Chapter 28

“Better get mobile,” he concluded. “That’s the first thing. New wheels.”

Forty minutes after he left San Francisco Airport in the backseat of a taxi, and now parked in front of Sandra Smith’s apartment building in Berkeley, Deane pulled a hundred-dollar bill from his briefcase, gave it to the Indian driver and told him to keep the considerable change. The fellow eyed Deane’s briefcase and for a moment he hesitated, as if company policy prohibited him from accepting large bills pulled from a briefcase, but he reconsidered and the hundred-spot quickly vanished. Deane started for the building, then remembered the briefcase which he had left in the backseat of the cab. Luckily, the driver was twisted in his seat, still eyeing the briefcase on the back seat. He hadn’t yet pulled away, and Avery was able to retrieve his property.

He walked past Sandra Smith’s door, wondering whether she was at home. He was startled suddenly to remember that he owed her for three month’s unpaid rent. “Funny,” he thought, “I haven’t thought about paying rent in a long time and she hasn’t said a word. Well, I’ll see her later.” Honestly, he hadn’t thought about Sandra at all for the past week or so, ever since he had finished the rug and had been preparing to show it to Sarah. Until then they had been spending quite a lot of time together. Of course he had been without a car for some time and she had taken him here and there—including to Oregon to find Cherise Hollander. “Hmm, I owe her, too: Cherise. Don’t remember how much. Maybe I wrote it down.” He had talked Cherise into advancing him all of the naturally-dyed wool that went into the dragon rug. “Well, that was a good investment for her,” he thought, inaccurately. “And Khalil. Don’t know how much I owe him. Quite a bit. Have to ask.”

He climbed the stairs to his apartment, flipped on a light by the door and stood quietly, feeling the room’s emptiness. While once it was filled with Zainab, Soroya, Katija, and Fatima plus Sandra and himself and later filled by the loom and Khalil and always a person or two watching the work progress line by line, now the room was nearly empty except for dark, Victorian-looking furniture and doilies spread on every surface. During the past several days the dragon rug—at times spread on the floor and at other times pinned to the wall like a painting, and sometimes draped over his bed—had seemed to fill the studio apartment, even though the rug was small and there had been none other than himself in the room to admire it. Now it was gone, and in its place was a briefcase full of money.

“Hmm. Guess I owe the spinners, too. And then there’s Holden. He never got the silk Kerman, did he? Hate to give them money, though. Just doesn’t seem right. They all deserve better.” Deane thought for a while, still standing in his doorway, studying the emptiness of his room. “Better get mobile,” he concluded. “That’s the first thing. New wheels. Believe I’ll go see Holden. He’s always up for a lark.” Deane still held his briefcase, so all he had to do was to turn off the light and back out of his door.

Holden was skeptical. He had stood by in the past while Deane had peaked the hopes of many a would-be seller, including Judge Barron in Napa who had hoped to sell him his Rolls Royce. Nothing ever came of these encounters except, ultimately, the disappointment of the sellers. Holden doubted that Deane had had any money as he had teased the hopeful would-be sellers, and he doubted that he had any money now as he put a salesman through his paces at the Oakland Porsche dealership. Deane had explained to Holden that Porsche quit making its eight-cylinder 928 model after 1989, so he was here to look at the new Porsche 911s, which started at around $70,000.

Deane had declined the young, snappy salesman’s invitation to test-drive a new metallic-blue Porsche. Instead, after walking around the car a time or two and scowling at it, he asked to inspect the driver’s-side seat adjustments. Ultimately, Austin, the Porsche salesman, failed Deane’s request to make the seat fully recline. Austin protested that no car seat fully reclines, and, besides, why would anyone want a car seat to flatten out? Deane sneered at the fellow. “Oh, no car seat reclines?” he asked sarcastically. “Not even on the 928? But of course you’re an ignorant pup and wouldn’t know about a noble car that ceased to be made when you were in grammar school. Austin, I have shoes older than you are. Come on, Holden. Let’s find a real automobile.”

By that evening, Deane had bought a 1983 white Porsche 928 with 110,000 thousand miles on the odometer. He paid $3,800 in cash for it and was extremely pleased. Holden was surprised that he actually had some money and he contemplated reminding Deane that the silk Kerman had still failed to materialize. But, as always, he considered how Deane had turned his business around, and he found himself unwilling to make an issue of it.

As Deane was buckling his seat belt to drive his new car home and Holden was heading toward his own car, he remembered that he had a message for Deane. He put his hands on the door of Deane’s Porsche and asked through the open window, “Avery, do you remember the old farmer, Clem Briano?”

“Of course I do, Holden. The man with the tractor and the sixty acres of Cabernet.”

“Yes. He called me, trying to get in touch with you. He said that he sold twenty acres of the property just like you suggested, but he says that now he needs to sell the rest, the forty-acre parcel with the ninety-year-old vines. He’s no longer able to do the work himself and he wants to sell them to you. You made a good impression on him when you told him to keep the property. He’ll make you a good deal.”

