The Novel of Financial Deception
Enters Its Third Year Online
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Casing Wal-Mart
Miller Risk Advisors

Rigged Chapter 17



Ross M. Miller
Posted August 5, 2004

In the thick of rush hour, when neither a cab nor the “T” would be particularly pleasant, I figured that the two-mile walk to the hotel might be a pleasant diversion. It had taken all my psychic resources to behave in the manner expected of me over the previous four hours back at Roland’s fortress. After walking down the hill and battling across Beacon Street, I let myself relax. The game may have moved to Florida, but at least I was moving with it.

Next to the gate into Boston Common were several inscriptions. The top quote was by none other than John Winthrop. Dated 1630 (long before Noah Webster made the scene), it said: “for wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken, wee shall be made a story and a byword through the world.” Yes, failure sucks.

The Common itself came as a revelation. I thought to myself, “Ahhhhh. So, this is what reality looks like. It had been so long that I forgot it existed.” Although there were others in business attire on the paths that crisscrossed the Common, many of the people were just there and going nowhere other than out. The Common was alive with joggers, dogs, Frisbees, readers, lovers, musicians, and jugglers—I was thrilled to be a part of it. This was the world where everything invented in Alaska, every stock bought and sold by Lowell, and every deal made by GFF would eventually play itself out. And, as much as we tried not to shelter ourselves from it, we were a part of it, too. Not even the most talented tribe of Alaskans could dream of creating anything to match this.

I wanted to go up to the people I passed and say, “This is reality. Isn’t it great? Enjoy it.” But then I realized that what I saw as real was—in its own way—just a different kind of artificial. Although we were united by our shared humanity, it was unwise to approach anyone with anything but the most straightforward question: What time is it? How do I get to the State House? (What exactly is the “Sacred Cod” and why does it need to be saved?) And even then, you couldn’t be sure of getting the correct answer. Only the vulnerable few, such as madmen and tourists, would be willing to engage in a real conversation with me. It was as if the autumnal chill had penetrated every heart and soul.

The more that I thought about things, the less happy I was with how they were turning out. Whatever their quirks, it was far nicer being with Tara, Randy, and Zero than with the high-muck-a-mucks at GFF, our absentee caretakers. And there was the moral ambiguity. If I were to believe Kenneth Paine, then everyone at Lowell was a good guy and Joe Conway was the bad guy. But if Joe, who served as little more than a black pawn in GFF’s chess game, intended to do Lowell any harm, he did an excellent job of hiding it.

On the far side of the Common, I returned to the land of total artifice. Vendors surrounded the Park Street “T” entrance and the fragrance of fried dough filled the air. I was handed a free sample of chewing gum by one of several student-types dressed in matching magenta T-shirts. They reminded me of a time in what seemed like the distant past when vendors would hand out cigarettes with or without the benefit of Ted William’s endorsement.

I crossed Park Street, looked back, but saw no one following me. Then it struck me that I too might be but a pawn. But I had the free will to do the unexpected, didn’t I? For example, I could hop on the Green Line and surprise an old friend in Waban. But why bother? And regardless of whether my actions were controllable, predestined, or merely random, I had to wonder whether anything my team of four did from here on out would matter.

My path to the hotel took me through Downtown Crossing, home to Boston’s big department stores and the shops that sprouted up around them. In order to demonstrate to myself that I was still in control of my life, I walked a block out of the way and visited a chain bookstore. I wandered around for several minutes only to leave when I realized that nothing in the store—books, customers, nothing—was registering on me. I said goodbye to the guard as I left and he acted like no one could pierce his veil of invisibility. I walked quickly through the lonely financial zone by the sea.

After crossing the bridge to the hotel, I began to notice things that I had missed earlier in my preoccupation. Joe Moakley’s courthouse had its own series of inscriptions pursuant to the law carved in stone along the front of it. The most notable of these was by the junior Oliver Wendell Holmes, who is quoted as saying, “The law is the witness and external deposit of our moral life. Its history is the history of the moral development of the race.” In other words: If it’s legal, don’t worry about it.

I walked across the street to get a closer look at a small brick building that stood as an island in a sea of parking lots. As I approached it, I saw a cross on top and a sign that read, “Chapel of Our Lady of Good Voyage.” I don’t know why, but I walked up its concrete stairs and pulled the handle on one of three identical red doors. It was the middle door and it opened.

I entered the chapel cautiously. It was dark, illuminated only by a few small exit lights and whatever light could find its way in through the stained-glass windows. It felt like I might be trespassing, but I knew that if anyone challenged me that I was good at explaining myself, especially dressed the way that I was. I looked around and saw that the religious artwork had an unquestionably nautical theme.

Vegas is known for its profusion of kitschy chapels and for a time when I lived in Pasadena I would pass the Chapel of Roses on my walk into school, but this chapel was the real deal. On one of the windows, an angel held a scroll that read, “In memory of those who died at sea.” Lowell and its fellow denizens of the Boston’s financial community seem unworthy descendents of the corporations that insured those vessels and their contents.

I sat in a pew at the rear of the chapel and meditated for a few minutes. I felt insignificant, yet I was oddly content to be a part of a larger enterprise—Alaska, GFF, the universe. Prayer was pointless. I was under no illusion that I was in charge and had no idea who was.

I left the chapel the same way I entered it and headed toward the hotel. When I got there, I battled the conventioneers to my suite and found everyone hard at work.

“Find anything new?” I asked.

“Nada,” Zero replied. “And it’s not that we haven’t tried. Everything we did last night has been checked and rechecked. Despite Tara’s best efforts, it may be a while before universities offer courses in astrofinance.”

Tara added, “I concur. We’ve crunched the numbers every way possible and Planet X or the black hole or who knows what still eludes us. For me, it’s a familiar story.”

“My meeting was a total waste of time,” I said as reassuringly as I could, “but Roland’s happy with us and I have two tickets to tonight’s Celtics game to prove it. Anyone interested?”

Everyone was too polite to speak up. Finally, Tara said, “I saw them plenty of times back in the old Boston Garden. You guys are free to go if you want.”

“I’m out, too,” I said. “As Randy must have told you, I’m leaving early tomorrow for a day trip to Florida. I’m not forcing anyone to go and I can always call you in the unlikely event that I need you. And you can both use a break.”

“If you put it that way,” Randy said.

“It’s in GFF’s luxury box and they probably have some kind of buffet,” I added.

“What the heck,” said Zero.

I gave Zero the tickets. He looked them over and said, “We should head out soon.”

Tara kept working while Zero and Randy went off to their rooms. I took the opportunity to download my e-mail and check my itinerary. My flight down was direct to Fort Myers, where a car would get me to Sanibel for an eleven o’clock meeting with “MK.” My return trip connects through Atlanta and gets me back to the hive before the ten o’clock meeting. I am flying first class on each leg and have a special toll-free number to call if I am delayed anywhere along the route. My Friday morning flight to Boston is aboard a tiny commuter plane.

When I was done sorting through my other messages, I walked over to the sofa, sat next to Tara, and said, “I guess that leaves you, me, and an indecipherable mass of data.”

Copyright 2004 by Ross M. Miller. Permission granted to forward by electronic means and to excerpt or broadcast 250 words or less provided a citation is made to