(2018-11-05) Bodies in the Basement
Xavier gets frustrated and amused by Kate's marketing strategy.
Players:
xavier..katherine..

*

Breakfast is sitting out on warming plates, each covered to keep germs away. Eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes were on the menu today along with coffee and juice. The film crew from Wake Up, Calaveras is packing up and at the table is one Mitch Buchanan, being served breakfast by his co-star. His eyes are firmly glued on her ass as she makes him a plate, and he really doesn't make any effort to hide it. Katherine, unfortunately, is used to this and just ignores him. She sets his plate and coffee in front of him with a murmured, "Enjoy." Before she starts a new pot of coffee.

*

Xavier emerges, having been studiously absent during the filming. He is, yes, still in a suit, although one in a slightly different shade of grey, with a blue silk tie, as if he expects to be ambushed by a board meeting at any moment. He pauses in the doorway, taking in the scene for a moment, eyes lingering on Mitch at the table, before he says, "Good morning, Ms. Stone. Breakfast looks delicious." Instead of moving towards the food, though, he stares longingly at the new pot of coffee being made, and sidles in that direction. Mmmm, coffee.

*

"Hungry?" Katherine asks, sliding the pot on the warmed plate to start the brewing. She turns to grin at Xavier, holding a fresh cup of coffee in her right hand. "I poured this just before I started the new pot." She gingerly holds it out in his direction. "Mister Westin, this is Mitch Buchanan, he's my partner in crime on the morning show." She nods toward Mitch, watching him devour bacon like he might never see any again.

Mitch raises his head, nodding at Xavier. "Mr. Westin." The older man rumbles, fork in his eggs. "You'll like staying here, she's way too accomidating." He gestures with his fork toward Kate, smirking to himself as he offers Xavier a lewd wink. Kate just sighs and shakes her head, turning to pull the covers from the warming plates. "If you're hungry, Xavier, I'll fix you a plate."

*

Xavier looks at the cup of coffee like a starving man looks at his first meal in days - or, apparently, like Mitch looks at bacon at any point. Nonetheless, he offers Katherine a small smile. "I'm not going to take your cup of coffee, Ms. Stone. It seems that you have thoroughly earned it, this morning, already. I can wait." Mitch earns a long, neutral stare. "Mr. Buchanan. I haven't had a chance to catch the show, yet, but I look forward to it. And yes, Ms. Stone seems quite kind. You're lucky to have her as a co-host." He nods to her. "Thank you. A plate would be lovely." Then he moves to take a seat across the table from Mitch, studying the other man. "And what is it that you do, when not filming…ah, what was the show called again?"

*

Mitch chuckles lowly, "It's called Wake Up, Calaveras. I also work in the station researching and filming news." He says, turning to watch Katherine while she's fixing Xavier a plate. "I doubt I'll be doing the Wake Up show next year, we'll see." Katherine makes a plate pretty quickly, walking it over to Xavier and setting it in front of him. She sets down condiments and spices next to the plate, pepper, salt and syrup for the two pancakes. She also sets down that cup of coffee. "The new pot will be done in about three minutes, I'm going to go catch a quick shower while it finishes." She winks at Xavier and then turns a smile on Mitch. "Mitch, if you finish before I'm back, have a good rest of your day." She walks out of the kitchen, her voice heard laughing briefly with the crew as they finish up.

*

The look Xavier throws Katherine has just a touch of exasperation as she puts down that cup of coffee. He takes it, though, because /coffee/. "Thank you, Ms. Stone," he says, gravely. Then wraps one hand around the mug with the clear intention not to let go until it is bone dry. He nods to her in parting, then nibbles at the breakfast in between swallows of coffee as she goes upstairs. After Katherine has left, he asks, "Planning to hand over the show to Ms. Stone? She seems engaging and congenial enough."

