Read Madeline Carter - 01 - Mad Money Online

Authors: Linda L. Richards

Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Suspense Fiction, #Mystery Fiction, #Thriller, #Romantic Suspense, #Stock Exchanges Corrupt Practices Fiction, #financial thriller, #mystery and thriller, #mystery ebook, #Kidnapping Fiction, #woman sleuth, #Swindlers and Swindling Fiction, #Insider Trading in Securities Fiction

Madeline Carter - 01 - Mad Money (9 page)

BOOK: Madeline Carter - 01 - Mad Money
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It interested me that Ernie was doing
exactly what he’d set out to do: he was in the business of running
stuff and bossing people around. You don’t do an MBA at Harvard to
be a stockbroker. Sometimes life just happens, as it had to me. I
was betting the market would respond to the news of his
appointment.

I checked the stock price: it already was.
$6.07 now. And climbing. So I put in another buy order — a market
buy this time — for an additional 4500 shares. I was sweating, but
it was happy sweat. I had a good feeling about it. It was
practically all of my working capital — the cash I needed to make
my living — but Ernie knew his stuff.

The electronic purr of the telephone nearly
caused me to push my keyboard onto the floor as my hand sought to
make the ringing cease.

“Hi Maddy!” The voice was cheery. Bright. A
post-breakfast daughter salute.

“Hey Mom. How’s Seattle?”

“Incredibly dry, sweetie. How’s your
life?”

Broad questions are my mother’s specialty.
And no matter how many times I hear it, “how’s your life” always
floors me. Like I should start cataloging stuff: I’m trying to eat
more bran and whole grains, I think my body will thank me for the
consideration when I’m 40. I’m regular. So is my period. Which
reminds me: no, in case you’re thinking of asking, I’m not seeing
anyone and am therefore not getting laid.

I didn’t say any of that.

“Great, Mom. You?”

“Oh, you know. Clarisa Meyers and I are
thinking of going to Vegas in November. On a bus. And I thought:
wouldn’t it be fun if Madeline joined us? In Vegas. Do you think
you could?”

“Geez, maybe Mom. November isn’t for a while
yet.”

“But if you
planned
sweetie. If you
planned. Then maybe you could go. You’re so close now. Not like
when you were in New York.”

“It’s true. OK. It’s only about a few hours
drive for me. It might be fun. But listen, remind me in October,
OK?”

“Great! That would be so great. So is
anything new?”

Now this was a question I could actually
handle: I even had a bit of news.

“Well, guess who I ran into last week?”

“Am I really supposed to guess?”

“Ernie Billings.”

“No!”

“Yes.”

“Where?”

“At a club in Santa Monica. He was there
with his
wife
.”

“His wife? Oh Madeline, I’m sorry honey. Did
it hurt?”

I thought for a second before answering, but
only for a second. “You know Mom, it didn’t. Not at all. But it’s
been a long time, hasn’t it? And so much has happened. I was
pleased to discover I was relatively fine with it all.” And I was
pleased, now, to discover that what I was saying was true. The
romantic aspects — if you could call what Ernie and I had shared a
romance — had not fazed me. When I saw him I had been revolted by
his touch and intrigued by potential stock announcements, but there
had been nothing that felt like pain.

“What was she like? The wife, I mean.”

“She was beautiful. Perfect. Tall — probably
as tall as I am — and blonde.”

“She looked like you.” It wasn’t a
question.

“Oh no, Mom. She was beautiful. Like,
magazine beautiful, you know? But with a Martha’s Vineyard
edge.”

“She looked like you.” Whatever. This was
obviously not an argument I was going to win. Not with my —
completely unbiased — mother.

“Well, anyway, I did maybe a bad thing,” I
said cheerily. “He’s out here to be the CEO of another company: the
Langton Regional Group. They’re based out here in Culver City. Last
week he told me they were making the announcement today. And... I
feel kind of embarrassed admitting this, but... well... I bought a
whack of them today.”

“A whack of what?”

“His stock. LRG.”

“How is that a bad thing?”

“Well, I acted on knowledge that I didn’t
get through conventional sources. Which is insider trading. And, if
everything goes the way I think it will, I stand to make a fair
amount of money. So I’m feeling, you know, kind of guilty.”

