Prologue: December 1975
A woman fiercely rubs her eyes as if she can wipe away the reality of what has just occurred.
“The babies,” she screams, as she pulls herself up from the ground toward the rear of the mangled car. As she reaches to open the car door, she hears sirens approaching from a great distance. She peers into the car in the darkness and sees two car seats—one still upright and the other almost inverted, caught only by the headrest of the crushed front seat. Only a small bit of flaxen hair is visible from under the metal bars and gingham cover. Suddenly, the piercing cries of the baby in the upright seat breaks through her disbelieving haze.
“Tracy,” she sobs, as she reaches for the small, flailing hand in a futile effort to comfort the screaming twin. “Camille,” she whispers across the darkness. “Wake up, baby girl. Please wake up.”
Chapter One: Present Day
“Remind me again why we thought moving this stuff ourselves was a good idea.” Mark Roberts kissed his wife Tracy on the cheek, inadvertently wiping some of his sweat onto her face. They’d been loading boxes and furniture into the U-Haul all day. Actually, Mark had done most of the work. Tracy had done the directing, admiring her husband’s athletic physique from the vicinity of the truck.
“We’re saving money, remember? We’re in a recession.” Sweaty or no, Tracy kissed him back and walked around to the driver’s entrance and climbed in. “Wow, Eau de U-Haul. What a scent!” The odors swirling around the ancient truck were redolent of an infinite line of past renters. With her fair hair pulled into a ponytail, Tracy looked like the co-ed she had been when the couple first met. She had jeans and a cashmere sweater pulled over her lean frame—not exactly moving attire Mark had remarked when she got dressed that morning, after they made love for the last time in their murphy-bedded studio apartment, but she said it was the only outfit that was not packed.
“Well, the least I can do is drive the truck since you did most of the heavy lifting. You just sit back and relax.”
Tracy gingerly maneuvered the U-Haul into the First Avenue traffic in New York City. Taxis immediately started honking at her for pulling out too slowly. She headed north toward the Triborough Bridge, noting in the big side view mirror a sea of yellow trailing close behind.
“Yeah, right, that’s what I’m doing, just chilling.” Mark laughed and flipped the bird to one of the taxi drivers. “This is such a smooth ride.” He bounced up and down in his seat.
The taxi driver in front of them rolled down his window and held out his ashtray in his left hand. The wind carried the ashes back to the U-Haul’s windshield.
Tracy tried to steady the orange and white beast even though she couldn’t see for a moment. “Aren’t you glad we’re leaving this disgusting city?”
“Only to commute back in every day from Connecticut. You look so little in that driver’s seat.”
“That’s because any padding that was ever in this seat wore out years ago. I’m practically on the floor. At least we won’t be commuting in this thing.”
“We should have stayed in our third floor walk-up.” Mark squirmed trying to find a comfortable position.
“Okay, I’ll turn around and you can drag all of our stuff back up those stairs.” Tracy started to steer the big boat of a truck around.
“Hey, this is a one way street!” Mark grabbed the steering wheel and tried to straighten it out. “Go straight. Greenwich here we come.”
“We’ll look like the Beverly Hillbillies when we roll into town.”
“That city needs a little diversity.”
“Is that what two white investment bankers are? Diversity?”
“Let’s just hope we aren’t two unemployed white investment bankers soon.”
“No diversity there either. There’s a lot of ‘em up in Greenwich these days. How do you think we got such a great deal on our new house?” Tracy slammed on the brakes. No cruising through yellow lights in this heavy truck, she thought. “Do you think we’ll be okay?” she asked Mark. She kept worrying about how they would make the mortgage payments on the new house. “I used to think we were moving into our bull market house. Now we haven’t even unpacked and already it seems like a bear market albatross.” Tracy carefully avoided Mark’s gaze. Mark had recently left a lucrative banking job to join a dot-com start-up. What once seemed like tremendous potential had evaporated quickly into Internet hell. Between the two of them, the market meltdown was enough to make Tracy wonder if they were going to have to sell the place before they’d even unpacked.
