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First pages

One

Rick Larkin waited at the curb as a taxi raced by, its headlights glowing through the early morning fog. A cable car lumbered down California Street, its steel wheels screeching in its tracks and its bell clanging. He passed the Pacific-Union Club building, a square stone building at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco. I paid two grand a month to sip coffee in that club, Rick thought, remembering how soft the thick carpets felt when he walked into the club, the stiff white linen tablecloths covering the tables.

That’s really all over, Rick thought. I have to move on.

The lights from the Bank of America building beamed through the fog. He walked by the Fairmont Hotel, the building covering an entire block. Flags under its roof snapped and swirled in the breeze.

He nodded to the doorman, dressed in a sharply creased, blue uniform and blue cap. The doorman smiled and nodded back. That man had parked cars at Rick’s Nob Hill house years ago, at Rick’s marriage ceremony. Hundreds of people had squeezed into his house. The happy picture of Rick and his bride, Anna, showed on Facebook, in newspapers, and tweeted around the world.

He made a right at the corner and walked down into the blackness of the Tenderloin District. On Mason Street, he passed homeless people in torn and worn clothes. A woman huddled in a storefront said through black teeth, “Hey, baby, you want a date?” A man with a thick grey beard stumbled by, mumbling to himself.

Rick stopped outside an old building; above the door a sign read, “Massage Open 24 hours.” He rang the doorbell and a woman opened the door, wearing a short kimono, its top barely covering her breasts. Smiling, she gestured to him, and he followed her into a room, watching her buttocks swinging through the red sheer satin of the kimono. Vanilla smelling incense burnt in a white holder next to the bed.

He thought it over and looked at his watch as he stood before a white-sheet-covered massage table. “I’m sorry to bother you,” he said. “I have to go; I shouldn’t have come in.”

“You want massage? You want . . .” She opened her kimono, showing her breasts with large nipples, the hair between her legs.

“No it’s just that I have to go to work and make some money. You see, my wife died and I, ever since . . . I have rent to pay.”

“Why you no like? Make you feel so good. You make money later. You see, you make more money.”

He looked at her, and didn’t want to leave the room and walk into the cold, dark morning, the fog outside. “I, I have ta’ go. I’ll be back another time.”

“No, no, lay down for a while, only thirty minutes. Special price, fifty dollar. One time.”

He started to leave and her warm hand took his hand, and he followed as she led him to the table. He stopped thinking.

He stripped down to his shorts and lay on the table, studied the lone light bulb lighting up the room. Her hands felt warm as they moved around his chest in a circular motion; they heated up as they moved about his belly, as they moved down under his shorts. He felt under her opened kimono, traced the line where her legs came together, felt the hair between her legs. She was warm, wet, and smelled like chalk and vanilla. He saw dirt, dirt piled high on Anna’s casket, shining brightly and reflecting the sun after the rain, before they put it into the ground. He closed his eyes and saw Anna looking at him with sad blue eyes.

Anna looked at him, her eyes asking what are you doing here? What am I doing here, he answered, running, running from you, from me.

Rick stopped thinking; he smelled incense, heard cars on the streets outside, listened to the buzzing of the lone light bulb off to the side. Remembering where he was, he said, “No, no, I’m sorry. I have to go.” He got up and put his pants on. He peeled off some ten and twenty dollar bills and pushed them into her hands.

“You want tea?” she asked.

“No, thanks. It’s getting late, but I like you very much.”

She smiled. “You come see me. I like you, too.”

He rushed out the door and down the dark street, toward his office in the financial district on Montgomery Street.

 

Inside an old concrete building he got on a decrepit elevator that screeched as it lurched upward. In the hall it smelled like cigarette smoke and cleaning chemicals. The office door stuck and the glass in its frame rattled as Rick wrestled it open.

He sat behind a battered, musty-smelling wood desk and flipped through cards with names of people he knew who bought large blocks of stock. He stared at the phone and looked out the window. I just have to find a deal, he thought, watching sunlight creep into the room.

