The Second Poyais Scheme

…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

The private coach rattled along the road to Calais carrying the twins and Emma, the French countryside passing along as if it were walking in the opposite direction, leaves on trees and blades of grass waving goodbye to them.  Swiftly on the heels of their success with Lehuby, Sir MacGregor had despatched them on the second part of their Poyais mission while he sat in Paris playing with his ‘constitution’.  Lehuby’s words rang true in their ears – that they were doing all the work – but for them at least there was a clear upside.  They just hadn’t decided exactly how they would extract it.

London had not been much of a friend to any of them, particularly when they had such high hopes for it.  There was a tinge of anxiety as the coach edged closer to Calais, with a short boat journey to take them to over to Dover and then the winding roads back to London.  They had done nothing wrong per se in London.  It just felt like a step in the wrong direction.

Jose was wariest of them all, having thought they could have corresponded with Sam Jenkins of Thomas Jenkins & Co to convince him it was in his interest to make his way over to Paris to discuss a deal.  It only took Sir MacGregor a second to dismiss this idea.  There couldn’t be any exchange of letters.  Face to face was the only way to do business, he had told them.  Though whose face was clearly open for debate.

“I hate travelling back this way.  We were starting to get settled there.  I was hoping MacGregor was going to give us a bit more rope to find somewhere to base ourselves.”

“Patient, brother, we need to do this bit.  Without this bond, MacGregor will cut us loose and pretend that he never heard of us.”

“Not to mention that it is probably our best way of making our own way from this mess without much of a trace,” Emma said nodding to Noemi and then turning to smile at Jose.  It was a small, but major boost to his happiness that Emma had decided to sit next to him on the coach ride and that her hands had periodically touched his as they both rested on the seat in the middle of them.

“Yes, I know, thank you both.  Still, I don’t have to like it.”

“No, I suppose not.  We can’t be bothered to hear any further whining though.”

Jose considered this as a veiled threat by his sister.  She knew that putting herself in the same camp as Emma would mean it was much more likely that he would follow her instruction as she would be able to convince her how unreasonable and awful Jose was being.  Too much of that would certainly ruin any budding romance.  In this case he thought it best to heed the warning.

“Understood, my dearest sister.  So, while we are still in private, before we get on the boat, what are we going to do to sink this second Poyais Scheme after the money has come in?”

It was a very good question that none of them had properly considered.  They had thought it would be easy to sink the scheme seeing as it was a complete scam.  The steps leading up to exposing the scam subtly while also taking their pound of flesh from the deal were murky.

“We’ll effectively be collecting the money from them won’t we?  So let’s just do some funny business with collecting and make sure enough goes to MacGregor to tie him to the mast.”

“Is Lehuby going to pay us?”

“Effectively, yes.  He won’t make payment until we have the bond issuance secured so he can market them simultaneously.  Do you think MacGregor will collect himself?”

“Not at all.  Gustavus might though.”

“That old git is too busy helping carry MacGregors bags around to get involved in anything as mechanical collecting money.”

“No, no, that’s all wrong.  Of course MacGregor will collect himself or send Gustavus.  We’re talking about money here.  The whole reason he’s doing any of this.”

“He’s probably doing it for his ego as well, but I agree.  No way he’s leaving the money to us.”

“So how do we get at that?”

The first dead end.  Every turn they took it felt as though fate were blocking them.  How could they take down the scammers and still come out with enough to make a life?  We’re their moral compasses so degraded that the universe decided their plans must fail?  They had convinced themselves they were in the right so they wouldn’t allow themselves to entertain the thought.  Instead they continued to curse the greed of MacGregor.

As they rattled along it became clear they were nearing the Channel.  There was a moisture that hung in the air and seeped into the coach.  A greeting from a border guard warning that you had entered a new territory where it was the water and not the land the ruled.  

“I don’t have much of a useful thought on how to get the money from Lehuby and/or MacGregor, but I have had a thought about how we can sink the Second Poyais scheme.”

“Do go on brother.  We’re nearing the coast and the end of our privacy for a time.”

“Well, Emma, did you take a passport with you when you left England?”

“No, but I don’t think anyone mentioned that we should.”

“Well, that’s exactly what I’m thinking.  What if we applied to the French passport office on behalf of some settlers?”

Emma and Noemi nodded.  It would certainly cause some sort of stir.  Particularly amongst the more widely read civil servants.

