“So, how about this Saturday?”
She couldn’t see any purpose in putting off the inevitable. “Sure, Saturday’s fine. Give me the card and I’ll make the necessary arrangements.”
“Uh-uh. We’re going on my dime, so I’ll take care of it. I’ll pick you up at home. That’s not a problem anymore, is it? Or do you still consider me a stranger?”
Well, an intimate stranger if such a thing existed.
“No, it’s not a problem.” She took the card and wrote her address on the back. They agreed he’d come by for her at eleven o’clock on Saturday.
Molly put the box containing the microphone she’d borrowed from City Hall into a shopping bag. She flattened the two empty boxes and added them to the bag too. Nick leaned back against the table and folded his arms across his chest.
“I’m sorry I startled you Monday night.” He seemed truly apologetic, not like a man who’d almost had his toes pancaked.
Molly grimaced. “I had no idea it was you. Not until it was too late.”
“I’m sure you didn’t.” His tone lacked conviction. Still, there was no reproach in his eyes in spite of her quick get-away.
She waited for him to pump her about the association meeting.
“How often do the tenants get together?”
Molly shrugged. “I don’t know. They’re pretty secretive.”
“Are the meetings always held on Monday nights?”
“As far as I know they’ve only had two.” She couldn’t remember when the group first met. She wasn’t included.
“Let me know when they hold the next one. I’d like to attend.”
Molly recalled the great “secrets to the enemy” speech delivered by the Attila the Hun wannabe, Duncan Serk. “I don’t think that will happen any time soon.”
“I suggested it, but they voted it down.”
He didn’t respond right away. “Okay, we’ll leave it for now. Thanks for being honest.”
She wanted to tell him his “for now” was more likely to turn into forever. Not unless he had a way to hijack the seven more easily intimidated souls and perform a Duncan Serk on them.
“Oh, and thanks for the cookies.”
Bewilderment clouded her brain. “What cookies?”
“I had a visit Wednesday morning from Mrs. Zamoulian, along with a couple from my building. She brought me a plate of home-baked cookies.”
“Yeah. She picked a nice variety — peanut butter, chocolate chip, and coconut. I guess she wanted to make sure she hit at least one of my favorites. She did, and then some. In baseball parlance, that’s called batting a triple. They went down great with my morning coffee.” He grinned, adding to the wattage from the overhead lights. “I won’t need a jolt of sugar for the next year. She said it was your idea.”
Molly had no recollection of ordering up an overload of sweets. Then she remembered the thug, Duncan Serk who spouted something about cookies, but not in a friendly manner.
“I think the suggestion came from one of your tenants. Do you remember Mr. Serk?”
He nodded. “Oh, sure. Serk the jerk. You’d need to undergo a lobotomy to forget him.”
Molly thought the description less than fitting. The man could be dangerous.
“That doesn’t sound like anything he’d propose. In fact the opposite.”
“I don’t believe he meant it in the way Mrs. Z understood it.” She told him about Serk’s threat.
Nick shrugged and didn’t seem worried about having his nose mashed courtesy of his tenant’s fists. Nick was taller, leaner, and came across like he kept himself in really good shape. She guessed he could deck Serk even before the man had a chance to fully curl his stubby fingers into anything potentially lethal.
“It was a nice gesture from her, anyway,” Molly said.
“She wanted to negotiate. I wonder who that idea came from.”
“It’s a common practice.”
Nick unfolded his arms and rested his palms against the edge of the table and leaned back. “She said you taught them about give and take.”
“Perhaps something along those lines came up.”
“The negotiating team didn’t say anything about giving, however. It was mostly taking. Except for the cookies, I didn’t see a whole lot of goodwill on their part.”
“They don’t have your experience.”
“True. They’ve never had to negotiate union contracts.” He shook his head. “Sometimes I think my tenants are harder to deal with than a bunch of hardhats.”
“If you made the first move … ”
“And upped the ante, you mean?”
“That seems like a good start.”
He moved away from the table. Two steps brought him close enough to Molly for her to get a good whiff of his aftershave. It hinted of sandalwood blended with a touch of juniper. His dark hair was tousled enough to give her heart a bump. She knew he didn’t need extra padding to fill out the shoulders of his suit jacket. Every bone, muscle, and sinew beneath it was built with expert precision.
“I said I’d go to thirty.”
“That’s pretty much my top offer. You might pass that along to them. While you’re at it, remind them that, if I go up, they need to come down.”
“You mean to ninety-five.”
He shook his head. “Uh-uh. They’re going to have to make a bigger adjustment than that.”
“Well, you’d better negotiate it. I’m not putting myself in the middle.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish