This book should be available now, so this is the last snippet.
Valley Of Shadows – Snippet 29
* * *
Dominguez found his wife’s body before the kids saw her.
He had rushed to her body, but the veteran cop had seen overdose deaths before. He didn’t need the empty bottles of Tramadol and oxy to diagram the story. Any cop will tell you that a body smells a certain way, even before decomposition is obvious. The careless arrangement of her limbs, the cyan tint to the skin around her lips and on her hands all screamed OD.
He still checked her pulse and breathing because that’s what you do, and because he loved her. But his heart broke the moment he saw her from the bedroom door.
He’d promised her that there was a way out, that he was working on a way to save their family.
She had wanted to flee the city and go somewhere else, anywhere else, really. The problem was that there wasn’t anywhere much safer than the guarded neighborhoods where many senior city officials and cops were sheltering. He couldn’t tell her the details of the plan, not yet. One thing that his wife wasn’t was secretive. She would’ve wanted to find a place for her parents, the cousins, los abuelos…everyone.
The rhythm of her life had changed. No more shopping–it wasn’t safe. No more shows–too many people. Fire the maid–she visited too many houses. And yet, life went on with a disturbing degree of normalcy. Ding went to work, the bills came in, the TV shows ran, though perhaps with a touch more reruns.
And yet, behind every decision outside the house, death lay waiting. Perhaps she elected to find death on her own terms. Maybe she couldn’t bear the thought of watching her children turn. Ding would never know.
For a short while he sat on the edge of the bed, not so close as to get the pooled vomit on his uniform, but close enough to touch her hair one more time. Spread in a semi circle, and somehow free of the ejecta, a partial lay of the tarot deck that she’d been using for weeks was arranged beyond arm’s reach of her body.
She had tried to teach him the suits and the Arcana, but mostly he listened because it seemed to ease her mind for a time. She read a message in the cards, and had something tangible to explain the craziness and ever-present dissonance of life during a lethal but slow moving and inescapable pandemic.
Dominguez looked at the cards.
Ten of Cups. The cycle completed.
The Lovers. Through love we see heaven.
Dominguez swept the deck away and stood. He didn’t need the cards to tell him who was responsible. Swaying a little, he covered her with a bath sheet and carefully avoided looking at the tall dressing room mirror that he had to pass before he could exit and close the bedroom door.
There were basic arrangements to make and he had to get the kids out of the house before he could tell them.
* * *
The secure conference room was once again in use. Smith looked at his three new liaison officers. The cop, Detective “Call me Tango” Tangarelli, was in full LEO banking mufti, complete to the nineties-era Brooks Brothers’ suit and Bates all-leather “tactical” dress shoes. The city council liaison was Kohn’s man, an OEM analyst named Ken Schweizer. In a room noteworthy for its blend of opulence and functionality, his classically severe, dark gray two button suit and muted tie were distinctive by their very understatement, reflecting the nature of his true boss.
The third liaison was Oldryskya. She at least looked as though she was ready to work. Her men’s cut business suit jacket was open enough to show an empty shoulder rig underneath. Her boots were the same brand that Smith had been purchasing for his team: Striker low rise. She noted his scan of her appearance and calmly returned his gaze.
“My name is Tom Smith,” Tom said, all business. “I’m running the business continuity, disaster readiness and security team for Bank of the Americas. Your primary purpose, beside liaison, is to ensure that my pledges to your bosses are redeemed.
“You’ll have complete access to critical parts of the plan, more than nearly anyone else in the bank. Only the people in this room right now have the same level of understanding. Each person is a trusted part of my inner team within the Security and Emergency Response department. If you discuss what we share inside this room with anyone not inside this room right now, you violate the agreement that your parent organization has signed with us. The only person that you may tell is your direct boss. If they leak the information that you learn, it’s on them, and the deal is off.
“However, we maximize the tooth to tail ratio around here,” Tom continued, tapping his own security badge, which hung on a bright blue lanyard from his neck. “We’re in the middle of a crisis that has required tightening personnel access. As shorthanded as we are, I can’t afford any unproductive staff. So, you’re going to be directly supporting my team.
“Step one, if you intend to carry a firearm or other weapon during your tenure here, you have to be cleared by our building protection team lead.” He looked down the table to Kaplan. “Kap, raise your hand. That is the person to talk to after the meeting. Once he clears you we’ll add another credential to your badge so you can carry concealed in any BotA controlled building.”
Tangarelli started to raise his hand and Smith noticed.
“Everyone, including me, has passed that training screen,” Tom said definitely. “No exceptions for anyone, not even law enforcement.”
Kaplan had lowered his hand earlier, and now he displayed a toothy grin. Twitting cops was a hobby.
“Step two will be to get you sorted onto teams that can use your skills. Department heads, make it your business to talk to all three and figure out where they can best assist.”
“Any questions on one and two?”
Schweizer put his hand up.
Smith looked at him and continued.
“There being no questions for now, we’ll proceed to the regular agenda.”
