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Authors: Christopher Reich

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BOOK: The Patriots Club
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13

The firm of Harrington Weiss occupied the eighth through forty-third floors of an unexceptional gray granite building two blocks down the street from the New York Stock Exchange. Founded in 1968, Harrington Weiss, or HW, as it was referred to familiarly, was a newcomer on the Street. Compared to its competitors, many of whom had first opened their doors one hundred years before, it had no history. Nor could it compete in terms of size. With assets of three billion dollars, the firm counted just over two thousand employees spread across offices in New York, London, Shanghai, and Tokyo.

But Solomon Henry Weiss had never wanted his firm to be the biggest. He preferred to be the best. A native of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, Sol Weiss had left school at the age of fourteen to take a job as a runner at the New York Stock Exchange. He was hardworking, smart, and congenitally skeptical. He moved up the ranks quickly, earning his stripes as a trader, specialist, and finally, market maker. Dissatisfied with brokering other people’s trades, he founded his own firm to run whatever money he had saved, and the little he could raise from family and friends.

It was the sixties, the age of the conglomerate, and Wall Street was in the thrall of the “Nifty Fifty,” the fifty or so companies that seemed to be solely responsible for powering the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s move from 300 to nearly 1,000. But Weiss was never one to follow the herd. His goal wasn’t to beat the Industrial Average by a few percentage points. He wanted to kick its ass and leave it begging for mercy on the ticket-littered floor of the Exchange.

Weiss hung out his shingle as a “stock picker.” It was his practice to place enormous, highly leveraged bets on the shares of only two or three companies at a time. Some called him a gambler, but he thought it the other way around. Weiss knew the companies he invested in, inside and out. It wasn’t a gamble so much as a well-calculated risk. The first year he made fifty percent on his investments, the next year forty-five. It wasn’t long before word of his impressive track record spread. Within ten years, the firm of Harrington Weiss had grown from five employees to five hundred, and his assets under management from one million to one billion dollars. That was just the beginning.

In fact, there never was a Mr. Harrington involved in the firm’s day-to-day business. The man didn’t exist. Weiss chose the name because of its phonetic similarity to “Harriman.” Brown Brothers Harriman being the epitome of the well-heeled “Waspy” firm. Or as he put it more eloquently, “No blue-haired society matron is going to hand over her grandson’s inheritance to a bunch of pushy New York Jews.”

Weiss was a character only Wall Street could create. He was short, fat, and homely with large, tragic brown eyes, great sagging jowls, and hair the color and texture of a Brillo pad that he unsuccessfully camouflaged with gobs of gel. He was given to wearing bold pin-striped suits with even bolder striped shirts. A four-carat diamond stickpin held his necktie in place. He wore his solid gold Breguet wristwatch over his French cuffs, in the manner of Gianni Agnelli, the late Italian billionaire and chairman of Fiat. It didn’t matter that Weiss didn’t know Agnelli, that he didn’t speak Italian, or that he’d never been to Europe. Weiss knew class when he saw it. And that went for the seven-inch Romeo y Julieta cigar he clasped between his fingers ten hours a day, seven days a week.

And yet, for all his flamboyance, Weiss was the picture of discretion. Soft-spoken, sincere, deeply religious, at the age of sixty-six, he had assumed a near-mythic stature in the investment community. Weiss was the last honest man, integrity personified, and, as such, the consigliere of first choice among America’s most prestigious corporations. Over the years, he had received many offers to sell his company, a few at wildly inflated sums. He’d turned them all down. The company was family, and family counted for far more than money. He was addressed by one and all as Sol.

Harrington Weiss concentrated on the high end of the business: institutions, banks and brokerages, the larger family trusts. The minimum balance set for managed accounts was ten million dollars, but those valued at fifty million and above were preferred. The investment-banking arm specialized in mergers and acquisitions advisory and corporate finance work to a handpicked coterie of firms.

