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The Advisor #5: Off The Charts

Jun 23, 2011


San Francisco  10:55 PM

Lucy Mincer never left her midnight blue Porsche Boxster unattended without fully arming it with both a state-of-the-art electronic alarm system and a steering wheel locking safety club.  She had far too much to lose if she ever made a slip up.  She had spent a productive evening with five key decision makers and their spouses from a two-hundred-million-dollar endowment as her guests.  Lucy had decided  to have her client event at Teatro ZinZanni, one of San Francisco’s hottest nighttime attractions which was housed inside a huge white tent situated along the Embarcadero.

If the endowment came through, tonight would be an incredible return on Charles Delancey’s investment.  The branch was footing the bill for the night’s dinner.

Never use your own money when you can spend someone else’s. That was the first rule of client entertaining handed down to her thirty-two years ago when she had first started as a sales assistant to legendary broker Albert Sonderfeld.  Sonderfeld immediately recognized Lucy’s remarkable tenacity and that she brought far more to the table than her Phi Beta Kappa key from Smith College.  She had an unmatched desire to learn.  Other sales assistants would go home as soon as their eight hours were over.  Not Lucy.  She was willing to work until all hours of the night to make certain everything was done right.  When he learned he had terminal cancer, Sonderfeld used his enormous clout with the firm to force them to get Lucy licensed.  The plan was for her to cover Sonderfeld’s book of clients.  But Lucy was so attentive to his clients and their needs and would go to such great lengths to conduct research on their investments that when Sonderfeld died, every one of his clients demanded that Lucy become their broker.  And out of that tragedy, a superstar broker was born.

Of course, Lucy was less than pleased that her cheating husband had decided to pick tonight of all nights to shack up with his latest tramp.  She needed him like a case of syphilis.

On their way out of the dinner theater, Peter Welsh, the foundation’s Chief Operating Officer, put his hand on Lucy’s bony right shoulder and faced her.  “You know Lucy, we all had a wonderful time tonight.”

“Glad to hear it, Peter.”  Her facial expression exuded confidence.

“But I have to let you know that there is concern among all of us that your fees are among the highest in the industry.” He was their scout.  They were interested, but they wanted to see if they could muscle her down on her commission.  There was a reason that brokers’ commissions on large accounts were often termed “soft dollars.”  They were generally easy to compress.  However, Lucy had absolutely no intention of reducing her commissions for this client or any other.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Lucy turned and stared Peter straight in the eyes.  “May I  ask you something, Peter?”  Lucy made direct eye contact with Welsh.

He had no idea where she was going with this.  “Sure, Lucy.”

She watched him carefully as she spoke. “If you had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and you were looking for a specialist, would you shop around for the cheapest oncologist?”

Welsh stroked his chin as he absorbed Lucy’s point.  “Well that’s –”

“Same thing.  You want the best money can buy?  You pay for the best.”  She walked with him along the water and spoke as if she was stating a fact.  “Peter, in this case, that’s me.”

“Well that’s true.  I’ll see what I can do.”  She was willing to walk away from a two hundred million dollar account.  This woman had steel balls.

“I’ll send you out my complete proposal in a few days.”  Lucy shook his hand and went off to retrieve her car.

Lucy felt like a brisk walk to clear her head.  The Wharf was considered a very safe tourist area.  She went over to where her Boxster was parked and plucked two tennis shoes and some sweats from her trunk.  An award-winning gymnast at Smith, she was actually agile enough to change from a full business suit to workout attire inside her car’s cabin in under two minutes.

She walked briskly towards the Wharf mentally assembling the information she had collected from the various decision makers.  She would create an investment strategy that would knock them on their asses.  Lucy always did.

Lucy was somewhat puzzled by how empty the Wharf area was on such a beautiful night.  She noticed a poorly lit alley and veered away from it.  Suddenly, a black Bentley with smoked glass windows sped out at her from the other end.  Undaunted by the vehicle, Lucy instinctively placed both hands on top of the hood and cartwheeled to the other side without sustaining a scratch.

The car stopped and an immense driver in a snug black suit leapt out.  He spoke in a deep voice.  “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Mincer.”

“You should be sorry, asshole.  And how the fuck do you know my name?”  She looked him up and down.   “Who are you?”

