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The Advisor #6: The Mourning Star

Jul 11, 2011

TUESDAY

San Francisco  5:10 AM

“He says he needs a little attention.”  Jared playfully motioned to his crotch as he and his wife Michelle snuggled in bed.  They had both stayed up way past their bedtimes glued to the news about Lucy Mincer.  The image of her car igniting like a rocket and then plunging into the Bay was seared on both of their minds.

“Good to know that you’ve become the Dick Whisperer.”  Michelle Lee-Golden looked under their blanket and smiled with the jaded eyes of a first-year medical intern who had witnessed more tales of woe than she had imagined possible.  Her shoulder length black hair fell over the back of her naked body.  Jared took solace knowing that someone as special as Michelle was on his side.  He hadn’t bothered her about the strange cold call he had made.  It was probably just a nut out for some kicks.  After everything that had happened last night with Lucy, he wondered if Ignatius Rowe’s Silicon Valley roadshow would still go on as planned.

As Jared started pulling his covers off, he felt a warm hand tugging him back to bed.  ”Get your ass back in here, Mister.”

Palo Alto  7:10 AM

Wellington Monroe had broken his own rules by arriving first at the Sapphire Swan Hotel in Palo Alto.  While pulling into the recently renovated hotel’s front lot, he noticed a steel gray 1986 diesel Mercedes spouting black clouds into the air.  Cecil Pond, also known as “Death” in the office, had deliberately pulled up as close to Wellington’s brand new cobalt blue Masserati as humanly possible.  Wellington popped a breath mint in his mouth a he spoke into Death’s open car window.  ”And how’s my favorite appetite suppressant doing this morning?”

Death unlatched his door and emerged from his car like he was exiting a tank.  He dusted off his brown tweed suit which had been a wardrobe staple since 1976.  ”Good to see I’m not the only schmuck here going to this shindig this early in the morning.”

BioInternetics’ Broker Roadshow couldn’t have happened at a more fortuitous time for everyone at the Sapphire Swan—from the continuously downsized special events division which was praying for repeat business, to the staff of tip-famished bellhops whose black uniforms were embroidered with an indigo swan wearing a gilded crown.  Even the resort-like hotel’s swans bobbing in the fountain in front of the hotel and illuminated with a blue spotlight were in position for Silicon Valley heavy-hitter Topher Wilson’s latest media event.

The conference was housed in the Atherton Room, named for one of Silicon Valley’s toniest addresses where when the question is posed, “Is there a Charles Schwab in town?”  the reply comes back,  “Yes, he lives down the road.”

The immense sea foam blue room trimmed with indigo swans was meticulously set-up for the function which would  introduce the soon-to-be public corporation to the Bay Area’s brokerage community.  On Topher Wilson’s insistence, both institutional money managers and their poor cousins—retail brokers—were invited to the event.

“Oh lookee here—another onion skin wallet.”  Leo peered inside his empty black leather wallet and grimaced.

“What does that mean?”  Jared had barely made it to the event on time after Michelle’s unexpected early morning proposition.

“It means when you look inside your wallet you cry.”  Leo began to turn away from the bar realizing that he couldn’t even afford to buy a drink.

Jared slipped a twenty dollar bill on the bar counter in front of them.  “It’s for both of us.”

“What am I, your domestic partner or somethin’?”  Leo appreciated the gesture.  He missed his talks with Jared.  “Well, I can’t be bought that freakin’ cheap, chump.  I want munchies too.”

The burly bartender smiled graciously.  “Gentlemen, there is no need for money.  Everything at this affair is completely taken care of.”

“Sure,  Jared.  Offer to pony up the dough when everything’s gra-tis.”  Leo slapped Jared on the back.

“Actually Leo, it’s some hush money so that you turn your tie off.  Some people across the room have already started losing their eyesight.”  Jared smiled for the first time that day as he looked at Leo’s electric green, gold, and red patterned silk tie.

Leo ignored the comment and proudly straightened his tie.  “So, what’s the 411 on Lucy Mincer?”

“The paper said that she might have been drinking or it could have been a malfunction with her car.  Looks like it was an accident.”  Jared had briefly shared an inherited household with Lucy before she quickly snatched it away by pulling rank.  He had never particularly cared for Lucy’s take-no-prisoners attitude towards the business, but he still respected her razor-sharp mind and her ability to succeed in a male-dominated field.  In some ways, Lucy’s death was like the passing of an icon.

“I don’t buy it.  That chick was so into control.  She’d never do anything that would let her body get that far away from her.  Something stinks here and I don’t mean the day-old brie they’re serving either.”  Leo lifted a slab of soft cheese and squashed it onto a cracker with an elegant silver knife capped at the handle with an indigo swan.

Death trailed his pink tongue across his shockingly black front teeth.  “Her death couldn’t have come at a worse time for the branch.  Production is at an all-time low and she was holding us up.”

“Well, I can see that the mourning period for Lucy has come and gone in a microsecond.”  Wellington ran his hand through his purposely tussled hair and winked at the smitten young waitress falling all over herself to hand him a jumbo-sized shrimp from her sterling silver tray.  He instinctively repeated his flirtations as he asked for a glass of champagne from the male bartender who surreptitiously slipped Wellington his telephone phone number along with the drink.  From a young age, Wellington had recognized the power of  his physical appearance.  He often used it to reel in client assets, in particular from San Francisco’s well-heeled gay population who were simply known among the gay community as “A-Gays.”

Leo always felt like he was wearing an invisible cloak whenever Wellington was around.  “If you boys will excuse me, if I don’t get my ass to the john taco pronto you won’t be needin’ to rent the DVD for On Golden Pond to see one.”

