I was still trying to find out what the Detective had on Mike and was making some discreet enquiries around town. None of my usual suspects who would be privy to this sort of information could shed any light on the subject so I decided to pay a visit to his wife who I knew very well. Her name was Katherine and they had three kids. She and Mike had been childhood sweethearts and even in school, Mike had been a bit of a tearaway and had been in trouble for stealing. They had been married for 15 years and she had stuck by him through some pretty nasty moments. In fairness to Mike, I think he really loved her in his own way but just couldn’t stay on the straight and narrow if there was ever any form of temptation to make a fast buck.
Both Jody and I had been to Mike’s house for barbecue on many occasions and they had come to our house in return. Jody always had reservations about Mike but always made an effort to be nice to him. She really liked Katherine and although not best buddies, they would meet for coffee sometimes in our local coffee shop where a lot of towns people hung out at some time of the day. I chatted with Katherine and mentioned that the Detective Alsup was his name, had come to see me about Mike but wouldn’t tell me what it was related to. “Has Mike mentioned anything to you” I asked “Nothing” she replied but I could tell she was a bit worried. ” I tried talking to him but he wouldn’t loosen up. Kept insisting there was nothing wrong and that he had no idea what Detective Alsup wanted” I said. “Look, if he is in trouble, you know we are here to help him and you if the need arises” She sat there and then she turned and looked at me and said “If I find something out, you will be the first to know. Thanks for coming to see me and telling me this”.
I took my leave and headed for the cellar project to see what sort of progress the boys were making. True to form, Mike was cursing under his breath about “these bloody blocks and whoever invented them should have them shoved up his ass”. The other two lads, Harvey and Matt, were moving the blocks from the stack closer to the wall that was being worked on and they were handling them by themselves. I didn’t hear any complaining from them as they went about their work. Of course it is much easier just moving and stacking as opposed to actually laying them as they had to be lifted over the stringline and then placed down very gently and aligned with the bottom edge on the block below and the top edge to the stringline. There is an art to laying block and brick and it is not made any easier with the 60 pound blocks. The difficulty was in placing the block evenly so as not to squirt the masonry out from between the blocks.
I looked at what they had laid so far and the blocks were all square and even. I nodded to them as though to say “Good Work” and they both acknowledged. I figured they would be on this project for a few more days which would give me time to line out the next project for them which needed to be small enough for them to be ready to start the Alisford Estates job in two weeks time.
Because of our shortened construction season, I usually spent late winter and early spring trying to find enough projects to get us started and then as the summer progressed added to the list with other jobs as they came in. As I already explained, I try to get some winter work but that it sometimes hard to come by. Over the years, I have managed to build a good reputation for good work done on time and was very keen to make sure that we continued this way. Because of Mike’s reputation which pre-ceded him wherever he went, I did sometimes have to either keep him off some jobs or guarantee with the owner that he was a reliable worker. So far, Mike was true to his word and stayed out of trouble although the business with Detective Alsup was very troubling.
I went back to the office and made some calls and then made arrangements for the men to go on a new project for Mr Dingman. This was to re-build a stone staircase from street level to the front door. The existing one had moved all over the place due to the frost which has a tendency to do that especially if the foundations weren’t deep enough or the fill got wet and expanded. That was one of the problems with building in New York State. You had two choices and they were to build below the frost line which was about four feet into the ground or build on top of the ground and construct things making allowances for movement.
I know of a couple of driveways up in the mountains where large rocks appear every winter and disappear every spring, all caused by the frost. I remember that I had an event of my own when I was visiting a client in early spring as the frost was beginning to thaw. Not wishing to chance the muddy conditions, I had parked my car at the top of her driveway and walked down to the house. Upon completion of my business, I had walked back up the hill only to discover that my car was sitting on its underside as the frost had thawed in the couple of hours that I had been with my client and the wheels had sunk into the ground. I took one look and walked down the hill to a local farmer and paid him $10 to tow me back onto the road with his tractor. He thought it was very amusing as he pocketed the $10.