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Chapter One, Bombardiers

1. Filth

It was a filthy profession, but the money was addicting, and one addiction led to another, and they were all going to hell. Turner had gone to hell, and Mike McCafferey had gone to hell. Wes "Green Thumb" Griffin developed a wandering eye, while Antonia Zennario, who used to joke that "all investors are made from Adam's rib," lost her sense of humor, and then her smile, and then her job. Carol Manning miscarried. Coyote Jack began to stutter on his numbers and was moved into management. They had all gone to hell. Sid Geeder hated them all and missed them like crazy. The phone rang constantly and everyone suffered cauliflower ears, neck rashes, and cervical pain, and when the sun came up in the morning and they had already been at their desk two, three hours, they went to the 41st floor window and imagined what it would be like to have to ride a bus or find a parking place. The squawk-box cackled as traders in London and New York and Chicago bid up the long bond, then it quieted as the dust cleared and they settled in to wait for retail to continue the rally. Green monochrome monitors tinted everyone's face a pasty color, and Lisa Lisa reached for her pancake of low-lustre, firming-action moisture cream. Sidney Geeder drank some coffee. Nickel Sansome massaged his scalp. Sue Marino flipped through a bridal magazine.

When the sun didn't come up and instead their tower was socked in by clouds and fog, the other world existed even less than usual; they could not see the streets below, or most of the shorter buildings, and they were one of the few spaceships in the sky. The next attack could come from anywhere. The economic forecasts were useless. The fundamentals were ignored. The Federal Reserve was unpredictable. Money supply meant nothing in a global market. The Yanks followed the lead of the Japs, and the Japs followed the Krauts, and the Krauts followed the Yanks. They waited for instructions from the top, but their standing instructions were to sell first and not wait for instructions. Nobody knew where the market was going, but those that knew less than others lost their shirts and had their eyes ripped out and were made to swallow. In the mornings, there was always a chance to make it back. Later, the government would bail them out. But this wasn't later; they got glasses with higher prescriptions and gained weight and rode yellow cabs to work and the market was always the same. This unmerciful uniformity of their days was always something to joke about. They also joked about Coyote Jack's management wardrobe, especially his leather suspenders and corporate initialed cufflinks. And Nelson Dicky's teeth, which were rotting. And the corporation's name, which was mud on the street after the Euro-Floaters deal and had to be changed to revive the firm's image. And Lisa Lisa's testicles, which were made of steel and clanged when she sold the flip from mortgages to high-yield corporates. They joked about these things and they wondered what it would be like not to have a paycheck and though it wasn't easy, they all survived. Then there were things that were not so easy to joke about, such as when Sid Geeder nearly killed himself from drinking coffee. And when Eggs Igino vanished. Or during the Euro-Floaters deal when that kid, Turner, fell asleep and couldn't wake up. They never left their trenches and they did as they were told; they didn't do anything except go to work eleven hours a day, five days a week for a few years of their lives. They gave 110% in service to the firm. In the end, only one of them would be left standing, and everything would be different except the market, which was normal, because it was normal to rub out everything human and leave only the cockroaches and those made of steel. Sid Geeder looked around him at who was left from the old days. Paul DeShews was still there, tipped back in his chair like an astronaut. Clark Kalinov was still there, eating his breakfast and reading the paper as if nothing had happened. Cockroaches, all of them. Sid Geeder slurped his coffee. Nine more months and then he could cash out his company shares and leave here with his head high. He called a customer and sold him $6 million Dai Nippon Floating Rate Notes, which usually would have made Sid feel better. But all his friends were gone, even the ones he hated, and in their place was fresh young meat that believed this would be the last job they ever needed.

Sid's stomach soured and his back stiffened and he began to worry that he was going to develop an ear infection from all the germs that breeded unrestrained in the receiver of his phone.

"Do you see anything in there?" he asked Lisa Lisa, having unscrewed the receiver cap, exposing the resonator drum.

"I don't see anything," she answered, scrutinizing the cap. She poked the end of a paper clip through the holes in the hard plastic.

