Bill Todd -- Adrienne: A Novel of the Markets
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 Chapter 7

Added Value on Securities

Life at the branch settled down quickly. I moved into Wallace Stimson's office which, apart from having more space, had windows overlooking the pine trees screening the parking lot. True to Stockport, these weren't ordinary pines but special exotic ones imported from somewhere. They did look fairly ordinary to me, but it was nice to know that I was keeping aristocratic company. Better yet, I inherited Janey MacLachlan as my very own secretary-assistant. Janey was equally pleased, not only because we were friends, but because she was, at the same time, rid of Mark McCarthy. At one point toward the end he had actually confused IBM with ITT. As she put it in mock explanation,

"After all, they both have three letters, and they start with the same one. Anyone could make that mistake."

As she said it, Janey, a twenty-six year old blonde who bore not the slightest resemblence to the departed McCarthy, managed to produce an expression and set of mannerisms surprisingly reminiscent of him.

I soon discovered that Janey could do virtually everything I did. It also seemed to me that, despite her lack of a college degree, she would be able to get through a broker's training course at least as easily as Brad. In fact, she already knew everything that's taught in such a course. When I put it to her, she replied,

"Well, Adrienne, I'm not sure they'd be as quick to overlook my being a high school dropout as you think."

"In this business no one ever looks at your resume. You're articulate and you can also be persuasive. I bet you'd be a good saleswoman."

"I can sell some things, even going door-to-door, and I've taken night courses and worked on my grammar. I've also learned a lot of big words which I get to use occasionally. But I don't sound educated. I don't have the right tone of voice. The first time I heard myself on a tape recording I decided never to speak again. You have an entirely different sound."

What Janey said was true. Her voice had a high tinny sound which one quickly got used to, but which, in conjunction with the blonde syndrome, caused people to underestimate her. No amount of intelligence would ever quite counteract that initial impression. For once, I succeeded in being tactful.

"What you're talking about isn't a matter of education. It's a trick that actors have. The first thing an actress learns is to lower her voice an octave. And it works everywhere else, too. People take you about three times as seriously if you speak to them in a low voice."

Janey was really rather thunderstruck.

"You mean that's all that's wrong with me? I could learn to do that. I thought it was hopeless."

"You can learn that on your own, or you might get someone who teaches acting to help you."

Janey thought for a minute, and replied,

"I'll certainly work on my voice, but I still don't know about being a broker. I don't think I'd fit the mold even if I talked about stocks in a husky whisper."

I wasn't really sure myself, mainly for the reason that Janey didn't seem to fit into any mold at all. She had the body of a tall slim boy with the definite rear end that the boy might have had. However, quite apart from her undeniable high firm breasts, she still didn't look boyish. With her compact narrow hips, she swayed sideways and twisted with erect posture like a ballerina, giving the impression that she would slide out of any attempt to capture her long taut waist. It fascinated me just to watch her move.

Janey wasn't exactly pretty. Her long narrow face with small close-set blue eyes and prominent straight nose could have presented a hard, even dangerous, look. However, her characteristic expression of humor and amusement suggested that she was more interested in fun and games than mayhem.

Janey was certainly a lot less inhibited than anyone in my position was likely to be. For one thing, when she happened to feel like it, she'd appear in a sexy little dress and wiggle her extraordinary body around in front of the men.

I gradually found that behavior which would be disastrous for me was, in my assistant, good for business. Male clients who happened to come in instead of telephoning saw Janey, and thereafter visited more often. They then had to do some business to justify their visits.

We had just gotten going with our new regime when I started training for the Stockport Coast Run, which was to occur in two weeks. It's an out-and-back ten kilometer race up the coast to the west, in the opposite direction from Erica's island. The finish is in the main town square. It isn't the sort of thing that really requires special training, but my division, that of women 30-34, is a highly competitive one. I never expect to win my division in a well- subscribed race such as that one, but it's nice to finish well up. Besides, the results are published in the Stockport Gazette. I've always wanted a good time to appear there.

