Asklotta requested I write Part 2 to 8/23/2012’s short story “Justice.” Your wish, Asklotta, is my command.
I went hunting for inspiration and found it on www.zerohedge.com in Tyler Durden’s 8/23/2012 post titled “JPM’s London Whale May Face Jail Time for Mismarking Billions in CDS.” I hope you enjoy another installment of “Justice.”
Justice: Part Two
by Fay Moore © 2012
On the 20th floor, night’s blackness is arriving without a sound. Reds, purples and oranges chase the sun out of sight beyond J.R.’s office window.
Late nights are de rigueur at the Wall Street firm, so an analyst knows where to find J. R. when the after-hours news comes across the wire. J. R. is in his office, as expected. Unexpectedly, J. R. is in front of his desk when the subordinate knocks on the jamb of the open office door. The boss is striding back and forth atop a broad gilded stripe on the carpet, as if the line is a runway and his feet, the plane flown by a pilot practicing incessant touch-and-go landings.
The underling centers himself inside the door frame, lowers his eyes and waits politely. J. R. makes two more passes in front of the desk before acknowledging the interruption.
“Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“You asked me to let you know if anything hit the alternative news wires. Something is up on ZeroHedge.”
The boss swears under his breath and heads for his desk. He grabs the arm of the executive desk chair forcefully, rolling it backwards, and jumps into the leather seat, driving the rolling chair forward. The ricochet reminds the subordinate of the lethal motion of a pistol slide.
The Internet article says J. R., as chief executive officer, and his firm are in trouble: in addition to the uncomfortable news of the firm’s suffering massive losses for the quarter, now comes an accusation that players in the firm engage in criminal mismarking of credit default swaps to boost reported profits with the intent to defraud shareholders and investors.
J. R. knows that regulators are three years behind in following up allegations of wrong-doing. A bigger threat, in the form of bad press, comes from self-appointed enforcers outside the establishment. Envious or angry insiders leak damaging information into the alternative news channels. Internet-based sleuths are busy lifting carpet corners, shining light on hidden filth missed by lazy, stupid or blind regulators. Going from trickles to torrents, the news leaks push J. R. to make admissions about the bad behavior of the London-based trading office, and name names of guilty parties. To cover his own ass, he denies foreknowledge of the crimes. Then there’s the LIBOR scandal, to which J. R.’s firm is a party–if not directly, then by association.
J. R. belongs to the You-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours Boy’s Club where men help each other evade the law, at least, and commit horrific crimes, at most.
The executive admits to himself that the media snowball is rolling downhill and growing out of control. The bad news, that came in monthly dribs and drabs of disjointed factoids in the beginning, is coming faster and faster now; from monthly leaks to weekly to daily to hourly ones. At first, J. R.’s smooth spin paints the Internet newsmongers as “nutters” chasing phantoms. J. R. is a master at disconnecting the dots. His executive board loves him for that quality. But now the fouling of the firm is overwhelming. The big question at the top is who is going down?
J. R. is waiting for a call from his criminal defense lawyer. That’s why he was pacing when the associate showed up in his office doorway. He needs the legal firm’s resources to manufacture an escape route that will keep him alive and functioning. He is trying to keep his neck out of the noose.
The television mounted on his office wall—the one that is always on and tuned to the financial news network with the prettiest broadcasters–sounds a bell. For some odd reason, J. R. mistakes the sound for the peal of the early warning system. He looks up at the screen. The announcer speaks. The news rattles him. The former head of a competing firm is dead, shot today by an unidentified gunman while he and his wife are vacationing in the south of France.
In the middle of a sentence, the broadcaster stops speaking, pressing his finger against the device in his ear.
After a pause, the reporter says, “We have breaking news. The shooting appears to be an assassination. A source inside French law enforcement says the shooting has all the hallmarks of a professional hit. We’ll bring you the details as soon as we know more.”
“A professional hit? By whom?” the underling asks his boss.
“I don’t know,” he answers, his voice quieter than normal. “Look, I have a call to make. Thanks for telling me about the ZeroHedge thing. That’s all for now.” J. R. walks the man toward the door, shutting the door behind him.
He calls his lawyer again and gets the receptionist.
He identifies himself to her, then says, “This is urgent. I need my attorney now.”
The barrister’s paralegal comes on the line. He recognizes the investment banker’s voice. J. R. gets to the point.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard the latest. I fear someone is targeting investment bankers.”
“Yes, I heard the French news.”
“Then you understand. I need protection, and I need it tonight. I don’t know who is behind the threat, but. . . .”
A bullet breaks through the office window glass, striking J. R. in the back of the head and blowing a gaping hole in his frontal lobe as the projectile exits the skull. As J. R. falls, a tinny voice calls through the small speaker of the phone.
In a moment, the line goes dead.