A man walked in the hall, turned the doorknob to Rick’s office, and pushed hard; the glass rattled as the door jerked open. The man’s black eyes reflected the bright overhead light. “I’m here to see Rick Larkin.”

“That’s me, and I know what you want,” Rick said, taking off his jacket and hanging it on the back of his chair. It was Armani’s top line, but had worn spots on the sleeves. I need a new suit, he thought. Nobody can tell it’s old. Damn it, I can. “The thing is, I’m close to getting some new clients and’ll be able to pay you soon. And you can even raise my rent.”

The man handed Rick some documents. “You’re three months behind in your rent, and these papers show that you’re compelled to vacate the premises.”

“I simply need a little more time—”

“I wish we could, but we have social network startups desperate for space. They’ll pay triple what you do. We’re really sorry, but you have only a week to vacate. We’ll reimburse cleaning expenses, however.”

He left, the glass door rattling as it closed behind him.

Rick’s finger that had worn a wedding band was bare. I was forty-three years old, that’s over four years ago now, he thought. It’s gonna get worse unless I find something.

He jumped when the phone rang, and a man’s voice boomed into the office, “What d’ya got that I can make some money with? Or are you still retired? You, Rick Larkin, noted man of leisure, takin’ off to kick it on an island somewhere.”

“Hi, Larry, no, I haven’t called because I haven’t come up with a company yet. It’s hard to find something I like that has real value and hasn’t been discovered—”

“You’re lookin’ for real value? Go find something good or bad, I don’t care, and create value by tellin’ a story. I gotta tell you this? You, Rick Larson? Okay, let me repeat, you beginner, you neophyte, you wimp—people love stories about stocks, so act like you know everything about a company—since when do we fall in love with this stuff? We make money by trading stocks. What in the world has happened to you?”

Rick pictured the man on the other end of the line: Larry Zuber, a hedge-fund player managing billions. A little, thin guy with a bald spot in the middle of his head, his black eyes darting about, his right foot tapping nervously. Always ready to throw his phone out the window, throw his desk or anything handy after it.

Rick said, “I . . . I’m painting again. I swore I wasn’t going to start until I made some money, but I can’t help it. I see now I was painting to sell whatever I figured people wanted, but that doesn’t work. I saw in Van Gogh’s Starry Night, at the museum, how he painted not what people wanted, but how he interpreted reality, what his imagination took from what he was seeing, a rendering—”

“What the hell are you . . . rendering? Where is your head, Rick? You used to be somebody. You were beautiful. I am calling you to make money. And I have not made a dime after what? Three minutes, already. Why am I holding this phone to my ear with you on the other end of the line? This is like holding my putz. When I hold my putz I wanta stick it in somebody.”

Rick sweated under his armpits, scratched viciously behind his knee.

“Look at me,” Larry blared. “I’m short, not that handsome—you wouldn’t call me handsome, not in the usual sense—but distinguished looking, yes, that kind of good looking, not Brad Pitt, but why so what? What I’m sayin’, I get all the snatch I want. I’m Zuber. They love it, and size does matter. No, not everybody thinks I’m big, but I am . . . well, maybe not in inches, but in technique. I’m Zuber for god’s sake—why’m I still talkin’ to you? Oh yes, cause you made me a fortune once, more than once. Okay, what d’ya got?”

“I . . . I’ll come up with something.” Rick looked out the windows at the cars below as they drove on crowded Montgomery Street. Honking horns, taxis and Ubers picking up and dropping off men, woman, some in dark suits; mostly young tech workers and potentates, wearing jeans and jackets.

“About painting, I thought it was about getting the vibrations right between the colors, but I’m discovering it’s more the texture of the paint. If I had maybe six months to develop—”

“I should wait six months? I need a trade. Now.”

“I experimented with pointillism, but painting dots didn’t—”

“How about oil stocks?”

