Sunday, April 3, 2011


The denim-clad man waited patiently. Realizing that he was hanging around the parking lot for a suspiciously long time, he feigned sleep when he detected someone else there. Thankfully, the people in the building were working folk who weren’t around much during the day. That left him with little risk, but a lot to explain if someone got curious. How could someone who would be friends with one of the hard-working people in this building have the time to dawdle in a parking lot all day Friday? Had he anticipated it would take that long, he would have added to his disguise by including an accessory that would place him as a truck driver or slacker. Having failed to do so out of habitual need to be as ignorable as possible, he had reached an impasse. So, when noon hit, he decided to go home and try again later. The risk meter was edging up to unacceptable, and he couldn’t help that.

Getting back to his apartment, he woke his computer and got up the IP tracker for Edward’s account. Seeing that Edward had accessed a bistro Website called Armitridge’s, and confirming that the E-reservation page had been accessed, he engaged the data feed from the keystroke- and packet-capture malware in his target’s computer. A hacker colleague had smuggled it in by a hand-crafted spam mail that got through Edward’s junk filter. Squaring the time requested with the Armitridge’s visit, after looking at the reservation page to see how it worked, he saw “9:30 PM” for the time of the reservation request. Thankfully for his hacking, whoever had designed the Armitridge’s reservation form had been careful enough to code the menu options with the corresponding data instead of using the raw menu choice number.

Even if the data were unavailable, Edward’s habitual Friday-night dating had been easy to infer from love messages sent through a social network Website.

Having nothing to do now, taking only one contract at a time, the shady man decided to take the risk of leaving the packages in his Aveo instead of bringing them back in. There were a few people around, and wearing gloves to keep fingerprints off would be too noticeable. Leaving the gun and the special delivery in the car was the least worst option.

Anyway, he had only to wait until 9:00. No amateur would break into an Aveo, there being far more tempting targets in the neighbourhood. The pros in the ‘hood knew him and left him be out of professional courtesy.

Glen Romas, despite he being a political animal, was becoming sickly aware that he had gone too deep. He was on the phone with Mr. Levkov, the ‘L’ in LIS Investments. He had bent once, in the hope that LIS was planning to pull out with a huge profit and go after some other company. Levkov was informing him in no uncertain terms that the anomalously good hole was expected to be repeated.

“No, we can’t do that. The regulators would be all over us.”

“Then drill some more,” the clear accented voice told him. “You know what to do.”

Romas did, but it was one thing to have a single anomalous drill hole that could be explained away by saying the project geologist had accidentally worn a gold ring while bagging the samples. Provided that the company re-checked the samples later and owned up voluntarily, it would be dismissed with a warning. Accidents happen.

But it was another thing entirely for two or more holes to be salted. At that point, it was prima facie deliberate fraud – and would be prosecuted as such.

Romas didn’t know what started the selling wave that humbled Flow yesterday, but he did know something that he wasn’t telling Mr. Levkov. Near the climax of the selling wave, 1.5 million shares went below 25 cents and were re-priced at 25. They had been his. As an insider, he was obliged to report the sale within five days of making it. Not having done so by now, he now had four. Any regulator putting two and two together would wonder why a CEO who had begged the IIROC to reprice the trades had himself sold below the reprice point. It was only two cents’ difference, but two cents on 1.5 million shares was a hefty $30,000. Moreover, there was the question of why a CEO would panic like an outside amateur shareholder when the stock caved in.

Trapped between one gun and the other, Romas felt sweat ooze out of his brow in his large, neat, air-conditioned office with kitchen-table-sized conference table. “You know I want to help you, so I’ll announce another drill program.

“But I have to say that it might be a good idea to see the good news as a selling opportunity. Reduce your cost basis, and bank some of your hard-earned money.” He was too nervous to wonder why he, the CEO of an exploration company, was sounding like an anxious broker.

He heard nothing for a few seconds while the sweat gathered into a teardrop that ran down the left side of his nose.

“Please, you explain why you want to get rid of us,” Levkov said with steady menace.

Too afraid to tell the truth, Romas replied just like a broker. “I just want to lessen your risk.”

“That is your job.”

Now even more trapped, he explained about the regulations. Romas emphasized that it was impossible to buy them off in Canada. The risk of attempting it was so high, no-one even tried.

“Then why you not find better property? I remember your assurances.”

Those assurances had been the same old hype that no-one took seriously. Except, of course, for a triumvirate of Russians whose main line of business required the occasional murder.

Desperate, he assured them that there was a property in the hot Yukon that Flow was seriously looking at. “Everyone knows you find gold where it’s been found before,” he gulped out. “We’re well on our way to finding a property in the Yukon, where more than forty exploration companies have a presence. It’ll do wonders for the stock once we find the right one.”

Hearing nothing, he continued to reach for it. “I’ll tell you what I can do. I’ll announce the new drill program right away and LIS can sell some of its shares in the excitement. Then, I’ll go back to the hold and get it re-assayed. Once the stock craters, I’ll announce a private placement and you’ll be able to buy back your shares at a much lower price. I’ll guarantee LIS will get as much as you want. Then, with the money, I’ll get the hot area play in the Yukon and you’ll enjoy a huge profit once the market recognizes it.”

