Writers Tears, Part 2
[Continued from last week]
The more powerful the financial institution, the sparser they keep their lobby. Accordingly, B______’s Dublin headquarters is near empty, with vaulted ceilings, nondescript art, and plasmas cycling through stock photography. No wonder they’ve bested regulators across two continents.
I’m introduced to the top brass briefly, then shuffled through open concept offices with expansive views of North Dublin — strictly working class by tradition, now the site of development. Conor disappears somewhere along the tour. I meet team leads on the trading desk. Capitalists look the same in every country.
Conor’s still missing when the meeting officially starts. It’s a surprisingly diverse group of division heads — though, truthfully, everyone’s eyes belong to old white men smoking cigars. An administrative assistant distributes copies of the materials I’ve brought. Worth noting, I did not intend for them to be anything other than a cheat sheet while I spoke. Before I’m through the first half of page one, the group’s focus drifts. These would-be masters of the universe are flipping ahead, sharing glances, checking email under the table.
One stalwart interrupts. “No disrespect, understand, but if we were interested in this sort of approach we’d have no need for yer services.”
“Well, um…” I’ve already finished my water. “No one can predict the market, am I right?”
“Precisely what we’re paying you for.”
I cough into my fist, decide to double down. “You’re paying us because we’re one step ahead. Bear or bull, we’re able to anticipate and respond. This,” I say, lifting my projections a half inch off the table, “this approach is going to help your firm weather the market either way. Longevity. That’s…” I glance around, finishing with all the flourish of a dead-on-arrival hurricane, “that’s, um, what we’re offering.”
The stalwart checks that he’s got his colleagues’ attention. “Perhaps you should, ehm, compare your playbook with Conor’s.”
Conor walks in as though he’s been listening at the door, all charm and vigor. He slaps some shoulders and settles into the vacant seat next to me.
Once the niceties die down, the stalwart says, “We were just discussing yer new man’s approach.”
“Were yeh now?” asks Conor.
“Quite, ehm, the departure.”
“Here’s what we’re selling.” Conor leans forward like a scoutmaster telling a ghost story. “You’re jungle cats, the lot of you. So, naturally, we came here thinking that, rather than handing yeh the crowns you’re due, we’d lead yeh out to a public square and cut yer nails to the quick.”
The stalwart’s expression is rooted firmly in the land of nowhere.
“Leave yeh helpless like,” my boss continues. “Let others take away yer territory by the loads.” He sits back. “Is that not something you’d like?”
“Your man having a gas, then?”
“‘Course. Think I’d let him tell yeh to reverse yerselves?” He slaps me on the back so hard, I have to brace myself on the table. “Predators, the lot of yeh. Didn’t get that way playing nice like.”
The stalwart sits back. “So, what are yeh offering?”
“Champion?” asks Conor, fixing my eyes.
I grab another water from the center of the table, weigh it in my hand. “I’ve been with our company sixteen years,” I say. “My last position was assembling the projections that made this firm a lot of money.”
“Come here expecting thanks, did yeh?” the stalwart asks.
I hold his gaze until he looks away — impressively managing to make it seem like his idea. “The only thanks I want is your continued trust,” I say, locking eyes with everyone around the the table. “I’m here as an introduction. But, truthfully, my head hasn’t left my last role. Specifically, certain tranches of assets that could have your firm exceeding growth expectations through the next two quarters at least…”
The longer they let me talk, the more I realize that everything I’m saying is true. I have thought about the assets I’d assemble were there no lasting repercussions, the colossal uptick an investor could see in the short-term. I entered this room a pragmatic voice, attempting reason, but there’s as much a part of me as anyone else that wants to touch the sun. We have smart minds at home. We’ll keep an eye out for warning signs. If these people are paying us to help them walk through fire, we have a moral obligation to show them the coals.
We meet with two more firms. Conor sticks with me throughout.
We launch what’s sure to be another long night aboard a steamboat-turned-pub. He orders us whiskey off the shelf purely for its name. “To Writers Tears whiskey,” he toasts, “and the synchronicity of an artist’s suffering.” He slams his glass into mine and gulps the first round. “Can’t forget,” he says, “game’s kill or be killed. Got to have the heart of a murderer before you’ll find love.”
The whiskey starts smooth, then gives way to a quiet bite of fire. I tell the glass, more than my boss, that it tastes good.
Nevertheless, Conor takes it upon himself to reply. “Ireland, Champion. All our whiskey’s good.”