The next morning, the alarm clock woke us with its huge ringing sound. It was so loud and so shocking, I sat up in bed out of fright.
I hurried to get it shut off and Jon was already sat up sitting on the edge of the bed. He said, "Thank God tomorrow is an off day for me!"
I laughed, "My schedule is full!"
"Let's get to going."
I got up and realized I didn't have any clean clothes in the house... They were all at Grandma's. I said, "Uh hon, my clean clothes are all at Grandma's."
He giggled, "Mine are at my apartment!"
"Where's your apartment?"
"On the corner behind the cafe."
"Ok, you can get some while I go get mine from Grandma's."
As if on cue, there was a knock on our door. "Yeah!"
"Are you up!"
Jon turned and gave me a look, "I expected it to be Bob!"
"Grandma is an early riser."
We got up and got dressed. When we went out, Grandma said, "I've got coffee in the dining room."
"I can't believe you drove all the way here!"
"It took the All Wheel Drive in my car, but I made it."
"I need to go to your house to get some clean clothes and he's gotta get some from his apartment."
She smiled, "Is everything going ok?"
"Wonderful!" She sniffed real big, "I love the smell of old houses! The wood is amazing!"
"Me too. That wood is going to set us back a fortune in Pledge furniture polish!"
She laughed, "You need to hire a housekeeper."
"That's one of the things I need to get on doing. Another is to get a service to do the grounds keeping."
"You need to get someone who has a blade on their truck."
"My truck which is coming in tomorrow will have that. It'll also have tracks and a camper shell."
She nodded, "You need a garage. It's froze rain on top of all this snow."
"Man! I hate that!"
Jon came in and hugged her. She smiled, "Don't you look refreshed!"
He smiled real big, "Thanks for the coffee Grandma."
She smiled real big at his using 'Grandma' with her.
What surprised me was Bob walking in. Grandma gave him a look and I said, "Grandma, this is Bob. Bob, this is my Grandma."
Bob said, "Sorry I look like shit. That bed I picked has to be the hardest thing this side of a brick!"
"Why didn't you pick another?"
"I think they're all that hard up there!"
I said, "Grandma, your bedroom is the white one."
She nodded, "Ok!"
I turned to Jon, "Here's what we do... You open the cafe and I'll drive you up by your apartment. Then, I'll run out to Grandma's and get my clean clothes and come back by and get you."
"I can walk. It's not but a hundred feet."
"Are you sure?"
He smiled, "Yeah, I've done it so often I can do it in my sleep!"
Grandma said, "But you've never been carried that far! He's wanting to be romantic!"
Jon and Bob really laughed. Jon hugged me, "I'll let you carry me out to the car!"
I laughed, "Grandma said it froze rain on top of the snow."
He scrunched his face, "I hate that!"
"Me too. It makes walking anywhere more pain!"
Bob said, "Ok, what's the plan?"
"Let's go to the cafe."
We went out and I locked the door. Grandma said, "You need to get it so one key operates everything. I went in the kitchen door because I couldn't find this one on this mess of keys you gave me."
"I'll get on that."
She giggled, "I'll meet you down at the cafe."
She walked across the lot to her car like it was nothing. Jon gave me a look, "She's a morning person!"
"Yeah, I'm not!"
"I am, but not that good!"
Bob said, "Hurry up guys! I'm freezing here!"
We got to the Escalade and I got it started. Once the heat was going, I got out and began cleaning the snow off the windows. About 5 minutes later, it was cleared enough I could move the vehicle.
Down at the cafe, it was lit up like someone was there. Jon said, "Karen's here."
"Is she supposed to be?"
"I usually beat her in to open."
We went in and Karen smiled, "Hey!"
Jon went over and hugged her, "How's everything?"
She made a face, "We need to shovel the walk."
I said, "I'll get on that."
Jon smiled, "I'll have you breakfast made when you get finished."
"Why don't you see if you have the number for that implement place out there, or who owns it."
Grandma said, "That's Jeff. He'll be in this morning!"
I nodded, "DO you think he'd open up so I could buy a tractor with a snow blower?"
She shrugged, "Possibly."
"I'm going to need it for sidewalks up at the mansion."
I turned to Karen, "I'll get the walk shoveled, but we're going to have that done easier from now on."
