New York, October 1951
This city in autumn is a special place. The air is different. The scorching heat is gone and neither has gloomy winter cast its dark shadow. The wind blowing around the aerodynamically unique flat iron building lifts up the skirts of young women to work, much to the delight of local construction workers.
The women in those days were just starting out as working women. The number was more than ever. Telephone operators, typists, secretaries, receptionists, there were all kinds of working women. And their most high profile employers were the bankers. All the doom and gloom of the second great war was over and although the Russians were looking threatening, Wall street was booming.
One of the most prominent fish in the sea of riches was The Bank of York. It was a bank founded in 1912 by a young British duke, Henry Ford who came to the US to establish an empire of his own with a new way to reclaim the once colony of his forefathers. However, he fell into the shadows of crime that gripped the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific during post world war era. He was shot in 1951 for refusing to launder illegal money from drugs smugglers while in a business trip to Cuba. His son, Jack was in England at the time studying business at the hallowed halls of Cambridge. As soon as he heard the news he flew to America. The bank was his. He was the sole heir to a hugely successful bank and he was thrown into the responsibility. The transition from the stag parties to the biggest money market in the world was never going to be a seamless one.
While Henry was the sophisticated, stern duke who knew how to rule with an iron fist, Jack was a weak administrator, frequently cheated by both his clients and shareholders. The bank was losing out its territory. In just a year the shares plummeted, big investors left, and the big fish of the pond looked doomed. A frustrated and clueless Jack started to frequent the bars and brothels all over the country. His promiscuous behavior made the investors testier.
There was one tiny ray of hope though, his name was Chad Bingham. Bingham was an accountant in the Royal Bank of Scotland as a young man when Henry saw his potential and offered him the job of his business advisor and took him to his excursion across the Atlantic. He quickly became Henry’s most trusted employee with his business sense and his decorum. After all it was a time when vanity was considered an important trait, more so in the financial world. Chad was an old man however, and once Jack took over he didn’t see him fit for the vice-president job that he held during Henry’s time. Instead he was made a board member with little responsibility. Jack belonged to a new generation who believed everything was driven by money and yet it was ultimately money he was losing every hour the share market was open. All the shareholders, barring Jack of course made a unanimous decision to make Chad the vice-president again in a desperate attempt to restore the bank to its former glory. Chad, however, was unwilling to dishonor the old master’s son and presented a proposal of appointing a fresh new face for the vice-president job. A man whom he believed could be the answer to all the woes of the falling bank. As the sleek suited board members looked puzzled at the old man’s face, he called another suited man, a much younger one than the board members in that room, barring Jack again. He introduced himself as John Stones. They had heard that name before.
‘You are the guy that revived that dead bank in California’, one man exclaimed.
‘Yes sir, you are correct, I am that guy’ he said in a thick southern accent.
John Stones as a young 24 years old one day walked into the California Bank headquarters and asked them if it was true that they were looking for a CEO, and as the story goes, they were so impressed by him in the next few minutes that they gave him the job, and in four years he gave them their bank back, restored to its former glory. And the story goes further that he, like all good guys in the financial world, was spewed after they had taken what he could give. Chad Bingham, the visionary that he was, turned out to have kept a close eye on the progress of John. When the right time came and the board trusted him with the responsibility he thought it was a good time to try him out in New York.
John was reluctant at first. ‘Never trust the Yankees’ his father drummed it into his mind as he was growing up. ’But these guys were British’ he thought. He was jobless after the California debacle, where he almost killed an 80 years old after he was told he was fired. He knew about The Bank of York, everyone who was in the money market or aspired to be knew about them. So, he also knew that he held the cards as the bank was desperate enough to call a jobless amateur sipping whiskey in the middle of the day sitting at his home alone. He, therefore asked for a top price and once it was agreed with the old man on the telephone he flew to the city of New York.
The board agreed upon the judgement of the old guard. Jack Ford was stripped off his executive powers and John Stones was given the torch.
John had a way of doing things. He would hand out pink slips like flyers outside a strip club. Any thing or any one he didn’t like or approved of had to go. ‘No point in hanging on to the old if you want the new’ he thought. After 3 months of meetings, business trips, and endless list of fired employees, John wanted a break. While the bank looked to start on an upward trajectory again, he knew the job had just started. The bank of York was in ruins. Jack’s poor decision making had left every sector of the bank in disarray. With a lot in his mind, John went to LA.
