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Second Time Around

Chapter 4 - An Interesting Possibility

By Arli J

Edited by Radio Rancher
Based on Characters from Pinochle, by E Walk

When we wandered back to the Commons, the clock at the end of the block read 1:35. We had decided that we were hungry, so we headed for the Subway Gregg had noticed earlier. We bought our lunch and took it out on the Commons. We found seats at one of the tables sitting under the trees that shaded the walks. We chatted and watched the parade of shoppers and strollers which passed.

By the time we had finished eating, it was a little after 2:00, so we strolled down the block to 'Gregg's store.' He was visibly more excited, as we waited for Sally and the owner to arrive. He kept peering into the store and making plans for how he would arrange the merchandise.

Sally arrived a few minutes early for our appointment, but she was alone. I was wondering where the owner was, so I asked her.

"She had some other things to do this afternoon, so she told me to come ahead and show you the place. If you are interested in it, I can give you her phone number and you can set up an appointment with her for this evening."

Gregg spoke up: "That may work out better, since the other people we were hoping to have with us today had two appointments in Syracuse. They should be back sometime later this afternoon. Could you come back, or would you rather wait until they can come with us?"

"As long as you are here, you might as well take a look at it. Then, if you're not interested, you won't have to drag your friends here for no reason. And if you want to come back, I'd be glad to meet you here and show you through the building again."

"That would be great. I'm really quite excited about the possibilities. Harley has told me a little, and I can't wait to see it myself."

"Well, let's go in." She produced a key and opened the store. When we were all inside, she relocked the door. "No sense having unwanted guests, especially if we're on the second or third floor and don't hear them come in."

Gregg was right; there was a large area in the back which would be useful for storing new merchandise, as well as an area that could be made into a workshop. But there was something we had not expected, an elevator. Sally explained, "This building has been owned by a number of people over the years. It seems that one of the owners had difficulty walking up and down stairs, so he had the elevator installed.

"Well, God bless him, whoever and wherever he is," said Gregg. "I have the same problem, and I can certainly use this elevator." He grinned at me. "Now you have no excuse for not coming to see me, even if I'm upstairs. You can't say your leg is bothering you, so you can't climb the stairs." He turned to Sally. "We're just a couple of old duffers who have a hard time getting around sometimes." She just smiled. "The elevator does go all the way to the third floor, so you can choose which floor you want for your own apartment. So, let's go up and look around, OK?"

We got into the elevator, and Sally pushed the button for the second floor. When the elevator stopped and the door opened, we were in a hall which ran from side to side in the building, forming a sound barrier between the two apartments which opened off the hall. Sally opened the door to the front apartment, the one overlooking the Commons. We went in and looked around. It was a moderate-sized apartment with one bedroom, a nice sized living room, kitchen and bath, just right for a single person or a couple. Then we went to the other apartment, overlooking the parking lot behind the buildings on the Commons. It was the mirror image of the front apartment.

Gregg and I agreed that these were very nice, and they were in great condition. The owners had obviously taken excellent care of them. We went back to the elevator and went up to the third floor. The layout on this floor was the same as the floor below. Sally spoke up. "I don't know how you feel about it, but, personally, I would rather have neighbors below me than above me." Gregg nodded. "Me, too!"

Sally went on: "If you wanted to, you could live in one of the second floor apartments temporarily, while you were having this floor remodeled. I've been thinking about this building ever since I first talked to Harley about it. If I were the one who planned to live here, I would definitely take the third floor for myself, and there is another reason why that would be a good idea. The building, like most of the buildings downtown, has a flat roof. If you wanted to put in a stairway from this floor to the roof, you could have a private patio and roof garden. The buildings on either side have no windows overlooking this building, and there is a chest-high wall in front and in back. You would have both safety and privacy."

Gregg grinned. "I love the idea. It's not as if I had to climb stairs every day, but when I feel like it, it would be a great place to sit out in the evening and to entertain friends in nice weather." Gregg didn't know about the unpredictable weather in Ithaca, and I wasn't about to spoil his daydream by telling him. He'd find out soon enough!

Sally smiled at Gregg's enthusiasm. "So, I take it that you don't actually hate the building."

"Quite the contrary! I've already got ideas in my mind about how I would design the apartment. The downstairs apartments are perfect, and the store is, or can be, my dream store. It has everything I need."

"I don't know if you noticed when we were looking around in the back room, but there is a back door for deliveries. It opens on the parking lot in back. Oh, and by the way, residents' and business workers' parking is along the back of the building. There is no special law or rule concerning that, but it is understood by almost everyone who uses the lot. You may occasionally find someone parked in your area, but the cops in town are on the job, and a ticket, costing them twenty-five dollars, usually convinces them to find another place to park. All you have to do is to notify the police department of the license numbers of cars with permission to park there, and they take care of the others."

