The Partnership aka Bad Deacon
Chapter 2: Bad Deacon

Copyright© 2017 by MysteryWriter

When I left Tupelo Mississippi I had $750,000 in drug money. I never really believed it would happen, and I didn’t really need the money, so the question running through my mind was, what now? Since I didn’t have an answer, I just drove. I drove all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, which wasn’t really all that far. It took less than five hours to get to Biloxi.

Once in Biloxi I checked into a very nice three star motel, the travel lodge. I spent only one night there, but I did sleep late the morning I checked out. I left the parking lot and worked my way over to interstate fifty five. I drove half a day again to wind up less than a hundred mile from where I had grown pot a few weeks earlier. I might as well have been a thousand miles away, since I did not plan to see or even contact my cousin Judy. My plan was to disappear into the rural area surrounding Grenada Mississippi.

I pulled into the campground on Grenada lake after my dinner in a local restaurant. I stopped at the local Walmart for an ice chest, some cokes, snacks, a plastic cup, and a bag of ice. I paid with a hundred dollar bill. Yes that’s how I planned to get rid of the money. Just spend it but I planned to pay my fixed expenses from my bank account. That account was refilled monthly by my modest police pension.

I drove the pickup with the bed filled of camping gear to the campground. At the campground I checked in under the name Deacon Andrews. If was a nickname I picked up during my years in the Camden N.J. police department. I was considered a very straight arrow beat cop, therefore a deacon. The press began calling me bad deacon after the incident which led to my disgrace.

I slept very well in the back of my truck. The breeze off the lake was enough to disperse the mosquito population, or maybe the campground sprayed for them. Either way it was pleasant even in the rear of a pickup truck.

The next morning, I had breakfast in Grenada after my bathhouse shower. I felt remarkably good. So good in fact I looked at some rural farmland. I did not want to farm, I wanted to settle down, and just hide out for a while.

On my fourth day in Grenada, I asked the waitress the local waffle house if she knew any good realtors. I explained I had struck out searching myself.

“My cousin Louise is a realtor. She is new to the business though,” she replied.

“Could you give me her number. I’ll tell her you told me to call,” I offered.

“Sure,” she said. “I got it right here in my phone.”

I copied her number into my phone before I paid my check. “Thanks again,” I said as I walked out.

“Miss Baker,” I said when I got an answer to the call.

“Yes this is Louise Baker,” she replied.

“Louise, your cousin Grace suggested I call you. I’m looking for a small house or a piece of land I can build upon,” I said.

“What is your name friend,” she asked,

“Deacon Andrews, so do you have anything?” I asked.

“So Deacon, how much land do you want?” she asked ignoring my question.

“Under five acres I think,” I said. “Otherwise too much grass to mow.”

“Would you consider a fishing cabin on three acres?” she asked.

“I might. How long has it been on the market?” I asked her as an answer.

“A year or so,” she replied.

“Why don’t your find five houses that fall into that range, and let’s take a look at them,” I said.

“When are you available to visit some houses?” she asked.

“Anytime at all, I’m motivated to buy. I’m living in a camper on the back of a pickup until I find something,” I said.

“Why don’t you just come over to my office.” She went on to give me detailed directions to the house on a short residential street. Her office had obviously once been a carport converted to a garage then to an office for her business.’

I followed her convoluted directions which got me lost more than once. I again decided I needed a GPS device of some kind. The ten minute drive took me half an hour.

“Sorry I took so long. I got a little lost driving over,” I explained.

“It’s okay. I made some calls while I waited. So are you ready to start?” she asked.

Louise, couldn’t have looked more different from her cousin Grace. Grace was about thirty pounds overweight and that was being kind. Louise was skinny as a rail. She did have beautiful hair, and she dressed well. She also had freckles which Grace did not. Grace was on the downhill side of forty where as Louise was in her thirties.

“So Miss Baker have you lived here all your life?” I asked as I walked up to her car. I had followed her from her home office.

“Pretty much. I went away to college and worked in Jackson for a few years, but I came home after my divorce,” she explained. “Why?”

“I’m sorry I’m also divorced. It’s not for wimps,” I said. “I am just curious about how well you know the area. It’s important I think.”

“Yes knowing how the people here think can help,” she said. “And no divorce is not easy.”

“Good that we understand each other. This house is too large. I said of the first house she showed me. I don’t want anything larger than two bedrooms and one bath. The lot appears large enough to have some privacy,” I said. I hoped that gave Louise a better idea of what I had in mind.

