Guest Author - Tony Daltorio
This is completely different from the regular fare at the investing site. What follows is a short piece of very tongue-in-cheek fiction I wrote about an old-fashioned P.I. and Wall Street.
A very basic knowledge of some the people and the doings at financial network CNBC is helpful. I would like everyone's input. Is it any good? Or is it just fair? Or is it really bad?
Wall Street P.I.
The story you are about to read may be true. It is a few hours from the life of a P. I. who is reluctantly reduced to investigating crime on Wall Street. The story is told in his own words. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Case#007 - February 2nd 2009 9:00 P.M. New York City
It was snowing lightly, the wind was howling and it was colder than a witch's you-know-what as I walked out of my warm and cozy little office into the harsh winter elements hitting New York. I was en route to following up on a tip I had received from a government informant.
As I was walking down the New York streets, I was thinking about the good old days in the private eye business. Cheating spouses, sleazy divorces, drug trafficking, mob rackets – these things I could understand. I dearly miss the good old days when I'd squeeze informants or beat the crap out of some street punk for information. Now it's all “civilized” - Wall Street white-collar crime and sleazeball executives.
All the old style cases I used to handle are pretty much gone. The last decent case I had was investigating steroid use in baseball players. That case made me long for the days of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Roberto Clemente.
I don't know much about Wall Street, but a guy gotta eat. In this economy, no one can afford to pay a P.I. like me 200 bucks an hour plus expenses. No one, that is, except for the government. I now handle cases for Uncle Sam.
My name is Chase N. Crooks and I now work for the brand new government agency set up by President Obama – the Wall Street Investigative Operations Unit or Wall Street I.O.U.
I got my current assignment after the Super Bowl Sunday morning appearance on NBC's Meet the Press by a certain CNBC personality – a Miss E.B. The feds at Wall Street I.O.U. think she got her talking points directly from THE main man on Wall Street – Mr. Rob N. Steele.
The Liars Club
The feds wanted me to see if there was a direct connection between Mr. Rob N. Steele and Miss E.B. The tip I got was that Miss E.B. was going to meet some guy at the favorite hangout for those CNBC lowlifes – the Liars Club – this evening.
It was easy to spot the Liars Club from blocks away. No one could miss the bright, flashing giant letter L on the broken-down building which housed the Liars Club. It was this type of garishness which I've found that always seems to attract lowlifes. If possible, the Arctic winds seemed to be picking up speed, so I quickened my pace toward the Liars Club.
I arrived and descended a set of stairs into the Liars Club. What a dive! There were flashing L-lights everywhere. It looked like everyone in the place had a big flashing letter L on their forehead. I thought to myself – did the letter L stand for liar or loser or lowlife or what?
Right by the door, there was some bald-headed guy lying on the dirty linoleum floor drinking a bottle of cheap booze. As soon as I stepped over the bald-headed guy lying on the floor, I was approached by some skinny dame.
She said, “Hiya, handsome. My name is Maria, the Money Honey. How about buying me a drink?”
I had seen her type innumerable times in these kind of dives. She would feign interest in a guy until his money ran out. Then she would disappear in an instant and find some other guy who had money.
I said to Maria, “Bee nice Money Honey and buzz off.”
She was a persistent “b”, however. Maria said, “What your symbol, handsome? My symbol is GE.”
I've heard of “What's your sign?”, but what the hell is “What's your symbol?” supposed to mean? I started to say excuse me, but all I got out was “Ex....”
Maria said, “Oh, X – US Steel. I don't like materials stock guys. I'm trying to hook up with a tech stock guy whose symbol is Apple.” With that she turned and walked away. I thought to myself – what a crazy, mixed-up bimbo.
I finally saw my contact – a waiter at the Liars Club. He sat me down in a booth. The waiter assured me that this booth was next to the booth where Miss E.B. always sat. I felt unusually nervous. I guess I was nervous because I felt so self-conscious about my appearance.
In order to blend in with the riff-raff at the Liars club, I had to wear clothes that I usually don't wear. Instead of my normal shirt, jeans and trench coat, I had to wear a fancy suit. The last time I wore this suit was to a funeral.
