Long Way Down (A Jason Stafford Novel)

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9780425276532: Long Way Down (A Jason Stafford Novel)

From the author of the acclaimed, award-winning debut novel Black Fridays, a story of murder, greed, and corruption—and the lengths to which one man will go for his family.
Two years in a federal prison has changed Jason Stafford, but one thing it has taught him as a financial investigator is how to detect a lie. Though Philip Haley has been indicted for insider trading on his own company, Stafford believes him when he says he’s been set up. It does make him dangerous to be around, though. The deeper Stafford investigates, the more secrets he uncovers . . . secrets people would kill for.

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About the Author:

Michael Sears was sixty-one when his first novel, Black Fridays, was published. After nine years as a professional actor, he got an MBA from Columbia University and spent more than twenty years on Wall Street, rising to become the managing director in the bond trade and underwriting divisions of Paine Webber and, later, Jefferies & Co., before heeding his father’s advice: “When it stops being fun, get out.” He did so in 2005, and returned to what had always given him the greatest joy—writing—studying at NYU and the New School.
The temptations that drag down some of his characters are well known to him, as are the insider-trading perils that form the core of the new novel. The autism is known to him, too, from his extended family, and he has seen the struggles and the rewards.
Sears holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, and he lives in Sea Cliff, New York, with his wife, artist Barbara Segal. They have two sons.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


The banker was not so much a traditionalist as he was simply
a man who, somewhat lacking in creativity or imagination,
greatly enjoyed the comforts of consistency in his habits.
When he drank scotch, he took no water, soda, or ice, never pouring
more than two fingers into a widemouthed, heavybottomed
glass tumbler. When he snorted cocaine, he always rolled a crisp
one hundred dollar  bill into a tube and used the same pearlhandled
miniature pocketknife to form the unvarying inchlonglines of the drug.

That night he had many crisp onehundred dollar bills to choose
from. Five hundred of them. Five packets of a hundred each.
Though they would easily have fit in a large envelope, or even the
pockets of his suit jacket, they had been delivered in a small plastic
attaché case. He removed them and stacked them on the glass coffee
table. The briefcase went by the door so that he would remember
to put it out with the garbage when he left for the office in the

The Glenlivet 18 was running low. He thought he would finish
the bottle that night. He wrote a note to remind himself to have a
case delivered the next day. He was not an alcoholic—he rarely had
more than two or three drinks in an evening—but he had a dread
of running out and not being able to sleep. It was difficult to fall
asleep alone. Ever since Agathe had taken the children and escaped
back to his mother’s house in Cornwall, he had begun to have problems
sleeping. The big apartment, taking up the top two floors of
the building, with views of Hamilton Harbour, the islands, and
Great Sound beyond, felt both much too large and uncomfortably
small. The humming of the electric clock in the kitchen could be
heard in every room on the first floor. The electronic click of the
American refrigerator—the one thing that Agathe probably regretted
leaving behind—when the circulating motor turned on, could
be deafening in the vast lonely emptiness of three a.m.

The suspicion that fifty thousand dollars was too much—too
big a bribe for the favor he had performed—nagged at him again.
He sipped the whiskey, surprised as he always was by the strength
of the peat in the long finish. There was so little in the nose, on the
lip, but so much remained long after the swallow.

He had facilitated opening an account without checking the
man’s identification. The man’s name was unknown to him, though
the name on the account was not. He had seen that name on the
pages of the Financial Times often enough. Questions as to why such
a man would want to open an account at such a small private bank
had been quashed by the first utterance of the man with the cold
gray eyes across the desk. He was being paid not to ask.

Tomorrow he would write down all of the particulars—
everything he remembered about the man, the words he spoke, the
details of the transaction—and send the document to his uncle, a
London barrister, to hold “in the event of my early demise.” Then
he would forget about it all and enjoy the thought of fifty thousand
dollars—invisible to the tax authority, to Agathe and her solicitor,
and even to his grabbing bitch of a mother, whom he had been
supporting ever since his father’s death a decade ago and who repaid
his kindness, generosity, and filial duty by siding with Agathe in
this latest episode of the guerrilla warfare that passed for their
marriage, now halfway through its second decade of insult, degradation,
and remorse.

He took the little polythene baggie from his pocket and shook it,
admiring the mound of white powder. The American had offered a
gram or two along with the cash, but the banker had insisted upon
a full ounce. His business was negotiation; he never took the first
offer. An almost iridescent light reflected off the rocks and shards of
the coke. It appeared to be quite pure. Even at his current rate of consumption,
an ounce of uncut cocaine would last him a month or
more. Weeks of not having to speak to the acned social misfit in
client accounting, who regularly supplied the banker and his colleagues
with the crystalline spice that made life in the stultifying
environment of Bermuda banking bearable.

The little knife made a grating sound as he chopped the larger
crystals into a fine powder. The consistency of the cocaine was
slightly different than he was used to—flakier, he thought—a factor
that he attributed to the described purity of the drug.