“Okay, let me take a look at the listings and make a few calls. I’ll get back to you this evening,” Louise said.

“Fair enough Miss Baker,” I agreed.

Even though I had her on the case, I made some inquires and a search of the internet for the ‘For Sale By Owner’ properties in the area.

Louise called that night. “Mr. Andrews, I have a two small houses outside Grenada for you to view. I also have a house inside town, just in case you change your mind about living in town,” she suggested.

“Fine when do you want to show them to me,” I asked. “Or can you give me directions and I’ll do a drive by. The outside will tell me a lot about whether I want to waste your time.”

“Well I’d like to be there, so you only have to make one trip to evaluate it,” Louise suggested. There is not a lot you can’t see from the road.”

“Okay but I’m motivated to move on this,” I said.

“I know. Trust me I want to make a sale just as bad as you want to stop sleeping in the back of your truck,” she said trying to be understanding of my situation. I hoped she was fooled by my appearance of retirement poverty.

“So, when can we see the property?” I asked.

“Tomorrow morning we can drive by one house which is still occupied. I also have the keys to one that is empty which you can walk through in the morning. The two lots outside of town we can drive by.” Louise went on to give me directions to the properties.

I had no real desire to have her tag along, but I decided to just go with it. I had a few places to see on my own the next day. As I had said to Louise I wanted to get the hell moving on building my new life. Even if it was a temporary stop along the way to the grave.

I had time for breakfast in town at the local Shoney’s. I usually avoided chrome and glass chain restaurants but I was new to town. The breakfast was just acceptable nothing special. I expected biscuits with my breakfast in Mississippi, but got toast.

I arrived at the first location twenty minutes early. I got a chance to look around the lot and outside of the house well before Louise arrived. When she pulled up I walked to her car.

“No sense getting out. This just wont do,” I stated. “It’s still too large. Please don’t show me anything over 1000 sq feet. It doesn’t matter how cute it is.”

“Mr. Andrews there just aren’t that many homes under a thousand square feet,” she said

“I’m sure that’s true. So is the next house under a thousand?” I asked.

“Yes, then I have a couple of building lots to show you,” she explained.

“I think I would be more interested in acreage to be honest, but okay,” I said.

The house turned out to be nine hundred and eighty eight square feet of interior space. It was a kitchen bath two small bedrooms and a living room. It was the size I wanted, so I asked Louise, “What are they asking for this house?”

“Seventy thousand dollars, that includes a two acre lot. We are about ten miles from Grenada,” she answered.

I thought about it and decided, “If the owner will take sixty, and if I can get a mortgage, I’ll take it. If it passes the inspection, and if it appraises high enough. I mean if the HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and structural integrity are all up to snuff.”

“I’ll take him the offer, but I don’t know about the low ball and the inspection,” Louise said.

“Then set up some acreage for me to look at. Something under five acres,” I suggested.

“Let’s wait for the answer about the house north of town,” she said.

“Fair enough, if the answer comes withing the next two days,” I suggested.

Two days later at the last possible minute the answer came. It was a counter. “They thought it over and decided that they would take sixty thousand,” Louise said.

“I don’t even want to make a counter offer, but thanks for your hard work. So now will you show me the small farmstead?” I asked.

“Okay, I have three for you to see,” she suggested.

“Of course you do. How far out are they?” I asked.

“About five to fifteen miles out of Grenada,” she explained.

Since I had spent the summer semi roughing it, I knew I could survive a hunting cabin life style. I was not dying to try it again. I had to settle somewhere quickly since I needed to find a way to laundry the money from the pot farm.

Neither one of the farmsteads had good access to a paved road, nor were they within easy reach of the Yalobuska River. To be honest it wasn’t much of a river anyway. The farmsteads just weren’t anything special. However I did have to get started on something, so I planned to make an offer on the site closest to a county road. I decided over that night to make an offer on a 3.6 acre tract accessible from the VFW road. Which ran off an improved state or county road, I wasn’t really sure which.

There was a lot to be done to the farmstead and I really didn’t really know for sure if I wanted to do that much. It was going to be a lot of work and expense just to get a driveway into the place. I decided to let it wait until after lunch. I chose a local diner located on a fairly busy street for lunch. Well as busy as a street could be in a town of 15,000 people.

The much younger Louise Baker called me while I was in the middle of my late lunch. “Hello Louise what can I do for you?” I asked.

