June 14, 1915 - New York Harbor
---- 8:00 PM, Grand Suite, Imperator
The party and auction had each been a tremendous success, but they had
left Ballin near exhaustion. There was still so much to be done, but he
grew encouraged, as he reviewed the reports, tallies, and figures he'd
returned with. It had felt wonderful to be again in the HAPAG offices
and he'd been tempted to linger more than the two hours he'd budgeted.
After all, he'd almost despaired of ever being there again. Nevertheless,
his vast respect for British spies and skullduggery had brought him and
his papers back here at the end of the day. His purchasing agents had
done well, he saw, these last two weeks in their efforts to procure the
materials that Baron Letters had placed high in his priorities. The coal
had been the easiest, of course. HAPAG had been a major buyer of high
quality steam coal for decades before the war had begun just ten months
before. The tin, nickel, and other metals had not been much harder, though
his agents still were looking for another few hundred kilograms of tungsten.
Like tin, it was mined in other countries and had to be located in warehouses
or on the spot markets.
Ballin had been surprised at the difficulty they had had in acquiring
the grain. In hindsight, this should have been foreseen. The new harvest
was not yet in, and nearly all that was properly prepared for shipment
had already been under contract. Two things had allowed this to be solved.
First, he had not been after very much, since liners were hardly freighters
in terms of capacity, so even that had not turned out to be a problem.
Metal billets could replace ballast, but grain was a volume consuming
cargo. The second and greater reason was his willingness to pay an above-market
Rubber remained the long pole in his tent or, in this case, the short
one. So far, he had obtained barely half his goal. Much of the deficit
was enroute, but Ballin had no knowledge of, or control over, his departure
moment. Also, he did not trust something that was not in his holds. Especially
flammable somethings. There were some leads in Philadelphia that still
held promise, but his best chances remained in the New York area, he figured.
Also, he might get lucky in Boston. He was due for some luck there, he
thought, as his men were behind schedule there.
"Enter," he said when the knock came. It was Franz Heinlich,
his "lieutenant" in this madcap endeavor.
"Strassburg's in sight, sir. She's in the outer harbor, with
two of those small American cruisers close aboard. Tugs are standing by.
It looks like she'll moor here in about an hour."
"Thank you. Are we ready for them?"
"The bunting and decorations are in plain view, and first class is
done. I'll have the recoal working party waiting on the dock as they tie
Cleaning up after the extra 850 men had been a significant job. Unlike
paying passengers, many had tracked coal dust back to their quarters.
However, they would have need only of first class right now, and also
on the return. The other quarters would be occupied only by sacks and
"And our passengers?"
"Not many were due today, of course. We're still short three singles
and two families."
"What of Kaiser Wilhelm II?"
"Here's her passenger list, sir. Himmelberg says she'll be ready."
"And the others?"
"Nothing since the arrival and first status reports."
Ballin realized the other was still standing there.
"Is there something else, Franz?" Ballin asked.
"There is one thing. I hate to bring it up, but ..."
"It's the deck chairs, sir."
"What about the deck chairs?" Ballin was quite puzzled at what
could be the problem. Tungsten and rubber he could understand. But deck
"Ten of them are missing, sir."
" Missing'? Who would want to steal ten deck chairs?"