1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 43
Some people didn’t want to sign the credit slips and went elsewhere, but all the new businesses that the Sanderlins and Fortneys backed had some up-time or new-time tech that made their production cost less so they were mostly inexpensive. They didn’t lose that many customers. Others decided that it was better to pay cash if they had it. So the new businesses were getting more cash in, but SFIC was still losing money — if you didn’t include the money owed to them. Most of the businesses in Vienna were facing the same problem.
One side effect showed itself a month or so after they started giving credit. There were a number of government employees who got paid either spottily or not at all. And quite a few of them had bought clothing, packaged foods, or other products from one or more of the shops that had sprung up near the race track. When Albertus Kappel, one of the “them of Vienna,” decided to shake down SFIC for a large bribe, he ran right into a brick wall. That wall wasn’t the emperor, it was the clerks.
“How did he find out about us?” Gayleen Sanderlin asked.
Barbara Klein grimaced. “It was the IOUs. They all say Sanderlin-Fortney Investment Company.”
“So this guy, one of your customers, came in and told you this . . . just out of the blue?”
“Young Benedictus owes us quite a bit,” Barbara said. “He’s very in love with his own looks.” She grinned. “Very much in love with himself. But he’s not a bad boy and he knows we’ve been treating him fairly. Besides, if we get closed down, where would he get his clothes?”
In the various offices of the city and national government, clerks who owed SFIC money provided warning and back-dated forms documenting that everything had been done by the book. Well, most of it had, but it was impossible to follow all the regulations. Having clerks who owed you money helped when it came to paperwork.
“Yes, I know they have an agreement with the emperor,” Albertus Kappel snapped. “But that doesn’t make Race Track Village an imperial city. And it is within the traditional purview of Vienna. Legally, it is no more than a village owned by the emperor and his partners. Not even crown lands, but part of the emperor’s personal holdings. Besides, we have more of the up-timers now.”
“Fine. But the emperor is a part-owner of Race Tra– the village,” Peter Grochen said.
“We will not be asking the emperor for anything. But this Sanderlin-Fortney Investment Company is abusing the emperor’s trust and getting above itself.” Visibly, Albertus got himself under control. “The new emperor is young and perhaps overly enthusiastic about up-time innovations. But he has advisers . . . older, wiser heads . . . that he will listen to. This flaunting of the traditional privileges of ‘Them of Vienna’ has to stop.”
Peter Grochen, who was no more pleased with Race Track City than Albertus — but was rather more leery of imperial whim — left Albertus to it.
“The tradition and law has always been that the Hofbefrieten, court merchants, do not pay municipal taxes,” Albertus Kappel granted portentously. “But these are not Hofbefrieten. They haven’t paid the fees the royal court charges for that privilege. Yet they don’t pay the onera that guild artisans and merchants pay, either. Nor have their techniques been approved under the rules of the guilds of Vienna.”
“Perhaps,” Ferdinand III said calmly, “that is because they are not in Vienna.” Ferdinand III was pretty good at saying things calmly when he would prefer to rip someone’s head off. It was part of the job and he had been raised to the work. “Race Track City is located on imperial lands, almost four miles from the city wall.”
It was clear to Ferdinand III that Kappel wasn’t thrilled with how the interview was going, but the jackass went gamely on. “They are within the cities environs, Your Majesty.”
“No, they are not!” Ferdinand III said.
“Your Majesty, while the land is owned by Your Majesty, it is not, in fact, crown lands.”
Ferdinand held out a hand, and into it was placed a document that bore several seals. One of them, in fact, was Albertus Kappel’s own seal. The document acknowledged that the land in question was not legally part of Vienna or its environs. Ferdinand was a little curious about where it had come from, but not very. As it happened, Albertus’ clerk, Benedictus, had handed that document to Albertus Kappel a week before, in a stack of similar documents that Kappel had signed and sealed as a matter of course, without ever looking at the contents of any of them. Ferdinand showed Kappel the document and the seal.
For Albertus Kappel, the interview went downhill from there. Albertus was one of those who held both imperial and city rank, which wasn’t supposed to happen, but did constantly. By the end of the interview, he held neither.
Albertus’ secretary, Benedictus, was the dapper young man with a taste for clothes that really shouldn’t have been beyond his means — if he had been being paid what he was supposed to be paid. Benedictus and several other young men found that their debts to several shops in Race Track City had been forgiven. After that, the SFIC-backed businesses had very little trouble from the burghers of Vienna, as long as they didn’t try to do business in Vienna proper.
The race track, with the support of Ferdinand III, developed its own small town with barbershops, beauty shops, restaurants, and a tailor shop. A toy store that sold little casein plastic models of the 240Z, and other cars and trucks. Casein dolls, which if not up to the standards of a Barbie, weren’t all that bad. Also soccer balls, baseballs, softballs, and bats, toy soldiers, lego-style blocks, and a variety of other items. There was a grocery and dry goods store which sold packaged foods, makeup, toiletries, casein containers for holding things like dried beans and flour.
Through it all, almost no one knew that Hayley was financing most of it.
SFIC wasn’t the only investor in new tech. Even before Emperor Ferdinand II had died, up-time tech had been creeping in. The cheat sheets that were produced for the USE worked just as well in what was left of the HRE. The burghers and Hofbefrieten of Vienna adopted them and many of them had to do with how to get more product out of less labor. As the new tech was put in place, the amount of product increased as the need for labor decreased. When the old emperor died, the new emperor tried to get as much of the new tech as he could.
What none of them realized, not Hayley, not the emperor, not the emperor’s advisers, and not the burghers and Hofbefrieten of Vienna, was that they were all making the economy worse. It’s what Hayley hadn’t known, save that something was wrong with the economy, and she needed Sarah Wendell to tell them what.