`` Good old A-Z '' , Cap said .
`` You know , I've got one of your cars at home .
As a prominent industrialist , you ought to be interested in his nibs' support group .
Isn't his racket down your alley '' ? ?
Once it was , William thought .
But not any more .
A rush of memory swept him back , and he forgot Cap .
How did he start on such a ride to brief glory ? ?
Simply enough , through the inadvertent agency of his brother-in-law .
General Hershey's draft and Doc Eddyman and Cap were responsible for his first eminence , but Fearless Freddy Bryan could take credit , if he cared to ( and he did ) , for the second time .
Freddy needed a job , having been detached from a rather dangerous career in real estate and skyscraper financing by Gerry , and it was up to Arthur Willis to provide him with one .
Mr. Willis bought Zenith Plastic Products , a skeleton corporation of sorts which had undergone many vicissitudes and whose principal assets were a couple of electronics plants on Long Island engaged in working out government contracts , and installed Freddy in an executive position .
Shortly after , Freddy had his usual proliferation of bold ideas .
Willis listened patiently , and once in a while William was exposed to them at a family gathering ; ;
he generally heard Freddy's suggestions without interest , being absorbed by his own prospering concerns .
Probably Mr. Willis was influenced toward deeper involvement by familial loyalty and a concern for his grandchildren .
Gerry began to aid Freddy with her father , prodded , no doubt , by Joan's open contempt for Freddy and William's irritating competency .
Another factor must have been the eventual disposal of Willis' fortune ; ;
she unquestionably assumed that the more he was entwined with Freddy , the more likely he was to reward Freddy richly upon his death .
Whatever the reasons , Willis and Bryan started expanding Zenith .
They acquired another electronics factory , a specialized ceramics company , an organization that built -- very experimentally -- high-speed research calculators .
Since they were hunting for national defense contracts , Adam Herberet , a man of surprising resources , entered the combination as a silent partner because of his political connections .
Feeling his power , Freddy looked for additional worlds to conquer .
Heavy industry , slanted toward inexhaustible government coffers , attracted him .
The Allstates Auto Company , a medium-sized firm which manufactured four-wheel-drive vehicles and other off-road equipment , had recently constructed an over-large , modern plant in a burst of misguided optimism .
Cursed with a shaky management and dissatisfied stockholders , it was ripe for amalgamation , and Freddy's instinct was to keep growing by stock mergers and small expenditure of cash , and never mind inevitable consequences .
With Herberet's blessing , he was convinced that Allstates' Wisconsin folly would be ideal for conversion to airplane sub-assembly , tanks , missiles or ordnance of some kind .
At that point William came into the picture .
Although not much desiring the account , he had been appointed advertising head of Zenith .
Freed of routine by having his own firm and a complaisant partner , his work in New York had given him a broader overall knowledge of business administration and corporate structure ; ;
and if he wasn't entirely committed to what he did , he was at least fascinated by the chance of wider opportunities .
Mr. Willis , eager to have him allied with the family , wanted advice beyond the confines of his field , and William set out on a serious study of the situation , including trips to Wisconsin and Washington .
In the end , he said : `` I'm not enchanted by the proposition , sir .
I know a guy named Jack Hamrick , a very bright young engineer who was with Chrysler , and I took him with me to Allstates .
It's his expert opinion that the plant isn't well suited to what you have in mind .
The conversion will cost a fortune .
Besides that , I'm acquainted more or less with the defense hardware situation through my contacts in the Air Force .
I think Adam Herberet is guilty of being too hopeful and better informed on defense financing than on the technical side .
Missiles have thrown everything up for grabs , and nobody seems to be sure where we go from here .
The future of manned aircraft is in doubt , which affects government procurement , and jet transports have revolutionized the airline trade -- one jet can take the place of three compound-engine planes .
This means the aircraft companies are going to tear into the government market , looking for anything they can get and making the competition tough .
Here are a few facts and figures I've assembled .
Can't you stay with what you have and wait till the dust settles '' ? ?
Willis glanced at the bound pages given him and shrugged .
`` Well '' , he said , `` there is Freddy , you know .
And Gerry .
Freddy is deeply committed to our plans already .
He assures me he has people to handle the money raising , and Ham Richert , my lawyer , says the legal aspects of the wedding of Zenith and Allstates are no problem .
I don't like to exhibit the deadly dampening effect of an elderly man's caution '' .
`` Yes , I appreciate that .
I wish you wouldn't tell Freddy I'm lukewarm ; ;
I've caused him trouble before , and he's beginning to resent me .
If we don't take care , the sisters will be entering the fray on opposite sides , brandishing their cudgels '' .
`` Which is a frightful prospect , Bill '' .
Willis laughed .
`` One shouldn't mix commercial affairs with patriarchy , but in this case I have no choice .
Let me think about it .
I'm most grateful to you , so grateful I wish you were my principal aide instead of Freddy '' .
Not to William's surprise , Freddy , Adam and Hamilton Richert prevailed ; ;
allied to them was Gerry , devoting much time to swaying her father , and Joan dismissed all thought of the project and William was unwilling to interfere further .
Zenith absorbed Allstates , stock transfers were arranged , and Freddy became president of the hyphenated combination .
Through Jack Hamrick , William fell into the world of automobile promotion and got several accounts for Shoals and Clay .
He forgot about A-Z till , unhappily , he and Hamrick were proved correct .
Freddy's backing dropped away from him and Mr. Willis was forced to make up the deficit .