On the Street, HW had a reputation for steering winning deals to its clients, i.e., deals that were nearly always profitable. Some talked about Weiss’s “golden touch,” but there was no luck involved, thought Bolden as he lowered his shoulder and passed through the revolving doors. Just hard work. Long hours taking apart balance sheets and P and L’s and figuring out what made a company tick. And then, more hours figuring out what needed to be done to make it hum.

Bolden slid his ID card over the scanner and pushed his way through the turnstile. “Morning, Andre,” he said, with a nod of his head to the security guards. “Morning, Jamaal.”

“Hey, there, Mr. B.”

Bolden hurried across the crowded lobby to the bank of elevators that serviced the thirty-sixth through forty-fifth floors and squeezed into a packed car. He was dressed in a charcoal suit, blue chalk-striped shirt and navy tie, a trench coat to ward off the cold. He carried a worn but polished satchel in one hand, and an umbrella in the other. He glanced at the faces surrounding him. The men fatigued, dark circles beneath the eyes, preoccupied. The women resigned, overly made up, anxious. He fit right in.

He got out on forty-two and waved a hello to Mary and Rhonda at the reception desk. Copies of
The Wall Street Journal
and
The New York Times
were fanned across the counter like a deck of cards. Bolden didn’t bother picking one up. Reading a newspaper at your desk was a firing offense. You’d be safer keeping an open bottle of Jack Daniel’s in plain sight and a spliff burning in the ashtray.

The office was richly decorated in English Regency style: wooden floors covered with plush maroon runners, muted silk wallpaper the color of antique ivory, and polished nineteenth-century tables lining the halls. Prints of gentlemen riding to hounds, old American warships, and pastoral landscapes adorned the walls. Somewhere there was even a bust of Adam Smith.

At seven-thirty, the place was still coming to life. As Bolden walked the hall, he saw that most of the executives were in, sitting at their desks answering e-mails, sorting through offering memorandums and analysts’ reports, writing up call reports, and generally figuring what ploy they might devise that day to earn the firm a few greenbacks. Harrington Weiss was a partnership. Revenue was strictly recorded, and bonuses were meted out accordingly. In the lingo, you ate what you killed.

“Hey, Jake,” he said, ducking his head into an office. “Thanks for coming last night. The donation . . . it was too much. Really, I can’t say enough . . .”

A dark, mousy man worked busily at his computer. “You da man, Tommy,” he answered in a booming voice, without ever taking his eyes from the screen.

Jake Flannagan. Head of investment banking. Bolden’s boss.

Six years had passed since Bolden had begun work at HW. He’d started as just another galley slave, one of a class of twenty, paid an even hundred thousand dollars a year before bonus. His first assignment placed him in mergers and acquisitions, where he spent endless hours tinkering with financial statements to arrive at a targeted company’s true market value. What if revenue increased by two percent? Three percent? Four percent? What if expenses decreased? An infinite string of permutations calibrated to match the exact depth of the client’s pockets.

From M and A, he’d moved to capital markets, where he’d learned how to price securities, IPOs, mezzanine debt, junk, you name it. And then, on to investment banking proper, where he’d jumped a flight three days a week to visit companies and pitch them ideas about what they needed to buy, the divisions they should divest, and the benefits of doing a secondary stock offering. Thomas Bolden: the Fuller Brush Man in a thousand-dollar suit with something in his satchel to fit every CEO’s taste.

“Adam, Miss Evelyn,” he said to two assistants, making way for them to pass.

Bolden knew everyone’s name. He made a point of it.

Passing the cloakroom, he deposited his trench coat and umbrella, then moved across the corridor to grab two cups of coffee, one for himself and one for his assistant, Althea.

A year ago, he’d been promoted to director and given a spot in the special-investments division. The special-investments division was tasked with maintaining the firm’s relationships with the growing rank of private equity firms. His clients were the crème de la crème: the Halloran Group, Olympia Investments, Atlantic Oriental Group, and Jefferson Partners.

