To Save The Plurality: (An Unfinished Novel, Part Three)
Not only had the sure hand of Leslie taken Gurman and Sharks deep into adjustable, ninja loan (no income, no job, no verification) sub prime mortgages. Not only had she been directly responsible for literally astronomical profits for the firm, along with eye-popping bonuses for herself and all the top executives. But she had taken them out of sub prime at the right time, before everything went bad and the "housing market" imploded and all that, and legions of people who could not keep up with the mortgages once the "adjustment" kicked in, defaulted and either way walked away from their homes -- that were now worth less than they owed on them, or were foreclosed into homelessness.
But her coup de grace had been the plan she conceived of and saw implanted, to get the government to recognize Gurman and Sharks as a bank holding company, thus making G&S eligible to receive a good chunk of federal TARP money (troubled asset relief program). This money was to be used to cover so-called "toxic" assets. But wait there's more. Here's the best part.
The money they were asking the government for, to cover the toxic assets, that were still on the books "for accounting purposes," was yet another G&S scam; in that the toxic assets on their books, were in fact, no longer owned by Gurman and Sharks, as they had -- wait for it -- finished unloading them several months before.
"Out and out theft,"Liam had said to Leslie.
"Business is a jungle," Leslie said.
"Don't you even feel bad about it?" Liam asked.
"Bad about what?"
Liam looked at her.
"Okay,okay," Leslie said. "I guess things got a little out of hand."
"A little out of hand? Can you say 'predatory lending'?"
"Those people shouldn't have tried to buy homes they couldn't afford," Leslie said.
"How can you say that having profited so enormously from sub prime?" Liam said. "You've made a fortune for yourself."
"Us, Liam. I made a fortune for us, you and me and our family. Anyway, another way to look at it is that nothing lasts forever. People cry and point fingers of blame, but for a few years there, it had been really good for almost everybody. Most of those people with sub prime mortgages would have never ever stood a chance of owning their own homes any other way. Sure, things are bad for some people but for a while those families finally had their own houses with a backyard, and maybe a patch of dirt to grow some roses. Maybe a lot of them got a dog. The children got bicycles to ride and they could for once play in the street and go to school in a little better neighborhood. And so forth. They had the 'American Dream' for a little while. Most people never find it."
Liam and Leslie never went into business together. Leslie reinvented herself again into a professional investor and consultant with an international clientele. Liam became a stay-at-home dad. He had reached the point where he could no longer stand the cognitive dissonance of being a socialist and working at an investment bank. He had been so annoyed, one day, that he had had to stop himself from punching kindly Mr. Eight is Enough Dick Van Patten look-a-like Baxter in the mouth.
That was Liam's wife. She was as dazzling and maddening as ever; as brilliant and yet clueless as ever; as loving and yet treacherous as ever; as beautiful yet blackhearted as ever; as giving yet as ravenous as ever. She still looked ravishing and she still had Liam in her thrall. Which is another way of saying "if loving her is wrong, he didn't want to be right." And this is another way of saying that Leslie still had Liam by the schlong.
One day when he was a young man in his twenties -- and Liam had no idea why he was thinking of this now -- he had been on an Oregon trail, alone, for a vacation. He had been devouring delicious trout over an open flame, when he heard feminine sounds of distress. Liam had reacted immediately. He kicked dirt onto the fire and took up his skillet, emptying the remainder of his repast onto the ground.
As he made his way through the forest bramble, Liam believed he had the situation analyzed quite completely and accurately, as banal and predictable as it was. He had known that some man was causing the woman's sounds of distress, and that he would not be amenable to reason. Liam possessed no magical words that would make him cease and desist.
Liam would not be able to talk the man out of doing what he was doing. The cretin was obviously immune to such words like: "No" "Don't" "Stop" "I don't want you to." More definitive and decisive measures were required. Sheer luck had allowed him to materialize in their vicinity unnoticed by both of them.
God's Gift to the female of the species had his back to Liam. "Leave her alone, you coward," Liam shouted. When God's Gift turned to issue his predictable rebuttals and threats, Liam smacked him across the face with the skillet without any further discussion, knocking The Gift into the lake. Liam came over and looked at the spot where God's Gift had sunk and said quietly, "May the lady take him and have mercy on his soul."
Liam had not known what he'd expected from the woman he rescued. She might well have been in shock. But her reaction put the picture more clearly and disturbingly into focus. She cared for the brute. She seemed torn between saving her man and clawing Liam's eyes out.