“We’ll be alright. We promised ourselves on our honeymoon we would buy a house, remember?”
“I remember. You know what I love about you?”
“So many things, I know, but why don’t you start listing them for me,” he replied. “And, start off with how I think you look sexy driving a U-Haul.”
“Well that is a feat all by itself. But, no, aside from you thinking I could somehow be sexy in a U-Haul we should call a U-Rinal, I really love how optimistic you are.”
“Darlin’, how could I not be optimistic with my wife manhandling this truck?”
“Green means go, bitch!” A taxi cab driver yelled at Tracy as he raced past when the light changed.
Tracy gave the cabbie the finger and kept motoring along.
“Did you hear that?” asked Pete Callahan, a self-appointed Master of the Universe.
“Hear what?” Tracy turned her head and stared at her boss who was sitting only fifteen inches away at the adjacent desk. “I didn’t hear anything.”
“That’s my fucking point, Lam-bert. You could hear an ant fart in here and it’s a trading floor for chrissake.” Pete was the exact physical profile a background of St. Paul’s and Princeton would suggest: slim, preppy, steely blue eyes, slicked back hair. His handsome black Irish features never failed to make the support staff swoon and the younger male employees jump to attention.
“It’s Lam-bear.” Tracy corrected Pete about the pronunciation of her maiden name under her breath for the thousandth time. “It’s French, remember?” As much as she hated to admit it, Pete was right. Things were quiet. Too quiet. A dismal mood permeated the trading floor, once vibrant with highly compensated traders ringing what seemed to be a bottomless golden cash register.
Tracy scanned the cavernous room of Morgan Fisher. From her seat, she could see the tops of about fifty computer monitors, laden with stuffed animals, pictures of loved ones, baseball caps, even a lone holiday snow globe collecting dust. The ticker tape running across the back wall had more red than green scrolling across it. The market was hemorrhaging.
Tracy stretched her arms and rose to her feet, looking around the vast room just off Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. More than 300 people around her were crammed into small desks, overflowing with trading screens. Their chairs were shoved so close together, it was as if they were lined up in economy class on a low-budget airline. Every trader appeared desperate, trying to make a lucrative bet on the direction of the market. No one was willing to give up an enormous paycheck without a fight, especially Tracy, who needed her income more than ever now that she had moved to the big house in Greenwich.
Tracy had always put in grueling hours to prepare to succeed at her job, but today she was uncharacteristically working at half-pace. She realized her shoulders ached from unpacking boxes late into the night and her morning espresso was quickly wearing off. If she didn’t start sleeping better in the quiet of the countryside, she was going to have to double her usual morning Starbucks. The letter she had received the day before from her old friend Russ Thompson hadn’t helped her sleep either. She had tossed it around in her head for what felt like hours.
The phone rang on her desk and brought Tracy back to the bond game with every instinct honed. The customer on the phone was a slimy one. Bob Morris, President of Morris and Company, breathed slowly and heavily into the phone. “Hey Bond Babe,” he finally whispered.
Tracy literally bit her tongue. Morris was the customer and in a bad market business needed to be done at whatever cost. Even if that cost was ignoring the comments almost every male colleague seemed to make about her blonde hair, full lips, and long legs. In her own mind, she was still the scrawny, ill at ease kid her brother had nicknamed “Birdie” because she had a patch of hair that stuck straight up in the air for the first few years of her life. For Tracy, liking herself was much more complicated than the matter of looks. Abruptly, the heavy breathing on the line ceased and a machine gun of barking questions shot through the phone. “Where are AT&T bonds trading and why does this market keep on tanking? I need to sell thirty million and I’m missing my goddamn chance.”
Tracy put Bob on hold and stood up with the intense concentration of a warrior. She shouted across the room at Joe Berger, the corporate bond trader. “Bid thirty million AT&T bonds.”
“Tracy,” Joe yelled back. “I don’t want to own any more bonds in this market. I’ll give you a shitty bid—one hundred ten and seven-eighths.”