In the following ten days I went out to see Erika several times. She ordinarily walks, albeit briskly, beside me while I run. But it's just possible to make her break into a run. Then, instead of stepping out alternately with her forelegs, she puts both out together as her powerful hind legs propel her yards at a time. Erika is extremely graceful in that mode, like a great gray jackrabbit, and I love to watch her in action. The price of this pleasure is that I have to sprint for all I'm worth to keep up. Otherwise, she looks back over her shoulder and slows to wait for me. One day, as a joke, I took a short cut around a sandy hummock and got in front of her. I could then hear the rhythmic sound of her paws in the dirt and sand as Erika slid past me.

The island was beginning to fill up with the wives and families of men who worked in the city. These families often included dogs who reacted in various ways to Erika. There were some nice little dogs, probably female, who would run with us for a while before returning to their homes. There was an absurd little dog who seemed to be attempting to bite Erika. After trying to pointedly ignore him, she finally grasped him loosely in her jaws and flung him some distance away. He continued to yap, but didn't again bother us.

There were also male dogs, some large, who clearly had a prurient interest in Erika. I don't think she was in heat at this time, but, in any case, she made it clear that she wasn't interested. They were persistent and objectionable, and, on a couple of occasions, it was necessary for Erika to take a strong line with them. One large and well-ancestored Weimaraner was forced to retire with a distinctly bloody nose. Erika clearly had her own problems with the opposite sex, and I wasn't sure that she dealt with them worse than Jackie or myself.

Brad wanted me to come to New York that weekend, but I hate running in the city and put him off, telling him that I had a date with Erika. I didn't tell him that Erika was a wolf. He said, supposedly joking,

"You don't mind if I find myself other company, do you?"

I knew that he was irritated, but I was feeling perverse and told him that it was quite all right with me. He probably did find himself other company, quite likely of a female human sort.

I also put David off, even though I knew that he'd like to go running with me. He even talked about entering the race. I told him he wasn't ready for that yet. In truth, there was quite a gap between his customary two mile sluggish jog and any sort of competitive event. However, my main reason for not having him along on my training runs was that I was afraid he'd slow me down. I also wasn't sure what Erika would think of him, or whether she would distinguish clearly between his motives and those of the Weimaraner.

The Wednesday before the race, Janey was in a particularly striking dress, and it suggested something to me. I said to her,

"Janey, I wonder if we might try a little experiment. My best customer's coming in today. I don't think you've met him."

I then described Heston in some detail, concluding,

"I still don't really have much understanding of him. He likes me to make coffee for him and to be companionable and homebodyish, but I don't know whether he's still interested in women in a sexual way. I wondered if, when he's here, I could have you reach for something on a high shelf. Then I could watch to see how he reacts."

"Sure, I'm always happy to test a dead battery. Make sure you get him seated so you can see in the right place."

"I think I can tell even without that."

We experimented a little with a large volume of Standard and Poor's, placing it on various shelves. I lost control at one point and practically dropped it on my head, both of us reverting to schoolgirl giggles. Janey, several inches taller, managed to get it on and off the shelf where I had failed. She then said,

"I'm going to loosen my belt or I'll tear my dress under the arms."

The dress, a light blue one, was of some artificial, rather slithery, material. She tried again and asked,

"Does much show?"

"That ought to do it."

Before we could make further experiments, the receptionist called to announce Heston.

I had Janey in to go over some figures in Heston's account, and introduced her to him. Then, almost as an afterthought, I asked her for the book. As I had expected, Heston got up to help Janey with the heavy volume. There was, however, a definite pause of a second or two, during which time Heston, caught in the act of getting up, remained transfixed. His eyes, however, moved slowly upward.

Heston quickly recovered himself and helped Janey with the book. She then returned to her own office while I pretended to look up some things. The minute Heston left, Janey popped in. I congratulated her,

"You had him absolutely spellbound."

