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The Partnership

"Gentlemen, I gather that you are both enthusiastic about the technical and financial prospects of our venture. But the question before us is 'Do we have a venture?' Is Ian going to leave tomorrow and return to Pontiac Motors? I have an offer to start teaching in the fall. Am I going to be there? Is Tom going to go and do whatever he had in mind before all this came up? Or are we going to take our newfound capital and work together to develop this new technology?"

"Well, uh, of course!" I said, "I mean, this is a clean shot at a fifteen point buck! We'd be dumbshits to pass it by! A man would be a fool—"

"I quite agree. We have stumbled upon our chance at success. Wealth. Fame, if we want it. Power to change the world into a better place. Most definitely I second your motion."

"But it's . . . it's so wild!" Then Ian said softly, "I've got a place, now. I've got security. I'm moving up in a good company. . . ."

"Ian, there is nothing as secure as money in the bank," Hasenpfeffer said. "You now have seven years' pay in your third of our account. Why not spend those years testing your mettle? General Motors knows that you are competent. They will be happy to take you back, if we fail. Come with us! Screw your courage to the hitching post!"

Ian stared at the table. "I've bought this condo, and I've got mortgage payments. I've got car payments. And payments on the Harley. I owe on my credit cards. . . ."

"Hmm . . . Tom, what would you say if the company were to take over all of Ian's debts and assets—whatever they are—and bring him to exactly the same financial status that you and I presently enjoy?"

"Hey, sure. No question. Bankers are all leeches, bastards, the lot of them. All for one!"

"And one for all!" Ian suddenly shouted. "I'm with you! We'll do it!"

As things fell out, and with Hasenpfeffer selling the condo, our little company cleared $2,954.26, and kept Ian's Corvette as group property. And Ian got his Harley paid off, since Hasenpfeffer and I owned our BMW's clear. But I get ahead of myself.

"Well then, we are agreed," Hasenpfeffer said. "The next question is 'Where are we going to do it?' I would like to suggest Ann Arbor. It is a town that we all know—we went to school there. It has a major university, with all that that implies. It is near a major airport. It has hundreds of high-tech companies, and it is within easy driving distance of the Detroit area, with its thousands of diverse manufacturing facilities."

"Uh, sure. Why not?"

"Fine, Jim. It'd be nice to walk in Ann Arbor with some money in my pocket."

"Walk? There is, of course, the parking problem, but what I have in mind is some ten miles outside the city limits. While you two were hospitalized, I took the liberty of investigating the real estate market in that area. I located an interesting property. It has forty acres of wooded land, so if we need to make big balls of earth go away, we shall have plenty of dirt to do it with. It has a large, modern three-bedroom house with four baths, and it has an eight thousand square foot metalworking shop, complete with milling machines, surface grinders and that sort of thing."

"You say that this is all new?" Ian asked.

"The buildings are three years old. I have the machinery specifications here somewhere. . . ." Hasenpfeffer fumbled through his inner jacket pockets. "Ah. Here, eight thousand square feet . . . ten-ton overhead bridge crane . . . five thousand CFM air compressor with piping. . . . truck wells. . . . six hundred AMP, 480-volt service. . . . three Bridgeports, one with readouts and one with CNC. . . . two lathes. . . . but here, Ian. You know more about this sort of thing than I do."

Ian went down the list, mumbling. "Yes. Yes. With this stuff, I could build anything. But with only a quarter of a million, we can't afford to buy all this."

"However, I did buy it. It was an estate sale. The heirs were faced with selling it at auction for twenty cents on the dollar (and then paying a ten percent auctioneer's fee) or selling to me at twenty-two cents on the dollar, cash. They accepted my offer, and I paid them."

"What did this cost . . . us?"


"Hey, that's most of what we have!" I yelled.

"True. Which is precisely why I sold it."

"You sold the place!" Ian shouted.

"Yes, for $358,000.00, retaining the chattels—furniture, machinery and so on. Then, of course, since we needed it, I bought it back for $480,000.00, on a lease with option to purchase, with the first five years rent paid in advance. And a balloon payment, due after that period, of $470,000.00—should we decide to exercise our option to purchase. Actually, we probably won't want to buy it then. If our venture is not successful, we won't need the property. If it is, we will probably need something bigger. But it looks nice on the lease."

