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Authors: Sam Stewart

Payback (4 page)

BOOK: Payback
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You're gonna read this, you'll feel a lot better.

No; more dramatic. Portentous.


Mr. Mitchell's gonna read this and weep.

Something like that.

He parked in his brother's little cobblestoned driveway and cut across the lawn. There was dew all over it and Cy was really getting his shoes fucked up; his cuffs were all damp. On the other hand, Cy appreciated the virtues of a shortcut. He knocked at the door.

Carol came and answered: elaborate pajamas like Harlow would've worn; subtle blond hair kind of tumbled in her eyes. She was over the hill but you'd climb up anyway and go for that cool and refreshing pail of water; and wind up in traction. Jack, falling down again and shattering his balls. Forget it. She was heading down the hall to the kitchen. He watched her as she walked, following the shimmer of her white satin tail and the sexual clatter of her white satin mules. “Maid's day off?” he said.

“Week off. We figured it was better that way. I've got coffee on.”

“Made it with your own little hands?”

“Meaning lousy,” she said.

There was coffee on the stove. A pitcher of juice and a couple of highball glasses on the table. Carol sat down and then poured one for herself and then lifted up the glass. Up yours, she was saying. Out loud she said, “It better be a damn good story.”

Cy didn't answer. Nor was he about to waste Schneider on Carol. He ambled to the window; his back to the table, he folded the envelope and shoved it in his pocket “Where's your husband?” he said. “Is he sober?”

“It's seven in the morning,” Carol said.

“Hey listen, don't handle me with ‘seven in the morning.' I know my brother like the back of my—”

“Refrigerator,” Carol said darkly. “You hardly ever see him. And you don't understand him.”

“Right.” Cy looked at her slowly. “I suppose you're gonna tell me you do.”

“Do what?” Burt said, coming in in his bathrobe, his hair a little wet. “How about some coffee?”

“Rough night?” Cy asked him.

“I'd say it was a rough morning, wouldn't you?”

Burt, Cy noticed, had been losing more hair. And more chin. And he used to be jealous of Burt because Burt was so tall. Now he wouldn't trade. Cy ran his fingers through his hundred-dollar haircut and agreed that it was rough.

“On the other hand,” he said, “I have one cheering word.” He looked around expectantly. “Anybody here want to ask me what it is?”

Burt just sat there and leveled him a look.

“Bhopal,” Cy said. “I'm serious. Two thousand fucking Indians. And Carbide's over it—what? in a week?”

Carol looked at Burt who kept leveling at Cy.

Cy said, “I've also got another little word. Johnson and Johnson. Bristol and Myers. I promise you. We're gonna be healthy in a week. Okay. Say a month.”

Carol turned around now and leveled him a look.

“Believe me,” Cy said. “Hey listen. You know what this is? This is news, that's all. By tomorrow afternoon, this is yesterday's news. Princess Di'll have a baby and people'll forget. Believe me.”

“He wants you to believe him,” Carol said. “Do you believe him?”

Burt didn't bother to respond.

Carol walked over and leaned against the stove like a nightclub singer on a white piano. Carol said, “I'm counting up to seven now, Burt. If you don't start asking him …”

Burt didn't ask.

Carol said, “Mother of God, what a pair. Tweedledum, Tweedledee. One of you's got no brains, and the other one's got no guts.”

“And neither of us has any coffee,” Burt said. “Why don't you pretend you're a woman and get it?”

“Why don't you pretend—”

“Cy,” Burt said, “the question is whether you did the thing or not. If you say ‘did what?' you will probably get a pot of coffee in your face.”

Cy turned helplessly, shrugging with his hands. “Jesus. I won't say a thing,” Cy said. “My own relatives want to think I'm part of this—” he poured himself a big glass of juice and then lifted it—“Hey,” he said. “What can I tell you?”

“If you are,” Carol said.

Cy stared at her. “You think I'd do murder?”

“Not do it,” Carol said. “Hire it. Order it.”

Cy said, “I'm shocked.”

“Yeah. Okay. So're we,” Carol said. “You call us on Friday.”