*

"No, I was not very happy when Heather brought on a television novice to co-star with me. There were better candidates. If the show is going to go down, it won't happen while I'm on it." Mitch gets to his feet, carrying his plate to the sink and setting it inside. "She is very nice, but she's not really all that interested in the business. Most of us make it our life work." He nods to Xavier as he fixes his lapel, walking toward the great room. "Enjoy your stay here, hospitality is what she's good at."

Katherine walks in a few minutes after Mitch steps out dressed in a comfortable pair of jammie pants and a tank top. "How is breakfast?" She asks, serving herself and getting some fresh coffee. "Did you sleep okay? The noise didn't bother you, did it?"

*

Xavier watches Mitch put up his plate and go, expression thoughtful. He's still sitting silently, drinking his coffee, when Katherine arrives. His smile is brief. "Breakfast is quite good - much better than I'm accustomed to, to be honest. And noise rarely bothers me; I'm quite accustomed to sleeping in hotels. You either learn to sleep despite drunken conventioneers in the halls, or you go crazy and shoot someone." His attention turns fully to her, just short of outright staring, his brow furrowed slightly.

*

Kate takes a seat at the table, pulling her foot up on the chair, resting her chin on her knee. "I'm glad for that, I still wonder if I did the right thing allowing them to film here." She chuckles softly and crunches into a piece of bacon, gazing back at Xavier. "I'm glad you like the food, if you're here for lunch we're having chicken florentine." She pours herself some orange juice and drinks from it. "Mitch was polite, wasn't he?" She asks, her brow furrowed slightly as she eyes Xavier. "I mean, he's usually polite, but you look a bit…" She trails off, not finding the word she wants.

*

"What are you charging them for the use of your facilities? And are you feeding the entire crew each day, or just your co-host?" Xavier settles back in his chair, coffee held protectively against his chest, although there's no more than a swallow left. "He was polite," he claims. His free hand tap tap taps on the kitchen table. "I believe that since I've arrived, Ms. Stone, I've spoken to about a half-dozen people either in your presence or," a wave of his cup, "about my lodgings. They all seem to agree: you're too kind."

*

"I do not charge them, no. I enjoy working from home." Katherine does cast a guilty look toward the food, frowning slightly. "I do feed them all, if they're hungry, a lot of them get food before they come to work though." She raises her eyebrows at Xavier, fidgeting with her cup as he speaks. "Too kind, more than I should be? I…yes, sometimes I can be?" She clears her throat and puts eggs in her mouth to forestall any more words. She aims a crooked smile at the man across the table, wrinkling her nose.

*

Xavier sighs, reaching up to stroke the blade of his nose. "Ms. Stone. You are charging me forty dollars a night for inclusive service, and full meals. You seem to feed every person who walks into your kitchen. You take on discarded livestock. You have a, what, maximum capacity at the bed and breakfast of eight rooms? Assuming single occupancy at max seven days a week, that is still only a gross profit of just under two thousand dollars a week. What does your operating budget even look like?" He finishes off his coffee, stands, and goes to the pot to pour another. Returning, he pauses to take a bite of eggs before continuing, "You should be charging me three times the rate you are. Particularly in ski season."

*

Katherine glances down at the table, her eyes are wide now, nodding along with Xavier. "I ..don't really have a budget, I do what I can when I can do it. My parents left us comfortable, but.." She glances out at the yard, watching the goat hop around for a moment before her gaze drags back to Xavier. "Three times the rate? Do you really think people would pay so much? It seems like.. a lot." She picks up another piece of bacon, nibbling on it as she gets a little bit lost in thought.

*

When she says she doesn't have a budget, Xavier looks at her like she's just confessed to storing the bodies of guests in her basement. Really, he might be /less/ shocked about that. He rubs at his face, and mutters something behind his hand that sounds like, "Christalmighty." There's a moment for him to drink coffee. "It's a lovely building - strong design, good construction, quaint decor. The location isn't perfect, but it should attract those who want a retreat that's still convenient to the amenities of the town. Did you do any research on seasonal rates for similar establishments before setting your prices?"