I was also nervous because instead of wearing a shoulder holster with my trusty .38 underneath my trench coat, all I had with me were all these new-fangled gadgets – laptop, cellphone, Blackberry, and the latest I-whatevers.
I don't how to use any of these fancy gadgets. To me, all of these fancy gadgets are just a pile of crap. I had always thought a Blackberry was something you ate. And I still don't get cell phones. What the hell is wrong with a regular phone? The rotary phone in my office works perfectly fine. How many people can there be possibly in this country whose conversations are so damn important that they have to happen instantaneously?
Besides all of the worthless gadgets I had with me, I had also brought along a listening device. With this listening device, which looked like a hearing aid, I'd be able to hear every word said between Miss E.B. and whomever she was meeting clearly. Here was a gadget I did understand. I ordered a drink while I waited – a Kentucky bourbon, Old Bernacke on the rocks.
I was just getting comfortable in the booth when I saw a familiar face coming toward me. It was a familiar face, but not one I wanted to run into at any time. He was immaculately dressed and the distinctive combed back dark hair left no doubt - it was Anthony Vargo – the heir apparent to the mob kingdom in New York. He and I have had some “disagreements” in the past.
Vargo sat himself down in my booth across from me and glared at me with his dark eyes. I was wishing I had my .38 with me. These fancy gadgets wouldn't be much of a defense against Vargo unless I could somehow electrocute him with an I-whatever.
I said, “Hey Anthony, how you doin? Still collecting Sinatra records?”
He gave me his “shark” smile as he said “Sure am, Chase. Ain't nobody ever sung better than Ol Blue Eyes - Frank Sinatra. And I still collect records too, none of that CD garbage. CDs just don't do justice to Sinatra.”
Vargo continued, “But what the hell are you doin here? Where's your trench coat? And why are you wearing that suit? Did somebody die? The last time I saw you in that suit was at my uncle Frank's funeral last year. Nice of you to show up, by the way.”
I said “No problem. Your uncle Frank got me out of some real tough situations. He was a good guy.”
Anthony nodded in agreement. Then he said, “But why are you here? This ain't your kind of joint.”
Anthony went on, “You ain't following me, are ya, Chase? Because if you are, I'll put out a hit on your father, your uncle, your cousins, your whole family!”
I said, “My father is dead and I ain't got no family except for three ex-wives. If you want, I'll give you their names, addresses, phone numbers and where they work right now.”
I had never heard Anthony Vargo laugh so hard. He said, “What a kidder! No wonder Frank liked you. But why are you here in this dump?”
I told Anthony that hard times had forced the old gumshoe he knew into a new line of work. I showed him my government Wall Street I.O.U. identification and told him that I was working on a case for Uncle Sam.
Vargo seemed to be in a good mood, so I asked “Anthony, why are you here in this dump?”
Vargo replied, “Did you see that bald-headed guy lying on the floor, drinking a bottle of cheap booze? His name is Jimbo, but it shud be Dumbo. That CNBC jerk put me into a lot of bad investments. I'm here to tell him he has to make good on all of my losses or he may meet with an unfortunate accident.”
I don't know who that bald-headed guy is but I have a feeling he is going to have bigger problems than drinking cheap booze while lying on a dirty floor real soon.
Anthony said, “Ya know, it is a damn shame what's happened to this country. All these Wall Street crooks. What happened to the good old days when there was just the rackets like gambling, drugs, loan sharking and prostitution?
Anthony went on, “I hear that the feds are having trouble getting these Wall Street execs to lend money. My experience has been that if you ain't getting co-operation, you start crackin a few heads and breakin a few legs. If the feds started doing that, then they would have so much capital flowing that they won't know what to do with all the money.”
Anthony continued, “And you can tell the feds this. If they want to really crack down on crime in this country, they should forget about guys like me. They should just go up and down Wall Street and arrest everyone. Put all of those banking CEOs in handcuffs.”
Anthony had another hearty laugh, wished me luck with my case and left. The last I saw of him he was walking toward the soon-to-be unfortunate bald-headed guy lying on the floor. Vargo's departure was timely since I noticed that Miss E.B. had arrived and was seated in the booth next to me. All I had to do was wait for Mr. Steele to hopefully show up.
