Authors: Catharine Bramkamp
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Humor - Real Estate Agent - California
|Catharine Bramkamp - Real Estate Diva 05 - A 380 Degree View|
|Real Estate Diva Mysteries |
|Catharine Bramkamp (2014)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Humor - Real Estate Agent - California|
Mystery: Cozy - Humor - Real Estate Agent - Californiattt
380 Degree View
A Real Estate Diva Mystery
A 380 Degree View
Edition 2014 Catharine Bramkamp
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form without the prior written permission of the publisher and author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, some locations and incidents are products of the author’s fevered imagination or are used fictiously and are not be construed as real. Any resemblances to actual events, local organization or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
If you think it’s about you, consider your motives.
Cover design by Stacey Meinzen
The only phrase slightly less obnoxious than
It’s God will,
It was probably for the best
. Platitudes do not make a person feel better. Then again, this person in question didn’t have a clue in the world as to what else would.
Ben Stone, my boyfriend and owner of Rock Solid Service, a handyman service sole proprietorship, stuck to my side like Gorillia Glue. Carrie, my best friend, held my hand and whispered that I could try again. Patrick, her fiancée, sent me an extravagant bouquet of roses.
A girl couldn’t ask for more.
Or maybe a girl could. Perhaps a girl could ask for more sympathy from her favorite grandmother who apparently was not as impressed by the whole experience as I was. She said a few nice things, but wasn’t
, in the parlance of our modern therapy-speak. Since she wouldn’t call me, I manifested my own outcomes, and called her.
“I hear gunshots.” I hoped she was watching TV, except my grandmother never watches TV.
“That’s just the shooting range.” My grandmother’s voice wavered a bit. “You know how sound echoes up here. It sounds closer since the fire.”
“That’s not comforting.” I pointed out. Could the guns be closer as well? No, that was ridiculous. The shooting range was only within walking distance if Prue cut through
about a dozen privately owned back yards. But she would never cut through other back yards, nor did she need to visit the gun club. No, she was safe.
“I don’t really hear it honey. Inside the house it’s not loud at all.” She sighed.
“Grandma what’s wrong?”
“Oh,” she said airily, as if it was nothing at all. “I broke my foot. You know how inconvenient that is.”
My stomach tightened and my own complaints died on my lips. “How did you break your foot?” When it came to my grandmother, Prue Singleton, there were too many options: she slipped in her greenhouse where she grew “medicinal” marijuana; she decided to repair the roof herself and slipped, falling two stories to the cement walkway below; she was shoveling snow off her sidewalk and twisted her ankle; she fell down two flights of stairs and had laid motionless for hours before one of her tenants wanted a martini and found her on the hardwood.
“Oh, it was silly, I just slipped. How are you feeling? All recovered?” She was actually interested in my answer, I could tell. Perhaps she hadn’t expressed much sympathy at the time, because I’m unusual. All Sullivan women get pregnant early and completely, there are no half measures. This genetic propensities explains why I have an older brother and a relatively young mother (do not confront her with the math) and why my grandmother is “more youthful” than people think she should be. I’m thirty-six, well past any expectation by the family that I will ever reproduce and certainly past the “mistake” phase. But couldn’t I get at least some sympathy?
I could, if anyone had known. Announcing my current challenge (we don’t say the word
in sales and marketing, we use words like challenge, opportunity and situation) wasn’t really an option, or appropriate. Inez, my manager at New Century Realty, was not aware of my loss and thus was not cutting me any slack. So it was really my own fault.
Inez had problems (challenges, opportunities, situations) of her own. The numbers for our office were not good, or even sustainable. It must be dire; I was forced to interrupt my
Pirates of the Caribbean
marathon to slouch down to the office for a special mandatory meeting with my manager.
“You’re not working as hard as you should.” Inez flicked her long red nails at me and then tapped on a stack of spreadsheets. I was one of her top producers, had been for a long time. I was not used to hearing that I was not working hard enough. My small hiatus in the last month or so was an exception, and as I stated before, I think I deserved it.
