Page 77 of The Moneychangers

Miles awoke first. His body was uncomfortable and cramped… but there was something else which filled him with excitement.

Gently he awakened Juanita, guiding her from the sofa to the rug in front of it where he placed cushions for their pillows. Tenderly and lovingly he undressed her, then himself, and after that he kissed, embraced and confidently mounted her, thrusting himself strongly forward, gloriously inward, while Juanita seized and clasped hired and cried aloud with joy. ~ "I love you, Miles Carino mio, I love your"

Then he knew that, through her, he had found his manhood once again.

9

"I'll ask you two questions," Alex Vandervoort said. He spoke less crisply than usual; his mind was preoccupied and somewhat dazed by what he had just read. "First, ..

how in God's name did you get all this information? Second, how reliable is it?"

"If you don't mind," Vernon Jax acknowledged, "I'll answer those in reverse order."

They were in Alex's office suite in FMA Headquarters Tower, in the late afternoon. It was quiet outside. Most of the staff from the 36th door had already gone home.

The private investigator whom, a month ago, Alex had retained to make an independent study of Supranational Corporation an "outside snooping job," as they agreed had stayed quietly seated, reading an afternoon newspaper, while Alex studied the seventy-page report, induding an appendix of photocopied documents, which Jax had brought in personally.

Today, Vernon Jax was, if anything, more unimpressive in appearance than the last time. The shiny blue suit he was wearing might have been donated to the Salvation Army and rejected. His socks drooped around his ankles, above shoes even less cared for than before. What hair remained on his balding head stuck out untidily like well-used Brillo pads. Just the same, it was equally clear that what Jax lacked in sartorial style he made up in espionage skill.

"About reliability," he said. "If you're asking me whether the facts I've listed could be used, in their present form, as evidence in court, the answer's no. But I'm satisfied the information's all authentic, and I haven't included anything which wasn't checked with at least two good sources, in some cases three. Another thing, my reputation for getting at the truth is my most important business asset. It's a good reputation. I intend to keep it that way.

"Now then, how do I do it? Well, people I work for usually ask me that, and I suppose you're entitled to an explanation, even though I'll be holding some things back which come under the heading of 'trade secrets' and 'protecting sources.'

"I worked for the U. S. Treasury Department for twenty years, most of it as an IRS investigator, and I've kept my contacts green, not only there but in a lot of other places. Not many know it, Mr. Vandervoort, but a way investigators work is by trading confidential information, and in my business you never know when you'll need someone else or they'll need you. You help another man this week, sooner or later he'll come through for you. That way, too, you build up debts and credits, and the payoffs in tip-offs and intelligence go both ways. So what I'm selling when you hire me is not just my financial savvy, which I like to think is pretty fair, but a web of contacts. Some of them might surprise you."

"I've had all the surprises I need today," Alex said. He touched the report in front of him.

"Anyway," fax said, "that's how I got a lot of what's in there. The rest was drudgery, patience, and knowing which rocks to look under." "I see."

'There's one other thing I'd like to clear up, Mr. Vandervoort, and I guess you'd call it personal pride. I've watched you look me over both times we've met, and you haven't much cared for what you've seen. Well, that's the way I prefer people to see me because a man who's nondescript and down-at-the-heel isn't as likely to be noticed or taken seriously by those he's trying to investigate. It works another way, too, because people I talk to don't think I'm important and they aren't on guard. If I looked anything like you, they would be. So that's the reason, but I'll also tell you this: The day you invite me to your daughter's wedding I'll be as well turned out as any other guest."

"If I should ever have a daughter," Alex said, "I’ll bear that in mind."

When fax had gone, he studied the shocking report again. It was, he thought, fraught with the gravest implications for First Mercantile American Bank. The mighty edifice of Supranational Corporation SuNatCo was crumbling and about to topple.

Lewis D'Orsey, Alex recalled, had spoken of rumors about "big losses which haven't been reported… sharp accounting practices among subsidiaries

… Big George Quartermain shopping for a Lockheed-type subsidy." Vernon Jax had confirmed them all and discovered much, much more.

It was too late to do anything today, Alex decided. He had overnight to consider how the information should be used.

10

Jerome Patterton's normally ruddy face suffused an even deeper red. He protested, "Dammit! what you're asking is ridiculous."

"I'm not asking." Alex Vandervoort's voice was tight with anger which had simmered since last night. "I'm telling you do it"

"Asking, telling what's the difference? You want me to take - an arbitrary action without substantial reason."

"I'll give you plenty of reasons later. Strong ones. Right now there isn't time."

-  They were in the FMA president's suite where Alex had been waiting when Patterton arrived this morning.

"The New York stock market has already been open fifty minutes," Alex warned. "We've lost that much time, we're losing more. Because you're the only one who can give an order to the trust department to sell every share of Supranational we're holding."

"I won't!" Patterton's voice rose. "Besides, what the devil is this? Who do you think you are, storming in here, giving orders…"

Alex glanced over his shoulder. The office door was open. He walked to close it, then returned.

"I'll tell you who I am, Jerome. I'm the guy who warned you, and warned the board; against in-depth

involvement with SuNatCo. I fought against heavy trust department buying of the shares, but no one including you would listen. Now Supranational is caving in." Alex leaned across the desk and slammed a fist down hard. His face, eyes blazing, was close to Patterton's. "Don't you understand? Supranational can bring this bank down with it."

Patterton was shaken. He sat down heavily behind the desk. "But is SuNatCo in real trouble? And are you sure?

"If I weren't, do you think I'd be here, behaving this way? Don't you understand I'm giving you a chance to salvage something out of what will be catastrophic anyway?" Alex pointed to his wrist watch. "It's now an hour since the market opening. Jerome, get on a phone and give that order!"

Muscles around the bank president's face twitched nervously. Never strong or decisive, he reacted to situations rather than created them. Strong influence often swayed him, as Alex's was doing now.

"For God's sake, Alex, for your sake, I hope you know what you're doing." Patterton reached for one of two telephones beside his desk, hesitated, then picked it up.

"Get me Mitchell in Trust… No, I'll wait… Mitch? This is Jerome. Listen carefully. I want you to give a sell order immediately on all the Supranational stock we hold

… Yes, sell. Every share." Patterton listened, then said impatiently, "Yes, I know what it'll do to the market, and I know the price is down already. I saw yesterday's quote. We'll take a loss. But still sell… Yes, I do know it's irregular." Hs eyes sought Alex's as if for reassurance. The hand holding the telephone trembled as he said, "There's no time to hold meetings. So do it! Don't waste.. ." Patterton grimaced, listening. "Yes, I accept responsibility."

When he had hung up the telephone, Patterton poured and drank a glass of water. He told Alex, "You heard what I said. The stock is already down. Our seeing win depress it more. We'll be taking a big beating."

"You're wrong," Alex corrected him. "Our trust clients people who trusted us win take the beating. And it would be bigger still if we'd waited. Even now we're not out of the woods. A week from now the SEC may disallow those sales." "Disallow? Why?"

"They may rule we had insider knowledge which we should have reported, and which would have halted trading in the stock." "What kind of knowledge?" 'What Supranational is about to be bankrupt."

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