A granola bar for breakfast, then she loaded the car with heaps from the bathroom and headed for the recycling bin. Still full from yesterday's cleaning.
"Drat." She scowled at the dumpster, then turned at the sound of a car . . . Her nemesis rolled down the window.
"There's another one at the old school on Green Point."
"Ah. Thank you."
"Umm, a bit of situational awareness is in order. One of our less sterling citizens is visiting, with a dozen friends, all on their Harleys. They're pretty easy to track, just by sound; we've been getting complaints all night."
"Yes, they toured the neighborhood early this morning. Thank you, I'll keep my ears open."
He gave what might be interpreted as a friendly nod, rolled up his window and drove away.
Del slid back behind the wheel. Where the heck is Green Point? She pulled up a map on her phone . . .
The high school was deserted on a Saturday morning. She spotted the recycling bins at the back of the empty parking lot. California. I've only lived in New York for five years, but I'd already forgotten about everyone driving their own cars everywhere. Even a lot of the students. With her window open in the warm morning air, she been aware of the distant rumblings of motorcycles. She listened carefully. They weren't that close, and what would they do in broad daylight, anyway? She drove across the lot to the bins.
Plenty of room. She offloaded all the newspapers and turned back to her car. The deep rumble intensified, suddenly. The dozen bikers sped around the corner of the building, running on the lawn, crunching over some low bushes. Rude gestures and laughter, a thrown can. They spun a tight circle and revved their engines as they spread out in the parking lot. Raced across the lot and skidded, throwing a few bits of loose gravel to ping against the car.
"Hey, Cunt, come ride with us!" One of them yelled over the rumble.
Del leaned against the car, trying for nonchalant. Raised her voice. "Sorry, I'm busy Saving the Earth from my Aunt's hoard of moldering newspapers."
"C'mon, Bitch, you know you want some." Rude gestures, some explicit suggestions, but they roared off without actually venturing to touch her.
Her hands were shaking. Del swallowed, and walked around her car. "Just a pack of young men making nuisances of themselves. Not really dangerous." She slid into the seat and closed the door. Locked it. "Really."
She drove back for another load. And when Prissy called and said her mother needed her to help at home, Del was relieved. That pretty little girl needs to stay away from those men.
"I'll come help tomorrow after church. For absolute sure."
"No problem. I'm just hauling papers out to the recycle." And I'm going to be listening much more closely from here on out!
Once the water was turned back on, both the sink and toilet leaked. Two trips to the hardware store and that was fixed. It doesn't take much to fix these little things, nor to clean up and throw stuff away. Aunt Sophia was either depressed, dirt poor, or both.
Prissy was impressed. "If we clean it, we can stop using Aunt Sophia's bathroom. Then we just need to clear out a bedroom. Maybe this one will be easier than the Alien Base." She tried the next door. It opened an inch and stopped
Del leaned on the door, shoved to force it open. As she suspected, piles of magazines had collapsed against the door.
Prissy peered around her shoulder. "Hey! Here's all the furniture!"
"Umm, yeah." Del didn't like the scampering sounds . . . "Let's get the papers out of here, and see what we've got."
Creaking tables, broken chairs, ripped upholstery, all piled and stacked . . .
"Eep!" Prissy dropped the cushion she'd lifted and levitated about three feet to the door. Mice fled the rude destruction of their home.
Del stiffled a giggle. "Don't worry, they're more scared of you than you are of them."
"You know, this is all just going to have to go to the dump. I'll have to hire someone. We've got all the paper stuff out, let's go on to the next room."
Prissy backed out the door. "Good idea! Mice are supposed to be cute little white things in cages!"
Del followed, trying to hide her relief. Mouse traps? Then there will be dead mice to deal with. Maybe something sonic to chase them out?
They cleared the dining room, clearing the cheap battered table and discovering two more wobbly chairs to match the one Aunt Sophia must have always used.
Prissy dashed off at the first sound of her mother's car.
Chapter Seven Two weeks
Monday, 22 June 2020
Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn within 31*
First thing Monday morning, Del dumped everything in the fridge into heavy duty garbage bags and hauled them out to the curb. She sprayed down and wiped the fridge, then showered. It was going to be a long day.
She drove to the courthouse to deal with the traffic ticket. There was a line. She sighed and resigned herself to waiting. My flight out isn't until six tonight, so it hardly matters.
She thought that over. No will, that we can find. A mess that's going to take ages to clean and search well enough to go to a judge and swear there isn't a will. She got out of line to seek a place with free wifi. She emailed her boss to tell him she was taking two weeks vacation, and changed her plane reservation.
Dell opened the door to the furniture room. "All right. All you mice? You have an hour to vacate the premises, then I'm getting nasty."
Fortunately the mice did not reply.
Then she walked over to the room full of dairy equipment. It wasn't that there was very much of it, but some of the equipment was large, and the rest of it was all over. She thought about the broken table . . . and started shifting milking machines.
