The realtor was struggling with the rusty gate when they got there. He looked around. "The lock's new but the hinges . . ." He looked past them, at the ute parked behind his big shiny car, his face blanking for a moment.
"Mr. Wgnu? I'm Ice-Kah Withione Tall Trees, and this is Keiq Withione Colorado." He drawled a little, and drew out his name to, hopefully, get the right pronunciation. "Call me Ice."
"Gun." The realtor nodded, failing to not look horrified. Then he eyed Ice's suit and looked a little hopeful.
Ice hid a grin as he walked back to the ute and rummaged for the can of spray lubricant. The suit wins again!
He grabbed the can and a level.
He sprayed the hinges and worked over the rust a bit magically. The gate answered an application of force with a nerve grating screech. But it moved, and the realtor, eyeing the buckled concrete of the drive, suggested walking in.
"Good idea." Ice strolled forward, stepping around the saplings forcing their way through the cracks. "It looks like no one's been here for over a year. Or two."
The driveway split, to circle a grove of trees. Wild, crowding each other without a sign of deliberate planting. An old tree towered over them, from somewhere in the center of the small forest. He frowned and stepped closer to mid-sized tree. Mottled bark. He stooped and picked up a prickly seed ball. Smiled.
They're all Sycamores. North American variety, very much like the Tall Trees version.
More trees were working on breaking the concrete drive, but he forgot them as they rounded the curve and the impact of the old wreck hit. Blank-eyed empty windows, the gaping front doorway. Bare concrete, all plaster long shed.
And still somehow, a pleasing assembly of blunt cubes and sweeping curves. Two floors high in the center, not sprawling too much . . .
Ice stepped through brush to apply the level to the front wall in three places. Managed to not fall into a window well to the basement. Looked in the big entryway, compacting a bit of power and tossing it upward to light an airy . . . mess of decades, possibly centuries of blown in leaves, Weeds sprouting where there was enough light . . . of which the collapsed high ceiling and holes in the tile roof provided quite a bit. Double staircases, swooping gracefully up each side of the entry to a balcony . . . the rotten wood of the steps and rails was falling off the rusted decaying iron supports . . . at the back of the room, holes where windows had no doubt framed a beautiful view of the river . . . a big fireplace, a rock façade mostly shed.
Ice applied the level to the back wall.
Same angle as the front.
He put his hand on the wall and felt the densities . . . the steel frame protected all these years by the concrete it was embedded in. He extended his mental map of the building. The foundation strong enough to bridge the wash-out that ran from under the front right corner to emerge under the center of the back wall of the full basement in a deep brushy gorge.
That's going to be a problem. Starting with diverting the water. But damn, the frame is solid. When the house goes, it'll just tumble down the hill in one piece . . .
I don't think I have to worry about destroying it. Just . . . not sure I can level it myself, and the financial viability of the whole project hinges on being able to do the work myself.
Hmm . . .
He followed Keiq's voice through a small room and into a large one as she oohed over a pile of rust.
"An actual woodburning stove!" She looked around, wiped decayed leaves off something and stepped into the light to study it. "This is the tile the kitchen counters were covered with. All the cabinets and supports rotted and collapsed . . . decades ago?"
"Centuries?" The realtor looked like he was trying to not touch or brush up against anything.
"At least one." Ice eyed the rusted stove. "I'm surprised that's still here. Too heavy to be worth moving?" A corroded stub of a pipe stuck out of one wall. "Cold water only?" He stubbed his toe on something hard and bent to uncover it.
"Probably heated it on the stove." Keiq walked over to look at his find. "And poured it into this cast iron sink you've found."
"Damn, it must weight twenty kilos." Ice set the side he'd heaved up a few centimeters back down. "This really was out in the country, when they started building Government House. Funny, now, how it would cut your commute by almost half."
"And more than double yours, once they rebuild Government House."
He prowled on, found a doorway to the basement, stairs long fallen down. He sent a light down. "Well, what I can see is fairly dry."
"Umm, I feel like I'm going to fall out one of these windows." Keiq walked cautiously over to a window and looked out. Down.
"It's barely a fifteen degree tilt. But that'll have to be the first thing addressed."
"Right after the stream that appears to be either running under the basement or through it?"
"Under. Yes, diverting the storm runoff will be high on the list." Ice looked out. "Umm . . . I think that's all last night's rain? Not a year-round stream?"
He leaned out to look both ways. "But the basement's still buried to both sides, so the lean is just creeping along. It'll be centuries before the angle's critical."
"Please be careful!" A near whimper from the realtor. "I'm not sure this place has insurance."
Keiq snorted. "If Ice falls on his head, it might be an improvement and he'd have to pay the owner." She back tracked to inspect the rest of the ground floor.
I ought to have brought a ladder.
Oh, what the hell. I'm going to buy it.
He walked all around the outside, examined the hole in the ground at the front right corner . . . eyed the distance from the front wall to the driveway.
Not enough room. I'll have to move the driveway.
Stepped over to Keiq.
"I love it. Please may I buy it?"
She didn't even glower. She looked hopeful. "Can you get it leveled?"
"Yes, it's solid as a rock." He could feel the grin stretching his mouth. "Was that a yes? This is going to be so fun!"
She started laughing. "Just wait until you get started. Then we'll see if you still think it's fun!"
Of course the realtor was appalled by his low offer.
"That's half the asking price! Why would the owner even consider such an insulting thing?"
"Because selling this money sink will get him his escrow account back. Just write up the contract and we'll see what he, or she, thinks."
Gun huffed a bit but pulled up the contract forms and got to work.
Ice signed and thumb printed, and headed home.
Grinned over at Keiq. "You want to stick around to hear my stockbroker scream? Poor woman. Fortunately she already thinks I'm insane."
She looked down at herself. A quick wash at the realtor's office had taken care of her hands, but . . . "I think you better drop me off home for a shower. Then I may emulate you and go fetal under a blankie."
Ice grinned. "Oh, this is just money. Not lives in jeopardy. In fact, once leveled, I could probably double or triple my money selling it."
"Depending on how much you spend leveling it."
Madam Due, Duec Neartuone Meru, just rolled her eyes and said she'd check the wording of the required escrow account, make sure it the liabilities were pinned down solid and it wasn't open-ended. And then talk to him about what to sell.
The owner of Mikel House apparently set a speed record for accepting and signing a contract.
A quick records search for legal issues and liens came back clean, and since he was paying cash . . . two weeks later it was all his.