"I'm thinking of microwaving it," he commented. "Kill `em off."

"Would that do anything?"

"It couldn't hurt."

Lisa Lisa unplugged her handset from the long cord that ran down under her desk. "Let's go," she whispered. They walked across the sales floor nonchalantly, holding their phone handsets down at thigh level, below the height of the desks. The kitchen was empty. They set the microwave on high, timed for five minutes.

"What do you think?" Sid asked, leaning up against the counter.

"Hard to say."

"You want some coffee?"

Lisa Lisa retrieved two mugs from a cupboard and poured in coffee and milk. They sipped at it slowly.

"Yup," Sid said, drumming his fingers on the countertop. "I have a good feeling about this."

"You think?"

Sid nodded. "Could be the start of a trend." He grinned broadly. "If so, I'll let you take half the credit."

They indeed had started a trend. When the word got around the floor that all the microbes festering in their phone receivers could possibly be eradicated by just five minutes in the microwave, a line formed at the entrance of the kitchen. Out on the sales floor, phone lines rang unanswered as the salesforce stared sullenly at the opened machinery of their handsets. In the kitchen, scuffles broke out as salesmen argued whether putting more phones in the microwave required a commensurate increase in cooking time. Then John White came storming out on the trading floor and asked Sid Geeder into his office and told everyone else to go back to work. This is it, Sid Geeder thought to himself as John White's secretary poured him a fresh cup of coffee. Now I'm gone too.

"Jesus fucking Christ, Geeder," John White said. "What's all this about you nuking your goddam phones?"

"I don't know anything about it," Sid mused delightedly.

"Don't lie to me. This caper has got your name all over it. Who else is so paranoid that they'd worry about germs in a place as clean as this?"

Sid fumbled with a button on his cuff. "I heard about it from Lisa Lisa," he admitted.

"Yeah? Well she says she heard about it from you."

Sid shrugged and looked down.

John White blew out a deep breath. He shook his head despondently. "If you weren't so goddamed important to this firm, I'd fire you in a second."

"You can't fire me," Sid said. "You need me."

"You're dammed right we need you. Look, we've got another big Resolution Trust deal coming down the pipes. The firm's really gone out on a limb on this one, and we're going to need your early support. We can't have you creating diversions like this microbe scare."

"Another Resolution Trust!" Sid balked. "We just did a big deal for them nine months ago. Have they run out of that money already?"

John White leaned back and shook his head in exaggerated disbelief. "That's exactly the sort of monkey business I'm talking about, Geeder. I just mention the deal and already you're criticizing. We need team players on this one."

"Uh oh. Red alert. Every time you ask me to be a team player it means you're about to announce some major fucking bullshit that you expect me to swallow."

To calm down, John White took a deep, slow inhale through his nose, which he'd heard took the oxygen right into the brain. Sid Geeder always came through in the clutch, but in the month or so between when a deal was announced and when it finally came down, Sid was predictably disruptive. "Look, Sid, we're just asking you not to jump to any conclusions. Try the deal on for size for a while."

"Oh, don't worry about me," Sid said. "I don't have an opinion about the Resolution Trust Corp., despite the fact that last $40 billion--which was supposed to last a couple years, if my memory serves me--appears to have been squandered in just nine months. Boy, those guys at the RTC could teach the pentagon a lesson. If the pentagon could build a two-year rocket in just nine months, then they wouldn't be in such hot water all the time."

John White just rubbed his jaw and tried to wait out Sid's rage. "You just be careful what you say out on the floor or to your accounts. And no sneak attacks, either. No sly asides. If something like this microbe scare or that sweatshirt fiasco happens, you're out on your butt."

"What makes you think I was behind that sweatshirt fiasco?" When the firm's name became mud on the street after the Euro-Floaters deal soured, Sid Geeder had called the decal company that printed corporate mugs, calendars, and ashtrays. Sid ordered two dozen extra large sweatshirts in corporate blue color with the firm's recognizable logo of a schooner ship at full sail emblazened on the front. Above the logo, in the typestyle normally reserved for "First Boston", was silkscreened "Mud on the Street." The sweatshirts were sent anonymously via Inter-Department Mail to senior management.