It was a shitty bid. Tracy got back on the phone with Bob and tried her best effort to win the business and buy the bonds at the low price Joe would pay, but Bob wouldn’t listen. “Tracy, honey, you’re hot. I’d like to give you the business, but Goldman Sachs gave me a better bid.”
“I’m so sick of being called hot by that slime bucket.” Tracy slammed down the phone. “Especially when he won’t print a trade with me.” The pressure to get trades done in this market was becoming unbearable. Business had to pick up.
Tracy looked up from her trading screens and saw a group of Morgan Fisher’s most senior management standing together in a huddle, talking in what appeared to be hushed tones. It’s going to take much more than huddled conversations to turn this market around, thought Tracy, as she stood up, following her curiosity. Ever since she had found the same group assembled around the office conference table one Saturday when she had come to the office to retrieve her cell phone, she had wondered about the group’s whispered conversations. She walked over to the area to try to eavesdrop and leaned in closer to the huddle as she thought she heard the words, “Then don’t let them find out.” She stared at the men and realized there was a new face in the crowd. She was certain she had never seen the man before. His faint mustache and close-set dark eyes seemed to place him as Middle Eastern in descent.
“What are you doing here?” asked Johnny Cohen, as he stepped away from the group to meet Tracy’s stares. As Johnny moved closer to Tracy the mustached man seemed to shadow him.
“Nothing. Just passing through.”
“You know what you are, Tracy? You’re one of the worst combinations possible on a trading floor. You’re green in the business and you’re a chick.”
Tracy was in no mood for more sexual harassment. “Look, I used to be green,” Tracy shot back. “But I’m smart and aggressive and I’ve been working my ass off to prove myself to you and to all the other traders at Morgan.”
“Tracy, don’t bother,” Johnny said as he panned her body. “We like your ass just the way it is.”
Tracy often had to endure comments almost every male colleague and client felt free to utter about her blonde hair, full lips, and long legs. She was definitely the babe of the bond desk, but she also had one of the sharpest brains at the bank. The trick for Tracy was trying to make sure her co-workers and customers paid attention to the latter When she first joined the bank, Tracy had been given a list of small accounts no one else wanted. Within one year, she had turned four of the small clients into multi-million-dollar accounts for the firm. She didn’t deserve to be called green anymore—she had earned her place on the desk through hard work. She was determined to make it in the Morgan Fisher cesspool. If that meant talking tough to senior management, then she would have to do it. “Why don’t you tell me something, Johnny?” she pressed on. “Why is it the best traders on the floor are referred to by their grade-school nicknames? You are Johnny, not John. There’s Timmy and Tommy over there and Mikey, Billy and Petey around the corner and oh, my favorite of all…Patty, who’s not offended that someone is calling him a girl’s name, not Patrick. It’s kind of like the trading floor is really just one big sandbox you boys are playing in. Can a chick play in the sandbox, too, Johnny?” Without waiting for a reply, Tracy walked away and headed back to her desk.
She had to duck when a football almost hit her in the head. Given the trading floor’s size, it was no surprise a football was usually being flung about. Tracy silently praised her dad for teaching her how to throw a football well, one of the many traits they did not teach at Harvard Business School when Tracy attended, although it was almost a job necessity on Wall Street. Until the last few months when his Alzheimer’s had progressed rapidly, she had called him almost every day to try to cheer him up. Recently, Tracy had begun to realize her father was slipping into a dark void, more and more unreachable and less and less like the man she knew from her childhood. In the best of circumstances, she would have been ill-equipped to mourn his loss-in-progress. Given the strains at work and at home, losing her father to this void was devastating.
Muffy Thomas climbed the makeshift wooden steps into the MNBC news truck, being careful not to let the cameraman, who was climbing in behind her, get a glimpse up her skirt. For the past few weeks her hemline was rising as fast as she could get her suits to her tailor. Muffy may have just turned fifty, but she had no intention of retiring from the news business.