She smiled, "Good!"
I said, "Bob, come with me."
"I didn't bargain to shovel any snow!"
"No, I'm showing you our building!"
He looked surprised, "Really?"
"Yeah. You can trudge down and go take a look at it."
He smiled real big, "Ok!"
I got the shovel and went out with him. "That tall one there."
"Here's the keys. The alarm shouldn't be set, but if the police come, tell them to call me and that I just bought it."
I gave him the keys and began shoveling the snow. As I did, I moved cafe chairs and tables. Soon, I had an area 50 feet long and from the front of the building all the way to the street.
When I went back inside, the place was bustling with activity. Karen was laughing real loud and I could hear Grandma laughing with her. I went back to the kitchen and saw Jon breading chicken. He looked up, "This works great! We need to buy another."
"Once you strain the chicken out of the flour, you can't get the strainer back in!"
"OH! I'll get that while I'm out."
He smiled real big, "Ok! Your breakfast is over there!"
I saw another heaping platter of beef and gravy over biscuits. "Babe?"
He looked up, "Yeah?"
"In the future, only make me about a third of that. I couldn't finish but about that much yesterday and don't want to waste food."
"It's absolutely wonderful, but I don't want to waste food."
He nodded and Karen smiled, "You two already look like you're in love!"
I smiled, "I'm feeling it!"
Jon laughed, "Me too!"
I turned to her, "Did he tell you that you're welcome to the mansion and already have your own bedroom?"
She smiled real big, "Yeah. I can't believe you'd do that for me!"
"We're taking it back to being a private residence. Grandma, Bob, and you all have rooms."
Grandma asked, "Why have it as a private residence?"
"The reasons are many... but the primary one is I don't want to have to hide behind a door on the weekends in my own house. The tours would be fine during the week, but on weekends, I'm not willing to do that for anyone.
Other than that, I can't see us spending $5 grand for a flower bed only to have someone walk through the thing. I think I'd scream at the person and that wouldn't be cool. Instead of doing that, I'll shut it.
Besides, they had the tour price up to $8 for kids and $15 for adults. To me, that's highway robbery and no, I'm not gonna lower it and then, wish I'd not shut the doors to the tours completely.
What I will do is I'll schedule private tours and give them."
She said, "Allow school groups and tours during the week. Shut it for tours on the weekends and then, you'll be fine."
I turned to Jon, "What do you think?"
"Until we get housekeepers, it's gotta stay shut."
Grandma said, "The tour guides were the ones doing the house work."
I gave her a look, "Huh?"
"One would give a tour and the others would go into a room and clean it. They had it divided up so the house got a floor finished each day."
"How many tour guides?"
Jon laughed, "$29 an hour for housekeeping which does tours!"
I shook my head, "It comes out to about $50 an hour when you add in the groundskeeping."
He shook his head, "MAN!"
"Multiply that by 8 and then by 110 and you've got somewhere in the ballpark of $60 grand for a summer."
"How'd you figure that out that fast?"
"There's roughly 110 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. There's 8 hours in a day, so that's how I came up with that."
Karen chuckled, "I get it, but I didn't realize there were 110 days between the two!"
I nodded, "It varies from year to year, but that's what it averages out to being."
Jon smiled real big, "I'm glad you know these things!"
I turned to Grandma, "For the same $60 grand a year, I'll put it out of my account and leave the guests on the other side of the gate!"
She laughed, "Let school kids go through. It'll mean a lot to them."
"Ok, but we'll do it gratis and write it off. I can't fathom seeing me charge a kid $8 to tour it."
She nodded, "Have it be $3 and give them a school group picture out on the front steps."
"Ok, but I need to tell you we're going to put the porch back on."
She looked surprised, "The round one?"
"Yeah, but I'm thinking about taking the plan for it and making a round gazebo out in the yard which matches."
She nodded, "I agree, but don't tear down that one. Move it out to my house and sell it with the place."
"I was thinking about moving it out to the farm."
She smiled real big, "Ok, that'll be better!"
A few people came in and Grandma sounded surprised, "There's JEFF now!"
She went out and so did Jon. Karen smiled real big at me, "Hon, you treat him good. He's already in love with you."
"Both of us are feeling it then."
"He said he's living a dream."