"If you're smart," Liam said, "you'll let him drown."
The woman gave Liam one last withering look and made a clawing motion in the air, before diving into the water. Liam withdrew and gathered his belongings. He quickly checked out of the Motel 6 he was staying at, boarded a plane, suddenly anxious to see what Alaska looked like. As he sat in his seat by the window, with his generous ration of peanuts and fruit juice, Liam wondered sadly if it was possible to help people in this world.
He had nothing against the man. He had no quarrel with him. Indeed, he had never seen or spoken to him, or come into contact with him in any way previously. But Liam couldn't help himself because the man fit one of his profiles of preferred victims to a "T," right down the line.
Liam was waiting for the man to come out of an estimable establishment called Wild Bill's Eight Ball Lounge, one night, drunk, in lascivious embrace with a woman not his wife. Liam was crouched down in the back of an enormous black Hummer, which completely obscured him from sight. The couple fell in and made off for their destination. Liam stayed crouched down, still waiting, silent.
Twenty minutes or so later, they were on a dirt road. It was best to head out into the country to carry out shenanigans. Out in the country, where the peace and quiet and distance from the neighbors gave folks license to vent their desires with free release and abandon. Liam heard a faint fizzle snap, and guessed they had run over a field mouse or squirrel, or something.
Bob - that was the man's name - was weaving side to side on the road. Both he and his dumb blonde of a companion were whooping and laughing as if they were on an amusement park ride. Now, while there were only crickets, trees, and the odd owl as witnesses, Liam rose and wrapped a nylon cord around his chubby throat, quickly sinking it into the folds of the skin, pulling and twisting.
This trussing up did little to improve the driver's coordination. Their only saving grace was their complete isolation on the country road. What followed was a bit unruly. The car's sides bumped off trees like bumper cars. There had been swerving. At one point Bob had tried a bit of cleverness, shifting the car forward and back, as if Liam could be shaken off -- perhaps out through the windshield and unto his back, where Bob could then run him over.
Bob gargled, babbled, and wretched and so forth, all while driving with one hand and trying to pull the cord away from his throat with the other. Let us not forget the woman who had the presence of mind to try to help Liam's victim. She gave a screeching cry of the Val Kyrie, as she clawed at Liam with her nails, and grabbed his hair. It was mayhem, and bedlam too, as Liam had frequently needed to bunch the cord up in one hand and bat the woman away with the other.
Bob continued to flail about more or less uselessly. The means by which the automobile came to be rocking side to side, first on the right two tires, then on the left two tires, then up and down, L.A. gangster style, Liam would never be able to imagine. How it was that they avoided turning over would remain equally a mystery.
The woman now produced a small handgun and was firing at Liam, so that he had to duck out of the way, even as he kept his grip on the cord around Bob's throat. With one had Liam desperately tried slapping the gun away. The woman was ruining the upholstery, while a figure eight motion was added to the car's movement. The force of his grip came from resignation. Failure was not an option.
The end came as the car got into another long, looping figure eight movement. Liam could feel the life draining from the man, at last. Suddenly a knife Liam had forgotten he was carrying appeared in his hand. He flicked up the blade and stuck it into the woman's throat, actually pinning her head to the headrest. Then the car's back end slammed into a tree and flew up at a ninety degree angle, and slammed back down again.
Liam had hung on and when the front came back down to earth, he tugged for a minute more to make sure it was done. Shaken but not stirred, Liam got out of the car and regarded the Hummer. It really was a gas guzzling monstrosity. "Haven't you ever heard of global warming?" Liam said and departed.
Now here they were, Liam, his wife, and his girls, walking along the beach again; they were dead to be sure, he remembered all that distinctly. They were repeating the very last day they had all been together, alive, happy. Why? Liam had wanted to preserve that day forever, untainted. He had not felt any particular pressure. There had still been no indication that anyone had suspected him of any crimes.
But he had known that he could not go on with impunity forever. So after he had read the girls a story, kissed their foreheads, joined his wife in nocturnal embrace, stayed awake listening to her breathing, Liam had eased out of bed and went to his den, unlocked the top desk drawer, got his gun, and screwed on the silencer. He killed them with one, clean shot to the head each, before taking off the silencer, putting the nozzle in his mouth and pulling the trigger.
And now part four.
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