That got the disembodied voice sounding jovial “An inside tip. I like that. Please, do it. I allow you to get yourself out of the hole you dug. Or drilled,” Levkov ended charmingly.

Feeling a disorienting relief, Romas thanked him and got off the phone. It wasn’t until he hurriedly composed a barebones news release for the new drilling program that his sick feeling nearly doubled him over in his chair. In order to get out of one crime, he had just committed another over the phone. He was now guilty of insider tipping.

Now his head was turning into a painful sponge. Had it not been for his escape plan, he would have no way out. One crime would have turned into another until the inevitable end whisked him off to jail, on top of a lifetime ban from being an officer or director of a listed company.

Turning from the new-drilling announcement, he called up his E-mail client and asked the exchange to halt trading in Flow because news was pending. It took him a couple of minutes before he could calm down enough to follow through with a confirmatory phone call.

After calling to tell Edward that his new account was ready, Gus asked for the initial deposit.

“I can’t,” he heard his new client reply. “Funds are tied up until Wednesday.”

Now, Gus regretted the time he had spent away from his desk getting the account set up. It wasn’t the best way to start off a business relationship.

Seizing the opportunity to complain, Edward continued. “I got re-priced yesterday. Had they cancelled the damn trade I made, the funds would be free and I’d be wiring them now. I reversed the re-price the same day, but the funds are locked until the damn thing settles. They really crooked me.”

Demurring as a professional, Gus said he understood but the IIROC had been within its rights.

“No hold on. You and me, we’ve –“

“I pulled out stops for you, Edward. Its not as if -“

“All right, all right.,” he sighed. “I won’t blame you for singing the tune.” Now, Edward sounded more tired than annoyed. Today was not a Möen day; that was for sure. Instead of bragging to Kaliyah tonight, he’d be explaining why he’d been hung. Not good; it made him sound like less of a man. But, the regs were the regs – even if they unmanned a fellow.

There was something in his new client’s tone, plus Roger’s earlier schmoozing and Gus’s own later due diligence, which made the broker suspect that something else was going on. Real traders don’t set up a rush job and then choke because they forgot something as obvious as the settlement day. No, this fellow had to know something.

Accessing Flow on Forward’s proprietary stock display, what he saw confirmed his hunch. FLW was now halted, pending news.

“I got to go,” Edward explained as his smart phone vibrated.

I bet you do, Gus thought as he replied with a hurried goodbye. Given his new client’s abrupt hesitation, it had to be bullish news. He was awfully glad he didn’t pitch the short to his established clients.

Putting down the cordless and activating the smart phone, Edward saw Roger. “Cripes. I hope you didn’t go through with that short,” his fat friend exclaimed.

“What’s up?”

Roger’s brow furrowed and his budding scowl slipped through; he was concerned. “Didn’t you know it was halted?”

“Halted?” Putting the phone back on its stand, he booted up his alternate stock-data service again and saw the same word in place of a quote. “News?”

Now looking a little guilty, Roger admitted that he hoped it was good news. “I got 40,000 shares of Flow at 32. So I bent. Couldn’t resist.” His friend being fully prepared to go all-in on the short side made his professional detachment crack.

Edward smiled, his head nodding. “Way to pump the move. I hope it’s goin’ higher myself.” It would mean a better entry point for his short sale come Wednesday. Or Tuesday, if the firm he was walking from proved accommodating.

They shot the breeze, both refreshing their respective stock services, until they saw the news. Flow, on the heels of that great result, was announcing another drill program. An improvement over of Romas’ hasty first draft, it was carefully crafted. Edward, having seen it first, told Roger and they both drank it in. Neither had anything to say, so the call and money-draining minutes were terminated by mutual agreement.

Now, he had something to watch. About ten minutes later, the Exchange announced trading would resume twenty minutes subsequently because the announcement had been made.

When Flow started up, Edward was very relieved. Briefly starting at 36, it hit 38 in no time flat. Had he gone ahead, he would have been stopped out for a serious loss.

Again going to the Price Slicer at the end of Kaliyah’s shift, Edward was already dressed for the date. He had found a movie that started at 7:00. There was more than enough time for her to get out of her work clothes and get dressed up. Her day had been much like yesterday, but she was happier now. Although serious and paying due attention at her work, she was not a workaholic – as yet, anyway. In this stage in her career, she could still have time for fun.

Since it was fun time, she put aside the question of their future. Tonight was the time for love in the present. As was customary for him, he had chosen an action flick with a romance angle. “Bad Court” starred legendary African-American actor Rex Brown, whose character was forced to fend for himself after being framed by a rogue white colonel in his intelligence unit. In order to win his freedom, he had to expose a cabal in the Pentagon headed up by the colonel’s white boss – a full general. Pulling up to her place, Edward showed an uncharacteristic but habitual bashfulness when he agreed to wait in the car for her.

