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The Insider

The Insider

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The Insider

217 pages
3 heures
Jun 12, 2017


THE INSIDER is a fast paced thriller set in the world’s financial markets, principally London and Rio de Janeiro. In the high stakes world of financial traders, the prospect of a large financial loss drives a group of bankers to take desperate measures to avoid financial ruin from derivative bets gone wrong. An accomplished bond trader with London investment bank Weinstein Reiss, Joe McGowan is drawn into a deadly trading game of life and death across three continents.
Jun 12, 2017

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The Insider - Christopher Comegys


Charlotte slowly curled the ends of her blond hair with her index finger as she studied the sales figures on the last page of the presentation. Her thin, toned legs were crossed, and she began to swing one leg nervously as she read the sales numbers one more time. Her short career looked even worse in print. She had a pitiful handful of clients, and even those had been given to her. Her tears blurred the charts and columns of sales data.

Charlotte was oblivious to the raucous scrum of the Weinstein Reiss trading room surrounding her. Traders shouted scattergun prices at salespeople seated behind banks of flashing plasma screens. On either side, colleagues chatted, coaxed, and cajoled institutional investors into buying and selling multimillion-dollar orders. Charlotte sat gazing at the old photo taped to the front of her data screen. Twelve months ago she had taken the photo of her mother in their back garden in Dorset. Her mum embraced their Labrador as she squinted into the sun. That was the way Charlotte wanted to remember her. It had been an Easter day, and she had made the trip with Joe, their first together.

A voice jolted her.

‘Charlotte, see me in my office in five minutes,’ Robert Nelson said from across his fortress of information system screens.

‘Sure,’ she said, startled, and fumbling for a telephone.

Charlotte saw some of the others glance in her direction. She picked up an incoming call.

‘Hello,’ Charlotte said.

‘Miss Banks, please,’ said the voice she recognised as the credit collection company. Her drawer was stuffed with their letters and all the others. No one knew about her debt, including Joe. She hung up. She knew that it wouldn’t be long before Joe would know everything. Before he would know how she had betrayed him.

Charlotte awkwardly gathered together her papers, looking around her desk for what would probably be the last time. She looked over at Linda who suddenly began intently searching for something in a drawer. Charlotte glanced at the others, who were also suddenly very busy. Charlotte got up, straightened her skirt, then reached over and gently peeled off the photo. She slipped the photo into the presentation file she carried, and started across the trading room to a corner office.

Weaving between traders and salespeople seated in front of their Reuters and Bloomberg screens, she tried to avoid direct eye contact with any of the two hundred plus investment bankers who shared the open space.

The trading room overlooked the ruins of London Wall and the Barbican Complex to the north, Guildhall out to Tower Bridge to the south. The architects had included only four glass offices in the corners of the palatial space. Senior department heads worked in the trenches with their staff on the trading desks, so the offices remained largely unoccupied.

A small speaker called a squawk box recited derivative prices in monotone as she passed the Futures & Options trading desk. The US Treasury bond desk was quiet as they hadn’t started trading for the day yet. One of the bankers looked up from his Racing Post. ‘Good morning, Charlotte,’ he said smiling, dropping his newspaper. Charlotte’s makeup was smudged, and she looked away. He studied her unashamedly as she passed.

Charlotte entered a corner office and closed the door. Two walls faced the trading room, and on a third wall hung framed tombstones with the names of past securities issues. The far wall overlooked the bank atrium through sliding glass doors and a protective waist-high stainless steel railing. She opened her handbag and checked that the envelope was still there. She would use it only as a last resort.

She still needed confirmation. She took a seat in one of the leather chairs around the oval table and dialled Joe’s mobile. No answer. Glancing back at the door, she dialled the internal code for the Weinstein Reiss bond trading desk.

‘Johannes speaking,’ said the man with a Scandinavian accent.

‘Johannes, this is Charlotte.’

‘Charlotte!’ Then shouting away from the phone, ‘Ninety-seven and an eighth, five-eighths.’

‘Have you heard anything from Joe?’ Charlotte asked.

‘Charlotte, I’m busy, can I call you back?’

‘If he calls, can you tell him to ring me on my mobile? I’ve got to talk to him. It’s urgent.’

She pulled a nearby keyboard closer and typed something quickly. She stared at the flickering Reuters screen, transfixed with the price of the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Brazair. Initially the price hadn’t changed. From an opening price of $2.12 in New York, it had now jumped to $5.65 after a surprise announcement that the dark horse Brazilian aircraft manufacturer had won a contract bid to manufacture the new fleet of medium-range aircraft for Patriot Airlines.

‘He’s due back today,’ Johannes said.

‘I know. What have you heard about Brazair?’

