I know where I'm going. And I know who I want to be. That's why I
took this job in the first place...and why, four years later, I
still put up with the clients. And their demands. And their wads of
money. Most of the time, they just want to keep a low profile,
which is actually the bank's specialty. Other times, they want a
little...personal touch. My phone rings and I tee up the charm.
"This is Oliver," I answer. "How can I help you?"
"Where the hell's your boss!?" a Southern chainsaw of a
voice explodes in my ear.
"Don't piss on this, Caruso! I want my money!"
It's not until he says the word "money," that I recognize the
accent. Tanner Drew, the largest developer of luxury skyscrapers in
New York City and chief patriarch of the Drew Family Office. In the
world of high-net-worth individuals, a family office is as high as
you get. Rockefeller. Rothschild. Gates and Soros. Once hired, the
family office supervises all the advisors, lawyers, and bankers who
manage the family's money. Paid professionals to maximize every
last penny. You don't speak to the family anymore—you speak
to the office. So if the head of the clan is calling me directly
...I'm about to get some teeth pulled.
"Has the transfer not posted yet, Mr. Drew?"
"You're damn right it hasn't posted yet, smartass! Now what the
hell you gonna do to make that right? Your boss promised me it'd be
here by two o'clock! Two o'clock!" he screams.
"I'm sorry, sir, but Mr. Lapidus is—"
"I don't give a raccoon's ass where he is—the guy at
Forbes gave me a deadline of today; I gave your boss that
deadline, and now I'm giving you that deadline! What the hell else
we need to discuss!?"
My mouth goes dry. Every year, the Forbes 400 lists the wealthiest
400 individuals in the United States. Last year, Tanner Drew was
number 403. He wasn't pleased. So this year, he's determined to
bump himself up a notch. Or three. Too bad for me, the only thing
standing in his way is a forty-million-dollar transfer to his
personal account that we apparently still haven't released.
"Hold on one second, sir, I..." "Don't you dare put me on
I push the hold button and pray for rain. A quick extension later,
I'm waiting to hear the voice of Judy Sklar, Lapidus's secretary.
All I get is voicemail. With the boss at a partners retreat for the
rest of the day, she's got no reason to stick around. I hang up and
start again. This time, I go straight to DEFCON One. Henry
Lapidus's cell phone. On the first ring, no one answers. Same on
the second. By the third, all I can do is stare at the blinking red
light on my phone. Tanner Drew is still waiting.
I click back to him and grab my own cell phone. "I'm just waiting
for a callback from Mr. Lapidus," I explain. "Son, if you ever put
me on hold again..."
Whatever he's saying, I'm not listening. Instead, my fingers snake
across my cell, rapidly dialing Lapidus's pager. The moment I hear
the beep, I enter my extension and add the number "1822." The
ultimate emergency: 911 doubled.
"...nother one of your sorry-ass excuses-all I want to hear is that
the transfer's complete!"
"I understand, sir."
"No, son. You don't."
C'mon, I beg, staring at my cell. Ring! "What time
does your last transfer go out?" he barks.
"Actually, we officially close at three..." The clock on my wall
says a quarter past three.
"...but sometimes we can extend it until four." When he doesn't
respond, I add, "Now what's the account number and bank it's
supposed to go to?"
He quickly relays the details, which I scribble on a nearby
Post-it. Eventually, he adds, "Oliver Caruso, right? That's your
name?" His voice is soft and smooth. "Y-Yes, sir."
"Okay, Mr. Caruso. That's all I need to know." With that, he hangs
up. I look at my silent cell phone. Still nothing.
Within three minutes, I've paged and dialed every other partner I
have access to. No one answers. This is a hundred-and-twenty-five-
million-dollar account. I pull off my coat and claw at my tie. With
a quick scan of our network's Rolodex, I find the number for the
University Club-home of the partners retreat. By the time I start
dialing, I swear I can hear my own heartbeat.
"You've reached the University Club," a female voice answers. "Hi,
I'm looking for Henry Lapi—"
"If you'd like to speak to the club operator or to a guest room,
please press zero," the recorded voice continues.
