White KnightBy: CD Reiss
CHRIS - PRESENT
When I came to New York thirteen years earlier, I’d had ambition and seven hundred and forty-nine dollars to my name. My mother had tried to give me the last of what she had—a hundred forty dollars and some collector’s coins—but I wouldn’t take it. So by New York standards, I had nothing, which was easy to turn into three simple words years later from the back seat of a Porsche Cayenne.
I never glorified the first year. It sucked. They locked dumpsters at night. That was my biggest hardship. Locked dumpsters. Second only to not having money to take care of Lance.
Grappling for survival wears on a guy. It becomes the brain’s primary function. I don’t know how long it takes the average person before survival starts overriding more entertaining affairs, like the love of your life or happiness. In movies, soldiers are always in the trenches, looking at pictures of their girlfriends. I’d kept a picture of Catherine in my pocket. It turned into a ball the size of an aspirin when I woke up in a puddle.
Her picture was gone, but my one singular goal did not change.
I cut flowers in the backs of grocery stores. Worked construction. Learned to speak Spanish so I could get leads on new jobs. Finally I could afford a bike so I could courier documents and building plans.
Then Brian Cober’s dog bit Lance’s tail. The Brian Cober of Cober Trading Associates. Meanwhile, I couldn’t afford a vet. I had no power. No leverage. Nothing. I was in that dog run every morning to develop a relationship with him, not to get into a conflict. Everyone on the Street knew Cober was a cold-eyed shark who hated to lose. What they didn’t know, and I came to learn, was that he had guilt where his conscience should have been.
A conscience is a guide for living. Guilt can be bought off for a few bucks. Cober paid the vet bills and had me come in to try for a job as a runner on the floor of the Exchange. The interview was his payment. I was eager and humble. I got the job because that room and I were a match made in heaven. It reeked of what I wanted most.
I’d needed it to go back to Catherine. A lot of it. More than I could acquire without selling her memory. Earl Barrington money.
That had been thirteen years ago. Though the memory of her had faded into colorless snapshots taken by an innocent boy who no longer existed, the hunger for money hadn’t.
Years after I stopped writing her letters, she became the girl I dreamed about sometimes. Or remembered when I caught the scent of roses from a flower cart. I wondered about her from my box at the US Open, when the pop-popping of tennis balls brought Doverton back to me.
I checked her address when I bought my co-op on Central Park South, and again when I bought the place in the Le Marais.
She still lived in the Barrington mansion, and she still had the same name.
I checked once before I married Lucia, my future wife’s lipstick still smeared on my cock under my tux.
Why didn’t I call her? Why just send one last envelope with a check inside a card? Why not pick up the phone?
I told myself she didn’t want me, but the fact was, I was greedy. I was shallow. I was a shell of a man. I was a robot working eighty hours a week because… foreign markets, and money, money, money.
Which was about to change.
Ten years after his dog bit mine in the park, Brian knew it and I knew it.
The quants had gotten it wrong. The algo had found a trend and labeled it an outlier. I’d been outmaneuvered, and I was about to be the manager of an empty shell of a hedge fund.
A hedge fund’s only capital was its reputation, and ours had taken a beating. It would take years to claw back to the top. I didn’t know if I had it in me anymore.
Nella, my hipster dog walker from Brooklyn, called as I was assessing my nonexistent options. “Mr. Carmichael?”
“What?” I was annoyed. I’d hired her so I didn’t have to be bothered while I was working, and there she was…
“Lance doesn’t look good. He won’t get up.”
“What do you mean he won’t get up?”
“He’s awake, but he can’t move. I think he needs to go to the vet.”
By the time I got back to my co-op, it was too late.