Most everyone has seen me on CNN’s investing segment. A successful investor who built an empire through sound investing decisions. Many follow my investing advice by reading my syndicated column published daily in countless newspapers or through my weekly investing podcast. For many, my philanthropic foundation and the work it does has touched their communities and families.
This story isn’t about any of that; this is the untold story of how it all came to be. It really should have been episode one of the podcast except that what I am about to disclose can never be documented, anywhere, ever. We are all haunted by a past and exposing mine would unravel all the good that has been accomplished since.
I was 26, working a shit job just to support an out of control party habit. Weekends couldn’t come fast enough and on this particular Friday, I did not feel like heading home. Instead, I grabbed a room at the Diplomat Motor Inn, a cheap and sleazy no tell type down the road from work. Once settled, I scanned the personal ads looking for some company. A few texts later and Mercedes, a local working girl, was on her way. She promised a one stop shop for all my party needs.
Before cleaning up, I stepped out front for some fresh air. Leaning against the door, I watched two business types check into the room next door. As I pulled on the fag I’d just lit, smoke swirling in the evening breeze, I recall my amusement at the odd juxtaposition their presence offered. Tailored suits, briefcases, and expensive cars set against the run down backdrop of peeling paint, moldy decaying wood, and the acrid smell of piss. I wasn’t sure why, but they did not fit in this picture.
With a smirk, I headed back inside. I took a quick shower that I’m certain left me dirtier than before, and I flopped down on the bed. Jay-Z was thumping through the paper thin walls of the room. It wasn’t really my style of noise, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Before long the party arrived. I opened the door and a dark haired girl I’d only seen in pictures was standing on the other side. She said, “Hey darling,” as she pushed past me. She made her way into the room while I paid the fee to the man at the door.
“I’ll text you when we are done,” she shouted back at him as she cut the snow-white powder across the worn surface of a 1950’s style credenza. Then, looking at me she said, “Let’s get started.” We rolled up my last fiver and passed it back and forth, taking turns insufflating alternating lines. It didn’t take long for the euphoria to kick in. It was like someone turned up the contrast dial to 100. She started to undress me and before long we were naked, our bodies intertwined and rocking hard.
My heart still pounding, sprawled out on the bed in recovery mode with a beer in my hand. Mercedes, obviously flying high, sitting next to me running her fake nails through the hairs on my chest. She was rambling on about all the crap that brought her to this point. Daddy issues, abusive ex-boyfriends, her two kids and how her Mom or Aunt or Grandmother had screwed her out of custody or something. The names and faces change but these girls all spin the same unimaginative tale of woe. To be honest, I couldn’t have cared less and wasn’t really paying attention to her anyway.
“I’ll be right back, babe,” I said cutting her off mid-sentence and disappearing into the head.
When I returned the room was quiet, the music had stopped and Mercedes was listening to the voices coming through the walls. “I overheard them whispering in the adjoining room and realized they were talking about some big money deal,” she said. “I wish I understood how that money stuff worked. I wouldn’t be here, no offense.”
She lost interest in the conversation quickly and began making her way downtown. I barely notice that I was in her mouth, my concentration locked on the conversation in the next room.
One of the suits was listing company names, stock symbols.
“Get me a pen!” I snapped as I pushed her off me.
He continued with press release dates and times, when to buy, what to buy. I’m frantic to write this all down. How much, when to sell, expected returns. The atmosphere was electric, almost surreal. He was revealing every intricate detail of a well hatched plan to manipulate stock prices and make a fortune in the process. It was brilliant and I understood it all.
I’d taken a college business program right out of high school. Naturally, I’d never put any of what I’d learned to use. Now, with every penny to my name spent on a hooker and some blow, it was unlikely I would be using it anytime soon.
The suits, now finished, returned to their own party. The gangsta crap was pounding through the walls again. Mercedes was dancing in her own little world at the foot of the bed. I barely notice, still running over every aspect of the plan I’d overheard. This was one of those moments that could make or break a man. This was my moment!