“Don’t be silly,” which is maybe why I’d
told my mother all of this in the first place. If you couldn’t
trust your mom to make “pooh-poohing” sounds in a situation like
this... “I mean, he was your
boyfriend
back when. It’s not
like he told you so you
could
make money. Knowing Ernie, he
was just bragging. But to make a lot of money, I know that means
you had to invest a lot. Will it be all right? This
is
Ernie
we’re talking about.”

“He was the world’s worst boyfriend, it’s
true. But, since then, he’s made a whole career out of turning
little struggling companies into little successful companies, so
I’m actually pretty excited. And it’s not like I have to talk to
him or anything. I’m pretty sure I’ll make a nice chunk on this
one.”

“That’s wonderful Madeline.”

I love my mom. More, I
like
her.
She’s a super nice person, everyone loves her and she just never
has a bad word to say about anyone. But she has only the vaguest
idea of what I do for a living, even after all this time. Which is
only fair. She’s been working at a golf course for over 20 years,
is now the manager and I’m never really sure exactly what it is
that she does, either. Except, whenever I’m in town she manages to
parade a large number of men around my age in front of me.
Predictably, they all play golf.

After I hung up, I quickly checked LRG: it
was really starting to happen now. An hour after the announcement
and the stock was trading at $6.25. And trading was brisk. It was a
stock that usually had a daily volume of a couple of million max,
and they’d already hit that mark and passed it. I looked at the
clock. Nine-thirty am. Eleven-thirty NYC time. My gut said the
stock would hit at least $6.80 by the East Coast’s one pm.
If
it happened that way, I could happily sell a big chunk of
my early purchase. That would mean a profit of just under $20,000.
— less brokerage fees, which would be inconsequential, a few
hundred bucks. I grinned. I felt good. Not bad for my first day’s
work. Later, of course, I’d wonder at my smugness.

I put in a sell order for all 24,500 shares
at $6.80 with no special instructions attached. That meant that, if
LRG reached $6.80 at any time during the trading day, my sell order
would be waiting if I was looking or not. If LRG went over $6.80
while I wasn’t looking, I’d beat myself up, but I’d do it with a
smile on my face: A quick twenty grand is nothing to get too upset
over. But, having watched the intraday trading chart carefully for
a while and, as a result, feeling confident I knew how this was
going to go, I figured LRG would be peaking out a couple of hours
before the end of the trading day. I had plenty of time.

I found that the constant watching was
getting to me. This playing with my own money was costing me more —
emotionally — than I’d thought it would. So I took a shower. A
shower
for crying out loud. Such was my confidence, such was
my nervosity. I wanted to return to my computer to see a delicious
fait accompli
with my stock at its high of the day and at
least some of the securities safely sold and the money, so to
speak, back in the bank. So I didn’t hurry. In fact, I did the
opposite of hurry: I made my mundane tasks drag out beyond the time
I usually spent on them.

I scratched Tycho’s tummy and stroked his
glossless gray coat.

I brushed out my hair — a hundred strokes —
and put moisturizer on my face.

I made myself a little sandwich: sliced Haas
avocado and cream cheese on this really beautiful bread I’d bought
on the weekend at a bakery in Santa Monica. Soy and buttermilk
bread with funny little nuts in it.

I felt celebratory, so I opened a bottle of
San Pelegrino and enjoyed the fizzy way the water settled into the
glass.

I carried my little repast over to my
computer, set it down, then — with a delicious feeling of
anticipation — brought up my trading screen.

There was a hugely disconcerting “N/A” where
the quote should have been for LRG and the even more disconcerting:
“Trading is halted pending announcement.”

Now, trading halts happen all the time. And,
as I used to be obliged to tell my clients, they’re not necessarily
something to be concerned about. Yes: it means that the funds you
have tied up in the stock stay that way until trading halts being
halted. And, true, coming so soon after a happy announcement, it
seemed fairly certain that this particular trading halt would mean
something less happy. But they really aren’t something to get upset
about.

I didn’t want my sandwich anymore.

I checked to see what the stock had been
trading at before the trading halt: $5.86. Which was entirely the
wrong direction. This was not good. This was not good at all.

I watched the bubbles in my water erupt on
the surface and dissipate. It felt like a metaphor. I poured the
San Pelegrino into the potted palm next to my desk: Here.
You
drink it.