"We know more than you think," John White said. "A lot of people wanted you fired. I had to save your ass."

"The only thing that saved my ass was the realization that I make this firm a hell of a lot of money." Sid was quiet for a moment. "Maybe I'm going to quit," he mumbled, suddenly seeling sorry for himself.

"You won't quit. You've got nine more months and then you're cashing out your corporate shares and we all know it."

"That didn't make a difference to Wes Griffin."

John White shook his head remorsefully. "I should have fired you a long time ago, Geeder. We can't let people become invaluable to us."

"That's crazy," Sid said.

"It's not crazy. It's management."

Sid Geeder looked out John White's 41st floor window. There was nothing but fog and they were the only spaceship in the sky. There was no way to tell they were in San Francisco--they could be flying over Tokyo or London or Bonn and they wouldn't even know, they were so tuned in to the market. It didn't even matter that they were the Atlantic Pacific Corporation now, they just went right on flying. But the firm was nothing without its trimmings. Sid knew that if you took away the marbled elevators and the mahogany-panelled entranceway and the low-static corporate-blue carpet and the historically-correct, proportional-to-scale toy schooners that were the new company logo, the firm would look like any other retail chop house on the street. If you took away the custom-designed mahogany trading pits and the global clocks and the LCD ticker tape running across one wall, it could be any other cost-center of any other big downtown business, such as a phone company or an insurance carrier. And if you took away the downtown view and knocked $300 off everyone's suits and put a parking lot outside, it could be any back office support in Stockton or Sacramento. The jobs weren't much different. The salespeople answered the phone and sent faxes off and stared at their computer monitors and had meetings in the mornings over cream-cheese danishes where they wondered under their breath if there would ever come a time when they didn't have to work so hard.

Therefore Clark Kalinov, the office manager, had a great responsibility. His responsibility was to rebuild the corporate image as the finest selling machine on the planet. His first step in this objective was to secure himself a window office. Clark was a translucent-faced know-it-all with blunt hair like a beaver, and nobody respected him because he hung out in his flourescent-lit cubicle off the copy room. So Clark requisitioned two hundred reams of stationery, six cases copier toner, seven thousand corporate-blue ball point pens, a cutting board, a second fax machine, a Z3200 Pitney Bowes mail machine, and one thousand Interdepartment Mail reusable envelopes. Then he wrote out lengthy complaints to the Facilities department in New York that they were so packed into their office that copier toner and stationery were piling up in the hallways.

"This place is a mess," Sid Geeder said, trying to squeeze past the overstocked supplies to use the fax machine.

"Call New York and complain," Clark answered.

Sidney Geeder stood over the two fax machines, one of which was busy receiving a very long document and one of which was busy sending a very thick prospectus. He looked at his watch. "Do you think this fax going through is very important?" he asked.

"Extremely important," Clark answered.

Sidney rifled through the prospectus pages looking for a cover letter to see who was sending such a long document, but there was no cover letter. Then he rifled through the incoming pages to look for a cover letter to know how many more pages were coming, but there was no cover letter there either.

"Hey," Sidney Geeder said. "Some idiot accidentally sent this prospectus to our second fax machine."

"It's not an accident," Clark said, not bothering to look up from the office supply catalog he was leafing through.

"Are you testing the new machine?"

"I'm trying to wear it out."

"Why?"

"So I can order a new one."

Sidney Geeder didn't get it, but he was long accustomed to the asinine antics of Kalinov's bureaucracy. But accepting that his fax wouldn't get through was nearly impossible. "If you order a new one, it'll be even more crowded around here. There'll be no space to put anything."

"Exactly!" Clark said, finally looking up from his catalog.

"The phone line has probably been busy for an hour," Sidney reasoned. "What if someone in New York is trying to fax us something important?"

Clark leaned back in his chair and rested his feet on the desktop. "What if they are?"

