Daniel, the property manager recommended by Michael’s gym acquaintance, showed up right on time with his partner Rod.
A pudgy, garrulous Southerner, Daniel did most of the talking and wasted no time putting us in our place. During the first fifteen minutes of our meeting he made at least six or seven pointed references to the wealth and general fabulousness of his other clients.
We immediately felt like the Beverly Hillbillies, which no doubt was his intent.
His conversational style included lots of high-end product placement—the kind you encounter in airport novels and made-for-TV movies but seldom hear in real life–rolled out with salacious brio. It was the verbal equivalent of interior design porn.
Michael, ever grounded, mounted a counterinsurgency by dropping the names “Pier 1” and “Home Depot” like stink bombs into the conversation.
Daniel either didn’t hear him or was so traumatized by the mere thought of these lower-end emporia that he temporarily lost his power of speech.
We roamed in silence for a while, Daniel scribbling furiously in a leather-bound notebook. I would’ve given a thousand bucks to know what he was writing. I imagined something along the lines of, “These are the tackiest people I’ve ever met.”
More awkward silence. “Are you planning to rent out the house?” Rod asked at length.
“I think we’ll have to at first,” I began. “You know, to help recoup our expenses.”
But the idea that we might need a return on our investment seemed to make Daniel even more uncomfortable than he already was. “Oh my gosh!” he muttered under his breath, as if we’d admitted to a penchant for paintings on velvet or a secret passion for yodeling.
After an increasingly uncomfortable half hour wandering around our distinctly un-fabulous property, Daniel put away his notebook and said, “We’re all set. Welcome aboard.”
We could hardly believe it. From everything he’d said and done, we’d assumed he wouldn’t have touched us with a six-foot (designer) pole.
But when he poked out his sweaty hand to seal the bargain, we complied, feeling we had no other choice.
“It won’t cost you more than $40,000 to do this whole place over top to bottom,” he announced as he and Rod drove away in their flashy SUV.
That should have been a dead giveaway right there.
Armando drove us back to the ferry. We had been on Vieques exactly four hours and wouldn’t be back for three months.
“I’ll see you tomorrow at noon,” he said, referring to our closing the next day in Fajardo.
“Is there anything we should discuss?” I asked, feeling a little uneasy.
“Nope. Everything’s set,” he replied. “And stop worrying.”
Easy for him to say.