Life Is Change
Copyright© 2016 by Ernest Bywater
The Next Several Day’s Work
During breakfast on Saturday morning Smoky changes the cleaning schedule and he has them move to the residence building as he skips the stables for now. They go to work and he goes to talk to Abe before he joins them with the cleaning. Abe closes up shop at 3:00 p.m. today, but he’s back an hour later with the gear he uses to keep the grass down around the toilet. He leaves it in the loading dock before he calls Smoky on his trust cell phone to tell him it’s there with a full can of petrol.
Mary is happy to supply their lunch again today and the residence building is cleaned before dinner. Tonight Smoky has some sandwiches for his dinner and the teens have more of their food while they all talk. Due to how they were treated in the orphanage the teens don’t go to church and they want to work tomorrow to earn more money.
Smoky agrees and says, “In the morning four of you can go do the cleaning of the other commercial building while one helps me to cut the grass on most of the field. I need it out of the way to use the far end of the field. Mister Stein has loaned me his gear and it’s in the loading dock.” Alex assigns Barry to help Smoky with the grass.
After dinner Smoky checks his emails, and he finally has a few. One from his mother, another from Betty, and two from H J. The first two he reads and replies to are just the usual family type contents. The two from H J are very interesting. The first is the report on the teens and everything is as they said except there are no missing person reports on them. So H J informed the Alabama welfare authorities he knows the teens left the orphanage several months ago due to being mistreated. The authorities are now investigating the orphanage because the management is still collecting state money for the care of the teens. Also, the final report on the buildings by the private inspectors is in and all is good. All the plans and information on the blocks he asked for are in with the report. Plus the farm tenants are very happy to cancel the old contracts to enter into new ones with more flexibility to allow for them to grow more profitable crops. Two are retiring and voiding the contracts makes that easier for them. Other farmers have asked to farm the land those two had been renting, so all is good there. The trust now looks to be more profitable.
Smoky spends a lot of time studying the plans and maps while he thinks about them. The properties names are: Grey Industries, Grey Stables, Grey Housing, Grey General Store, Grey Mercantile, and Grey Farm. Originally the whole group took up an area of property two hundred and sixty feet by three hundred and thirty feet with all of the buildings built a little back from the property boundary. When the city widened the streets they resumed the land on the street in front of the buildings so the block is now two hundred and forty-six feet by three hundred and sixteen feet. The other plans he has shows the internal sizes not the external ones, plus the spaces between the buildings. The ancestor who built them must have had a sense of humour because the buildings are built with large mid-grey granite blocks eighteen inches thick, three feet high, and five feet long. That didn’t make any sense to Smoky since the dimensions don’t come out even, so he goes over to measure some of the blocks and he finds some of the corner blocks are a slightly different length in order to allow for the depth of the blocks in the walls they connect to. All of the buildings have the family name of Grey in them and are in a mid-grey stone. Smoky thinks of all the properties as one so he now calls the combined property ‘The Grey Block’ in his mind and notes. Also, there’s a slope from the street in front of the two commercial buildings toward the street the stables faces. The total drop is about three feet with most of it in the last forty feet. It’s so slight for most of the block you don’t notice it while walking around.
After a couple of hours of studying the files while thinking he makes some notes, writes a long email to H J with his concept of the Grey Block redevelopment. Smoky asks him to have plans made, he requests H J arranges a meeting with the relevant county authorities, and he closes the computer with a mental note to set it out for solar recharging tomorrow.
The next morning they get up, eat, and get to work. It takes Smoky and Barry all day to cut the grass back to a block twenty feet by twenty feet behind their tents. That leaves them some privacy for the showers and mostly hides the tents from view. Meals are from their food stores.
On Monday Barry and Smoky dust off and move all of the horse drawn coaches, tools, and tack left in the stables to the ground floor of the industrial building. The others finish cleaning the other commercial building then commence cleaning the stables by starting on the top floor. Both teams finish their work that day. In celebration of finishing the job Smoky takes them for dinner at the Mexican place at his expense. The teens love the food, but they all choose a lower ‘hot’ level than he does.
Tuesday morning they go to the work clothing store where Smoky pays for each of them to have two sets of overalls, a hard-hat, and a pair of safety boots. On the way back they stop at the hardware store for more replacement filters to suit the breathers, heavy work gloves, a three foot wrecking bar each, and a good general tool kit. While Smoky is paying for it all June asks him, “Why do we need the wrecking bars?”