Even though the ratings for her one-hour show Marketwrap were declining rapidly, she wasn’t giving in. If Katie Couric and Connie Chung could stay in the business past middle age, Muffy would too. As the van pulled out of the MNBC parking lot in Fort Lee, NJ, headed for Morgan Fisher in Manhattan, Muffy pulled out her make-up mirror and surveyed the lines on her forehead. The Botox injections from the night before were starting to kick in. She could feel the skin from the top of her eyebrows to her hairline tightening. Muffy hadn’t stooped to field reporting in 20 years, but she needed more exposure on air. She almost had to push that perky Maria Bartiromo aside when Maria tried to jump into the news van. “Arnie specifically told me to interview Jimmy Meyers. He wants Morgan Fisher to be my beat now,” Muffy said through gnashed teeth. What could Maria do? Arnie was not only Muffy’s husband, but he was also the owner of MNBC and the network’s CEO.
“Don’t let them find out.” The words Tracy thought she heard uttered by senior management echoed in her head. She wondered what might be going on at Morgan Fisher that the employees were not supposed to find out about. Her job better not be at risk because of them, she thought. She decided she would try to figure out what was going on at the firm, but first she had to meet with a member of senior management.
The few plush offices around the edges of the Morgan Fisher trading floor were reserved for the men at the top of the bond department. Tracy had just been summoned into the plushest of them all, the one belonging to Jack Martin, the head of the whole trading floor. Jack had worked his way up after many years at Morgan, starting in the back office right out of college, in the day when you really could start at nothing and still wind up at the top. At 56, he was old by bond market standards, but despite the rumor on the Street that Jack would soon retire, he showed up at work every day, proof that he was a man who loved to defy the rules. He usually walked around the Morgan trading floor with a fat Cohiba cigar—a talisman of his accumulated wealth— hanging out of his big-lipped mouth. Most people on the floor liked his defiance of the anti-smoking rules because it meant they knew when Jack was near. At the first whiff of cigar smoke, they could pick up their phones and pretend to sell bonds to a customer when they were really just dialing their home numbers. Tracy loved coming home and listening to the phony sales jobs she left on her answering machine when Jack was around.
“I’ve asked you in here to discuss an important opportunity I have in mind for you,” said Jack in his vowel-intense New York accent. “I’ve been watching you. You remind me of myself when I started in the business—hungry and aggressive.” Jack pursed his lips and looked Tracy in the eye. “I’ve decided to take Ellen Boyle off the Pru account and get you running on it.”
Tracy was flattered, but skeptical. These account changes didn’t just come up, especially when it involved Prudential, one of the firm’s biggest clients. It was a prime account every salesperson wanted, especially one finishing the training program just two years before, like Tracy.
“Okay,” she said, keeping her cool. “Do I want to know why this is coming up now?”
Jack paused. His eyes were hooded behind the smoke curling from his fine cigar. The effect made him seem more reptilian by narrowing his eyes in his cold assessment of Tracy. “I’ve been disappointed with Ellen for a long time. We should put her out to pasture, but with that 50-year old woman’s case pending against First City Bank for age discrimination I can’t afford to fire her. Even though she’s not holding her own with the account. Hell, I just got a call from the CEO of Pru telling me Morgan won’t be in the running to do their next stock deal if we don’t get her off of the account.”
“So why me?”
“I need a woman to cover Pru. They’ve got a bitch on their end and everyone on the Street knows a man can’t cover her. You gotta love women’s lib, Tracy. It can only help to make you a very rich woman in this business. Not to mention, covering the Pru is a great opportunity for you. It comes with a promotion to Vice President.”
Jack leaned across the desk, clearly waiting for Tracy to respond. Tracy met his gaze. The quick promotion to VP was certainly a coup after her short tenure on the desk, and clearly she had proved herself worthy of a spot on the inside team after this frank discussion with Jack. But such a blatant discussion about the feelings toward older women at the firm concerned her, even if Ellen Boyle wasn’t Morgan Fisher’s most stellar employee. Despite these misgivings, the only possible answer Tracy could give was yes. Her internal mantra at the firm was “go along to get along.” Constantly repeating the words to herself was the only way she could handle the pressure, although she hadn’t abided by her own mantra when she had just talked back to Johnny Cohen.
