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From Chapter FIVE:

At 3.15 am, November 1, 2007, the offices were brightly lit. Our trading area was large enough to accommodate many hundreds of people and still, seating was at a premium.
Entering the silent, open floor always gave me a similar dreamlike sensation as when I stepped out into the dark, quiet, early morning streets leaving my home. Rows of desks frozen in animated suspension by traders and sales-people, ready to pick up where they left off the day before. The emptiness of the moment did not fit the intrusive cacophony which would populate the space just hours later.
Arriving at my desk, I turned on the systems, logged into Bloomberg, checked my messages and scanned the overseas markets. Then I made coffee and started my day.
There is a simple saying in my business, and it's the same with any of the different products and/or commodities I've worked in, which is "When you're done, you're done." What this means in all simplicity is "Your word is your word." When you say "You are done" to a client or a trader, what you are saying is the deal is done with the terms as agreed upon, and it might as well be written in stone. Even though this may sound obvious, the reason is that when trading in high-dollar amount transactions, the deal is done the instant the words "You are done" are spoken. Many multi-million dollars' worth of business transactions are executed long before a legal contract is ever produced. So by uttering these three simple words, multiple transactions are initiated, and it is done on the trust that "When you're done, you're done," and you will not renege on it. Those who do break their word are blackballed in the business and might as well change professions, because nobody will want to do business with them again. Too much is riding on it and the risks are too great if you can't trust somebody's word.
There has only been one event in all my years of trading where I had to rescind my words and renege on my trade. The event was on an infamous day in the history of this nation. It was a Tuesday morning, and I was working two phones, one connected to a huge Swiss institution in Basle and the other with a trader on our desk in Minneapolis, who in turn was on-line with Lehman Brothers, the broker/dealer firm that ceased to exist in 2008. The trade consisted of 48mm of a five-year final bond issued by a US bank. I had been working this trade for the previous ten minutes or so. Finally it came down to the nitty-gritty and I had both buyer and seller at levels where I would make an acceptable spread. From my trader I received Lehman's price firm for thirty seconds, and I offered my level to the Swiss. As they accepted, both the Swiss and I exchanged the magic words "You are done." In the next second, as I was about to phrase the same to my desk, and they in turn to Lehman, the line was cut off. The time was 9:02:54 a.m. on September 11, 2001, when the second plane hit the South Tower.
My trader communicated that his line with Lehman had gone dead and that we were not done. I had to tell my client the same, as the horror of that day developed in slow motion in front of our eyes, for the world to see.
I never learned if the Lehman trader made it out alive. When we ultimately regrouped and were able to reconstruct the transaction a week later, I remember asking my trader if the deal was done with the same Lehman counterparty. The only answer I received was that a Lehman office in New Jersey had taken over. My question was never answered, nor did I ask again.


From Chapter TWENTY FOUR:

I killed two men and was still in combat-survival mode, hyped by the adrenaline running through me. As much as I wanted to feel victorious, I just couldn't. It was one thing to train for battle and practice lethal techniques. It was entirely another to put it into motion and see the effects in front of you, two eyes staring into mine with a mixture of surprise and anger. To see the expression change to pain and fear, then just fear. Then terror.
I couldn't get Smiley's face out of my mind as his eyes finally gave in and rolled up, eyelids trembling, muscles slumping. Violence up close of this nature carries a strange intimacy, and even though he wished me harm, I said a prayer in my mind for him, and for his partner. But strange as it sounds, I felt more connected to Smiley and I wished him safe passage and asked we both be forgiven.
Meanwhile, I was hurt, dirty and bloody, and I had to get away as far as possible from the scene where I had left the Lincoln Navigator. Before anything else though, I had to tend to my injuries without attracting undue attention. Within ten minutes I found a convenience store not far from a Salvation Army and homeless shelter. A crowd of ragged men was huddled around an open fifty-five gallon drum with a fire blazing. It was late and freezing cold. I parked the truck out of the way and left Dakota as a deterrent in the cabin.
I bought bandages, dressings, super-glue, a bottle of peroxide to disinfect, and a black woolen cap that would keep me warm and hide the huge welt forming on my forehead. Then I stocked up on aspirin and other pain killers, a bottle of No Doze™ to keep me awake, more water, and I returned to the truck.
Beat up, nobody even looked at me twice, not wanting to be part of whatever trouble my injuries represented. Walking towards the truck, a few of the winos tried to get my attention in a conditioned reflex to hustle some booze money, but backed off when they saw me.
Judging from the cold hood, which I felt with a quick touch of my palm, I decided that the car next to my GMC had been parked there for considerable time. I put my stuff away, retrieved the screwdriver and within a minute had the plates removed from my neighbor and placed on my truck. Still hurt and increasingly exhausted, I sat in the cab with Dakota watching my every move while I used all the supplies I'd bought to clean up and bandage my wounds.
Peroxide, or oxygenated water, is basically water with an extra oxygen molecule, the chemical formula being H2O2. It is this extra oxygen molecule that acts as the disinfectant and cleaner and in fact oxidizes, or burns the area clean it is exposed to.
After washing my hands, I dabbed a generous amount on the bandage, and with my head held back, soaked it into the cut, being careful not to let it drip into my eye. It hurt like a son of a bitch and the foaming action let me know the stuff was working. I squeezed the cloth, wet it again with the H2O2, and repeated the activity. Once I was sure the open wound was clean enough, I dried the cut as best I could and opened the tiny tube of super-glue. This would have to be done delicately, and it had to be done right the first time. I squeezed the little tube until a small glistening drop appeared at the cone-shaped end. While looking into the rearview mirror, I position the exposed drop over my cut and gently applied more pressure to the tube and moved the tapered end with the glue through and into the cut.
If the peroxide hurt, this was killing me, but I repeated the action once more and then physically closed the wound by applying pressure on each side with two fingers. I was careful not to get my fingers stuck to the wound and I didn't. After about thirty seconds of pressure, I let go and was pleased to note the glue held and closed the gaping cut. Then I placed a butterfly bandage over my handiwork to keep everything in position. Next, I turned off the dome light, removed my soiled and blood-soaked shirt, cleaned my upper body as best as I could, changed into clean clothes and when done I actually felt and smelled much better.
I wanted and needed to sleep, but I had to get away from the area. Very possibly the Lincoln would not be noticed until the coming morning, perhaps even later in the day, but it was a risk I could not take. As tides have a way of turning and events have a way of spinning around, the odd chance the two dead men would be discovered early, causing a search for a freshly painted truck in black bed-liner, wasn't worth the risk, however small it may be.
So I drank water, ate Excedrin™ and No Doze™ to stay awake, and left town. To push myself I kept the windows open, letting the cold air blow in to keep me alert. My head hurt, the cut was throbbing and my eyes were falling shut, but I had to make distance.
After driving north for about an hour, I pulled into a large gas station where a wall of trucks were parked spending the night. Unobtrusively, I backed my GMC between two, shut the engine and the lights. Finally, I could rest.
I say another prayer and roll out my new sleeping bag and stretch out on the bench, Dakota adjusting himself to my pose. Sleep comes immediately.

From Chapter TWELVE:

"I always amaze at Cézanne capture the natural feel of scenes with that imprecise movements of brush." His accent accentuating the L's and thick, rolling R's, Yuri stood behind me. Perhaps three steps up on the stairs, hands in his pockets, disheveled as before but now with his shirt loosely tucked in and his jacket unbuttoned. Smiling at me, I was confronted with the Stonehenge formation, which was the product of a lifetime of dental neglect, the finer details of which I must have missed at lunch.
"I love Cézanne," I simply said.
Then after a silence Yuri surprised me again. "You know he not friends with other artists because to stay original and not have other ideas?"
I actually did know that and was impressed this sloppy guy from out-of-the-way Minsk knew it as well. Just goes to show appearances are not everything.
"Let's drink," was Yuri's solution to our new-found mutual appreciation of art. He stepped by me and stomped down the stairs. We found the same spot at the bar where we had met earlier unoccupied and sat down. This time the bar was well populated and the center of much animated talk and laughter. I stayed with my Perrier and Yuri, true to form, with his Chivas. For the amount of alcohol I had seen him consume, he was amazingly clear and lucid during the ensuing discussion.
I asked him what he knew about the Maiden Lane I had heard about during the introductory meeting we just attended.
Yuri downed his glass and asked for a refill. "Maiden Lane is from Federal Reserve to smooth purchase of Bear Stearns by JP Morgan. Maiden Lane get credit from Federal Reserve of New York to buy toxic portfolio of waste mortgages from Bear."
"Excuse me?" I tried to follow Yuri's words, but this sounded a bit too odd. "Waste mortgages?"
"Yes, you know, bad portfolio, toxic waste mortgages," Yuri clarified. Ignoring my smile, he carried on as if he was not interrupted. "This Maiden Lane happen right now and not yet public knowledge. Result is JP Morgan buy Bear and not have to buy bad portfolio and Fed give guarantee of zero loss to Morgan. Not bad deal, no?" This time he smiled, openly proud he knew about it and admiring how fiendishly smart the transaction was structured. He sipped his newly filled glass.
In order to be clear about what I was told, I rephrased. "So the Federal Reserve finances Maiden Lane, who buys the problem loan portfolios from Bear and then guarantees a zero loss to JP Morgan, who in turns receives the OK to buy all the good assets from Bear at ten dollars per share?"
"That's it," Yuri answered. "They try buy Bear at two dollar per share, but was trick to get to ten." He smiled and then added, "Make private the gains and make social the losses. Smart move." He grinned again.
I recognized the ingenious way to shield a Federal Reserve owner (JP Morgan) from exposure to losses while allowing it to basically steal a company (Bear Stearns) for a mere ten dollars per share and transfer the risk of the bad assets to the public. It occurred to me that Margaretha had been correct when she stated I would gain knowledge not available anywhere else.
My head was spinning, but not wanting to seem too eager, I managed to ask nonchalantly if everybody else in the room knew about this in advance.
"This is reason we meet. Sometimes not much notice, but is good opportunity for everyone give new information on markets, conflicts, and that stuff. In January we already know about Bear problem. In February we learn about Bear Stearns option play and receive offer in part-taking. It's up to you if you want in or not. Plenty more, you'll see."
"Gary mentioned not to worry about the AIG thing and that the same system would be used. What's the deal with AIG?" I said. I remember feeling apprehension about wanting to know too many details and perhaps being too inquisitive. But Yuri was willing to let me in on what he knew. Obviously, having been cleared to attend the meeting was proof enough I deserved to know the details, I surmised.
Yuri continued, "AIG can be big problem if Parent not help. Lots of business here with AIG." Yuri waved his arm around the room as he said the last words, implying just about everybody at the meeting was exposed to AIG in one way or another. "In February we know already and get caution. And we get advice to short stock and reduce holdings. You will see, same thing like Maiden Lane as for AIG. Then no losses for nobody here, and everybody get money back from Fed." Big smile.
"Whom do you refer to when you say, Parent? Gary, the IMF guy doing the meeting, just now talked about it as well." My question interrupted Yuri's train of thought, but I had been wanting to know whom they were referring to, even though I had a good idea. Still, his answer took me by surprise.
"Parent is benefactor," was Yuri's mysterious answer. "Benefactor is who decide on policy and direction we follow."
"You mean the Federal Reserve," I corrected Yuri.
But it was Yuri who corrected me. "Federal Reserve only part of bigger group who follow directives of Parent." He looked at me and said nothing further.
But this intrigued me, and I wanted to know more, so I asked, "Are they here, our Parent, during this meeting?"
"Always present every meeting, either in person or agent," Yuri said.
I thought for a moment and offered, "So it is safe to say the Parent are those people who control the companies that own the Federal Reserve, Bank of England, the Banque National de France, the German Bundesbank."
"Only some of them. Others too," Yuri said. Then he made an interesting point. "Money not enough to make directives. Need legislative to make control of international infrastructure, need press to teach people and need enforcement power. So Sia is in Parent too. This way strengthen Parent influence on wider scale."
"Sia?" I asked.
"Yes, Central Intelligence Agency, Sia," Yuri explained and I understood he pronounced CIA as if it were a two syllable word.
"The CIA is part of the Parent?" It hadn't even occurred to me.
"Sia here too and other Agencies. Always at meetings, but never know who is." Yuri said. "We all part of team who work for Parent. Sia has Secret Team that work in field and do covert stuff and so. They are our enforcement."
I was quiet and let the information sink in. In the few words Yuri shared he outlined something that sounded much like a shadow government, with control over banks, power over legislation and its own stealth enforcement arm. Sovereign boundaries did not apply, and I was amazed at the depth of the structure I had become in touch with.
Then Yuri said, "Sometime you see who is Parent. One you already meet, I think." He smiled knowingly, showing off Stonehenge, and waved the barman for another Chivas. "We meet to share information and get direction from Parent. This way we all know same facts and set course that benefit whole group." He sipped his drink and remained quiet for a moment.
Looking around, I was struck by the peaceful ambience of the room. It must have been around five thirty or so, and dusk had set in. Subdued lighting made the place look appealing and warm. The two French doors at the far end were still open to the garden beyond. Outside lights created an inviting and intriguing atmosphere, differing from the elegant opulence within. The bar was still a popular place to hang out, but so were the leather sofas and arm-chairs.
I saw Jean-François sipping what looked like a brandy in one of the comfortable chairs, his black narrow brief-case neatly tucked under his legs against the chair. He was flanked by Gary and Margaretha. The three were sitting alone engaged in discussion and I thought it interesting I had so early during the event met some of the characters in charge, by change I thought, or so it seemed at least.
Perhaps a total of twenty-five of us were still around, enjoying the quiet beginnings of the evening. As quiet and peaceful as the surroundings seemed, it portrayed a stark contrast to what was going on inside of me. Too many questions with not enough answers, too many implications without any explanations.