“I got a call from the owner of that house you made the offer on a couple of days ago. He has decided to accept your offer after all,” she said.

“Now that worries me,” I said. “Did he give you a reason?”

“No he just said, if you closed on the earliest possible date the place was yours,” Louise said. “So should I start looking at mortgages for you?”

“It might be easier to get a mortgage from my bank, since I don’t have a job at the moment. They have known me a while. They also would know my finances best,” I said.

“Then you talk to them, but remember I can usually get a mortgage done through someone. You did tell me you were a veteran?” she asked.

“Army reserve yes,” I said.

“You qualify for a VA loan,” she said.

“If all else fails,” I agreed.

It took two weeks even on a fast track to close. I would have rented the house for both weeks, but the owner wouldn’t move until the closing. The owner was moving out the some night of the closing. Since he was a prick, I demanded he get out. I also demanded that he agree to forfeit any personal property left in the house at midnight. I found mostly trash inside the house the next morning.

I moved the two five gallon paint buckets from home depot into the house along with the furniture from my truck the first day. I spread the furniture and small appliance around the house, then found the access for the attic space. There was no floor but I had a large lid for a rubber maid container. I sat the two buckets of hundred dollar bills onto that container lid. It seemed sturdy enough, but I still put a quarter sheet of sheet plywood on my shopping list. I did that just to make sure the buckets didn’t fall through the ceiling.

I had to go all over the area just to find furniture. I know some people enjoy shopping like that but I didn’t really care about the furniture. At least I didn’t have to shop for appliances. The previous owner left the stove and refrigerator. He also left the old model washer and drier so obviously he planned to buy new everything. His hand me down junk didn’t bother me at all.

Since my pension barely covered the mortgage. I was flirting with going into business. I wanted something that required zero work. Sure I was willing to download five hundred bucks from the attic weekly but that was the maximum work I wanted to perform. I didn’t even want to own a car wash. I knew that they could be traced, but truthfully I didn’t even want to do that much work.

Since it was winter, there weren’t that many options for a man on his own. I for sure didn’t want to punch a clock. At least not with almost 750k in paint buckets stored in my attic. First I bought an open trailer. After all I had a heavy duty trailer hitch which I had bought in Tupelo during the summer.

It was a 5’ x 8’ open trailer with a wire mesh bottom and sides. It came from Home depot and was the kind used for lawn mowers ect. I planned to advertise offering a small item for pick up and delivery services during the winter. I could run the advertisement and see what kind of loads were available. It would at least provide me some room to tap into the paint can money. I didn’t ever plan to move the money in any volume. I didn’t expect to need it for a while so all was good.

The first big expense I made was having the small house insulated. It had to be blown in to the avoids making it a huge job. As it was it took a full day and the removal of one piece of the siding. I parted with nine one hundred dollar bills and got fifty dollars in change. The transaction would be untraceable. Neither the contractor nor I made any records on it.

In the third week I owned the house, I got a job hauling off some junk in the back of an old lady’s house. It was a half a day work, so I charged her one hundred dollars. Her husband had died leaving behind a yard filled with scrap metal. I moved the metal first to my place were I sorted it. I was able to save about a third of it, but I scrapped the other two thirds. When all was said and done, I cleared about a hundred bucks from her after gas, and dump fees. I shoved two hundred and fifty dollars on my fake books.

When the truck didn’t even leave the yard the next day, I showed almost the same profit. It was more profitable to leave the truck parked, but it was also boring as hell. I found surprised that I actually liked working. I bought a winch the forth week so that I could load a car engine sitting in someone’s yard. I pulled it up using a tripod which I erected in the back of my pickup. I used the power from a battery tap from the running truck to power it. I kind of like the hauling jobs. I fudged on the payments, and I even had to invent some clients to keep the right amount of money flowing.

By Christmas the house was filled with cheap furniture and on paper I had a mildly profitable business. Since all seemed right with the world, I decided to fly north to visit the family. My father had died when I was fourteen and my mother two years before my misunderstanding with the citizens of Camden. My ex-wife and the mother of my daughter had recently remarried. It is true that we still kept in touch, but barely.

I thought Marcy my twenty two year old daughter had gone back to school in the fall. So I was shocked when I found that she was living with a classmate from the police academy. They both were recent graduates. I was glad when I found out that her roommate was a girl. I was not happy that she had gone into law enforcement.

