When a middle-aged photogenic black guy said "I have a dream!" he inspired a generation. When an ugly older white guy says, "I had this dream..." you can pretty well figure that you're in for a wild ride. All I can say in my defense is, It's a total fabrication!
I bought a big, expensive MIG welding kit off of Ebay. I'd burned out from teaching high school and got my welding certs a few years before. However, I had my fill of bosses that demanded that I push the jobs so hard that I had no chance of finishing my work with the quality that I deep down needed to create. I saved up all my spare cash until I hit my theoretical budget point. I'd bought a few battery operated drills, three recharging stations and several spare battery packs. I bought a big box full of C clamps and pipe clamps at an auction, then wire brushed everything and oiled them. I found an expensive but high quality MIG welding system on Ebay and paid a premium to get it. I was ready to step out on my own.
When it came in, I was surprised at the size of it. After I tore down the wood shipping crate I found that it held a welder with all the associated kit mounted on a waist-high floor-standing Snap-On tool chest, stuffed to the gills! What was the idea?
I tore it all down, categorized the tools and wiped everything down with light coating of cutting oil. Under a tray of sockets I found a hidden panel. Someone had laid in a thin sheet of wood over a cavity. Inside I found a property deed, a key ring with numbered keys and a typed letter.
"I'm dying of cancer. None of my worthless sons gives a good goddamned about my business. I'm shooting the dice one final time to try to find someone that has the balls to take over the operation. I'll be long dead by the time my lawyer puts this rig on the market, so don't bother trying to track me down.
The title and keys are to a metal fabrication shop near Joliet. There's a lot of secrets built into the place that are yours to discover.
Take the deed to a Harris bank branch to get access to the business account. There should be about seven mil in there. You'll need it for taxes, insurance, utilities and what not until you get your feet under you. The taxes will eat you alive, but you should have enough left over to keep your head above water.
Good luck, son. I wish I'd met you before I push off, but there it is. Give 'em hell.
That was it, short and sweet. What had I fallen into? If it was true my major startup expenses were covered.
The case was pretty heavy. I still managed to get it up into the back of my work van then headed for the address on the property deed. The factory was in New Lenox, a town a bit east of Joliet proper. As I drove up to the gate I got the impression of the damages caused by a depressed economy.
Key #1 opened the gate. The building was faced with grimy brick and the whole place looked sad. Weeds were growing up through cracks in the asphalt paving. I drove around the place, noting the four loading docks and around the corner I found an armored roll-up door sized for a dump truck. At one end of the building I saw a group of three large transformers mounted on concrete pedestals, all enclosed in rusted diamond mesh fence. The place defined the word "industrial". I parked in the employee lot closest to the door.
Key #2 opened the employee entrance. The place must have employed fifty to sixty people when it was a thriving operation. It was cavernous. The open door gave me enough light to locate a switch plate. A long bank of florescent tubes lit the hallway. Several were dead. I was surprised that the power was still on. The first two doorways led off to a couple of offices on the right and a large lunchroom on the left. Both rooms were empty and had been cleaned.
A little further on the hallway emptied out into a huge room with a high ceiling. I found a row of eight switches on the wall. One by one the banks of florescent lights lit the lime-green enameled walls. A row of eight 3'x6' heavy steel welding tables sat in a row closest to the near wall, in front of a huge louvered draft fan. A few beat up steel cabinets sat there, but the bulk of the equipment was gone. All that remained was a sixteen foot long metal lathe, a huge band saw, a multi-speed drill press and a big hooded multi-axis milling machine. They were the only pieces of equipment left. I could see the enormous mounting pedestals for other equipment, but it was all gone--no doubt sold off. The ceiling was high enough to accommodate two hundred and fifty ton rotary punch presses--eighteen to twenty feet high. Huge air handlers and air distribution runs gridded the ceiling. A big chain hoist supported by a railroad rail snaked across the room. In a much smaller room with two doors set up like an air lock I found a rotary tumbler for deburring punched parts. Those things were incredibly loud when working.
