The Eddie Show: Season Opener

Last Fall the Duggan Sisters cautioned customers that they might experience some minor glitches in our customer service. Please know, we advised, that we are undertaking substantial repairs to the cottage. We asked for patience when we should have asked for prayers. We should have been asking folks to call 9-1-1. We should have had our heads examined. We should have seen Eddie coming, but we didn’t. Because all the wouldas, couldas and shouldas in the world weren’t sufficient to prepare us for the performance (con) artist we came to call Cousin Eddie. Or, as an investigator in the Attorney General’s office counseled us a few months later, “some people are very good at being very bad.” And Eddie, our contractor of choice, was indeed very, very good at being very, very bad.  

We comfort ourselves now with reminders that we’d been very careful and exercised every form of due diligence in selecting a contractor to repair our cottage. For each of the areas damaged by a major summer storm we’d gotten 3 bids: 3 roofing companies, 3 painting companies, and 3 carpenters. It was exhausting and time consuming and prices were all over the place. But we knew that we needed to be our own contractor to keep the work within a strict budget. And so, we interviewed and studied. Finally, in late Fall, we had our top choices and a dilemma. More than one company had cautioned us that there was a serious problem with one of our foundation posts – a problem the insurance claims adjuster had not notated or budgeted for. The estimates to fix it were whopping and skewed our carefully constructed budget. It began to look like we might need to use a contractor after all – one outfit able to take on the full scope of the job, and work with the complexities of our insurance settlement. Enter Eddie.

I’ve retraced that pivotal moment countless times in recent days as we have tried to figure out what the hell just happened. How did our careful consideration and detailed spreadsheets, our analysis and information gathering, lead us right smack dab into the arms of Eddie. The best I’ve got? Eddie was a marvel – comedian, storyteller and rehabber all rolled into one hell of a fun package. Eddie swept into our lives with all the right lingo. Everything he said about our home and its needs matched perfectly with all the other legitimate tradesmen we’d interviewed; but Eddie was different. He deftly aligned his vision for what the finished product would look like with my deepest dreams for our long-neglected little cottage. Like every great con he had a real talent for identifying the deepest longings and wounds of his victims and assuring them that all the broken promises and shoddy workmanship of previous tradesmen was a thing of the past. Eddie had arrived and once and for all things were going to be done properly, on time, and for a much fairer price.

Sure, there were red flags and we acknowledged them. But we also listened to friends more experienced with home renovation than we were and they cautioned extreme patience: expect delays, snafus and disappointments. So as the delays occurred we expressed our disappointment, kept a detailed calendar of promises made and not kept, went with the flow, acknowledged the difficulty of working outside in the wettest October EVER, followed by the coldest November EVER, and for sure equipment can break down we got that and critical employees do sustain terrible injuries and we truly hoped Raphael would be okay and for sure when your brother-in-law passes away suddenly, in Boston, you have to go to be by your sister’s side, and in the process get a really bad sore throat and who’d imagine that at age 50 you’d suddenly have to have your tonsils removed and then, dear Lord, who could have imagined such debilitating complications would ensue. And so, we’d greet Eddie’s sporadic and unannounced check-ins with sincere friendliness and a soothing cup of honeyed tea and accept with equanimity the passing weeks and then months of nothing getting done. Because we believed in Eddie and he’d made sure of that.


Eddie sitting with Mary

From the very beginning of our project, hurrying was a consistent characteristic of Eddie’s management style. He repeatedly assured us that despite a late Fall start he could absolutely manage the challenging weather while simultaneously repairing both the inside and outside of the house. He had the manpower and bandwidth to do just that. But he needed us to get moving NOW. When I would challenge Eddie that it seemed more sensible to wait for Spring to start the project, he would have no part of it. When he told me the real reason why he was in such a rush to get our job started and finished I was flabbergasted. But it was just so damn Eddie – so flamboyant and over the top that I accepted it. I was all in Eddie.

It also didn’t help that Eddie dropped his calendar on me in the middle of the absolute chaos of men arriving and ladders going up and instructions being delivered in the crazy Spanglish Eddie spoke. Because that’s when Eddie informed me, with an enormous smile on his face, that he was going to be leaving the country for a while on a very special trip around the world performing charitable acts for needy kids in 8 different countries. Okay, over the top enough? Schools would be built, wells drilled, libraries stocked with books – with everything was being financed by Eddie – a worldwide expression of gratitude for the extraordinary success he’d enjoyed.

“I’m leaving the country with $200,000 cash in my pockets and I’m not coming back until it’s gone,” Eddie announced. “And it’s all for the kids,” he said, clasping the enormous gold crucifix that hung around his neck. “So, we’ve gotta move like the wind – there’s a ton of work to be done here. And I want everything perfect before I leave.”

Months later as the whole sordid mess unfolded, we learned the true nature of Eddie’s going away – he was out on bond and scheduled to turn himself in to authorities in a matter of months to begin serving his next stint in the State Penitentiary! His wild philanthropic story provided him a dramatic cover for his imminent departure; and no doubt flew better with customers than I need to get all of this done before I’m thrown back in the slammer. Eddie was a 5’5”, 220 lb. fireplug of a thug who ran us ragged, wasted our time, stole our money, trashed our home and then got lucky when a global pandemic shut down the courts and forced the emptying of prisons just as authorities were readying to pick him up. But, I’m getting ahead of myself here and when this pandemic recedes Eddie is still looking at 15-25 years. He is, as the nuns used to say to us, ‘here on borrowed time.’