"Yup. I'll admit it myself. I peeked as I was reaching up. He may be old, but he's got plenty of juice left."

There was little point in displaying Janey for Heston on future occasions, but it occurred to me that she might be even more effective than I had imagined in selling securities to men. In particular, I now had a few accounts, formerly belonging to McCarthy, that Bret and David had managed to switch to me. They were all men in their middle years who, one suspected, were used to meeting their broker in bars. I sensed that they wanted to tell me off-color jokes, but didn't quite dare. I wouldn't have objected to a joke with each order, but, as they say these days, the 'chemistry' wasn't right.

Janey, however, was the sort of woman one might meet, if not in a bar, at least in a moderately priced cocktail lounge. When she came in with papers and hung around for a little three-way chit-chat, the men relaxed visibly. They liked bantering with her, and didn't seem to mind that her repartee was quick, and sometimes rather sharp. Her presence also had the effect of diluting mine. I could be, not the alert young woman waiting with sharpened pencil to pounce on a weakness, but someone much softer, part of a supportive and admiring feminine background for a man who might, at any time, clean up the stock market.

The very day after our little experiment with Heston, one of McCarthy's former clients went rather heavily into options. I told Janey that a good deal of it was due to her, and cut her in on the commissions. It struck us both that something unusual had happened, and we went to our gyro parlor after work to discuss it. Janey said,

"It seems like that guy was sort of middle-aged and broken down. If he does have a woman, she's probably pretty sleazoid. So, if I do say so myself, a couple of higher-type women give him lots of attention, and he buys a whole mess of options. But it seems too simple to be true. Where does it end? Would he put everything he's got into the market if I let him take me on your desk while you whispered sweet things into his ear?"

I laughed, but wasn't at all sure of the answer to a question which was, in its way, quite a serious one. I could only say,

"I don't know. It may well be that the real limits are what our office would let us get away with. At least apart from our own inhibitions. Anyhow, with a customer like that one."

"Okay, then. Realistically speaking, I can wear pretty much any dress I can afford to buy, and I can say fresh sexy things to the sort of man that likes it. We can also do that little bit we did with Heston. Most of this will go on in your office, so the others won't even be aware of it. At worst, David Larsen can tell me to dress more conservatively. Since he's taking me out Saturday night, I don't think he will."

I suppose I must have been speechless. Janey picked it up immediately. She said,

"Is anything wrong, Adrienne? You aren't involved with him, are you? If you are, I'll tell him to fuck off."

"Oh no. I've never really had a date with him. He's just been so attentive in little ways. I didn't dream that he'd ask out anyone else in the same office."

It really took quite a lot of persuasion to get Janey not to break her date with David. In the course of it, we both agreed that he wasn't very desirable. Janey said,

"He probably expects sex from me because of the way I am around the office. He's going to be surprised."

"You still shouldn't refuse him because of me. I did get the impression he might be gentler and more sensitive when it comes to sex than he is about other things."

"That's not the type I like. I like a big friendly good- natured guy who's a carpenter or pipe-fitter or something. Those guys have lots of self-confidence and won't take any shit off anyone. I had one like that. It was all laughs and thrills in bed. Of course, everyone else wanted him too, and I didn't win the competition."

"You know, Janey, I don't see why we shouldn't both go out with David if it comes to that. I'm sure I don't want to marry him, and I'm just about equally sure that you wouldn't want to either."

Janey brightened and said,

"In the meantime, we can keep on the good side of the boss and confuse the hell out of him. It might be fun just to see how much we can get out of him. If he's dumb enough to try to make it with both of us at the same time, he'll deserve what he gets."

We then started to think of all the ways in which we could confuse David. We must have sounded like two wild women. Finally, I said,

"Here's something we could really do."

