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As Long as We Remember...

May 6, 2013

Tales from the Darkside Episode 1

Earl 'Rocky' Mackintosh

For most commercial real estate brokers, if you get enough active duty in this crazy business years under your belt … you can say you've seen it all.


About 10 days ago I opened the local paper and came upon an article that struck my eye … and caused my jaw to drop.


Turns out a now former client had been arrested and plead guilty to conspiracy to commit a federal crime.


It had only been about two months ago that he had called to inform me that he would no longer be needing my services to sublease the extra space in the flex building his firm was renting as he and his partner had abruptly "decided to shutdown the business."


Not giving me any reason, he ended the conversation with: "That's the way it goes … I guess."




All I can say now is that I wish his family the best, as it appears he could potentially spend up to 20 years behind bars.


Back in the mid-1980's there was a TV show Tales from the Darkside that ran for four seasons. It was an anthology horror series that followed the trail blazed by such shows as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and Tales From The Crypt.


Each episode opened to the eerie sounds of an organ slowly grinding away as the narrator recited the following:


"Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But... there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit... a Darkside."


There was one particular episode (21) in Season 1 that told a story about a real estate developer who lived with a guilty conscience that constantly caused him to make business decisions which caused harm to others.


One day he learned of a Chinese laundry that would "wash away sins."


As with most of those 30-minute Tales, lead characters often sought a quick remedy to cure their transgressions by making a deal with the Devil ... typically culminating in an unhappy ending for the sinner of the week.


It was the darkness of the newspaper article that triggered my memory back to a brush I had with another's Darkside during my fifth year in the real estate business.


It was 1977, and I just taken a listing for a 150+ acre farm in southern Frederick County, Maryland. The property had recently been perk-tested and approved for a 49-lot residential subdivision, and the owner, a "Mr. Sugar" from Montgomery County, figured it was time to reap the rewards of his long held investment.


I was an eager 27-year-old agent excited to earn a fee on this mega $400,000 +/- deal ... and "Mega" it was back in those days.


Gathering all the information I could to create a marketing package, my primary focus was to attract a builder and/or developer to purchase the property.


My next move was to get a sign up on the property and make a list of builders and developers to contact.


It wasn't long before I received a call on the sign from a broker in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He said his name was "Mr. Kelley." He was working with a builder who was interested in completing the development of the farm and build new homes.


He told me that he had already shown the property to his customer and wanted to meet me soon to deliver a contract to me.


Of course, boys and girls, those were the days before document scanning, email and even fax machines, so you either relied on the U.S. Postal Service (today it is called "snail-mail") or you hopped in your car and personally delivered the offer to the other party.


At this point in my career, I'd been exposed not only to real estate sales, but also construction and land development. Above everything else, I learned that no matter what sandbox one played in, at the end of the day, business is all about dealing with people.


My new friend was tall, slender and appeared to be in his late 50's. He was soft spoken and displayed a pleasant smile … right away however, something seemed just not right.


The man with the same voice I had heard over the phone now gave me a different name this time … Mr. Burke!


Hmmm …?


I asked him what had become of "Mr. Kelley" … he sloughed off my query by bluntly stating that he is no longer handling the transaction.


Okay, I thought, "I'll play along.


He really didn't have much more to say after that, as he bid me farewell. I asked for a business card. He fumbled through his wallet and produced a tattered and dog-eared card displaying Mr. Burke's name and number.


This unfolding story requires another post on to complete a cops and robbers saga of stupidity, intrigue and a near Goodfellas' Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) moment!


What was the enticing line that those shows ended with each week to lure the audience back for more?


"You won't want to miss the Next Exciting Episode" of Tales from the Darkside …… of Commercial Real Estate!


See you tomorrow……right here.


Mr. Mackintosh is president of MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for his blog MacRo Report.


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