Chapter 3: Hunting and Gathering

Tom and Daria stood in the middle of an empty studio apartment. Daria commented, "Good God what is that smell?"

Tom replied, "I detect curry and onions. But there is something else there as well."

Daria deadpanned, "I am guessing something to do with overripe feet or a simple lack of bathing. Maybe it is a dead animal or person hidden behind a wall. Scratch this place."

At the next apartment, which actually had a "den" that was more like a tiny bedroom with no door, Daria walked over and looked out the window. "What a wonderful view," she said with more than a little sarcasm in her voice. "A brick wall across an alley and if I look down I can see right into the dumpster. Oh look, is that a body in the dumpster? The view here coupled with having to walk up three flights of stairs makes this place a delight! I'll bet if I opened the window I could get a good smell of what is in the dumpster. Let's go Tom."

Three more apartments each had their own deficiencies. Those ranged from bugs to mold to floorboards so creaky that you could hear every movement in the apartments around you. Daria even wondered if the walls were so thin in one place that the people realized the fight they were having might as well be on the radio! It also seemed that none of the superintendents that let them into the apartments were in the least bit interested in renting anything. They were more like key holding zombies. Daria feared for her brain!

"This next place might be interesting," Tom said.

"How so?" Daria replied. "What makes it special?"

"First of all, it is a newly built building. Second, they are offering economy efficiency apartments."

"In other words, really tiny apartments," Daria quipped.

Tom went on, "Yes. But, these are especially small. It says here the whole place is 20 by 20 (6 meters x 6 meters). So, you have 400 square feet (36 sq. meters), which means that they had to get variances in order to call these apartments. They are bigger than hotel rooms, but not apartment sized – even in New York."

"They can't be worse than some of what we have already seen," Daria replied in total deadpan.

They walked up to the building and pressed the buzzer for the superintendent. A voice came over the intercom with a thick New York accent. The tone sounded like someone who had gargled with gravel, but only after smoking for about a hundred years. "Yeah. What do you want?" Daria wasn't sure if the owner of the voice was a man or a woman.

Tom piped up with, "I'm Tom Sloane and with me is Daria Morgendorffer. Sheila from NY Realtors called you this morning regarding a showing."

The voice of what Daria assumed had to be a troll responded, "Yeah. Come in. I will meet you by the elevator." With that the buzzer sounded indicating that the door could be opened and Tom and Daria walked into the building. Daria hoped simply not to be eaten.

Looking around the lobby area, Daria noticed that it was neat and clean. There was a bank of mailboxes numbered for each unit. The superintendent was standing by the elevator at the end of the lobby and had already pushed the call button. Surprisingly the person was not a hunchback. There were actually two elevators. The farthest one from the entrance arrived first.

"Hi. I'm Gert. Get in," the short, heavy woman with stringy gray hair said pointing into the elevator. "I have one unit available on the seventh floor." Looking at Daria her eyes narrowed and she quipped, "You're lucky if you take it sweetie. It's the highest the fire department can reach with their ladders."

'OK,' Daria thought to herself. Professionalism was not the strong point of this superintendent. I wonder how many equivalent packs a day I smoke just standing next to her. She just hoped that the apartment was decent and she would never have to deal with the super. There was no sales pitch as they went up in the elevator. Just silence. Finally the door opened and they stepped out.

"Follow me," Gert stated curtly. They turned and walked down the hall. She reached into her pocket, pulled out a key card and unlocked the door.

Tom and Daria walked in and immediately surveyed the apartment. It was small, but efficiently designed. To the left there was the bathroom – tiny, but it had a tub with shower, toilet, sink and full wall mirror behind the sink – much like in a hotel room. To the right was a double closet. On the left beyond the bathroom was a closet with louvered doors, which contained a stacked washer and dryer. Past the linen closet was a small kitchen area. The kitchen was tiled out about six feet (190 cm) and then the rest of the apartment was open and carpeted, except the bathroom which also had tile. The walls were all painted white.

Gert said, "If you like it, I need first and last month's rent plus one month's rent as a security deposit. You also need to have decent credit. If you give me everything today, then I can probably let you move in day after tomorrow."

Neither Daria nor Tom said anything. They just continued to look over the apartment. Tom had a small flashlight with him and looked in and behind the washer and dryer.

Gert said, "I hope you two aren't planning to make this your love nest. These places can only be rented to one person, since they are so small."

"Not to worry," Tom said. "I have my own apartment."

"Oh. So you're the gay friend. Every girl seems to have one these days. They help with decorating and picking stuff out. What do you see her putting in this place?"

Daria was rather aghast at the comments made by Gert. She wondered if this was calculated to drive them off or was the woman was just opinionated? She responded, "Tom is a friend. We have known each other for years."

"Whatever," Gert said. "Do you want the place or not?"

"Give us a couple minutes to discuss this, please," Tom said. "Would you mind waiting in the hallway."

"Sure," Gert replied and walked out.

"What do you think, Daria?" Tom asked. "The place looks to be clean and there is no sign of bugs."

"I like it," Daria replied. "At least looking out the window you can see the street below. It is not just a view of a brick wall. But, I don't think I can come up with the funds to move in right away. Even if I ask my parents for the money I am not certain it will get here in time."

"I can cover your move-in," Tom said.

Daria moved up right against Tom and put her hands around his waist. He responded in kind. Tom could feel every curve of her body. "You know I don't want you paying for me," Daria responded and gave Tom a very quick kiss on the lips. "I need to figure this out."

"Look," Tom said while trying to keep his voice steady. Daria's closeness was really starting to get to him! "I trust you. Let me cover the cost to get you in here. You go ahead and ask your parents for help or if you prefer I will wait until you pay me back once you are getting paychecks. I am not in a hurry. If you want this apartment, then I am asking you to let me help you. Please."

Daria looked up at him and gave him anther quick kiss. "I think you are making me soft Sloane. Since you are so insistent, I will let you help me. But, this is a loan. I will pay you back one way or another. My guess is that it will actually come from my parents." Daria released him and stepped back.

"That's fine, Daria. Let's go have you sign the papers."

Gert was waiting in the hallway and they went down in the elevator together to a small office off the lobby. Gert pulled out the standard lease and indicated where Daria had to sign. Tom insisted on at least giving the lease a quick read before she signed.

"What are you now, her lawyer?" Gert asked.

Tom answered, "No. I'm her accountant. Her lawyer is in court today and I told her that I would be sure to read over anything before Daria signed it."

"Ah," Gert grunted. "That explains it."

Tom read through the lease. It was the usual stuff. He paid particular attention to the due date for the rent, determining the condition of the apartment, and return of the deposit upon leaving. It was all very standard and almost identical to the lease he had signed. He turned to Daria and said, "I don't see any problems here. Go ahead and sign."

Daria signed the lease and handed it back to Gert.

Gert asked, "OK. Now I need to see the money."

Tom stood up. He then stuck his hands in his pants and pulled out a pouch. He sat back down, unzipped the pouch and pulled out a wad of $100 bills. He then counted out the amount due in front of Gert. He put the remaining few bills back in the pouch and returned it to his pants.

Both Daria and Gert looked at Tom in shock. Never had they seen someone pull bills out of his pants that way, though Gert had certainly put some in mens' pants in certain clubs.

Gert took the money and counted it again.

"We will need a receipt for that," Tom stated.

"No problem," Gert said. "Now I will just need to verify your employment and check your credit Ms. Morgendorffer. Give me a phone number where you can be reached. I should be able to have your keys ready day after tomorrow."

Daria dictated her cell phone number to Gert. Then she and Tom left the office.