by John S
An ex-realator begins flipping houses and eventually makes an unexpected profit.
|Flipping for Profit
Jerry Gettings didn’t get into the house flipping business because he wanted to. He had no choice, he’d been as happy as a clam in his old career as a successful real estate agent and then the housing market went into the shitter. The agency where he’d spent the last ten years folded right around the same time the rest of his wonderful life went into the toilet. The wife he mostly ignored took off with the family dentist. It took him some time to realize the wife also took the kids, it did seem quieter around the house.
Work was hard to find for a middle-aged ex-real-estate agent. He had no discernable skills besides bullshiting people into buying houses they couldn’t afford. In desperation, he took a job as a security guard at one of the big law firms downtown. The hours he worked were midnight to 8AM so he was able to do pretty much anything he wanted during his working hours. He just had to show up on time and answer the phone when the main security office called. They called to make sure he was still on the job and hadn’t dropped dead from boredom. One of his kids, he couldn’t remember if it was the boy or the girl, left their iPad at the house so he brought it to work with him. He jumped on to the law firm’s wi-fi after getting the password from a fellow guard. He thought that with all the highly intelligent law professionals in the firm they could come up with a better password than 1 2 3 4 5 6, but they hadn’t.
Soon, he grew tired of the crap that was broadcast on TV after midnight. One evening he stumbled on one of those home improvement shows. Before he knew it, he was hooked. He’d sold houses for most of his adult life, but he had no idea what went into flipping one. Jerry was never very handy around the house. He preferred to have professionals come in and take care of any home repairs his house needed.
The shows were fascinating. They would take an old dilapidated shithouse and turn it into a brand spanking new luxury home. There was the one show with the husband and wife, one with two women, and even one with a divorced couple. They all performed the same miracles, taking the houses from crap to gold. Jerry was smart enough to know that the remarkable transformations weren’t as easy as seen on TV, nothing ever was. He still loved the shows, he watched on his iPad at work and then on the big screen when he got home.
He took a good look around his own home and realized it could use some work, so he took the plunge. He redid the downstairs bathroom first. He didn’t try anything outrageous, just new fixtures, paint, and floor tile. He couldn’t help it, he kept sticking his head in the bathroom to admire his handiwork, it had come out great. Three or four trips to the local Home Depot and countless hours on the internet looking at instruction videos on home repairs and he was almost an expert. He made a few mistakes along the way, but he didn’t make those same mistakes when he did the larger bathroom upstairs. A kernel of an idea was taking shape in the back of Jerry’s head.
To take the kernel and have it turn into a workable idea would take money, something that was in short supply for Jerry. His only viable solution was to sell his five-year-old BMW. He hated the idea, he loved his Beamer, it was the only thing left to remind him of his once lavish lifestyle. He called a couple of car dealers and soon realized the car world didn’t love his car as much as he did. For what they were offering he couldn’t flip a dollhouse.
He kept the car and sold his house. The place was too big for him anyway and even in this terrible market he got enough to get him started. He found and moved into a cheap apartment up on the hill. He began his hunt for a house to flip. Unfortunately, for Jerry, a whole lot of other people were watching the same flipping shows he was. Cheap old wrecks of houses were at a premium. He ended up paying more than he wanted to for a two-bedroom dump in a shady neighborhood at the edge of town.
Most of the inhabitants in the neighborhood were immigrants hungry for work. Jerry hired two of them to help with the restoration. Good thing he did because they seemed to know what they were doing. The place turned out pretty nice. It was nothing fancy, like the ones on his favorite shows, but clean and decent. It was a nice place for the young family who bought it. He made a profit, not a lot, but enough to encourage him to try again. He flipped two more places in the same area. Between the profits from the flips and his security job he was doing well.
The next house he bought was more upscale and in a better neighborhood. He bought the place and had immediate buyer’s remorse. He put himself out of his comfort zone and he didn’t feel really good about it. The house was old and large, it needed a lot of work. He took a leave of absence from the security job and worked on the house full time.
He had nothing else to do while he waited for the guy to inspect the roof so he went to an upstairs bedroom and ripped out an ancient radiator that had rusted out. He didn’t notice the notebook until he was done wrestling with the radiator, the freaking thing wouldn’t budge until he worked up a sweat. The notebook looked like it had been behind or under the radiator forever. He picked it up and brushed the dust bunnies away. It was one of those old black and white speckled covered notebooks Jerry remembered from grammar school.
He thumbed through the yellowing and dried out pages of the book, the handwriting was elegant, unlike his own chicken-scratch. There were also sketches of human bodies on a few of the pages. Jerry’s first thought was that the notebook had belonged to a doctor or a medical student. Before he could give the notebook a serious look, he heard the roofer calling his name from downstairs. He dropped the notebook and went to meet Pete, the roofer. They spent some time on the roof, it was in surprisingly good condition and would only need minor repairs. Jerry was so happy for the good news he forgot all about the notebook.