Now that she and Mark had only one salary, she felt like she was wearing a pair of golden handcuffs. And, in her heart, she knew Jack was right. If she could just figure out a way to stay in her seat, she really could have the success she had always dreamed about. She quickly put on her best game face and said, “Right. So you break the news to Ellen and let me know when I can get to work selling bonds to the Pru.”
“Will do,” Jack replied. “Oh, before you go, Pete will be running the trades on this. I’ll be counting on you to coordinate this smoothly.” He bent down slightly and dropped a turdlike ash from his cigar on the floor next to Tracy. As he lowered his head, Tracy noticed his bushy eyebrows formed the shape of an elongated V ─like devil’s horns protruding toward her.
“But…” Tracy stammered, thinking about how once again her hard work would be lining Pete’s wallet. “I thought you wanted me to run the account.”
“It’s necessary for us to run these trades through a subsidiary. Pete’s employed by them and we’ll be compensating you via that entity. I really need to get on a conference call now. I can set you up with accounting if you want the nitty gritty.” Jack swiveled toward the window away from Tracy’s gaze.
“No need. I’m trying to make sure I understand my role. I’ll keep Pete in the loop,” said Tracy, hoping her tone masked her inner disappointment.
“By the way, we all look forward to seeing you and Mr. Lambert at Pete’s event this weekend.”
“Actually my husband’s name is Mark Roberts. Mr. Lambert would be my father,” Tracy replied, trying to sound upbeat.
Jack swiveled back around. “You girls never cease to amaze me. In my day, girls couldn’t wait to get rid of their maiden name. What do women do now when they register for the maternity ward? Do they use their married names then?”
“Well, I haven’t given that any thought.” Tracy hurried to get out of Jack’s office, trying to make sense of what had just happened. She walked by Jimmy Meyers, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Morgan Fisher, being interviewed live on the trading floor by Muffy Thomas, the reporter for MNBC. Tracy marveled at how old Muffy looked in person. Her rumored penchant for plastic surgery hadn’t really enhanced her appearance, but Jimmy looked good. At 66, he had that patrician, well-preserved, comb-over look down perfectly. The bright light of the television camera was pointed directly at Muffy and Jimmy from only two feet away and Jimmy was sweating. Tracy could see the beads forming on his highborn forehead. She passed directly behind the cameraman and heard Jimmy talking up the firm.
“Despite the more difficult market environment for Wall Street firms,” he smiled, highlighting the Hollywood white of his teeth aligned like piano keys, and looked right at the camera, “as the economy has deteriorated considerably, Morgan Fisher will continue to stand out among our peers as a top performer. We have recently established a relationship with premier investors in the Asian market and expect to quickly reap benefits from this successful alliance. We expect to see our first quarter profit up eighteen percent when our earnings are announced in April, exactly in line with our projections. I myself have been buying the stock of our company in an effort to show I will put my money where my mouth is and invest in what I believe is a great future for this company.”
On the electronic ticker tape scrolling across the back wall of the trading floor, Morgan Fisher’s stock was being bid up even as Jimmy was finishing his interview. The stock jumped a
whole point—nearly three percent—during the short interview. Based on what she’d been hearing about the firm’s major mortgage losses again this quarter, there was no way earnings would be up eighteen percent. That was some snow job Jimmy had just pulled off, Tracy thought.