“Brushing paint strokes makes the paint feel alive, where painting dots onto canvas feels contrived. Like painting by numbers.”

“Oil stocks are so friggin’ hot.”

“It’s the texture of the stroke I need to get right.”

“Find somethin’ I can make money on, you can make money, too. You like money, don’t you? Or you so tired from hosin’ that precious Miss Thackery in her Pacific Heights mansion that you can’t do some research?”

“Leave Elizabeth out of it. She’s simply an old friend.”

“Miss Society, so righteous—she got a pair’a knockers, I’ll say that about her—wonder what her husband would say he knew what you guys’re up to.”

“Cut it out, Larry. I’m serious.”

“Okay, okay. I really don’t care who you screw. You find something to buy or sell you got my number.”

Larry hung up.

Rick wiped sweat off his forehead and looked out the window at the nearby steel and glass buildings. Far off, the bay blue waters shimmered. In Fisherman’s Wharf, just down the hill, tourists pushed strollers and walked with babies strapped on their backs. They slurped sodas and ate pizzas with thick cheese. People strolled past art galleries; past bins of crabs, oysters, and fish.

Rick sat at the wooden desk with a small lamp and computer atop. On a nearby table was a fax machine, a green plant. A metal filing cabinet sat on the floor. Paintings hung on the wall, bearing Rick’s initials. One of a gondola filled with people floating in the choppy, green waters of Venice; another of a man and woman dancing on a cobblestone street, the woman wearing a black dress.

If I have to move I’ll make calls from my apartment. But if I can’t pay the rent there, where do I work or sleep? Do I have to move to a hotel in the Tenderloin? He got up and paced the floor.

His hand shaking, Rick pressed some numbers on the phone. He hung up before the call was answered. I can’t. I can’t make up a bullshit story and cram stock down somebody’s throat. I gotta find something good.

He wrestled the door open and left the office.

Two

“Haven’t seen you for a while. Wonderin’ where you been, if you awlriite,” Dexter said.

Rick got into Dexter’s shoeshine chair, set up in a tall stand by the side of a brick building, right in the Theatre District, on Geary Street.

Dexter set Rick’s feet in the footrest and applied black polish to Rick’s shoes, the white rag a blur in his brown hands. Looking at Rick through wire-rimmed glasses, he said, “Not just me wonderin’ ‘bout you. They all are: the brokers, traders, money managers. Remember Spain, when you went there? They all said that fool can’t make no money in that place.”

Rick laughed. “Me and Anna—you remember her—we got off the plane and the sun was bright. Europe was booming and the stock market took off. I bought stocks, they went up, I made money. We drank Rioja, we danced, we made love.”

Dexter’s hands moved fast working a brush over the shoes.

“There was no question it wouldn’t ever end.”

Dexter kept looking at Rick’s shoes. “I heard about her passin’ on, Mr. Rick. Yessir. We all did.”

Blue lights on a sign across the street glowed in the dark night. The blue lights above their hotel in Madrid, Rick remembered. Anna loved Madrid. He imagined her short brown hair, her dark eyes. Short brown hair, dark eyes. She smelled like chicory, and when they danced tango and she sweated, her smell got stronger. And later in bed, Rick loved smelling her skin, feeling her wetness . . .

Short hair, dark eyes: a woman walked by and Rick imagined it was Anna. Every woman looked like Anna.

Dexter popped his rag. “Man, you ready for the street.”

“What’re they buying these days? Brokers, money managers.”

Dexter smiled. Rick hadn’t asked him about stocks or stockbrokers in a long time. “Oool stocks, that’s all they’re talkin’ about now.”

“Why?”

“Say they’re cheap and the Mideast is in flames. Looks like they’re calling for a holy war. That’s what ahhm hearin’.”

The shine was five bucks and in the old days Rick gave him ten. I am still somebody, Rick thought. He gave Dexter a ten and started walking up Geary.