Actually, the old battered table in the back room was solid wood. She shifted the cheap table from the dining room into the dairy room and started stacking. The wood table practically fell apart, which made it easier to haul out to the living room. The other stuff was either turned into improvised shelves for the dairy things, taken to the living room to be worked over, or tossed into the garage, to be taken, eventually, to the dump. The mice had apparently taken her advice and departed. Hopefully not for another part of the house.
A run to the hardware store for sandpaper, solvents, scrapers and proper wood glue . . . Spackle and paint . . .
By the weekend they'd whipped the back bedroom, the bathroom and the hallway to the living room into decent shape, and Del had had a bed frame and mattress delivered.
No point in getting more stuff.
Silly to patch the walls and paint them.
And changing the utilities to her name would just simplify things, and she needed to internet connection . . . it didn't mean she was staying.
Another week had the trash cleared. A nice, normal week.
The broom was pathetic. After the seventh old vacuum cleaner she unearthed also failed to work, Delpi gave in and bought a new one. And a broom. And a mop. And lots of spray cleaner.
She found the keys to the truck way back in a drawer behind clothing too old to even give away.
The house started looking . . . like a clean wreck. There were dishes, badly chipped, mismatched . . . real silverware, incredibly tarnished . . . pots and pans, some of which she could get clean enough to dare to cook with. On the single burner that still worked.
And finally, under a table in the last bedroom, they found boxes of documents. Bank account statements. A statement from a stock broker.
"Hmm, an annuity . . . probably it'll end now. We'll ask."
"Well, as three years ago she had a bank account with twelve thousand dollars in it! Wow! Do you suppose it's still there?"
"I doubt it, she was living on something. If we can't find any more recent statements . . . well, we'll have to check with the bank in any case. Ha! Here, we go." Del pulled out a proper file. "The deed to the house, car title, a safe deposit key, tax returns . . . up to three years ago. I guess she hadn't totally lost it and maybe we can find the last three years, I hope . . . and a hand written will."
With Prissy hanging over her shoulder, she worked out the careful handwriting. "As expected, it's all ours. Let's make an appointment with that old lawyer fellow, and finish this. I've used up all my vacation days. I need to get . . . home."
"Do you have one of those super fancy incredibly expensive apartments?"
"No, I have a bedroom in a moderately sized, not too run down apartment in a not too bad part of the city. Which is still a huge chunk of my salary."
"Oh." Prissy looked disappointed. "I thought you might be one of those rich IT kind of people."
"Sorry. In fact I need to get back home before Vanessa and Kerry rent my room to Chrissy. She's crashing there after breaking up with her husband."
"So you've got a bunch of friends? How about boyfriends?" Prissy eyed her dubiously. "You aren't lesbian are you?"
"Nope. No interest in girls."
"We met lots of cute guys at the party. Have you called any of them?"
"No. Last thing I need is a boyfriend clear across the country from home."
Old Mr. Peters scowled at the handwritten will. "At least she had that much sense."
The beauty of a small town. They walked to the courthouse, waited a few minutes, spoke briefly to a judge who had known Sophia Jeffries, remember their mother. They walked out with Del as the appointed executor of the estate.
Mr. Peters took down all the bank numbers, and then assigned an associate to go with them to the bank with the safe deposit key.
"In case there is another will. We need to check that first. Thank God she filed taxes . . ."
They walked across the street to the bank, and spent an hour sorting through the papers stuffed into the box.
"Nothing less than eight years old." The young man was getting sideways looks from Prissy. His attempts to look professional and all business were getting a bit wobbly. "You'll need to have a stock broker look into these certificates. I recognize a couple of the company names, but I don't think they're in business any more, but they could have merged."
"Right. I know a man, here in town." Del hesitated, and pulled out the last statement from the stockbroker . . . "Although I'll have to talk to this brokerage as well, so I might as well do both at once." She gathered up all the certificates. "Let's copy them, for the records, and I'll call this number."
Back upstairs a bank manager looked over the old bank statements, with a sneer. "We switched to all electronic statements three years ago. Unless the client absolutely insisted. Mrs. Jeffries did not. Now . . . You've got the certified copy of the death certificate . . . You're the executor, so if you will just sign here and here and give us an email address to start sending the statements to . . . "
Del signed. They left the rest of the details to the associate. She pulled out her phone and called the brokers' number . . . so sorry to loose an old client, just drop by to fill out paperwork and leave the certificates . . .
"Call your Mom. We can go by the stock broker to fill out papers, then I'll drop you at home. Once we sort all the estate out, we'll get separate accounts and split everything fifty-fifty. Including the house, when it sells."
"But you could live here, you could keep it!"
Del opened her mouth to refuse . . . "Umm, do you want it?"
Prissy squirmed. "It's just . . . I always dreamed that Aunt Sophy would change her mind and want me there. I always hoped it would be my home." She looked down and shuffled her feet. "Or maybe you'd come back."