Private equity firms, or financial sponsors, as they were known in the trade, made it their business to buy companies, fix whatever ailed them, and sell them at a profit a few years down the road. To do this, they raised pools of capital from investors, called funds. The funds ranged anywhere in value from five hundred million to six or seven billion dollars. His most important client, Jefferson Partners, was due to close the industry’s first ten-billion-dollar fund any day now. Bolden was due at a swank dinner in D.C. that night to help Jefferson convince the last holdouts.

It was Bolden’s job to keep his ear to the ground for news about companies that were looking to be sold and whisper his discoveries in his clients’ ears. The companies could be publicly traded or privately held. Textiles, finance, consumer goods, or oil. The only thing they had in common was their size. The private equity firms Bolden worked with didn’t buy anything valued at less than a billion dollars.

The special-investments division was the equivalent of the all-star team. Shorter hours. Fewer clients. World-class boondoggles. And of course, the bonuses. No one earned more than the fat cats in SID. And for good reason: The tight relations forged with their clients resulted in at least one executive leaving HW each year for the greener, and infinitely higher-paying, pastures of private equity. A partner at HW stood to earn anywhere from five to twenty-five million dollars. The same position at a sponsor paid five times that. Real money.

 

“You’re in late,” announced Althea soberly, her suspicious brown eyes giving him the once-over.

Bolden set her coffee on the table, then slipped by her into his office and took the hanger off the door. “Shut the door,” he said.

“In or out?” she asked, meaning should she come in or stay out.

“In.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked, stepping into his office. “You don’t look so good.”

“I’ve got a small problem. And I need your help.”

Althea closed the door. “Uh-oh.”

14

It was five minutes past eight. The telephone repairman looked up from his wristwatch and watched as the night doorman left the building and crossed the street toward the corner of Sutton Place and Fifty-fifth. The old Irishman was weaving slightly and the repairman knew it wasn’t just from a long night on the job. He waited until the doorman had disappeared down the block, then left the cozy, heated confines of his truck and entered the lobby of 47 Sutton Place.

Waving to the day man, he was quick to present the work order for his examination. He was dressed in a Verizon uniform. A tool belt hung low on his waist. All the same, he did his best to avoid eye contact and spoke with his face lowered, as if, despite his size, he was congenitally shy. He didn’t want the doorman to spend too much time checking out his swollen nose, or the fresh cuts that striped his chin and his neck. After some small talk, he took the elevator to the basement and checked the junction box where the phone lines entered the building. It took him less than a minute to isolate the line for apartment 16B. The eavesdropping device he’d installed a few weeks earlier remained in place. All calls were transmitted to a base station cached up the block, and relayed via satellite to the organization’s op center in D.C.

Leaving his tools on the floor, he retraced his steps to the elevator and rode to the sixteenth floor. The two Schlage locks were easily defeated. He was inside Thomas Bolden’s apartment a minute later. He removed his work belt and set it on the floor, then slipped on a pair of surgical latex gloves. Paper “galoshes” stretched over his boots prevented the Vibram soles from squeaking on the parquet floor. Carefully, he wiped down the door frame and doorknob for fingerprints.

Meee-owww.

Wolf spun on a heel, a double-edged assault knife bared between his knuckles. Perched on the kitchen counter sat the biggest damn tabby cat he’d ever seen. He lowered his knife and felt his heart rate slow. The cat raised a paw in greeting and cocked its head.

“Jesus F. Christ,” mumbled Wolf as he slid the knife into its sheath. No one had told him about the cat. He spent a minute petting it, though as a rule he didn’t like cats. No loyalty. That was their problem.

He was born Walter Rodrigo Ramirez in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, but he’d called himself Wolf for as long as he could remember. To his way of thinking, a wolf was the noblest creature on earth. He hunted only when he needed food. He looked after his family first. He was loyal to the pack. And he was the baddest motherfucker in the woods.