“What the hell possessed you to become a cop.” I asked.

“I didn’t want to become a clerk in some CPA’s office. Life is too short to be bored,” she said.

“You have been in the field what one rotation?” I asked.

“I’m on my first one riding alone,” she said.

“That makes it two. You don’t think midnight shifts get boring?” I asked. “What planet are you from?”

“I know they will get boring, but not like day in and day out filling out tax forms,” she said.

“Well that is true. Just remember it is not a crime to walk away from The New Jersey Turnpike Cops,” I said. We both smiled at that. The rest of the Christmas holiday I spent on the phone trying to work out dinner with her. She was a busy girl. She was driving thirty minute each way to her post.

She had lost a few pounds I noted. I didn’t mention it though. I had learned from her mother that even a compliment from a man, meant that he had noticed she wasn’t perfect. I had a feeling Marcy would be the same.

After a week I changed my ticket and left with almost no warning. I knew I was a damper on her new life. I just hoped no one realized who her father was. I was afraid to ask her. It was a wound still bleeding as far as I was concerned. Nobody likes to get squeezed out of is job after twenty years, not even me.

The flight back took me to Jackson after a change. The long term parking was ten bucks at day at the lot a lot a half mile from the airport in the industrial area of the parking lot. I had to take a shuttle bus to the parking lot carrying my suitcase with the new thermal vest from my daughter.

I had given her a thousand dollars. “That is way too much,” she said.

“Not really it was money I saved for your college. So use it to get a different kind of education,” I explained. “Merry Christmas.”

I played that moment over several times on the drive from the JAX. I was glad to get away from Trenton NJ where Marcy had moved with her female roommate. I noted that it was about ten degrees colder in the New Jersey wasteland. Trust me even in December ten degrees makes a difference.

I pulled into my drive and realized, yet again, that it had way too many cracks. I could have it repaved but it would never make the place worth more money, so it would never happen. I had plans for when the spring came. I planned to make the cracks and holes worse, then fill them in with cheap gravel and topsoil. It would press down to make a pretty good fill. Kind of like an old Egyptian brick. Like I said it would wait till spring.

In the meantime I ignored the rough drive and parked my truck by the house. I found my trailer right where I left it, so I was still in business. I went into the house which was cold as ice. I had winterized it before taking my trip. I had also turned off the utilities just in case of an accident. I felt like it was a good idea since I didn’t know how I could replace the two paint buckets.

I got the heat started while I drove to the diner for dinner. I picked up a large order of chile Verde and an order of Mexican flat bread. When I got home the furnace was still running wide open, but the house wasn’t warm. The house wasn’t all the cold, but it was still to cool to sit around watching a movie on line. I ate then checked my telephone messages. It was warmer by the time I processed all twenty two of them. It was comfortable in the house by the time I returned the last on my list of important calls.

“This is Deacon Andrews I just got your message I have been out of town. If you still want your storage building emptied, I can get there anytime in the next couple of days,” I explained.

“Mr. Andrews that would be fine. My children have come and taken anything of value. If you would give me a price to clean out the building I’d appreciate it. I’m sure we can work something out,” she suggested.

“I can empty your building, load it on my truck and trailer, then haul it away, but I’m afraid I’m a typical man unable to clean the building to your satisfaction,” I explained truthfully. I was also giving her a chance to back out.

“That’s fine, I have a grand daughter who is always looking to earn a few dollars. I can work something out with her for the sweeping and scrubbing,” the old lady agreed.

“That would be nice. I’ll come by tomorrow sometime to take a look,” I suggested.

It was finally warm enough in the house to sleep. I knew for sure it was the heating system. I had the house insulated so it had to be the heating system. I made a mental note to buy a supplemental heater of some kind.

The house had electric radiant baseboard heaters which were probably the least popular type of heaters for a reason. I checked the windows, because the house was still cool the next morning. I found the air penetrated the windows easily. I decided to add storm windows before I bought any kind of heat source.

After a cinnamon toast and coffee breakfast, I rode to the house of the older lady with the storage building needing emptying. I found several good things and a lot of trash. I decided it would take at least two trips to the landfill. I also decided that she didn’t need a break on the cost.

“I took a look and it appears I’m going to have to make at least two full loads. So I’m sorry but the price is going to have to be four hundred dollars,” I stated.

“I need to talk to my son. Could you wait just a few minutes while I call him,” she asked.

