Part 2 of 6 in this complete, ghostly story.
GETTING THE LOWDOWN
“Mr. Trand, it’s important that I tell you-.” Pause.
Hodge knew that Trand was the kind of client who liked to interrupt people because he had things he liked to say. She rolled her eyes and let her boss see her mouthing a few choice words about the man. It got her a small smile.
“Yes, I understand that.” Mandy swallowed. “Mr. Trand, if I had known about the extremely high turnover of that place, I’m not sure I would have taken you as a client.” That wasn’t precisely true. He was in fact a big draw for her, and even if she had known from the onset, she would have quickly concluded that the problems were ones she could fix.
Hodge had both hands on the desk now.
Mandy swallowed. She kept her voice level, and her volume went down a notch. “That one property is costing me a great deal of time, the maintenance and repairs, administration fees, advertising. It’s all so much, given that no one stays longer than a few months, that I’m essentially just breaking even with you.” Pause. “Yes, I am doing that, but people are actually so unwilling to stay, they-. Yes, that’s right, and there’s always something that requires repair.”
“Well, yes, I know that isn’t really your concern, but it is if I have to drop you as a client, sir.” Pause. “No, but I am saying that at this point it’s a serious matter for me. I don’t understand why you don’t unload the property.” Pause.
It was a long pause.
“I see.” Mandy sighed. “Well, you’ve got a point there, a very good point. I will think about that.” Pause. “Yes, I’ll see what I can do. But it’s just-.” Mandy let her head drop back and she rolled her eyes. “No, I don’t either. Yes, I will. Thank you. Goodbye.”
She hung up and docked the phone with a grimace.
“He won’t sell it?”
Mandy shrugged. “He said, and I quote, ‘If you can find a fool who’s willing to buy that place and keep it for more than a few months, I’ll let you list it for the price I paid twenty years ago.’”
“I know, right?” Mandy smirked. “But I don’t see it. People go there, they love it, they move in and then they practically run back out, and they all say the same thing.”
“It’s haunted.” Hodge sat at the edge of the desk now, folding her arms across her chest.
“Yup. I even forewarn people, I mean, I don’t believe in ghosts, and I tell them that, but I do say, very openly, how the house has a history of being haunted. They all agree to sign on for a minimum of two years and they all leave in three months or less.”
“What about the penalty fees?” Hodge adjusted her watch to unstick it from her wrist, and tugged both her long sleeves down.
“They don’t care,” Mandy threw her arms up. “They all, every last one, would rather fork up a few thousand rather than stay there for another day.” She shook her head as if it could rattle. “Let alone two years. It’s crazy.” Mandy groaned, “And it still isn’t enough to really cover what this place is costing me. It’s the most high-maintenance property we have. I can get tenants to pay for what they should, but all the advertising? That’s on me.”
Mandy rested her elbows on the desk, tapping her temples; then she stopped, and rested her chin in her hands. “At the price he’s suggesting, I’d snap it up myself, really.”
“Well maybe you should. Even if the house is kind of a dud, the land is prime real estate. Right in the Cas. Most people would do anything to get in there.” She picked up the file for the property, perusing the stats. “I love that the file folder is this Cheerful Pink,” she remarked. “Same color as my car.”
Mandy wasn’t fully listening and murmured, “I picked it because I can’t stand the color. Easier to find that way; I’m always having to fish it out of the cabinet. Nauseating.”
“I see,” grumbled Hodge. She returned her attention to the file.
Mandy sighed, her far away thoughts getting nearer. “I don’t know. The villa is historical, you know? Protected. What if there’s some fault line running underneath the house, or some pipe that leaks something that’s giving people hallucinations or whatever. There must be some super terrible problem with that place, something that a normal inspection just doesn’t catch. And I bet if I were to find it out, the cost to fix it might be well outside my reach.“ She cleared her throat and added, “Or just more than it’s worth.“
“Have you spoken with this Ms. Kriegel?” Hodge looked from the file to Mandy.
Mandy shook her head and gave her a questioning look, Who’s that?
“She’s the only steady tenant in that place, since before you started this business even. There’s what,” Hodge flipped a page back and looked to be counting. “Five possible flats, and just the one, she stays. She’s been there for nearly fifteen years. You should go talk to her.”
Hodge placed the file in front of Mandy and tapped the page two times, right where the tenant’s phone number was noted. “If anyone knows what’s driving people out of that place, it’s got to be her. And since she hasn’t gone running, she’s gotta really have her wits about her, you know? Definitely not a fruitcake. She might even have an idea what to do about whatever the problem is. I mean, she might actually know. Maybe it’s why she’s still there, you know? Like maybe she found a way to avoid the fumes that get to other people. Something like that. You should just check.”
Mandy looked at the number. Seven digits. They just might be what would save her financially, and they might even put her in a position to purchase her own house. Right in the Castro neighborhood, too, which would be truly amazing.
MAKING THE CALL
Mandy adjusted her glasses. “You’re right,” and she dialed the number.
“Ms. Kriegel? Ms. Amalthea Kriegel? We’ve never met before, but I’m the manager of your apartment house. I was hoping we could meet, perhaps later today?” Pause. “Yes. That is exactly what I would like to discuss. Well, thank you. I’ll be right over.”
Mandy disconnected and held the phone in both hands, cradling it. “She knew exactly why I called.”
“What do you mean?” Hodge could see Mandy was unnerved. “Mand, what did that woman say to you?”
“She said, ‘You must be calling because you want to know all about the ghost and if it’s really real or not.’”
“And you said yes?”
“No, because then she said, ‘You’re wondering if you should hold onto the property or get rid of it, and you want to know if I know something that could help.’ Hodge, it was uncanny. It was as if she knew exactly what we had just now been saying.”
“I think she’s just a very savvy lady. Look at the file,” she waggled a finger at the open file. “Says in there she runs her own catering business. If she can run a business in this town, well then she’s got to be pretty clever.” Hodge elaborately flung an arm up and then placed her fist, with great purpose, against her hip. “Like maybe some lady you and I might know.” Mandy had been running her own firm for five years and she had seven employees, including Hodge.
Mandy snorted a small laugh and smiled. “I suppose so, sure.” Mandy nodded and looked back down at the file, not reading any of the words there. She still felt uneasy, but she reassured herself there was absolutely no reason for it.