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ch 15

     For reasons best explained by somebody like a space alien channeling Elvis who is a psychic phone friend selling pet insurance, I was being kicked out of my apartment.
     I had paid my rent three months in advance. I had only had one write up in several years, and that was for simply forgetting my laundry in the dryer for two days.
     The manager didn't care I had somebody living with me. We didn't invite glam rock bands to practice on the balcony at four in the morning, so the manager didn't worry about us very much at all.
     The problem was some oil sheik had bought the company that owned the complex and a major renovation was in the works. My apartment was going to become a 'building enhancing resource room'.
     Realtor talk for a sauna and weight room.
     The complex didn't have another apartment available and I had to be out by the end of the month or loose my deposit, which I figured they would keep anyway, and one month of my prepaid rent, which would be annoying to say the least.
     So instead of going on a short mission to Washington, DC, my least favorite town to work in, I went to look at houses.
     I had intended to rent another apartment. But rent had gone from astronomical to ludicrous in the area I lived. The only thing available nearby was a wanna-be condo with a decent view, and a downpayment that at first glance could be taken for the ZIP code.
     Keia wasn't going to go out on her own. She announced the day after I told her I had to move that she was going to stay with me and had found a couple of places for us.

     The first was just off the downtown in an area that seemed forgotten by the developers. But as soon as we walked in Keia frowned and shook her head. I kinda liked the stately older house, even though the asking price may have been the gross national product of Cambodia.
     "This no good Huntie. We go." She said. The real estate lady shrugged.
     "Sorry." I apologized.
     "It's OK. Happens all the time. First impressions."
     The next place didn't make a good first impression on me. I drove out into the country and found the place on the second try. The Realtor wasn't there. We looked around the yard while I talked on the phone and his office looked for him.
     It bordered a National Park type area, which we both liked, and was on a dead end road that claimed to be paved, which I loved. It had a good two acres of ground with it, a small creek cut diagonally across the back yard. The neighbors, if you could call them that, on the side opposite the park had horns and four legs. Across the road was an out of bounds area of a golf course. But the house.
     When the Realtor drove up almost an hour later my first question was, "Is it haunted?"
     He stood by his car and chewed on his lower lip for a minute. "No, but the price has been considerably reduced recently." He said.
     "We take it. Pay the man Huntie."
     And that decided the transaction. I figured the house would make a spectacular fire some rainy night.
     The Realtor took us on a tour of the place anyway. "You got a lot of ground here, the old farm was over a hundred acres, they kept a good chunk with the house."
     "It looks like about two, maybe three acres." I said.
     "More like twelve. It runs across the creek and into the woods, and down the lane past that fence." He pointed at the cows.
     "Those are my cows?"
     "No, the land is leased to the farm on the main road, the Henderson's I believe."
     "I said we take it Huntie." Keia grinned.
     The Realtor nodded. "You want to see the inside of the house first?"
     The door creaked like a 'B' movie. The living room even had some furniture sitting under plastic tarps, not sheets, but this is modern times. The mantle piece belonged in a museum. I decided I had to have the fireplace, even if the rest of the house came with it.
     It seemed each room in the house was bigger than my apartment. If the kitchen could feed a football team, the master bedroom could sleep it.
     "You'll probably need to replace the electric. It's a bit out of date, and the phone..."
     "We'll go with a whole new everything."
     "You'd be better off, but that is why the place is marked down, the only thing that met code was the septic. You'll even have to drill a new well. The county said you'll have to take the garage down."
     "We'll take it." I said levelly looking at the fireplace from the front hall.
     He didn't seem to believe me.
     "I'll meet you at your office in the morning."
     "Could you put something down on the place then? I'd hate for it to get away from you."
     I could tell he was adding up his commission in his head. "I'll put half down."
     "But that'll be..."
     "Two hundred thousand and change." I smiled at Keia, "We like the place and we'll take it, I got a good bonus awhile back."
     She smiled back.

     It's amazing how fast paperwork can get done when prompted by money.