“Sure, I’ll wait ten minutes,” I agreed. “If it’s longer than that you can call me on my cell phone.”

The old lady couldn’t locate her son right away, so I moved on to order the storm windows. It took about an hour to order the windows since I had never done so before. The sales clerk even had me questioning the color. The house trim was white so I was tempted to get white windows. She finally told me it would take a few days to order them in white. If I went with the ones they called mill finish I could have them right away. I purchased them all but one. I knew for sure I would need to leave one open for a large air conditioner. The house had a 220 receptacle for a large BTU model air conditioner. The eight windows were almost four hundred dollars. Money well spent I hoped.

I had the truck loaded when I realized I didn’t have a step ladder to install the windows. That’s when I remembered the storage building had an aluminum step ladder. It wasn’t very tall and it was old, but it would be free so I didn’t buy anything. I could have afforded a new one, but why push my luck buying anything else with funny money.

The phone rang as I unloaded the windows. When I was startled by the ringer, I had half of them stored in the mostly empty living room. “Deacon’s pick up, delivery, and moving service,” I said into the phone.

“Mr Andrews I spoke to my son. He thought your price was a little high,” she said then waited for me to reply.

“I’m sure he feels that way ma’am, but I have expenses that require I charge the prices I quoted you. I am sorry though,” I said.

“If I wait for him it will never get done. There is a lot of work I know,” she said. “How about if you pay my grand daughter, Sarah, fifty dollars to thoroughly clean the storage building.”

“Alright, but she has to help me load as well for that. I can use her on the last day to help load and clean the building,” I agreed. “I am sorry ma’am I can’t take checks or credit cards at my prices.”

“That’s okay if you will accept half when you start and the balance when you finish,” she suggested.

“That is more than satisfactory,” I said. “I’ll start in the morning, if that is okay with you?”

The first day I went through cherry picking the items I wanted to keep. Yes that included the six foot aluminum step ladder which was close to perfect. The hinges were bent, and the legs not quite straight, but all in all it was fine. I also got a couple of lamps I might put on Ebay. There were a few extension cords that would prove useful someday maybe. A few old tools which I put in back of the truck, before I loaded all the scrap into the trailer. Into the trailer I placed old paint cans and bottles with unknown contents. Lots of old broken items and pictures. I gave a couple of albums to the old lady to check out before I came for them the next day.

I found a couple of old bikes in the piles of trash. Those I put in the rear of the truck to try to salvage. All in all it was a fun day. I ran out of room in the house quickly. I hadn’t even finished the job and I knew I was saving too much. I decided to have a giant yard sale then junk the left overs.

Since I had been selling scrap metal the whole time, I knew where to take it. It didn’t pay much, but it helped give me a legitimate business presence. One that could actually be verified. I found I no longer worried about making money, only about how to hide it in my books.

The grand daughter met me the next morning. Her job was not rocket science. It was a good thing since she was a space cadet. She was at least a pot head, since she had a problem concentrating. She spent the first hour helping me to load the truck. She even helped shovel garbage into the plastic rolling cans I had purchased during my first job. Those cans dramatically reduced the number of trips to the trailer.

I made a trip to the landfill while Sarah, the grand daughter, straightened and swept the storage building. At the end of the day I paid her fifty dollars. I had her sign a casual labor invoice for the money, She provided me her her address and social security number. I also got her phone number in case I really needed help someday.

Sarah was nineteen years old. She didn’t take any pride in her appearance at all. I know it was a menial job, but she should have at least tried to impress me. I might have more work for her. Then again, I didn’t really care how she looked. Her main problem was she couldn’t work more than half an hour without a break. I decided I would pay her by the hour, if I needed her again. That way I could dock her pay for all breaks over two per full day. She would either quit or learn how to work. I wasn’t sure why I bothered, except maybe I respected her grandmother.

During the next couple of weeks, I managed a couple of small pick up and delivery jobs. I also began working on a storage building. The plan was for a ten foot by twenty four foot building behind my house. The house was almost twice those dimensions. Even so I figured I would double my storage space.

I planned to move ahead slowly with the building. The first week I had the slab poured. I handed eight hundred bucks over to the contractor. I regretted it, but it had to be done. I did not have the knowledge, the tools, nor even the inclination to do it myself. It sat outside and weathered for a couple of weeks even after it was finished in February. I couldn’t make a decision on my next move.

