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The Stairs – Part 3

I walked through the living room and up the stairs. Turning on the landing, I saw Emily cross the hallway. A quick turn of a knob and I’m in the guest room. My laptop was on top of my bags, so I fired it up. “It’s a good thing they are tech-stupid,” I say as my WiFi bars displayed maxed signal.

My hands blur over the keyboard. Cycling through three sites, I transferred the contents of my retirement account and my savings account all to my checking account. It took all of ten minutes to complete when I looked for local banks. If they got a mortgage for the house, they went easy and got a local loan. “Now to figure out which one.”

A knock sounded at the door. The knob jiggled, but didn’t turn past the push button lock. “Who is it?”

“It’s mom,” mom said.

Pausing for a second, I stood and opened the door. “What do you want?”

Mom stepped in and closed the door. With a bed, a small bookshelf, and my bags, this room was cramped. Throw in two adults and we stood in each other’s personal space.

“I overheard the shouting,” she said. “Vic is a proud man and Candy has been so independent since she was a teenager.” Her hands rolled around each other. “I don’t know what you’re planning on doing, but if you need help doing it, let me know.”

I looked her in the eyes. “Who is their loan through?”

“Ridgemont,” she said. “They’re downtown. We passed them on the way here.”

“Great,” I said. “Now all I have to do is convince someone at the bank to sell me their mortgage.”

“That won’t be hard,” mom said. She held a flat smile and her hand went to her face. “I’ll tell them you’re coming.”

“What good will that do?”

“We’re on the loan too,” she said.

“What?” I leaned in close then lowered my voice. “You’re kidding me. You and dad are retired. Granted, you were smart about your money, but still. I don’t think you could assume the payments on this place.”

“We can’t,” she said, her voice let a tremble. “At least not for long. Maybe one or two payments.”

“So to save them,” I shifted my stance and put my hands on my hips. “You would have to liquidate your retirement. Then what? Live here and let them take care of you?”

“That was my plan,” mom said. “Your father wants them to move to a smaller house and possibly rent.”

With my head bobbing my head worked through the logic. “That makes sense. They could sell half, hell all, their high end crap and make about a year worth of rent.”

“Dad said the same,” mom said with her eyes on the floor. “But there is no way Vic will do that. Candy might, but then the kids aren’t used to that life.”

“So?” I took a step toward my bags, which was the only free floor space. “A three bed, two bath will cost them about a grand a month. I assume Vic is still working.”

“He is,” mom answered. “Candy would have to get a better paying job.”

“Right,” I added. “The kids are old enough to stay by themselves. This is a solid plan. That’s how we grew up.”

“In the beginning, yes,” mom said. “But once you two were teens, we upscaled.”

“But you paid for it in the beginning.” I turned toward the window. “You did low end jobs and dad worked through being an architect. Hell, I imitated you two. Crap job in high school, less of a crap job in college. Tech support, now look at me. It wasn’t easy and didn’t happen overnight.”

“I know,” mom said. “That’s kind of why I want to know what your plan is. You have a lot saved up, I’m sure. If you blow it and buy this house, they will never live it down. And I don’t think they will ever pay you back.”

“If not,” I said, turning back to her. “I can maintain it and sell it in a year, maybe two. The economy isn’t bad. At a minimum, I’ll break even or lose just a little.”

“So you have a plan,” she said. “Good.” Reaching into a pocket, she pulled out a slip of paper. “I wrote the loan info on this. Use it to do what you need to do.”

“Thanks, mom.” I kissed her on the forehead and she left.

With the paper in my hand, I checked my accounts one last time. I didn’t know what the balance on the loan was, but my savings account was under 400 thousand by only a couple hundred bucks. Seeing it all in one spot showed me how well I had it. Granted, the retirement thing would suck. My parachute constituted about twenty grand in stocks. Throw in my next paycheck and I was back at my tech-support days.

Closing the lid of my laptop, I stuffed it under an arm and stepped into the hall. It was clear, so I went downstairs. Dad held out a hand and dangled keys.

“Mom said you might need these,” he said. “Don’t do something stupid. At least something you can’t recover from.”

I couldn’t help by smile. “I got this,” I said. “Thanks for the help.”

It didn’t take long to get to Ridgemont Bank and Trust. After parking, I went inside.

“Hi,” a young woman said. “Welcome to Ridgemont. What can I do for  you?”

