1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 28
“Do we really need all that?” Gayleen Sanderlin asked.
“No, of course not, Mrs. Sanderlin. But the people out there waiting around hoping to be hired . . . they need it. If we are going to do more than set up a soup kitchen for the poor of Vienna, we need to get things organized so that the business pays for itself after the initial investment. Even if we were just setting up a soup kitchen, we would need staff to run it and it would take up a fair amount of time.”
“Why not hire people to manage the business instead of to do the cooking?” Hayley’s mom asked. “I’d rather cook than do accounts.”
“Because we don’t know them, Mom. Sure, I figure most people are basically honest, but if they start looking at us as rich idiots with more money than sense, at least some of them are going to decide that it’s not really wrong to rip us off.”
At that point both women nodded. A lot of up-timers, including the Sanderlins, had gotten suckered in the first few months after the Ring of Fire. Often by people who wouldn’t even think of such a thing when dealing with a fellow down-timer. Up-timers were often seen as rich sheep to be sheared, who had arrived with too much wealth and too little sense, easy marks that deserved to be taken, because of their naivety, wealth and arrogance.
Hayley continued, “We have to be seen to know what we’re doing.”
“So you’ll be in charge of the business?” Mrs. Sanderlin asked.
“No. I’ll put up the money, or most of it, and I’ll advise about which products are buildable. If you guys want to do this, it’s going to have to be you, Dad and Mr. Sanderlin, maybe both Mr. Sanderlins . . . but with them busy working on the emperor’s projects, you two will be the ones actually running the business. I shouldn’t be in charge for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s going to be really hard for them to take me seriously as the boss. The other is . . . well, you’ve had people coming to you for two weeks looking for work. I’ve had it for two years. Since Karl and Ramona’s wedding. ‘Invest in this give me a loan for that.’ It was bad enough just being part of the Barbies. I don’t want it to be all on me.
“And that’s another thing . . . we want to keep the business under the radar as much as we can. Because if you think people looking for work is bad, wait till you get hit by people looking for investors. You don’t want to turn them down because it’s their dream you’re killing. But suppose it’s a really crappy idea? Or it’s a good idea, but they aren’t the people to run it? Another reason to keep quiet is because even if it’s not a zero sum game, there are winners and losers. Just the fact that some people get jobs from us is going to pis . . . ah, upset people, the people who wanted to hire them for starvation wages. And if the business gets too big, they will try to shut us down. We don’t have Mike Stearns and the army to protect us this time. All we’ve got is Emperor Ferdinand’s interest in cars. If we get to be too much trouble, he’ll stick the cars in the garage and send us packing or lock us in a dungeon somewhere.”
“I’m starting to think maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” Dana said.
“It’s not, Mom. But you and Dad are right about one thing. Creating jobs for people is the right thing to do, even if it’s not the smart thing. If we’re careful, we can help a lot of people before they shut the business down. If we’re careful enough, they might not shut it down.”
Fortney House, Simmering, Austria
Annemarie Eberle showed Herr Pfeifer into the sitting room and then went out to fetch coffee.
Jakusch Pfeifer smiled at the three women. Two were older than he was and the third was younger. He wondered why she was here but didn’t let it show on his face.
“Have a seat, Herr Pfeifer,” said one of the older women. “I’m Gayleen Sanderlin. This is Dana Fortney and her daughter, Hayley.”
Once Jakusch was seated, it was Dana Fortney who got down to business. “What can you tell us about business law and the management of trade in Vienna?”
“Not as much as I would like, if you’re talking about the guild restrictions on manufacturing in Vienna itself. On the other hand, you aren’t in Vienna. You are three miles outside it, and I am familiar with the laws governing trade into and out of the city. Vienna’s rules don’t apply here.”
“Yes. . . .” Hayley paused a moment. “I guess it’s a pretty long walk from Vienna to the race track.”
“It’s not so bad,” Herr Pfeifer said. “Only four miles and I caught a ride with Cousin Paul. The race track is only a mile or so from the Danube. Though, it is a bit muddy right at the shore.”
The maid laid down the coffee service and Mrs. Sanderlin thanked her.
Dana Fortney smiled. “You know all those stories grandparents tell, Hayley? The ones about walking two miles in the snow to get to school.”
“Yes,” Hayley muttered, not really paying attention, “uphill in both directions.”
“I’m starting to think that at some point, maybe in my grandparent’s day, there was some truth to them.”
“Um.” Hayley still wasn’t paying that much attention, Herr Pfeifer noticed. He looked at Frau Fortney, then at Hayley. Frau Fortney grinned a bit and touched a finger to her lips. Hayley was oblivious to it all.
“The workers, to come from Vienna to the track each day and go back each night, have to walk four miles, sometimes more. It’s shorter from the banks of the Danube and if we were to use the Fresno scrapers to dig a canal and put in a dock next to the track, it would change a two-hour walk each way to a comfortable half-hour boat ride. That would be worth paying for.”
“It would also make it easy for people to come see the cars race around the track,” Dana agreed. “Maybe it’s something that Ron ought to talk to Emperor Ferdinand about.”
“Yes,” Hayley said. “As soon as he can get an appointment.”
“It’s too expensive,” Herr Pfeifer said. “How many people working on the track can afford even a pfennig a day for just a ride to work, much less two?”