Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Shrewd King 3.3: Location, location, location

Prakash Shah was in the back seat of the wagon that Di was driving. Milo was in the front seat and Janelle was sitting beside Prakash. They were all armed.

Milo was taken aback when Prakash walked to the staging point with a semiautomatic handgun in a drop holster.

“I thought Hindu were pacifists?” Milo said.

“Maybe they are. I wouldn’t know. I am Muslim.” Prakash said.

“I didn’t know there were any Muslims in India.” Milo said.

“Almost 200 million.” Prakash said.

By way of explaining Prakash said, “Shah means ‘king’ in Farsi...Persian… My people lived in western India where there are more Muslims.”

The goal of the expedition was to identify the best locations for two new stores in Chernovsky's Annex, one for Prakash to run and one for his brother Satish. The men had stayed up late the night before discussing what they were looking for and Prakash was selected to perform the search while Satish stayed with the families.

Prakash informed Di that he was looking for a house with outbuildings. He wanted it to be on high ground for summer breezes and and good visibility. He also wanted it to be close to a bridge so outsiders could trade but not too close. He didn’t want to make his business too tempting to raiders.

Di elected to start the search at the M-99 bridge at the northern extremity of the area that Chernovsky proposed defending. She turned south down M-99.

Prakash surprised everybody when he hopped out of the wagon and asked to walk ahead of the wagon. “I want to see this the way somebody on foot sees it.” he said.

Di had a bit of a job convincing the horses to slow down to a walk. They weren’t sure they liked Prakash walking ahead of them.

Prakash rejected the first cluster of 'commercial' buildings they came to. "Too close to the bridge" he said. The buildings were six hundred yards from the bridge, a ninety second sprint for a shop-lifter or a raiding party.

After about twenty minutes Prakash said “That one.” and pointed to a scattering of buildings on the west side of the road.
Milo said, “It is not on high ground.”

Prakash said “Life is about compromises.”

Even though the site was not on high ground it had a stream bounding the north property line and a steady flowing stream is worth something.

None of the buildings were new. The property had two outbuildings. The older shed was close to the road and the 24’-by-48’ sheet-metal pole barn was tucked up close to the house.

A tendril of smoke was curling out of the chimney.

“Somebody lives here.” Milo said, stating the obvious.

“Then I will have to see if I can buy it.

The discussion had come up on the trip outbound about what to do should the circumstance arise. It was agreed to let Di start the conversation. Di was about sixty and had the size and energy of a chickadee.

Once the negotiations started she would say less and let Prakash carry the ball.

Great plan. It did not work.

They knocked on the door. Whoever was on the other side opened it just a crack. They saw a security chain across the gap.

“I have a gun.” the woman on the other side of the door said. It was the voice of an elderly woman.

“Would you consider selling your house?” Di started.

“No!” the woman said. And then she slammed the door shut.

Di was flummoxed.

Prakash said “Let me try.”

“Ma-am, do you mind if we negotiate even if the door is closed?” Prakash asked in his slightly sing-song voice.

Prakash was counting on the fact that without cable TV or the internet most people were bored to tears and craved entertainment.

“Suit yourself.” the woman said. She said it in a way that suggested she would be listening.

“I want to open a store.” Prakash said. “I am looking for exactly the right place and your two barns are perfect.”

And it was the perfect location. Not only was it the perfect distance from the bridge but Prakash had seen a high density of houses down the side road that was a hundred yards from the barns. If he was a betting man, and every business man is, he would bet that there were still quite a few people still living in those houses. Location, location, location. Customers, customers, customers.

“We don’t want to move.” the woman said.

Because the woman had answered the door Prakash had the sense that perhaps her husband had less mobility than she did.

“I had a thought.” Prakash said.  He waited. He wanted to get her engaged.

After a hesitation, as if hoping Prakash would go on, the woman said “What are you thinking?”

She was hooked!

“I was thinking it would be very convenient for you if you had a store nearby.” Prakash said.

“Well we ain’t moving.” the woman said.

“Would you consider renting me your two barns?” Prakash said. “That way you still own the property and you can tell me to leave if you don’t like me as a neighbor and nobody will ask you to leave your home.”

“I want you to take some time to think it over.” Prakash said. “I will come back tomorrow so you can talk it over with your husband.”

“How would you pay for rent?” the woman asked. “It is not like money is worth anything.”

That is when Prakash knew he had won. She didn’t know it yet, but she had already agreed in her head and she was negotiating details.

Prakash believed in going big or going home. He didn’t intend to lose the deal by being too cheap.

“I was thinking of a monthly rent of a hundred pounds of cornmeal and a hundred pound bag of wheat and two gallons of vegetable oil.” Prakash said.

“We don’t eat that much.” the woman said.

Of course they didn’t eat that much. That was enough food for six people.

“Then you can trade it back for store credit.” Prakash said.

“Come back tomorrow.” the woman said.

If Prakash had been an exuberant, young man he would have given Di a “high-five”. But he was a thoughtful, middle-aged man.

“What time would be most convenient for you?” Prakash asked.

Inside the dimly lit house the elderly woman looked at her older, invalid sister. “What time?” she asked.

“Crack-of-dawn.” the older sister said. “Let’s see if they mean it.”

“First thing in the morning.” the elderly woman said through the door to Prakash.

“I will bring two month’s rent.” Prakash said. “One as a security deposit and the other as rent. You don’t have to take it if you say ‘No.’”

Prakash knew in his heart that it was a done-deal. He would have to find a different house for his family to live in, but the two outbuildings were exactly what he and his brother were looking for.


1 comment:

Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.