"They'll think we don't have enough fax machines, that's what," he said with great exasperation.

"Exactly! Now you're getting it."

But Sidney wasn't getting it at all. When he got angy, his back began to stiffen, and when his back stiffened he couldn't think straight. "I can't work without a fax machine," he mumbled.

"Exactly!" Clark laughed. "That's why I'm getting us a third one."

They needed a larger space. After all, the fundamentals for growth were good, despite all the firm had gone through. This was an information economy, and they were in the information business. They sold predictions for the direction of money, and they sold financial instruments designed to take advantage of that direction. There would always be money, and as long as there were markets, money would always have a direction, and a speed, and an acceleration, all of which could be sold. And as long as Atlantic Pacific was selling money, it would burn through stationery and fax machines and employees at an alarming rate, all of which would need wise management. Some of the systems Atlantic Pacific had established to handle the volume of business would break down, such as its self-insured health system or its Interdepartment Mail system. So sure was Clark Kalinov that the Interdepartment Mail system would break down that he set out to prove it to Facilities in New York. All mail was supposed to get anywhere in the world in two days. Every afternoon Clark ordered prospectus and trading reports and closing prices from research departments in New York for each of the salespersons, and every two days later twelve canvas sacks of Intermail were delivered to the copy room for sorting. Ricky, the simple-minded doughboy of a mail clerk who previously spent most of his afternoons snacking on Fritos he had stolen from the vending machine in the kitchen, now found himself struggling to enforce corporate policy of 2-day Intermail. When he got tired he suffered more paper cuts, which stung horribly and didn't stop bleeding and hurt even worse when the salt from the Fritos rubbed into the wounds. Eventually, Ricky strained the sacro-iliac joint in his butt when he tried throwing a canvas sack of Intermail across the room at Clark. Then the self-insured health system broke down too, because sacro-iliac stress is difficult to relieve, particularly in the overweight. Intermail took three or four days to reach the salespersons desks, and by that time it was out of date and entirely worthless.

When the entire 42nd floor upstairs was vacated by an insurance company that moved to Stockton, Clark Kalinov's requests were finally granted. The firm decided that the vast, ethereal, lofty 42nd floor would be a whole lot more impressive than the squat, cramped, tarnished 41st floor. Clark ordered more mahogany entranceway panelling, 14,000 square feet low-static corporate-blue carpeting, and brass railings for the ramps down to the sales floor, which had 40 mahogany-laid, 4-foot-high cubicle/desks organized into platoons for the Mortgages, Money Markets, Municipals and Equities Departments. Clark had his own office with his own squawk-box and his own computer monitors and his own incandescent, rose-tinted lighting system and his own window, which had a 42-story view of the wall of fog that surrounded the building. Then, because the walls of the sales floor looked barren, he ordered eight identical clocks showing the time in the Atlantic Pacific offices around the world and a twenty-foot long LCD ticker tape that rushed stock quotes by at a manic pace only manic salesmen could read. Coyote Jack, the sales manager, had his own fishbowl office looking out over the sales floor. Managing Director John White, who split his time between their office and New York, had an even bigger window office with two couches and a coffee table. It was horribly expensive but not a single person complained because life on the 42nd floor was the luxury they had always felt entitled to. The doors were wired with a magnetic card-key security system. The kitchen had a microwave, a vending machine full of candy bars, and a refrigerator. The briefing room, where they gathered in the mornings to hear about new bond issues, had a televideo screen that visually connected them to a similar conference room in midtown Manhattan. The only remaining resemblance to the insurance company that moved to Stockton was the employees, who spent their days faxing and calling and wondering if the future would be any different.

"Will there ever be a time I don't have to work so hard?" Sid Geeder wondered under his breath as he ate around the cream cheese center of his danish and listened to someone in New York describe the sales mission for the new Resolution Trust Corp finance package. On the conference table in New York were danishes with strawberry jam centers, and Sid Geeder kept wanting to reach into the video screen and grab one. He hated cream cheese, especially the yellowy half-melted type in two-day-old danishes; they reminded him of sales mission briefings, which reminded him of having to sell whatever they'd been briefed on, which reminded Sid of how hard he'd had to work to meet his quota.