Smoky replies, “Our next job is to remove the non-structural inside walls in the buildings so the renovators will have an open area to work with when it’s their time. It’s cheaper for me to pay you guys than the professional builders because this work doesn’t require professionals.”
Back at The Grey Block they change into the work gear and start with the residential building. Smoky wants the wood in good condition so he shows the teens how he was taught to do the job with minimal damage to the wood. In his late teens he spent a couple of summers working for a friend’s father who demolished old houses. He got a lot of work because he gave cheap quotes, but he made up for it by being able to resell most of the materials instead of using it for landfill. After showing them how to do the work Smoky spends the next hour watching them work, to be sure they’re doing it in a safe and proper way. Once he’s happy with how they work Smoky tells Alex he has to go out for a while, gets changed, and uses the tool kit to remove all of the deadbolts and latch locks from the back doors of the buildings as well as the front door of the building with the shops in it. All are the same design, make, and model. He also takes the padlocks from the loading docks and two of the gates with him.
It’s nearly lunch time when he has all of the locks out and in a bag with five of the padlocks so he has the teens break for an early lunch. Mary is really enjoying being paid to see the teens get a good lunch each day the store is open and the teens are enjoying the good food she brings in. Smoky doesn’t pay her now because H J is paying her to feed the crew working on the trust properties direct to her bank account.
Smoky visits the recommended locksmith, he’s not the closest one but he is the best one. They re-key the locks in sets of two deadbolts and two latch locks on the one key with six keys for each set. The padlocks are keyed the same too. The lock barrels and keys are a higher quality type that’s harder to pick than the originals. He has three sets done while he waits and he wanders about their store. The five back doors with the store front door makes six lots of door locks. He shows one of the staff a very high quality chain they have and asks, “Can you give me five three foot lengths of this?” She nods yes and takes the roll of chain off to work on it. This is a quality security chain you need top quality industrial tools to cut it, so it costs a lot. While they don’t sell much of it they do sell enough to make it worth keeping one roll on hand. When everything is ready he has H J’s staff pay the bill via direct deposit while telling the locksmith, “Once I install these I’ll be back with more locks to do.”
Back to The Grey Building to install the locks. He starts at the store building and he puts the locks in both the front and back doors, gives each of the shopkeepers two new keys: one each for them and their helper wife. They like the idea of better security and only the one key instead of the four they had. Next is the other commercial building followed by the industrial building. Then he replaces the chains and padlocks on the three building’s docks. Last is replacing the padlocks and chains on the street gates. There’s still time so he removes the locks from the front doors of the stables and the residence, using old padlocks and chains to secure the doors. He hurries to the locksmith to get the last five sets of locks done as a set of two and a set of three deadbolt and latch sets. Back to ‘The Block’ as he now thinks of it to install two lock sets in the residential building and the triple set in the stables. Job finished!
While they eat dinner at the tents Smoky thinks things over. They all worked longer to finish their jobs today. He’s happy all that needs to be locked up is now secured with quality locks and he has fewer keys to carry around: one for each building and one for all of the padlocks. After dinner he gathers all of the old padlocks and chains. He puts the key he has in the padlocks after getting the two back from the teens and places them in the box in his tent. The old door keys are dumped in it as well.
Smoky asks, “How’s the work going?”
Fiona answers, “We’ve finished pulling that floor’s walls apart.”
“Good. Tomorrow carry all of the wood down to put it in the loading dock area. Clean up the floor again and then work on the building with the shops. I’ve got a couple of tasks to do before I get back to that work.”
As per their usual routine they all have an early night after their showers and getting paid. Smoky checks and deals with his emails too.
Wednesday morning they get up and eat then they’re off on their tasks. Smoky’s first task is to take the old padlocks back to the locksmith as they’ll pay him for them as used locks and chain. He also hands over the old keys while saying, “These are the keys to the old locks. You can either match them up and use them or just add them to the bin you put the old keys in for recycling.” The locksmith smiles as he takes them.
