To obtain the options, to tie up one man’s land without letting his neighbor know, had been an unusual strain on Babbitt. It was necessary to introduce rumors about planning garages and stores, to pretend that he wasn’t taking any more options, to wait and look as bored as a poker-player at a time when the failure to secure a key-lot threatened his whole plan. To all this was added a nerve-jabbing quarrel with his secret associates in the deal. They did not wish Babbitt and Thompson to have any share in the deal except as brokers. Babbitt rather agreed. “Ethics of the business-broker ought to strictly represent his principles and not get in on the buying,” he said to Thompson.
“Ethics, rats! Think I’m going to see that bunch of holy grafters get away with the swag and us not climb in?” snorted old Henry.
“Well, I don’t like to do it. Kind of double-crossing.”
“It ain’t. It’s triple-crossing. It’s the public that gets double-crossed. Well, now we’ve been ethical and got it out of our systems, the question is where we can raise a loan to handle some of the property for ourselves, on the Q. T. We can’t go to our bank for it. Might come out.”
“I could see old Eathorne. He’s close as the tomb.”
“That’s the stuff.”
Eathorne was glad, he said, to “invest in character,” to make Babbitt the loan and see to it that the loan did not appear on the books of the bank. Thus certain of the options which Babbitt and Thompson obtained were on parcels of real estate which they themselves owned, though the property did not appear in their names.
In the midst of closing this splendid deal, which stimulated business and public confidence by giving an example of increased real-estate activity, Babbitt was overwhelmed to find that he had a dishonest person working for him.
The dishonest one was Stanley Graff, the outside salesman.
For some time Babbitt had been worried about Graff. He did not keep his word to tenants. In order to rent a house he would promise repairs which the owner had not authorized. It was suspected that he juggled inventories of furnished houses so that when the tenant left he had to pay for articles which had never been in the house and the price of which Graff put into his pocket. Babbitt had not been able to prove these suspicions, and though he had rather planned to discharge Graff he had never quite found time for it.
Now into Babbitt’s private room charged a red-faced man, panting, “Look here! I’ve come to raise particular merry hell, and unless you have that fellow pinched, I will!” “What’s—Calm down, o’ man. What’s trouble?”
“Trouble! Huh! Here’s the trouble—”
“Sit down and take it easy! They can hear you all over the building!”