Excerpt from The Month of The Leopard by James Harland, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Month of The Leopard

by James Harland

The Month of The Leopard by James Harland
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    Jun 2002, 352 pages

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The Breakfast Club, named after one of their favourite films of the mid-eighties, met every Monday morning at the Bankside Grill, a small, old-fashioned cafe just off Cheapside, populated almost exclusively by spotty teenage traders from the nearby futures exchange, all of them with pale white skins and bright jackets with the names of their firms blazered across their backs. The Club included Andrew Taylor, who now worked as a senior bond analyst at Morgan Stanley; Ian Fletcher, now the head of derivatives trading for Credit Lyonnais; Alan Gibson, now the equity strategist at HSBC; John Dundee, a senior fund manager at Mercury Asset Management; and Mark Jones, a colleague of Tom's at Samuelson & Co., the London subsidiary of Germany's giant KrippenBank. The five of them, plus Tom, had all started at what was then Morgan Grenfell on the same trainee intake fifteen years ago, and although they had since all gone their separate ways, they had remained friends ever since. For the first few years, they had met up one evening a week for a few drinks and a curry, but three years ago they had switched it to breakfast after both Taylor and Fletcher had babies and their wives started to cut up rough about staying out late drinking. Now they all had children, apart from Tom, and breakfast together once a week was the best way of staying in touch. "That and christenings, of course," Tom had remarked when the idea of switching to the morning had first been suggested

"Our European fund has tanked out on some Hungarian pharmaceuticals stocks," continued John. "Nothing much wrong with the companies, they'll come good in time. Sentiment is against them right now. It needs a boost."

"We could advise some of the German and Dutch funds to move in there," said Jones. "That wouldn't be too much trouble."

"I'll get the derivatives boys to starting pepping up the currency," said Fletcher. "That should help a bit."

Tom looked across the table at Dundee, noticing how much better the man was looking already. A memory started to meander through his mind; they were all in the first year graduate trainee intake in 1982, fresh from Oxford and Cambridge. They were naive and ambitious, the most lethal combination Tom could imagine. In an attempt to impress the firm, they had cooked up between them a ridiculously optimistic series of trades in the gold futures market they believed would make a fortune. It hadn't, and only by covering it up between themselves, then painfully working the position out over the next six months had they saved themselves from certain dismissal and possible fraud charges. Ever since, the club rule had been strict; when anyone is in a jam, the others help out.

"You'll be back in profit on that Fund by the end of the day," Tom said, taking a sip on his cup of tea, and spearing a fried egg with his fork. "The problem is already solved."

* * *

I suppose, thought Sarah, when you walk to the gallows it feels something like.

Right now, Semple had told her the Chairman wanted to see her. Without delay. Slowly, she had pulled herself up from her desk, unsure if her legs would still be strong enough to support her. Semple stretched out a hand to help her as she stood. "Right up the stairs," he said. "You can't miss it."

Sarah could feel the eyes of the floor trained upon her as she began walking towards the staircase that circled down towards the edge of the training floor. Sixty people were all looking in her direction as she moved across the black, tiled floor, the heels of her shoes clicking against the hard, stone surface. For a moment, all the phone calls seemed to have stopped, the entire organisation devoted just to staring at her. Towards the back of the hall she could hear two men laughing. They know, she thought to herself.. They all know what I have just done and they all hate me.

Jean-Pierre Telmont was a legend in the financial markets, the founder and chairman of the Leopard Fund and one of the richest men in the world. Sarah knew plenty about him, but even when she was offered a job at the Fund it had not occurred to her she might actually meet him. Not on the first day. And not in circumstances like these. But then it had never occurred to her that she might lose a hundred million dollars either.

Copyright James Harland, all rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the author or publisher, Simon & Schuster.

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