It was valentines day when I found a contractor with experience in installing metal barn style buildings. He made the frame from sturdy wooden components. He was able to purchase the metal siding and roofing directly from the maker according to him. I showed him the slab. He left mumbling to himself. He did promise to call me that night.

When he called it was with a price that we negotiated down to one thousand dollars turnkey. Five hundred when the materials were delivered and the same on delivery of the finished building. He also set up the electrical system for another five hundred. The total package was about three grand I figured.

Life had gone on during the construction of the barn. There was a lot of fake jobs, but also some real ones. Once the storage building was ready, I planned a huge yard sale. Any junk left over would go to the landfill with only a very small percentage of exceptions. At the end of the day, I made three hundred dollars. I loaded the trailer for a trip to the landfill Monday morning, I kept some wooden furniture since I had a small wood stove with which to heat the storage barn. I don’t expect to heat it often, so burning the old furniture should do fine, I thought.

I did just enough pick up and delivery to say I offered it. I also did the clean up and hauling which added another dimension to the business. Even with them both I couldn’t make a real living. Fortunately I had the pension to make it look more legit. Even so I had to keep in mind that I was faking most of it.

I found a tax clerk to file my income tax for me. Believe it or not her name came from Sarah the space cadet. I was afraid of her until Sarah told me the woman was her mother. That also made her my old lady’s daughter. So I decided to give her a shot.

“Mr Andrews it’s so nice to meet you. My mother and Sarah both say nice things about you,” the woman a few years younger than me said.

“That’s very nice of them,” I said to the woman. “You are Mrs. Martin?”

“You can call me Ester,” she said.

“Thank you Ester,” I’d like to talk to you about my taxes,” I said. “Sarah said you teach business classes at the community college.”

“Yes I do. So I know a little about the tax code,” she said. “I have also been doing my friends and family’s taxes for years.”

“Have any of them been audited?” I asked.

“Lord no,” she said shocked that I would ask.

“Good, let me tell you about my tax situation, and you can quote me a price,” I said.

“Of course, but it’s based on thirty five dollars an hour. You could probably handle it with a computer program cheaper,” she informed me.

“It’s a little to complicated for me to be honest. Especially last year. I had income from more than one source.”

“Okay let me start by taking notes,” she said.

I explained I worked a couple of months as a police patrol sergeant in Camden N.J. Then I was suspended for a while without pay. Then the pay was reinstated as a lump sum payment. I also sold my house, and I have a closing statement for that payment. I helped my cousin grow cooking herbs during the summer last year. After that I moved to Grenada, I bought a house and opened a pick up and delivery service. Also I haul away junk, but you know about that.” I said.

“Yes Mom told me you did fine work. Of course since you gave my Daughter a job, she would say that.” Ester said. “So break your income down for me.”

15,000 and change in payroll from Camden. 25,000 and change from the lump sum payout. Approximately 18,000 in pension payments. Then I had about 20,000 in equity from the sale of my house. Oh yes I made five thousand from the sale of the herbs we grew during the summer. Call it a total of 80k, I said.

“You said you bought a house? Did you make a down payment?” she asked.

“I make a 30,000 down payment to make the payments small enough to come out of my pension. The bank wasn’t crazy about making the mortgage other wise,” I said.

“We need to figure out how much it cost you to be in business. Everything you pay to operate,” Ester said.

“I actually do have records, but they start this year. I wasn’t in business long last year just a couple of months,” I said.

“Do what you can to come up with some numbers. Oh yes you need the income record from those few months as well,” she said,

“I didn’t make a profit,” I said.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “It will help you lower your tax. If nothing changes you are going to owe about 7000. I’ll do what I can for you. You paid some in so it may not be much left to pay. My guess is my bill to you will be some where around a hundred dollars,”

“That is probably doable,” I said.

“Well you get all your available records and we will meet again,” she said. “Now that business is over would you like a cup of coffee?”

“Sure,” I answered. I changed the way I looked at her as she poured and served the coffee. She was an average height woman and only about ten pounds over weight. It was all in her butt, which didn’t bother me at all. She had color added to her hair, so it wouldn’t give her age away. All things considered she was an attractive woman just a little younger that me. There were picture of her daughter but not a husband, so I assumed for whatever reason, he was no longer in their lives. Some of the pictures showed her daughter to be clone of her. Those were taken back when she had tried to look nice.