When she came out, she was ravishing. Purple-highlighted cheeks framed a full night-on-the-town makeup job. Her workaday coat had been replaced by a snazzy leather jacket. Her pants were now a skirt. She smelled fun-loving.

As was also habitual, he held the door open for her when she debouched from her building. It was going to be another enchanting Friday night.

They both liked the movie; Kaliyah filled herself well with popcorn. She was expecting to go to the coffee bar, and he went along with it until he sprang the surprise reservation at Armitridge’s.

She was pleased, but not delighted as he had hoped. Part of her, being frugal, wondered why he was splurging. He had only made several hundred dollars on that trade of his, and they had already agreed to go to the brunch with Roger on Sunday morning.

She got her frugality from her father. Back when he was a young jiver, in the late 1970s, he had gone with his peers in the image-crafting that had floated down from the dress-for-success world to the street. Mr. Berry, then plain old Steve “Spike” Berry, had stretched his wallet to the breaking point by buying a new 1979 white Cadillac on time payments. He had borrowed the down payment from his parents, agreeing to a second time plan with his father. When his jive outfits were added, his entry-level clerk’s pay was stretched to the breaking point – before he was sandbagged by the ’79 oil crisis. Humiliated by the need to choose between gas and food, he sold the Caddy and resigned himself to pay for a car he would never drive again. As a result, he had felt like one jive turkey.

But, he had found love as a result. His wife, Mrs. Berry since 1982, had been impressed by his hard-times-won maturity and steady job. Resigned to taking the bus until he could afford to buy a car with cash, he had later saved for more than the minimum down payment on a modest house. When Kaliyah came along, in 1987, they were well used to apartment life which she remembered in flashes. By the time the Berrys were ready to make the move to housed life, shrewdly in 1991 after the real-estate slump, he was a supervisor well on his way to becoming manager. At present, he was a vice-president.

His warnings, reinforced and elaborated upon by her mother, meant she was attracted rather than repelled by Edward being a cheapskate. It said he was a saver by nature; he was no spendthrift.

That’s why his splurging got her wondering.

The same man, now dressed in a hoodie, got in by pretending to be a delivery boy with three roast chicken dinners from the same restaurant chain that was Edward’s favourite. Credit card data had provided the name. Another resident, seeing him with the food, let him in. His plastic gloves rated hardly any attention.

The real delivery was in the lower two-thirds of the chicken package. Having gotten in, he moved to Edward’s apartment and deftly picked the lock. Once inside, he unloaded the chicken dinner packaged in a tinfoil pie plate. He then pulled out the .357 magnum Taurus Model 65 wrapped in another such plate; that one had been cleaned. He had eaten well tonight. The rectangular-solid package was in the third. Pulling it out from its own bag, he exposed a squat brick of white powder tightly wrapped in a plastic sandwich baggie. That, he stuffed in the top drawer of the credenza as the desk itself had no drawers. Pausing, he made sure as best he could that the drawer was in the same position he had found it.

Then, taking the glinting gun, he put it on Edward’s pillow. Pulling a piece of paper from the printer, he also pulled out the prints-scrubbed marker and pulled off the cap. His plastic gloves would make sure he left no DNA from his hands. Writing “From A Friend” on the paper, he then walked back and placed it under the gun.

His job was not complete, but this part of it was. As he left, with the three dinner packages now repacked in the bag, he went to his Aveo and drove back to his place.

He didn’t eat the third dinner until he had called his confederate. The final act of the didactic playlet, he mused as he threw the bones into his partially-filled wastebasket, would not be performed until Edward came home.

Which happened after 11:30. Edward was more than content with the good-night kiss he had gotten, after smoothing things over by saying he was splurging to celebrate his calming down. He spun the interrupted short sale as proof he was now thinking before jumping. Accepting it, she had delighted in the steak dinner she had ordered at Armitridge’s.

Feeing both happy and content, he was totally unprepared for what he was about to see when he opened up his door after driving her home and going to his own. Sensing something wrong, he glanced over to the bed and saw the note. Tensing up, his eyes snapped to wary. They stayed that way when he saw the gun's handle poking out under the note on the pillow.

Now alert, he remembered the plain old white fellow in some sort of hoodie who had snuck in behind him. Thinking nothing of it, he had let the fellow in. Now, he was sure that he shouldn’t have. Fully awake, he looked around and waited. He did not touch the gun.

Edward didn’t have to wait long. The knock on the door, he answered in confront mode. On the other side of the door were two men: the hoodied guy, to the side, and a smirking unshaven sandy-haired fellow whose closed smile seemed conspiratorial.

Hard-eyed, he exploded when he demanded what they wanted.

“You remember us, don’t you Ed.”

Jerking his head towards the hoodied fellow, who seemed to be holding something, Edward belted out, “Him I remember. You I don’t.” With swearing interlaced again, he reiterated his demand.

The sandy-haired man, who Edward had three inches on, was completely unfazed; so was his conspiratorial smirk. “We’re here to repossess the coke you didn’t pay us for.”

Pushed beyond outrage to plain shock, Edward had no way of noticing that the hoodied hood was pointing a digital vidcam at him.

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