The Stars Shine Down(12)


by Sidney Sheldon

He shook his head. "That's a rather hypothetical question, isn't it?"

"Would you?" Lara persisted.

"Lara, what do you know about putting up a building?"

"I wouldn't be putting it up," she said. "I'd hire an architect and a good construction firm to do that."

Charles Cohn was watching her closely. "I see. And where is this wonderful piece of land?"

"I'll show it to you," Lara said. "Believe me, you're going to love it. It's perfect."

After breakfast Lara took Charles Cohn downtown. At the corner of Main and Commercial streets in the center of Glace Bay was a vacant square block. It was a site Cohn had examined two days earlier.

"This is the location I had in mind," Lara said.

Cohn stood there, pretending to study it. "You have an ahf - a nose. It's a very good location."

He had already made discreet inquiries and learned that the property was owned by a banker, Sean MacAllister. Cohn's assignment was to locate a site, arrange for someone to construct the building, and then lease it from them. It would not matter to the company who put up the building as long as its specifications were met.

Cohn was studying Lara. She's too young, he thought. It's a foolish idea. And yet..."I found a kosher meat market in Sydney...Tomorrow you're having a steak." She had such rachmones - compassion.

Lara was saying, excitedly, "If I could acquire this land and put up a building to meet your specifications, would you give me a five-year lease?"

He paused, and then said slowly, "No, Lara. It would have to be a ten-year lease."

That afternoon Lara went to see Sean MacAllister. He looked up in surprise as she walked into his office.

"You're a few days early, Lara. Today's only Wednesday."

"I know. I want to ask a favor, Mr. MacAllister."

Sean MacAllister sat there, watching her. She has really turned into a beautiful-looking girl. Not a girl, a woman. He could see the swell of her breasts against the cotton blouse she was wearing.

"Sit down, my dear. What can I do for you?"

Lara was too excited to sit. "I want to take out a loan."

It took him by surprise. "What?"

"I'd like to borrow some money."

He smiled indulgently. "I don't see why not. If you need a new dress or something, I'll be happy to advance..."

"I want to borrow two hundred thousand dollars."

MacAllister's smile died. "Is this some kind of joke?"

"No, sir." Lara leaned forward and said earnestly, "There's a piece of land I want to buy to put up a building. I have an important tenant who's willing to give me a ten-year lease. That will guarantee the cost of the land and the building."

MacAllister was studying her, frowning. "Have you discussed this with the owner of the land?"

"I'm discussing it with him now," Lara said.

It took a moment for it to sink in. "Wait a minute. Are you telling me that this is land that / own?"

"Yes. It's the lot on the corner of Main and Commercial streets."

"You came here to borrow money from me to buy my land?"

"That lot is worth no more than twenty thousand dollars. I checked. I'm offering you thirty. You'll make a profit of ten thousand dollars on the land plus interest on two hundred thousand dollars you're going to loan me to put up the building."

MacAllister shook his head. "You're asking me to loan you two hundred thousand dollars with no security. It's out of the question."

Lara leaned forward. "There is security. You'll hold the mortgage on the building and the land. You can't lose."

MacAllister sat there studying her, turning her proposal over in his mind. He smiled. "You know," he said, "you have a lot of nerve. But I could never explain a loan like that to my board of directors."

"You have no board of directors," Lara told him.

The smile turned to a grin. "True."

Lara leaned forward, and he could see her breasts touching the edge of his desk.

"If you say yes, Mr. MacAllister, you'll never regret it. I promise."

He could not take his eyes off her breasts. "You're not a bit like your father, are you?"

"No, sir." Nothing like him, Lara thought fiercely.

"Supposing for the sake of argument," MacAllister said carefully, "that I was interested. Who is this tenant of yours?"

"His name is Charles Cohn. He's an executive with Continental Supplies."

"The chain store?"

"Yes."

MacAllister was suddenly very interested.

Lara went on. "They want to have a big store built here to supply the miners and lumbermen with equipment."

To MacAllister, it had the smell of instant success.

"Where did you meet this man?" he asked casually.

"He's staying at the boardinghouse."

"I see. Let me think about it, Lara. We'll discuss it again tomorrow."

Lara was almost trembling with excitement. "Thank you, Mr. MacAllister. You won't be sorry."

He smiled. "No, I don't think I will be."

That afternoon Sean MacAllister went to the boardinghouse to meet Charles Cohn.

"I just dropped by to welcome you to Glace Bay," MacAllister said. "I'm Sean MacAllister. I own the bank here. I heard you were in town. But you shouldn't be staying at my boardinghouse; you should be staying at my hotel. It's much more comfortable."

"It was full," Mr. Cohn explained.

"That's because we didn't know who you were."

Mr. Cohn said pleasantly, "Who am I?"

Sean MacAllister smiled. "We don't have to play games, Mr. Cohn. Word gets around. I understand that you're interested in leasing a building to be put up on a property I own."

"What property would that be?"

"The lot at Main and Commercial. It's a great location, isn't it? I don't think we'll have any problem making a deal."

"I already have a deal with someone."

Sean MacAllister laughed. "Lara? She's a pretty little thing, isn't she? Why don't you come down to the bank with me and we'll draw up a contract?"