The banker broke the wrapper on a packet of hundreds, removed
the top bill, and rolled it into a short tube. He preferred using American
currency; it seemed appropriate, as the price of cocaine was,
like petroleum or gold, universally quoted in U.S. dollars. The conversion
factor for British pounds was something he knew much
about, as the most updated number flashed on his Bloomberg Terminal
all day long. Every transaction he engaged in for his clients—
from purchasing German stocks priced in euros to South African
real estate trusts offered in rands—he thought of in terms of pounds,
making the conversion automatically and effortlessly. It was what
his clients wanted. But whenever he thought of cocaine, and he
thought of it often, he thought in terms of dollars. And with only a
modest bit of selfdiscipline, he now had enough dollars to keep
himself supplied for years.

He snorted the first line. The freeze hit immediately and he felt
the left side of his face begin to numb. The cocaine was very good,
possibly the best he had ever had. The big American with the odd
request had outdone himself. The second line went up his right
nostril, producing a similar glow and restoring his symmetry. He
moistened the tip of his index finger and wiped up the remaining
dust where the two lines had lain. He gently rubbed it across his
gums and felt the cold numbness penetrate. Very good cocaine.

He put his head back and waited for the rush. A moment later,
his eyes closed. He sat up abruptly. That was the strangest reaction
he had ever had to the drug. He felt good, warm and safe, languid,
and at the same time sexually aroused. His whole body had become
a single erogenous zone. A momentary flash of paranoia tripped
through his numbed consciousness. This was very unusual. But the
thought was gone before it had fully taken shape. The soaring
euphoria erased all fears. He may have been a very small god, even
a lonely one, the ruler of a small bit of couch in an empty apartment,
but he was still a god. He took a breath. He was suddenly
very aware of his breathing, not that it took effort exactly, because
he was allpowerful
on this couch and effort had become a meaningless
concept, as though the very air had become irrelevant.

The cocaine dripped from his sinuses down to the back of his
throat, coating, soothing, numbing. He lost all sense of taste; his
sense of smell was already gone. His fingers seemed to be a long
distance away. They were clumsy and thick and wooden. He forced
them to pick up the paper tube and they answered slowly and reluctantly.
He leaned over and snorted up the two remaining lines and
felt the top of his head lift off. His eyes bulged, and he exhaled in a
hoarse rasp, unable anymore to control even his vocal cords.

The hundred dollar bill dropped from his fingers and slowly
unraveled on the glass table. He stared at it, trying to think of why
such a small piece of paper had any importance in his life, but his
eyes closed and he forgot about it. He kept sinking. It was a long
way down. Already halfdreaming,
he took one last gasping breath.
His heart continued to beat for a short while before it too gave up
and surrendered.

We hadn’t walked to school since Angie, my exwife
and the mother of my unusual child, had been murdered
on Amsterdam Avenue, shot by members of a Central
American drug cartel. She had been protecting the boy, throwing
her own body between a hail of bullets and her son. I should have
been the target, not the Kid, not my exwife.
Angie and I had our history and our baggage, and her death had not released me from
all the anger, resentment, hurt, and betrayal. I carried all of those,
plus the guilt that if I had done things differently, or been a different
man, she would still be alive.

My second career—the first as a Wall Street trader and manager
having ended with a two year stint in a federal prison—often put
me in dangerous spots. I investigated fraud, sometimes acting as a
fixer or a finder in situations where street smarts met up with prison
yard ethics. I straddled both worlds, in ways that often surprised
me. The work had changed me—was still changing me. I had
become both more tolerant and more skeptical, stronger and less
fearful, yet more thoughtful and forgiving. What was legal was
sometimes just not right, and those who broke the law were more
often merely weak rather than evil.

The Kid had changed me, too. My son. Now six years and eight
months. I had barely known him when I was sent away. I certainly
had not known of his autism. Seeing life through his eyes had
opened mine. If you graphed the spectrum with Asperger’s on the
far left, the Kid was definitely right of center, but he was verbal and
a bright and curious learner. He was also a handful. And though I
would not have wanted my ex back in my life in any capacity, my
son deserved a mother.

The school was just a mile up Amsterdam and a half block over.
The Kid used to run ahead each block, dancing impatiently at
the cross streets, waiting for me to catch up and burning off a
small percentage of his postbreakfast
energy spurt. Not spurt.

I had changed our route these past six months.

When we left early enough, we would take the bus, the M104,
up Broadway and get off at Ninetysixth
Street. The Kid liked the bus. It was rarely crowded at that hour, as we were heading in the
opposite direction of the morning commute. The Kid would take
one of the handicapped seats up front—though he was not physically
challenged, his autism gave him squatter’s rights to those
seats—and I would stand over him. The Kid watched the driver,
and I watched him.

