Tuesday morning is a bit of a blur. After I got an OK to move to my friend's house on the Cape, we immediately started packing. My brother had done more research and came up with a number of newspaper articles about the landlord which described her as a local nuisance—rude and obstinate in public meetings, a trouble maker and a fraud. He made a call to the landlord to let her know that we were leaving and to let her know we expected a refund for unused days, and the full security deposit back. She was furious, and said she wouldn't refund anything since we had broken the washing machine, the tiki bar and all of the outdoor furniture. We shuffled the kids outside to get them out of earshot of the heated squabble that ensued. She couldn't have known we put together the old tiki bar on Sunday unless she had somehow peeked behind the house. She must been spying on us, or so my brother concluded, and he was even more resolute about getting our money back no matter what we had to do to get it.
.My parents kept the kids occupied and helped them pack up their gear while Vicki and I got a carload of stuff ready for Dave and I to take a trip to the Falmouth house. As we were packing the car, the neighbors from across the street came over to find out what all of the commotion was about. My brother gave them a quick summary of the 3 days we had been there, that we were fed up, cheated, and had found another place to go for the rest of the week. They were completely sympathetic, if a little gun shy, explaining that that they, too, were not supposed to speak to any renters because of pending litigation. They confirmed our suspicions and the accusations that we had heard about the landlord, and added that she had a pending case against every house on the street. They were compassionate and funny, sad to see us go but completely understanding. They would have been fun to hang out with under any other circumstances.
We left my parents in Fairhaven with the kids when we took the first trip to Falmouth. Vicki cleaned every inch of that house so the landlord could not argue about the condition of it. Dave, in the meantime, was leaving messages for the landlord about when we would be leaving and reminding her that we were going to fight her every inch of the way until our money was returned. He had missed his opportunity to talk to her in person when I met her yesterday, and really wanted there to be no doubt that she would return our security deposit. The landlord refused to pick up his calls, but left colorful and downright nasty messages on his voicemail. She refused to come collect the key or inspect the property before we left. My mom, who watches a little too much NCIS and CourtTV, wanted a record of when we we left and the condition of the house so she asked the police to come inspect the house and let us turn over the key to them. They were not interested in our domestic dispute, so we packed the last of the items into our cars, left the key on the table and headed off down the street.
My brother led the procession in his pickup, and just as he passed the neighbor's house, the landlord's SUV came up the street in the opposite direction. Dave rolled down his window to spout off one last snappy comment and she flipped him off out the window. He returned the favor, all of us cheering, then turned the corner and headed to the highway.
The rest of the week was as perfect as any Cape vacation could be—we went to the beach, biked trails, read, played mini golf, and ate seafood and ice cream. It wasn't until Thursday that we had calmed down enough to talk about the beginning of the trip, and all of us had privately checked out the landlord and the property listing online multiple times to see what we missed. Looking with fresh eyes, it was obvious the photos were doctored, and that we were "sold" on the fake reviews. So many of the amenities in the listing turned out to be a stretch or just plain untrue. We did try to add our own review of the house and the landlord, but it never showed up on the site, and a few months later the listing was removed.
In the long run, Vicki was the only one who could get a response out of the landlord, and after a while she did finally agree to return the security deposit. While we played out all kinds of Perry Mason courtroom scenarios in our minds, we decided not to sue her and have to rehash the experience all over again. I still search VRBO every once in a while to see if the house comes up, and if she still uses those same photos from the magazine shoot to lure in guests. And I do love it when Hans calls me an animal every once in a while, just in fun.