"Nah, it's reality!"
She chuckled, "Let me say something. He had an ex who lied to him at every turn. The guy used his emotions and really, I think the guy used him as a way to save up to get the money together to get a foothold into having the money to go to Las Vegas and went."
"I know people in Vegas. I can make it rough on the guy if need be."
She shook her head, "No, just let that piece of filth float on to where he may, but you treat Jon good."
I nodded, "Better than good... the difference between good and gold are two letters...m and n."
She smiled real big, "I like that!"
"I just thought it up!"
She laughed, "You're so full of it that even YOU know it!"
"Yeah, but I keep him laughing."
She nodded, "That's what he needs. There's a lot of pain in his past."
"He told me."
She gave me a look, "Already?"
"In the bath tub with me snuggling with him."
She smiled warmly, "Good, I'm glad to hear that. It says he's letting you in."
"It should've never happened, Karen!"
She nodded, "Here he comes!"
Jon came in, "Jeff said he'll open for you, but wants to know what you want?"
"I'll go speak with him."
I went out and Jeff stood up, "I hear you want a tractor!"
"I need a good sized tractor with a snow blower. I'd like to get a tiller attachment and a bunch of other things also, but the primary need is for a snow blower attachment right now."
"Cab or no cab?"
"Does something small have air conditioning?"
"Yeah, but I don't have anything which has it right now."
"But you've got one with a cab, right?"
He nodded, "Yeah."
"Ok, I'll need one."
"Chains or no chains?"
"Chains for now, but I'll be getting tracks."
"Mattracks. Also, I'll need a zero turning one come this summer to mow the grounds up at the mansion."
He looked surprised, "OH!"
"We just bought it. We also bought the Mutual Building, so I'll need something to blow snow from both of them as well as here."
He nodded, "Let's go out. All I've got to do is throw chains on one and then, you'll be set. I'll have to wait to do the paperwork tomorrow, but you can have it today."
"I appreciate it."
We went out and got in his truck. He drove us out. On the way, he asked, "Are you and Jon an item now?"
"Good. Everyone's wondered when he'll find someone and who it'd be. I'm glad he's found someone everyone will accept. What is it you do?"
"I'm a CPA. I'm opening up my own firm."
"OH!" He paused, "Get it down to where you don't have percentages, and I'll go with you!"
"That's the goal. How much are you paying now?"
"Oh jeez, I think it came out to being $120,000 last year."
"Here's what I'm doing. I'm charging by the quarter. If you'll go with me, I'll charge 25% of what you paid. The advantage in going with us is I'll throw in the accounting and I'll throw in your annual as well as give you advice to save on your taxes."
He sort've looked stunned, "So you're telling me for $30 a year, you'll do it?"
"Yeah, I'm doing that with a bunch of farmers and I'm doing it for a GM dealership in Illinois. As time passes, I'm sure word will get out and we'll win more clients."
"I'm about to make a few calls to the other implement places in this area. They're all screaming at how they've been getting charged!"
"Make sure to tell them it's a full service, not just the taxes."
He nodded and smiled real big, "You're going to be busy!"
"Here's what else I need to tell you just so you know how I operate."
"When you're in the office, I do business with ONLY you. That means if the phone rings, it rings until someone else answers it because the money you're paying me entitles you to me doing YOUR business that you paid for, not their's.
Also, when you have receipts, you fax them in. it goes into your account and we do everything with those. You save your receipts, but we've got a facsimile in our records should anything happen to your business."
"Good. That'll make it a lot better."
"What I believe is that you have a business and your business isn't to see me unless there's something really wrong. I can fax you your tax forms to be signed and then, those are your copy. You fax them back and I turn them in.
However, if there's an embezzlement or something going on which we're catching, I'll be contacting you personally so there's no one who might be involved acting as intermediary and making things worse."
"Oh, have you had that before?"
"In four years, I've had it 8 times. Five of them have been with municipal funds and the other 3 were someone who was trying to lessen their tax load illegally.
With the municipal funds, it went to court. Because I'm a forensic accountant, I can testify to what I found and how it led to where it was. With the others, I told them what I saw and advised them to get the records made right so they didn't get themselves thrown in jail. One challenged me and I turned it in."
He looked surprised, "MAN!"