Most mornings, though, we were in a hurry and took the subway.
The Kid was not an easy, nor an early, riser, but there were
other issues that slowed us down. Getting his shoes on was near the
top of the list. I had bought him more shoes than worn by the whole
cast of Sex and the City, in a futile attempt to find ones that did not
“hurt.” It took the two of us a year to accept the fact that, though
shoes are generally less comfortable than going barefoot, you can’t
go barefoot in New York City—especially in December. That morning
we took the subway.

We were a few minutes behind schedule as we came out of the
subway at Ninety-sixth Street and quick-walked toward Amsterdam.
The Kid ran. I watched him as he bobbed, weaved, ducked,
and sprinted, avoiding the many obstructions in his path—some of
which were imaginary. I loved watching him run. When he walked,
he tended to lock up his knees and hips, as though in constant fear
of falling, so that he looked like a mechanical man, made up of
nonmatching spare parts. But when he ran, he looked like a child.
If not happy, at least untroubled. Free.

A blast of chill wind blew dust in my eye and I put my head
down, taking the irritating assault on my nascent bald spot. For that
one moment I was not watching my son.

The sidewalk was narrow just there, and broken, a nondescript
and barren tree having driven its roots laterally in an attempt to
seek nutriments in a concrete wasteland. On the other side was a
short, spiked, black iron fence guarding the basement entrance, and
empty garbage cans, of a sixstory
apartment building.

I looked up and my eyes watered and blurred in the wind, but
I could tell that the Kid was not ahead, waiting at the corner.
A momentary flare of anxiety caught in my chest and I whirled
around in a panic. The Kid was a half block behind me, squatting
at the curb and trying to engage the attention of a piebald pigeon.

Almost shaking with relief, I walked back to him, not trusting
my voice to call, nor trusting him to come without an argument—
and cursing myself for my inattention. I squatted down next to him.
The pigeon ignored both of us.

“Come on, Kid. Time for school. Ms. Wegant will be worried
about us if we’re late.” I had never seen his teacher worried, nor
flustered, nor impatient, nor happy, for that matter. Mr. Spock had
a wider range of emotion. “Come on,” I tried again. “Mrs. Carter
will be mad at me.” This was much closer to the truth. Mrs. Carter
held the desk in the entryway at the school, checking in all students
and keeping out anyone who did not have a welldocumented
reason for being on school grounds. She was a large woman, but
with both the strength and agility to carry it off. I was sure that I
could take her in a fair fight, and I was just as sure that she wouldn’t
fight fair.

I took his hand. I was impatient. I knew better. He screamed.

I let go and stood up. The screaming stopped. A childish and unworthy
thought of just walking away flashed through my head. I
forgave myself. If I beat myself up every time I succumbed to despair,
I would have been permanently covered with blackandblue
marks. I thought about just kicking the pigeon, but held back. I
would wait. Patience was the best medicine I could offer my son. It
also did wonders for me.

A sudden flash of déjà vu hit me. Not really déjà vu, more a distorted
memory. When my ex-wife was killed, one of the assassins
had escaped by running down a side street. Could it have been that
block? Or was it a few blocks farther uptown? The Kid and I would
have had to move out of Manhattan altogether to avoid any reminders
of his mother, or her death. I had a touch of dizziness. Possibly, I
had stood up too quickly. I was disoriented, the wind blew and my
eyes blurred again.

Two men turned the corner, coming down from Amsterdam.
They were short, squat, and brownskinned. Latinos.
One had a black brush of a mustache; the other, slightly taller, had a badly
broken nose. Despite the cold, they both wore nothing warmer
than dark hooded sweatshirts, their hands tucked into the pouches
in front. They looked just like the men who had killed my exwife—
who had attempted to kill my son, and who had threatened to kill
me. And I had wondered ever since if they were going to come back
and finish the job. Or when. And here they were. Moving quickly.

Stonefaced. Not angry, but determined. I imagined their hands
coming out, holding small guns that grew in size every time I

The white van jumped the red light, accelerated across three lanes,
and suddenly slowed. The sliding panel door opened and a long-barreled
weapon emerged and began...

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Michael Sears
Verlag: Putnam's Sons Penguin US Jan 2016 (2016)
ISBN 10: 0425276538 ISBN 13: 9780425276532
Neu Taschenbuch Anzahl: 2
(Einbeck, Deutschland)

Buchbeschreibung Putnam's Sons Penguin US Jan 2016, 2016. Taschenbuch. Buchzustand: Neu. Neuware - From the author of the acclaimed, award-winning debut novel Black Fridays , a story of murder, greed, and corruption-and the lengths to which one man will go for his family. Two years in a federal prison has changed Jason Stafford, but one thing it has taught him as a financial investigator is how to detect a lie. Though Philip Haley has been indicted for insider trading on his own company, Stafford believes him when he says he's been set up. It does make him dangerous to be around, though. The deeper Stafford investigates, the more secrets he uncovers . . . secrets people would kill for. 432 pp. Englisch. Artikel-Nr. 9780425276532

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