"Uh . . ." I said. "You bought it for $226K. You sold it for $358K. Then you bought it back for $480K . . . Why?"

"Surely it is obvious. When the smoke clears, we get the facilities we need for five years at no cost to us, except that we have to pay the taxes and insurance, which will be assessed at the $226,000.00 price."

"You mean that you conned somebody into giving us the place almost free?" Ian's eyes were tall.

"Conned? Swindled? Nonsense, Ian. My principal here will be quite handsomely rewarded. See here. We are working with Dr. Bernstein, who has a medical practice in Ann Arbor. He bought the property from us—well, from me, actually, since you two weren't available. Anyway, he bought the property for $358,000.00, putting $132,000.00 down and easily obtained a $226,000.00 mortgage for the balance. After all, he is a solid citizen, he put thirty-seven percent down, and he had a long term lease—with us—on the property. We rent it at $2,200.00 a month. His payments are $1,361.00 to the bank. It is the sort of arrangement that financial institutions love."

"So we owe rent on it." Ian said.

"No. The rent has already been paid, five years in advance. I gave Bernstein a check for $132,000.00, which he used for his down payment."

"He got it for free, but he's making our mortgage payment? Why?"

"Because Bernstein saves money by paying it. Of that $1,361.00 payment, $1,155.00 is interest, which is tax deductible. At twenty year straight-line depreciation, he can deduct an additional $1,491.00 per month for a total of $2,646.00 in tax deductions. His tax bracket is well over fifty percent, so he comes out ahead, cash-wise, in addition to building valuable equity."

"Jim, I thought that that kind of wheeling and dealing went out with Diamond Jim Brady. What happens to his taxes on the $132,000.00?"

"Oh, that never really existed. The checks were never cashed."

"But . . ."

Which was the start of a two hour discussion that I would just as soon not remember and in fact have forgotten. Long experience had taught me that Hasenpfeffer can do magic and that Ian can keep him honest.

I went through two more cigars and four more Grand Marniers, and had the waitress to the point where she didn't mind my arm around her waist. She was stroking my bald head.

Then I got the bill. It was over a week's pay at my Air Force job, and more than I had on me. Being unable to attract Hasenpfeffer's attention, I picked his pocket. It was my money, or ours, anyway. I returned it discreetly, after giving the waitress a twenty percent tip and a squeeze, one of which made her squeal with joy. I told her that we'd be needing further services.

She went off shift and I never saw her again.

Her replacement was even better looking, having all of her teeth, and I was starting to repeat the process when my partners came to some sort of an understanding.

"So, Ian. It's all honest?" I asked.

"Well, yes, of course. At least I think so, I mean . . ."

"Hey, are we going to go to jail for it?"

"No. Or at least not until the deceased first owner gets jailed first."

"Well, good enough for a veteran. So we are decided?"

"One last thing," Hasenpfeffer shooed the waitress out. "Security. I know that that's a bad word with some of us, but a certain degree of it is necessary. I am not proposing armed guards and television cameras. At this stage they could do nothing more than attract attention. I am merely suggesting that we keep silent and tell no one, absolutely no one, about out plans, objectives, or intentions. Are you with me?"

"Of course."

"Yeah, sure." I said, "What about the waitresses?"

"How could they know what we're talking about when we don't know ourselves?" Ian asked.

"Good points, gentlemen. The fact is that I have already ascertained that they are both local people with no outside affiliations. In the future we must be more cautious. One last thought: we must agree that everything we learn or accomplish must be kept within the group. Absolutely nothing may be released to outsiders without our unanimous agreement. Are we together on this?"

"Certainly, Jim."

"Well, yeah, okay. Remember that I'm the only one here with a top secret clearance. But I've got a question or two of my own. Jim, you've been pulling your little strings on us all evening long, but you haven't told us what you're thinking."

"I have led the discussion in examining certain obvious questions, but I have not concealed anything."

"The hell you say. You bought and sold a major piece of property with our money without even asking us about it first, or telling us about it later, second. Now, I've said how this thing could be a weapon and Ian's talked about using it as a tool. What do you think we have here?"

"I am not sure that my opinions are relevant. You two are the technical ones."

"Not a chance. Spill it," I said. Ian nodded his agreement.

"This is premature, but very well. If you technical gentlemen can perfect it, I expect that we shall eventually have a time machine."


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