Back at the Block Smoky has real mail in Abe’s shop. He reads it and takes a taxi to the Georgia Department of Driver Services to apply for local licenses as a driver and a rider now he has a Social Security Number (SSN). The paperwork with the SSN was in the mail with the letter to collect his firearms license. Mobility is first. He shows the GDDS employee his ACT licences, passports, and SSN with the applications. They’re nice to give him a written and vision test right away then they issue him with learner’s permits because he wants some training first.
Smoky leaves there happy. He wants to get professional training before he takes the road tests and he needs a permit for that, which he now has. They also give him a list of approved local driver training schools as well as the motorcycle training schools.
Next is the bank to provide ID and to sign the various forms for the trust’s company bank account so he can use the credit card they have for him on the account. He also opens a personal account with the bank and he applies for a debit card for it. Then to the courthouse to get his photo ID for his firearms licence, followed by the shop for his Glock and the modified shotgun along with the holsters, care kits, and ammo.
He arrives back at Abe’s shop in time to join them for lunch. The fact he’s carrying a gun is soon noticed so he shows them his new license. Smoky spends the afternoon taking apart the interior walls of the entry area of the other commercial building. He stacks the wood with the rest and he cleans up the area. Now there’s only the stairs in the open floors.
The usual shower and dinner at the camp-site then an early night for the teens with Smoky a little delayed while dealing with his emails and work notes. He also sends H J a list of his purchases for tools and gear for the teens to use when working. The receipts will be handed over when he next sees H J. His personal banking details are sent too. Just before he drifts off to sleep he thinks on how he and his work crew are living the lifestyle of people over a hundred years ago: up at first light and to bed at no light. The same life as those who once worked in the buildings.
Thursday morning is another change in operations. The work on the stores building was finished yesterday so he sets the teens to work on the residential building. That’ll take a while because all three of the floors need to be done. Smoky will do the extraneous rooms in the industrial building. At that point he wonders what their official names are since he didn’t see any when he examined the buildings’ exteriors.
Before lunch he finishes the industrial building because there wasn’t much to do in it apart from the ground floor entry area and an office on each level. The basement is all one big room with the stairs into it.
After lunch he works on the stables. He does the lower two levels first since there isn’t much to do, and then he starts on the top floor. By dinner he’s got about a fifth done and the teens have finished their top floor. The evening is as per their routine of shower, meal, and bed.
Friday morning Smoky sets Alex and Rick to moving all of the wood from the first two buildings to store it beside the coaches on the ground floor of the industrial building. The other three go back to work on the residential building and he goes back to the stables.
The two boys finish their task by lunchtime then they go back to working on the residential building with the others. By dinner time the middle level of the residential building is finished, but they do work a little bit longer to get it done. Also, Smoky has the stables finished.
Tonight’s dinner is Smoky’s shout of Mexican food again, and it’s enjoyed by all of the teens. He also has a chat with the cooking staff.
Saturday morning Smoky sets Alex and Rick to moving the wood from the residential building while he works with the rest to get the walls done. Lunchtime sees the boys working on the building again, and in the late afternoon the floor is done. So the boys are moving the wood while the girls clean up the dust and dirt from their work. When the wood is all moved the boys help to clean up the building.
The usual evening routine and an early night again.
Sunday Smoky takes them to the stables where he shows them how to pull up the wood floor. In this case it’s easy to start by standing on the inside sill of a window to use the bar to lever up a few floor boards from underneath then upstairs to finish taking them out. After that it’s a very simple job to remove the boards. Two of them lever and lift boards at each end of the building as they work their way back to the stairs while Alex and Rick take the boards away to be stored with the rest. The top floor is finished before they stop for lunch. Today Smoky uses his phone to call for three large pizzas to be delivered to Abe’s store.
While crossing the field after lunch they can hear some angry voices out on the street. On passing through the gate to the stables they can tell people are at the right-hand gate because the gate is being shaken. Smoky takes the teens into the stables and he locks the back door. He opens his coveralls so he can get at his Glock while the cut down shotgun is in his back pocket. He doesn’t have a gun-safe so the only legal and safe location for them is on his person. He uses his phone to call the police about people trying to break into the building. When they don’t seem at all interested in what happens to empty buildings he says, “My job is to look after these buildings. I’m going out there to tell them to leave. There’s a number of them and just me. So I’m concerned about it.” The police call centre operator still isn’t interested in the matter.