*

Katherine looks alarmed as Xavier rubs his hand over his face. She opens her mouth to defend herself, but it snaps shut when he starts to speak again. She pulls her phone out, and pulls up the rates for the Winchester Hotel, located downtown. "I looked here, I didn't look at the ski resort, because I could never match their amenities." She thumbs her phone and holds it out for Xavier to look at, even as tension has coiled in her shoulders. What if he decides to move. "The hotel charges one hundred and forty dollars a night, they have room service and the furniture is antique and .." She sets her phone down, frowning. "Honestly, when this all came to me, it was just me trying to keep my head above water when everything else was crashing around me."

*

Xavier leans forward, and nods. "Yes. It's a good location, and it can offer things that you can't." He leans back. "But you can offer things that the Winchester can't, as well. You wouldn't be going for the same clientele." He gives the kitchen a thoughtful once over. "If I were designing the marketing campaign, I'd highlight the image of a serene, welcoming haven surrounded by the pristine, falling snow. 'Family-style, homecooked meals'," he gestures as if writing ad copy in the air, "with an emphasis on being family owned and operated, and use your - apparently copious - contacts with the rest of the town to be able to provide unique experiences showcasing some of the less touristy and more authentic aspects of the city. You can't compete in volume, or in the high end amenities, but you'd be surprised how much people are willing to pay to feel as if they are truly /guests/, and not just occupants." He takes a sip. "Your co-host was right about at least one thing; you excel at hospitality. You just have to do so without letting people take advantage of your good nature."

*

"You mean, advertise? I ..generally rely on people who visited the year before. I think almost all of my ski season guests are people who stayed with me last year or the year before. " Katherine glances around the kitchen, her teeth biting gently at her lower lip. She gazes back at Xavier and raises her eyebrows. "Mitch said that I was good at something?" She looks a mix of pleased and surprised, sitting up straighter. "I like to help people. I don't like the thought of someone being hungry when I can help them. I know that..people do take advantage of that, but well.." She glances around again, seeing the kitchen through his eyes. "So ..advertise in the paper? Maybe..conjure up a website? I just…won't I turn into the people I'm trying to compete against?"

*

"You…you don't advertise?" Xavier gets that look on his face again. The bodies-in-the-basement look. "When the person at the station suggested your establishment, I thought that was clever preparation - the hometown 'word of mouth' campaign." He sighs. "Right. Do you hit capacity during the ski season? Or the off season? /Constant/ capacity, I mean, not just a good night here or there? If the answer is 'no', then yes, you need to advertise. Luckily," his voice turns dry, "you already have a platform. I assume you're getting paid to co-host Wake Up, Calaveras, or at /least/ have a scripted opportunity on each show to highlight the bed and breakfast and what you offer? Locals looking for a romantic getaway, or just a night away from home, can be a good supplemental customer base." To the last, he just gives her a blank look. "What, financially solvent?"

*

Katherine winces, trying not to laugh at the look on his face. It is kind of comical. "It's just word of mouth because people come here quite often for food, or…I mean..I have a lot of friends in town?" She clears her throat and tilts her head, a smile appearing on her face. "During the ski season I have people who sleep in the great room when I don't have a room available, they enjoy the company here. I've had to give up my room a time or two. The kitchen is always bustling, and sometimes some of the women help me cook." She glances around and sighs. "The off season? I keep two or three rooms full at any given time, people come here and they like to stay. They don't like to leave." She aims him a deadpan look at his final jab, a smirk tugging at the corners of her lips. "I do well for myself, better than some people might actually think."

*

There's a thoughtful, wordless noise from Xavier. "Not as bad as I'd feared, then," he mutters, half to himself. He finishes off his eggs, and moves onto the bacon with methodical neatness. "Although if you raise your rates, then you can afford to tell people no. An air of exclusivity and the need to book in advance would add to the appeal, and encourage people to consider booking in the off season - especially if you partnered with local ranches or other places that could offer non-snow entertainments." He pauses, a piece of bacon halfway to his mouth, then winces. He puts the bacon down, wipes his fingers on a napkin. "Ah…I should apologize. It's not actually my place to critique your business plans."

