Читать онлайн "Pandora's Closet" автора Zahn Timothy - RuLit - Страница 3

 
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“Quite right,” Sonnerfeld put in smoothly. “A man with the talent for making money hardly needs a normal job. On the other hand, the right position with the right people can certainly enhance both your career and your life.” He gestured down at the card. “Why don’t you come by the office Monday morning. Say, around eleven?”

“That would be-yes, thank you,” Nick managed.

“Excellent,” Sonnerfeld said, reaching out his hand. “Mr.-?”

“Powell,” Nick said, reaching out and taking the proffered hand. “Nick Powell.”

“Mr. Powell,” Sonnerfeld said, giving his hand a quick, firm shake. “That’s an interesting ring. Oh, and do bring your portfolio and trading record with you.” With a polite smile at Lydia, he returned to his waiting companion and they headed toward the exit.

“I take it he’s someone important?” Lydia murmured.

“One of the biggest brokerage men in the city,” Nick told her, his hands starting to shake with reaction. “And he’s interested in me.”

“Or he’s just interested in your money.” Lydia dropped her gaze to his hand. “So you’re still wearing that thing?”

“I happen to like it,” Nick said, hearing the defensiveness in his voice. He’d been too embarrassed at first to tell her he couldn’t get it off, and now he was stuck with the lie that he actually liked the damn thing.

“It’s grotesque,” she insisted, peering at the Ring like it was a diseased animal. “Those leaves look half drowned. And the hands all look like they’re grabbing desperately for something.”

Nick held the Ring up for a closer look. Now that she mentioned it, there did seem to be a sense of hopelessness in the arms and hands. “It’s old German,” he said. “Styles change over the centuries, you know.”

“I don’t like it,” Lydia said, a quick shiver running through her.

“I’m not asking you to wear it,” Nick growled, scooping up a bite of the crème brulee.

But the flavor had gone out of the delicate dessert. “Come on, let’s get out of here,” he said, laying down his spoon. “You coming back to my place?”

“That depends,” she said, gazing evenly at him. “Will you promise not to check on your money every ten minutes?”

“What, you mean go into the vault and count it?” he scoffed.

“I mean will you leave the computer off?”

He sighed theatrically. “Fine,” he said. “I promise.”

But later, an hour after she’d fallen asleep, he stole out of the bedroom and went online to check the foreign market predictions. What she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her; and besides, his finger underneath the Ring was suddenly hurting too much for him to sleep.

An hour later, his curiosity satisfied and the pain gone as inexplicably as it had appeared, he crept back into bed.

And in his dreams he was the master of the world.

The Monday meeting at Sonnerfeld Thompkins was every bit as impressive as Nick had expected it to be. Sonnerfeld pulled out all the stops, introducing him to the rest of the firm’s top people and studying Nick’s portfolio with amazement and praise.

Midway through lunch, under Sonnerfeld’s polite but steady pressure, Nick agreed to join Sonnerfeld Thompkins on a trial basis.

The first month was like a chapter from a financial success book. Nick’s Midas touch continued, with every stock or bond or commodity he picked turning to gold with a perfect sense of timing. There were a few false starts, but every time he tried to buy a property that he would later find was irretrievably on its way down, his finger started hurting so badly he could hardly type. Eventually, he learned how to read the telltale twinges that came before the actual pain started.

Pain or not, though, his purchases made money for himself and the firm and its clients, and that was the important thing. By the end of the month Sonnerfeld was talking-just theoretically, of course-of putting Nick on the fast track to full partner and wondering aloud about the flow of the name Sonnerfeld Thompkins Powell. Everything was going perfectly.

Everything, that is, except Lydia. In the midst of all the success she continued her self-appointed role as rainmaker to Nick’s private parade. Before the Ring had come to him, Nick had been ready to ask her to marry him, his lack of strong finances the only thing holding him back. But now, just when he was gaining the sort of wealth and power that would attract most women, Lydia was instead growing more distant. While she still permitted him to spend money on her for dinners and modest gifts, her disapproval of what she called his obsession was never far below the surface. He couldn’t pause in the middle of an evening to check the international funds without getting a lecture, and she went nearly ballistic when he tried to give her a simple little thirty-thousand-dollar necklace.

Nothing he did seemed to make any difference. He set up a charity distribution trust fund with direct access from one of his accounts to fulfill his promise to share the wealth; she applauded it as a good first step but thought the five percent he routinely sent to it was far too small for a man of his means. He bought a new cell phone with internet trading capabilities programmed in so that he could make any last-minute trades on the way home from work. He put Sonnerfeld and the rest of his staff on a special vibration mode on his cell phone and a special flashing-light code on his home phone so that he could let any late-night calls go to voice mail if Lydia was around to disapprove.

None of it helped. Lydia seemed bound and determined to make him feel guilty about his success.

And finally, midway through the last weekend of that otherwise glorious first month, Nick decided he’d had enough of her complaining.

He was still brooding over it Monday morning when the runaway bus slammed into a line of pedestrians twenty feet in front of him.

“I’m surprised you even came in,” Sonnerfeld said, sitting on the corner of his desk as he handed Nick a cup of coffee. Or rather, tried to hand it to him. Nick’s hands were shaking so much that he couldn’t even hold it. Eventually Sonnerfeld gave up and instead set it down on the desk. “Why don’t you just go home?”

“I’m okay,” Nick said, gazing out Sonnerfeld’s floor-to-ceiling windows at the brooding clouds hanging over the New York cityscape. “It was just a freak accident.”

“Still had to be pretty unnerving,” Sonnerfeld said. “But if you think you’re okay…?”

“I’m fine,” Nick said, getting up and heading for the door. “Time and tide, and all that.”

Sonnerfeld gave him a thumb’s up. “Good man.”

It was midafternoon, and Nick had finally managed to put the bus crash mostly out of his mind when he heard that one of the firm’s up-and-coming young brokers had been mugged and beaten while returning from lunch. Returning, in fact, from the very restaurant Nick had been planning to go to until he’d been pulled into a last-minute emergency meeting.

Ten minutes later Nick was in a cab, heading for the bank. Ten minutes after that, he was on his way to the shop where he’d gotten the Ring.

The old shopkeeper was waiting. “I’ve been expecting you,” he said gravely. “How are you enjoying your new success?”

“I’ve got your money,” Nick said, pulling out a certified check. “You said ten percent-I’ve made it twenty.”

“Very generous of you,” the old man said approvingly, his hand darting out like a striking rattlesnake to pluck the check from Nick’s fingers.

“So we’re square, right?” Nick said, wincing again at the unpleasant touch of the other’s skin. “So call them off.”

“Call who off?”

“Whoever it was tried to run me down with a bus this morning and then mugged Caprizano at lunch,” Nick said. “I got the message, and you’ve got your money. Okay?”

     

 

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