Authors: Ritter Ames
The Collier family had moved to Hazelton four years before when Blaine Collier left a
Florida recreational company to head up Green Mountain Boards, an up-and-coming snowboarding business. He was a corporate wunderkind whose expertise made every business he touched a worldwide name. A month ago, Techno-Cal hired Collier to basically do the same to one of its subsidiaries, a company making small yachts and sail craft.
For some reason I thought you were at Green Mountain Boards before Blaine Collier started working there."
I was. Three years longer. Seven in all."
And they're still letting you go?"
It's company policy. I understood the risks when I accepted this position."
Still…is Collier helping you find another position somewhere? Has he even asked if you want to go to the West Coast with him?"
Mr. Collier is doing everything to meet his professional responsibilities in the matter."
In other words, Kate thought, he
's doing little more than saying "write a letter of recommendation for me to sign, and I'll sign it." She also recognized that Timothy's word choice was putting a halt to this conversation.
I've had a few interviews scheduled," Timothy cut into her thoughts. "Don't worry—I'll land on my feet."
However, she wondered how many of the open positions were at the pay level he likely enjoyed as Collier
's assistant. She was willing to bet the young man would have to relocate out of the Hazelton area. She had no idea who might be able to overhear the conversation at his end and hoped their discussion and her questions hadn't compromised him in any way. "Well, I won't keep you, Timothy. Especially after I've given you something else to do. Thanks so much. And we'll work to maintain a close watch on our visitor. In the meantime, I would appreciate if you called in the cavalry some way, please."
The doorbell chimed again, and Kate ended her call. When she opened the door, a courier stood on the other side.
"This is for Sydney Collier." He held a large heavy duty envelope atop his delivery clipboard.
She's not here right now."
I only need a signature." He stuck the envelope under his arm and turned the notepad to face Kate. "Just sign here."
She grabbed the pen attached to the clipboard and signed her name in the space he pointed to, then accepted the envelope. As she closed the door, she noted the
Boston address and realized it was probably paperwork for the summer Olympic-training program Sydney was looking forward to attending. Kate slipped it into the back of her project notebook to keep it safe until she could give it to the teen later in the afternoon.
Kate found the women in the media room, Meg standing guard duty at the door, arms crossed and eyes sharp.
Erin paced the front of the room, counting the dark blue seats out loud, noting a wear spot in the carpet, and barking dimensions into her phone to the poor invisible Lee Ann.
Anything suspicious?" Kate whispered, her head angled close to Meg's.
Everything. Well, technically annoying instead of suspicious. But nothing that appears criminal."
Collier's PA says he'll work on the situation. But she's not supposed to have access to the house unsupervised."
So, do we add babysitting services to our cost estimate?"
The women hushed when Erin Parker breezed past them and strode down the hall.
"Appears the kitchen is her next destination." Meg offered a crooked smile.
We need to start building our game plan in there anyway." Kate shrugged. "Let's go, Wonder Woman."
Right behind you, Batgirl."
Box Organization As You Go
Every person in the house needs their own color for ease in sorting personal belongings later. That works great for individual areas, but things get trickier for areas utilized by the whole family. Especially when the house or the family are larger than average. Some people give each room its own color, too, when boxing up items for a move, but that can make it difficult to find and quantify so many different colored labels. Instead, number the boxes in big block figures for each room using a unique sequence. For example, kitchens usually need to be unpacked the quickest, so label each box that contains kitchen items with 100-series numbers from 101 to 199. The bathroom can be 200-series, and so on for every room. For example, the first box filled for the kitchen is 101, then 102, 103…
The non-living areas can start with alpha letters, like G01 for the garage, P01 for the porch, etc.
Also, for boxes that must be unpacked first, seal the edges with red duct tape, instead of regular packing tape, so the boxes will be easy to spot when you reach your new home.
The next fifteen minutes or so went better than Kate originally feared. Meg covered the pantry, mud room, and scoped out the garage, determining whether any additional packing material was needed for those spaces. Kate kept an eye on the roving real estate agent and made notes about the kitchen. Lots of appliances and plenty of glassware abounded, so a whole host of specialty packing.
The kitchen held court in the sunny southwestern corner of the house
, and Kate felt like it almost smiled whenever she stepped inside. Bright and light, with its carved wood cabinetry fronted by glass and brass, the open design with hidden built-in appliances flowed into the great room like a well-composed poem. She recognized the style as the same kind of hybrid contemporary craftsman-esque she'd nearly swooned over at her first footstep into the house. Kate moved over to one of the glass enclosures, running a hand over the gorgeous hand-turned curves and lines, and marveled at the graceful expansiveness the design provided. And like the great room, it shared the same floor to ceiling windows along the south wall. Passive solar warmth invaded the space and warmed her soul.
'd arrived, Kate found the view shielded by caramel-colored rolled blinds which probably cost as much as she would make on this job. She reminded herself to lower the shades again before they left.