I contemplated the vastness of what I had
done. All of my cash. All of my liquid wad. I’d told myself I
wouldn’t do that no matter what. It didn’t feel good.
I
didn’t feel good. In fact, I felt ridiculous, if you can feel
ridiculous and queasy at the same time. When had I ever put this
much of my own money — or someone else’s, for that matter — into a
stock based on little more than a strong hunch? Exactly never, that
was when. Hindsight is always 20-20, but now that I had the luxury
of having it — because it was behind me — I wondered what I could
have been thinking, what point I’d been trying to make, by playing
it all on one lousy stock? Which was:

“Stupid, stupid, stupid!” I said it
aloud.

I had read, prior to this moment, novels
where, at some point or another, the hero says something like: “I
felt like invisible hands were squeezing my throat, choking off the
air and my very life.” Cheesy beyond belief. And yet, right that
moment, that was exactly how I felt. The air was coming to me less
easily than usual and the pressure around my throat was almost
tangible. I knew I wasn’t about to fall down with some type of
attack or anything, but I felt... beyond words.

And it wasn’t simply fear of financial loss
— though that could be devastating enough, I’ve always believed
that there’s nothing about the stock market that’s a sure thing:
every time you make a trade, you have to be willing to take the
associated risk — so it wasn’t just that. It was also the feeling
that I’d lost some professional edge that I’d believed in my whole
career. Is this what happened at 35? Did your senses get dulled by
time? Did your eye and your instincts become less sharp? Were your
hunches, intuitions and gut feelings less reliable? That was a
frightening thought to me. As frightening, in some ways, as an
earthquake. You
believe
in the ground under your feet. You
trust it will remain solid, remain steady. And I
believed
in
my abilities — my
talents
— the ones I’d honed in over a
decade as a professional trader. You learn to do things a certain
way. You learn what works. You know what you’re
supposed
to
do. That was just it, though, wasn’t it? I hadn’t done what I was
supposed to do. That’s the double-edged sword of insider trading.
If you make a bundle, it’s indictable: people point fingers. If you
lose your shirt, people snicker into their fists.

And how can you
not
act on
information that comes from somewhere inside? Especially if, like
me, you are somewhere on the farthest edge of the inside? I
suddenly remembered something my father had told me when I was 16
and he was teaching me to drive. He told me that, if you’re driving
fast and your palms are sweating it means you’re going too fast:
you should slow down. I pushed my palms across my desk. They left a
glossy trail.

After a quarter hour of self pity and self
loathing — and with no change in LRG’s status — I kicked my
somewhat sorry butt into gear. Dashing off an e-mail with the
details, then dialing the Merriwether Bailey number felt like
action. I’d sent Sal a postcard once I’d rented the guest house,
but I hadn’t spoken to him since I left New York. He’d be trading
right now, but he’d take my call: he’d know that
I’d
know
when to pipe down and let him do his stuff.

“Hey, hey,” he said when he heard my voice.
“How’s Malibu Barbie?”

“Skating, Sal. Until today. D’you get my
e-mail?”

“Naw. Lemme see,” I could hear computerish
clacking over the line. “LRG. What are you peeking at a stinky
little stock like that for?”

“You know me, Sal,” I said by way of an
answer.

Sal had always liked playing with the big,
solid stuff. Blue chip and related cousins. He’d teased that he’d
leave the flyers for “cowboys” like me. He’d always said it with a
smile and you could tell he liked this cowboy joke, but, underlying
his jest was the fact that he knew what he knew and believed what
he believed. If there were happier surprises to be had from the
sometimes risky securities I tended to like, so be it: The risk
attached to those stocks was always greater, as well. I was
thankful that, today anyway, there would be no lecture. His voice
told me that he still believed all that he’d ever believed, but I
could tell he was too busy with his own trades to worry much about
my style today.

“Give me a sec’ and let me run it.” A pause.
More computerish clicking. And then a not very encouraging, “Ouch.
You buy?”

“Yeah.” My voice was quiet. I would have
paid money to be able to deny it. If I’d had any left.

“Not today though, right?”

“Yeah. Today.”

“When?”

“Maybe 9:45.” When talking with New York
traders, you always use their time. During the trading day, New
York time is everyone’s time.

BOOK: Madeline Carter - 01 - Mad Money
6.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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