Jo-anne woke up early the next morning as the hospital’s breakfast was served. Hearing the serving trolley at the far end of the passage, she got out of bed slowly, her legs feeling like wobbly rubber, but she kept on standing. Somebody put a clean track suit and underwear on the chair for her. She slipped out and went to the showers, to clean up and to dress so that she does not miss her appointment at the house.
Her arm was bandaged lightly, and she managed to keep the bandages dry. As she stepped back into her room, a nurse came into her room with her food.
“You are not allowed out of the bed yet,” she scolded.
“Maxie, I have an important appointment at the house in an hour. I cannot miss it, I need to go,” she pleaded.
“My shift ends after breakfast, in about half an hour, I will take you to your house, and then you must come back to the hospital, is that a deal?” Maxi knows that Jo-anne would not be so insistent if the appointment were not significant.
“I will ask Sherrie if she will cover for you?” Maxi said over her shoulder as she left the room. “Eat your breakfast, you will need your strength.”
Jo-anne got out of Maxi’s car with a weary sigh, her appointment is early. “How typical,” she thought. She wanted to give a good impression, that she is in charge, well that plan failed.
Jo-anne gave Maxi a tired wave and nodded her head when Maxie pointed to her watch, acknowledging her friend’s reminder to be back at the hospital before rounds, at 10:00, hopefully, to get released.
Jo-anne stood still for a moment lifting her face to the weak sun, breathing in the crisp, clean air. Clearing her lungs of the hospital smell. Slowly she walked towards the front of the house, following the footprints in the morning frost. She shivered from the cold, as the track suit was not thick enough to protect her from the lower temperature near the lake.
A man walked towards her with purposeful strides. He was a tall man with short cropped blond hair, blue eyes, and European pale skin, he had on a royal blue city suit and wore a determined look on his face.
“Good morning, I started inspecting the area, while I waited for you,” he said while holding his hand out as if he wanted to shake her hand.
She instinctively put her hands behind her back, to avoid a handshake that will crush her already sore hand. The nurses had to put the intravenous drip in her hand and the vein was throbbing with pain.
The man raised is eyebrows at the blatant avoidance and introduced himself as Vincent Smith, lawyer for the shifter interested in renting her house for his hibernation period.
“Let’s go and sit there by the gazebo,” Jo-anne said pointing towards the general area of the garden gazebo, at the edge of the lawn overlooking the lake. At least there are chairs and a table, giving her a chance to sit before she falls over. The lawyer frowned when he saw the plaster and large blue bruise on her left hand.
Surreptitiously she removed the plaster from her hand while walking to the gazebo.
As she approached the nearest chair, she stumbled and Vincent grabbed her arm to keep her upright. Luckily he grabbed her good arm.
Vincent looked at the woman in front of him with irritation. This was supposed to be one of the prime areas where shifters can hibernate and adopt their new name and identity for the next twenty years of their lives. Shifters exist for several centuries and they need to change their identities every twenty years or so to prevent unwanted attention to their long lives, especially in the current era of the facial recognition and other technologies used by governments. Wolfville has offered this valuable service to the shifting community for the past fifty years.
“If you are too tired to discuss the terms of the rental,” he said frowning at Jo-anne. He started to get up from the chair.
Jo-anne inhaled again deeply, smelling the rich damp ground and green moss growing at the end of the garden wall. She sat down on the cold seat and gripped the armrest, to steady herself.
“Sit, please Mr. Smith.” Jo-anne gestured toward to the chairs.
Vincent walked around the table to sit opposite her. He knows the best position in a negotiation is across from the person he is negotiating with. Ensuring him at least equal, if not total power in negotiations.
“You have the necessary approval from pack admin, that vetted your client?”
He impatiently took a file from his briefcase, taking out the form with the embossed stamp of approval.
“I do not know why I needed two approval forms as I already gave one to the estate agent.” He slapped the offending piece of paper on the table.
“This house is not part of George’s portfolio and each hibernation property must have the necessary approval. I am the owner of the house and the landlord for this transaction.”
Vincent looked at his watch impatiently.
“Look, lady, are you interested in renting out your property or not. I have to be back in Chicago later this morning and I would like to finish my work here. I do not want to return to this backwater if I can help it.”
Before she could say anything, he continued in the same fashion.
“This property is ideal for what my client. The house is not big enough and does not have the necessary amenities, but that is not a problem.” He raised his hand to stop her from saying anything.
Jo-anne gripped the armrests of the chair, as not to throw the file in his face. He is just another man that is treating her as if she was an idiot, she feels her face heating up in temper, but she kept a tight grip on it.
“You said on the phone the area available for rent starts at the boundary on the road,” and he pointed to the top of the hill where the entrance to the property is “to the lake and the other boundaries are about 4 hectares around the house. Your advert also stated that the area is not open to public access, is that correct.”
Mutely she nodded her head.
“The actual house is not a problem as my client wants your permission to change the house to his requirements. The costs of the changes will be for his account.” Vincent took out another piece of paper from the file.
A cold breeze blew up from the lake, lifting the edges of the papers and a shiver of alarm slid down her back. If she agrees to this contract, she will be homeless for five years, but knows she does not have any other options available to her!
Vincent moved his body forward, ready to close the deal. He explained that he drafted a contract for her to sign. He leaned back in the chair and steepled his fingers as if he was contemplating the attractiveness of his offer.
“This is the proposed rental contract,” and he took out a brown envelope from his briefcase and handed it to her. “I know that it is common practice that the landlord supply the rental contract, but experience has taught me, my contracts are better for all concerned.”
Jo-anne just sat there looking at the arrogant man in absolute amazement. She wished she could tell him to take a hike, but she will soon need the rental income from the house.
“Do you have a lawyer?” he asked irascibly.
Mutely she shook her head. Knowing it is far better for her to keep her mouth shut tightly in this part of the negotiations.
He reached into his briefcase and from a leather pouch took out two business cards.
“You can use any one of these two excellent lawyers, both are shifters and will look after your interests as well keeping our transactions confidential.”
The look on her face must have said “Yeah right,” because he continued, in the same lawyerly voice.
“You can trust this advice, it is important that my clients get the best service, and that includes the lawyers I have to work with. Feel free to check their credentials with the shifter council.” He took one of the cards he gave her and wrote the number of the council on the card.
“You will benefit greatly from this transaction.” He stood up, closed his briefcase with a snap, and bowed his head in greeting.
“I believe I will hear from you by the end of work tomorrow to finalize this agreement. Good day.” With that, he walked towards his car without looking back.
Jo-anne just sat there feeling as if she was hit by a truck. Another cold breeze blew through the gazebo.
Brrr, this was the worse place for negotiations, she looked at her watch.
“I’ll have to hurry if I do not want Maxi or Sherrie to get into trouble because of me,” she thought as she grabbed the papers and rushed to her car. She felt for the key in the right front wheel well. Luckily the car started immediately.
She stopped at her hotel room and hid the rental papers under the mattress of the bed. Knowing the paperwork was hidden safely in her motel room. She also managed to grab clean clothes for later that day and snuck back into her hospital room with an hour to spare, luckily without seeing any of the hospital staff.
Jo-anne quickly changed into the hospital gown climbed into the bed and snuggled down in the warm bed where she promptly went to sleep the moment her head touched the pillow.