Fourteen hours and three layovers later we were back at the shop. The weirdest part of the trip was when we landed back in Ohio, because I could have sworn that we were followed out of the airport by a couple of guys in suits, but I couldn’t be sure so I didn’t say anything to the boys.
“You said you had a surprise for us when you called earlier, what is it?” I knew William would ask about it as soon as we walked in the door.
“Ralphie, please take the bag in the back and sit with it until the store is closed. Do not open it until we are all back there or unless I tell you to. Okay?” He nodded and off he went. I could trust him to all but sit on the bag until the aforementioned time.
“How was business while we were gone?” Good, let Wil worry about the day to day.
William was looking a little unhappy about the way the last minute had gone.
“Business was fine, but the customers have been asking questions about where you guys went.” Shit, I’d not even given consideration to what to tell the customers, but it didn’t matter because apparently Stevie covered.
“I told everyone that Meryl was in the hospital and that Ralphie and Wil were watching your kid. Everyone thought it was funny that it took both of them to handle the task, but everyone was more distracted by the part about her being sick to ask anything else.”
“Should work as a cover, we only have a handful of regulars anyways, so no worries there. Thanks for covering for me little man.” He just nodded and went back to whatever it was he was reading. From where I was standing, it looked to be some sort of chemistry.
“How goes the self education?”
“I’d like to talk with you a little later about that. I’ve got a list of things I’d like to pick up and there are a couple of things that I need to get made.”
“Sure, we’ll talk after the great unveiling.” I just headed into the back as the Wills started to talk about the trip. I made Wil promise me that he wouldn’t say anything about the money, so it came as no shock that William came back about two minutes behind me wanting to see it.
“You brought back seven hundred fifty thousand fucking dollars?” Was all he said on the subject, and he looked as shocked as we did. I did the only thing I could think to do.
“Thanks, asshole!” As I leaned forward to make sure it would carry to the front of the store. And as expected, I got a faint “sorry” as a reply.
“Ralphie, if you would be so kind to go ahead and show your brother the loot.” He dutifully opened the pack and started to stack the money on the crappy little table that we used for our shipping of internet orders. It only looked crappy cause of the pile of cash that now rested upon it.
As Ralphie kept pulling more and more money out of the bag, William’s jaw began to drop. It seemed like this pile of cash was designed to have that effect on us.
“And they just let you walk out with this? Wil said that there were questions asked that you didn’t answer.”
“Not didn’t, couldn’t. You guys never told me how you found out about Paolo and I wasn’t going to make something up to cover it. It’s weird, but I kinda get the impression that they might actually know how anyways, and that they were just looking for a confirmation from us. So, whatever you guys did to find out, just be more careful in the future alright?”
I didn’t know that Wil had come into the back and was behind me. “Oh yeah, so I hacked into a DEA database, that had Paolo’s name in a report, and from there I just focused on finding him. It really wasn’t all that hard.”
“Christ, man! Alright, what’s done is done, but quit hacking the government. I believe they call that cyber-terrorism now and that is some serious shit, though splitting moral hairs when we’re doing business with killers and drug dealers may not really be putting me on the moral high ground.” We both had a laugh at that.
“Regardless, don’t do it again.”
“Whatever you say, you’re the boss-man.” I loved every time he did that and he had to know that it would smooth out any ruffled feathers.
I headed off to the office. We had a shit ton of money and it wasn’t doing anything but collecting dust. We needed to find a way to make it work for us, but for that I needed T. Time to make a call. Of course I got his voice-mail. He was in class or some shit. Didn’t matter, I knew what to do.
“T, it’s me. I need you to come home tonight. There’s a problem with the books that needs your direct attention. Call me.” That should have been enough to get him to at least call. He knew most of what was going on, but I was pretty sure that in the twenty minutes we’d been in the store Wil hadn’t told him about the money.
That was when William finally asked what was just naturally becoming a growing concern of everyone, even if it hadn’t yet been voiced.
“So, now that we have all this money, what are we gonna do with it?”
