Piers Goodrich closed off his trades at 1.00 am as the West Coast market shut, swung his feet onto the desk and rolled a fat, congratulatory spliff. The long room still fizzed with the energy of commerce, a sea of red braces, phones clamped to each ear, yelling Hang Seng prices across the floor.
‘Another thumping day,’ he reflected, proud of the deals he’d made in Bauxite and coffee beans, lightning decisions that seemed to come from nowhere but his gut.
Before switching off the screens, he glanced around to check no-one was watching and with a few key taps, transferred £308,000 to the ghost client he’d created five years earlier when he’d returned from New York on his thirtieth birthday. Since then, Goodrich had regularly and discreetly siphoned modest slices of the gains he’d made from genuine clients into the account of a company he’d called Prandial Fitchit Investments. The principal of the firm was listed as a reclusive billionaire based in Mumbai, the company registered in Liechtenstein.
Much had changed since Barings but Goodrich was careful and, he reckoned, smarter than Leeson. Such was the trust placed in Piers Goodrich by his employers that never once had he been queried over his clients. As long as they were enjoying outstanding growth – and his always were – the bosses were happy. The greed, he thought, was mutual.
But what his bosses didn’t see was the well-disguised, periodic movement of funds from the Prandial Fitchit account to a private Zurich account of his own. These transactions were secure, untraceable and, if ever examined, marked as fees, taxes and expenses. To date, Piers Goodrich had salted away just over £23 million and his lifestyle reflected it. At the top of his game, no-one ever questioned his lavish habits. He was their golden boy, untouchable. And he knew it.
He took the lift to the basement car park and in minutes was gunning the Veyron up the ramp, out into the balmy July night. It was just too late, he thought, to spend time with Anastasia at the Chelsea flat he’d bought her and instead peeled off towards the M23 and Bolney.
He’d topped 230 mph on this drag stretch of motorway once before and with not a car in sight, flipped the gear paddle with a forefinger, dropped down to 6th and floored the accelerator. Nine seconds later, as the needle on the orange dial passed 250 mph, he let out a raucous, hysterical scream, thumping the wheel in childish delight.
He held the speed for almost a minute before easing off to 90, heart missing a beat when a lone deer dived into the headlights a quarter mile ahead, froze, then bolted back into the forest.
Tall iron gates swung open as the Bugatti approached the gravelled driveway. He slowed to a crawl past the lake, mercury in the moonlight, by the silhouettes of the staff cottages, up to the mansion. He parked in the barn with the other toys, tracing a finger along the sensuous curves of the Ferrari Dino as he left. ‘Thank you Prandial Fitchit,’ he chuckled, the steel security doors closing behind him.
He poured a large brandy, checked his stock one last time before slipping into bed. Juliet stirred, turned and draped an arm across his chest.
‘Night,’ she whispered.
By 5.30 the next morning, he’d swum forty lengths and was back on the road to London. Two days to go, he thought and we’ll be on Mustique again.
He settled into his chair and fired up the computers, scanning the few dozen overnight emails. When he reached the last item he froze. The subject line read simply ‘I know what you’re doing.’ He double-clicked the message and read the brief text with growing alarm. ‘Oh shit. Oh shit!’ he muttered, his throat in a vice grip of panic as the implications of the message sank in.
‘Goodrich, I’ve found your fake account, I’m looking at it right now. £300K yesterday? I want £500K in my Futures ‘B’ by 5pm tonight or I call Security. Don’t mess me about. RC’
He looked at the sender’s email address, brazen enough he saw, to have used his own: ‘R.Curtis@R2TLB.com’.
‘Rob Curtis, the little shit! So much for secure accounts,’ he thought. ‘Those bastards in systems can do what they bloody well like.’ He deleted the message, rose quickly and headed for the toilets, vomiting noisily over floor and shoes as he stumbled into a cubicle.
‘You alright in there?’ a voice called over the partition.
‘Oh, yeah … yeah, thanks. I’m OK.’
He squatted, nostrils stinging from the acid stench of vomit, head buried in sweating hands, for twenty minutes. His mind flooded with images of the life he’d built disintegrating around him, the estate, the cars, the villa, his family. And at the end of it all the terrible, grim inevitability of disgrace and prison.
He sat up straight, breathing controlled, pulse steady, mopped his chin and flushed the square of scarlet silk down the bowl. He knew what he must do to save himself, to save everything. The same inherited recklessness that had driven his father to stab a colleague over a gambling debt before hurling himself under a train now controlled Piers Goodrich.
He called Rob Curtis from the corridor outside his office. Without greeting, he barked simply ‘It’s Piers Goodrich. Meet me on the rooftop car park at 11.00.’ There was a brief silence, then a quiet voice.
‘Piers? I’m sorry, what’s this about?’
Must have people around him, thought Goodrich. ‘Just meet me at 11.00.’ he said. He ended the call before Curtis could reply.
At 10.55 Goodrich arrived on the rooftop, a black attaché case under his arm. The giant wall of air conditioning fans hummed behind him and far, far below a thousand ants zig-zagged with their lattes. Footsteps. He turned to see the plump frame of Rob Curtis approaching, caution in his step. Young for his position, thought Goodrich, twenty five maybe, thirty? But from his demands, he realised he was clearly someone who would stop at nothing to get a share of the trough.
Goodrich held up the case. ‘I brought you this. It’s a start.’
He laid the case on the low parapet and held an open palm towards it. ‘Go ahead – check it.’
Curtis squared up to him. ‘Why are you doing this? I didn’t ask you for a bag.’
‘Just check it, for Christ’s sake!’ Goodrich snapped.
Curtis shrugged, took a breath and stepped forward to open the catches. Before his fingers reached the lid, Goodrich suddenly spun around behind him, raised his boot and kicked out, sending the man tumbling and jerking wildly to the precinct 38 floors below.
Piers Goodrich calmly closed and latched the case and took the service stairs down to his office. He tucked the case back into his cupboard, felt under the bottom shelf for the concealed recess and withdrew a small, carved ivory box. In the privacy of the men’s room he opened a thin plastic sachet, lined up the white powder on the cistern lid and with a rolled £50 note between trembling fingers, snorted the courage he needed to face up to what he’d just done.
A trader he vaguely knew grinned and winked as he left the washroom. ‘Morning Piers. Left a little talc on your lip this morning?’
Goodrich grunted, wiping a shirtsleeve across his face.
By lunchtime, news that someone had jumped had spread throughout the company.
‘Oh, that poor man,’ sighed Karen, Goodrich’s PA, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. ‘Two little boys too, just bought their first house. Terrible.’
Goodrich nodded. ‘Yeah, awful. Didn’t really know him.’ Karen left to fetch him a coffee and a fresh email pinged. He turned back to the screen. The subject was simply ‘Idiot’ and the sender Goodrich saw was, once again, ‘R.Curtis@R2TLB.com’.
He slumped back in the chair, face chalk white with fear and bewilderment. He opened the message.
‘Stupid, careless man. Should have checked the staff directory. Now it’s murder. I want £1 million by 5pm today. Ralph Curtis’