*

"The woman who owns the spa mentions me to her customers, and we've exchanged coupons and stuff." Katherine drinks her coffee, a dreamy look on her face before she gazes back at Xavier, eyebrows raised again. "You don't have to apologize, Xavier. I ..muddle through life at the best of times, with so much going on in my life I don't think of things like this. I try really hard to keep it together for everyone else, but I kind of flounder here." She drinks from her cup again, setting it down on the table. "Your advice is welcome, and probably something I needed to hear a year ago." She brushes her hair away from her face. "I bet you're an expensive fellow to hire, and you've just given me all this for free."

*

"Not a bad start," Xavier admits. "And relying on word of mouth isn't," he grimaces, "the worst possible thing." It sounds like it caused him physical pain to say that. He focuses back on her as she speaks. "You should think of it," he says, simply. "What you've done is dangerous - tying your family fortunes to a small business. Most fail within five years, and without careful incorporation, your personal assets can be seized in the event of bankruptcy. And hospitality is an industry with small margins, generally." Then he smiles. "It took spine and courage to take that risk, considering the circumstances, and to refuse to take the easy road out of selling the house and scaling down. I can respect that. But if this," a wave of the mug to encompass the entire bed and breakfast, "is something that you actually /want/ to do, not just something that you tossed at the wall and hoped would work out for now, then you need to commit to it. Not for other people, but because it's /your/ business and you want to be a success."

*

Xavier adds after a pause and a drink, "And I am very expensive to hire, yes."

*

"Word of mouth will fail me if what you have in mind for the city comes to fruition." Katherine says slowly, watching him as she speaks, mug in hand. "It was either give this a shot or work at a fast food joint to support myself and my sisters. I think the first year, a lot of people sent tourists and other people my way..because they felt bad about my situation. Then people got a taste of what it was like to stay here and they actually enjoyed themselves." She swirls her coffee, sighing. "It wasn't spine and courage, it was …pure frantic grasping at any straw I could get my hands on." She glances around, lips pursed as she thinks about his words, and then she aims a sly look at him. "How expensive?"

*

Xavier grins. "You don't even know what I have in mind, Ms. Stone, so determining that seems a little premature." He returns to the bacon, neat little bites that nonetheless make it disappear rather quickly. "And that /is/ spine and courage, you know. When you felt overwhelmed, you fought back for what mattered to you. Just because it wasn't pretty or planned, doesn't mean it wasn't brave." He leans back at her question, his eyes going half-lidded. "I don't typically accept consultation contracts for less than five figures, and design contracts are rarely under three hundred thousand." It's said simply; a recitation of facts rather than an obvious boast.

*

"You drive me insane, Xavier. Can't you call me Kate, or Katherine? I promise, I won't feel special or anything, but Ms. Stone just seems so.. cold." Katherine watches him eat, a mix of facinated and amused, but his next words make her cheeks flush. She gets up to refresh her coffee, and she nearly drops the pot as he tosses out the figures, blinking as she glances at him over her shoulder. "Oh..my word." She murmurs, putting the pot back on the hot plate, walking slowly toward the table. "People..pay that much?" She sinks back into her chair, blinking at Xavier. "Wow."

*

Xavier laughs, softly. "Katherine, then. You'll have to remind me if I slip," he says, with a grin. "My mother was very strict about manners." He watches her as she goes to get the coffee, then laughs again at her reaction. "People do, yes. Although, to be fair - we specialize in corporate contracts, not private residences. For a design contract, we're working on things like headquarters, or upper-end condos. Buildings where the space will then be leased or sold for an exponentially larger sum than we charge to build it. For our self-directed projects, what we end up selling the completed buildings for depends on our overhead. My last project had costs upwards of five hundred thousand, once all the residuals had been figured in, and we sold it to investors for," a brief pause as he thinks, "Two point five, I believe. And some change."