The construction dumpster showed up a few days later. It was demo day, a day beloved by all house flippers. Grown men were allowed to go around the house with sledge hammers and bust up all kinds of shit without getting arrested. Jerry got to the upstairs bedroom where he’d ripped out the radiator and it into the dumpster parked directly below the window. On his way out of the room, he saw the notebook on the floor and for some reason took it with him.
Jerry sat at his apartment’s small kitchen table eating another lousy TV dinner. He brought the notebook with him and read as he ate. The first entry in the notebook was dated June, 4, 1965. What Jerry read scared the hell out of him. He forgot all about eating the rubbery fried chicken dinner and read everything in the notebook.
The notebook was a diary, not just any diary, it was a serial killer's diary. His first thought was that the book was some kind of a joke. As he read further, he realized this was no joke. The dude who wrote this was as serious as death. The details were too real to be a hoax. Seven murders on seven different dates were written about in graphic and bloody detail. All the victims were female, but the killer didn’t identify them. Each victim had their own sketch of the horrible wounds that were inflicted on them. The notebook was only half full, the last murder written about was dated November of 1972.
Jerry didn’t know what to do. Why did the diary stop where it did? Did the police find the fucking nut? Had he thrown the notebook behind the radiator as the FBI burst into his house? He threw the notebook in his kitchen garbage can and decided his best option was to ignore the whole thing. If the killer had committed the first murder in 1968, Jerry thought that with the sophistication of the writing the guy had to be at least in his thirties. Doing some quick math, he figured that the killer would be at least in his nineties. So, he was either dead or close to it.
Sleep didn’t come to Jerry that night. Around four in the morning he removed the notebook from the trash, turned on his laptop, and tried to do some research. In a town as small as Fairline the murder of seven women wouldn’t go unnoticed. He tried every which way he could think of and he couldn’t connect with anything about any murders in Fairline around the times specified in the diary.
If he called the cops and started asking questions about any of this, they would probably send a patrol car with a big net and drag him to the nuthouse, cops were funny that way. He tried the library in the morning and looked at microfilm from the local newspapers around the time of the murders and found nothing. Had the seven killings gone unnoticed in such a small town? Jerry didn’t think so.
Next up for Jerry was town hall, he didn’t realize it yet, but he was becoming obsessed. He found the property records in the house he now owned and learned that the owners of the house in 1942 to 1990 were none other than Max and Linda Martin. Even Jerry knew who the Martins were. If there was royalty in Fairline their last name would be Martin. The present mayor Robert Martin, was no doubt related to Max and Linda.
He spent the rest of the day with his mind half on working on the house, the other half on the notebook. Arriving home Jerry noticed that the front door of his apartment was unlocked. He didn’t give it much thought until he entered and saw that someone had torn the place apart. Almost everything he owned was piled up in the middle of his living room floor. The three dishes he owned were smashed into pieces mixed in with his only two forks and spoons on the kitchen floor. He stepped back, listening for any sound from the intruder, he heard nothing. Whoever had done this was long gone.
The police who showed up at the scene seemed disinterested in the whole affair. They took a report and left without even the slightest hint that they would try to catch whoever was responsible for the mess. Jerry found nothing missing. The only thing he had of value was his laptop and he had that with him all day. They smashed the big screen, but didn’t try to steal it. The whole thing was bizarre. When he asked one of the cops on the scene about that he got a one-word answer, “kids.” What the hell would kids be doing in his apartment? It looked to Jerry like someone was in his apartment looking for something and messed the place up to cover for it.
For the second night in a row Jerry got no sleep. Every noise he heard from inside or outside his apartment brought him to attention. He got up repeatedly to check the front door. A very jittery Jerry returned to work in the morning on what he was now calling the Martin house. A full day’s work took some of his edge off. He was bone tired as he exited the BMW to get into his apartment. He had his laptop bag, which contained the computer and the murder notebook, slung over his shoulder as he walked from the parking lot to his door. He sensed it before he saw the figure rushing towards him out of the shadows. Jerry ducked and the punch from the attacker glanced off the top of his head. The blow didn’t hurt him, but it managed to piss him off. Jerry was no tough guy, but he reacted to the attack with rage. The puncher had his hand on Jerry’s laptop bag and was trying to rip it from his shoulder. Jerry saw an opening, he kicked the guy in the balls with his size 11 Timberlands. The guy howled in pain and before he could hit the ground and roll up into a ball Jerry managed to land two blows to the guy’s face. For a big fat fuck the attacker was fast, he hit the ground and scrambled to his feet and was gone before Jerry could do any more damage.