“Simple. We wait. We’ll only be sitting on it as it is for a couple of days, but T should be here tonight and we’ll come up with a way to make the money work for us and also grow into something more. It would be stupid for us to just start pissing it away now. We need to be careful about what we do with it, and if we start spending now then that can attract unwanted attention to us and to the store and potentially to our operation. I’m just gonna have to ask that everyone be a little patient and have some faith.”
Clearly my bullshit stall tactic worked as he just went back to work on the newest issue of the comic. I spent an hour going over the previous couple days sales. They were depressing to the point of making me wonder why we even bothered to have a front for our business, but it had to be for the love of the product.
It took a couple of hours but T finally called me back.
“What’s up man?”
“You need to come help me with an accounting emergency tonight?”
“I thought you could handle that. Is there a problem?”
“Yes, and it requires immediate attention.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“It’s in regards to our intentions to expand our sales internationally.” And then a silence that must have gone on for a couple of seconds. I was the one who finally broke it.
“Yeah man, I’m here.”
“When can I expect you?”
“Let me pack an overnight bag and I’ll be on my way.”
“Excellent, see you soon.” Though I knew that soon would be at least two hours as he was halfway across the state.
I went into the back of the shop to make sure that everyone was working and that the money was no longer dumped out on the table. As cool as it was to look at that huge pile of money, it was a potential liability leaving it lying around. Thankfully we had a small safe in the office and once all the other crap had been cleared out I was able to stuff all the cash into it.
I wanted to make sure that the boys knew that T was coming to town, because it was usually such an event that we’d all be able to get clearance from our wives to stay out a little later than normal to hang with him, and true to form this time was no different. God bless consistency.
That bit of news also really perked things up at the shop too, which was surprising since I didn’t think it could top out after the money got there.
Just as we were about to close, William called me into the back.
“Hey, we got a submission for a new issue. You’re going to want to take a look at this.” And he was right as it turned out, I did.
According to the submission, it was from our German clients and they were looking to take advantage of threat removal services, which was funny as I’d never fully committed us to doing it, only exploring the possibility. They included all the information to make the job come together initially.
“How soon can you be ready Stevie? It looks like it’s gonna be your time to shine.”
He had this look of what could only be described as innocence on his face. I thought for a moment that maybe he shouldn’t do this. What kind of person would he become?
“Yeah, that was something I wanted to talk to you about. While you guys were gone I came up with a list of things I thought might be useful and shouldn’t arouse suspicions at the airport. Once I have the stuff off this list I should be good to go.” And he handed me a folded up piece of paper. It looked well worn, like he’d been folding and unfolding it for the past month. Alright, so he’d put some thought into it.
I started to unfold it to see just what he was after, but as I was unfolding the paper a thought dawned on me, that being that we still needed to work out delivery to the Columbian’s in less than seven calendar days. I folded the paper back up and put it in my pocket. I’d have to look later.
“Wil, get a hold of that attorney douche-bag and work out delivery details. Then just make sure that all out internet orders are up to date.” He nodded confirmation and got to work.
Stevie looked a little disheartened that I wasn’t giving his list the attention he clearly felt it deserved.
“Stevie, I promise that I will look at this later, and if everything you’re after is easily attainable, then we can probably start getting it for you tomorrow. That cool?” I didn’t wait for a response which was kind of a dick thing to do but we are how God makes us. I headed back out front to talk to Ralphie about get the chopper operational.
“Hey big man, don’t bother coming in tomorrow. Pick up Stevie and go work on the heli. You’re going to have about five days to get it tip top. Take advantage of every minute. That means don’t be late. You cannot fuck this up for us, I need you to bring you’re ‘A’ game. Can you do that for me?”
“What, go big or go home? Sure man, I can do that. What does Stevie know about engine repair?”
“As far as I know nothing, but you can both consider it a part of his education, you never know when the skill will come in handy for him in the ‘field’. And besides, I can use him to keep track of how little you’re getting done.” I smiled that huge asshole smile I liked so much and just waited for it.
“Dick!” And there was the payoff.
“Any thoughts on who we can get to machine the firing pins for the weaponry?” I couldn’t say why I thought he would, but figured since I didn’t know that it couldn’t hurt.
