Karen rang the lobby buzzer for 3C. Rick looked around, admiring the jazzy glittering lobby.
The sucker answered through the intercom. “Who is it?”
For a long moment, there was no answer except for an electronic hum.
“Karen?” the sucker said.
“Yes, Taylor it’s Karen.”
The lobby door buzzed open and Karen threw Rick a look of triumph. They rose in the elevator and when they stepped out into the hallway, the sucker had already opened his door. He was staring in disbelief as Karen approached, Rick hiding behind.
“What the hell?” Taylor asked.
“Nice to see you too,” Karen said. She stood aside. “You remember Rick, right?”
“Yeah.” The sucker put out his hand for a shake and Rick took it. Soft. Computer boy.
“You going to invite us in?” Karen asked.
“Sure, sure,” said Taylor. “I’m just. you know, kind of surprised to see you.”
Rick looked around the living room. Yup, this guy was loaded. Leather couch and chairs, $5 thou minimum. Open kitchen with stainless steel appliances, marble counters, and Viking stove, you’re talking $40 thou at least. Karen wasn’t lying when she said this guy was grossing100 $emolians a year.
“So … coffee? Something stronger?”
“Karen says you make Bloody Mary’s could kill a goat,” Rick said.
“Bloody Mary’s,” said the sucker. “I can do ‘em.”
He bustled around the kitchen island. Rick and Karen gave each other The Eye. Karen opened the French Doors and they stepped out onto the breezy balcony, with its view of the trendy Warehouse District. In the distance lay the blue haze of bay and ocean. Karen closed the door behind them, and it was the two of them, private, on the deck.
“What do you think?” Karen asked.
“Three fifty you said?”
“He got taken. Bad.”
“Oh, so now you’re a real estate appraiser?”
“I’m going by common sense, which is what I got plenty of. You lived in this palace how long?”
“Let’s not go into it.”
“No, I gotta know. For purposes.”
“Rick, I cannot listen to your bullshit. If you’re going to go into your bullshit, forget about it.”
“It’s not my bullshit, it’s the kinda guy, I just can’t see you with this guy is what I’m saying. I imagine you and this clown fucking and it’s like you’re taking a shit in my head.”
“Lovely metaphor. It’s ancient history, okay?”
“He don’t look ancient to me. It looks like you were fucking a college kid.”
“Rick, he’s exactly two years younger than me. Leave it alone.”
“I’m only saying. I can’t get over it, is all.”
“Sometimes I really hate you.”
“You say that but you don’t mean that, I know you. You’re a temperist.”
“You let your temper get the best of you, it turns you into a horrible bitch when usually you’re not … horrible.”
Karen looked toward the French doors, which slid open, Taylor appearing with a tray and three tall glasses of reddened booze. The glasses were painted with tomatoes. That was Taylor, he had all the right glasses, all the fancy dishes, All-Clad this and Cuisinart that, like a fussy bachelor, everything in perfect order.
He set the drinks down on a gleaming table top made of stained glass. $3 grand just for that table, Rick calculated.
“So,” Taylor said, and toasted them, “Silicon Valley. How is it out there?”
Karen sipped her drink. “Expensive.”
Rick, staring in envy at the city view, asked: “So you don’t have a car or nothing, walk to work from here, right?”
“Actually,” Taylor said, then seemed to change his mind about whatever he was going to say. “There’s a bus, yeah.”
“Good,” Rick said. “Cheaper, taking the bus.”
Nobody said anything for an embarrassing moment.
“Hey, we got season tickets to the Giants,” Rick said. “I know you’re a baseball guy. You should come out.”
“Partial season tickets,” Karen corrected him. “Shared. It’s a group thing. It’s not like we have that kind of money.”
“You’re still at Beehive?” Taylor asked.
“We got bought. And sold again. I’m number three on the night desk, so …” She sighed. “I’m still there.” She ran a hand over her lush red hair. “Mormon management, San Francisco office, so it’s a little weird.”
“Actually,” Rick said, “that’s why we came.”
Karen nodded. “Plus, it’s so nice in summer here. It’s so blasted hot on the Peninsula. And the ocean out there, it’s like an iceberg.”
“So Karen was thinking …” Rick said.