In North Beach music blared out of bars and restaurants and onto the packed sidewalks. Cars jammed the streets. Rick stood at the curb, looking at a sign across the street: “Emerald City Gentlemen’s Club. Live Girls. Private Rooms.” He walked across the street and through the door.

Heavy carpets covered the floor; bottles shined behind the bar; overhead lights lit up a stage below. The room smelled faintly of rose perfume. Men and women sat at the bar. A man’s voice announced over a speaker, “And now the amazing Florabeth.”

Florabeth danced onto the stage wearing a thong and a halter-top. About thirty-five years old, with dark, short hair, she was tall, had long legs. She looks like Anna, Rick thought. She smiled, welcoming people at the bar to watch as she danced on the stage, moving slower than the music.

Rick sipped the martini and watched. It was cold and good going down.

She’s taller than Anna, Rick thought. She reminds me of her. Her smile.

The gin warmed him. He relaxed, started getting an erection.

She unfastened her top and dropped it on the floor, and the stage went to black.

“Let’s hear it for the juicy, hot Florabeth,” said the man over the loudspeaker.

Rick ordered another.

Florabeth walked to the bar dressed in a silk green robe. She smiled at Rick.

I never used to go to places like this, he thought, picking up his drink and walking over to her. I never went to massage places either. Who am I?Where am I going?

“I just wanted you to know that I loved your dancing. Can I buy you a drink?”

“Sure. I can use one about now,” she said.

Her hair was still wet from dancing; she smelled like a mixture of sweat and gardenia. He signaled to the bartender.

“What’ll you have?” Rick asked.

“What’re you having?” She asked.

“A martini.”

“I’ll have one of those. And a glass of water.”

The bartender delivered them. Florabeth drank the water. Ordered another one and drank that also.

She laughed. “I’m so thirsty. Always am after I dance.”

“The martini’s good. You want one?”

“No, no thanks,” she said, looking at the drink. “I’m on again in a little while. Besides, I don’t really drink. Wine with dinner sometimes. I don’t like the way alcohol makes me feel.”

“But . . . so why did I order . . .?”

“A drink?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m not free, nothings free here, why should it be? You bought me a drink. Thanks. I can do whatever I want with it.”

Rick looked at Florabeth, at the drink. “You’re right, you can. I guess I forgot where I am.”

“And who you’re with.” Her eyes sparkled. “And what I’m here for. I just made ten dollars for that drink you paid twenty dollars for. I’m working. Oh, and thanks for that.”

Rick didn’t know what to think. He simply wanted a piece of ass and was getting an economics lesson. She should’ve been easy. And dumb.

“Do you want to go back there?” She asked, pointing to the back of the room.

“What d’we go there for?”

“For a lap dance. You’ll like it. Big overstuffed chairs, where you sit while I dance for you. Only for you.”

“No. I’d rather stay and talk to you here.”

“It’s fun,” she said, her eyes lighting up as she smiled. I dance around you, sit on your lap. You probably need someone sitting on your lap.” She laughed.

“How much do you charge?”

“Not much. A hundred for half an hour. A little longer if you’re nice.”

“I don’t know. I just came by to relax, see the dancers—”

“That’s all you want? Maybe I don’t turn you on, you want another girl. I’m only asking. You can be honest: you like guys, is that it?”

“No, nothing like that. I just want to talk. I have problems and will not go away and I can’t solve them; maybe I’ll forget them talking to you.”

“Okay, we can talk for a few minutes more. You only have to buy me drinks. Another one or two at the most.”

“Okay, gladly. You can drink them or not, I don’t care.”

She laughed. “Well, we got that out of the way. Besides, I may learn something from you. You come in, you sit down, you don’t want anything else. Not even a lap dance, which most guys at least do. You’re strange. But not scary strange.”

“I guess . . . I don’t know why but I’m doing things I never did before.”

“I was right. I can learn from you. For my research.”

“What research are you talkin’ about?”

