The kids eyed the ute hopefully. "Did you bring the horses?"
"Yes . . ." Ice looked around. "Only two of you?"
Zwyk nodded. "Qwik's off at a birthday party at the ice rink."
"And Mom's with her. But we'd be glad to help, if you need the horses exercised." Elk was sixteen and insisted he wasn't horse crazy like his younger sisters.
Ice grinned and looked past them at their aunt. "Actually I spotted riding trails along the river . . ."
Keiq brightened. "Whenever I have the time I rent a horse and ride there, or in Seine Park. Wow, it must be close to a year, now. I'm either too busy or slacking off."
"I'd blame it on your boyfriend, if I were you." Ice put on an innocent look.
"The same one with the horses?" Keiq pulled out her comm. "Hey Wacky. Can I take Elk and Zee for a ride along the river? . . . Of course."
Ice raised his brows.
"Yes, of course with Ice and his pintos." Keiq grinned. "We'll be right back, dressed for riding."
Ice promised himself a long hot soak as he kept up with Keiq and the kids. Triple was smooth as glass and amused by his inexperience. And sore muscles.
Ice was amused but the horses' baffled incomprehension as Keiq chattered about various houses.
"That ultra-modern glass thing is Is Dacca's house. Everyone hates it, but they're mostly just glad he didn't try to recreate Disco HQ. And that hideous purple Victorian is Councilman Ijsu's house." Keiq shook her head and galloped Dusty ahead to catch up with the kids.
Right. No modern glass, no purple Victorians. Ice nudged Trip and clung as she galloped after her pals. Caught up where the trail split.
"It's a loop." Keiq said, "Go right, and we'll make a circle and head back."
She tossed a grin over her shoulder. :: Taking pity on Mr. Sore Butt. ::
Ice elevated his nose. :: Am not. Of course we're not quite to the halfway point . . . ::
She snickered, and pointed. "These are what's left of the old, original, country homes of the government officials and rich businessmen, when they made New Paris the seat of the Imperial Government, a thousand years ago. They've lost a lot of documentation, so they aren't actually sure who built which one, or exactly when.
"But they're all probably at least eight hundred years old. The way the Seine winds around and changes course, I'm surprised any of them have survived."
Ice eyed the squared corners of bare concrete, the half of a roof . . . "That one's losing to time and weather, isn't it?"
"Yeah, dammit, and it's my favorite." Keiq shook her head. "I'd love to fix it up, but you can see it's leaning just a bit. The river eroded almost to the house before the ox bow got cut off, and the sediments are still slowly slumping down into the old riverbed. Shame, really, that the historical society is so nasty about . . . well, everything."
She pulled her minicomp out and clicked at it. "This is a copy of an old picture of the front."
Ice leaned to look. Studied it. On Earth I'd almost think Santa Fe style, rather than Middle East. "It very balanced, pleasing to the eye, isn't it?"
She nodded, shrugged and put it away. Lifted her rein hand and Pineapple trotted on.
Ice tapped at his comm, got a picture and map location.
Just because of Keiq's wishful tones . . .
She has a picture of it. Was interested enough to talk to the historical society.
Of course it's probably not for sale.
Unless one has been taking advanced magic lessons from Xen Wolfson.
It was for sale. Listed for more than three years. Price dropped five times.
Ice read the fine print.
Hence Keiq's comments about the Historical Society. This could take some finesse . . . or possibly blunt force. I need to look up the issues found in places like this then go talk to whoever has the authority to authorize some serious architectural rescue . . .
Tomorrow after work, I'll track down the applicable laws. Then the regulations that got translated into this Historical Society having control. And if it looks good, I'll contact the real estate people and give it a really close up look before I throw caution to the wind . . . and do I tell Keiq now or surprise her later?
The regulation were all based on a bill passed four centuries ago. With some fascinating qualification as to whom the bill applied to.
I guess the Prophets and Warriors really did just pass the laws they were planning to obey. Even if they cut out a few privileged niches, here and there, for themselves.
But do I want to be the test case that determines whether the same applies to the new Warriors.
"Mikel House is a well-known historical landmark." Madam Paex was grey-haired, upright, and unbendable. Head of the historical society that was a branch of the Paris History Museum. "Not that we have any documentation as to who actually built the house, but it's been called that for as long as we do have written records."
Right. Mikel the Eye. One of the Old Warriors, with a reputation even Lucky Dave can't beat.
"No major alterations to the building structure can be done, repairs to the exterior must be to the original specs, no subdividing the land. Penalties for destroying the building . . ." She eyed Ice sternly. ". . . are forfeit of the five-hundred thousand rial escrow account required by law."
"Ah. That explains why no one has even dared to attempt to level the building and repair the foundation. The owner must hope it will all collapse on its own, so he can sell the land unimpeded."
She dryly corrected him. "The last three owners, I believe. Are you seriously considering purchasing it?"
"Yes. Before I do, I'll have to see exactly what I can do to the interior." Ice smiled nicely. "These old photographs give me a good idea of the colors. It would be marvelous to see it restored. But I'm addicted to modern plumbing."
Her brows rose. "You wish to live there?"
"Yes, although that may depend on my fianceé." He lifted the book he'd just bought in the Museum Gift Shop. "And of course, I'll have to negotiate a price that takes in the need for replacing nearly everything but the concrete bones of the building, as well as . . . a risk assessment in leveling it."
She eyed him suspiciously. "We are aware that the value of the land has—barely—exceeded the escrow amount. We have requested an increase in the amount. And we're keeping an eye on the situation."
Ice smiled nicely, and wondered if even the wording of the laws would save him.
The realtor was rather boggled, and had to check the status of their contract with the owner and who had the keys to the front gate . . . He called back, still dubious and agreed to meet Ice there in the late afternoon.
Ice flipped a coin, to surprise Keiq or to avoid the possibility of a really negative reaction to a surprise?
Heads. But he pulled out his comm anyway.
"Hi, Keiq. So . . . do you prefer surprises, or would you rather know about my next attempt to attract you before I'm fully committed to it?"
"I'm already attracted to you. What horrible thing are you thinking about surprising me with?"
"Mikel House. I'm meeting the realtor this afternoon. Shall I pick you up on the way?"
A long silence. "Ice . . . it would be horribly expensive . . . and cost even more to save it, let alone completely restore it . . . there's a huge escrow requirement . . ."
"Yes. It's definitely a time and money sink, but let's face it. I'll never move to a colony. As you've mentioned, I'd be bored inside of a few weeks. Even Tall Trees. So . . . I've got all this money . . . so here's my first thought about investing it in a home. Will you come take a look at it with me?"
"I think I'd better." She sounded a little faint.