“I think you’ll enjoy this one quite a bit, Mr. Ducante,” Eliza Janelle said breathlessly, shifting a pile of papers in her arms to search for a key. Ms. Janelle had been a realtor for exactly seven months, and she had met Mr. Gregory Ducante exactly three times.
Every time she had seen him, Mr. Ducante had looked exactly the same. He was not a tall man, though he was also not especially short. His ashen brown hair was prematurely streaked with grey (prematurely, because Mr. Ducante could have been no more than thirty-five at most) and was always well maintained: short on the sides, perfectly combed on the top.
‘Perfectly maintained’ was a pleasant way to describe all of Mr. Ducante, when Ms. Eliza Janelle stopped to think about it. His lean frame was always dressed in perfectly tailored dark trousers, an expertly pressed button up always on top. Dark polished loafers shone on his feet.
It had been these loafers that she had noticed most on their first meeting: particularly, because they had been scuffed.
When her employers, the Marvin Bros. Realty Company, had told her a business man was looking for a building to turn into a new tavern, she had immediately pictured the mod, white-walled establishment so en vogue in the big cities not far from their own town of Molten. She had explained as much, thinking herself very business savvy, as she led Mr. Ducante into a trendy – and recently defunct – restaurant.
Yet, as his shoe rubbed against the faux-leather border of one of the color blocked benches, scuffing the dark hide on some unseen hardware, his pointed features had contracted into something very sour indeed.
“Eliza, my dear,” he had said, languidly running a finger across a multi-density fiber table of Swedish design. “I am not sure what you have been told by that… establishment… you work for. But this is not what I am looking for in the slightest.”
“No? But – a bar – I’m so sorry, Mr. Ducante, sir – ”
He held up one hand to stop her, shaking his head slowly from side to side. “No need for that, now. Let’s just try better next time, shall we?” A rather serene grin fell across his thin lips. “Something with character. Something with a visible history. That, my dear, is what I am looking for.”
And grin still in place, he had turned on heel and left the prospective property.
The second time they had met, she had thought she had done better. The property she had chosen (as Mr. Ducante was a self-proclaimed new comer to Molten) had history, to be sure: it had almost burned down fifteen years previous, and though still salvageable, had remained vacant ever since.
But this, too, was met with a certain degree of irreverence.
“Dear God, girl,” he said, peering around a particularly well-crafted cobweb. “I am in the business of entrepreneurial endeavors. That is hard enough without coddling a money trap.”
And just as the first time, he had turned and left.
This time, though, she was determined for the situation to be different. She had done her research: she smiled triumphantly as she rested her keys from her purse without toppling a single pile of papers. On the side walk, Mr. Gregory Ducante was looking skeptically between the upscale sushi restaurant and local landmark steak house that surrounded this latest building. The building itself was not particularly large nor particularly small: it had no windows on the first floor, only a pair of wide set double doors made of a cracked, aged wood.
One creaked as Ms. Janelle pulled it open, her kitten heels clicking against the pavement.
“Please,” she said, shaking her hair out of her face to spite the autumn bluster, “you first.”
“Why, thank you, Ms. Janelle,” he said, a smirk set in place. The doorway before him was dark – no doubt a side effect of creating a building without windows on the main level. As he crossed the threshold, Eliza Janelle reached clumsily around the door to flip on the lights.
Cold fluorescence flooded the room. The space appeared larger inside than it did outside: perhaps because it was entirely unfurnished, or perhaps because of a mixture of creamy, exposed brick walls and dark – albeit dusty – wood floors. The space was entirely unassuming, save for an aged chandelier that hung low in the center of the room.
Mr. Gregory Ducante crossed to the center, folded his arms over his perfectly pressed shirt, and gazed at the chandelier with his dark chocolate stare.
“I realize it’s not furnished – but the store rooms are already set up, and there is a lovely space for an office, just upstairs, it could all use some cleaning, but – ”
“How old is it?” Asked Mr. Ducante, who had crossed the room to lay one slender hand against the brick.
“It was built in nineteen… nineteen twenty-two.” Ms. Eliza Janelle said, glancing down at the papers in her arms for reassurance.
Mr. Ducante sighed. “Such a good year,” he breathed.
Eliza chuckled nervously. This was as best a rsponse as she had gotten so far.
“Good work, my dear Ms. Janelle,” Mr. Ducante said easily, turning to face her. “I’ll take it.”
“Oh – oh that, that’s fantastic!” she gushed, trying to contain her enthusiasm. Ms. Janelle shifted the paperwork in her arms. “I’ve brought some papers, just in case – ”
“Of course,” he said smoothly, taking the stack out of her arms. “Of course, my dear. How about you leave these – and the keys – in my possession, and I will take care of it all in the morning?”
“Well – ” Eliza Janelle began. It was quite unorthodox.
“Did I mention that I am, among a great many other things, also a Notary Public?” Mr. Ducante added with a wink.
Ms. Janelle giggled, shifting her hands uncomfortably. She was unsure what to do with them now that they were free from the piles of documents.
“I promise it will all be done before you step foot in the office,” Mr. Ducante said honorably, holding out his hand. “And you can tell those boys at Marvin Brothers that they’re working you too hard.”
Eliza Janelle gave a smile and a nod as she reached out to grasp his hand with her own. As they met to shake, and as her hazel eyes met his chocolate ones, a funny thing happened. She was sure, that just for a second, his chocolate colored irises had turned to a most unnatural red.
She felt her body tense: but moments later, as he was waving her pleasantly from her first high-six-figure sale, she scolded herself. There was nothing odd here: Mr. Ducante had simply been correct.
She was working too hard.