"Not if Coyote Jack keeps volunteering us for huge quotas," whispered Eggs Igino, who'd heard Sid Geeder's rhetorical question. He licked his lips and chuckled.

Sid Geeder turned to his left. That new kid Eggs Igino was eating a danish with a strawberry center, and a small bit of jam was stuck to his cheek. Sid was dumbfounded.

"Where'd you get that?"

"What?"

"That strawberry danish."

Igino pushed the rest of the danish into his mouth and tried to speak with a full mouth but Sid Geeder couldn't understand a word.

"What?" Sid said, "I couldn't hear you."

"I said, `I try not to speak when my mouth is full.' It's bad manners." It had been a very large danish, and Eggs Igino was still chewing.

"But we've never had any strawberry danishes here before. Never. Did you get here early?"

"I was the last one here. You're always the first one, Sid, because you work so hard."

Coyote Jack interrupted them. "Shut up, Geeder. Shut up Igino. Pay attention."

But Sid Geeder couldn't pay any attention at all to the Resolution Trust Corp's preposterous intention to borrow a gazillion dollars in order to shut down some thrifts. He kept thinking about the strawberry danish he'd seen the kid eat, and he kept staring at the dab of red gel on the kid's cheek. After the briefing they marched back out onto the sales floor and hunkered down over their desks and settled in for the day's work. The new kid had Wes Griffin's old desk, which was right next to Sid's. Over the squawk-box came opening prices on bonds that reflected overnight activity in Tokyo and London. Sid set his broker screens to the mortgage markets and set his trading monitor to the treasury market and set his audio channel to the currency markets. The next move could come from anywhere. It was just before five o'clock in the morning. In a few minutes, the banks of phone panels would light up red.

"So, kid. What's the word of the day?"

"The word?" Eggs Igino repeated.

"You know, the word. The news. The story. You gotta have something to say when those phones light up red."

The kid was trying to raise the seat on Wes Griffin's chair. It was only his third day of work, and the first two days he had complained about his hamstrings tightening up from sitting eleven hours straight. All Sid knew about the kid was that he had been a soccer player in college. Sid Geeder had only laughed, because the hamstrings were just the beginning. The kid had a lot to learn. For instance, he had to learn that he would spend the next fifty years of his life sitting all day long. He had to learn to suffer, and he had to learn to live with that suffering. And that was just the beginning.

"Screw it," Igino said.

"Screw you, then," Geeder snapped back.

"Not you. The chair. Screw the chair." Igino pushed the chair on its little plastic wheels back toward the window.

Sid Geeder smirked. "Tell me about the danish."

"You mean where I got it?"

"Sure."

"What will you give me for it?"

"For what?"

Now Igino laughed. Eggs Igino was a quirky, jovial smart-aleck with bad taste in ties. He was too young to have suffered, and he was too intelligent to be corrupted. He had a freckled face and an athlete's casual slouch and globular, walnut-sized, muscular jowls that stirred as he spoke. "For the information. The information about the danish. I just can't give that to you for free. It's valuable information that I could sell for a lot of money."

"Just tell me, kid. I'm dying to know."

"Then you ought to be willing to pay for it."

"All right, then. Two dollars."

Igino snorted and chuckled. "Two lousy dollars? Are you kidding?"

"But that's about what a danish costs."

"But I can get them for free. You could too, if you had the information. You could get a strawberry danish every time we had a briefing on a new sales mission. You and I could be eating strawberry danishes while everyone else chews around the center of their half-melted cream cheese danishes. You could drive everyone crazy, even Coyote Jack, and suddenly those quotas wouldn't be so imposing." Igino leaned his hip up against his desk and stretched his calf muscle out behind him. "You would be in control."