‘Five-eighths offered for twenty,’ he shouted away from his phone again. ‘Gotta go, Charlotte.’ The phone clicked silent.

Charlotte looked towards the door. No one could see her in this office despite the architect’s best intentions. Space limitations had necessitated the placing of eight tall filing cabinets outside one glass wall. Another set of cabinets left a three-foot-wide corridor in front of the second glass wall. She could only see a sliver of the trading room through the cabinets.

Charlotte couldn’t concentrate on her presentation and gazed out past the railing at Corporate Finance seated at their cubicles on the far side of the open atrium. At a distance of two hundred feet, she couldn’t make out their faces.

The sound of heels on marble echoed from the reception eight stories below as Robert Nelson entered abruptly behind her.

‘Let’s get this over with,’ he said.

A courier pushed through the revolving glass doors as Joe McGowan approached the bank entrance. The Weinstein Reiss building was one of London’s newest glass and steel structures built on London Wall exclusively for the bank’s Capital Markets operations.

A security guard to one side of the turnstiles surveyed his approach. Beyond the reception was the large octagon-shaped floor of the bank atrium and the six glass lifts that rose to the dome. Ficus trees were planted randomly in the marble floor.

‘Good morning, Mister McGowan,’ said the young receptionist.

The atrium was empty except for two bankers speaking quietly by the lift doors. They entered the lift and rose silently skywards. By mid-morning the flow of bank personnel had slowed to almost nothing.

‘Good morning. Can I reactivate this?’ Joe said. In a dark grey Armani suit, he looked the part except for his unkempt dark brown hair. He slid his security badge across the polished wood of the receptionist’s desk.

‘What was the reason for your absence, Mister McGowan?’ asked the receptionist.

‘I was in Scotland on business.’

‘One moment, please,’ she said as she checked her computer display.

Joe stepped towards the security guard and opened his briefcase. Among the documents was a package loosely wrapped in yellow paper. Joe travelled at least once a month and never forgot to bring Charlotte something. Tonight he and Charlotte would play the present guessing game, which always provoked their passion.

‘Something for my girlfriend,’ Joe said, smiling at the guard as the uniformed man squeezed the package roughly.

‘What is it?’

‘It’s a bikini. Do you want me to unwrap it?’

‘In February?’ the guard grunted.

‘It’s for our holiday.’

‘She deserves a rest n’ all . . . workin’ nights.’

‘Charlotte was here at night?’ Joe looked puzzled.

‘That’s your girlfriend, innit?’ the guard said.

Suddenly, a woman’s voice broke the atrium’s silence. Shouting from somewhere in the upper reaches of the dome. He knew the voice as Charlotte’s as it echoed across glass, steel, and marble.

‘Please, Robert!’ pleaded the woman.

The security guard closed Joe’s briefcase and turned to look into the atrium. He moved a couple feet sideways to see what was happening, but his view was obstructed by the foyer overhang. Joe could hear more muted pleas, the words inaudible.

‘Who would believe that?’ a male voice boomed from above. Joe thought he recognised the voice. Behind Joe a couple stopped as they entered the revolving doors. The receptionist craned her neck as she turned away from her monitor.

‘You’re a thief!’ said the man.

Several others entered the revolving doors and stopped.

Charlotte? Joe thought. He rang her number on the equity desk. No answer. He dialled her mobile. He was about to hang up as she answered.

‘Hello.’ Charlotte sobbed.

‘Charlotte, what’s going on? I—’

‘I’m so sorry, Joe.’

‘Are you okay? What’s happened?’

Joe heard a man shout something behind her through the phone. His voice carried into the atrium.


‘Joe . . . I’m so sorry,’ she said quietly.

The receptionist turned to Joe. ‘Okay, Mister McGowan, your ID—’

A small object hit the marble floor. Joe and the others watched the components of a cell phone scatter as it exploded into pieces. The atrium went silent except for the echoing metallic pings as several parts bounced and rolled to a stop.

‘Charlotte, are you alright?’ Joe shouted into his mobile.

A tree branch snapped and popped a millisecond before an enormous thud as Charlotte hit the marble floor.

The receptionist dropped her phone and began screaming.

Joe threw his briefcase to one side and jumped the turnstile. The frozen security guard shouted a belated warning as Joe ran towards her.

‘Charlotte!’ he shouted as he approached and knelt over her.

Charlotte lay with her neck twisted grotesquely sideways as if looking over her shoulder. She must have hit the marble head first. He felt her neck for a pulse. There was none.

‘Oh, dear God,’ the security guard said, panting as he arrived. He barked into his walkie-talkie. ‘George, get emergency service to the atrium urgently. There’s been an accident.’