Deane straightened in his bucket seat; he twisted and looked thoughtfully at Holden. “Hmm. Put down roots. Make wine. Quit the rug game.” As he spoke, he patted a briefcase in the passenger seat beside him. “Well, lad, let’s go see Clem tomorrow. But do you mind if we take my car? You can buy the gas.”

So Holden was witness to Deane’s next purchase, too. It was a deal put together by two men who would rather not involve realtors or attorneys. Clem slowly typed it out on an old Underwood and both men signed. Holden witnessed and signed as well. The terms were: $2,500,000 selling price; $980,000 down; the balance of $1,520,000, carried by the seller at 10%, was to be paid at $8,000 per month beginning as soon as the buyer could produce a profit from the property or within two years, whichever came first; sale to include all rolling stock, among which were a pickup truck and several tractors; sale to include fifty barrels of homemade cabernet sauvignon wine. And that was it. Deane counted out $980,000 in cash. He complimented Clem for his voice and his “dialect.” They all went outside and the farmer showed Deane how to operate the tractor. They walked around and Clem pointed out this and that and offered some advice here and there. By the time Holden and Deane left, Clem was nearly in tears, not because of having just sold his beloved vineyard, but because he hated to see Deane leave.

Deane was exuberant as they drove back to the city. He sang. He raved about the vineyard, the view, the climate and Clem’s honest attitude. His voice was stratospheric. Holden was in shock. Finally he asked, “Avery, where did you get that much cash?”

“I sold a rug, lad.”

“A rug…”

“Don’t ask. Not allowed to tell.”

Holden felt plastered to his seat, he was so surprised by the whole, unlikely event. But he was worried. “I hope you held some money back, Avery.”

“I did. I did.”

“I mean for sales tax on the house and property tax, too. Right? Aren’t you going to have to pay taxes?”

Deane frowned, but he wasn’t going to be denied his celebration. “Oh that will all work out,” he said with confidence. “It always does.”

Of course, prudently, he had held back money: about $15,000. With it he paid Sandra, Khalil, the spinners and Cherise Hollander. At the same time, he put them all on the payroll again, all except Sandra. He commissioned them to make another rug. “I never got to see the last one after it was finished, boss.” Khalil said.

“This one’s going to be even better,” Deane told him.

Of course, to say that he put Khalil and the others on the payroll was an exaggeration. Deane had grossly misjudged the amount of money he should have held onto. In order to record the purchase of the vineyard he would have to pay all kinds of fees and taxes—an absurd amount; an outrageous and even maddening amount, Deane felt, and for some time he was in a rage. Finally, though, he realized that, really, the matter was between him and Clem. If Clem knew he had sold the place and Deane knew he had bought it, and Holden had witnessed the exchange, then it was their own business and there was no reason to get the bureaucrats involved. That way, by not bothering to record the sale, he was able to avoid a great many expenses.

Still, he had to go to Holden and ask for a loan of $5,000. “Tide me over, sort of thing,” he explained. “Forgot about petrol and all that driving back and forth to the farm.” In fact, he hardly had time even to visit his new digs. It would have been splendid if he could have staged the new rug project in the Napa Valley—gorgeous country in which to bring a new rug into being—but neither the spinners nor Khalil would be able to commute that far. So Deane had to keep the studio apartment and hope that Sandra would be kind about the rent money. And he had to count on his production team not to need wages right away.

Holden had been a little prickly about the loan. “What happened to all that cash you had?” he asked.

“I spent it. You were there, man. Were you blind?”


“I can’t very well bring in the whole crop myself, now can I? Have to hire someone to harvest the grapes. That kind of thing costs money. Have to spend it to make it, right? And then we’ll be rolling in money. Coming out of our ears! I’ll pay you back in the Fall plus I’ll throw in a barrel of Cabernet, one of Clem’s.”

“Have you forgotten about the Kirman? I still haven’t seen it.”

“Patience, lad. Worth waiting for.”

Of course Holden had sprung for the $5,000 as Deane knew he would. “The boy has a good heart. All those others took advantage of him: that old pirate, Ulysses Pope. Had Holden out there driving him around, getting together a bunch of his customers for the Ali Babbas and then he wouldn’t let him join. Well, we’re going to get even, aren’t we? Holden will hold that old man in the palm of his hand.”

But what about Sarah? Deane had been right: She had loved the dragon rug. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that she had turned down a chance to keep it. “It could have been on her wall right this moment and I could have been pouring her a glass of Pinot Noir as we admired it. But she wanted the money. Can’t blame her, even if it’s not my thing. She probably wouldn’t fancy sleeping in my car. Good enough for me, though. Under the stars.” Then he remembered his vineyard and the farmhouse, tucked away in the rolling Tuscany hills of the Napa Valley. “It doesn’t seem real, does it? Too good to be true. We’ll have to get out there again and have a party or something. Have a go at that wine in the barrels. The whole gang. Holden and his girlfriend, Khalil, the spinners, Sandra. I think I’ll forget Sarah. I’ll bet Sandra wouldn’t mind sleeping in a Porsche in a pinch. You can look right up at the stars through the moon roof. That’s what I like.”

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When a Dragon Winks

  • A novel by Emmett Eiland

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