I know where I'm going. And I know who I want to be. That's why I took this job in the first place...and why, four years later, I still put up with the clients. And their demands. And their wads of money. Most of the time, they just want to keep a low profile, which is actually the bank's specialty. Other times, they want a little...personal touch. My phone rings and I tee up the charm. "This is Oliver," I answer. "How can I help you?"
"Where the hell's your boss!?" a Southern chainsaw of a voice explodes in my ear.
"Don't piss on this, Caruso! I want my money!"
It's not until he says the word "money," that I recognize the accent. Tanner Drew, the largest developer of luxury skyscrapers in New York City and chief patriarch of the Drew Family Office. In the world of high-net-worth individuals, a family office is as high as you get. Rockefeller. Rothschild. Gates and Soros. Once hired, the family office supervises all the advisors, lawyers, and bankers who manage the family's money. Paid professionals to maximize every last penny. You don't speak to the family anymore---you speak to the office. So if the head of the clan is calling me directly ...I'm about to get some teeth pulled.
"Has the transfer not posted yet, Mr. Drew?"
"You're damn right it hasn't posted yet, smartass! Now what the hell you gonna do to make that right? Your boss promised me it'd be here by two o'clock! Two o'clock!" he screams.
"I'm sorry, sir, but Mr. Lapidus is---"
"I don't give a raccoon's ass where he is---the guy at Forbes gave me a deadline of today; I gave your boss that deadline, and now I'm giving you that deadline! What the hell else we need to discuss!?"
My mouth goes dry. Every year, the Forbes 400 lists the wealthiest 400 individuals in the United States. Last year, Tanner Drew was number 403. He wasn't pleased. So this year, he's determined to bump himself up a notch. Or three. Too bad for me, the only thing standing in his way is a forty-million-dollar transfer to his personal account that we apparently still haven't released.
"Hold on one second, sir, I..." "Don't you dare put me on h---"
I push the hold button and pray for rain. A quick extension later, I'm waiting to hear the voice of Judy Sklar, Lapidus's secretary. All I get is voicemail. With the boss at a partners retreat for the rest of the day, she's got no reason to stick around. I hang up and start again. This time, I go straight to DEFCON One. Henry Lapidus's cell phone. On the first ring, no one answers. Same on the second. By the third, all I can do is stare at the blinking red light on my phone. Tanner Drew is still waiting.
I click back to him and grab my own cell phone. "I'm just waiting for a callback from Mr. Lapidus," I explain. "Son, if you ever put me on hold again..."
Whatever he's saying, I'm not listening. Instead, my fingers snake across my cell, rapidly dialing Lapidus's pager. The moment I hear the beep, I enter my extension and add the number "1822." The ultimate emergency: 911 doubled.
"...nother one of your sorry-ass excuses-all I want to hear is that the transfer's complete!"
"I understand, sir."
"No, son. You don't."
C'mon, I beg, staring at my cell. Ring! "What time does your last transfer go out?" he barks.
"Actually, we officially close at three..." The clock on my wall says a quarter past three.
"...but sometimes we can extend it until four." When he doesn't respond, I add, "Now what's the account number and bank it's supposed to go to?"
He quickly relays the details, which I scribble on a nearby Post-it. Eventually, he adds, "Oliver Caruso, right? That's your name?" His voice is soft and smooth. "Y-Yes, sir."
"Okay, Mr. Caruso. That's all I need to know." With that, he hangs up. I look at my silent cell phone. Still nothing.
Copyright © 2002 by Forty-four Steps, Inc.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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