“Oh, something. Mister, you can have any one of us; we’ll lap dance for you; most of the girls, you can feel their ass. Don’t try it with me, though. I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll pretend I’m your wife, you mistress, whatever. But no touching.”

“I . . . can’t make up my mind on anything anymore.”

“A hundred dollars. I’ll be your private fantasy. You would like that, wouldn’t you? But I have to charge for whatever I do. I gotta eat too.”

He thought it over.

“What do you do? How do you make a living?”

“Stock market things. I find companies for people to buy—”

“You charge for that, right? People pay you because you do them a service.”

“Yes. And I usually deliver. Not always. Thing is, in my business nobody’s always right. But customers know that, they accept it.”

He sipped the martini and thought it over. Rick looked at her shapely thighs, calves. “Let me ask you something: are you here just for the money?”

She stared at the martini. At Rick. “I wonder about that myself. Quite a bit lately. I know I love to dance. It turns me on, dancing for people. It’s exciting, everybody wants me, big eyes devouring me. It’s hot.”

“Why do you like talking to people? Like why are you talking to me right now.”

“There’s the money but probably that’s the least of it. I like learning about different people. Watching you watch me dance tells me a lot about you; I’ll bet I learn more about you than you learn about me, watching me dance.”

“I don’t totally understand what you’re saying.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I see you as a really alone guy, and you don’t even know it. I mean you’re alone, but not lonely, though there’s nobody with you. I don’t know what happened to you, just that your sadness is so strong. You carry it with you. I could even cry about it.” She thought it over. “How about it, what do you want? A lap dance? Feel my ass grinding into you? And you can imagine you are big and strong and you’ll get hard. That’ll only cost a hundred.”

“I want to talk, and I want to talk with you. Though you’re makin’ me feel really lonely.”

“I’m whoever you want. You’re in the Emerald City, aren’t you? But they charge me to be here, to hustle you. It costs fifty bucks a drink.” She laughed. “I won’t charge you for the number of words.”

Rick thought about it and got up. “We’ll pick this conversation up later. I’ll be back.”

“I’m here almost every night. After six o’clock.”

Rick left, and walked outside, the cold air and fog washing over him. He walked through North Beach. After a while he took out his cell phone and made a call.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hi. Sorry I’m calling this late. Is it all right?”

“Yes, for now. In fact, I was thinkin’ of you. Wondering how you’re doin’.”

“Doing okay,” Rick said. “And where’s he?”

“In the other room, sort of awake. He’s watching TV, I don’t know how much he understands.”

“I . . . I’d like to see you.”

“I would too. And I’m glad you called.”

“I’m having trouble getting it together. And I’m not sure what together is anymore. And I get lonely. I was told that tonight. Funny, not something I’m aware of, but probably true.”

“Who told you that?”

“Oh, somebody I was talking to.”

“Oh.”

“Things keep getting harder.”

“We have obligations, if that’s what you mean, and we have to face them. I have to take care of Thad. But you and I can still make time.”

“Okay,” Rick whispered.

“We have to be careful. A lot of our old Nob Hill crowd is gone, but we still know plenty of people here,” she said.

“Maybe I should leave. Seattle is a good city, and I like Portland. I have some connections there. Maybe they’re still there.”

“You’ll never leave, Rick, and neither will I.”

Rick laughed. “No, no I won’t. I don’t even like to be too far away from the Fairmont Hotel. I walk by it every morning. Like I always have.”

“Remember when we were in high school, in the Fairmont, in the big room downstairs, the Ambassador Room? The room with the old highly shined wood, and those bookshelves stuffed with books, we’d sneak in there and shoot pool. All of us, jumping in the swimming pool, the one on the second floor. And going to the Comstock later, to Sylvia’s penthouse, and out on her patio—looking at the Golden Gate Bridge. There was no traffic in the City back then—and you and I were in love and doing it in her bedroom, locking the door and the other kids pounded on the door. They wanted their coats. And Thad was a football star and Stanford was number one, and we did it in Sylvia’s bed.”