Karen blurted: “Taylor, I’ve come back for my fair share.”
Taylor set his drink on the fancy table. “Fair share of what?”
“I lived here, I paid in.”
Taylor stepped back. He grabbed the hand rail like he was afraid he’d fall down.
“She’s not getting cheated,” said Rick.
“Karen, I put the money down for this place,” said Taylor. “All the money. A lot of it was borrowed from my grandparents. You know that.”
“I only know I left with nothing, Taylor.”
“You paid the condo fee. You paid $285 every month you lived here, and that’s all you paid.”
“Yeah,” Rick butted in, “but there’s depreciation.”
“Community property, Taylor,” said Karen.
“We weren’t married.”
“My lawyer says …”
“You hired a lawyer?”
“Taylor, this place has appreciated by $70,000 since we bought it.”
“Since I bought it. And now the market’s shaky, haven’t you heard?”
Rick said: “All she wants is her half, what’s hers is hers now, you gotta admit. Right is right.”
“Taylor,” Karen said, “it’s really hard making ends meet out there. We’re living…
“Shut up,” said Rick.
“What did you say to me?”
“It ain’t none of his business.”
“We’re in a van, okay?” Karen said. “Taylor, it’s almost ten grand for a turnkey apartment there. We need to get off the street. You made a lot of profit on this place, and I helped you.”
“What profit?” Taylor said. “All I’ve done is sink money into this place.”
“See, it’s only reasonable,” said Rick.
“I’m not going to fail,” Karen said. “I can make the big money if I stick out. Okay, my salary sucks dick, but there’s the stock options. Taylor, you can get rich overnight out there. We’re staying in the Bay Area no matter what.”
“You’ll never see us again,” Rick said, “believe me.” He turned and took in the view. “You think I wanted to come back here? The way people treat you here? We don’t have none of that shit in California, let me tell you. People are righteous out there. Ain’t they righteous out there, Karen?”
“I know you have money coming to you Taylor. I’m sorry about your Mom but we both know she left you with a pretty good setup.”
Taylor took another step backward, out of the sunlight, into the shade of a beach umbrella.
Karen hung her head like she was really ashamed and said: “I know I disappointed you Taylor, but it just wasn’t working between us.”
Rick rolled his eyes. With his hands he mimed playing a tiny violin.
“I’d like you both to leave,” said Taylor.
“Is that a no?” said Rick. “You can’t say no, man. We gotta get justice somehow.”
Rick imagined beating the crap out of this spoiled office weakling, but that’s not what they’d come here for. He stepped to the rail, held his Bloody Mary over it and said, “You should have asked if anyone wanted a Virgin Mary. I’m sober three years. I don’t drink this stuff no more.”
He held the glass over the rail, said “oops,” and let it fall and smash below.
After a moment of shocked silence, a voice from below shouted: “Hey!”
Rick waved. “Sorry,” he said. “Taylor will be right down to clean it up.”
Taylor peered over the rail. He said, “Sorry, Rhonda, it was an accident,” and then turned on Rick.
Rick put an arm around Taylor. “Once the Africans move in,” he said, and gave a thumbs-down, “your real estate value takes a shit.”
Taylor shrugged him off. “Get out,” said Taylor. “Now.”
“Seriously?” said Rick. “You’re like, that rude?”
Karen led the way, through the French door, into the elegant living room.
“He’s got a black chick living down there,” Rick explained to Karen.
She shouldered him through the main door and into the hall. Karen held that door open so that it was only her and Taylor in the room.
“I apologize for Rick’s behavior,” Karen said. “He had a bad childhood. But Taylor, I’m serious, this is about survival, I should have insisted on a fair share before I left. Think it over. Be fair to me, that’s all I ask. This place appreciated a lot when I lived here. I’ll text you tomorrow.”
Taylor shut the door and threw both locks.
He turned to see Stephanie, in nightgown, framed by the bedroom door.
“What was that about?” said Stephanie, sniffling.
“You’re supposed to be in bed,” said Taylor.
“Wasn’t that Karen Slater?”
“Steff, under the covers, okay? I’ll get you some more orange juice.”
“What was she doing here, Taylor? “I demand to know.”