* * *
The trading recovery site dated back to the weeks after 9/11. When the towers were brought down, many other buildings were destroyed or damaged beyond immediate use, affecting not just Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank, but several other banks. BotA had previously optioned space across the river in Jersey City and had since developed it.
Traders dislocated by any future disruptions to Manhattan proper were only a short ferry ride away from a second, complete office where they could keep their bank “in” the market. There were additional facilities farther away, both in northern New Jersey as well as in the other direction, in upstate New York.
The days of paper slips recording transactions in the bidding pits of commodity floors and trading houses were long gone. Everything was electronic now, and all trades were transmitted between several points before they were sent to reconciliation houses for the end of the trading day. There were several little details, not well understood outside the financial services community, that profoundly affected world markets.
First, banks had begun offshoring their data and reconciliation operations a decade earlier. A volume in the millions of trades per day meant that modest savings in transaction cost per trade added up in a hurry. There was a relatively bountiful supply of technically savvy, college educated hires in cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. What’s more, they could be had for far lower salaries than the analysts and accountants in New York, London and Paris. Banking executives were happy to gobble up profit margin. The discarded staff? Pity, that.
Second, and perhaps as important, was that although the Internet passed signals over fiber effectively at the speed of light, the physical distance that a server lay from a primary Internet trunk line created tiny delays, measured in milliseconds. However, this small drop in efficiency had become relevant in the world of high speed trading where tens of thousands of transactions might be executed every minute. Reducing even infinitesimal amounts of latency yielded significant advantages, so physical proximity to a primary Internet trunk line became very important in trading, especially in currency markets.
As a result of these structural changes to bank operations, any changes to working schedules in Asia or even small changes in the speed of high-bandwidth Internet trunk lines used by banks meant big impacts for the sector as a whole.
Virus ravaging Asia and driving people out of work, or into the morgue? Not good.
Reduced high-tech workforce maintaining critical telecoms infrastructure? Even worse.
Bateman and Smith stood side by side at a super trader position at the bank’s Jersey City recovery site. The specially telemetered work station showed the fluctuating amount of bandwidth and associated delay that affected this particular desk. A twin display showed the same values being recorded in an identical workstation in the home office across the river.
“You can see that the delay between our buy order and the execution from this location is about eighty milliseconds slower than the same trade from our main floor back on the island.” Smith didn’t have to connect the lines for Bateman.
“Well, shit,” the CEO said, running the numbers in his head. “What percentage of the main floor with the cleaner connection is manned? And what if we move folks back in?”
“Twenty-five percent at each of our four locations, including Manhattan.” Smith’s tone wasn’t encouraging. “Piscataway’s latency is another ten percent worse than this, and Westchester is double that. If we bring people back to the main floor, we risk transmitting the virus. We have had only one employee turn since Skorpio, but still…”
Smith was not anxious to increase employee density.
The CEO stared hard at the monitor as the needles on the virtual dashboard wavered slightly to the right, and then returned to their original position.
“How is this hitting Goldbloom, MetBank and Cities?” Bateman asked. “If we’re all affected equally then maybe it doesn’t matter.”
“The bottleneck is actually reconciliation,” Tom said. Then the security executive dropped the other shoe, switching to a view of the latency issues across the world. “I’m putting boot to arse and we’re re-onshoring about eight percent of the book every night, and that proportion is rising. Staff are working much longer hours–pretty soon we won’t have time to finish the previous day’s trades before the market opens the next day. Asia is taking a hammering–the cities there are in turmoil, much worse than we have here. The entire forecast curve failed to allow for the faster spread of the disease in Asia. So, yeah, everyone is affected more or less equally. That isn’t the problem.”
“You made me a believer, Tom,” Bateman said angrily. “We need to press as long as we can to save as much as we can. So, what is the problem?”
Bateman squinted at the wide, tiered flatscreens dominating the trader’s desk, as though there was an answer to be found in the multicolored text that scrolled from top to bottom, like it could never end.
“This is the critical employee graph for outside the main bank,” Tom said, bringing up a series of line graphs marked in red and blue. “The blue is no-shows. The red is turns. Both are increasing exponentially. New Jersey has had thirty-seven turns compared to our one. No-shows may be turns or may be…just gone off to wherever they think is safe. We don’t even have the people to try to find out what happened to our people. Chennai is shut down. Mumbai is at fifteen percent staffing and missing enough critical staff it may have to be shut down. Delhi’s much the same and as you already know Hong Kong is suspended. Internet bypass activity is also increasing at unsustainable rates. Major rings are out of contact already and are having to be bypassed. Singapore had nine rings and it’s dropped to four. Shanghai just had a power outage that hasn’t been rectified. Its ring is running on back-up generators and they’ll only last a few more days.”
“We’re doing okay here in New York, for values of the word okay. It’s everywhere else that doesn’t have our resources that’s going. If the world can’t complete vaccine firebreaks around critical worker population, it’s over, Boss.”
Bateman slowly turned to look him in the face. He didn’t have to ask.
Smith answered anyway.
“We are down to weeks.”