“Maybe, let me make a couple of phone calls. I know a couple guys with small machine shops. One of them is bound to be able to do what we need. The only problem is that regardless of how this gets done, they may need to see the guns.” Shit I hadn’t thought of that. Come to think of it, why did Ralphie suddenly seem to be on top things?
“We’ll worry about that when we find someone who can do the job. Maybe we can dismount the guns and take them to the people doing the work. That would probably be safer all around than taking them to where we have all the stuff stashed. Start making your calls and let me know what’s up.” He just grabbed the phone and started punching in numbers. All I could do at that point was wonder how much it was going to cost us to get this job done.
A few hours later and T finally arrived. We were just prepping to shut the shop for the night and as usual we’d had next to no business for the day.
“Bout time you got here. If you knew why you were needed you’d have gotten here sooner.”
“Well I got a speeding ticket on the way or I’d have been here sooner. This had better be worth the two hundred it’s going to cost to fix the ticket.” I chuckled a little at that. I’d send the money to cover the ticket back with him.
“Can one of you go clean the safe out and bring the contents in here for me please?” Ralphie and the Wills just looked at each other, I assume to see who was going to move first.
“Jesus guys, don’t everyone jump to it. Wil, would you be so kind?” He just scurried off, probably thinking I’m mad, but just wanting to see my family. I’d spent the better part of the last four days in flight or in Columbia and I just wanted to sleep in my own bed for a change.
“Alright, so how’d the meet go?”
“Better than we’d hoped actually, the Columbians not only went for the offer…” At that Wil was just coming back into the room with armloads of money.
“…they paid us half up front, which was why I wanted to get you here. Now that we have three-quarters of a million dollars, what can we do with it? I worry that any abnormal spending will only attract unwanted attention. And as much as it pains me to say so, I think that we should pay taxes on it as well.”
There was much grumbling at this, but it was expected. Hopefully T would be on my side on this.
“No guys, he’s right. That’s how the government typically takes down drug dealers and gangsters. Criminals don’t pay their taxes. If we funnel the money carefully it will probably help you guys get it past your wives as well. Let me think for a second.” And for the first time I got to see T’s mind in action. I could almost hear the hamster on the wheel in his mind as he started to pace the room. And then he stopped and smiled.
“I’ve got it and it’s fucking brilliant!”
“Ok… so, um… care to share?” I was surprised that Stevie of all people was the one to express his impatience at this.
“Of course, we run it all through the business. The stores books can reflect any of the additional incomes as consultation fees, which we don’t have to have anything truly tangible to reflect. In doing so the company will pay taxes and if we funnel it right we can do whatever we want to do with the money. We can move some into interest bearing accounts and we can work some into retirement accounts but most importantly we can put some into payroll and start doing what we’ve wanted to do all along… get paid.” Alright, it was fucking brilliant. It sounded way to easy though.
“Oh my god, that’s amazingly simple. Why didn’t I think of that?” It did bother me that I missed the completely obvious solution, but I didn’t care. We had a plan now.
T and I spent about an hour working out the finer points before he took money to cover his ticket and we all headed home.
We agreed that the best way to start bringing more money home was to phase it in gradually over a period of a couple of months. It meant that we’d still be suffering on the home front financially, but that if we were all patient it would work itself out. We decided that in six pays we could be able to justify doubling our pays and in twelve we could justify quadrupling them.
This was a huge pay increase for us since it meant that in six weeks we’d have enough coming in to be able to actually pay all our bills and in twelve we’d have such excess money as to be able to adjust our lives for the better. Now, since we weren’t doing it all at once we’d be able to acclimate ourselves to our new financial situations over time.
Now all the while that we were doing this, the remainder of the money would be split and placed into interest bearing accounts, since the best thing we could do with any money that came in was to make it grow upon itself. We felt this would be the best way to do it since we had no idea when this ride was going to end and we wanted to be ready to retire at any time. We even set some small financial goals for ourselves, those being that we’d do everything we could to double what money was made every year we continued to sell. So if in sales and interest we were able to make five million this year, we’d do what we could to try and make ten the following year. Now a full hundred percent growth was probably aiming unrealistically high, but, like Brian had said earlier “go big or go home”.