Death Comes Calling

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“After two weeks of contentious and often emotional debate, the federal government's far-reaching and historic plan to bail out the nation's financial system was signed into law by President Bush on Friday afternoon . . .

“Advocates say the plan is crucial to government efforts to attack a credit crisis that threatens the economy and would free up banks to lend more. Opponents say it rewards bad decisions by Wall Street, puts taxpayers at risk and fails to address the real economic problems facing Americans.”

—Excerpt from “Bailout is Law”, CNN Money, 10/4/2008 (Jeanne Sahadi)

“When the Justice Department recently closed its criminal investigation of Goldman Sachs, it became all but certain that no major American banks or their top executives would ever face criminal charges for their role in the financial crisis.

“Justice officials and even President Obama have defended the lack of prosecutions, saying that even though greed and other moral lapses were evident in the run-up to the crisis, the conduct was not necessarily illegal.

“But that characterization of the financial industry’s actions has always defied common sense — and all the more so now that a fuller picture is emerging of the range of banks’ reckless and lawless activities, including interest-rate rigging, money laundering, securities fraud and excessive speculation.”

—Excerpt from “No Crime, No Punishment”, New York Times editorial, 8/25/2012

Jones knew he was practically a cliché of the “evil”, high-earning Wall Street money baron, behaving like this.  And frankly, he didn’t give a shit.  What was the point of having money if you didn’t enjoy it?  Jones enjoyed big houses, fine, expensive imported wines costing hundreds of dollars a bottle, rare port, illegally-imported Cuban cigars, Kobe beef—and he didn’t care what all the non-job-creators thought about it.  Besides, he was here in the privacy of his well-upholstered, highly-secure Upper West Side Brownstone apartment; not only would no one see him, how would anyone ever know?

Jones leaned his chair back on two legs and propped his slippered feet on the table.  His Mom had always given him an earful whenever he had tried that growing up, insisting in that paranoid parental way that it was not only possible, but indeed inevitable that he would some day lean too far back, fall over, and split his head open on the floor.  “While you’re under my roof, you’ll obey my rules!” she had always said.

Well, it was his damn roof and his damn table, and he was 57 years old and he didn’t have to listen to that irritating harridan any more.  He took a contented puff on his cigar and frowned, wondering if he should call his mother and shuddering at the thought of another visit to that hellish place where he had stashed her.  It was nice enough, he supposed, for an old folks’ home, but he hated.  It reminded him that he was close to retirement age himself, and he dreaded the thought that he might end up in a hellhole like that.  Not living so much as warehoused until he could die and get out of people’s way. 

He needn’t have worried.

He was reaching for his glass of brandy when he heard a strange, loud popping noise from the foyer.  Almost like the boom of a fireworks explosion, but softer.  He thought he felt a slight puff of a breeze at the same time.

“Where . . .” he heard Claude’s voice from the other room, and it was abruptly cut off.  Jones frowned and put his brandy back on the table just as a stranger walked into the room.  He started to put his chair back on the ground but stopped when the stranger held up his hand, palm out.

“Don’t,” he said in a surprisingly deep voice for such an ordinarily-sized, regularly built guy.  His expression was firm and assumed obedience.

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