift to outright weirdness! Most of DD's co-victims were gunned down in the house, but not many people are brutally killed these days with dwarven battleaxes!

By some later accounts after the initial murder investigation, there were some lingering rumors that DD had been a major but secret player in Austin's drug underworld and it was indisputable that his death suddenly triggered a gang war for the control of his music business. By nearly all accounts, his friends and family, the so-called loyal followers, and also the outside competition performed a rather remarkably thorough job of rapidly and aggressively cleaning each other out. Within a few months after his death the estate probate court was already having a rather complicated time figuring out exactly who now would legally inherit the estate. By this point, virtually everyone that had once been associated with DD's public or private business was now either dead or very much vanished.

With his two brothers also now murdered along with DD's only sister as well, his estate was entailed back to his parents, but there was damned little actual money left in any of their son's bank accounts that could be traced. The kid was supposedly obscenely rich, but no one could find the bulk of the money other than petty cash in his primary checking account for routine expenses. His deposits were nearly always cash and never large enough to attract attention. Already with the real estate market in Ranger Heights undergoing a massive 'readjustment', there was no equity to be had in this property either, nor did his recording company have very many locatable assets either. When the balances were totaled, it appeared that DD apparently had left only debts, with the mortgage payments now about a year behind due to the delay in probate. Quite understandably, his family 'declined' to accept this inheritance, as did the next direct kin, an aunt. Now abandoned, the bank was left holding the note, with no one to sue for repayment. Even the contents of the house, packed into storage by the Sheriff's department pending delivery to next of kin and all of the other related crime scene evidence, all went into storage ... and has stayed ever since.

Rumor had it that every piece of business or private property that DD had owned had all been extensively searched and nearly demolished as well by a seemingly identical crew of unusually interested parties equipped with construction grade power tools. It was surmised that everyone was searching for DD's lost or hidden money, but once a couple of years had passed everyone had now apparently given up. If it ever existed, someone had either found (and wasn't telling) or else it had never existed in the first place. Perhaps the money was all hidden in some overseas account. Or the would-be dwarf lord had dug a hole in the ground somewhere in some secret rural property somewhere in the hills and had buried his fortune where now no one would ever likely find it except by accident. Gary inclined strongly to the latter theory.

"Just between you, me and the lamp post outside," Gary laughed, "I know for a fact that one of the most recent intruders tearing up the house was my counterpart, the other Village Assistant Police Chief, Bernie McLaine. My patrol car dashboard camera caught him several nights in a row entering and leaving the house hours later armed with a flashlight and a crowbar, but no bags of hidden loot. He's also spent a lot of time going over the entire grounds of this cul-de-sac with a treasure detector. Him and about fifty other people too, at least. He's a bit of a thieving bastard, everyone here knows that but he's married to the Vice Mayor, who's the eldest daughter of the big land developer that built this subdivision and about a dozen more around us. He's too rich to fuck with, but often too much of an asshole to entirely ignore. Being a friend of mine, he'll probably leave you alone, so just ignore him. Anyway, it looks like he's already searched the house inside and out and from top to bottom and didn't find shit either, so he's probably put the place out of his mind now and moved on to other things ... probably equally illegal."

"What can possibly go wrong?" Gary concluded, as we finished up our little tour of this formerly prosperous and now mangled eyesore.

"Plenty! And you promised you'd never say that phrase again! You said the same thing that first game of the season when we played that Division-AA Junior College team and they beat us by over twenty points, and then we went 3-5 within the conference and missed going to even a crappy bowl game! For starters, someone else just might want this place and have a deeper checkbook!"

"Not a chance, besides, who else would want this crappy dump?"

Now that statement made me just ooze with confidence!

For starters, in the two years since Gary had bought his own foreclosure next door to me at an outrageous bargain basement price, the market was perhaps a bit more stable, or instead a good many more people had gone to 'Buy foreclosed houses and get rich!" classes. Or perhaps also there were an unusual number of innocent bystanders today taking the early spring air this morning at the bank parking lot. Indeed it was sort of a carnival experience, complete with bank employees handing out drinks and hot dogs and I swear I saw a cotton candy machine somewhere!

Turnout was 'above expectations', one busy bank staff employee muttered as I ambushed him somewhere around the children's face painting booth. That meant that my own expectations for being the successful high bidder were dropping even lower than the hired clown's bright yellow oversized plastic pants.

"Tell me again how you talked me into this?" I enquired of my nonplused friend as he chewed away on his second Coney dog loaded with extra chili and onions.

"Don't worry. The crowd members with the kids are mostly just here to see the advertised post auction free entertainment, the clown show, the magicians, the musical acts and so on. The professional buyers are easy to spot and there's not very many of those. They won't buy ... they're just here to make sure that a real bargain that can't be missed doesn't occur. It's the older folks, couples mostly dressed up in their 'going to meeting' church clothes that you need to keep an eye on."

