Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik
Scott woke covered in sweat. The old dream of being buried alive with the spiders had mixed with memories of Afghanistan. He splashed water on his face from the hotel suite's bathroom sink and tried to clear his head. He needed a good long run.
Scott drove to campus. He didn't have a student identification card, yet, but doubted anybody bothered to check at the outdoor track. The streets were empty with the sun still a half hour from making an appearance.
He parked at the student athletic center, risking a ticket, and thought about buying a mountain bike to make the daily commute. From the numerous bike racks around campus, it must have been a popular transportation choice at NTSU.
The artificial track surface crunched under his running shoes. He started slow to stretch and warm his muscles. After a lap, he increased his stride to a seven-minute mile pace. Running had always allowed him to do his best thinking, but he was finding it difficult to concentrate.
A group of early-morning walkers joined him on the track, but they stayed well clear of his lane.
A place to live was the thought that floated to the forefront of his mind. He'd be at NTSU for the next two years. Why shouldn't he be comfortable? As problems went, that one was easy to solve when you had money. All it took was time.
NTSU wasn't one of his problems. He was looking forward to getting back into a classroom. What he'd do with a degree after graduation was another question, but one he didn't need to worry about for another year or two.
A runner joined him on the track. The man was disciplined and held his own pace, well out of Scott's way.
He shut out the distractions and ran.
Scott checked his cheap running watch. He'd been going for forty-five minutes. He could push for a decent half-marathon time.
A memory of the dream that woke him flickered across his thoughts. The nightmares came more often, but that wasn't something he could blame on Afghanistan. He understood that the need to know what he was, and why, drove the dreams.
His watch beeped at the one-hour mark, another thirty minutes to go. He stopped running abruptly, and began to walk. A half marathon or full marathon distance wasn't going to solve anything.
"Hey!" the other runner shouted to him.
Scott hadn't paid the man much attention. "Yeah?"
"Are you a student here?"
His questioner was in good shape and a few years older.
"Not until the summer semester starts."
"Are you a student-athlete?"
"No." He wondered what kind of grief the man was preparing to give him.
"Would you like to be?" the man asked.
"Coach Reese, Jim Reese," the man said. "NTSU Track and Field. I'll tell you right now, you could walk on as a distance runner."
"Sorry, coach," Scott replied. "Not interested, but good luck with your program."
"Are you sure?" the coach asked. "NTSU had a proud history in Division III competition. You could be a part of that."
"I appreciate the thought, but it's not for me."
Scott heard the coach mutter 'damn' under his breath as the man walked away. Scott liked to run, but he did it for himself.
For the next two days, Scott looked at other properties. He had little else to do after successfully registering for summer classes. It had taken less than fifteen minutes to select the courses online, verify registration and print his summer schedule.
He'd opted to look at properties without Diane Beamer or another realty agent. Success evaded him, but he got to know the city better. He was sitting in the parking lot of a condominium building, where he was supposed meet the owner for a tour, when his phone lit up.
"Miss Engdale," he said, "how are you this fine morning?"
"Excellent, Mr. MacIntyre, and you?"
"I've completed my review of the property documents. How would you like to proceed?"
That was the question, he thought. "Is it a situation where we should proceed?"
"Are you interested in acquiring the property?"
He made a snap decision. "If it makes sense, yes."
"While the deed covenant is interesting," Simone said, "it's far from insurmountable. In fact, I believe the issue would have been resolved years ago if the egos of both parties had been set aside."
"What about from an investment standpoint?" he asked.
"Mr. MacIntyre, from my research of local property values, it would be nearly criminal not to buy at the offered price. Scrape the lot clean and it's a desirable location. As for the existing buildings, we need our people to do a thorough inspection."
"How soon could we move on this?"
"I can be in Levall after lunch, Mr. MacIntyre."
"What do I need to do?"
Scott heard the noise of shuffling paper.
"Can you arrange a meeting with the bar's lawyer for this afternoon?" she asked. "Say around three. I'd prefer to meet at the law offices, not at the property. Although, I would like see the building before the meeting."
"Let me make some calls," he said. "I'll text you confirmation."
"I look forward to it," the lawyer said.
Scott got the building keys from the realtor and texted directions and instructions for Simone Engdale to meet him at the building's private gate entrance.
At precisely twelve forty-five, a white Mercedes coupe turned on Twelfth Street and into the private lot.
He revised his estimation of Simone Engdale's age down as she emerged from the vehicle. She was late-twenties to early-thirties at the oldest, and dressed in a skirt and jacket ensemble that expressed femininity with an air of sophistication. She had long brown hair and attractive features topped with a pair of glasses that he suspected were for show.
"Mr. MacIntyre," she said as she smiled and walked in his direction. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you."
He shook her cool, delicate hand. "Likewise," he said. "Please call me Scott, when people use 'Mr. MacIntyre' it makes me nervous."
She smiled, "If you'll call me Simone."
"The office gossip was right about you."