Tracy sat down at her desk and saw the phone bank in front of her sparkling with flashes of red and green lights. Her direct line lit up, but before she could get to it her assistant, Brad Purcell, picked up the incoming call. Just the day before Tracy had caught Brad stealing the coffee money from a drawer in the break room. “Just making change,” he’d lied, hardly skipping a beat. Even though he stood six feet two and weighed a solid one seventy-five, Brad’s nickname on the floor was “Kid.” All new recruits received a nickname when they started, something to remind them that they were the lowest rung on the trading floor totem pole, somewhere between mail clerk and gofer. It didn’t matter that half of them went to Yale and the other half Harvard. Tracy watched a smirk come across Brad’s face as he yelled out, “Tracy, your mother’s office is on line six.” This was the same smirk he’d wear if he achieved his goal of pushing her off the bond desk.
“Thanks, Brad.” Tracy glared at him and made a mental note to mention this breach of office etiquette at his next performance review. With her phone bank lit up, and a new high-profile account to manage, the last thing Tracy wanted to have broadcast was the fact that she was taking a personal call at work. How different her work life would be if the firm had accepted her request to move Michael Bell into the position Brad had gotten instead. Her support for the hard-working guy from the back office was not enough to overcome the stigma of his night school education. “Hi. This is Tracy,” she said to her mother’s assistant as she answered the phone. “You can tell my mother to pick up now.”
“Tracy, we have a major problem. Your brother is missing.”
Tracy’s mother only reached out to her during her brother Tom’s fiascos and it never failed to shock Tracy that the conversations could escalate so quickly to heated arguments. The conversations confronted Tracy with the unresolved anger stemming from a childhood dominated by a numb and distant Anne Lambert—a despot of perfection. Tom had always attracted all of the attention from his parents—one crisis after another. Given her husband’s illness, Anne now approached Tracy in her panics about Tom. “Tom can’t be missing,” Tracy replied. “People that are missing are missing from a responsibility like a job and he doesn’t have any responsibilities. Have you tried the Club?” Tracy fiddled with the phone cord, willing her mother gone. She had deals to make and she really didn’t have time to discuss her wayward brother. “Or, maybe he went off to Istanbul again and forgot to call to check in.” Her older brother, Tom, claimed he had become fascinated with Turkey in high school while visiting the country. Tracy suspected his recent love of the country, however, had more to do with illicit drugs and readily available whores.
“But he hasn’t returned any of my calls and my sources say he hasn’t been to his apartment in over two weeks,” said her mother.
Tracy sensed the implausible—a slight crack in her mother’s voice. “Sources? I can’t believe you’ve had your own son’s apartment staked out! Would you do that to me?”
“I would if I was worried about you, but I know that I’d never face this issue with you.” Tracy knew her mother was right. Decades of trying to gain her mother’s attention for all of her positive achievements had failed.
“Thanks, Mother,” Tracy said without much conviction. “But I really don’t have time for this. By now you must have figured out Tom’s pattern of disappearance. He’s just upped the ante to keep your attention. Apparently he’s succeeded.” Without waiting for her mother’s response Tracy said, “I wish you showed the same concern for Daddy. He’s at home in Maryland with a full time nurse while you work all week in D.C. You’re too busy writing your books and your column to spend any time with him.”
“That’s not true,” Anne Lambert stuttered in reply. “I was in Maryland just last weekend. It’s very complicated. I’m not sure he even knows who I am anymore.”
“So it’s about you then? How can you be so sure he doesn’t know who you are? I think you’re making excuses for yourself.” Tracy paused, fearing she was going too far with her mother and knowing from experience that there was no way to wrap up the conversation to either party’s satisfaction. “Listen,” she said, softening her tone. “I need to go. Call me if you hear from Tommy, okay?”
Tracy had lived her life controlled by Anne’s obsession with appearances. Etiquette is what her mom called it, but control was what it seemed like to Tracy as a child. What difference did it make what fork was being used at the dinner table when there was no conversation among the family? And now that Tracy felt her life was on delicate footing, she knew there would be no support from her mother. She also knew her dad would give her support, if only he could.
