By Ted Dewey
It was nine o’clock in the morning. Cliff Harris, was sitting at his desk in the trailer. A big loose-leaf book was in front of him. In this one was a record of all the cars that were bought and sold as well as the make, model and serial number of everything on hand.
There was four of them out there in the lot that he hadn’t got around to changing yet. Cars that, he had sold, pocketed the profit, then replaced with another which he bought wholesale.
Yes, Cliff was doing alright, and he had quite a bundle put away. Those Bishop playboy twins were just too trusting.
Not counting those four cars which he had taken the profit for himself, the lot had about broken even this last month. Joe had called and said they might be over in a few days, He had better get these books straightened out.
A familiar car pulled up in front and stopped; it was Bill and Joe. There were two women with them. He had never seen them before. The four people got out and looked around. The two women got into the front seat and closed the door. Bill and Joe came to the door
Cliff opened it and greeted them with a big smile. “Come in boys, it is sure good to see you. Wasn’t expecting you so early in the morning. In fact, I didn’t even know you were back.”
“Well, how goes the business?” Bill asked.
Cliff glanced down at the loose-leaf folder in front of him. “I was just catching up on the bookkeeping. For a change, I think we are going, to show a profit.”
“How much of a profit?” Joe asked.
Cliff shook his head and waved his hands around. “Well, you know, maybe not big, but a profit. Times have been tough, you know.”
Bill and Joe had made up their mind. And there was nothing that this man could say, would change them. “How much?” Bill asked.
“I was just catching up on the books Got a little behind.You know how it is. You know.” Cliff had a way of using the expression, you know, whenever anyone tried to pin him down for an answer.
Joe spoke up. “We are closing the place, Cliff and going out of the automobile? business entirely.”
Cliff’s face was pale, “When?”
“As of right now.” Bill walked over to the door and waved at the women in the car. “Come on In! We brought along a C.P.A. and her assistant. They will go through the books and take a complete Inventory.” Joe’s voice had a positive ring.
The two women stepped through the doorway. Bill motioned them to a chair. “Sit down please, we will get started in a minute or so.”
Cliff looked the women over. There was some doubt in his mind. Neither of them looked like any C.P.A. he had ever seen. Maybe the Bishops were bluffing or just plain firing him.
“And which one of you is the C.P.A?” he asked.
Genie drew a white card from her purse. On it was her picture, name and business address. She handed one to Harris. “Here’s my card. Would you like to see my license?”
Cliff stared at the card for a moment, and his heart sank inside him. He was trapped Like a spider caught in his own web!
He cursed himself. Why hadn’t he changed those1 titles before! He had waited until the last minute, and now he was trapped! The first thing they would check, would be the cars and the serial numbers! When they found the cars that didn’t match the ones in the books, they would dig deeper. Probably go back over a period of several months or even years!
Cliff began to sweat. He had gotten careless, and now he could end up in San Quinton! He must do something and do it fast! He had quite a sum of money stashed away. “And what are you going to do with all the cars?” he asked.
Bill answered. “Sell them, of course. We’ll get rid if every one, and take no trade-ins. Either that or go to the auction.”
Cliff’s nimble mind was working fast. The thoughts of spending years behind the bars, terrified him. He must find a way out! At least he would try!
He forced a smile. “Maybe I could buy you out. My uncle John kicked the bucket while you were gone.” he lied. “He remembered me in his will.”
Joe frowned. “I didn’t know you had an uncle John.”
“He lived over in Phoenix and was my mother’s brother.”
“How much money did he leave you?” Bill asked.
“Quite a bundle. I haven’t got It all yet, but I think I can raise enough if the price is right. What do you want for the works? Everything!” The Bishop brothers exchanged glances. “We haven’t arrived at a price.” Bill answered. “We will have to talk it over.”
Cliff was on his feet. “I’ll step outside for a few minutes and let you talk. If the price is right, maybe we can do business.” He stepped out, closing the door behind him.
Joe and Bill exchanged glances. This was unbelievable! Cliff was always telling how hard up he was. Did he really have an uncle John?
“Well what do you think, brother dear?” Bill asked.
“I think there is something funny going on, but as far as I am concerned, I’ll be glad when it’s all over.”
“Me too. If we could get wholesale price for all the cars on the lot, we would be lucky, don’t you think?”
“Indeed I do.” Joe answered. “I want to keep my trailer. He can find something else for an office. Also my Cad, which is parked In the back row.”
“I think we should insist on all cash, don’t you?”
“By all means. Shall I tell him to come in?”
“Yes. And you do all the talking, Joe, and don’t back down one bit. I got a feeling about that guy.”
Joe opened the door and looked around. Cliff was polishing one of the cars in the front row. He motioned for him to come in.
Cliff stepped into the trailer and looked around. Joe was sitting in the chair behind the desk, just like he owned the place. Harris felt his temper rise! His ears turned a deep red. He felt, like he was going to explode! He closed his eyes for a second. “Better take it easy,” he told himself. The thoughts off that Greystone Hotel, with steel bars over the windows once more rose in front of him. He was shaking like a leaf as he slowly sat down in the chair opposite Joe Bishop. He felt like a convicted criminal about to be sentenced. He opened his mouth and the words just seemed to slip out. “Well, what is the verdict?”
Joe felt like he was sitting in the drivers? seat, and he intended to keep it that way. He answered. “As you know, Cliff, we got rid of all the bummers at the action sale. All of those out there are nice clean cars. Bill and I have talked it over and decided to let you have them for low book. Wholesale. This, as you know, is the going price to dealers.”
“You expect me to pay that price and take them all?”
“Yes Cliff, and that is a bargain. Gas has been going down every week. People are discovering that a good big used car is a better investment than one of those high-priced little Japanese coffins! And they can buy a lot of gas for the difference in the price.”
Bill looked over at his brother and grinned. He was quite a car salesman at that! “We checked the book prices for the past few months and the prices are going up.”
Cliff was sweating. He was on the wrong side of the desk! He felt helpless. There was only one way out. After all, he could make a pile of money on the deal. “How much do you want down?”
Cliff sighed. “I got to keep doing something, and the car business is all I know. And if I didn’t take you up on the deal, I would have to find a lot and start all over.”
“We will turn our lease over to you. The rent on this one is quite reasonable.” Joe’s voice sounded mighty final.
Cliff got to his feet and walked over to a small safe, that was setting in the far corner of the room. He twisted the handle and swung the door open. He drew out a large leather wallet and walked over to the desk. He opened it and took out a thick stack of bills and handed them to Joe.
“Here Is ten grand, count it. I will pay you this now, and the rest before the day is over.” Joe nodded as he counted the money. Lying on the desk was a piece of white poster board. Cliff picked it up stared at it for a moment, then handed It to Joe.
“Here.” he said. “Is a list off every car on the lot with the make, model and serial number. I just checked them out this morning. So, if you will take my word that the list is; correct, we can save a lot of time.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out a small blue book and handed it to Genie. “This book will give you the wholesale price off everything on the lot. With this and that cardboard that I just handed Joe, it shouldn’t take you long.”
Joe handed the poster board to Genie. “Sounds like a deal.”
Cliff glared at Joe. “Now, if you will, get your ass out of my chair, I will call my banker. You will have your money, in about an hour.”