"That's great! Now all we have to do is to get hold of Beau and Becca, when they get back from Syracuse. May we call you to set up a time for all of us to see the place?"

"Of course. Here is my card with my phone number. I don't have anything planned for this afternoon and evening, so just call me any time, and I can meet you within about fifteen minutes."

"Thank you so much. You've been really kind to take all this trouble for us."

"Well, Harley is an old friend, as well as a client, so I couldn't turn down a request to help one of his friends. And besides," she grinned, "I get a really nice commission if you buy this place." We all laughed at her honesty.

We said goodbye to Sally and headed back to pick up the car. Then we drove to my place and called the Statler. Beau and Becca weren't back from Syracuse yet, so we left my phone number and a request for them to call as soon as they got back. We settled down in the living room and were talking over ideas for what Gregg might do with the building, as well as how he might want to design his apartment on the third floor. We both agreed that Sally was right about the stairway to the roof. It was something I would not have thought of doing, and Gregg was not familiar with urban structures, so the idea would never have occurred to him. But we agreed that it was the way to go, and Gregg began figuring out how to design it into the plan that was forming in his head for the layout of the apartment. His idea, and a very good one, I thought, was that, since the elevator opened in the middle of the apartment, he would have the bedroom and bathroom in the back, away from noise on the Commons, the kitchen in the middle, with a small entrance hall from the elevator, and the living room across the front of the building, overlooking the Commons. The stairway to the roof would go from the entrance hall upward toward the rear of the building. The empty space under the stairway could be a closet in the bedroom. It sounded like a great plan to me! He asked me for a sheet of paper and a pencil, and he began to sketch out a crude drawing of his ideas, since he didn't have the dimensions to do a better sketch.

He was in the middle of his drawing when the phone rang. Beau and Becca were back. Gregg talked to them, and his excitement was evident in his voice. When he hung up, he told me that Beau and Becca were expecting us in their room for cocktails. Ben had called them and told them that he and Grant had invited the two girls, who showed them around the campus, to join them for cocktails. "I'd better call Sally and see if we can set up a meeting with the owner of the building." He dug out the card Sally had given him and was just about to call Sally, when the phone rang. It was Beau, announcing that we were going to have dinner at Madeline's. I went out to the kitchen to see if there was any cold coffee left. There wasn't much, so I decided to be daring and throw it out. I started a new pot and returned to the living room.

Gregg was still talking on the phone. "Well, yes, I don't see any reason why we couldn't meet you and Mrs... Dolan?... Mrs. Dolan for dinner. I'll let Beau and Becca know. They are planning to go to Madeline's at 6:30.

Fine, we'll make reservations and meet you there. We'll see you at 6:30."

He hung up and turned to me. "That was Sally. The owner, a Mrs. Kathryn Dolan, wants to meet us for dinner and then go look at the store. She and Sally will meet us at Madeline's. Do you know where that is?"

"Well, yes. It's on the Commons, about half a block from the store. Did I hear you say that WE would make the reservations?"

"Yes. If Ben and Grant have invited the girls for cocktails, we should probably include them in the party for dinner, don't you think?"

"It sounds as if we should. I'll call and make the reservations. Since this is really your party, I'll put the reservation in your name. Let's see, how many of us will there be? Beau and Becca, Ben and Grant, along with the two girls, Sally and Mrs. Dolan, you and me. That's ten." I grabbed the phone book, looked up the phone number for Madeline's and called. I had no problem getting a reservation for ten; Monday evenings in downtown Ithaca are rather quiet. I made the reservation in the name of Gregg Garrison.

After I hung up, we went out to the kitchen and sat down with our coffee. Gregg was visibly excited. "I'm wondering what Beau will think of the building. He sees everything, and his mind is like a computer. If there are any flaws, he'll be sure to notice them."

"That's not a bad thing, is it? We both looked the place over rather carefully, and we didn't see any glaring problems. I'm just wondering what else he has in mind. I'm still curious about his announcement to the Board of the University that I am his local representative. I wonder what that's supposed to mean."

"Well, I'm sure Beau will tell you exactly what he expects of you. He is a very fair and honest person. All you need to do is ask; he'll tell you. But I think we should be getting up to the Statler. Beau and Becca know that we're going to dinner with Mrs. Dolan, but they don't know when. And we don't want to keep Mrs. Dolan waiting at the restaurant. That wouldn't be a very good first impression."

We headed up the hill to campus and parked behind the Statler, next to Beau's rental car. We were the last to arrive in Beau's room, since the boys had just come in with their dates for the evening. I told Beau about the phone call from Sally, and he agreed that it might be a good idea to try to get to the restaurant first, so that we could greet them when they arrived.