Rick laughed, looked at the empty dark street, at the wide sidewalks with the tall streetlamps glowing. “I remember. That was before I met Anna. Before you met Thad. What would’ve happened if we did what we talked about; opening up an art gallery, and you’d sell my paintings, and we’d make babies?”

“Yes. What would’ve happened?”

He started walking. “We’d probably still be right here in San Francisco. But I’m getting tired. I’ll call you tomorrow. I’m going home and going to bed.”

 

Rick flipped the switch and his apartment lit up: a big room, other rooms, a bathroom. An unmade bed with pillows and tan tangled sheets; a desk and computer; a dark-oak, seventeenth-century English armoire with gold carvings; an early-American chest of drawers. The chest cost $4,800, and the armoire over $10,000. “Choice pieces,” the dealer said had said years ago. Maybe I could get $15,000 or $20,000 for the chest, Rick thought.

On the wall hung a painting of water crashing into the rocks off the coast in Marin County, north of San Francisco. The well-known Bay Area artist Richard Dieberkorn painted it. I could $10,000 for that. But I love that painting, he thought. He picked his fingernail. That’s not much money. What’ll I do when that runs out? In a corner stood an easel holding a painting, the paint still wet.

He got into bed. The market opened at 6:30 in the morning, and he set the alarm for 5:00, though he’d wake up without it.

He fell asleep and he saw her thin face and thick eyebrows. An attractive woman, slim, shapely, with a smile that made her look like she was close to laughing.

“It was too late, anyhow.” Anna’s eyes were small, black ink-spots. “If I had gone in when the headaches started, a CAT scan wouldn’t have found those small tumors.”

“That’s too bad,” he said.

Nothing we could do, Rick thought, tossing in bed. We tried Dilantin, but the seizures continued; maybe Tegretol would keep the petit-mal seizures from becoming grand-mals, but it didn’t. She couldn’t keep food down, her ribs jutted out until you could see each bone. She couldn’t get out of bed. Rick heard her say, “I have to go to the hospital. They’ll take tests, but they’re not optimistic about anything.”

Rick turned over.

“I’ll take you to the hospital tomorrow,” he heard himself say, in the silence of his room.

“Okay,” she said.

“We’ll have breakfast early. Then we’ll go.”

“Okay.”

Rick turned over.

“Mr. Larkin, would you come with me?” He watched himself following a nurse dressed in white, walking down a long corridor and into a small office. A doctor in a white uniform and smelling of cigarette smoke walked in.

The office light was snapped off, and a computer projected onto a screen a round object with dark areas spread throughout. “This is her brain, and the dark areas are cancerous. By the time the cancer grew large enough for us to see it, it had metastasized and was irreversible. We could’ve tried chemotherapy but it’s doubtful that would’ve helped.”

The doctor snapped the light on. “You should expect the worst, and things will develop sooner, rather than later. You only have a week or so . . .” The doctor’s eyes narrowed. “Are, are you all right? Mr. Larkin?”

Rick opened his eyes. The red numbers glowing from the alarm clock read 2:33. He rolled over and fell asleep: he smelled that death odor coming from Anna. In the hospital, that rotten-egg-smell following her as she got out of bed.

“I’ll help you to the bathroom,” he said.

She put on her slippers, the funny ones with a smiling cat’s face. Rick sort of dragged Anna to the hospital bathroom. He turned so she wouldn’t see his tears, salty and warm rolling down his cheeks. He got her back to bed and she closed her eyes.

That was it.

No final words, thunder or lightening flashing in the sky. Anna simply closed her eyes and stopped breathing. There’s nothing I can do. What do I do? Rick wondered, not knowing if he was asleep or awake.

Three

“Nugget Petroleum,” a woman’s voice said.

“Buck Howard, please,” Rick said, holding the phone to his ear.