A full-color, full-face tattoo of a wolf, ready to pounce, covered every square inch of Wolf’s back. If you looked deep in the wolf’s eye, you could see his prey, a hunter standing with his hands in the air. The hunter was pure evil. He, Walt Ramirez, was the wolf.

Protect the weak. Defend the innocent. Strike down thine enemies and vanquish all evil by the right hand of God.

That was Wolf’s credo.

And Bolden was at the top of his list. Bolden was the hunter. Bolden was evil. Soon, he would have his hands raised, begging for mercy. None would be shown. No quarter would be given. No one humiliated the wolf.

Beginning at the point farthest from the entry and working his way back, Wolf searched the apartment. Bathroom. Bedroom. Living room. Kitchen. For a big man, he moved quietly and with sure feet. He had learned his trade at installations with names like the Covert Warfare Training Center and the Special Warfare School. He had honed it to a razor’s edge in places like Kuwait, Bosnia, Colombia, and Afghanistan during sixteen years of military service. His specialty was elegantly termed “enemy extraction.” Less elegantly, he was known as a body snatcher.

It had been three years since he’d worn a uniform, yet he had never left his country’s service. At the urging of his superior officer, he’d retired from active duty to work for a company with close ties to the top ranks of government. The company was called Scanlon Corporation, and it did much of the work that the armed forces could not be seen to do itself. The pay was four times what he’d earned as a sergeant first class, and the company offered a 401(k). There were also excellent health-care benefits and a $250,000 life insurance policy. Taken together, it went a long way toward compensating for the retirement on full pay he’d been four years from earning. Wolf had a wife and three kids under the age of seven to keep clothed and fed. Most important, the work was essential to keeping America strong at home and abroad.

For the past two years, Wolf had hunted terrorists in the purple mountains of the Hindu Kush: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the lawless borderlands that separated the two. Finding a bad guy, he’d call in his team of “wolverines,” set a perimeter, and hunker down until nightfall. Out came the iPod, in went the earbuds, and on went Metallica. When Wolf hit a target, he was fuckin’ pumped, mainlining adrenaline.

But capturing the bad guys was only half the job. The other half was interrogating them. Time was critical. Ten minutes meant a player escaping or being captured. It meant an American soldier living or dying. That was the way Wolf saw things. Black and white. He didn’t hold with any of this bullshit about torture not working. It worked, all right. A man would give up his infant daughter when he was being skinned alive. You cannot lie when a superheated Bowie knife is flaying you strip by strip. Sometimes, he still heard the screams, but they didn’t bother him too much.

Duty. Honor. Country.

That was also his credo.

America had given his father, a Mexican immigrant with no money, no education, and no skills, a chance. Now his papa owned a successful dry-cleaning business in El Paso, and had just opened a second store across the border in Ciudad Juárez. He drove a red Cadillac. American doctors had operated on his sister’s cleft palate, leaving hardly a scar and giving her a beautiful face. Now she was married and had children of her own. The American military had taught him the value of sacrifice for a greater cause. It had made him into a man. The day Wolf received his American citizenship was the proudest of his life. He prayed for the President every morning and every evening.

And now an asshole like Bolden was trying to fuck everything up. Putting his nose where it didn’t belong. Associating with a bunch of left-wing kooks who thought they knew better than the men in Washington. He looked around the apartment, at the fly furniture and the kick-ass stereo and the unbelievable view. Bolden had it much too good to be bad-mouthing the system. The Wolf would not permit it.

Seventeen minutes later, he had scoured the apartment. He found only one item of interest: a scrap of paper lying in the wastebasket. The drawing on it was crude, but he recognized it right away. He called Guilfoyle to tell him what he’d found.

“The man’s a snoop,” Wolf added, before ending the call. “He ain’t one to forget what’s been done to him.”

BOOK: The Patriots Club
10.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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