Adam , beset by changing defense conditions and the open secret that he was part of the new corporation , couldn't deliver from his end .
The Wisconsin plant turned out to be a white elephant .
Stock Willis held in abundance fell sharply in value .
Confronted by a grim future , Freddy lost his nerve and plumped for a drastic liquidation .
Once more Willis summoned William .
`` You were right '' , he said -- `` you and your engineer -- and I'm in something of a bind .
Freddy's solution doesn't appeal to me .
In addition to other defects , I'm a stubborn man and hate to admit to the common garden variety of bad judgment .
Will you see if you can help me '' ? ?
William spent a long week end closeted with Hamrick .
His recent experience in motor car advertising , a love for cars of themselves , the existence of A-Z's useless Wisconsin set-up , exposure to exciting conceptions of Hamrick's that nobody would buy , and the coincidental recent failure of a respected but out-dated small-car manufacturer called Ticonderoga Motors had given him an idea of such dimensions he was almost afraid to broach it .
Initially , Hamrick's reaction to A-Z going into the passenger car market was discouraging .
He thought the financing , the advertising , the production of new models , the founding of a nationwide chain of dealerships was simply too difficult .
Then he caught fire .
If A-Z could buy Ticonderoga cheaply and use their presses and dies and other equipment , if William could hit precisely the right promotion note , if the money hurdle was not insurmountable .
They took nearly a month to investigate , marshal statistics , and put their arguments down in black and white .
Taking Hamrick with him , William went to Mr. Willis .
He was surprised and dubious , but impressed by the engineer and the report .
`` Your alternative is breathtaking '' , he said , `` and , I'm frank in saying , a bit mad .
I wish I was younger and less timid .
Well , I can't resolve this myself .
I'll have to call in the brain trust .
Are you willing to run the gantlet ? ?
I can't guarantee you a sympathetic audience '' .
`` We'll be in there swinging '' , William said , `` but in a way , sir , you've got to decide it yourself .
You have the controlling interest and the principal expenditure is yours -- and , besides , nobody else is going to have the courage .
If they follow anyone , it'll have to be you '' .
He paused .
`` I should explain : there's more here for me than advocating my little dream , there's you .
You mustn't take a fall , or publicly back away .
I hate that .
You're -- you're Arthur Willis .
Forgive the hearts and flowers theme '' .
`` I rather like the music '' , Willis replied quietly .
`` Thank you '' .
At the meeting , attended by Freddy , Richert , Herberet and the A-Z executive staff , with Mr. Willis presiding , William and Hamrick did indeed run the gantlet .
From shock and incredulity , most of the listeners went on to open resistance and animosity .
`` Oh , my God '' , Ham Richert said , `` a little child shall lead them .
Move over , General Motors '' .
`` It's absurd , Bill '' , Freddy said , from a pale face .
`` You're leading Dad down the garden path '' .
`` Your garden , God damn it '' ! !
William said .
`` I don't enjoy family quarrels '' , Adam said .
`` Nor crazy relatives .
We're here to transact business .
Can't we put an end to this , Arthur '' ? ?
`` Hear me out , please '' , William begged .
`` I'm an advertising hustler , I admit , but I have to get hot once in a larger sphere .
Sure , Ticonderoga went broke in the low-priced market bucking the Big Three .
Their cars weren't small enough , they didn't have the power , they were old-fashioned .
They tried to sell 'em on economy and simple merit .
We've arrived at an age for romance and snobbery .
We've all been rich and spoiled long enough to hate the machine age .
Look what those little European jobs are doing .
We'll woo the consumer with a product , not bludgeon him with chromed excess length and weight .
Let's make it moonlight and the call of far places and a seduction , at reasonable rates .
Ticonderoga folded a few minutes too soon , before the tide changed , still honest and stupid -- and the network of dealers the company had is around waiting to be signed up again -- waiting for us , ready-made .
We've got rid of the steam yachts and Georgian houses , and the bloated , too-expensive automobile is next .
Why not come down smartly in the world , in a chic fashion , with an Allstates-Zenith '' ? ?
He swayed them somewhat , but the debate raged on .
Financing emerged as the main obstacle .
Mr. Willis made it evident that he had contributed his maximum .
`` Nobody will underwrite it , I'm telling you '' , Freddy said .
`` I know what I'm talking about in that department '' .
`` There's plenty of risk money '' , Ham Richert added , `` but not for anything this risky '' .
`` All right '' , William said .
`` We'll try to swing the deal on that basis .
If we can't raise the capital , we're through .
Nothing has been lost .
You're up against it anyhow .
Why won't you give me a chance '' ? ?
A silence fell .
Heads instinctively turned in Willis' direction .
He smiled at William and slowly rubbed his hands together .
`` I feel I must answer the question '' , he said , `` since the onus later , if any , should fall on me -- I don't relish recriminations spread broadcast outside my family .
I'm not giving you a chance , Bill , but availing myself of your generous offer of assistance .
Good luck to you '' .
`` All the in-laws have got to have their day '' , Adam said , and glared at William and Freddy in turn .
Sweat started out on William's forehead , whether from relief or disquietude he could not tell .
Across the table , Hamrick saluted him jubilantly with an encircled thumb and forefinger .
Nobody else showed pleasure .
Spike-haired , burly , red-faced , decked with horn-rimmed glasses and an Ivy League suit , Jack Hamrick awaited William at the officers' club .
`` Hello , boss '' , he said , and grinned .
`` I suppose I can never expect to call you ' General ' after that Washington episode '' .
`` I'm afraid not '' .