“Rosemary,” Inez pushed back her heavily styled hair, “has three listings, and Katherine has four, not great, but at least they are out hustling.” Inez patted her coif in place. She returned to the Excel spreadsheet on her desk. I shifted uncomfortably.
Rosemary and Katherine held the other two top producer monikers in our office with me operating a comfortable two or three escrows behind them. Was that now a problem?
“What have you been doing?” Inez pursed her lipsticked mouth and scanned the spreadsheet filled with escrows listed for this month. She didn’t need to look; I could have just told her my name was conspicuously absent from the list.
“Looking for houses.” For myself, not for clients. I didn’t say that out loud.
“Yeah, like Goldilocks.” Inez tugged at a heavy gold hoop and then took it off and tossed it into her IN box. “This one is too small, this one is too mid-century, this one is too much work. This one’s in a flood zone.”
“Not enough choices I suppose.” It was a lame excuse. For a month I had looked for a house with one set of features: a study, a guest room for grandmothers, walk to restaurants. Then abruptly I was searching for good schools, an enclosed yard and a separate master bedroom suit.
Three weeks later I was back to looking for studies and views. It was a see-saw of emotions that made me sicker than I had felt during the whole month of January. Inez did not know all this; I did not hold her ignorance against her.
“You need to focus on your work. Mary at the head office is only focused on escrow’s closed, not effort.” She dragged out the word. “And I don’t have to tell you, your name is not on this list.” She rattled the spreadsheet. “We might have to stop carrying you.”
“Carrying me? I’m one of your top sellers!” My confidence that my past history would do exactly that, carry me through the present, quickly eroded. “But I’m one of your stars! Carrying me?”
“And what are you doing right now?” Her voice rose. “I’ll tell you what you
be doing right now: contacting all your old clients for referrals, sending out direct mail pieces, renewing your directorship in the local MLS. You should be on the phone at least five hours a day.”
She chanted it out like a mantra with magic properties: pick up the phone: sell a house, repeat. Dialing for dollars.
“I know.” But I couldn’t bear to pick up a phone. How exactly could I answer the question, “What have you been up to lately?”
“Allison, I just need to let you know. We can’t afford to keep any agent who isn’t contributing.”
I must have looked pretty startled. Inez reached over her desk and grabbed my hand. Her manicure was freshly done, my nails looked ragged and pathetic in contrast. I couldn’t pull my focus away from that trivial comparison.
“Please.” Her voice was low and pleading, as if the economy was in my control and I just chose to create the worst real estate market since the Great Depression. “You are one of my stars, but New Century National is on a rampage to cut out all un-producing agents, and they aren’t looking that deeply into history. You need to do something.”
I need to do something.
So when my grandmother, Prue Sullivan, told me about her injury, I wasn’t in a particularly stable mood.
“Well, honey it’s difficult right now.” My grandmother unconsciously mimicked the very words I used in my conversation with Inez. It was hard to think I was only as good as my last escrow. Times were tough. It’s just business. Production, not relationships, matter.
“But how are you doing?” I asked. I grabbed the opportunity to distract myself from my own increasing spiral of doom, despair and misery.
I heard and could almost feel another heavy sigh over the phone.
“Oh, you know, friends drive me. The members of the Brotherhood leave food on the porch for me, I have to walk to get it, but,” she countered quickly, “I have a walking cast and so it’s not too hard, and the boys have been great. Pat and Mike are excellent but don’t want to stay in the house. Brick and Raul are lovely but Brick is a disaster in the kitchen and I have to clean up the whole kitchen including the floor every time he warms up the soup that the ladies leave, and all Raul wants to do is film me and ask me questions about how I’m feeling.” She paused giving me time to imagine some other issues she did not mention: help with bath, getting dressed in the morning, getting her coffee.
“I have a funeral tomorrow and no one can drive me, it’s down in Auburn.”
“You didn’t mention one of your friends was sick.”