I saw a guy approaching Miss E.B.'s booth. But it wasn't Rob N. Steele. I recognized him – he works for that tabloid – the Investors Journal. I thought to myself – what the hell is he doing here? He is usually investigating reports that aliens have invaded Wall Street or other such nonsense.
Even though I've seen him in many of the same dives that my profession takes me to, I don't even know his name. I always just called him Sleazo. And damn – he's wearing a trench coat. He gets to wear a trench coat and I'm stuck in a funeral suit.
It turns out that Sleazo had an interview scheduled with Miss E.B. I wondered if the real reason he was here was that he was also on the trail of Mr. Rob N. Steele.
Miss E.B. snarls at Sleazo, “You're late. I'm not used to waiting for anyone. I'm a celebrity, you know.”
Sleazo ignores the jibe, “Hey, do you want the publicity from the interview or not?”
Miss E.B. gives Sleazo a fake smile and says “I'm all yours. Fire away with your questions.”
There must be something wrong with listening device. Every time Miss E.B. speaks, I keep hearing a whistling sound.
Sleazo starts right in - “What do you have to say to your critics who say that in your Meet the Press appearance, you came across as an apologist for the big Wall Street bankers? In talking about Wall Street bonuses you said and I quote - that taxpayer money is not being used to pay the bonuses.”
Miss E.B. replies, “That's right. Taxpayer money is not being used to pay Wall Street bonuses. I said that taxpayer money goes in a separate pool of money at the banks, which it does.”
Sleazo retorts, “Are you kiddin me? There's no way to separate that money – it's just one big pool of money. That's like believing that the Social Security Administration has a little separate account for you with your name on it for your retirement!”
Miss E.B. asks questioningly, “Well, isn't there an account for me at the Social Security Administration with my name on it and my funds are tucked safely in a vault? I believe there is.”
I don't know much about Wall Street, but even I know that what she said about Social Security isn't true. This broad seems to be a real dummy. And there's still that damn whistling sound.
Miss E.B. went on, “I feel strongly that the bankers are being treated unfairly. And, by the way, so is poor Bernie Madoff. All that he was trying to do was to make some extra money for some charities he was involved with.”
I could hear Sleazo sigh loudly. Who hasn't heard about Bernie Madoff and that cool $50 billion Ponzi scheme he pulled off right under the nose of the feds. This dame sure doesn't seem to have much brain activity going on.
In a peeved tone Sleazo said, “Whatever you say, toots. Let's move on. What is your number one recommendation to investors that have been devastated by this bear market?”
In a perky voice Miss E.B. said, “That's easy! They should put all of their money into Treasuries now.”
Sleazo inquired, “But Treasury yields are at historically low levels and there is a tremendous amount of upcoming supply. Isn't there a lot of risk in Treasuries right now? What if foreign investors don't show up to buy all of those Treasuries?”
Miss E.B. busted out laughing. She said , “Oh, they'll show up, all right. They'll show up if they know what's good for them. The only reason we Americans tolerate all of these foreigners around the world is so that they'll take all of the debts we incur off our hands.”
Sleazo was incredulous at her comment and said, “You're kidding, right?” She wasn't kidding. Sleazo threw up his hands in disgust and ended the interview. Sleazo stormed out. Miss E.B. had a bewildered look on her face. She didn't seem to understand where the interview went wrong.
I don't think Miss E.B. understands much of anything. It suddenly dawned on me that the whistling sound I had been hearing wasn't from the cold Arctic winds gusting outside or from my listening device. The whistling sound was from air being circulated around the empty space between Miss E.B.'s ears. I don't know much about Wall Street, but she sounded like she knows even less than me.
This particular chapter of the Rob N. Steele case was over for me which made me deliriously happy. So I ordered another glass of Old Bernacke on the rocks. Like Sleazo, I was getting ready to leave this lowlife hangout. I could finally get out of this funeral suit and give all of these useless gadgets back to the feds.
The possible connection between Mr. Steele and Miss E.B. was a total dead end. I could definitely report to the feds that Miss E.B. is not involved in some conspiracy with Mr. Steele. It was just a case of simple stupidity. I don't know much about Wall Street, but I hear there's a lot of people like Miss E.B. that work at CNBC.