1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 48

It had become a matter of increasing worry over the last few months only partly ameliorated by getting into the exports trade. They were now shipping goods manufactured in Vienna up- and downriver, but that was not enough to cover their raw material costs. And even with their labor-saving machines making the goods, production still took labor. And labor had to be paid. “Look, Mom, Sarah is pretty good at the financial stuff. That’s why Coleman Walker hired her, in spite of the fact that she is a woman and, in his eyes, still a kid. Maybe she can help. And the Barbies are doing real good in the USE. I can raise some money from them if I have to. We’ll work something out.” Hayley wasn’t real sure whether she was trying to convince her mom or herself. And in either case, she didn’t feel like she had done a great job.

Jack Pfeifer’s Office, Race Track City

Jack Pfeifer was worried too. As the lawyer for SFIC, he was aware of the amount of debt that SFIC was owed and he was increasingly concerned that it was going to be unpaid. If the Sanderlins and Fortneys wanted to, they could probably put two or three percent of the population of Vienna in debtor’s prison. It was mostly small amounts of debt per individual, but no amount was small if it was more than someone could pay.

He pulled another form from the pile and checked the name, number and the amount against his records. Three pairs of socks and a kerchief. He shook his head. The man who had bought them worked on the canal project and was probably going to lose his job in another month when the canal was done. Then where was he going to get the money to pay this off? Jack sighed. He really needed to get a clerk to handle this, especially since it was checking what Mrs. Fortney or Mrs. Sanderlin had already done.

Krause Rooms, Vienna

“I got dinner, Maria,” Adam Krause told his wife.

She looked worried. “They took your note again?”

“Yes, no trouble.” His boots were muddy from a day behind a Fresno scraper, building the canal that would connect the Danube with Race Track City, and his wife helped out by working as a maid in the apartment block they lived in. They were getting by better, in fact, than they had for the last several years. But they were terrified about what would happen when the canal was finished and they lost his income. “It’s all right. I’ll find something. I am a good worker and I learn quick. Herr Fortney said so himself.” Adam put all the confidence he could in that statement, and his Maria seemed to accept it.

It was a grand canal too. Wide and deep, lined with stone and mortar. Adam suspected that they were making it grander than they had to, just as a way of keeping people working.

240Z Shop, Race Track City

“How’s the canal going, Sonny?” Ron Sanderlin asked.

“Too damned well,” Sonny Fortney said. “They work like beavers and we will be opening it in another week. Then what do we do with two hundred workers who are going to be out of a job?”

Sonny sighed. “I dunno, Ron. Maybe ask Hayley which project we ought to take on next?”

“Oh, quit bragging, dammit.”

Fortney House, Race Track City

“I don’t know, Dad. There are lots of things we could do, but no one has any money to buy anything. We could build a frigging skyscraper next door to Saint Stephan’s and fill it all, except no one could pay their rent. We could build factories and make everything from sewing machines to steam cars and no one could buy them ’cause no one has any money.”

“Well, how are they doing it in Grantville?”

“The American dollar, Dad. They have the American dollar.”

“What’s wrong with the Austro-Hungarian thaler?”

Hayley looked at him. “Which would you rather have, Dad?”

“All right. But you know they are backed by silver.”

“And, unlike most people, I actually believe it,” Hayley agreed. “If they were issuing more than they had the silver to back, there would be enough of the thalers. Austria is suffering from deflation.”

“I hate when you talk like Fletcher Wendell.”

Hayley stuck out her tongue. “Don’t blame me. I didn’t make this mess.”

“I know, but I remember the little girl who dressed her Barbies in overalls and hard hats and had them planning bridges over at Wave Pool.”

“That’s a possibility Dad. What about a water park? You know, people swim in the Danube during the summer. I bet a water park with swimming pools and stuff would be a big draw.”

Through March and April, and into May, workers from the canal project managed to get moved either to the railroad or to the construction of the water park. While SFIC got further and further in debt.

Barclay Engineering, Vienna

Barclay Engineering was the bottom floor of a three-floor townhouse rented by the Barclays. They lived on the second floor, and the servants on the third. Peter Barclay looked at the blueprint of the support ring for the concrete mill and tried to concentrate on his work. It wasn’t easy. He could hear the servants moving around upstairs and the traffic on the street. Still, they were doing better than a lot of the royal hangers-on. They were Hofbefreiten, so they weren’t paying city taxes. And he had been able to get quite a bit of paying work consulting on up-time innovations that the down-timers didn’t understand or know how to use. All in all, they were getting by.

“What do you know about Karl von Liechtenstein?” his wife Marina asked.

“Only what his uncles say. Gundaker thinks he is a traitor to the Holy Roman Empire.”

“There is no Holy Roman Empire and there hasn’t been since before we left Grantville. And Prince Gundaker von Liechtenstein has a flagpole up his ass.”

Peter snorted a laugh. “True enough on both counts, but he is who Ferdinand III stuck us with.”

“Well, at least it wasn’t that murderer Drugeth,” Marina said, looking over at him. There was a smudge of charcoal on her nose and that had gotten to be a constant since they got to Vienna. No CAD systems here, not that there had been that many available in Grantville after the Ring of Fire. But at least there had been better pencils. It amazed Peter how much work it took to get ready to work here in Vienna. And that was even when they had a down-time staff. Most of whom, Peter was convinced, were spies.

“Well, Prince Karl was involved with David Bartley in that business with the Netherlands guilder a couple of years ago and they say he made millions.”

“Financial shenanigans,” Pete said. “Not building anything. Just arbitrage, and probably crooked as a dog’s hind leg to boot.”