The wait part of Eddie’s hurry up and wait strategy kicked in immediately, as well. Before the contracts were finalized, Eddie directed us to get cracking. His arms outspread like a symphonic conductor he stressed that he needed us to strip down and pack “all of this” – taking in the living and dining room with his sweeping arms – IMMEDIATELY. He was sending painters to prep the rooms within days. Simultaneously he’d have a separate crew tear off the roof, repair the damaged soffit and fascia, and replace the shingles while he personally removed the front porch and steps and rebuilt them. We were delighted that all the glowing reviews referencing his large and talented crew were true – shock and awe teams were going to descend on the cottage. We needed to move like the wind and we were happy to. And so we packed professionally, efficiently, and furiously into matching boxes, carefully labelled and neatly stacked. That was last October. It is now early April, and those boxes remain in their tidy stacks. Because Eddie wasn’t running a construction company – he was running a sophisticated scam.

Our worries began day one when Eddie dropped off Andres, a perfectly lovely brick layer, to remove the living and dining room wallpaper and prep the walls for painting. Andres, the brick layer, knew absolutely nothing about removing wallpaper but his highly skilled supervisor was due any minute – which didn’t stop the chaos from ensuing immediately. I flew into rapid response save-the-drywall, save the floors, save everything mode while Clare tried to track down Eddie – to no avail. And so, on day one Clare and I (with a tiny bit of incompetent assistance from the brick layer) removed all the wallpaper ourselves, rolled up the rugs and pads, moved the furniture, insisted on drop cloths, laid them ourselves, and then taped off all the wood trim. Got the picture? We were not off to a good start and Eddie heard about it. At the very end of that very long day the lead painter arrived – 5 hours late – but with assurances that he’d return in the morning and all would be well. At least I think that’s what he said. He spoke no English and such rapid-fire Spanish that even Clare who is perfectly fluent had trouble deciphering. The brick layer, who’d done next to nothing, kept repeating how exhausted he was – like he was completely unused to working. Which was red flag number I don’t remember which. And we’d just gotten started. A tradesman unused to actual work.

Mary teaches bricklayer to remove wallpaper

Day two was another version of the same nonsense. Raphael, the painter, arrived and proceeded to do some of the most incompetent patching and prepping I’d ever seen. Fortunately, he was mostly busy with his girlfriend on his phone so that limited the damages somewhat. Though he did manage to clumsily hang a plastic “wall” to separate our living/dining combination in such a way that when it finally fell down weeks later it took a substantial amount of our wall with it. Mostly he spent the day “watching paint dry” as Clare described it; though that was inaccurate as painting of any sort never happened in our cottage. Only promises of mañana.

Also we were largely distracted from Raphael’s day two shenanigans because Eddie had showed up as well, again with the brick layer, and hustled us off to Home Depot to select materials for a beautiful new custom brick walkway! Which was not part of the contract. Assuring us that it was a perk from Eddie, we were now dealing with a new brick walkway. And there you have, another feature of rehab The Eddie Way: expand the job, without warning, in super exciting ways, at little to no extra cost, but leave the actual contracted labor undone, poorly done, or half done. Distraction was the name of the game. Our heads were always spinning, our imaginations were always sparking, and we were always running to keep up with the “at little or no cost add-ons” from Eddie. Clare was rewriting and updating the contract on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.

Let’s face it, Eddie was magic. With all the walls getting freshly painted, new electrical outlets would, of course, be installed as well. And the electric checked in the process. And those dated sconces and ceiling fans? Ladies, I need you to get to Menard’s right now and pick out new ones while they’re on sale. That was Eddie – always popping for updates to the cottage. The insurance company paid for repair of the damaged woodwork surrounding the sun room windows.  But Eddie, for pennies more, would replace them completely. And since 4 windows were being replaced why not swap out one of them with a door and create an opening for a small balcony on the back of the house. Mary’s ten-year-old dream come true. A way finally to sit outside and have a cup of coffee without navigating the damn stairs. Remember that super con ability to look deeply into a victim’s soul and see all the longing there? Yep, Eddie was magic.

Eddie pulled down every red flag we raised with his stated and restated desire to create a perfect little jewel box out of our weary little shack-teau. He wanted a showcase in our neighborhood to show off to prospective clients. Eddie had big plans for establishing himself in our little historic district and we were the lucky folks he’d selected to show off his considerable talents. Our soon to be adorable little cottage would be Eddie’s best advertising and the business would come rolling in. “Plus, I just love you sisters and I can afford to treat you a little. I’m just putting it out there and when I get back from my world tour for the kids the money is going to come rolling in. You just wait and see.” Like the Oprah spiritual-pop phenomenon, The Secret, I thought. And I was kind of right because for sure Eddie had a secret.

Mary with the bricklayer

Advance to Episode 2 >>

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2 Responses to “The Eddie Show: Season Opener”

  1. Kitty says:

    OMG! I’m almost sick reading your journal (jouney) with this crook! Can’t read anumore right now; will get back to Episode 2 soon. As if it’s not bad enough to deal with this pandemic. My prayers are with you.

    • Mary Duggan says:

      Hi Kitty, I am sorry to have made you upset and I hope you did get back and finish the blog. Trust me that the Duggan sisters will be fine and so will our broken little cottage. I have to agree though, isn’t a pandemic hard enough without Eddie out there scamming people. We hesitated to tell our story because we did not want to be an upsetting message at such a difficult time. Then we found out that his arrest had been delayed and he was back up to his tricks so we knew we had to use our little blog to hopefully spread the word. Thanks again for your support and your prayers. We’ll take all the good wishes we can get. Stay home and safe and well. Mary

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