"Just as you'd not like it if I damaged your reputation, I'm not going to take it real well if you're trying to use me as an accessory to your crime. Believe it or not, when I let it go, it blows up into something a lot bigger where I'm losing my license. That's not going to happen!"
He nodded, "I'm glad to hear it."
We got to his dealership and got out. He went inside and said, "Stay here and I'll go get your tractor. It's down front under the canopy, so I'll bring it around."
"I appreciate it."
He went down and I looked around. When he drove the tractor up around, I was pleasantly surprised to see he was blowing snow and that it was a 4 wheel drive model which is called a Utility Tractor. It seems they have yard, compact utility, utility, and then specialty in the mid range sized tractors.
He came in, "Is that the size you're interested in?"
"Yes, but can I put a tiller and a backhoe on that?"
"You'll have to have a larger one. Give me a moment and I'll get this snow blower off this and put onto what you need."
He went back out and real soon, he was back with another larger model which was 4 wheel drive. He came in, "This is what you need. I'll get you the attachments ordered."
"The advantage is you've got air conditioning and heat with this one."
"I've got the heat operating, so you'll be good."
He smiled, "What else do you want on it?"
"I have no clue."
He walked over and started asking me questions. I told him and then, I asked, "I'm going to ask a question and you just tell me if it can be done."
"Up top, I've got space on the other side of that wall which grows trees, weeds, and all sorts of things which makes it dangerous to go over that wall to handle. Do you have something I can buy which will keep that maintained?"
He nodded, "It's a professional attachment, but it's an arm with a mower deck on it. You lift it up and over and cut everything down. The plus side is you can reach up embankments with it and down embankments with it also."
"Order one of those."
He chuckled, "Ok, now I'm going to ask you some questions!"
He gave me a serious look, "Landscaping and grounds keeping the mansion. Who's doing it for you?"
"No one yet. I need to hire someone, but I need to get a greenhouse built as well as a garage."
"Why a greenhouse?"
"Because I plan on going heavy with flowers. Us growing and starting our own are more cost effective."
"I can get them wholesale for you if you want."
"Will you keep it wholesale? Because if it's an enticement which suddenly gets expensive, I'll tell you now that I'll build the building and not look back once you're gone."
He nodded, "What are you wanting for flowers?"
"I want a lot of perennials, but I also want annuals like marigolds closer to the sidewalks and street. Up in the circle, I want variegated hostas with perennials in a starburst pattern.
Out in the rose garden, I want roses and lots of mulch." I paused, "There's a plan which was done up for the landscaping which I want to follow. That'll mean a lot of those trees will be cut down and the plan followed."
"Do you have that?"
"I'm getting it. The plan was done up by a landscaper who did a lot of the famous gardens."
"Get that. I'd like to see it."
He nodded, "Here's our fee for doing the grounds keeping. It's $120 a week and I'll throw in the landscaping if you'll pay wholesale for the plants."
"Ok, that sounds like a deal."
"In flowers, I get to take pictures when each comes into bloom."
"Ok, now do you know a company which will rebuild the front porch the way it was originally?"
"River City Restorations."
I know I made a face. He laughed, "What's that about!"
"Here's what I know... They charge 2 ½ times the rate everyone else does. If a bid gets $5000 from 9 contractors, they'll have a bid submitted which is $12,500."
"They're used to getting it."
"I'll contact some others. I don't want to sound like a cheapskate, but I'm probably going to spend right at a million dollars on that front porch and gazebo. I sure don't need to spend $2.5 million!"
"Yeah, it's going to be expensive if it's done right and with the right woods. The gazebo isn't on paper yet, but I want it to match the circular dimensions of that corner of the porch."
"I've not seen what you're talking about."
"Originally, the front porch went out and around to the side porch. Out at the corner was a big circular addition which made it a lot different than what it is now.
What I'm going to do is I want another circular one on the other front corner so it looks like it should be there. Then, out in the side yard where that redwood gazebo is located, I want one which matches the circular style of the porch."
He made a face, "I wasn't aware there was a redwood gazebo up there!"
"It's out in the rose garden towards the other house. When you look out, it sticks out like a huge zit on that pretty lady's face!"
He laughed, "I bet!"
"You'll hate it when you see it. Everything else says class, and that might be nice, but it's totally off for the period and the style of that place.