Joe looked up in the direction she had fallen. Several employees were already at the windows and railings above.

‘Charlotte, my love,’ he whispered, swallowing his sobs. An old photo and the scattered pages of a presentation lay on the floor around her.

He closed his eyes as tears rolled down his face, cradling her head in his arms and rocking her slowly as her warm blood spread around his knees and across the smooth marble.


Robert Nelson closed the door behind him as he entered the managing director’s office. From the banks of information screens on his mahogany desk, Managing Director John Reed could survey the trading activity of the entire firm. Behind him, beyond the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, lay the remains of the ancient London Wall and the city of London.

‘Please, take a seat. I’ll be with you in a moment,’ Reed said, surveying the electronic news pages.

Nelson sank into an Italian leather chair. He wore no suit jacket. His gold cufflinks gleamed against his crumpled blue oxford shirt. Across from him, Reed wore a brown suit that hung loosely on thin, bent shoulders. His salt-and-pepper hair was parted crisply to one side. He looked over from the screens. ‘You better hope that an investigation into this woman’s death doesn’t reveal unauthorised trading. Does anyone else know about the special account?’

‘Only she knew about it,’ Nelson said as he ran his hand through his blond hair. ‘Well, maybe Joe McGowan.’

‘Who’s that?’

‘He’s our Latin American bond trader. He works for Les.’

Reed reached for a packet of cigarettes. He tapped the packet on the back of his other hand.

‘I don’t know who we’re going to get to execute these trades now,’ Nelson said, examining a cuticle.

Reed slammed his fist on the table, pulverising the cigarette packet. ‘No more options!’ Reed exclaimed.

He took a cigarette from another packet on his desk and lit it, staring down at a light green printout on the desk in front of him. ‘What about these positions?’

Nelson moved slowly to the edge of his chair and strained to inspect the spreadsheet. ‘All closed except these Brazair call options,’ he said, pointing to a printed line of numbers.

‘Jesus, why weren’t these exercised?’ Reed rasped.

‘The investor didn’t have time. The share price of Brazair jumped from two to five in seconds. It took the market totally off guard,’ Nelson replied.

‘When was that?’ Reed said.

‘Today, when Patriot Airlines announced it would award a big contract to Brazair. The price has stayed up there ever since, above the level where the investor is permitted to exercise his option to buy.’

Reed typed something into a keyboard and studied the result on a plasma screen.

‘You realise that if the share price moves down into the exercisable range and the investor exercises his options we would lose three hundred million dollars?’ Reed said.

Reed bent forward in the swivel chair to have a closer look. He took a long draw on his cigarette and exhaled. ‘Weinstein Reiss would collapse.’

‘He can’t exercise his options,’ Nelson said.

‘Not now, but if the price slips down below the price preventing him from exercising the option, he would be free to do so. My God, a loss that large would decimate the bank. How much time before they expire?’

‘Another week . . . until midday next Wednesday,’ Nelson replied.

‘Could this McGowan know about our special options trading account?’

‘It isn’t anywhere on the reporting system. McGowan has spent the last month promoting the new Brazair bond issue while his girlfriend has been selling options betting that the Brazair share price would go down. He would have said something by now.’

‘This woman was his girlfriend?’ Reed asked.


John Reed poked at a black intercom on his desk.

The trading floor looked as it did every other night. Paper scattered across desks and on the floor, monitors illuminated, small speakers or broker squawk boxes hissed white noise from closed markets around the world. If it had been any other day, the trading floor would have been deserted by this time. Tonight, small groups of investment bankers, mostly in their twenties or early thirties, spoke quietly amongst themselves.

‘Did you know her?’ Joe’s trading assistant Johannes said with a Swedish intonation. He stood awkwardly looking down at Les, with his hands in his pockets, his tie loosened, and his light brown suit jacket slung over his shoulder. When Les didn’t respond, Johannes persisted. ‘I spoke to her when Joe wasn’t around. Didn’t know her well, really.’

Les moved the toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other without looking up. ‘Go home, Johannes. You’ve got to trade Joe’s bond book tomorrow. He is the only one that can do the road show.’

‘I can do the road show,’ Johannes said.

‘Thanks for the offer, Johannes, but you don’t speak Portuguese,’ Les said.

A voice crackled from a speaker somewhere on his chaotic desk. ‘Can you come down please, Les?’

Les unrolled his sleeves, took his beige suit jacket from the back of his chair, and buttoned it across his stout, bulbous form. His bald spot glistened under the remaining hair pasted across it.

‘Reed wants to see me,’ Les said unenthusiastically and replaced the toothpick with an unlit cigarette, which he gripped in his teeth.

‘Do you think Joe’s up to

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