The mail truck’s engine hummed in front of Kat’s house and she heard her mailbox snap shut. It triggered fear. She’d been late on her mortgage for months. She no longer looked forward to getting mail six days a week. It had become anxiety inducing. Days’ worth of mail was still in the box. She knew she had to get it. She didn’t want anyone to think she was away, because mail was starting to pile up. Sorting it was too painful. The pit in her abdomen reminded her how sick mail now made her feel.
The JOE COFFEE CHRONICLES © is a fictional short story series about a man who leaves his life's earnings to a security company to keep an eye on his unsuspecting daughter, Kat Holmes-Barringer, because she was attacked by someone posing as a home buyer.
There had been numerous days that the air was cool and even chilly, but now it was cold. She looked at the thermostat and hesitated about turning the heat on. She was shivering. Her heating oil reserve was getting low. How long will it last? She slid a cold finger along the top of the box and pushed the lever to the fifty eight degree setting.
She quickly showered and blew her hair dry. She applied minimal makeup to try to make it last longer beause she didn't have money to buy more. She shut the heat off and dressed in layers. Grabbing her laptop and purse, she headed to Beechwood Coffee.
Kat swung by Renny’s and bought a one dollar java to save money and poured it into her Beechwood Coffee cup while still in her car. Her bags felt heavy as she carried them inside Beechwood Coffee. It felt good to be somewhere that was warm.
“Good morning,” a man’s voice said while Kat plugged her computer in.
“Hi,” she said, rearranging her laptop and booting up the icon screen. She turned towards the voice to find the tile guy who had been stalking her sitting a table away. She regretted saying hi. I don't want people to think I'm rude, but he's creepy.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I have to get some work done.”
“Does your client need tile?”
“No. I have to get my work done.”
He placed another of his cards down onto her laptop bag. “Call me.” He starred at her.
“I have a lot going on and I don’t need tile.”
“You.., call me!”
People stopped what they were doing and looked at them.
He's making a scene! Kat didn’t take her eyes from him, not saying a word.
He walked out.
She tried to focus on expired listing agreements and going over the steps she’d take to acquire the listings. Going over resent sales, she came upon numbers that were lower than the homes current listed price. If they don’t come down on price, the listing is going to be a waste of time because it’s not going to sell in this market.
A minute later, she noticed a man sitting down across from her within her peripheral view. She glanced up. The man looked familiar. Another man came and sat next to him. Now she realized they were the same two men who’d been a little rowdy that sat near her a few days prior.
“I think you have my drink," one said, to the other.
“No wonder my drink tastes weird," the tall dark-haired Italian looking one said. He slid the drink over to the other guy who was about 5'9 with a medium build and sandy-brown hair. He, in turn, held the drink up to Kat. “He was drinking my coffee.”
Kat smiled. She had no idea they were two undercover agents working for Quinn Security who had a continuous tail on her.
The shorter guy laughed and went back to the barista.
The other man laughed and slid his finger down the face of his cell phone. Kat went back to analyzing her current listings. Being a listing agent is so bad in this market because prices keep dropping and houses aren’t selling.
Her phone beeped. It was a text message from a buyer wanting to see a property. They’re the one that keeps going to different agents. Spending time on them is a small chance I’ll sell to them. If they were exclusive with me, I’d put more time into them, but working one hundred percent commission, makes them a higher stake that I’ll spend all this time on them and I’ll make zero dollars. I need to find a better buyers. Ones that has me exclusively working for them.
“Tim’s running late. We might be here a while.” Undercover Agent Ryan Roberts, posing as a guy out of work, sat down with a new drink.
"Did you get a job yet?" his associate Astolfi asked, working their plan in front of unsuspecting Kat.
"I'm still on unemployment, but I might be getting a part time job at the dump," Ryan responded.
"Better than nothing," said Astolfi.
Kat cringed hearing Ryan's remark. He's having work troubles, too.
"Yes, it is better than nothing. My money is too tight. I'm not sure how to pay all my bills."
The stalker tile guy was standing near them looking aggitated that there weren't any seats in close proximity to Kat.
You're still working construction for your uncle?" Ryan asked Maverick.
"Only when he needs me. I don't have to work that much. It's just so I have something to do." Maverick commented, portraying someone who was financially stable. He put his drink down.
"Did they put that new bathroom and kitchen in that investor's home? The one in Laguna Canyon?"
"No, the contractor ended up being a flake. We're looking for a local tile guy, but no one can find one. You don't know of anyone that's really good, do you?"
"Nah. Jimmy's cousin did tile, but they moved to Arizona."
"When we didn't need anyone, we had a number of contractors looking for work. Now, we can't even find someone to lay tile."
The tile guy pulled a business card out and extended his arm to Maverick. "I'm Richie and I do very nice tile work. I've done Laguna jobs before."
"Hey Richie, do you have any references and pictures of your work?" Maverick glanced at Ryan.
"Yes. I lay a number of different types of tile."
Maverick wrote down a phone number and address. "Come talk with me outside. It's too crowded in here."
Ryan followed them outside shaking his head.
"What's up, Ryan?" Maverick asked.
"That realtor chick in there. The one that I like who was sitting near us. I heard her making a doctor's appointment saying that her herpes virus had flared up. Then I heard her say, 'No, it's not the other disease acting up.'"
The tile guy's face dropped.
"Imagine putting your jolly elf in there so it comes out looking sad? Damn," Ryan said, looking scared.
"Well, atleast you found out before you asked her out and had your elf fall off."
Ryan dabbed his forehead with a napkin and looked at Richie while cringing his face. "Imagine putting your elf in that not knowing it was diseased and having it fall off? I know a guy that got herpes and his soldier doesn't stand at attention anymore."
The tile guy shuttered.
"She seems like a nice girl, but man, no guy wants their buddy diseased. After that, no girl will ever look at you the same." Maverick put his number in the tile guy's hand. "Give me a call and if my uncle still needs a contractor, we'll call you."
Ryan's phone rang. "I gotta take this call. It might be a job." He waved and went into his car.
"Ryan, you take care of that Frank Rice?" Ronny of Quinn Security asked his employee.
"Yeah, I just let him know his buddy will fall off if he touches Kat."
Ronny laughed a little. "Good. We'll keep a tail on him for a while."
Next: Missing Money - JOE COFFEE CHRONICLES - Segment 5
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R.J. Grand is the author of the Fortier Series Mystery Books - THE PAINTING OF DECEIT and ON THE INSIDE.