John flipped through the paperwork one more time. There were property titles for a dozen properties, all built in 1946, all street names he didn't recognise. Things looked legit. But nothing was adding up.
Property 8, for example. Three-story townhouse, at 1128b Beveridge Drive. The first question that again popped into John's head is why the 'b'? Townhouses, in the prime location of Beveridge Drive, didn't share numbers.
John looked the address up on Google Street View. All he could see was 1128, and either side 1126, and 1130.
He closed the file and went into Jackie's office.
"Can I ask a question?" he said, knowing how it looked on his first day.
She peered up from her glasses, assessed the situation for a second, and then broke into a smile.
"Of course, take a seat."
"Thank you. This file isn't making sense to me."
"It doesn't seem right. There is something odd. I don't understand how it got this far with this many red flags."
"Oh," Jackie said, leaning back. "You have the Marlowe file."
John flipped to the front page and saw the surname Marlowe. "Yes, do you know it?"
"I thought we threw that out." There is a slight chuckle. "It's a first day prank. Of sorts." She reaches out for the file and John slides it across the desk.
"It's a real file, just a crackpot one. Katherine Marlowe's father placed these doll houses behind people's bushes years ago. He claimed, now she claims, to have adverse possession, and technically she might have a case. It's been forty-plus years. But no court has taken the case. No agent dare try to sell it and no bank will lend money against them."
"How many are there?"
"How many? Christ, a dozen. Or more. He built her these houses and told her they'd all be hers one day, and that they'd be worth a fortune."
John tried to picture a father's ambition and foresight to place the doll houses all around the city, hoping his daughter would benefit later in life.
"Crazy old coot still believes those weather-beaten houses are worth something. The owners, the real owners, got together and put caveats on their properties, preventing anyone from demolishing or removing them. A couple have even renovated their doll houses using their own money. And Katherine had the audacity to call the cops, claiming they had broken into her house."
John stood up after there was a prolonged silence.
"Two things, John, before you go. First, you can call her and tell her we considered her application again, but again, we’ve rejected it. She'll appreciate that someone looked into it. And second, the last guy who had the file almost approved the loan, so you're one step ahead of him. Well done."