I pound zero and another mechanized voice says, "All operators are
busy-please continue to hold." Grabbing my cell, I dial
frantically, looking for anyone with authority. Baraff
...Bernstein... Mary in Accounting-Gone, Gone, and Gone.
I hate Fridays close to Christmas. Where the hell is
everyone? In my ear, the mechanized female voice repeats, "All
operators are busy-please continue to hold."
I'm tempted to hit the panic button and call Shep, who's in charge
of the bank's security, but...no...too much ofa stickler...without
the right signatures, he'll never let me get away with it. So if I
can't find someone with transfer authority, I need to at least find
someone in the back office who can—
I got it.
With my receiver in one ear and my cell in the other, I shut my
eyes and listen as his phone rings. Once...twice... "I'm Charlie,"
"You're still here!?"
"Nope—I left an hour ago," he deadpans. "Figment of your
I ignore the joke. "Do you still know where Mary in Accounting
keeps her username and password?"
"I think so...why?"
"Don't go anywhere! I'll be right down."
My fingers dance like lightning across my phone's keypad,
forwarding my line to my cell phone—just in case the
University Club picks up.
Dashing out of my office, I make a sharp right and head straight
for the private elevator at the end of the dark mahogany-paneled
hallway. I don't care if it's just for clients. I enter Lapidus's
six-digit code at the keypad above the call buttons, and the doors
Shep in Security wouldn't like that one either.
The instant I step inside, I spin around and pound the Door
Close button. Last week, I read in some business book that
Door Close buttons in elevators are almost always
disconnected— they're just there to make hurried people feel
like they're in control. Wiping a forehead full of sweat back
through my dark brown hair, I push the button anyway. Then I push
it again. Three floors to go.
"Well, well, well," Charlie announces, looking up from a stack of
papers with his forever-boyish grin. Lowering his chin, he peers
over his vintage horn-rimmed glasses. He's been wearing the glasses
for years-way before they were fashionable. The same holds true for
his white shirt and rumpled slacks. Both are hand-me-downs from my
closet, but somehow, the way they hang on his lean frame, they look
perfect. Downtown stylish; never preppy. "Look who's slumming!" he
cheers. "Hey, where's your 'I'm no longer a member of the
I ignore the jab. It's something I've had to get used to over the
past few months. Six months, to be exact-which is how long it's
been since I got him the job at the bank. He needed the money, and
mom and I needed help with the bills. If it were just gas,
electric, and rent, we'd be fine. But our tab at the
hospital—for Charlie, that's always been personal. It's the
only reason he took the job in the first place. And while I know he
just sees it as a way to pitch in while he writes his music, it
can't be easy for him to see me up in a private office with a
walnut desk and a leather chair, while he's down here with the
cubicles and beige Formica.
"Whatsa matter?" he asks as I rub my eyes. "The fluorescent light
making you sick? If you want, I'll go upstairs and get your
lamp— or maybe I should bring down your mini-Persian
rug—I know how the industrial carpet hurts your—"
"Can you please shut up for a second!" "What happened?" he asks,
suddenly concerned. "Is it mom?"
That's always his first question when he sees me
upset—especially after the debt collectors gave her a scare
last month. "No, it's not mom..."
"Then don't do that! You almost gave me a vomit attack!" "I'm
sorry...I just...I'm running out oftime. One of our
clients...Lapidus was supposed to put through a transfer, and I
just got my ass handed to me because it still hasn't
Kicking his clunky black shoes up on his desk, Charlie tips his
chair back on its hind legs and grabs a yellow can of Play-Doh from
the corner of his desk. Lifting it to his nose, he cracks open the
top, steals a sniff of childhood, and lets out a laugh. It's a
typical high-pitched, little-brother laugh.
"How can you think this is funny?" I demand. "That's what you're
worried about? Some guy didn't get his walking-around money? Tell
him to wait until Monday." "Why don't you tell him-his name's
Tanner Drew." Charlie's chair drops to the floor. "Are you
serious?" he asks. "How much?"