     We had to stay in a motel while the wiring was done in the house but we moved in sooner than I expected. The truck from the storage company put everything I owned in the front room.
     "We need more furniture Huntie." Keia looked at the empty dining room and the bare walls of the hallway.
     "We need more people. The lady at their office said the family that lived here was about sixteen people."
     The phone company showed up and ran a T-1 line without batting an eye. I batted mine a few times when I got the bill, but it wasn't that bad, once I could breathe again.

     Bishop42: The old Clovenhand place.
     theHunter: I guess... It's a farmhouse next to a Environmental Park.
     Bishop42: If I am not mistaken that's it. I also believe it is haunted.
     theHunter: I knew it. But I'm not worried about it.
     Bishop42: Ghosts are not bothered by high powered handguns.
     >>>theHunter is laughing heartedly at you!

     Keia had already burned incense and said prayers in every room in the place and twice in the attic. Our offices were set up in the room the floorplan said was the sewing room or day pallor.
     One day, while I was out on a recon mission for Centre, a housewarming gift arrived from the Bishop. A fire fighting system was installed in every room. Upon the detection of heat and smoke together, or when an alarm was pulled, the affected rooms would be flooded with dry powder carried by a blast of CO2. It took the workman a week of solid work from early morning on to complete it. But I knew it was worth it.
     The system was tied into the security system I installed with the help of a guy from my 'day' job. From a remote location I could do everything but start a pot of coffee. The status of every room was shone on my screen. I could watch the driveway on live video, check phone messages, even turn on the air conditioning from my office computer workstation.
     Upstairs I was in the process of constructing a meaningful armory. I spent a weekend reinforcing the walls with heavy fiberboard and foam soundproofing. The fire system in the room was doubled with an independent foam system. I put in an exhaust fan vented outside. The window and door got armor and a motion sensor.
     The finale was a bench to end all benches. With a sideways vise that I could aim at a block of foam and rubber pellets across the room exactly fifteen feet away. The purpose. Exact targeting of a firearm.
     Outside it was a job for a dump truck and a skip loader to install a berm for a bit freer shooting. On our first outing, Keia showed me up with the rifle, although I still outscored her with the pistol.
     "GI Joe taught me and sister to shoot long gun." She said. Then her expression darkened as she thought about her family 'back there'.

     Sometime in the next few months my place became a defacto home away from home for any of the organization's people to stop by and rest and recreate for a day or five.
     This was the reason I gave up and allowed Keia to order several rooms full of furniture. Four complete bedroom suites. She re-outfitted the living room. A dining ensemble showed up one day. Fortunately the Bishop accepted the idea and as long at the state and county didn't mind what was going on here, I didn't either.
     Something which I am very sure the Bishop and his Mandate had a hand in.
     One day, I got home from my job testing a text editor that recognized five different languages I found Conga in the armory with somebody I had seen in Detroit installing a very nice laser sight on a rifle of unknown manufacture.
     "Oh, hello." He stuck his hand out.
     Once again I felt I was lucky to come out of the handshake with my fingers still functional.
     "This is McKalb. He's going on a little trip. Keia said we could borrow your shop."
     "Most excellent set up. I wish I had a home with a range." DeKalb said giving me a handshake that wasn't painful.
     I nodded and told them to make themselves at home.

     And so I got used to having everybody and their cousin Pearl coming and going at all hours, and not even wondering when I found a helicopter sitting in my front yard.
     The upside was that most of the modifications to the house and grounds, a phone upgrade to a second fiber optic line, and even a guarantee from the county that the road would never be repaved to make it more attractive to the causal sight seer, was all underwritten and paid for by people at the Bishop's level or above.

     Bishop42: You may or may not be happy to know that your place is now the model for operating centers in nine states and six countries.
     theHunter: youre kidding
     Bishop42: No indeed. We have had places before. But they were always shared with another agency, or we came in after the fact with a piece of the action. Yours has been ours from the very beginning.
     theHunter: Keia told me this was the place for us from the very beginning.
     >>>Bishop42 is having a laugh at your expense.

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