Somewhere around the twenty or twenty-one minute mark after the agent arrived, the explosion occurred. Timothy had obviously gotten Blaine Collier
Erin! What the hell are you doing here? Where are you?" Collier appeared in the foyer and spotted them in the kitchen. He stormed into the room.
Meg raced in from the garage, but Kate put up a hand to stop her before she could stumble into the middle of the fracas. She was out of direct sight of the pair but could watch what went on. Kate took a slow step back to distance herself and reached for the cell phone in her pocket. Just in case.
Erin lowered her phone and shoved her laser tool into her handbag. She pasted on what looked like a patented fake smile, all teeth and no enthusiasm, and moved closer, extending a hand to shake. "Blaine, so good to see you again."
Collier had his jacket open, the sides pushed and held back by hands at his waist. The man always reminded Kate of a television personality, personable but competitive. However, that day he looked like Joe Volcano instead.
"You were told to stay out of here until we've moved." His reddened complexion and cold tone made Kate even more unnerved than seeing his aggressive stance.
All pretense over,
Erin pulled back her hand and twisted the large gold bangle bracelet on her other wrist. "I didn't come while you and your family were here, Blaine. I followed the rules."
The rules…No, the
is that you don't get within three hundred feet of me or my family. That includes this home as long as it belongs to me. And it still belongs to me!"
and Kate nodded. This was turning into quite an afternoon.
Well, you knew I was here and came on your own. Which means you're the one who's actually breaking the court order, Blaine," Erin said. She dashed to the windows when he raised a fist.
But she was safe. The sound of a police siren called out from the road, and a second later revolving lights strobed through the windows.
Erin straightened her shoulders and circled the island, walking behind Kate as she headed for the front door. "I'll just go and get this misunderstanding cleared up right now."
You're going to be in jail if you set foot in this house again before we leave for California!" Collier thundered. She slammed the door on exit, and he pounded his fist on the countertop.
A knock on the door sent Collier to the front door. Kate and Meg peeked around the corner to see the town
's uniformed constable, Jim Banks.
I warned her and sent her on her way, Mr. Collier," Banks said, removing his hat as he spoke. "The first time is just a misdemeanor, and I didn't think you wanted to have to take the time to swear out a complaint and all. But I warned her the next infraction would be taken much more seriously."
Thanks, Jim." Collier shook his hand. "My new company hired her without consulting me. Just chose her for her sales record. I've tried to get them to hire someone else, but the contract is filed, and it would take too much work to undo, thanks to Erin's uncooperating nature. I may have to hire a security guard. Got any names I can speak to?"
I'd hold off for a bit and see if common sense prevails. Nothing like talk of spending time in jail to shake people into acting right."
"I'll keep that in mind. Thanks."
Well, good luck to you, sir." Banks anchored his cap back on his head and gave a wave as he walked away.
The women scooted over to the counter and opened the project notebook. They pretended to be engrossed in the notes.
"Uh…sorry about that." Collier made a circle with his hand, indicating where he and Erin battled a few minutes before.
Oh, no worries." Kate smiled. "We've just added a note to the file to not admit her again."
Not that she gave us any choice today," Meg said, crossing her arms. "Pretty pushy, in more ways than one."
Yeah, well, if it happens again, just call 9-1-1 immediately."
I'll do that. Oh, but one more thing." Kate pulled the envelope from where she'd stashed it in the back of her notebook. "This came earlier for Sydney. I signed for it. I hope you don't mind."
After he glanced at the address, Collier said,
"No, but I hope Erin didn't see this."
No, she was here, but in the media room at the time."
He did a rat-a-tat-tat on the countertop with his knuckles.
"Well, it's all good then. I'll take Dustin and Dara for burgers tonight while Sydney is at skate practice. I'll also call a security team to come out in the morning to write up an estimate. No point in taking a wait and see attitude on this. You'll both be here to let them in, right?"
Another rap of the countertop with his knuckles, and he walked back to the foyer, calling over his shoulder,
"In the meantime, though, I need to get back to the office. Let Timothy know if you need anything else." He raised the envelope over his head as he opened the front door. "And thank you for this."
You're welcome," Kate said
She caught herself holding her breath until the front door closed and assumed Meg was doing the same since her partner had remained absolutely silent.
Meg motioned with her hand, and they slipped to the window to watch his silver Mercedes pull out of the drive.
What do you think about that?" Kate asked.
Her friend had already pulled out her smart phone.
"What I think is…" Meg put the phone to her ear. "This is the perfect reason why it's good I'm married to a newspaper journalist. Excuse me while I see what kind of dirt I can dig up on Ms. Erin Parker of Vermont Views Realty."
Moving 101—Sweating the Small Stuff
Empty prescription and OTC medication bottles are perfect for keeping small hardware items like screws, nails
, and washers safe. The childproof caps make them less likely to spill and lose pieces, and unlike small plastic bags the pointed ends won't be able to create a hole. Remove the labels by washing in warm water. You can re-label directly onto the plastic with a permanent marker, or use colored labels to denote room and furniture where the pieces belong. Just make sure the labels stick securely to the bottles, or tape the label on for extra holding power.