“From New York,” Burt said. “You tell me to buy as many puts on the company stock as I can get. You tell me, ‘Don't ask.' You say to me imperiously, ‘Shut up and buy.' ‘Trust me,' you said. So I make a few calls. What you're telling me to go for's an option that the stock'll make a ten percent drop. Ten within a week.”

“Did you do it?” Cy said.

Burt looked at Carol who was actually carrying the coffee to the table. “She did. She did it through her brother in Cleveland.”

“Good. How much?”

“Six thousand,” Burt said. “For that, we got options on a hundred thousand shares.”

“Sixteenth of a cent for a share,” Cy said. “That's what you paid. So you know what you'll be making? Stock does a dive, by tomorrow you'll be selling 'em at two and a quarter. Two
and a quarter. You're gonna make two hundred thousand, little bro.”

“Yeah, either that, or make bail,” Burt said. “This is stock fraud,
. It's an insider trade. I've broken more laws that I can count on my fingers.”

“You ain't broke nothin till you're caught,” Cy said. “And for a dentist in Cleveland, it isn't insider, it's a legal transaction.”

“The dentist in Cleveland's sweating bullets,” Burt said. “He thinks they're gonna nab him for accessory to murder. So I want you to tell me what was really on your mind.”

“On Friday,” Carol said.

“Something else,” Cy told her. “It's completely unrelated. Trust me.”

“You believe that? Trust him,” Burt said. “The check is in his mouth. Friday, he tells me the stock is gonna drop. Saturday, what drops is a half a dozen people, and the man says, ‘Trust me.' I want you to explain.”

Cy shook his head, arranging an expression of embittered disappointment. Oh ye of little faith. “I went to New York, as you know, to see Schneider.”

“Jesus,” Burt said, “is this related to Schneider?”

“Unrelated,” Cy said. “Though the stuff I got from Schneider's gonna knock off your socks. Believe me.”

“You say that again and you're dead,” Burt promised. “Go on.”

“Okay. Okay,” Cy said. “So I'm leaving Schneider's office on Friday. It's noon. I'm hungry. I stop at this little steak joint on the street. On Wall Street, okay? I'm sitting there, I see a guy I know across the aisle. He's a stock analyst, right? He's specialized in drugs which is how come I know him. So he calls me to the table. He says, I've got a question. There's exceptional trading in puts on your stock. Somebody's betting it'll dive within a week. Somebody's betting very sneaky, very big. He says to me, You got an idea who it is? Or why? I say, No.” Cy shrugged. “That was it, okay? So I leave. Okay? So cut: exterior—I'm walking down the street. I'm thinking. Okay? We move in slowly to my hard narrowed eyes. My eyes lifting up and we cut to the letters of a brokerage sign. I go in there and check and he's telling me the truth. There's exceptional trading. All I can tell you is it's coming in blocks and it's coming from Europe and it's starting on Friday. That's it,” Cy said. “That's all the girl wrote. I was thinking—I don't know. I don't know what I was thinking but I thought, take a shot. And you have to consider there's a clock on the scene. It's two twenty-seven. The market's gonna close so I had to think fast, and I acted—okay? That's the truth,” Cy said.

There was palpable silence for a very long time.

“Or the story,” Carol said. “I don't know.” She looked thoughtfully and carefully at Burt. “Do you believe him?”

“I don't know. It's stupid, impulsive, reckless and nuts.”

“That's why I think I believe it,” Carol said.

Cy took a breath. He reached for the envelope and waited for a time, instinctively counting out the necessary beats.

Then he said, “The
thing I did in New York …” and, holding the envelope loosely in his hand, he sailed it to the table.


Scully said, “Mitchell?”

“What took you so long?” Mitchell, in the boardroom, cradling the phone while he stubbed a cigarette.

“Jesus, I wasn't even there,” Scully said. “I was home. Out jogging. So Pepper leaves a nasty little message on the tape and meanwhile I heard it on the radio.” He paused. “Christ, what a terrible thing, Mitch. I'm sorry.”

Mitchell took a long slow breath and said, “Thanks.” A catchword as totally peculiar as “sorry.” People were “sorry” when they stepped on your foot. “Okay,” he said quickly, “so you know why I called.”

“Yeah. You want to kill the commercials,” Scully said.

“And then bury them.”