Of course, building what would've looked right would've probably cost $200 grand, so they went cheap...way cheap. I'm going to go expensive and get it to where it looks right."
He smiled, "I hope you have the money for it!"
"I do. I believe it building right the first time and getting it right the rest of my life because I chose well... not redoing it until I finally get it right."
He nodded, "I understand. You've got to have some money to heat that place!"
"It's not that bad when you realize we're putting in a new style of heat which will take it to about 10% of what it is normally."
He nodded, "I would've went with an outdoor boiler."
"This is cheaper than that by about 2/3rds and yet, it's not that much to keep it going year round."
"What is it?"
"Is your internet turned on?"
I went around and pulled up the cavitation heater. He watched and said, "MAN! That's going to be something else!"
"I'm planning on putting tubing in that drive and running fluid through it so it's heated. I realize I'm paying for a snow blowing system, but soon enough, we'll have these in the Mutual Building, and Jon's cafe so we can have tubes in the floor and out on the sidewalk heating so we're never shoveling and worrying about someone falling."
He smiled real big, "That'll be nice!"
"I'll still need the snow blower because I plan on blowing parking spaces clear. The city might not like it, but I'm going to blow and then, I'll attach the front bucket and haul the snow to where it goes into the river."
"They won't let you. They say that since they put solution down, it makes it have to be treated. Instead, they put it down to where it can melt and go into a storm runoff drain and be treated."
I smiled, "I guess that's the government for you! If left alone, it goes into the river anyway, but they're going to say the salt isn't natural!"
He laughed, "I see what you're saying, but there was a big stink about it."
"Just the same, I'll get it handled."
He asked, "Are you still going to build a greenhouse?"
"Yeah, and a garage also."
"If you build the greenhouse, may I use it to hold stock for the landscaping?"
"Yeah, but you need to understand I'm putting up gates, so you'll need a code for those."
He nodded, "Ok."
We went out and he followed me as I drove the tractor. When I got there, I went up on the sidewalk and blew the snow off the Mutual Building's sidewalk and then went to blow the snow off Jon's sidewalk. After that, I left it running and went in. He smiled real big, "Did you get what you wanted?"
"Yeah, and he's going to landscape and keep the grounds for us."
He gave me a look, "They charge a lot."
"We struck a deal."
He chuckled, "How'd I know that was probably going to happen!"
Grandma came over, "Nice tractor. How much did it set you back!"
"I think all in all, it was something like $150,000."
She gave me a shocked look and I explained. "There are attachments and then, there are other attachments!"
She laughed, "And then, there are expensive attachments!"
"Yeah, but here's what cost a lot. They make an arm mower which I think they call a boom mower."
She nodded, "I know what they are."
"We need it because there's spots on the other side of that wall up above which need to be mown. Rather than me getting over in a harness and going nuts with a chainsaw, we can do it with this and stay safe."
She nodded, "Ok.."
"That's $30 grand."
She looked shocked, "My GOD!"
"Grandma, I was thinking about a truck with one of those arms they use on a bridge. Those things are nearly $180 grand, so that's cheap!"
She laughed, "I understand, but it's shocking when you add it all up."
"There's everything with that thing. I know it's expensive, but I know we'll use it and we'll be happy using it."
She nodded, "Write it off, that's all I'm saying."
"OH I AM!"
She laughed, "He's been talking you up to everyone."
"Good. I'm doing the same!"
"You need to get out and meet people."
I went out and asked Jon, "Do you need me to meet people?"
"You need to get over there and be by Jeff. He's telling everyone how you're the person to be their CPA!"
I smiled and he really smiled, "You didn't tell me you were getting his business!"
I held up a finger, "Oh by the way...!"
He laughed real loud, "Yeah?"
"I'm getting him as a client." I looked around and didn't see Bob. "Where'd Bob go?"
"I've not seen him since he went to the building."
"Let me call him."
I dialed his number, "Hello?"
"Where are you at?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"There's a back stairwell here which has lots of fenced in partitions with spring doors which latch when you go through them. I'm somewhere in between the 3rd floor and the top floor is all I know."
"Ok... and you couldn't call me?"
"I've been trying to find a way without looking like an idiot."