Wellington rolled his eyes at Leo’s comment and  turned as he spotted Vanessa Rollins out of the corner of his gold-flecked money-green eyes.  He rushed over to embrace Rollins and kissed her on both cheeks without actually getting make-up on his lips.  “You might want to ease up on the botox treatments, Vanny.  One more shot and your face’ll get so tight it’ll just fly off and hit someone.”

Vanessa playfully tugged Wellington’s right ear and turned to Jared.  “He’s my bitch, you know.”  She smiled at Jared who could never quite understand the relationship between Wellington and Vanessa.  As Jared’s grandmother had always said, the softer a woman’s voice, the sharper the teeth it can camouflage.  Vanessa had an exceptionally soft voice.  “Well, hello, Jared.”  Vanessa was an elegant woman in her mid-thirties who oozed sex from every pore of her surgically-enhanced body.  She draped an exquisite oversized red and gold Hermes scarf like a cape over her clinging black dress which fit her spectacular shape like a glove.  “I must tell you gentlemen that I learned an important lesson last night.”

Wellington put his arm around Vanessa.  “You learned that if you push the driver’s seat in your car all the way back that you can put your heels over your head?”

Only Wellington could get away with a crack like that.   “No, I learned that when the men around you who you wouldn’t give the time of day to in the beginning of the evening suddenly turn into Greek gods it’s time to leave the bar.”

Jared was surprised that Vanessa hadn’t brought up the topic of Lucy Mincer.  “So, Vanessa, I guess you heard about Lucy.”

“What about Lucy? I just drove here from a round of golf with Clint Eastwood at Pebble Beach.  I was listening to a 529 college savings workshop on my CD player.  Did something happen?”

Jared had no idea that he would be breaking the news to her for the first time.  “Well, I know you two were very close.  I’m very sorry, Vanessa.  There really isn’t any other way to put this.”

Wellington cut Jared off and decided he would tell Vanessa the news.  “Honey, Lucy’s dead.”

“Dead?  Are you kidding?  I just spoke with her yesterday.  What the hell happened?”

Wellington put his arm around Vanessa.  “Vanny, her car went over the Golden Gate Bridge.”

“Get the fuck out.” At first,  she didn’t believe Wellington.  She thought it was another practical joke like when he had pasted a photo of her head onto the body of a naked fat lady and posted it on the refrigerator in the office kitchen.

Jared confirmed it.  “It’s true, Vanessa.”

“Oh my God.”  She put her hand over her mouth.  “Please excuse me. Lucy Mincer was my dearest friend.  I can’t believe this.”  Vanessa immediately placed her drink down on the counter and broke away from the pack of brokers feasting on mounds of beluga caviar heaped on elaborate platters throughout the expansive banquet room.

Jared excused himself to use the restroom and spotted Charles engaged in a heated conversation with Vanessa.  She was wiping her eyes with a monogrammed handkerchief he’d handed her.

“Charles.  There are several accounts that Lucy and I were working on together.  I expect that they will be transferred to me immediately so that there are no disruptions in business.”

“Vanessa, for God’s sake, the woman’s body isn’t even cold yet.  Can’t this wait?”

“Did I mention that Lucy liked to share gossip, Charles?  She left me a real juicy tidbit on my cell voicemail the day before she died.  And I just so happened to have saved it.”

“Okay, it’s obvious that you’re hysterical.”  He put his arm around her and whispered into her ear.  “Let me see what I can do.”

Charles immediately turned away from Vanessa as he realized that Topher Wilson was waiting to see him.

“Charles,  I am so glad to see you.  I didn’t know whether you’d be here after what happened last night with Lucy.”

“I know.  It’s a tragedy.  I am in constant touch with her family.”  Charles omitted the fact that the only one really concerned about Lucy’s death was her husband.  He called twice to inquire about how her death affected her company executive compensation plan and also about the size of her insurance coverage under Ignatius Rowe’s group policy.

Jared, Leo, and Wellington sat down together at one of the circular tables positioned in front of the podium.  Death sat at their table just as the meeting was getting underway.  “May I join you?”  As was customary with Death, this was a rhetorical question.  He was going to take that seat whether they said it was okay or not.  A former branch manager, Death had risen within the brokerage industry by following a disciplined process.  First, he hired a team of gifted brokers.  As soon as the brokers had acquired a sizable book of clients, he then fired the lot of them and pocketed their best clients for his own book.  Cecil’s business practices, exceptionally deep and monotonous voice, and unfortunately discolored dentition all combined to earn him the office nickname “Death.”

Six media crews were assembling in the Grand Ballroom as both Charles and Topher Wilson took center stage near the numerous microphones on the podium whose signage read BioInternetics, Inc.

Charles wore a black suit, white shirt with french cuffs, onyx cufflinks, and a very subdued gray satin tie.  He had been debating for ours whether to mention Lucy Mincer’s death or to just introduce Wilson.  On the one hand, he would come off as exceptionally unfeeling to the rest of the brokerage community and his own brokers if he said nothing.   On the other, he was talking on BioInternetics’ dime. “Before I introduce the reason we are all here today, I would just like to take a moment to pay tribute to the late Lucy Mincer who was not only a broker at Ignatius Rowe’s San Francisco office, but also a great woman, and a personal friend.  If we could just take thirty seconds of silence to remember this pioneer who paved the way for thousands of women brokers across the United States.”

Death looked at his trusty Timex throughout the entire thirty seconds and at its conclusion grunted. “Time’s up.”

Leo suddenly received a text and got up from their table.  In all of the time he had known Leo, Jared had never seen him look so shaken.  Leo shot out of the meeting room as if his backside was on fire.  Something was terribly wrong. Jared decided to follow his friend outside of the meeting room.

Leo raced into a gold convertible driven by another man.  Jared looked quickly at the driver as they sped off.  He’d seen him before.  But where?

 

© Samuel Rush 2011.  All Rights Reserved.