"I'm afraid to ask," he said.
"They said you were big," she replied. "Do you have the keys?"
"I had the city planning department e-mail me blueprints. I'd like to see how they match with reality."
She returned to her car and bent to retrieve the printout from the passenger seat of the low-slung coupe. Scott admired the curves revealed by the tight skirt.
She straightened and Scott turned his attention to his phone, checking for messages.
"Shall we?" she said.
They explored the building. The sound of their footsteps echoed through the empty structure and they wound their way to the third floor. Simone had a laser-measuring device and took notes with an application on a tablet.
She didn't speak to hear her own voice and Scott appreciated the professionalism. He tried to refine his guess about her age. She had completed law school. If she were in her later-twenties, she must be exceptionally talented to be working for the Western Group.
"I can see why you like it," she said. She had put away her laser and computer tablet.
"What do you think?"
"You need an architect and a contractor. We can help with that if you'd like. Authorize me to make an offer and the title will be in your hands this time next week."
She smiled and stepped closer. Scott noticed her scent, floral with a hint of citrus.
"The building purchase is one thing. Your prospective tenant, the Black Horse is the lynchpin."
"What's the play?" he asked.
"Allow me to negotiate, and I'll have the bar's lawyer agreeing to terms this afternoon. After that problem is off the table, I'll negotiate with First National. They've been holding paper on this property for five years and want it off their books. We'll walk away with the title for under a million five, guaranteed, but I'm aiming for one point two-five."
Her predatory smile made the realtor's look like a cheap plastic import in comparison. He almost felt sorry for the Black Horse and the bank. "Okay, Simone. Let's see what you can deliver. How, exactly, do you plan to resolve the covenant issue?"
She looked at her watch, "Buy me dinner tonight and I'll tell you all about it."
"I'll call," she said. Her heels clicked as she walked away.
Scott rubbed the back of his head. Simone Engdale was formidable, and the view was worth noting as she walked away.
He went to the window and looked at the nearby church. A minute later, he watched as Simone walked to her car. She folded her legs into the coupe. Nice, he thought.
He might be about to spend a significant chunk of change so he called Everett Wahl. They talked for a few minutes about the weather and portfolio issues.
"I'll move some of your cash reserve to the active account. Are you ready for this?" Everett asked.
"I think so," he said. "It's going to take some work to make it livable." He told the older man about the property and the issues involved.
"Have you had legal look at it?"
"I'm having dinner with Simone from acquisitions, so she can tell me how brilliant she is."
"That's right," Scott said. "You know her?"
His private banker made a noise and cleared his throat. "I do know her. I've heard she's good."
"I think so. The packaging is certainly attractive."
Everett ignored that. "As far as money goes," he said, "figure half again as much for your renovations."
"Scott, you'll earn the entire amount back this quarter from your regular portfolio."
"I know," he said with a sigh, "it's hard for me to remember that sometimes."
Everett's voice softened, "If you feel guilty, look at increasing your charitable giving. You've not adjusted it since you added the Wounded Warriors fund. Think about establishing the dedicated charity we talked about."
"I'll look at it. Thanks, Everett."
"Enjoy your dinner."
The early-evening clouds reflected red as the sun headed for the horizon. Scott spotted the white Mercedes and pulled into an empty spot behind it. He was lucky, parking got worse as downtown shifted from the business day to evening entertainment. The lawyer looked pleased standing next to her car.
She watched him feed the meter. The city didn't stop collecting parking fees for another half hour and he wasn't eager to fill the city's coffers with a ticket. They'd be getting enough in property taxes if he bought the building.
Simone smiled. "What kind of fancy restaurant are we celebrating in?"
"You've earned a celebratory meal?" he asked.
"Damn right," she said.
"Confidence, I like it."
"I promised a meal," Scott said. "How adventurous do you feel?"
"I'm a lawyer," Simone said. "I like all my surprises to be planned in advance, but if you promise me a good time--I'm game for anything."
Scott considered the offer. "We're not far from our destination, if you don't mind the walk."
Simone smiled and adjusted her purse. "Perfect weather and a charming small town, how can I resist?"
"I wouldn't call this a small town. It's fifty-five thousand when you count the student population."
"Scott," she said, "Midland's twice the size and it's a small town to me."
"Must have been quite a shock moving to West Texas."
She laughed. The sound was bright and free. "Cowboys, pickup trucks, and Texas hair, it has taken some adjusting."
They came to an intersection. Scott indicated that they were free to cross and she clutched his arm as they hurried through the intersection. They slowed to a walk and she let go.
"A small town is Fort Stockton," he said, "where I'm from. There might be fifteen-thousand people in the whole county on a busy day."
"The girls in the office don't call you John Wayne for nothing."
He looked at her and she smirked.
"John Wayne?" he shook his head. "Some friends tried to tag me with the nickname 'Duke' in high school. Fortunately, it didn't take."
"You are a tall drink of water," she said.
"Bad clichés, are puns next?"