"That's ok. We'll put something in them so no one else gets stuck like that. It very easily could've been us, but I've not seen the building yet."
"It's amazing for what we need. There's quite a bit of work which needs done, but it's going to be awesome... Now how much did you get it for?"
"You yelling in an empty building is funny!"
He laughed, "I can't believe you! This is a million dollar building!"
"They tried to get $600 grand and couldn't get it. They went down and down and down and finally, they said, "Make an offer. So we did and then, he gave Jon a $10 grand finder's fee."
"JESUS! I'm still blown away!"
"Me too. I've seen it all my life and know they did a gob of work to it."
"They did structural. A lot of this hasn't been touched since the 1930's when it was built."
"It was built in 1904."
"Well, you know it's not been touched since then. I bet the lead paint in here is something terrible and the asbestos is not far behind!"
"I'll have it handled. I want an open floor arrangement which we can have partitions, but glass and oak."
"That sounds nice, but it's not what is here."
"We'll get it buddy, now I'm heading that way."
"Bring things which won't get us stuck in here together!"
"I've got keys as do you."
"Are they in this mess here?"
"That's all the keys to the building..."
He laughed, "I've been too busy trying to get out and haven't looked!"
I chuckled, "Well try and then, come on to breakfast."
I rang off and smiled, "Jon gave me a smile, "What's going on?"
"Bob got stuck in a stairway there. He forgot he had all the keys."
He gave me a serious look, "We need several sets!"
"Yeah, and it's Sunday, so if he can't get out, I'm taking a sledge hammer and breaking in rather than paying a locksmith today!"
He looked shocked and I said, "It costs something like $200 to get into your car. I imagine for a commercial building where there's got to be at least 2 locks between where I can reach him is going to be horrendous. Since I'm going to redo all that, it's not much of a loss if it's broken."
He shook his head, "You'll have people breaking in and stripping the place!"
"Babes, if they did, they'd do me a favor."
"He said it's not been redecorated since it was built in 1904. That means lead based paint and asbestos."
He made a face, "Ooh!"
"I'll give him a little bit and then, we'll see how to go about getting him."
He smiled real big, "It's kind of funny in a way!"
"Yeah, we know how to get rid of him... Send him to get lost in a building people have gotten out of for over a hundred years!"
He laughed and we went out to the crowd. He introduced me to everyone and Jeff introduced me to a GOB of businessmen. I pulled up a chair and began getting to know them and listening to their needs. By the end of the conversation, I saw Bob come in and introduced him to everyone. He stood and listened. Together, we answered questions and solicited business. ALL of them were surprised at the rates we charged and said they were moving to us. I told them Jon and I had bought the Mutual Building. They were surprised. Then, I told them, "Until we get the building remodeled, I'm setting up business at Rockcliffe."
Someone asked, "Did you buy that?" and I said, "Yes sir. Jon and I bought that yesterday."
Everyone was surprised and asked when I could make time for them. I said, "Let me get set up. I'll have Bob going to Staples tomorrow and then, we'll have offices as well as software. While he's doing that, I can be keeping appointments. If you'd like to have an appointment, I book by the hour. You get that full hour and then, you know I'm giving you my full attention and not answering phones and speaking with you, you, you, and you while I've got you in my office. I refuse to work that way, so if you hear I'm in with a client and that I'll call you back, please understand it's common courtesy to who I've got in with me."
All of them were smiling and nodding in agreement. Bob said, "He came into the office and we were doing it the other way. When he started doing it that way and explaining what he was doing, I started doing it too. THEN, someone else did it and they discovered the clients were happier, so they changed policy. Now he's moving, so I'm going with him because I know his style of doing business will be successful."
I nodded, "Bob's as good as I am with everything. If you're found to be his client, please don't think I'm slighting you or anyone. We have specialties and mine is corporate while his is personal. He can do corporate, but he knows the loopholes to save you money better for personal taxes and I know the loopholes for corporate better. What I'm NOT AFRAID of doing is calling in a bunch of people and having in-services so that we can explain tax law and how to do something so you know where we can save you money. Most of it's following the tax codes and staying abreast of it, so don't think what worked last year will work this year, because a lot of that is ever changing."
By the end of the meeting, I had names, phone numbers, and appointments scheduled. It might've sounded small, but we got 17 clients in that short time.