When I was on my way to Caledon I was full of excitement. During my month running a flying cargo service I had started developing project for new models of airships and airplanes, and I was looking forward to show them to my father and my brother. Of course I did not expect them to accept all the new ideas - the family business has always been rather conservative - but I knew that with time I would have been able to convince them. Moreover I had a plan to use my savings to setup an hideout where I could build some of my projects, so the be able to show them not just blueprints but actual prototypes of the 2-3 models I cared most.
I was also particularly happy because Crotty, after some insistence, had finally decided to move and take his residence in Caledon as well.
It would have been great to have him involved in the activity. And in any case I was sure that he would not have accepted not to be a test pilot for every new flying machine I was going to build :)
My father welcomed me warmly, and listened to me with more interest than I had expected. Told me that he was looking forward to discuss in more detail the models that I had in mind. Harlow agreed politely, but my brother looked somehow ... detached, like his thoughts were constantly elsewhere.
After some weeks it was clear that something was wrong. Some thoughts were clearly bothering my father, and he looked so old and tired. Harlow was seen at the family's sites less and less and even when he was there it was nevertheless like he was there with his body but not with his mind.
One evening, when I was about to confront my father about what was going on, he called me in his study and dropped a bomb on me: we were ruined!
The family was totally covered by debts. Some promising real estate investments in some lands called openspaces had suddenly turned ugly. An unexpected rise in land taxes had dropped their value below zero and many were badly hit. Our family looked to be more exposed than most, though. The state of the family enterprise was not in good shape either. Looked like that Harlow had played some other risky financial games that, in turn, had taken a hit by the real estate situation. Bottom line we were ruined.
I could not believe to what I was being told. After so many years ... now that I had finally started to become fond of the flying business ... we had lost everything
Father told me that we had a way out. Some of Harlow's business acquaintances had offered to relieve all the family business and remaining properties covering all the debts as part of the operation. It was an unfair accommodation : the value of the properties was still higher of the debts ... provided we had a fair offer. But we had no other. We had to sell.
Father told me that he had decided to retire. There was still a little property that used to belong to my mother and that was not alienable. He had decided to abandon the Steamlands and move there with his dogs and his books.
He told me that he had pulled some strings and, if I wanted, there was a lieutenant commission in the RCAF waiting for me.
In a couple of months my world had changed. The family mansion was vacated, the properties sold, Father left to mainland, and I moved to a small apartment.
.. and I started my life as an officer and a test pilot of the RCAF.
It was a quiet life. My family was respected in the air service and many felt sorry for the bad turn of events that hat hit my father. I fly training flights in the morning. I tested new models in the afternoon. I spent evening at some pub with Crotty and Harlow and some other officers.
It was a quiet life ... until that day when, flying over Caledon Highlands, I noticed some smoke.
But this is a story for the next time
In the next episode : Pirates over Caledon