The girl was a mess and begging for attention, her presence impeding my singular focus. She needed to leave so I tossed her out, still naked, her clothes following closely behind. For the record, I am not a complete jack-off. I’d have tipped her but as I said earlier, I’d given it all to her driver.
With all the noise gone, I turned my attention to the problem at hand. Where would the cash come from? The suits were playing with big money. I figured that I could piggyback on their purchases and remain undetected. If their calculations were right, $70 grand would net about $12 million. I’d have to find the seed money in the next three and a half days, or I’d miss the boat.
With the clock ticking I started scheming. I considered robbing banks, armoured trucks, a string of convenience stores. It had to be cash though, I didn’t have time to move merchandise. I called a friend who set me up with his loan shark. I passed on the offer, the daily interest was insane and if it all went wrong, I’d be swimming with the fishes.
Then it hit me, Aunt Hildie was sitting on a mountain of money. Her partner was a bigshot corporate lawyer before she passed away. No one would miss it. The Alzheimer’s was eating away at her brain and there were no children hanging around like vultures, waiting to clean out the vault. It was a victimless crime, I convinced myself. Besides I’d put it all back before anyone noticed. As conservators, my parents had full access to her finances and I knew where the keys were. My mother kept a little book filled with all their online passwords. With that information, I could easily gain access to Hildie’s accounts. Moving the funds around would be a breeze.
Tuesday morning on Wall Street, and I was ready to go at the opening bell. Forty minutes later the first presser dropped just as the suits had planned. We were in business. I watched as the stock drop sharply waiting for the cue to buy. Stay focused, I thought, and 16 days from now you’re on easy street…
It’s been 17 years since that night. I admit I celebrated for a week after the last trade closed. I was up $12.4 million and blowing my brains out every single night. It didn’t take long to realize I couldn’t go on in that state of disarray forever. I needed to clean it up.
Over the next 20 months, I pulled my life together and built a legitimate investment portfolio. The business types were all over the news for their part in the insider trading scandal that rocked Wall Street. My modest investment taken from their playbook had gone undetected. Greed was their downfall, but without it my good fortune would not have been possible.
The seeds that grew from that plan would lay the foundation that my Empire was built on. In those first months, the portfolio outperformed the markets by a wide margin. I assure you it was mostly luck, but in financial circles, it would become the thing of legends.
I perused the personal ads looking for any traces of Mercedes. I searched for months before finally finding her. She was working under a new pseudonym. Sierra was on her way over to what she believed was her next call. When she arrived, I opened the door. She was skinnier than I remembered, still beautiful despite living hard. She had come alone, no bodyguard required. I guess it’s a different type of clientele calling from the Waldorf Astoria.
“I remember you, you’re the asshole who threw me out naked.” She said almost spitting venom. Admittedly, I felt like a dick for having done that to her.
She threatened to leave but I did my best to assure her it wouldn’t happen again. With a little convincing she finally came inside. She was all business and started to undress. I stopped her.
We sat and chatted for a bit. I asked her if she remember the voices from that night. She didn’t recall. Finally, she asked why I had called. Guys didn’t usually want to talk. I reached over onto the night table and handed her an envelope. Inside, a plane ticket back to Wichita and a cheque for a hundred grand.
“WTF, is this a joke,” she said. “What do you want from me?”
“Nothing,” I replied. It wasn’t a joke and there were no strings attached. We would talk for a while longer. She would tell me her story again and this time I listened. Before she left she gave me a hug and headed off into the night.
I don’t know if she ever went home, or what became of her. I could only hope she made choices that were best for her. It didn’t really matter though, it was her life to live the way she wanted. No one else can make those choices for you.
What I do know is that her keen ear changed the trajectory of my life forever. If not for her I’d likely be working a dead-end job or sitting in a prison cell, wondering where my life went wrong. Knowing the failures were all because of my bad choices. That’s assuming I wasn’t already dead. In a way, she had saved me and I knew she deserved the same chance.
Modified to comply with Fandango’s Story Starter #24 guidelines.
Photo credit: Unknown.
Copyright 2021 Greg Glazebrook, All Rights Reserved.