The apartment he picked out on the fourth floor had a small table in the main living room, where he sat with his macaroni. On his left was a doorway to the only bedroom, which was really small, and beside that, a door opened onto the bathroom. There was a fourth room, but it was locked and so far had been inaccessible. He had keys to all the rooms on the fourth floor since part of his rent was going to be repair work, but none of the keys opened this door. The lock was older, probably left over from a century before, and because it was his first day in the apartment, he didn’t want to be a pain to the landlady, especially if it meant she would have to drive all the way back into the city and open it herself. She would be back in a few days to inspect the work he’ d be doing and make sure he was as good a carpenter as Adam said. He could wait and ask her about the room then.
For a moment, with food paused in mid flight to his mouth, he thought about when he’d met her. She was younger than he’d imagined when Adam told him about her, and she was beautiful. She asked him questions about his past and where he used to work. She reminded him that the floor had not been used for thirty years, so he would have to wear a mask when he worked.
“Who knows what all is considered toxic these days. The paint is lead based, I know that for sure; the tile has asbestos in it, as does the insulation and ceiling tiles, and probably there would be more than that. Do you understand that you have to wear the mask? It is very important.”
“Yes,” he answered.
“Legally, no one can live on the fourth floor yet, but since Adam has been so good to us in the past, I’ve decided to make an exception. What we need to do is get your room up to code and as close to livable as fast as we can, both for your health and in case of any problems we might have with the inspectors.”
“I understand. I’ll start in the apartment and work my way into other areas.”
Then came the question he knew was loaded. This was where she would decide everything. “So how long do you think it will take to do the entire job. I mean, the floors, the doors, the trim and painting, we have to replace the ceiling and there will be more, lots more, when we get into it deeper?”
She smiled when he said, “four months should get us to a good point. After that we will know exactly where we stand.”
“I’ll know where we stand in one week, Mr. Solsbury. I want to start renting that floor as soon as possible.”
“Yes, ma’am. Four months is just my guess right now.”