Sid Geeder considered that scenario. For four years he'd been briefed on sales missions and been given quotas that he worked so hard to meet. And every time he met his quota, Coyote Jack raised the quota the next time, so Sid had to work even harder. All he'd ever done was do what he was told, and none of it had ever gotten easier. Even though he was known as the King of Mortgages, he'd never felt in control. It seemed impossible that a little berry-flavored red glycerin could change that vicious cycle. But the kid was a heck of a salesman--Sid could tell that already. Anybody who could make you believe a little red jelly would change your life was going to go a long way in this business.

"Naw," Sid said.

"Fine. Then I'll tell Nickel Sansome and he can drive you crazy."

"I'm already crazy."

"Think about it," Igino said.

"All right! Ten dollars."

"I don't want your money." Again Igino scoffed at Geeder's offer.

"Then what do you want?"

"Information. Quid pro quo. Tell me something I don't already know."

"Like what? Like gossip, or more like tricks of the trade?"

"Either."

Sid considered what he could say. There was so much and yet there was so little. He could warn the kid about how Coyote Jack would probably grill him this afternoon for talking aloud during the mission briefing. He could warn the kid to never go see the self-insurance company shrink, Helmet Fisher, as Wes Griffin had done, and instead to always go see the company doctor, Ivana Perkova, whose gentle, pearly fingers always made you feel better even if they couldn't cure your problems. He could detail the absurdity of the Resolution Trust system. Or he could scare the kid by telling him how Paine Webber had laid off its entire mortgage department and on Coyote Jack's desk were stacked hundreds of resumes, all wanting the kid's job. In a moment, the phones would start ringing and they wouldn't stop for eleven hours.

"I'll tell you what," Eggs Igino said. "I'll tell you about the danishes if you let me patch in to your sales calls today. Let me hear how you work your clients."

"How about I give you some advice: a salesman never lets anyone listen in on his calls. Our mouths are all we've got."

"Just one day."

"No chance, kiddo. The only thing that separates me from the other morons on this floor is my technique. If I let you in on it, how do I know you won't share it with Nickel Sansome tomorrow?"

Eggs Igino wound his fingers through his phone cord. "How do I know that if I tell you where I get my danishes that you won't go tell Lisa Lisa?"

"You don't," Sid answered meanly.

"You can trust me."

That made Sid laugh with foolish delight. The phones started ringing. Sid turned his back and went to work, making a first round of calls to his top accounts, briefing them on overnight trading and reading off opening prices in the mortgage markets, giving commentary on each price--noting the spread between coupons, what looked rich or poor, what might be under buying pressure. It was these subtleties that made Sidney Geeder the King of Mortgages--anyone could read off opening prices or repeat the short commentary the traders gave out to influence the market, but only Sid Geeder had his own opinions on all the various network of mortgage products.

Eggs Igino, who on his third day still hadn't been given any accounts of his own to call, had nothing better to do than to listen to everything Sid was saying and try to jot a bit of it down. He wasn't accustomed to being awake at five in the morning, and his throat was so dry that a small line of white paste caked his lips. He reached into his file cabinet and removed a crumpled grocery bag full of strawberry danishes. He nibbled his way through danish after danish, causing crumbs of hardened sugar to coat his desktop and float unmercifully into Sidney's lap. Sidney couldn't help but get a jealous ache in his stomach and in the split second between calls dab at the crumbs of sugar with his fingers and pop them onto his tongue. He saw Eggs Igino listening in, so he sat backwards on his chair, facing out towards the huge window behind them.

Still, Eggs Igino could hear everything, because Sid had to yell into his mouthpiece to overcome the noise on the floor. Eggs heard how Sid made a second round of calls, going over the numbers that would be announced that week--the quarterly trade deficit, the Year bill auction, the consumer confidence index, the 11th district Cost of Funds. He reminded them that it was the 3rd of the month--the Fed would be loaning in the market that afternoon to compensate for the drain of 30 million social security checks being cashed that day at banks around the country. His mouth never stopped moving and at least one line was on hold at all times.

"All right, just give me a fucking danish," Sid spat. "You've been listening in to my calls anyway."

