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June 5, 2013

Tales from the Darkside Episode 4

Earl 'Rocky' Mackintosh

Picking up where Episode 3 left off, one could say the roar of the lion that brings in the month March was apropos for what was up next.


Mark and I had been in touch a few times as I checked in with him to see how things were progressing on his side of the transaction. We had waived his feasibility contingency and increased his deposit as called for in the contract. Things were looking good.


But it was a call that I got from Mark a few weeks before closing that seemed a bit odd. He wanted to cover a "few loose ends" with me at the sales office of that model home where we had met the previous month. I asked what those "loose ends" might be, and he responded with "Oh … just stuff."


Despite the vagary of his response, I agreed.


The meeting was set for late that Thursday afternoon. It was a dark and dreary day with several inches of snow on the ground from a storm a few days earlier. As I drove up to the garage converted into a sales office, I noticed three cars in the driveway. All the shades were drawn on the windows, as well as the entrance door that also displayed a crooked "CLOSED" sign from the inside.


Not all that sure whether anyone was inside, I cautiously knocked on the door. The 15 seconds that it took before Mark opened the door seemed more like an hour, as I began to get an uneasy feeling.


I was once again greeted with that big smile and a hardy handshake.


But I could not help but notice how dark the room was with a single lit desk lamp off in the far right corner of the room. And I panned the room to the left I saw two other men sitting in the shadows.


My trepidation grew, but the brightness of Mark's teethy smile invited me to a large deep leather lounge chair just a few feet from the front door.


"Have a seat, Rocky," Mark said, as I sunk beneath the arms of the recliner. He then proceeded to the other side of the room and sat between the two silent men in the shadows.


The room was cold and all three men were still wearing their overcoats. Through the darkness I was able to recognize the tall and slender man sitting to the right…it was Mr. Kelley!


The other man, balding and heavy set, was dressed in a dark suit with a white shirt and tie. I had never seen him before, but I had an idea to whom I was about to be introduced.


"So … what's this all about, Mark?" I tried to ask without showing any evidence of my escalating level of discomfort and fear.


"Rocky, I thought it was about time that we help you with your memory," Mark stated in a different and firm tone of voice.


He continued with, "Now the (heavy set) man here to my right is Mr. Burke, and you know the man to my left is Mr. Kelley."


As my heart began to race to a higher pace, I responded with hesitation: "Okay?"


"The part that you have been very confused about is that Mr. Burke here IS the real estate broker with whom you have always been dealing with," continued Mark. "That is…up until that day that Mr. Kelley met you to 'drop off the contract' on behalf of Mr. Burke" (that being the day Kelley was hauled off in the paddy wagon in shiny new handcuffs).


The intensity grew within me, as I sat silent with my hands tightly gripped to the arms my chair. Prepared at any moment to leap toward the door, I wondered “Is there a gun under his jacket?…This really cannot be happening … but it is!”


Then Mr. Burke spoke in that familiar deep and gravelly voice. I had only heard it once in a telephone conversation, in my pursuit of attempting to understand if Mr. Kelley was actually Mr. Burke or visa-versa.


"Let me make myself perfectly clear, Rocky," Mr. Burke stated emphatically, "Kelley, here was only running errands for me, as he does not have an active real estate license and has done nothing wrong...You have only been dealing with me since the beginning."


I was sure that the three could hear and see my heart pounding rapidly out of my chest, as I expected a hand gun to be made visible and pointed at me any moment.


He ended with: "You are a very nice young man, and I hope you understand that at your age, it is easy to get confused in complex transactions…Do you understand me?"


My response was very clear. As I stood up from my chair trying to hide the enormous amount of fear beneath my skin, I stated, "Gentlemen, this is not a meeting I wish to be a part of any longer."


I turned quickly, opened the door and closed it behind me, as a let out an enormous sigh.


Slick roads and dreary weather conditions did not stop me from using the accelerator to hasten the drive back to the basement apartment where my wife and new born awaited my arrival.


Of course in this day and age, I would have been on my mobile phone calling my wife and then my broker to share my experience. Ah, but alas, that was before the everyday consumer knew what was coming. As I sped away checking my rear view mirror every fraction of a second, the only two words I repeated incessantly to myself were: "Oh, Shit!"


What had I gotten myself into? One more Episode to go before this case is closed!


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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