"Kind of like that middle-aged couple just in front of us?" I enquired, lowering my voice to avoid being overheard. It wasn't likely with all of the surrounding crowd noise, but I wanted to keep our own interests private."

"Exactly! They're the sort that paid $299 for one of those real estate buying seminars held monthly at the local Hilton and are looking for opportunities to flip. Buy cheap, fix up with a cheap coat of paint and then sell for a profit. On the bright side, none of these old darlings have likely ever held a power tool in their lives and have relied upon third-party contractor quotes to estimate the restoration costs. Contractors love these sorts of fools and usually jack their bids way up above any likely actual costs. Then they'll hope to soak them some more with project overruns and additional 'newly discovered damage'. You don't have that worry, because Jason has already agreed to do the work on a part-time basis, and with an old teammate discount."

Jason Bernard was an old teammate of ours and he had been our class valedictorian at high school graduation. He was insanely smart, but he'd mentally burned out nearly entirely during his second year of college and instead of becoming our next state governor, he had become instead a carpenter. Now he did various handyman sorts of jobs and was just competent enough to handle journeyman level plumbing and electrical wiring too without scaring the customer too terribly badly. He'd already agreed to work for cheap, about half of his regular hourly contractor rate and then charge me only 'cost plus gas' for the materials. That was more than fair, and would give me a slight edge on my own calculations about the top dollar limit I could spend.

"Actually," my overly confident friend and would-be next-door neighbor continued, "our biggest worry is a newbie flipper, someone hoping to score big with their first deal. They'll be too optimistic about their projected expenses and estimated profit, and more likely to get 'auction fever' and keep bidding past any sensible cut off point."

Now that was indeed a concern, and already I could spot several couples that appeared to match that sort of over-zealous criteria. They were checking and rechecking their written notes and appeared anxious, even jittery for the auction to get going.

Fortunately, there were seven different properties on the auction block for this particular fine Saturday morning, and mine was number five on the sales agenda. The properties were sorted for auction by their calculated market value, with the least expensive foreclosures listed first. This was pretty optimal, I figured, and would allow the amateurs to overbid for the cheap ones early on, which were more likely to be in their price range anyway. Also the final two more expensive properties after mine would likely be of more interest for the really serious professional buyers, or bidders planning to obtain their dream home at a serious discount. All of these other six foreclosed houses were in much better condition than mine also, theoretically making them of more immediate interest to buyers looking to score a real bargain.

No one was going to take the bank's own declared Market Valuation for any of the properties seriously. Those were all pre-bubble pie in sky numbers anyway that had little if any bearing with modern real estate reality. Using other recently sold and similar footage Ranger Heights properties for a benchmark, we calculated that this once $649,000 dollar home was now worth about half of that in the current buyers market, call it more or less valued at about $329k +/- ten to twenty thousand. Jason had also given us a 'retail cost estimate' (non-discounted) of at least $125k in likely needed repairs.

"Kurt, are you sure you really want this place?" Jason had grumbled the day we gave him an inspection tour of the heavily vandalized property. "Sure it has limitless potential, but I've got the feeling that it's going to be a money pit, especially if you want to restore all of the damaged hand-carvings! I've looked the house over three times now and I'm still not sure I understand how the previous owner either wired up the gas and electricity or finagled the plumbing, especially the sewage draining pipes to the city street! I can't trace the solar electrical wiring either and half of the plumbing for the solar water heating definitely needs replacing too. And I still can't figure out where that buried underground propane tank pipe under the main deck in the side yard goes to! If you were Joe Blow just off of the street, I'd charge you at least a hundred and fifty grand even to touch the job, maybe even more! Use that as your baseline repair expense for what others are adding to their bidding and let's hope the job improves once I actually get working on it ... but don't count on it!"

Actually for planning purposes to guess what my competing bidders would calculate, I ended up splitting the difference and using the $125,000 estimate. If Jason was too pessimistic about his competitors likely estimates then that would give me a little extra financial cushion here as well.

In addition to the final hammer price, the auctioneers were also charging a 5% buyers premium, meaning that if the property sold for $100,000, then I'd actually be writing that check for the final value of $105,000. This was extra money I'd have to mentally budget for, if the bidding got close to my cut off limit. For easy math calculation purposes I assumed this would add about $10k to the final purchase price. A bit less probably in reality, but it was a good number to use as a cushion.

There were some additional more minor expenses due as well, like back county property taxes, city taxes, MUD taxes and also HOA fees. None of those guys ever forgave any owed expense and the new buyer was going to have to cough up each of these past due fees all too promptly. This suggested that another $20k should be reduced from the highest sensible bid, assuming any of these competing bidders took enough of an interest in this foreclosed and badly vandalized property enough to end up paying close to actual fair street value for it.