"No I'm not," Eggs said innocently. "I'm just standing here trying not to look foolish. If you gave me an account to call on, then I'd be on the phone and I couldn't hear anything you were saying."

"Give you an account!? Now you've really gone over the deep end!" Sid picked up his phones again. As he talked, his voice changed, became softer. His shoulders rounded out, and he leaned back in his chair, propping his feet on his trash can. He rolled his shirtsleeve up to the forearms. Then he dropped the news. "Well, it looks like our buddies at the old RTC have been working harder than we expected. It seems they've already managed to spend all that money you loaned them nine months ago. At this rate, the savings and loan crisis will be over before we know it and we can all go back to owning T-notes."

"Oh, yeah, I heard you guys were coming out with another offering," the Trust Manager at World Savings sighed.

Sid bolted upright in his chair. "You heard it already! It's our deal. How in the hell did you hear about it?"

"From Goldman," the Trust Manager brooded quietly. "They said the only reason you got this deal over them was you agreed to price it rich."

Sid couldn't believe Goldman was maligning their deal. "Yeah, well, they lost the deal," Sid argued quickly. "They're bad sports. Of course they're going to 'dis it now."

"Well, they say the bonds stink."

"Don't be ridiculous. Do you think the Office of Thrift Supervision would have given us this deal if we were pricing it unrealistically?" Sid countered. He hadn't heard anything yet about the pricing--he was just arguing without the facts.

"Don't get mad at me. I'm just telling you what they said."

"All right," Sid agreed. "But for god's sakes, just don't jump to any conclusions. Try the deal on for size for a while." He jumped off the line and punched the button to another of his accounts.

"You talk to Goldman this morning?' Sid asked bluntly.

"We talk to them every morning."

"They say anything about our Resolution deal?"

"Not much. The usual."

"What'd the fuck they say?"

"They stink. But hey--these deals always stink. The only reason we buy them is because they're our regulators. We have to buy them."

Sid put down his phone in a rage and kicked at his trash can.

"What's wrong?" Eggs Igino asked him.

"Wouldn't you like to know?' he retorted angrily.

"What the hell's the matter with you!" Coyote Jack screamed, when Sidney Geeder burst into his office and started pacing back and forth.

"What the hell's the matter with YOU," Sid shot back. "How come Goldman knows about our pricing on the RTC deal before I do!? You would think a sales manager would let his salesforce be prepared to defend a rich pricing."

"Woah, hold on there. Calm down, Geeder. Do you think the Office of Thrift Supervision would have awarded us this deal if we were going to price it unrealistically?"

"That doesn't work with me," Sid said. "Don't you get it? If Goldman is telling the market that the deal stinks, then they're obviously not going to be part of the syndicate. And if the syndicate is weak, then we're in deep shit. The market has had about all the Resolution Trust bonds it can take. Fuck!" He swung his arms at the air in frustration. He was too old for this bullshit.

Coyote Jack played it calm. He rolled a corporate-blue ball point pen in his fingers. "Relax, Sid. Your accounts have to buy these bonds. The RTC is their regulating body."

"But nobody says how much they have to buy. There's a big difference between twenty million and two. Now I want you to fill me in on the pricing strategy or I tell my accounts to skip this deal. I've got my reputation to protect."

"All in due time," Coyote Jack yawned.

"Dammit!" Sid hollered so loudly that out on the sales floor all heads turned towards the glass window of Coyote Jack's office.

"If I tell you," Coyote Jack explained casually, "then all you're going to do is complain. I've got enough to worry about already with this deal priced so rich and Goldman dropping from the syndicate. The last thing I need is you throwing tantrums."

"Fine," Sid agreed. "I'll go tell my accounts to skip this deal."

Coyote Jack reached out and patted the stack of resumes on the corner of his desk. "You tell them that and I'll have you out of here so fast . . ."

Sid headed for the door.

Coyote Jack cut him off. "Tell that kid Igino to get in here. I've got to terrorize him for talking during the morning meeting."