I don't answer. "C'mon, Ollie, I won't make a big deal." I still
don't say a word.
"Listen, if you didn't want to tell me, why'd you come down?"
There's no debating that one. My answer's a whisper. "Forty million
"Forty mil!?" he screams. "Are you on the pipe!?"
"You said you wouldn't make a big deal!" "Ollie, this isn't like
shorting some goober a roll of quarters. When you're talking eight
figures ...even to Tanner that's not spare change-and the guy
already owns half of downt—"
"Charlie!" I shout.
He stops right there—he already knows I'm wound too tight. "I
could really use your help," I add, watching his reaction. For
anyone else, it'd be a moment to treasure—an admission of
weakness that could forever retip the scales between walnut desks
and beige Formica. To be honest, I probably have it coming. My
brother looks me straight in the eye. "Tell me what you need me to
do," he says.
Sitting in Charlie's chair, I enter Lapidus's username and
password. I may not be squatting at the top of the totem pole, but
I'm still an associate. The youngest associate—and the only
one assigned directly to Lapidus. In a place with only twelve
partners, that alone gets me further than most. Like me, Lapidus
didn't grow up with a money clip in his pocket. But the right job,
with the right boss, led him to the right business school, which
launched him up through the private elevators. Now he's ready to
return the favor. As he taught me on my first day, the simple plans
work best. I help him; he helps me. Like Charlie, we all have our
ways of getting out of debt.
As I scooch forward in the chair, I wait for the computer to kick
in. Behind me, Charlie's sidesaddle on the armrest, leaning on my
back and the edge of my shoulder for balance. When I angle my head
just right, I see our warped images in the curve of the computer
screen. If I squint real quick, we look like kids. But just like
that, Tanner Drew's corporate account lights up the
screen—and everything else is gone.
Charlie's eyes go straight to the balance: $126,023,164.27. "A la
peanut butter sandwiches! My balance is so low I don't order
sodas with my meals anymore, and this guy thinks he's got a right
It's hard to argue—even to a bank like us, that's a lot of
change. Of course, saying Greene & Greene is just a bank is
like saying Einstein's "good at math."
Greene & Greene is what's known as a "private bank." That's our
main service: privacy—which is why we don't take just
anyone's money. In fact, when it comes to clients, they don't
choose us; we choose them. And like most banks, we require a
minimum deposit. The difference is, our minimum is two million
dollars. And that's just to open your account. If you have
five million, we say, "That's good—a nice start." At fifteen
million, "We'd like to talk." And at seventy-five million and
above, we gas up the private jet and come see you right away, Mr.
Drew, sir, yes, sir.
"I knew it," I say, pointing at the screen. "Lapidus didn't even
cue it in the system. He must've completely forgotten the whole
thing." Using another one of Lapidus's passwords, I quickly type in
the first part of the request.
"Are you sure it's okay to use his password like that?" "Don't
worry—it'll be fine." "Maybe we should call Security and Shep
can—" "I don't want to call Shep!" I insist, knowing the
outcome. Shaking his head, Charlie looks back at the screen. Under
Current Activity, he spots three check
disbursements—all of them to "Kelli Turnley."
"I bet that's his mistress," he says. "Why?" I ask. "Because she
has a name like Kelli?" "You better believe it, Watson.
Jenni, Candi, Brandi—it's like a family pass to the Playboy
Mansion—show the 'i' and you get right in."
"First of all, you're wrong. Second of all, without exaggeration,
that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. And third..." "What was
dad's first girlfriend's name? Lemme think...was
it...Randi?" With a quick shove, I push my chair back, knock
Charlie off the sidesaddle, and storm out of his cubicle. "Don't
you want to hear her turn-ons and turn-offs?" he calls out behind
Heading up the hallway, I'm lost in my cell phone, still listening
to recorded greetings of the University Club. Enraged, I hang up
and start again. This time, I actually get a voice. "University
Club—how may I assist you?" "I'm trying to reach Henry
Lapidus—he's in a meeting in one of your conference
"Please hold, sir, and I'll..." "Don't transfer me! I need to find
him now." "I'm just the operator, sir—the best I can do is
transfer you down there."
