Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Vignette: Sam the Shark

A little darker than I'm used to, but I thought this would make an interesting character study. I know nothing about trading, so I could make this a little more convincing. But anyways....

Sam the Shark. That's how he liked to call himself. And that's how everyone in the pit called him, too, behind his back with green-envy eyes and hushed whispers: Sam the Shark. His ocean was the trading floor and he preyed relentlessly and ruthlessly. He was born for it. At 19 he was the youngest trader at Goldman. At 21 he engineered "The Coup of the Century," grossing Goldman $350M and a handsome ten percent for himself. Sam the Shark he was, and his teeth were sharp, indeed.

But even mighty sharks get eaten from time to time, and for Samuel Rothstein that time came with Lippincot, a sweet deal that went sour. So he had used a few of his "connections" to tip the trade in Goldman's favor. So what? That was the way it was always done. It was just his bad luck that the Feds were on Goldman's case and as the company's superstar he stood out like a blade of grass waiting to be mown. They came down hard. Real hard. Goldman went south faster than you could say "Milken."

Sam Rothstein, shark that he was, survived by the skin of his teeth. He turned state's witness and brought down the whole board of Goldman. Many of them didn't even have a clue. And Old Man Goldman? Dead by his own hand, a bullet to his head. Sam the Shark, though, lived to prey another day.

Today wasn't that day, though. He stood on The Street eyeing the young, fresh-faced traders as they left the floor. Someday, someday, he mumbled to himself. He hadn't come out completely unscathed from Lippincot; all his assets had been seized. And after Lippincot, his was the kiss of death. No self-respecting shop would take him, the bastards. So like any good shark, he bided his time, sniffing the prey out.


He turned, squinted. The voice belonged to a rosy-cheeked baby face, ill-matched with the austere black suit on which it rested. Sam the Shark snarled. This was the Street, and no one had a right to be that happy and smiling.


"It's me, Jack! Jack La Fleur. We interned together at, ah, Goldman." At the name, La Fleur's voice tapered off and he broke into a wan smile. Goldman was like the Flying Dutchman now, bad luck just at the mention.

Shark teeth grinned back. "Oy. Jack." he sniffed. "Been a long time." Jack La Fleur. Jack the Flower. Jack the Loser. What was he bringing in these days? Seventy? Eighty thousand? He had Jack marked out a long time ago. Jack and his kind. They were the safe traders, always working in the shoals where it was safe, bringing in the pitifully small deals. They didn't have the killer instinct, they didn't have what it took to bring a big deal down.

"Yeah, hey, it's good to see you." Behind the bland pleasantries were the unspoken condolences: "I'm sorry about what happened at Goldman. It shouldn't have happened to a superstar like you. Yadda-yadda-yadda." They made him want to puke, the hypocrites!

"I'm just out for some coffee," Jack ventured, trying to change the subject. "Pit break, you know."

"Yeah, gotta keep the engines running," Sam the Shark said, with mock jollity.

"Listen, can I get you something?"

He paused oh-so-briefly. At his peak he was earning a hundred times, a thousand times, the Flower was making today. It riled him to no end that he had to accept this bit of unintended charity. He looked at the baby face, wanted to slap the smile off it. The Loser. But not today. Today wasn't the day yet.

"Yeah. Some. And latte, 'kay?"


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