*

Kate nods at Xavier, a happy smile on her face when he actually calls her by name. "You're going to think this is silly.." She ducks her head, taking a drink before she continues to speak. "My big dream, besides doing catering because I found that I enjoy that, was to actually buy the Winchester and renovate it and actually …get fully into the hospitality business." She rests her cheek against her hand, sighing softly. "They haven't been doing good for years, barely keeping things fresh for the tourist season." She eyes Xavier with amusement, tilting her head against her hand as she laughs softly. "I can't even fathom those types of numbers as a turn around. I thought what the hotel wanted to sell for was insane." She shifts, pulling her foot back up on the chair. "So do you enjoy your work as much as you seem to?"

*

"That's not silly," Xavier says, with a shrug. "It seems a reasonable progression, to me, once you have the experience under your belt to run an operation of that size." He smiles at her laugh and sigh. "To be fair, most of it goes directly back into the business - rents, operating expenses, salary for myself and employees. The rest into investments. And yes, I quite enjoy what I do. Both the work, and the money." He admits it without shame. He looks down into the nearly empty coffee cup. "What are they asking for the Winchester?"

*

"Six hundred thousand, it's in need of renovation. Half of the rooms aren't being utilized because of problems or necessary repairs." Katherine murmurs, resting her chin against her palm. "I've been saving for two years, and with the money left to me by my parents, I could probably afford it..but.." She chuckles and then sighs, slumping a bit in her chair. "If it failed, I'd have nothing left. I don't think my parents left me this money to throw at something like that, they wanted their kids to be able to take care of things, not chase a pipe dream." She swings her leg that isn't pulled up on a chair back and forth, chuckling softly. "I don't want to regret life, not anymore than I sometimes already do."

*

Xavier makes another of those thoughtful noises, his eyes unfocusing for a moment as he does calculations in his head. "It's a risk, particularly if you are attempting to foot the bill yourself." He finishes off his coffee, puts the mug down. "Are you willing to accept investors? You'd give up some of your autonomy - investors would expect to have a say, or at least be well-informed, in the operation of the establishment. But it would distribute the risk, and you can set up the contract to allow a later buy out for a reasonable sum, if the hotel succeeds." He glances down at her leg. "I can't say anything about what your parents would want, Ms…I mean, Katherine. But it's your life, and only you can decide what you're willing to take on."

*

"I don't know much about that, investors that is, or how to acquire them or ..well that's a whole lot of business that I'm not familiar with." Katherine picks up a rogue piece of bacon on her plate, crunching into it. "If I knew more about it, knew what I could expect, I might be willing to entertain it. Saying yes seems dangerous though, because it opens a door that I never expected to have to walk through." She gestures to the coffee pot. "More coffee?"

*

Xavier glances at the coffee pot, then shakes his head. "Not right now." He finishes off the last of his plate. "And that is a very interesting response." His eyes glitter with some sharp amusement. "If you were to explore the possibilities, I would probably suggest beginning with a business plan and the budget you'd need to get the hotel back into viable business. Any investor is going to want to see one."

*

"I wouldn't have any clue how to do any of that." Katherine looks pained, letting out a breath as she runs fingers through her hair. "With everything that is already on my plate, I would literally have to sit down between meals, google business plan, and then fly by the seat of my jammie pants." She laughs at the absurdity of the situation. "We'll see, it's been a pipe dream for two years now, it can remain one for a while longer." She gets to her feet, picking up plates to carry them to the sink. "Should I expect you for lunch?"

*

Xavier stands. "A conundrum indeed," he agrees, still looking amused. "Well, I have every expectation that you'll figure it out. If you wish to." To the question, he shakes his head. "Not today, I think. Provided that the sky does not attempt to bury me in fluffy white death, I have some property visits to make. But it was a pleasure having breakfast with you." He inclines his head, and turns to go.

*

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