There's a click and another noise. "You've reached the University
Club's Conference Center. All operators are busy—please
continue to hold."
Clutching the phone even tighter, I race up the hallway and stop at
an unmarked metal door. The Cage, as it's known throughout
the bank, is one of the few private offices on the floor and also
home to our entire money transfer system. Cash, checks,
wires—it all starts here.
Naturally, there's a punch-code lock above the doorknob. Lapidus's
code gets me in. Managing Director goes everywhere. Ten steps
behind me, Charlie enters the six-person office. The rectangular
room runs along the back wall of the fourth floor, but inside, it's
the same as the cubes: fluorescent lights, modular desks, gray
carpet. The only differences are the industrial-sized adding
machines that decorate everyone's desks. Accounting's version of
"Why do you always have to blow up like that?" Charlie asks as he
"Can we please not talk about it here?" "Just tell me why
"Because I work here!" I shout, spinning around. "And you work
here—and our personal lives should stay at home! Is that
okay?" In his hands, he's holding a pen and his small notepad. The
student of life. "And don't start writing this down," I warn. "I
don't need this in one of your songs."
Charlie stares at the floor, wondering if it's worth an argument.
"Whatever you want," he says, lowering the pad. He never fights
about his art.
"Thank you," I offer, heading deeper into the office. But just as I
approach Mary's desk, I hear scribbling behind me. "What're you
"I'm sorry," he laughs, jotting a few final words in his notepad.
"Okay, I'm done."
"What'd you write?" I demand. "Nothing, just a—" "What'd you
He holds up the notepad. "I don't need this in one of your
songs," he relays. "How good of an album title is that?"
Without responding, I once again look back at Mary's desk. "Can you
please just show me where she keeps her password?"
Strolling over to the neatest, most organized desk in the room, he
mockingly brushes off Mary's seat, slides into her chair, and
reaches for the three plastic picture frames that stand next to her
computer. There's a twelve-year-old boy holding a football, a
nine-year- old boy in a baseball uniform, and a six-year-old girl
posing with a soccer ball. Charlie goes straight for the one with
the football and turns it upside down. Under the base of the frame
is her user-name and password: marydamski-3BUG5E. Charlie shakes
his head, smiling. "Firstborn kid-always loved the most."
"How did you...?"
"She may be the queen of numbers, but she hates computers. One day
I came in, she asked me for a good hiding spot, and I told her to
try the photos."
Typical Charlie. Everyone's pal.
I turn on Mary's computer and glance at the clock on the wall: 3:37
P.M. Barely twenty-five minutes to go. Using her password, I go
straight to Funds Disbursement. There's Tanner's transfer
queued up on Mary's screen-waiting for final approval. I type in
the code for Tanner's bank, as well as the account number he gave
"Requested Amount?" It almost hurts to enter:
"That's a lot of sweet potatoes," Charlie says. I look up at the
clock on the wall: 3:45 P.M. Fifteen minutes to spare.
Behind me, Charlie's once again jotting something in his notepad.
That's his mantra: Grab the world; eat a dandelion. I move
the cursor to Send. Almost done.
"Can I ask you a question?" Charlie calls out. Before I can answer,
he adds, "How cool would it be if this whole thing was a scam?"
"The whole thing...the phone call, the yelling..." He laughs as he
plays it out in his head. "With all the chaos blowing, how do you
know that was the real Tanner Drew?" My body stiffens. "Excuse
"I mean, the guy has a family office—how do you even know
what his voice sounds like?"
I let go of the mouse and try to ignore the chill that licks the
hairs on the back of my neck. I turn around to face my brother.
He's stopped writing.
Excerpted from THE MILLIONAIRES © Copyright 2002 by Brad
Meltzer. Reprinted with permission from Warner Books. All rights