9. The British Properties

Somewhere in this lazy tangle of steep hills, plunging ravines and multi-million dollar views their new client was waiting.

Or maybe not waiting. She had met George in a quiet corner at Lonsdale Quay earlier that day and handed him ten one hundred dollar bills.  She at no point gave her name and never took off her hat, gloves or sunglasses. George was troubled that she was accompanied by a nanny and a sweet looking toddler in an expensive stroller that looked like concept art for the offspring of a Vespa and a blimp.

With the receipt of the money, they had one half of a civil contract, and Jesse procured a van.  There was one further communication from the client. In heavily accented but clear and correct English, she had told George by phone that her residence was in the British Properties, her angry husband was coming home to take their toddler back to China, and she needed to have some furniture and clothing moved to a condo in the Olympic Village tonight before eight a.m. She then hung up before providing either address and ceased responding to the number she’d used to call them.

They tried to be positive and not think badly of the customer.

“She’s likely quite perturbed,” Jesse said. “I need to stay calm and not reflexively hate the rich person.”

“Rather hard to fulfill a contract when conditions have not been met,” George said in annoyance.

“I’m willing to wait until two hours before sun-up,” Jesse said. “I got paid, it’s okay.”

“You just like sitting in a van with me,” George said coyly.

Jesse grinned. “Why not, when you fart less than anybody I ever met?  That being one virtue towering among many, I hasten to add. But believe me when I say that I go home sometimes to a bunch of smelly men, and I miss not being able to smell your farts, plus you never get b.o.. You know, I can’t figure out how you can be so — antiseptically clean.  It ain’t natural,” he said, and turned and looked directly at George, who was giving him a tranquil, almost amused, profile.

“I don’t have any control over how I smell, or don’t,” George said. “This van, though, there’s something wrong.”

“Hoo-ee!” Jesse said, after he pulled up the rolling door, waving a hand in front of his face.

This van smelled like something disgraceful had happened in it, but only when the dust in the cracks in the particle board shook loose.

The smell was almost certainly, but not conclusively, evidence that something had been alive, and then dead, and then liquefying, and then removed, and then the suffering approximation of wood had been cleaned with something as effective as prayer but much stronger smelling. Loading and unloading the truck would be a pilgrimage through a traumatizing stench.

George remembered that they hadn’t been able to detect it in the cab.  Jesse closed it up and they fled back to the cab, which smelled comfortingly of cigarettes, tarry drops of coffee and pine freshener.

“I need a checklist,” Jesse said, feeling stupid for taking the truck. “But the rental guy is always in such a hurry.”

“A genuinely unmarked white van is surprisingly hard to come by,” George said.

“So there’s no insurance, either,” Jesse said morosely.  “Good thing I’m so in love with my driving skills.  I think I’m fucked if I hit anything, I’ll probably lose my licence for a year.”

“I hope not. You’re a good driver.”

“So what now, drive up there and wait until she calls us in a panic?”

“Why not?” George said. “I’ve never been up there.”

“I don’t imagine people in that part of town would like it, us going up there,” Jesse said, considering it.  “A van in the middle of the night is not super relaxing to have around. Could be anything, surveillance, party bus, coffin hotel, perv command vehicle, wifi sniffer. Why, it could even be legitimate!” Jesse poured himself a coffee, knowing that in four hours he’d have a blind date with a bush halfway up a mountain, and simultaneously remembering he’d left his Maglite® at home. “Yup, an unmarked white van is guaranteed to be perfectly acceptable — why not just say welcomed? — while parked in front of a fourteen million dollar house with a guarded entrance and servants’ quarters!”

“You know it would be a really bad idea,” George said softly.

“Shall we?” Jesse said, and started the truck.

Jesse had never had any reason to go to the British Properties. He did not enjoy driving a moving van through it at night, so his first impression was rather crimped.

Jesse did not believe that rich people were necessarily evil people, but driving around the British Properties late on a warmish Tuesday in July was not improving his opinion of them. He’d been cut off by a Porsche, and a skateboarder had used his tailgate as an anchor point prior to whipping down Eyremount Drive.

“Holy fuck,” Jesse said.

“Oh, he’s fine,” George said.