You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will get too late. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Chapter 5: IT’S ALL MATERIAL
“I’m being sued,” were the first words out of Pinky’s mouth. Her words were as sharp, spiky and dark as her short, chic and freshly coiffed hair. “Can you believe those sneaky bastards? After I reduced the price of the house fifty thousand, replaced the damn roof, and gave them another twenty thousand for new carpet and appliances! Those assholes!” Pinky’s words were fire-filled. She cursed profusely when upset. She deftly pushed the legal size envelope to Noa’s side of the table for inspection.
“What do they want?” Noa looked troubled, but she was all too familiar with this type of post-sale negotiations.
“A new house.” Pinky’s olive skin did not flush easily, but her checks were brightened and her newly tapered nostrils were flared. “I don’t have time for this shit.”
“Give me a moment to look this over and don’t panic. These things can usually be settled before it goes to court.” Noa smiled reassuringly as she opened the envelope.
Noa perused the document. Mold, health problems, medical expenses, living expenses to cover hotel stay until repairs completed, and reimbursement for the ever present pain and suffering. Two hundred and fifty thousand, plus the cost of repairs.
“It’s a shakedown. The little creeps know I have money. I’m not going to just hand them a quarter of a million dollars!” Pinky fumed. “I had a bad feeling about them.”
Noa nodded, sipped the cabernet and continued to read.
“I’ll need a copy of this for our attorney.” Noa looked directly at Pinky.
“Pinky, the company attorneys handle these types of demands all day long. Unfortunately, it isn’t all that unusual. I’ll send them a copy of the file along with this correspondence. Believe me, my transaction file shows we took every precaution, had every inspection and the buyer approved and signed every agreement. Our files are complete and clean. Now, we leave it up to the legal experts.”
“What should I do?”
“Nothing. Don’t call the new owners. Don’t call their attorney. Just go about your daily business and wait to hear from me.” Noa knew it would take hours of her time and months, if not years to resolve, but it came with the job, especially in litigious California.
It had taken them months to find just the right home in Beverly Hills, and both Pinky and Noa were thrilled when escrow finally closed. Pinky was anxious to leave her old life behind, and opted not to make any repairs to her home in Palos Verdes. She moved out and listed it with Noa. Noa knew that would play in Pinky’s favor. New repairs covered nothing up, and the house was sold vacant. What you see is what you get, along with reams of inspection reports and disclosures. Noa was not concerned.
“I lived in that house for twenty years, and now after living there less than two years, they have respiratory distress, allergies, joint pain and nosebleeds? Nosebleeds— do you believe that? And it’s the house. This is just insane. They won’t get a dime from me!”
“ I know, but we still have to deal with their demand. Let me handle it. Try to put it out of your mind for now. Consider it a nuisance at this point, and go on. I’ll keep you informed, and our attorney will copy you on all correspondence.” Noa tucked the envelope into her Longchamps tote. “Now, let’s eat. I’m starved. They have a great Thai Salad here.”
“That is quite a ring Jett gave his latest fiancé.” Pinky peered over the top of the menu to see Noa’s reaction.
“I’ve heard.” Noa did not look up.
“Actually, I saw the ring first, and then noticed she was with Jett. And, for your information, she is a real plain Jane. I don’t know what he sees in her. She’s no you”
Noa appreciated Pinky’s attempt to lessen the sting.
“The one thing Jett loves more than a beautiful woman, is money, and I hear she is loaded.” Noa’s comment was made without cattiness or animosity. It was simply the truth. Money was Jett’s true love, his family and the god he worshipped above all others.
He would bend, but not break, his ethics to savor success. Nothing excited him more—not an exquisite face, enhanced breasts or bodacious booty. Besides, that was his for the taking whenever he wanted it. The thing he admired most about a woman was a brilliant mind and the willingness to use it. Her other assets were secondary to Jett. Only a handful of women from his past met that requirement. Noa was on the short list.
Jett was brilliant in business and his opponents always underestimated him. More than once they set him up as the fall guy, but he was always the last man standing, and usually with his foot on their throat. This was extremely satisfying to the inter-racial kid fromWatts who still inhabited Jett’s psyche.
Jett was blessed with more than his share of natural gifts. He personified the old cliché of tall, dark and handsome, but he was also smart, talented and ambitious. The accumulated years had added extra pounds and girth to his middle, but his presence still commanded attention. His more aggressive characteristics were tempered by an innate generosity and appreciation of those who helped him achieve his goals. Noa was one of those people.
Their relationship was symbiotic. It was mutually beneficial, if not mutually exclusive. When they met, Noa was struggling to make ends meet while juggling single parenthood and a demanding residential real estate sales career. With two teenagers still at home, there was no room in her life for a serious relationship. Until Jett.
Pinky placed the menu on the table. “She’d have to be loaded to the gills. That’s the only way she could turn anyone’s head. Does she know this is his technique for raising money for his projects? The bigger the project the bigger her account has to be.”
Noa laughed under her breath. “I have no idea what she does, or does not know.”
Pinky was right. Noa was Jett’s only investor in his first development project. It was a small enclave of custom homes in the coastal community of Summerland. It was the beginning of Jett’s empire, and it was built on Noa’s back. She laid the financial foundation, and Jett built upon it. Her cash; his sweat. A substantial portion of the company belonged to her, and she knew if things went well the payoff would be worth the sacrifices. But in real estate development anything can happen and often did. It was a game of strategy and anticipation that Jett played well. Noa just needed to make sure he watched her back as well as he watched his own. She realized the return was commensurate with the risk. Both were huge, but Jett was the biggest risk of all.
“I’m not sure whether it was your assurance, or the wine, but I’m feeling much better. Thanks for meeting with me.” Pinky raised her wine glass in a salutary gesture. “I knew I could count on your cool head to see me through this.”
“It’s my job. It’s not always pleasant, but it’s what I do. Don’t worry, it’ll work out. Everything is workable is my mantra. Nothing spells doomsday short of Osama.” Noa tried to lighten Pinky’s mood.
She needed Pinky to feel confident the matter would be handled, and the last thing she wanted was for Pinky to incite the situation with threats and vulgar insults. Pinky often told Noa of situations in her past when she opted for revenge over resolution. Noa wanted no additional complications in the matter. Better to establish a hand’s off policy with Pinky from the start.
“Oh, Noa, before I forget, here’s the polish I promised.” Pinky pulled out several exquisite
crystal bottles containing varying shades of her latest line.
“It’s gorgeous and as usual, your timing is perfect. I’m so ready for real reds again.” Noa wore the natural nudes in spring and summer, but by autumn was ready for the richness and contrast of color. “If I get out of here now, I’ll have time to do a quick color change when I get home. Thanks for dinner and I’ll follow up on this.” Noa patted the tote.
Pinky stood, hugged Noa a little too long, and left a quick kiss that just brushed Noa’s check.
The old uneasiness surfaced as Noa left Houston’s. It was undefined, but still there.