Mr. Ikeda regarded me steadily for a full minute before breaking the silence.
“Would you like ginger lemon or brown rice?”
Jumping slightly at the sound of his voice, my eyes flew up to meet Mr. Ikeda’s. “Um…”
“Tea, would you like ginger lemon or brown rice?”
“Good choice.” Pulling a tin out from under his bench, he set it atop with a soft clink. “Now, if you’ll make the hot beverages, I’ll grab some plates and forks for the cake.”
Dizzy at the turn of events, I concentrated on not dribbling hot water onto Mr. Ikeda’s workbench as I rehydrated bits of ginger root, lemon peel, and tea leaves. By the time he rejoined me, I’d already removed the bags from two perfectly steeped mugs of tea, the cover from the cake, and been able to study his HO scale replica in some detail.
Distracted from the discrepancy I’d discovered in the pocket-sized version of Rye, I returned Mr. Ikeda’s genial smile with a wane one of my own when he reentered the room. “Sorry to make you wait, it took longer to figure out where my wife stored the cake knife and server than I’d thought it would. Well, that and I fed the disreputable three an early lunch so we could enjoy our treat…” He let out a low whistle as he looked over the intricate icing, strategically applied powdered sugar and sugar work. “…in peace. That looks too lovely to eat.”
“Thank-you. I wish I could say it’s nothing, but that would be a lie, it took forever to frost.”
Picking the base of the cake carrier up, Mr. Ikeda slowly turned in his hands, taking in the details of the house. “This really is splendid.”
“Well, here’s to hoping it tastes half as good as it looks, one never knows for sure.”
Setting the cake back onto the bench, I declined his silent invitation to perform the honors, so he took up the knife and shaved off two equal measures of gingerbread. Handing me one, Mr. Ikeda set his piece next to his mug of (now) tepid tea and retook his seat. Following his lead, I sat across from him as before. Though I left my plate of cake untouched, as the inscrutability of his expression caused grasshoppers to ricochet uncomfortably about my insides.
“So tell me, have you decided to terminate just Western Mutual’s lease, or are planning to cancel others as well?”
Taking a deep breath, I answered on the exhale. “We need to terminate all of them. It’s the only way to obtain enough square footage to satisfy the conditions of the loan.”
Nodding to himself for a moment, he gave me an affable but shrewd look. “But you came to me first, hoping I’d rescind the loan call. Correct?”
Firming up my shoulders, I looked the Chief Financial Officer for Western Regional bank squarely in the eye. “I can’t lie, it’s exactly what I’d hoped.”
Initially, Little Ben and I planned to go on bended knee to the bank branch he applied for the loan at – but then Beatrice and Ira found a Hail Mary.
Stashed in Big Ben’s safe were deeds, with accompanying leases, for various pieces of real estate around Rye. Sifting through the boggling number of rental agreements, which included some of my favorite spots, dives, and joints – we discovered one for the headquarters of Western Regional Bank, signed by their CFO. We decided to appeal to Mr. Ikeda directly, hoping he’d listen and ignore the grand opportunity to acquire the land lying underneath his business’s main building.
Washing down his last bite with a sip of tea, he set aside his empty plate and fork. “I appreciate you bringing this to my attention, I will raise this issue with the appropriate parties tomorrow morning….”
Wetting my lips with a sip of tea, in hopes of banishing my sudden bout of cottonmouth, I tried to clarify his words. “I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what that means exactly.”
Peering over the top rim of his glasses, Mr. Ikeda gave me a sympathetic smile. “It means you are more than welcome to stay and help me build a new house form my miniature, but our discussion on the loan and the bank’s lease are finished.”
A wave of panic washed over me.
Flipping open my folder, I started scrounging thru the documents. “Please, Mr. Ikeda, hear me out. I’ve nullified all the factors listed in the loan call….” (And let me tell you that was a job of work.) Holding out two sheets of paper, I waited for Mr. Ikeda to take them. When he gave me another kind smile, I returned them to the folder sitting in my lap and summed them up at a pell-mell pace. “….At noon today, the Historical Society and Naturalists issued a press release formally ending their protests…”
Cutting in, as my lungs demanded air, the unflappable Mr. Ikeda stuck to his guns. “Exemplary work Ms. Arden, truly. But nothing you say will change my mind.”
In response to my rising frustration, my neurons started firing unhelpful instructions to my extremities, leading to a faint tremor in my left hand and a frantic bounce in my right knee. “We’ve also sent letters to KARB and ‘Rise and Shine Rye’ asking them to post corrections and clarifications for the errors made in their coverage of Nevermore’s troubles. Which will help rehabilitate Nevermore’s reputation in Rye. Plus, we’re working on a deal to supply a local food bank in Rye with fresh produce, a new green initiative, and low-cost art spaces…”
Using a fork full of gingerbread from his second slice to emphasize his points, Mr. Ikeda skillfully removed the wind from my sails.
“Ms. Arden, have you ever heard the term, Mutuality of Obligation?”
“Are you an expert in contract law or possess a degree in finance?”
Worried any words issued from my mouth at this moment would reflect only my emotions – I shook my head no in response.
“Then, this topic is closed. Now, if you’d like to stay, I’d be more than happy to teach you the right way to weather a post office.”