We drove down the hill and were lucky enough to find parking places on Aurora Street, less than half a block from the restaurant. We had just arrived at Madeline's when Sally walked in with a very distinguished looking older woman. I went over to greet them, and Sally introduced me to Mrs. Dolan. Then we joined the rest of the party and introduced everyone. I caught a passing waiter and told him that the Garrison party had arrived, and we were seated quickly at a big round table. Mrs. Dolan was apparently quite taken with the boys, since she made it a point to be seated between them. She took over the ordering of the meal and really gave the waiter a hard time. She was obviously a well known and valued customer there. We were fortunate to have her guidance. I did hear a whispered exchange between Beau and Becca about the way Mrs. Dolan reminded them of Beau's grandmother Tillison.

When our dinners had been served and we began eating, Mrs. Dolan put the young people on the spot by asking for one-minute synopses of their lives. It turned out that Maria's father was the Spanish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and Inga's father was a Supreme Court Justice in Sweden. The boys were traveling in some high class company!

Then Ben turned the tables on Mrs. Dolan by asking for her own life story in one minute. We were horrified; what if she was insulted? How would that affect the chances of Gregg getting the building?

We needn't have worried; she just smiled and gave her story. But Ben was timing her, and she ran overtime. When he called her on it, she acted insulted, but it quickly became clear that it was just that, an act. She had obviously fallen for the charms of the young people, but she wasn't about to let them know that they had the upper hand. She had already announced that dinner was her treat, so when the waiter brought the check, she signed it and put a tip into the folder with the check. She also bought a cheese cake to take with us. We left, with Maria carrying the cheese cake.

The store was only a short walk from the restaurant. Gregg was so excited about the possibilities, as he led the rest of us through the store and the space behind it. Then the adults went up in the elevator, three at a time, since it was really small. The teenagers elected to walk up the stairs.

We toured the second floor, and Beau and Becca were very impressed by the apartments, particularly the good condition in which they had been kept. Gregg couldn't stop talking about his ideas for the building; he was so excited, and it showed. He mentioned that "we" could live in one of the second floor apartments, while the third floor was remodeled, "we" had plans for this, "we" were considering that. Mrs. Dolan finally asked him who "we" were. He blushed and stopped talking. We went back down to the store.

Just as we were gathering in the storefront, the front door burst open, and a big, loud individual began shouting at us, as if we had no right to be there. It turned out that he was the real estate agent who had been showing the property for Mrs. Dolan, but his contract had expired. He had made a bigmistake, shouting and cursing in front of Mrs. Dolan and her guests. In less than a minute, his sign was out of the window, and he was out the door, without his key, which Mrs. Dolan told Grant to take from him.

Sally knew the man; he was in partnership with Giulio Petrillo, the man who had been trying unsuccessfully to buy the building. Mrs. Dolan said nothing more about the scene we had just witnessed, but suggested that we all go to her house on Hudson Street, not far up South Hill from the Commons. She arranged the party into a cavalcade of cars, with Ben driving her Town Car in the lead. When we got to her house, a huge old Victorian, like others on this street, which in the 1890's had been a very classy neighborhood;we parked in the circular drive in front of the house and went in.

Mrs. Dolan sent Ben and Maria to the kitchen to put the cheese cake in the fridge and to start coffee for all of us. The rest of us went into the parlor, which was filled with beautiful antique furniture in keeping with the grand style of the house itself. Mrs. Dolan explained that she and her husband had planned to make a bed and breakfast of the house after they retired, so they had remodeled the kitchen. Ben and Maria had been raving about the kitchen since they had rejoined us. They had also redone the five bedrooms upstairs and put in a master suite and a small guest suite in the basement.

We went out to the kitchen for our dessert. Becca and Sally were absolutely captivated by the modern and well-appointed kitchen. (Maria had remarked that it was better than the one in the Spanish Embassy in London.) Mrs. Dolan got us all to the table, a huge oval piece with ten chairs, in a bay window which overlooked the back garden, now lighted for the evening. We chatted a few minutes, as we enjoyed the cheese cake.

Beau was very quiet through the whole visit. As we were finishing our dessert, he asked Mrs. Dolan if she would be willing to show us through the house. She agreed, and she took us on a tour. It was really impressive. Beau looked at everything carefully, but made no comments. When we returned to the parlor, he practically ordered everyone to join them for breakfast in the Statler dining room the following morning at 7:30. We thanked Mrs. Dolan for her time and left.

Editor's Notes:

I think things are going pretty well for the guys. I am very optimistic in terms of Gregg and Harley's relationship. They are moving along nicely toward caring a great deal about one another. At least that is the way I see things going. I guess we will have to wait and see if I am right. Remember I am the editor, not the author.

As I write these words, it is just a week before Christmas Eve, and I don't know if you will see this before the holiday, but I just want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. I don't give a flying fig about whether it's politically correct to say that. I also hope everyone that celebrates a different holiday has a happy one of those too.

WOW! As I sit here now checking over things to post this story, it is 14 July, 2009. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I do.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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