Using the door closest to the gate, about twenty feet, Smoky exits the building and shouts, “Hey, you lot, leave the gate alone and go away.” There are a dozen or so rough looking men at the gate with some more beside two large vans at the side of the road, they all turn to look at him.
One who seems to be one of the leaders says, “No damn squatter tells me what to do!”
“I’m no squatter. I’m paid to look after these buildings. Go away.”
“Well, then you, got the keys to let us in, ain’t ya?”
“Yes, I’ve got the keys. But I’m not letting you in.”
The man pulls out a gun, several other do too, and a few at the back pull out cut down shotguns out of bags they have with them. The man says, “I think you will let us in.” Smoky’s right hand is in sight, his coverall is open to give access to the Glock in a belt holster on his left hip set for easy access by his right hand, but his left hand is behind him getting the shotgun out of his left hip pocket. He waits, standing still while they move closer. They’re about seven feet away when the leader turns his head a little to say to the man beside him, “I think he’s too scared to move, don’t you?”
They’re now in range. Smoky’s left hand comes around and up while his right flashes across his stomach and into the coverall. His left hand is angled upward when he fires the shotgun. The short twelve gauge doesn’t have much of an effective range, but loaded with bird-shot it is a very effective area weapon at close range. The two in the middle of the front of the group lose their heads and the two beside them have a good portion of their head vanish as well. Also a number of men behind them are hit with some shot in their faces, which totally ruins their day along with the ability to see well enough to aim guns. The boom of the shotgun causes those of the group who can move to start to scatter while those hurt start to scream. They don’t scream for long because they soon die.
Smoky dives to his left while his right hand comes out and up, he acquires target on the body mass of an armed man and fires. Shift target and fire again, and again, and again. He doesn’t care if the target is close or not while he moves from the street side to the building he shoots anyone with a weapon. The third man he shoots is toward the back of the group and he has a sawn-off double barrel shotgun in his right hand angled across his body while he moves to his right. When Smoky’s round hits him in the left chest he goes backward while turning to this left a little and his hand on the shotgun squeezes. The twelve gauge gun is loaded with bird-shot and set to fire both barrels at once. It fires, and several of the men with him are hit by the blast. However, more importantly, the blast from behind them causes some of the men to stop to look backwards. This gives Smoky the time he needs to take out the most immediate dangers to him at the front of the pack. He lies on the footpath firing as fast as he can acquire a target and pull the trigger.
The whole incident seems to take hours, but it can’t have been all that long. The last of them is on the ground and Smoky is breathing fast due to the adrenalin in his system. He gets up and he moves to the door while keeping an eye on the pile of men on the ground. Alex opens the door, he has his wrecking bar in his hand and the rest are behind him with their bars. Smoky smiles and says, “Put that back and go hide in the store. I’m calling the police but I don’t want you involved.” Alex nods agreement and they all leave the building by the other door after they place their wrecking bars on the pile of wood waiting to be moved.
Smoky gets out his phone and he calls 911, the operator answers the call and asks, “What service do you require?”
“Police, please.” He’s transferred and he says, “Those men trying to break into the empty buildings you weren’t interested in when I called a few minutes ago. Well, when I asked them to stop and leave they pulled some guns. Now I’ve got over a dozen scum-bags bleeding all over the street here. You may want to send someone to take photos, collect their guns, wash the street down, and remove the trash.”
The police operator gulps and asks, “Are they all dead?”
“I don’t know and I don’t give a damn if they are or not. I’m not going to go for a walk amongst them to check for fear of being shot by one who is still active.” He gives the street address then he sits down on the doorstep because the adrenalin is starting to wear off and he feels very tired. He puts his gun back in its holster, the shotgun in his pocket, and he moves his firearms license to his coverall top pocket while he waits.
About a minute later a marked police car comes around the corner with its lights and siren on. It stops and two cops get out. Both have their hands on their guns while they look over the scene. One keeps watch while the other goes from man to man checking for a pulse. After each one he shakes his head no. When he checks the last one he looks up and says, “Nineteen dead and they’ve all got gang markings of the Atlanta gang we’ve been warned to watch out for as said to be moving in here.”