“I’m here to buy a mortgage,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, her bright smile darkened and flattened. “I didn’t know we did that. Let me see.” Her head tilted over a digital pad and she ran her fingers over it. “It seems we do,” she said as she looked up. “You need to speak to Marshall Klein. That way.” Her manicured finger pointed in a direction of cubes.

“Thank you very much,” I said with a smile.

A security guard nodded in my direction and my mind ran with it.

The security guard from my dream was different. Taller and thinner. He also waved.

The desk was the same, except for the date and time. They were today and ten fifteen AM.

My eyes held both images and different sounds echoed in my ears.

“Mr. Jeffers?”

My eyes focused on the man saying my name. “Yes,” I said and extended my hand. “Call me Butch. You’re Klein?”

“Marshall, please,” he said and shook my hand. “Right this way.” His arm extended and pointed me towards his cube. “I understand you are interested in the Nelson Jeffers mortgage.”

“That is correct,” I said and sat in a rigid chair squeezed between a cube wall and a small desk.

Marshall taped on his keyboard. “They have defaulted on their loan as of yesterday. Are you here to make restitutions?”

“I’m here to buy it,” I said and laid my laptop on the gray desk. “I believe that is something I can do, is it not?”

“You can,” Marshall said. “Normally we wait for the occupants to vacate and then bring in a crew to do any maintenance. This can take somewhere in the neighborhood of six months.”

“I’m not worried about that,” I said. “I know the occupants.”

“That was what I was told,” Marshall said. “The loan amount was 275. They paid six years, all of it interest.” I nodded, remembering how loans worked. “Do you have an offer prepared?”

That was an excellent question. I had the money to pay off 300 thousand right now. No questions asked. However, I’ve heard you can buy them under the total amount, as banks don’t want to deal with having to maintain or work on a house. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any experience in this field.

“Nothing written,” I said, and leaned forward. “But I figure 220 is a good place to start.”

Marshall stared at me for a few seconds and then typed on his keyboard. He slammed a finger onto his enter key, then sat back. “I’m waiting on approval,” he said with a smile and rapped his fingers on the desktop.

“I won’t lie to you, Marshall,” I said. “This is my first time doing something like this. Was my offer good? Close even?”

“Well,” he said and shifted closer to his desk. His computer dinged, and he cut his eyes to the screen. With wide eyes he shifted to his keyboard. “It seems your offer was accepted. Pending on a few minor things, of course.”

“Like what?”

“Payment verification,” he said. “We will accept certified payments within the week.”

“What about cash now,” I said and laid down my debit card.

Marshall’s eyes looked at my card as it clicked on the hard surface of his desk. Then up at my face. “We don’t accept credit cards as payment.”

“Debit,” I said and poked the card. “It’s all there. This is a bank. I’m sure you could run it and see if it will clear.”

“Just a minute,” Marshall said and left the cube office.

I followed him with my eyes until he went through a door. It snapped shut behind him, leaving me in the quiet hum of his computer.

Drumming my fingers on his desk, I glanced around. There wasn’t much, just the standard work based propaganda. Sliding to the cube opening, I scanned the larger area. This was the typical large bank. There was a waist high wall with a door. Behind the wall, I made out an archway.

A bright orange glow dominated the vision in my mind. The scene coalesced from bright orange to fluffy orange and reds with traces of grays and black. It morphed again and became sharp points of red and orange extending out from over the small wall. Again it moved and became more cone shaped as it protruded from the wooded archway behind the low wall.

“Butch!”

I felt warm. Like being too close to a campfire.

“Butch!”

Slapping a smile on my face, I looked over at Marshall.

“That happens all the time,” he said.

“What?” I moved back to the desk.

“The old vault area,” he said. “People come in here and get sucked into the nostalgia of it.”

“So the vault is back there?” I asked tossing a nod in the direction.

“It is,” Marshall said. “But it isn’t. The tellers all have a smaller safe at their stations. Each night, security comes through and takes the days exchanges and moves it to a bigger safe. It stays there a few weeks, then is moved by armored car to the central distribution.”

“So you don’t use the vault?” I asked feeling my lips tighten. “So, about the mortgage?”

“If your accounts clear,” Marshall said, taking my debit card, “You will have yourself a new home. After we get final authorization.”

“Final authorization?”

“Yeah,” he said. “It all goes into this magic box here.” He tapped the computer. “And it goes to out VP board who crunches numbers and stuff. They approve or disapprove and we get something back in a day.”

“So, it will be finalized tomorrow,” I said. “The fifteenth.”

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