“Did you make that short sell?” Tony asked, leaning over Emma’s desk.
Behind him, screens flashed up figures for the end of the trading day. The Dow was up on yesterday, as were most of the shares Emma had put funds into. This month’s bonus would buy her the trip to the Bahamas she’d been looking forward to.
“Not that it’s any of your business,” she said as she shut down her computer, “but no, I didn’t.”
“Ignoring a recommendation from the directors?” Tony whistled and took a step back, grinning smugly. “That’s brave.”
“Screw you, Tony,” Emma said. “I’ve been watching Green Rock Industries for months. I’d know if something was about to go sideways, and unless that happens, it’s a dumb sell for my clients.”
“How very responsible,” Tony said. “You gonna come get irresponsible with the rest of us now?”
Emma shook her head. She knew better than to hit a bar with Tony and his wandering hands.
The elevator carried her down to the glass lobby of Foster and Gray Trading. Then she was out in the street, walking among the ordinary people with their ordinary lives. How many of them had earned someone a million dollars today?
She stopped at a bank machine to get cash. A message flashed up saying her accounts were empty. Annoyed, she snatched her card back and headed into the bank.
“I’m sorry,” the woman behind the counter said. “We’re just closing.”
“The company I work for owns this place,” Emma snapped. “And this place just lost all my damn money. Take me to a manager.”
She was ushered into a back office. Throwing herself down in a leather chair, she gave her details to the man behind the desk in his barely adequate suit.
“I’m sorry,” he said, looking up from his computer. “According to our records, your assets have been frozen by our parent company.” Bafflement crossed his face. “There’s an odd note here. It says to tell you ‘Make the short, then everything gets better.’ Do you know what that means?”
A chill ran up Emma’s spine. It was less than two hours since she’d ignored that suggestion. Who the hell knew? How and why were they doing this to her?
She needed to find out. Without even thanking the manager, she hurried out of the bank and back to the FGT building.
After trading hours, FGT’s doors were locked. She swiped her pass against the scanner. A red light blinked and the doors stayed shut. She tried again and again, each time with greater irritation and equally small effect.
“Is there a problem?” a crackly voice said from the speaker by the door.
“I work here,” Emma said, holding up her pass for the security camera to see. “I need to get in.”
For a long moment, there was only static from the speaker.
“Sorry, ma’am, but I can’t let you in,” the crackly voice said. “I’m told that you don’t work here anymore.”
“You what?” Emma stared at the camera. Her money and now her job. Everything that mattered to her. How was this happening? Why?
Panic rising, she fought to catch her breath.
“You can fix all this,” a calm voice said.
Emma turned to see a stranger in a pinstripe suit. In his hand was a phone. He seemed perfectly at ease.
“Just make the short sell,” he said, holding out the phone. “Then you get everything back. Money, job, apartment.”
“My apartment?” Emma asked in growing dread.
“Deeds are so easy to transfer,” the man said. “Now please, make the sell.”
“But why?” Emma asked. “If you can do all this, surely you can do it yourself?”
“They want it to look normal,” the man said. “And normal is you making that short sell. So, last chance…”
“They?” Emma asked.
He didn’t reply.
Emma took the phone. Her hands were trembling at the thought of the power these people had wielded, robbing her of her life in minutes, now promising it back.
The offsite login for her trading account was already on screen. She entered the password, reached out to her proxy in the eastern markets, and at the push of a few buttons made the trade.
“It’s done.” She handed back the phone, relieved to have it out of her hands.
The man looked at the screen, where the record of the sell order sat as evidence. Apparently satisfied, he called up a dial screen, tapped in a number, and put the phone to his ear.
“It’s done,” he said.
Without another word, he walked away.
The speaker behind her crackled into life.
“Sorry, ma’am,” the security voice said. “Apparently there was a mix up. You can come in now.”
The door clicked open but Emma ignored it. Running down the street, she passed the locked doors of the bank and tried the cash machine. Sure enough, her account was full again.
She caught a taxi home, locked the door securely behind her, and collapsed on the sofa. She felt exhausted, yet her brain was running at a mile a minute, trying to work out what it all meant. As a distraction, she switched on the TV.
“…coming to you live from Ohio,” a newscaster said, cutting to a scene of burning buildings, “where an explosion a few minutes ago destroyed Green Rock Industries’ main research plant.”
She stared, fascinated by the destruction. Something had gone sideways. The short would reap huge benefits. How could anyone have predicted this?
There were several ways, and none of them were good. Reaching for a bottle of wine, she promised herself that she would never ask.