I hoped not. The point of foreclosure sales was to find a bargain, getting a steal way below market rates. The final 'estimated real market value' I'd calculated for the property was about $184,000, but it was extremely unlikely that any would want to pay that much. Houses at auction tended to sell at a considerable discount and often at a massive bargain. I just hoped that everyone else remembered this minor point and I didn't end up getting into something of a wild and uncontrolled bidding war, where impulsive emotional decisions began to trump common sense and logic.

All totaled this left my own personal bid ceiling at $159,000 and I really didn't want to pay more than $140k if possible. Sure, Jason was going to cut me a deal on repairs, and do the work irregularly as I could afford it, but I needed to buy this house on the cheap. Even liquidating my broker account had barely raised my checkbook to about two hundred thousand of buying money, and I'd need some of that leftover cash to live on until I got my antique business going once more, especially if I wanted to open another smaller retail location. More start-up costs there too!

There was quite spirited bidding over the first four houses of the foreclosure auction, with final hammer prices (including buyers premium) selling at about a 20-25% discount below estimated actual street value. Not bad; this was about what I'd privately expected and this sales trend was certainly acceptable to my limited budget.

Once the bidding began for my property, I didn't at first notice any particular changes to the bidding pattern. The usual professional bargain hunters all dropped out early, as they had done earlier and even most of the flippers were now shaking their heads as well, once the bidding had reached an early plateau of $110,000. Now it was just myself and one especially eager older couple (the inexperienced flippers we'd noticed earlier in front of us) when a new bidder now suddenly entered the contest.

Even at first glance, my new competition seemed a bit out of place here. Even slightly dressed up for the occasion the quartet of interested buyers looked very 'urban', and noticeably young and very racially mixed. Their leader seemed to be an older black male who was holding the bidding card and his two partners, a pair of slightly younger Hispanic and white males with obvious arm tattoos, were stuck to his side like glue, and rather nervously looking around as if they expected trouble. Just behind them was an even younger white female with long dark hair who looked even less comfortable being seen with her partners, obviously wishing she was somewhere else entirely. Very odd!

Once the bidding crossed over the one hundred thousand threshold, the bidding now jumped in increments of five thousand and almost immediately all of the amateurs bowed out, except for the one overly zealous older couple who were now hot with auction fever, and this new rather odd group of younger buyers.

When in a three-way auction bidding competition, it can quickly become impossible to pick your optimal tactical bidding position. My max bid was $159k and we were heading to that threshold rather quickly in 15k round increments as I bid and then was out-bid by my two competitors in turn. The bidding ran 105k then 120k and then 135k back to me, which I accepted with a yelp that was supposed to be a 'Yes' but got stuck halfway down my throat in the process. I tried to nod confidently at least, giving the impression of smugness that at this point I didn't really feel. I'd gone to a lot of auctions as both a buyer and seller, but never with amounts this scary! I quickly guessed that after the next round of bids, if everyone stayed in, that it would be 150k back to me for my next bid offer ... and then 165k after that.

And in a matter of moments, that's just what the situation was, with the auctioneer pointing his finger at me and calling out "160 ... going once ... going twice..."

"170!" Someone eventually said, just a hair's breath before the auctioneer was about to bring the hammer down. The voice was mine, and in something of a rather high pitched squeak as if my jeans were feeling at least two sizes too tight.

Ok, I was now about 10k over my own 'max bid price' but still marginally within my means and at good $20k below probable market value. Maybe even $50k or more, if Gary really could do the restoration job on the cheap. Also, as an experienced auction attendee, the strategy of displaying uber confidence by performing a jump bid above the next minimum bid is a pretty good psychological tool for taking out other competing bidders. I've used it with really good success in the past for getting items that I've really wanted. It demonstrates to the competition that you're serious ... and in the bidding to stay.

It mostly worked. The inexperienced flipper couple was the next in sequence to bid and after a quick glance at their notes they located where they had misplaced their common sense and shook their heads to decline to forward the bidding. It stayed $170k to the oddly mixed urban group of bidders and without any hesitation they called my bluff.

"180!" The older black male announced with a fairly calm and loud voice. That meant that it was 185k back to me once more. That meant in reality something close to $195,000 after the added buyer's premium – just a wee bit more than was even in my entire check book right now.

No can do! I shook my head and made sure that my hands were firmly shoved into my pockets so that my twitching couldn't be confused for a bid. That was it, the end of my dream. I'd sort of grown fond of the weird semi-demolished house but there was no way I'd pay pretty much full actual real market value for any house in these troubled days.

The auctioneer banged the hammer down and started upon his description of the next property, a place likely to sell for well over this last foreclosure, being in considerably better condition and possessing a view of Lake Austin as well. It sold after brisk spirited bidding to a professional for over 500k and the final house (actually a mansion) sold for even more. Frustrated, I grabbed and ate my own share of hot dogs before we left and I called it a day and went back to my apartment to brood!

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