“It was sudden.” She said.
I heard another volley of gunshots in the background.
“I’ll be right up.”
I had to explain to Inez that I had an emergency and tried not to keep the relief out of my voice when I did.
“My grandmother needs me.”
“Why doesn’t she need your mother?”
It was a most reasonable question. My mother won’t step foot in Claim Jump for her own personal and historical reasons. She also will most certainly not attract the kind of help and aid my poor, seventy-year-old grandmother requires.
Inez rattled the paper with our escrows.
“Don’t take too much time, that doesn’t look good either. I told you, Mary, the western vice president is calling every day for an update on our progress.”
“As if a day makes a difference,” I retorted.
Inez just looked at me.
“I’ll be making calls while I’m up there.” I promised.
“Good, at least get some listings down, that will work. And who’s taking your floor?”
“I’ll only be gone over the weekend.” I was quite certain of my self-imposed time line.
My nascent plan was to drive up to Claim Jump that afternoon, comfort my grandmother, hire better help, and thoroughly chastise Raul and Brick for not doing a better job helping. They live on the property for heaven’s sake, how hard can it be to help grandma? And yes, make a few phone calls and be back down in time for the Monday office meeting.
“We’ll be working on phone calls and role playing.” Inez arched a thin eyebrow in my direction. “I think you all could use a refresher course. You know Rosemary claims she’s never employed any of the techniques I mentioned.”
“Well, maybe she’s just good.” I countered. Rosemary has a deep abiding faith in New Age solutions for every problem. Inez was right; it was highly probable that Rosemary never employed any suggestion made by either our National office or Inez. My guess is that Rosemary clutches her crystals, adjusts her magnets and watches a tidal wave of good energy engulf her problems and toss up a few new clients on the shore just when she needs the business.
“Maybe she’s just lucky.” Inez pointed to the paper. “See you Monday.”
I nodded. But I wasn’t as worried about Monday as I was about Prue. I didn’t like the sound of guns; I didn’t like the sound of her voice. I didn’t like it at all.
What was going on up there?
Mine was not a clean escape. Just as I opened the door to the Rivers Bend New Century office, Rosemary and Katherine bustled out of their respective offices (at opposite ends of the building) and bore down on me like the Queen Mary and QEII.
“Listen.” Rosemary huffed. Rosemary is a substantial woman who out weighed me by at least seventy-five pounds. She backed me up against the high counter in the front lobby. I did not try to get away, especially since Katherine was docked by the front door, her arms crossed, ready to steam into the fray should Rosemary require help. Patricia, our Goth inspired receptionist, just smirked and focused on her latest Internet search. She was no help at all.
“We all go through hard times.” Rosemary lectured. “Look at the eighties, interest rates were up to 18 percent, you don’t think that was difficult?”
“This is different.” Neither Rosemary nor her doppelganger, Katherine, were aware of my most recent challenge, problem, opportunity. I had not been in the mood to follow full disclosure requirements, nor did I wish to invite Rosemary to help by drawing a chalk circle around my hospital bed and dangle crystals from the ceiling. Nor did I want Katherine’s help which would look like five hours of motivational videos (and there would be a quiz to make sure I had watched each one). I had enough to cope with without all that help.
I focused on the argument at hand. Interest rates were one thing, cajoling banks and mortgage companies to accept Short Sales or offers on REOs was another thing entirely, and I said so.
“Ha! Just something else to negotiate.” Rosemary snorted. “You have talent, stick it out, the market will pick up, it always does.”
I didn’t want to say I was tired of waiting for the market to pick up. I was tired of the stubborn banks, the idiot lending companies, the cranky buyers and tearful sellers. When did this business become more depressing than social work?
“You make your own life.” Katherine intoned with all the solidity and confidence of a pagan priestess.
“We ride these markets out.” Katherine stepped forward and stood shoulder to shoulder next to Rosemary. The one time they stood together in solidarity, it had to be against me. Great, my failure finally united them with a common platform.