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   Harold Heffernan walked down the path to his car, belted up, and drove lazily away. What a great success. Three years in the planning, and he'd finally pulled it off. The big Mercedes purred under him. He loved the luxury of it, the fine leather seats, the craftsman finish and the Teutonic engineering. Remembering how Gerald Jones had exploded, he laughed out loud, drowning the Mozart CD he had chosen.
   He first had the idea when he came into quite a large sum, not entirely unexpectedly, while completing a management course, part of his route up the ladder. The tedium of running software projects was not for him. Computer systems were built by idiots, in his view, except for the good ones, which were built by maniacs. And none of them ever got rich. Nor did the project controllers. The only difference between the maniacs who did the programming, and those who did the controlling, was that the programmers enjoyed their work. Controllers had breakdowns. Harold wasn't about to break down.
   It was then that the bottom dropped out of negative gearing. While the property market was going gang-busters, any fool with a couple of grand could get a mortgage on a flat, wait for the values to rise, and use the increased equity as leverage to keep buying, until you owned almost the whole building. Those who wouldn't sell, they were a problem. But they never turned up to co-op meetings. With a few titles you could vote yourself into the executive and roll the meetings like loaded dice.
   Nobody complained if you saved them money, so before long the building was unpleasant to live in. He picked up few more titles for a song. Overinsuring may be illegal, but it isn't expensive.
   It was ironic that the fire started right in the middle of a fire drill. Everyone said so. Luckily, all the residents were accounted for, still milling around on the street outside, when somebody saw smoke coming from the roof vents. He was the one who had voted for increased fire safety equipment, alas too late as it had turned out, so it was unthinkable to suspect him of starting the blaze, and so nobody ever did.
   After paying off the mortgages there was a good swag left for reinvestment. Wholesale agency seemed a good bet. Just taking a slice of everything that passed by, what could be better than that? As it turned out, an under-valued wholesale agency, inefficient, based on trust, could be much better. Buy in cheaply, put in a computer system, one built by maniacs rather than idiots, bend it slightly to give yourself a way in to anyone's password, and blind your partners with science.
   Every firm wants quantity discount: just place larger orders, less frequently. Nobody complains about streamlining: like signing bigger cheques, less frequently. Cash management for those cheques? Easy. Bank bills, all maturing on the same day. A huge sum, but it's only for a few hours, until the cheques are presented. And it can't be stolen, for it never leaves the bank....

Copyright © 2003 Peter Leon Collins
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