The massive bathroom mirror told the story: in a perfect world, she would be some cable network’s money-honey. The sweeping blond hair, the slightly exotic tilt of the periwinkle eyes, lips that held all manner of promises, these were just the beginning of her head-turning physical characteristics, ones that carried candidates to, and many times all the way through, the interview process.

Add in a top-of-her-class Masters from Wharton—a recent one, one achieved in eighteen months on her own dime, and ironically awarded to her on the fifteenth anniversary of her graduation from community college—and she was the ideal media darling.

But, Rasey Campbell told herself as she initiated a frantic search for just the right shade of lip-gloss, this isn’t a perfect world. First of all, television people didn’t even know she existed. She intentionally flew under their radar because she liked her life the way it was: coast-to-coast travel, the challenge of constantly forging new relationships, the daily battles of guiding clients through the investment jungle. To be tied down to a 9- to-noon time slot five days a week with some vacation time tossed at her like a bone simply did not appeal to her.

Besides, she liked living on the edge. She wasn’t willing to go to prison, however, and now, this morning for the first time, internal warning bells clanged like emergency klaxons.

“Damn it,” she muttered. She’d just botched her initial stroke with something called Caribbean Sunrise.

She laid the jumpy nerves directly at the feet of Tally’s plan despite his oath that everything was on the up-and-up. Hell, he’d even quoted the federal statute when he’d sensed her pulling back, emphasizing that while what they were doing might not be fair, it was certainly legal. Which was all well and good intellectually. But the fear persisted—laws were subject to interpretation, after all, and nobody, not even someone like Tally, was always right.

Taking a breath, she dropped her eyes from the mirror and gazed appreciatively at today’s footwear, a suede boot by Monolo Blahnik. The fourteen-inch shafted stunners with the seventy-millimeter heels had set her back more than a grand, so she’d paid close attention to this morning’s weather forecast. She’d been promised sunny, with no surprise squalls, and she hoped like hell the little redhead in the short skirt had been right. Of course even if the Blahniks somehow got ruined, it wasn’t as if she’d go barefoot: at last count her separate shoe closet held a little more than a thousand pairs, further evidence that she’d come a long way from the hand-me-down days of her youth when the only thing she ever got new would be a crummy pair of PF Flyers.

Yet even back then, somehow she’d known the journey to the top would be perilous, that she’d need to be ruthless, that a stomach lined with lead was a prerequisite. But that never intimidated her, never slowed her. In fact she’d placed a foot on the ladder’s first rung when she was just fifteen and never stopped climbing. Still, she had a long way yet to go.

She exhaled loudly. But this, this could be one bridge too far.

Rasey started over on the lips, calming her mind by focusing on the mechanics of Tally’s plan, not the consequences for an unlikely misstep or a rasher of bad luck.

She had, she thought, total deniability. If she needed it. Her public connection to Tally was unremarkable; playmates are playmates, most people didn’t much care. Besides, he’d insisted that their cell calls on this subject be by disposable phones, never more than one call per phone, the next number up exchanged through a simple code. And never, ever more than ninety seconds per call. As a result, her stash of burners was substantial, all purchased with cash as she moved around the country seeing her financial clients.

Post call destruction was a simple matter of removing the SIM card and flushing the remains after cutting it into several pieces, while a ball peen hammer was sufficient to pulverize the jacket before discarding the remains in a public trash receptacle. Rasey thought such lengths unnecessary considering the circumstances, but Tally liked the cloak and dagger stuff, so she played along, even suggesting they step things up with Cryptophones. He’d contended the Cryptophone algorithm technology wasn’t proven to his satisfaction so she’d dropped it, even though she disagreed. She also knew that whether it was burners or Cryptophones, there were always a few busy-bodies who’d look for a hard business connection between the two of them. She and Tally might live half a country apart, be pursuing career paths that had nothing in common, but that didn’t necessarily stop speculation. Speculation, however, was not evidence of wrongdoing.

So why was she stressing this morning?

Because, she concluded, the game was on, the unknown loomed. Danger? Maybe. Risk? Certainly. Fun? Most definitely. A real rush.

She reviewed her activities from late yesterday, primarily her short selling of shares of the trial target company about a minute after the story of its accounting malfeasance hit Drudge. She wouldn’t be alone in that, she knew—the stock’s plummet of nearly twenty points in less than an hour would, in all likelihood, have been precipitated by the shorties—but she almost certainly was one of the first. And being first was fine once in a while, but too often brought scrutiny that would poison your life.

Today she’d be back, this time as a buyer at probably under sixty-five dollars per of the very same shares that had plunged in value after she’d sold at an average of just over eight-eight. The difference in the price between what she sold the borrowed shares for yesterday and what she’d buy the replacement shares for today, about twenty-three dollars per, was her profit, one comfortably into seven figures.

Rasey was fully aware that this morning the company would announce that yesterday’s headlines were erroneous, that the accounting black eye was not deserved. The CEO would, of course, have documentation to support his assertion, the stock would rocket back to its cradle price, and an investigation into the prank would ensue but likely never land a punch. The entire episode would be chalked up to a glitch in the market; so sorry, if you didn’t panic-sell, no harm done.

She knew, however, that there were many, mostly small, out of the loop shareholders who believed the story when it hit and did sell, racing to get out before the positions they held turned into Enron or Global Crossing, share certificates today good for nothing except lining a birdcage. She didn’t like that kind of collateral damage, but it was inevitable. Both she and Tally agreed that investors who didn’t know the rules of the road should not be in the game, simple as that. Markets weren’t a charity, they weren’t an educational system. It was survival of the smartest, once in a while of the luckiest. Or in her case, the most opportunistic.

Truth was that she understood the insider trading rules, all of them, and it was her opinion that she should be in the clear. But it was always nice to have a Get Out of Jail Free card, something Tally assured her that she had, and her own research verified. Still, prisons were filled with people proclaiming their innocence…

At last the lip-gloss was perfect, its golden-red hue subdued but riveting. She snapped the container back together, shook out her hair, then ran the fingers of both hands along her temples. She fluffed.

She smiled contentedly at her reflection. Nice, very nice; the tangled look. Heads will turn this morning.

As a failsafe, she undid one more button to her white poplin top, the one by Bruno Cucinelli that she’d acquired last night as an early reward for today’s profit.

There, she concluded with more good humor than the day might deserve, I’m irresistible.

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