The other cop nods acknowledgement as he walks over to Smoky, he asks, “You the one who called?” Gets a nod yes, “Got a license for your gun?” Smoky nods, slowly moves his left hand up to the pocket, extracts the firearms license, and hands it over. The cop examines it, calls the details in for confirmation, and hands it back. “Tell me what happened!” Smoky tells him about hearing people at the gate, coming out and telling them to leave, then their armed attack. The cop looks at the dead, the chips on the footpath where several return rounds missed Smoky and hit the concrete, slowly shakes his head, and asks, “You a combat veteran?”
“No, but my father was a Marine in the Gulf War. He taught me how to handle guns and how to react in a fight. The basics were: get low, behind cover, and return fire as fast as you can do so accurately. It sure paid off today.” The cop gives another head shake. “I got a gun because I was advised to by several people. I never expected I’d need to use it.”
During this short exchange some more cops arrive and are sent away by the lead cop. When an ambulance arrives they confirm they’re dead and leave. Detectives and the Scene of Crime people arrive, they examine the scene, take photos, and look over everything. The lead cop talks to the lead detective who comes over and says, “Run me through it!”
Smoky looks up and replies, “I’m tired as hell and not really up to anything right now. But, if you’ve got a recorder and will take a verbal statement you can transcribe it for me to sign it later. Otherwise it can wait until I get my lawyer in from Atlanta.” The cop looks at him for a moment, turns, goes to the police van the Scene of Crime people came in, and returns with a pocket recorder. While he does that Smoky gets out his phone, sets it to audio recording, and puts it in the pocket with his firearms license while taking the license out. When the detective starts his recorder Smoky gives his full legal name, his date of birth, the number from his firearms license, and repeats what he told the first cop.
The detective looks around the street while saying, “This area is very quiet on a Sunday. Why are you here and what were you doing?”
“This area isn’t quiet on a Sunday, it’s totally dead. I’m paid to look after these buildings, a recent hire. I’m also doing some work on them to get them ready for either renovations or removal. The county have condemned them and the owners are seeking approval to renovate them. Either way, the hardwood floors aren’t needed so I’m pulling them up. I’ve no car or bike and no license for either yet. So I’ve got no way to go anywhere and no place to go to that’s close by. Best to just get on with the work to get it done. Also, if you look at the gates you’ll see they’ve all got new chains and locks. I did that this week because people had been getting into the buildings to sleep or do other things. In some cases it was clear they’d got a set of keys from somewhere.”
One of the Scene of Crime people walks up with evidence bags and asks, “The guns you used, where are they?”
Smoky stands, turns around, and says, “The close defence pistol is in the back pocket. It’s discharged but the empty shell is still in it.” One of the Scene of Crime people removes it and puts it in an evidence bag. Smoky turns and holds his coveralls open near the top, saying, “The semi-auto is in a holster over my left hip. It’s a Glock model twenty-two. It still has the magazine in it and it’s half full.” The Scene of Crime person reaches in and takes the gun. He removes the magazine and the bullet in the chamber before putting it all in another evidence bag.
The detective says, “Depending upon what the DA says you’ll either get the guns back after the investigation or they’ll be evidence if you’re charged. Understand?”
“Yes. I guess I need to go buy new ones tomorrow. After this I don’t want to be unarmed as I’m now worried about their friends calling by.”
“I’d recommend it. Now show us this work you’re doing.” It only takes a few minutes to show the detective and lead cop the interior of the stables. They do note he has a key ring with several keys and uses one to unlock the door. They go up the stairs and see the upper level no longer has a floor. “Where’s all the wood?”
“When I want a break I move it to another building out of the way.”
The detective’s last question is, “Whose vans are parked outside?”
“I don’t know. They’re not mine and they weren’t there this morning. They’re probably brought by them.” That’s it for Smoky, the police have no more questions so they go back outside to look at the vans.
The Scene of Crime people dust the vans for prints while the tags are checked. The vans don’t match the registration descriptions for the tags so they’re now very suspicious of them. After a bit of work the driver’s doors are opened which leads to the bonnets being opened and the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) on the maker’s plates are run. The vans are identified as stolen vehicles. Now they investigate the rest of the van and immediately back off when the rear doors are opened. One of the people looks in and says, “Shit! get the Hazmat Team. This is a huge portable meth lab.” A check of the other one shows the same. It seems a certain Atlanta based gang just had a major material loss along with a cut in their drug production capabilities as well as their membership.
The lead cop grins and says, “This case just gets better and better. A pile of criminals off the street and now two meth labs are shut down.”