I told Janey about the party I had gone to with Brad, at which David had been present. I concluded,

"I got a beautiful yellow silk dress just for the party, and I found out afterward that I didn't have enough on underneath. He must have been looking at me a good bit of the time. Let's have you wear the dress when you go out with him. Even if he doesn't fully realize that it's the same dress, it'll still have to confuse him at some level."

Janey replied,

"And then, if he does recognize it, he'll know that we're closer than he realizes. He'll then begin to wonder what's happening. What if he asks?"

"Tell him it was your dress all along, and that you lent it to me for the party you weren't invited to because you're only a secretary."

As we finished our lemonades, we agreed to proceed immediately to my place for the dress.

When we got to my apartment and got the dress out of its plastic bag, it still seemed wonderful to me. Janey threw up her hands and said,

"It's beautiful, but I can't wear it. I'd burst the seams or get spots on it. I'm always scattering food around, even when I try not to. I'm clumsy, too. I might even tear it on something or catch my heel in the hem."

I eventually got Janey to try on the dress. It was much shorter on her, which was all right, and, while it was a little tight in the bust, she showed to excellent advantage under the light material. Before going to the mirror, Janey asked if I had matching shoes. I brought out my yellow heels to see if she could get into them. I tried hers on experimentally, and found that they fit quite well. I told her,

"You have very small feet for your height."

"Yeah, I can get into these all right."

She then took a few steps and remarked,

"There's something weird, though."

I had forgotten about my special heels and watched, amused, to see how long it would take her to realize what was going on. After a few more steps, she cried out,

"Good God, Adrienne, one of these heels is higher than the other. I've gotten shoes at the reject shops, but I've never come across any like this. Do you get an extra fifty per cent off?"

"No, they cost fifty per cent more."

I then explained the situation, happy that she had never noticed. She responded,

"Just to confuse Larsen more, I ought to wear these shoes on our date. That'd make him think it's me with one leg longer than the other instead of you. I guess I'll wear my own, though. I'd like an excuse to get some yellow shoes."

Still with the uneven heels, Janey stood in front of the full length mirror. When I stood beside her, we laughed at the contrast between my business suit and her party dress. I said,

"You're the prospective bride choosing your trousseau, and I'm a saleslady trying to make it as expensive as possible."

"More likely, I look like a high-priced hooker. You don't look like an ordinary madam, but there was that young society lady who got caught running a house on Central Park West."

I felt uncomfortable, but, before I could say anything, she added,

"Anyway, I don't look like a cheap whore any longer."

After we had gotten the dress back into the plastic bag, we sat and had coffee while we discussed business. I pointed out,

"Even if you aren't certified as a broker, there's nothing to prevent you from handling certain clients. You often answer the phone, so you can just take their orders. Of course, there'll be men who'll want to come in to see you. When they arrive, you can go out to meet them and say something like, 'Can I help you, or do you want to see Adrienne?' I bet, for the most part, they'll be happy with you."

Janey, still in her underclothes, took a sip of coffee before replying,

"That would allow us to handle a good many more clients than you could alone."

I wanted her to take three quarters of the commissions so generated, but she refused to accept more than half. We finally settled on two thirds. Since her income was lower, I would report such payments to the IRS, and she would declare them as income. She then pointed out,

"If I'm going to be giving investment information and advice, and somebody gets burnt, they might complain about both of us to Larsen."

"I'll take that chance. You know the market better than any of the men except Halvorson. And, anyhow, we'll have Larsen wrapped around our fingers."

Janey is a person with a good deal of nervous energy, and she was soon wandering around, coffee cup and saucer in hand, looking at things in my apartment. None of the furnishings were really at all extraordinary, but she credited me with a level of taste which I really don't possess. I protested,

"My apartment's no big thing, but the way you look is a big thing. I can hardly imagine what it would be like to have the kind of effect you do on men."

"I think that's more or less why I quit high school. I found out there were easier ways to get what I wanted."

"So all you needed was something to sell that could bring in some real money. Now you have it."

Bill Todd -- Adrienne: A Novel of the Markets
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