“I think they’d question whether this Poyais existed or not,” ventured Emma with a wry smile.

“That is a fair assumption, particularly if there was some advocate from South America earning the civil servants about made up countries.”

There were smiles all around as the coach came to a stop in the port of Calais.  They gathered their things and walked out into the brisk wind.  Despite the beauty of the day, the wind caused a biting cold and discomfort that whipped at their raw faces.  It would be the first of two journeys over the Channel in shot order.  Not particularly something any of them relished.  A necessity at this stage in their work though.

The Captain of the vessel they were crossing in welcomed them aboard and then a porter showed them to the communal area where they would endure the crossing.  Nothing compared to their trip across the Atlantic.  Still, the Channel was a harsher body of water than you might expect knowing that it was in between two land masses so close.

It appeared that they were the first to arrive on the ship, so they quickly took the time to pick up their conversation.

“The bond is simple, right?” Jose asked.

“Yes, we convince Sam to allow us to market it with his firms name and collect money, but he denies that he ever worked on such a thing.  He takes 20% and we take the rest.  Lehuby and MacGregor will never be any the wiser and we’re all OK.”

“That won’t be enough to forge our new life though.  We need to get some of the money that’s changing hands between Lehuby and MacGregor.”

Emma was about to open her mouth when a number of our passengers arrived.  It was no longer safe to conspire, so they put to issue to bed without any resolution.  They had to journey to mull their ideas over.  It was for the best.

Lehuby

…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

“I am—”

“Let me introduce myself,” MacGregor said with a flourishing, curt bow, “Sir Gregor MacGregor, Cazique of Poyais and purveyor of land beyond imagining.”

“Yes, very good,” said the opposing man with a short bow, “I am the Managing Director of Compagnie de la Nouvelle Neustrie, a prominent trading firm and humble servant to the people.  I go by the name Lehuby.”

Emma and Noemi had temporarily been banished to the sitting room as this display went on in Jose’s presence in the reception.  No one had volunteered Jose’s name or purpose, nor did they ask it.  He was as much out of the room as Emma and Noemi.  More perfect than they had planned.

With a bit more ceremony and a lot more blistering, MacGregor and Lehuby were able to slowly move into the sitting room whereupon MacGregor offered tea and patisseries to his guest.  Again, there was no acknowledgement of the others in the room.  Ego begets ego it appeared, so there was no room for anyone else in the room.

“This proposition, Sir MacGregor, please explain to me.  I have heard good things about you and so I’m interested how we can work together.”

“It is quite fortunate you have heard good things.  There are some quite nasty people in London spewing some quite vile bile regarding my person and business interests.  Very unbecoming of a supposedly free press.”

“Indeed, I have heard those things as well.  I am quite adept at separating the, how do you say, wheat from the chaff.”

MacGregor gave a wry little smile and a quick glance to his erstwhile employees.  They all understood this was a scam, but no one needed to say that.  They all understood.  However, the full picture was more obscured to some than others.

“Excellent, Monsieur Lehuby.  To business.  I have lands, but no tenants or buyers and no way of transporting them to such lands.  You have ships and contacts, but no lands and limited banking connections to raise investment.  Together we have a settlement scheme.”

“That’s not much of a pitch MacGregor,” Lehuby quickly responded, forcing a grimace on Sir MacGregor’s face, “I know plenty of people with goods to transport and no ship, but that doesn’t convince me to work with them.”

Sir MacGregor surveyed his conversational opponent and assessed how best to get the upper hand and win this particular conversation.  Lehuby was a tall, dark, handsome Frenchman in a classic mould.  Well dressed, but not ostentatious.  There was nothing in his outward appearance that would lend itself as a weakness to exploit.  This man was all ego.  Inside though MacGregor senses he had the air of someone who has a point to prove.  Why else come so quickly for a meeting with MacGregor.  Lehuby knee there was a quick fortune to be made.  All MacGregor had to do was manoeuvre him that way without giving anything away.

“The pitch is that you get a reasonable chunk of land from me — 2,000 square kilometres — which you will easily be able to pass on to settlers at a profit, with travel fare on your ship to bout.  My assistants here will do everything else in the background to promote the grand nation of Poyais.  They will also handle the details of the exact commercials.  I deal only in the big picture you see.”