“Thanks for the coffee and the conversation,” I said after the brief conversation. I left promising to search my records. It shouldn’t be too difficult, I thought since my ex wife kept all the mail and then forwarded it to me in a larger envelope. I never bothered to open the large envelops, but I did kept them. I felt certain all the W2 forms and the other income forms would be in the unopened mail.

When I got home, I went into my new storage building. First thing I did inside was get an arm load of broken furniture pieces. They went into the stove which I fired up with a half ounce of gasoline. It was not the recommended starter fluid, but it was all I had at that moment. I stayed in the shop to make sure the stove was drawing and the damper was open before going into the warm house.

I went directly to the largest bedroom where I removed the two bikes I had saved. They were the best of half a dozen junkers. I had stripped small parts from the other four, then sold the frames. Since I obviously was going to come across many of them, I had visions of restoring bikes for fun and maybe profit. All my life I had enjoyed working with my hands, and I was looking forward to having a place to do it comfortably. I stripped down the two bikes that night. I planned to allow some of the parts to soak in an oil bath before cleaning them.

It was two months later and the first official day of spring, and there were still bike parts soaking in the dishpan of motor oil mixed with a dab of gasoline, when I had come to a compromise on the bikes. I put them back in good working order, but stopped at that. I was just about a good enough mechanic to make them safe, but not good enough to return then to like new condition.

With spring coming I wanted to move into a more active lifestyle. I had just about made my final decision to open a lawn care operation. It was a cash business that would suit my lifestyle. Not to mention my equipment. I could manage to hide the purchase of new equipment because it would not be a huge capital investment. Capital investment thinking was a term I picked up for Sarah’s mother. She was also my book keeper and tax consultant.

Sarah wanted to believe that her mother and I were lovers. I tried to convince her that it wasn’t that kind of relationship, mostly because Ester didn’t want any emotional baggage. Sure she and I had spent more than one night together during the last three months, so maybe to some people’s way of thinking we were lovers. The thing missing were the emotional attachments. That and the need to include her in my plans for the future.

Two weeks before the official first day of spring I moved the soaking bike parts to a spot in the rear corner of the barn/shop. I had to make room or the trailer. Since the trailer was empty during the winter months, I had not bother to store it inside. Since it would soon have lawn maintenance equipment I wanted it out of the weather.

My first purchase was a five year old Cub Cadet Lawn Tractor. I paid a grand in cash for the Cubby because it had the original purchase and maintenance documents to go along with it. It had belonged to a man with a farmstead about four times larger than my modest piece of dirt. Since it hadn’t been used in a high volume application, I felt that it had some more serviceable hours left in it.

Next I bought a sixteen inch electric push mower, two electric weed whackers, an electric blower, and an electric edger. All the electric equipment was corded. The Cub Cadet was the only piece of gasoline equipment I purchased. I had a very nice clean six plug 15 amp distribution strip for those homes lacking an outside outlet. I would have preferred to go with a completey electric equipment inventory. In all I dropped about twenty two hundred in capital equipment. I just loved that term. I thought it made me sound like a real businessman.

The hauling business staed at about the level it had been during the winter, but to it I added the start up lawn service. I had the same customers in June that I signed up in April and May. I figured that was a good sign. It allowed me to add Sarah to the payroll. She mostly ran the weed whackers and the blower. If we had any oddball request, she did what she could on those. It wasn’t perfect but it worked out pretty well.

We did mostly residential lawns at a reasonable price. I promised to beat any other lawn service by 10% period. The back bite was I only accepted cash, no credit cards or checks. There were a few people who wanted to pay with a card, those I sent to other services. During the month of August I was able to deposit a three thousand dollars profit into the bank from the businesses and another thousand from the paint can stash.

Part of the overhead was Sarah’s twenty five percent commission as a trainee. If she signed up a new customer, I gave her a one time bonus as well. Since her percentage came off the top she did pretty well for a simple unskilled day labor employee.

I was able to drop her to work on clean and haul away projects while I cut grass. She filled our rolling trash cans and make neat piles for me to come load on the trailer when I finished the lawn work for the day. We also did pick ups and deliveries occasionally. The summer months were very busy. The flood of work lasted until the September. It slowed only slightly in October before almost dying in November.

In December I began to make plans to spend Christmas in Trenton New Jersey with Marcy. The Christmas idea got scrubbed when I received the call from Marty my ex-wife.

“Matt, Marcy is in the hospital in Trenton. They brought her in this morning in an ambulance,” Marty said.

“What the fuck?” I asked.

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