The Deal Of The Century

by Jeffrey J. Lyons © 2003

Franklin Winslow, Esquire played absently with his bushy gray moustache as he reviewed the contract for the proposed bill of sale a second time. The brown eyes within his round face darted across each page as he absorbed every intricate detail spelled out in front of him. The attorney cleared his throat and declared simply, "It seems to be in order." The man on the outside of his desk smiled weakly. "Good, good. So can we sign the agreement?" he asked.

Winslow could not immediately read the other man's expression. He studied him. He looked honest enough for a man whose business it was to cater to vacationers on holiday. The man's offer seemed to be the only viable option for the company he represented. The man, Enos Paterson, did not have to know that however.

"Mr. Paterson, this is a matter that will take a considerable amount of thought and review. I cannot in good conscience require my client to sign off on this without further study," Winslow said.

"Sir," Paterson began, "Times are tough for enterprises such as yours. Your pre-Great War grandiose experiment has reached its conclusion. The country is in a depression. I am in a position to assist you in recovering at least some of your losses."

"Losses," Winslow sighed. "Yes, we have had those in recent years."

"And with the advent of the aeroplane," Paterson said, "those losses will only grow with much vigor."

Winslow chuckled. He thought that the aeroplane was only a toy. It would not amount to anything substantial. People would not gather in queue to sit in a tin can that could only hold a dozen or so people. "I still foresee a future for my corporation Mr. Paterson."

"Bleak as it might be?" Paterson responded curtly without a missing a beat as he met Winslow's gaze.

He had a point. But Winslow would not let him think he made his point. Negotiations were important. "You picture a dark future. I picture a brighter one once we are beyond this economic challenge." Take that.

"Challenge? Yes, it will be a challenge for you to continue to meet your financial obligations," Paterson noted. "Let me be frank. This was one of three such experiments and it is safe to say that this one was the greatest for its time."

"You flatter us," Winslow hummed.

"47 thousand tons of steel. It was a masterpiece," Paterson said. "Yet in these times, people cannot afford to spend $5,000 for a boarding pass. That is a year's wage for a man."

"Third class seats are but $200," Winslow grumbled.

"That is beside the point. I am willing to match the seven million dollars that you spent to build her," Paterson said with a hint of pomposity in his voice.

Winslow nodded. He dared not bargain further. He knew that it was only a matter of time before the bank began its expected foreclosure steps. During the early trips, she held as many as two-thirds of her capacity. Here in the 1930's, she was lucky to board a tenth of her capacity. The other two in the fleet were not generating substantial amounts of revenue either.

"Think of this way Mr. Winslow," Paterson said. "There shant be passengers but there shall be visitors. She will be an attraction beyond all attractions. People will board her for a dollar and remember those magnificent golden days."

Winslow smiled. He recalled the maiden voyage. The build up was tremendous. She had a close call in the icy north but she skirted those hazards and landed safely in New York Harbor to throngs of admirers.

"Shall I write the check?" Paterson asked.

Winslow hesitated. He rolled his eyes upward momentarily and returned them to the eager face of his rival. No, this was the face of his new business partner. "Make it out to White Star Line."

"We have a deal?"

"Yes sir, the Titanic is yours."

x x x

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