THE VACANT INDUSTRIAL space that Realtor Gretchen Wik was trying to unload was located in a recently gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood called Bushwick. The area was becoming trendier by the month, but this particular building was cold and dead—and apparently unsellable.
Gretchen had been sitting at her sales table on the first floor since noon, tapping her nails while she stared out through a grime-coated window. In five hours, she had not been visited by a single prospect.
The property consisted of nine thousand square feet on two levels. But it was run-down and needed a lot of work. At this point, Gretchen felt like the worn wood floors and flaking brick walls were mocking her. She checked her watch. In exactly two minutes, her open house would officially be a bust.
Then she heard the front door open.
“Hello?” A voice from the entry hall. Gretchen’s pulse perked up. She pushed back her chair and walked briskly toward the door, her three-inch heels clicking on the hardwood. She rounded the corner to the entryway.
“It’s you!” said a tall, light-skinned Black man in a camel overcoat. For a second, Gretchen was thrown. Then the man pointed at the folding sign in the foyer, the one with Gretchen’s face plastered on it.
“Right. Yes,” said Gretchen, turning on her best smile. “Positive ID.” She held out her hand. “Gretchen Wik, Lexington Realty.”
“Brendan,” said the visitor, “Holmes.” He had large brown eyes and a neatly shaved head. Gretchen did her routine two-second overview. Coat: expensive, well tailored. Shoes: Alexander McQueen. This guy might be a lookie-loo, but at least he didn’t seem like a total waste of time. And right now, he was the only game in town.
“Welcome to your future,” said Gretchen. She waved her arm toward the open space. Then she heard the door opening again.
“Sorry, have I missed it?” Another male voice.
This time it was a fit, compact man with wavy, dark hair and the kind of thin moustache that can look either silly or sexy, depending on the owner. On him, Gretchen thought it worked—kind of brooding and rakish at the same time. Most important, he was another prospect. The day was looking up.
“You’re in luck,” she said. “Right under the wire.”
“I’m Auguste. Auguste Poe.” Soft voice, with a solemn tone. And the slightest wisp of liquor on his breath.
“I’m Gretchen,” said the agent. She paused for a second as the names registered. Wait. First somebody named Holmes, and now Poe? What were the odds? Or was this some kind of put-on?
Before Gretchen could ask any questions, both men walked ahead of her into the main space. She caught up and launched into her spiel—the same one she’d been practicing at her lonely table all morning.
“Gentlemen, you’re looking at the very best bargain in Bushwick. Late nineteenth century construction, slate roof, terra cotta details, original skylights . . .”
“Pardon me? Anybody home?” The door again. A female voice this time, with a charming British accent.
Gretchen switched on her greeting smile again, getting even more excited. Two minutes ago, she had zero prospects.
Now, suddenly, she had three.