Through a large sliding door I found large welded racks of rod, angle iron, pipe and sheet steel of various grades and sizes. The other side of the big bay was empty save for a dilapidated propane fork truck. This was obviously where the loading docks accessed the building. At the end of the empty side was another powered armored door and a large area on the floor was marked off with stripes of OSHA yellow paint. Curious, I walked over to find out what it was. It was an open elevator platform! That meant that the building had a basement. Rather than ride the lift down, I kept exploring.
It wasn't long before I found two big bathrooms, a paint shop bay and a ramp that descended into the dark. Another switch lit up a row of florescent fixtures that illuminated the way down.
The basement had the same industrial lime green enamel paint job and had a fourteen foot ceiling. It was huge! If nothing else I could rent out climate-controlled spaces for boats, cars and campers to pay for the building's rent and insurance. The paint on the floor was worn in patches and ugly. Off in one corner near the elevator shaft I found a beat-up delivery van and a car. And what a car it was! Someone had stashed away a black 1970 Pontiac GTO. I reverently approached it, my holy grail of the muscle cars. I quickly noticed that the hood scoops were too large, and there were louvers within the cowling. Somebody had supercharged the thing. On sticking my head inside the driver's window I saw that the driver's seat had been equipped with a five point harness. I pulled the pins and raised the hood. This wasn't a showpiece. This was a thoroughbred racehorse. I saw what could only be the old big block rocket 455 engine. All the hoses were armored. The battery was in a closed bolted-down box. I was impressed. I lowered and pinned the hood. A quick peek underneath showed a shrouded drive shaft. I sat down in the driver's seat and opened the glove box. Yep, there was a Nitrous tap. This thing was a street legal sleeper that was tricked out for the track. I'd have to get it up on a lift to see if it had a fuel cell instead of a tank. I noticed a folded piece of paper in the glove box. It was the title to the car. It had been signed over for transfer. I pocketed it, along with the keys.
How long had it had sat here in the dark? I doubted that the fuel was still good. I wasn't about to try and start it until the oil, radiator and fuel had been drained, flushed and refilled. All I needed were replacement fluids, some tanks for the old fluids, a couple of gallons of solvent and an air hose. If it had been sitting for more than a couple of years all the spark plug wires, the hoses, the coil wire, the vacuum hoses and the battery had to be checked. I'd just flat out replace the wiper blades as their soft composition wasn't designed for long-term storage. On inspection the tires looked very good. That was a blessing as those big red-stripe racing grade steel-belted radials were expensive!
I decided that my two hundred and fifty dollar MIG welder was the best investment of my life.
There was a sub-basement as well, but it was partially taken over by a sump with a couple pumps in it, a large air compressor with pipes leading up the wall, presumably to the main floor and a pit containing the hydraulics and heavy steel frame for the elevator. The existence of the wet sump explained why the power was left on. The plate on the mechanism said that it was rated for twenty-eight tons. I called for the lift and rode it up to the main floor. It worked perfectly--smooth as silk.
I paid a visit to the bank as the letter had instructed. There I made out a signature card for the account and got a big book of self-carbon checks as well as a debit card. The account statement said there was a bit over six and a quarter million in funds. The bank had been paying the gas, electric, water, insurance and tax bills for just over five years. The phone had been cut off but that was easy to address.
I was informed that there was a safety deposit box in the company's name. Would I care to inspect it? Damned straight, I would. Inside were all the originals of the incorporation papers, insurance agreement and all the other paperwork that a business needs to have. I got a cardboard box out of the van and emptied the bank box. I borrowed a telephone and an empty office to order three POTS phone lines and one digital grade line for their Internet service from the phone company, then looked up ADT's number to get an alarm system installed. Thankfully they'd gone wireless and didn't need a phone line like they used to.
.... There is more of this story ...