Muffy Thomas had a strange feeling in her stomach. She tried to tell herself it was from all of the sit-ups she had done before her shower that morning, but as she was walking off the Morgan Fisher trading floor, heading toward the elevators, her gut told her to go back in and start asking questions. The reporter in her just didn’t believe Jimmy Meyers was telling the truth about the rosy outlook for Morgan Fisher’s first quarter earnings. If Morgan Fisher really was outperforming its peer group it would be a sensation—not to mention a huge story to break. In the interest of getting more background, she said goodbye to her news crew and sauntered back
onto the trading floor, spotting an empty seat next to Billy Campbell, the Treasury trader she noticed had ogled her throughout her interview of Jimmy earlier. She pointed to the chair.
“May I?” she asked.
“Of course.” Billy’s eyes widened to show his excitement. Ever since his divorce, he was lonely for female companionship. Muffy reminded him of his ex-wife a little—sexy in an older woman sort of way.
Muffy sat down and crossed her legs, inching her skirt up even higher. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions about Morgan Fisher?”
Billy hedged for a moment, then lowered his voice and said, “Normally we’re not supposed to talk to reporters, but since you’re the prettiest reporter I’ve ever laid my eyes on, I’ll answer a few questions.” The investment banker in him added, “Keep them general and don’t quote me on anything.”
“Absolutely,” Muffy replied with all the sincerity she could muster. “I hear you’re the best damn Treasury trader on Wall Street,” she continued. “Have you had big gains in Treasury’s this quarter? If you have, then you’re the only trader on Wall Street who has, which of course wouldn’t surprise me because you’re probably that good.”
“Thanks for the flattery, but hell no…I’ve been burned as bad as all the other traders this quarter.”
“Then how is Morgan going to meet their earnings guidance this quarter?” Muffy pressed. “Where’s the profit coming from?”
“I’ve been wondering the same thing,” Billy replied, shifting his gaze.
“Can you tell me more about the firm’s recapitalization last year?” Muffy leaned toward him over her notebook, fully aware she was giving Billy a clear view down her shirt to the top of her black bra, the better to enjoy her recent plastic surgery.
“We had an enormous loss to the tune of billions of dollars in our mortgage trading division last year,” Billy said, his eyes peeled to Muffy’s breasts.
“I know all about that.”
“But here’s the part you probably don’t know. And this is totally off the record. I mean it. We’ll never chat again if you ever repeat this on MNBC.”
“You have my word.”
Billy glanced around the trading floor. Then, apparently confident he could not be overheard, said to Muffy, “That loss triggered defaults on all of our loan covenants and basically paralyzed the firm. We had no trading capital. We could have gone under at any moment, but of course we never let on to the market, or it would have meant certain death. I was literally not allowed to do a trade over fifty million without personally checking with Jack Martin. It was nuts.”
Muffy could tell she was on to something but needed Billy to explain better. “Okay, back up here for me. I got my MBA a few years ago”—like 24 years ago, Muffy said to herself. “Explain this whole trading capital to me.”
“Investment banks have to hold a certain amount of capital, or assets, on our books at all times to please the regulators. When there’s a huge loss, our net assets go down and our trading capital is reduced as well.”
“I think I’m with you.”
“So, within a few days of the shit hitting the fan, this group of Asian investors from Brunei appeared out of nowhere and offered to buy a ten billion dollar convertible preferred
stock to essentially recapitalize the firm—you know, to shore up our assets and boost our trading capital. It’s looking like brilliant timing for them if our stock really does continue to be a rocket ship though. Now we have this big Singapore office I hear is pretty fancy.”
“And what exactly does Morgan Fisher do in that office?”
“Hell if I know, but I could maybe try to remember a few details for you if I was holding a scotch.” He leaned in closer to Muffy, so close she could smell his cologne. “How about dinner?”
Muffy gave Billy a wide smile and got up to go. “Gosh, I wish I could, but dinner won't work tonight, Billy. I have a deadline.”
“How about tomorrow night then?” Billy asked.
“Fine. I'll look forward to it."
“Me, too.” Muffy gave Billy a last, lingering look. “And thanks for everything. You don’t know how grateful I am.”
“Oh believe me, Muffy, I’m fully expecting you to show me.”