“Just a moment, sir.”

Rick watched sunshine streaming in through his office window. On the computer screen the words glowed: “Oil companies, Texas and Louisiana.” Another screen showed, “ . . . oil reserves, proven and in development, U.S., Brazil, and Argentina.”

“Buck Howard,” Rick heard over the receiver.

“Mr. Howard, this is Rick Larkin in San Francisco. I’m an investment consultant and am analyzing your company. Do you have a few minutes?”

“I’ll take a little time, ahhm always glad to talk to investors interested in our stock. How did you find out about us?”

“I keep seeing Nugget Petroleum in my databases. I’m looking for low-priced, undervalued stocks, and when I find them I tell investors about them; I do the work to help those stocks get momentum and gain value.”

“How do you do that?”

“It depends on the company, they’re all different. Usually I write a research report and send it to hedge funds, brokers, portfolio managers, investment bankers, analysts. I also send them over the Internet. Sometimes I’ll write columns for investment sites. I get companies to appear at analyst’s conferences, and do road shows. Whatever I can do to move the stock, I figure it out and get it done.”

“I could use some help. Damn stock’s selling at nine dollars a share. Should be thirty. Why don’t you call me Buck.”

“All right, Buck. The trouble is that investors don’t know about Nugget Petroleum, especially the bigger ones, and they they matter. That’s why the stock has no volume.” On Rick’s computer screen: NUP, bid 9.30, ask 9.42, volume, 4000.

“A lousy four thousand shares traded today,” Rick said. “But the fundamentals are good. Way I read it, Nugget has a cash flow of about five dollars a share, selling about two times cash flow. Oil companies sell at six to eight times cash flow. Nugget’ll earn about $2.50 next year, so it’s selling about four times earnings. Most oil companies are ten to twelve times earnings. Unless there’s something I don’t know—”

“No, we’re not hiding anything. I don’t know what you have in mind, but I don’t want to pay you to come in here and waste my time. You know anything about the oil bidness?”

“I do, and I’ve done oil patch deals, and they made people money. Remember Texas Resources? The oil company that was there in Houston? They were about the same size of Nugget when I took them on as clients.”

“I remember about them some.”

“I’ll send you a report I did on them,” Rick said, his voice racing. “I wrote it when the stock was at six, and sent it out, and called analysts and traders, everybody I knew on the Street. On huge volume, the stock went above nine. I set them up with Merrill and Chase. They became their bankers and made a market in the stock.”

“Didn’t Texas Resources sell out?”

“They sold to Chevron, for twenty-two dollars a share.”

“That was a good move. And . . . what did you say your name was?”

“Larkin. Rick Larkin.”

“So what’ve you been doing lately?”

“I haven’t really—I was travelling, and I took some time off.” How do I tell him I come to my office and stare at the phone? Rick thought. What did they call it after Anna died? Post-stress anxiety, brought on by her death. Make new friends, they said, travel, get a hobby, golf, fresh air, sunshine. Nothing worked. He wanted Anna to be there now, grin—no, I’m not mad at you, he’d say, but why did you die—

“Mr. Larkin. You still there?”

Come on, close this guy, Rick thought. “I’ve been looking at different things, trying to find something I’m excited about. I think Nugget’s it.”

“The timing is not quite right, what with our quarterly reports just about due.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Wrote for the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Business Magazine, Delta Airlines SKY magazine, and contributor to the Emmy-award winning website Minyanville.com, and other media outlets. Fiction appeared in Raconteur Magazine; Short story "The Real Ida" published October 2017 by Hungry Chimera literary magazine. McGraw-Hill published three investment books and Financial Times Press published one, all internationally published and available at Amazon.com.

Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
The view of the Golden Gate Bridge on the cover perfectly portrays the view I've seen for years driving up to and over the bridge. There is also a sense of menace in the city in the background.
Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from this book?
A.
Brad Pitt would make a great Rick Larkin.