“Hey Scully. Wake up. The slogan we've been saying.—‘Go with Naturalite'? You want to do a number? Smartass on his sofa doing punchlines over that?”

“Right,” Scully said.

“Right. Wake up. Have some coffee, man—black.” He hung up the telephone and tossed a ball of paper, hard, against the wall. He was sitting in the boardroom with a fresh, bright-eyed, dapper-looking Leo and the company treasurer, George Ramanos. Leo in a cream-colored tropical worsted. George sitting tubby and puffy in his chair, his hair slightly tousled, his shirt wrinkled, his tie on the skew. Mitchell wondered idly if Leo went home after midnight to his wife, or merely to his closet.

Mitchell was still in his sweater and his cords. He pulled at some coffee. “So where the hell's Zef?”

“I think he went out to get breakfast,” Leo offered.

Mitchell turned around.

“No. Stay cool. He's on the phone,” George assured him. “He's calling his attorney.”

“Funny,” Mitchell said. He was staring at the window. The sun, coming up, had hit squarely on the panes and made the whole thing surreal. You could talk about sabotage and murder in the dark but in the sun it was paranoid. His gaze moved down.

“You ought to have seen it on the tube,” Leo said. Leo got up and went over to the sideboard and fixed himself coffee. “You want some?”


“Bryant Gumbel called it ‘urban psychosis.'”

“Yeah, well he was always a thinker,” Mitchell said.

“And they're blaming the package.”


“They said you oughtn't to make it out of paper.”

“Maybe we should make it out of hand-plated steel,” Mitchell said. “Bulletproof. There's nothing I can do about the package.”

“You could call a designer.”

“I called a designer. Guy says to me, If a badguy can't open it, a goodguy can't either. My own theory was, it must've happened with a needle, a pinhole, something like that but the cops say it didn't. I don't know—”

He looked over at the shadow in the door. Zef, his lawyer, re-entering the room—three hundred pounds of him in three-piece flannel, white hair smoother than the feathers of a bird. He nodded at Mitchell who appeared to be relaxed—slouched in his chair now, smoking, feet planted loosely on the table.

“Lovely,” Zef said. “And the jury would convict you on attitude alone.” He settled his baronial body at the table and looked back at Mitchell. “Forgive me,” he said, “I do hate to be the harbinger of more evil tidings but I just ran into some trouble in the john.”

“I thought you had a stomach of iron,” Leo said.

“No, not that kind of trouble,” Zef said, “though the category's right. No, what I saw was a very tan prick in a houndstooth jacket. I said to it, What are you doing here, Cy?—”

“Oh Christ,” Mitchell said.

“So continue rather quickly now. You've talked to the police?”

Mitchell said he had. “A lieutenant named Keebler, an Inspector Delgado. And they're blaming the factory.”


“They've got a couple of ‘implicated packets,' I think was their expression, and the cops aren't sure if they were tampered with or not. They won't say they weren't but they won't say they were.”

“So meanwhile a question mark hovers on the plant.”

“Exactly,” Mitchell said.

There was silence for a second.

Mitchell lit another cigarette he didn't want.

Leo said, “The cops'll be blatting on the news.”

“Yeah, I'd imagine.”

“I'd imagine,” Leo said, “I should book you onto every other talk show on the dial.”

“Just forget it,” Mitchell said. “And no press conference either. I'm offering a written statement. That's it.”

“Can we argue that?”

“No.—What I really want to do—”

Leo kicked him on the shin.

Cy, moving quickly through the doorway, said, “Thanks. Thanks a lot,” and came stalking to the table, little bantamweight boxer getting ready for the round. “Just forget it, okay? Okay? Just forget it that you didn't even bother with my call, what I really want to
, Mitch, is how come I had to hear the story from the press?”

Mitchell sighed wearily and looked up at Zef. “What happens if I hit him?”

“He sues you,” Zef said.

“Well … he'll have to stand on a very long line.”

Cy, undaunted, took a seat next to George.

George said to Mitchell, “Okay, so you want to talk lawsuits or money?”

Cy said, “The market's been open maybe—what? maybe twenty-five minutes and we're down seven points.”

BOOK: Payback
7.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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