Two plus two always added up to four in Jerry’s world. So, the attacker had to be the one who messed up his apartment. It was also now evident that he wanted Jerry’s laptop. Why would some stranger want his freaking laptop? He had nothing on it but stuff for his flipping business. It wasn’t worth much, he got it cheap from Amazon. The more he thought about it the less sense it made. He got some clothes, got in the Beamer and checked into a cheap motel off of the interstate. He slept in peace for the first night in a while.
Morning and some strong coffee brought Jerry some clarity. All this shit had started after he started poking around for information about the seven murders in Fairline. He had to explain to the librarian what and why he needed to see back issues of the local newspapers. He also spoke to the clerk at town hall about the property records for the Martin House. In a small town like Fairline there were no secrets, news traveled fast.
Did anyone know about the notebook? He did have it with him when he was doing his research. He hadn’t thought about hiding it, why should he? Calling the police was not an option if the Martin name was involved, they sure as hell wouldn’t do anything with such flimsy evidence.
Work on the Martin house continued. Things for Jerry were almost back to normal. No one had attacked him or broke into his apartment in two weeks. He was installing a huge window in the front of the house with a helper, when he saw a limousine pull into the long driveway. No one got out the car, it just sat there. Jerry stared at the car and felt like the car was staring back. He wasn’t getting anything done this way so he walked out of the house and approached the limo cautiously. Someone on the inside rolled down the driver side window as Jerry got closer. A big-headed guy, with a couple of abrasions on his fat face appeared. Jerry was certain it was the guy he’d tangled with in the parking lot, handed him a piece of paper.
Jerry read it, while keeping an eye on the driver. The big guy was getting impatient and said, “I need an answer.”
Jerry was still trying to figure out how to respond to the request in the note. He told the driver, “I don’t give a fuck about what you need.” The guy made a move to get out of the car.
“Ok try it you fat fuck and I’ll really kick your ass this time.” Jerry words were braver than his knocking knees. “Ok, fatso I’ll go, but I’m not getting into your car, I’ll follow you in mine.”
Jerry had never been in that part of town before. It was a gated community about as far away from Jerry’s usual stomping grounds as possible. The house was new but someone had gone to great expense to make it look like a mansion out of a movie from the 1930’s. The place was gorgeous inside and out. There was an actual butler who showed Jerry into the library.
There was enough wood in the library to have killed three rain forests. He didn’t have to wait long, Mr. Max Martin strolled in looking every bit the wealthy gentleman he was. He appeared to be in his late sixties or early seventies. Jerry knew he wasn’t the one who wrote the diary, he was too young. After some small talk Mr. Martin asked Jerry if he was in possession of a certain notebook.
“Yes, I am, sir, and it’s hidden deep and with orders to bring it to the FBI if anything were to happen to me.”
“Why would you tell me that Mr. Gettings. I have no interest in the book. I just asked you a simple question.”
“Sorry Mr. Martin but I believe your chauffeur has tried to obtain that notebook.”
“I assure you, not on my orders Mr. Martin,”
Jerry wasn’t convinced, he was convinced that the very wealthy sure could lie smoothly. “So why am I here Mr. Martin?”
“Well, I’m going to tell you a little story Mr. Gettings. Be assured that this story is that just a story, purely hypothetical. Many years ago, a member a very prominent family did a great deal of experimentation with a drug I believe they called LSD. Let’s say this man was my uncle, speaking hypothetically of course. Well the drug did a great deal of damage to my uncle’s brain. He committed some very heinous crimes because of this drug and the damage it did. When these crimes came to the attention of other family members my uncle was put into what they used to call an asylum. Unfortunately, my uncle passed away soon after. My uncle’s family feeling responsible for my uncle deeds found the families of the victims and compensated them for their loss. In many of my uncle’s rantings and ravings he would sometimes scream about a notebook. After searching, the family believed the notebook was a figment of my uncle's rotted brain. Are you following me so far, Mr. Gettings?”
“I think so, so your uncle is dead?”
“Yes, he died many years ago. Lately I’ve heard rumblings about what might be the notebook my uncle was ranting about. This book might cause a great deal of embarrassment to my family, hypothetically of course.”
“Yes of course, so how can I help your family avoid any embarrassment in this matter?”
The two discussed terms, the Martin family got the notebook and the family bought Jerry’s fixer upper for ten times the amount he was expecting. Jerry sold his soul for a few bucks and didn’t feel bad about it. If the victims' families didn’t give a shit about them being murdered why should he?
With the money he got for the Martin house Jerry was able to hire two full time crews to do his flips. If things continued to go well, he might just get his own TV show.