"Would I be employed by the bank?"
The answer was unequivocal, emphatic, final. Wainwright elaborated: Involvement of the bank officially would be nil. If Miles Eastin agreed to assume the role suggested, he would be entirely on his own. If he ran into trouble and tried to implicate First Mercantile American, he would be disowned and disbelieved. "Since you were convicted and went to jail," Wainwright declared,
"we never even heard of you."
Miles grimaced. "It's one-sided."
"Damn rightl But remember this: You came here. I didn't come to you. So what's your answer yes or no?"
"If you were me, which would it be?"
"I'm not you, nor likely to be. But I'll tell you how I see it. The way things are, you don't have many choices."
For a moment the old Miles Eastin humor and good nature flashed. "Heads I lose; tails I lose. I guess I hit the loser's jackpot. Let me ask one thing more,"
"If it all works out, if I get if you get the evidence you need, afterward will you help me find a job at FMA?"
"I can't promise that. I already said I didn't write the rules."
"But you've influence to bend them."
Wainwright considered before answering. He thought:
If it came to it, he could go to Alex Vandervoort and present a case on behalf of Eastin. Success would be worth it. He said aloud, "I'll try. But that's all I promise."
"You're a hard man," Miles Eastin said. "All right, I'll do it." They discussed an intermediary.
"After today," Wainwright warned, "you and I won't meet again directly. It's too dangerous; either one of us may be watched. What we need is someone who can be a conduit for messages both ways and money; someone whom we both trust totally."
Miles said slowly, "There's Juanita Nunez. If she'd do it."
Wainwright looked incredulous. "The teller who you…
"Yes. But she forgave me." There was a mixture of elation and excitement in his voice. "I went to see her and Heaven bless her, she forgave met" "I'll be damned."
"You ask her," Miles Eastin said. "There's not a single reason why she should agree. But I think… just think, she might."
How sound was Lewis D'Orsey's instinct about Supranational Corporation? How sound was Supranational? That worry continued to vex Alex Vandervoort.
It was on Saturday night that Alex and Lewis had talked about SuNatCo. Over what remained of the weekend, Alex pondered The D'Orsey Newsletter recommendation to sell Supernational shares at whatever the market would pay and Lewis's doubts about the conglomerate's solidity.
The entire subject was exceedingly important, even vital, to the bank. Yet it could be a delicate situation in which, Alex realized, he would need to move cautiously.
For one thing, Supranational was now a major client and any client would be righteously indignant if its own bankers circulated adverse rumors about it, particularly if false. And Alex had no illusions: Once he began asking questions widely, word of them, and their source, would travel fast.
But were the rumors false? Certainly as Lewis D'Orsey had admitted they were insubstantial. But then so had the original rumors been about such spectacular business failures as Penn Central, Equity Funding, Franklin National Bank, Security National Bank, American Bank & Trust, U.S. National Bank of San Diego, and others. There was also Lockheed, which hadn't failed, but came close to it, being bailed out by a U.S. government handout. Alex remembered with disquieting clarity Lewis D'Orsey's reference to SuNatCo's chairman, Quartermain, shopping in Washington for a Lockheed-type loan except that Lewis used the word "subsidy," which wasn't far from truth.
It was possible, of course, that Supranational was merely suffering a temporary cash shortage, which sometimes happened to the soundest of companies. Alex hoped, that that or something less was true. However, as an officer of FMA he could not afford to sit back and hope. Fifty million dollars of bank money had been funneled into SuNatCo; also, using funds which it was the bank's job to safeguard, the trust department had invested heavily in Supranational shares, a fact which still made Alex shiver when he thought about it.
He decided the first thing he should do, in fairness, was inform Roscoe Heyward.
On Monday morning he walked from his office, down the carpeted 36th floor corridor, to Heyward's. Alex took with him the latest issue of The D'Orsey Newsletter which Lewis had given him on Saturday night. Heyward was not there. With a friendly nod to the senior secretary, Mrs. Callaghan, - Alex strolled in and put the newsletter directly on Heyward's desk. He had already ringed the item about Supranational and clipped on a note which read: Roscoe I thought you should see this. Then Alex returned to his own offlce.
Half an hour later, Heyward stormed in, his face flushed. He tossed down the newsletter. "Did you put this disgusting insult-to-intelligence on my desk?"
Alex pointed to his own handwritten note. "It rather looks like it."
"Then do me the favor of not sending me any more drivel written by that conceited ignoramus."
"Oh, come onl Sure, Lewis D'Orsey is conceited, and I dislike part of what he writes, just as you obviously do. But he isn't an ignoramus, and some of his viewpoints are at least worth hearing."
"You may think so. Others don't. I suggest you read this." Heyward slapped an opened magazine on top of the newsletter.
Alex looked down, surprised at the other's vehemence. "I have read it."
The magazine was Forbes, the two-page article in question a slashing attack on Lewis D'Orsey. Alex had found the piece long on spite, short on fact. But it underscored what he already knew that attacks on The D'Orsey Newsletter by the financial establishment press were frequent. Alex pointed out, "The Wall Street Journal had something similar a year ago."
"Then I'm amazed you don't accept the fact that D'Orsey has absolutely no training or qualifications as an investment adviser. In a way, I'm sorry his wife works for us."
Alex said sharply, "Edwina and Lewis D'Orsey make a point of keeping their occupations entirely separate, as I'm sure you know. As to qualifications, I'll remind you that plenty of degree-loaded experts haven't done well in financial forecasting Quite frequently, Lewis D'Orsey has." "Not where Supranational is concerned." "Do you still think SuNatCo is sound?"
Alex asked the last question quietly, not from antagonism, but seeking information. But its effect on Roscoe Heyward seemed near-explosive. Heyward glared through his rimless glasses; his face suffused an even deeper red. "I'm sure that nothing would delight you more than to see a setback for SuNatCo, and thereby me." "No, that isn't…"
"Let me finish!" Heyward's facial muscles twitched as anger poured out. "I've observed more than enough of your petty conniving and doubt-casting, like passing around this garbage" he motioned to The D'Orsey Newsletter "and now I'm telling you to cease and desist. Supranational was, and is, a sound, progressive company with high earnings and good management. Getting the SuNatCo account much as you may be jealous about it personally was my achievement; it's my business. Now I'm warning you: Stay out of it!" Heyward wheeled and stalked out.
For several minutes Alex Vandervoort sat silently thoughtful, weighing what had just occurred. The outburst had amazed him. In the two and a half years that he had known and worked with Roscoe Heyward, the two of them had suffered disagreements and occasionally revealed their mutual dislike. But never before had Heyward lost control as he had this morning.
Alex thought he knew why. Underneath the bluster, Roscoe Heyward was worried. The more Alex thought about it, the more he was convinced.
Earlier, Alex had been worried himself about Supranational. Now the question posed itself: Was Heyward worrying about SuNatCo, too? If so, what next?
As he pondered, memory stirred. A fragment from a recent conversation. Alex pressed an intercom button and told his secretary, "See if you can locate Miss Bracken." It took fifteen minutes before Margot's voice said brightly, 'This had better be good. You got me out of court."
'Trust me, Bracken." He wasted no time. "In your department store class action the one you talked about on Saturday night you told us you used a private investigator." "Yes. Vernon Jax." "I think Lewis knew him, or of him." 'That's right."