“I think we have a mutual friend.  You rolled over his Individual Retirement Account.  Why don’t you get inside the car and we can discuss business.”  He ran over to usher Lucy into the idling car and she kicked him in the groin giving her just enough time to run back into a more brightly lit part of the Embarcadero.

“You aren’t gettin’ a second chance to IRA rollover me, asshole!”  Lucy dodged into an all-night bar along the Wharf and retracted her cell phone.  She punched in 911.  “Hello.  I need to speak to someone immediately.  Somebody just tried to kidnap me.”

“Yes ma’am.  This is the San Francisco 911 hotline.  Now calm down.  What is your name?”  The hotline voice was calm and incredibly relaxed.  Exactly as one would expect it should sound.

Lucy blurted out her name.  “Lucy Mincer.”

“Ok, Lucy.  Are you in a safe place now?”  His words came out very slowly.

“Yeah.  I’m three blocks from my car on the Embarcadero.”  Lucy was trembling as she grasped the side of the counter for support.

“So, someone tried to kidnap you?”  It sounded like he was typing her case into some sort of log as he was talking with her.

“Yeah.”  Lucy forced herself to focus.   “Yes.  He tried to push me into his car after  he almost ran me down.”

“Are you hurt, Lucy?”  There was tremendous warmth in his voice.

Lucy’s heartbeat was returning to normal.  She had this under control.  “No. Just a bit shaken up.”

“Have you been drinking?”  His voice showed no emotion as he asked the question.

“Drinking?  What– you don’t believe me?”  Lucy was irate.

He realized that Lucy had reacted poorly to his last question.  “I believe you.  Do you want us to send a patrol car to assist you?”

“What the fuck is that gonna do?  The bastard’s probably already long gone.”  Lucy took a swig from a beer another patron had left sitting on the bar counter and stormed out back onto the Embarcadero.

As she approached her car, a homeless man dressed in a shredded gray and brown flannel shirt and filthy chino pants put his hand out and Lucy power walked right past him.  She was inches from her Boxster as she saw the vagabond out of the corner of her eye.  What a night.

Lucy rushed inside her car and  locked her doors.  She was safe.  She’d report everything in the morning.

She tore past the bum until she was stopped one block up at a traffic light.  She had her window slightly ajar for some air.  Even with the air conditioning at full blast, sweat was pouring down her forehead.

“Excuse me, ma’am.”  That same damned homeless man was standing along side her car holding onto the long handle from a huge frying pan.  Panhandling.  This was just too much.

Lucy swung her clenched fist at him as soon as she wiped the sweat puddle off her forehead. “You wanna feel my fist through your teeth?”  One more step closer and she’d mow his ass down.  She didn’t care.  She was in control of the situation.

“I’m just looking for a dollar for a meal, lady.”  He put hand out in the hope that she would share her good fortune with him.

She sped down the Embarcadero right through a red light.   That voice.  Where had she heard that voice?

“Have you spotted Wonder Woman yet?”  The homeless man stood as still as a statue and spoke into the wind as Lucy’s car tore up Bay Street.  He nodded and spoke to himself.  “Harder to off than a pack of roaches.”

Inside her car, Lucy started to feel pains in her stomach.  It felt like glass cutting her insides.  She rationalized that it was nerves from the stress of the ordeal or something she’d eaten.  But never one to be unprepared, Lucy pulled out an extra strength Maalox from her powder blue Dior handbag as she made the sharp turn off to the Golden Gate Bridge that would bring her back to her waterfront home in exclusive Belvedere.  The bridge’s bright lights were beginning to go out of focus as she started swerving between the lanes of traffic that were marked off  by large plastic pegs.  She finally figured out where she had heard the homeless man’s voice.  On the other end of her 911 call.  But how could he have done that?

Lucy clutched her rib cage as her Boxster raced across three lanes.  The car’s rear exploded, causing it  to shoot itself like a cannon over the guard rail and into the bay below.

The homeless man checked a small palm-sized device in his hand which had provided him with a visual of Lucy’s car diving into the bay.  He poked into the air as if someone was recording his message.  “One cockroach offed.” His mission for the night was completed.  “There are no safe places, Lucy.”

© Samuel Rush 2011.  All Rights Reserved.