Lehuby looked over at Emma, Noemi and Jose, having previously not given them a second thought.  He thought to himself that he had gained the upper hand and smiled.

“Thank you for your time Sir MacGregor.  It will be a pleasure to do business with you and I’m sure I can reach a sensible agreement with your assistants.  I presume they have authority to act for you?”

“Full authority,” said Sir MacGregor, “so now, I bid you good day.”

Sir MacGregor wandered out of the apartments and into the breezy Paris day as the four remaining studies each other carefully.  They all thought they had the upper hand.  Lehuby thought it was comical that they needed three to his one, showing a weakness before they started.  The three knew they had the upper hand because they had orchestrated the meeting and didn’t care how much MacGregor got for the land.  It was a fun dynamic.

“Three assistants is quite a lot for such a venture.  Why so heavy handed?”

They had planned for a question like this and also how to make the most of the likely presumed lesser intelligence of the women.  So, Jose would speak only if asked a direct question.

“It’s not heavy handed.  We’re all just bring something different and learning at the same time,” said Emma.

“I see, well, what is the opening proposition?”

Noemi took the lead, “2,000 square kilometres at £300 a square kilometre.  You pay us as you sell the land.  We will issue a bond on the London stock exchange relating to Poyais for £300,000 and when it is fully subscribed you will receive a commission of 10% for promoting it to settlers.  You should be able to sell the land for at least £350 per square kilometre, so it is adequate to make a handsome profit.”

The look on his face was of pure disgust, “Highway robbery, pure and simple.  How can you even suggest that as an opening gambit!” And then mumbling audibly to himself, “Amateurs.”

Quite perfect really.  It didn’t matter that Lehuby was acting up to push them down on price.  It set the tone for finalising the deal.  One that would always be great for Sir MacGregor and better for the twins and Emma.  

“I assure you that we aren’t amateurs, Sir, but we are prepared to compromise.”

“Go on.”

“We can drop to £275 a square kilometre, but we’ll have to drop the commission to 5%.  Is that acceptable?”

Lehuby paused for effect and let a silence linger in the room.  There wasn’t any tension other than him.  Noemi was gambling with someone else’s money really, so she couldn’t care less.  Still, there had to be a show so as not to raise suspicion.

“No, it isn’t.  You can’t take from one and give in another and call that a compromise.  You’re moving the pieces arounds so I get the same amount.”

“That is incorrect.  You’re actually making an additional £35,000.  That’s assuming you can sell the land on at £350.  You can probably do better.”

“That isn’t nearly enough more.  Don’t tell me that’s as far as you can go.”

“It’s close.”

“Let me guess, you won’t be able to agree anything without the say so of your boss.”

“We have full authority, I can assure you,” Noemi said, looking back at Jose and Emma to try and put on a show of frustration for Lehuby.  

It appeared to work as he lifted an eyebrow curiously above his right eye and asked, “Really?”

“£250 and 5%.  That is very generous.  That’s another £50,000 for you.”

“I feel that we’re going to hit an impasse soon,” Lehuby stood for effect, “I want more and you must be reaching the limit of your authority.  I need to go beyond that.”

“That hardly seems fair,” chimed in Emma.  A pre-agreed comment that was designed to Lehuby feel completely comfortable in his position.

Lehuby smiled, “What isn’t fair is that I’ll be doing all the work and taking the risk with settlers.  Your work will substantially be done when we finish this conversation.  So, taking that all in, why are you making almost four times as much as me on this scheme?”

Noemi considered this and actually thought it was fair, but decided it was important to be upset about it.  “Not doing any work?  Do you think that the bond will just construct itself?  How about all of the supporting material to promote your settlement scheme?  WE are working very hard, I’ll have you know, and we’ll continue to do so.”

“Don’t get upset, my dear, this is just business.  How about this – £200, 8%?”

“Unacceptable.”

“There must be something that we can do at that price, no?”

Noemi let the question linger.  It was time for Jose to step in a deliver the final point.  He stood up and said calmly, “We can do it at that level, but we’ll need to have full payment up front.  If you can agree to that, then we’ll go to Sir MacGregor and get this finalised.”

This all made Lehuby very happy.  The twins and Emma were ecstatic as well.  The target MacGregor had given them was £150, with a reserve of £100.  

They showed Lehuby out and then sunk back into their chairs, looking at each other.  Phase one was complete.