Los Angeles, the city of Angels, the place where John’s father, Freddy made a fortune and lost a fortune. He was a rancher in Texas before he went to Los Angeles. There he made some friends in the LA mafia. The crime families of the East coast had made their way into the wild west. Freddy Stones knew what kind of life he was heading towards. There was crime, bloodshed and money. Freddy never cared for the first two. Jack Dragna, the bootlegger during the prohibition era became his friend and business partner. Freddy became rich overnight. After John was born, he tried to escape the world of crime. He couldn’t. While he never batted his eye while killing others in front of their kids, Freddy was sobbing like a little girl in front of a nine years old John when he was shot on his forehead. The blood spattered all over little John’s face.
He licked his lips. His mouth had gone dry. “Miss!”, he called out.
“Yes sir”, the flight attendant said with a smile.
“Can I get some water”
John went to the hotel room his assistant had booked for him. He had sold off his home before moving to New York. ‘No point in hanging on to the old if you want the new.’
In the evening he went to his favorite bar downtown. He had a couple of drinks and was thinking about going back to his hotel. He thought about striking up a conversation with a girl he thought was pretty. The California Bank debacle had changed him. Before, he would have approached the girl. Now he was more focused in the job at hand. For the Bank of York, John Stones was on a holiday. For John Stones, this was the most important night of his life.
Two days before John’s trip to LA, he had a confrontation with Jack Ford. He wanted him to cut off his promiscuous behavior as it was damaging the reputation of the bank. Jack took a sip of his whiskey and smashed the glass on the ground.
“You are my employee. This bank belongs to me. Don’t you ever tell me what’s good or what’s bad for the bank”, Jack said pointing his finger at John.
“You do not own this bank. This bank is an institution that your father built and you are ruining it. If you want to remain as the president of the bank, learn to act as one. Have some respect for you dead father for God’s sake.
At least remember what we talked about. This is the moment you reclaim your bank, Jack and restore your family pride.”
Jack clenched his fist. He was drunk but he wasn’t that drunk to let anger take over his judgement. He knew what he had to do in order to get his bank back.
He nodded and left.
“Is he alone?”, the man on the telephone asked.
“Yes. He will be in his hotel room. You know the address. And you know what to do. Don’t dissapoint me.”, the voice from the other end said.
“Have I ever? You know what happened last time.”
“Yes yes. I know you did a good job last time. Don’t get too cocky though. He is younger, so make sure he is dead.”
The line went dead.
Jack never had a good relationship with his father. His mother died in an accident when he was eight and his father took him to England to his grand parents. He knew then that he wouldn’t see his father too often. He knew that all he’s going to get from him is his riches after he dies. In the cold lifeless house of Edinburgh, Jack lived with his grand parents. The spoilt kid from New York was too much for the old duke and duchess to handle and they sent him to London when he was only ten. He would get all the money he needed and air tickets to New York in Christmas. He never missed a single flight till he was sixteen. After that, the first time he saw his father was in 1951. It was also the last time anyone saw Henry Ford. He was in a coffin.
After coming back to New York, Jack didn’t use the penthouse apartment his father had left him. He didn’t use the upstate mansion. Jack liked living in small rooms and eating in restaurants. He had lived like that since he was 10. Jack lived in a hotel room, alone.
John Stones in the second month of his tenure as the VP, found a series of missing links in the accounts of the bank. There were payments made to countless accounts in the last two years but one stood out. One was made from the bank’s internal account. It belonged to someone at the bank. At first he thought nothing of it since there were several payments made from such accounts, different accounts of different employees. But once he checked the amount of payment, he thought of it as highly irregular. It was paid to an account in Cuba and it was 20 millions. ‘It couldn’t have been a regular payment from anyone at the bank’, he thought. He then ordered his assistant to check if any other payments were made from the bank to that account. It took her three days but she found one. It was made 22 years ago. And it was made from the same internal account. It belonged to Henry Ford.
John went home that night and called his friend Jackie at California Bank. Jackie was a fierce young woman who had success at her feet due to her charm and her incredible intellect. She was hired by John during his time at the California Bank as his assistant. Her brilliant mind and her charisma left everyone in awe as she helped John regain the bank’s status. After John was sent packing, Jackie was reluctant to stay there but letting a beautiful young executive go was never a thing for the old board members. They gave her more money and more power at the bank to persuade her to stay.
He asked her if she knew anything about the mysterious bank account in Cuba. She immediately chuckled, “Hahaha, you found something irregular at the Yankee bank? I’m surprised you didn’t know about this account. Payments have been made to this account from every bank in the US.”
“Tell me Jackie, I wanna know who’s behind this. The payment has been made from a very unusual source.”
“They’re always unusual my friend. There are payments that date back upto 25 years. And from our bank too John.”
“It’s not my bank anymore Jackie. Just tell me who is behind this account.”
Then Jackie went on to say the some known and some rumors about the mysterious account holder.
John knew who he was. He had heard of the man since he was a kid. He was the man who had killed his father in front of his eyes.
The next day, John called Chad Bingham to his office. He told what he had found out about the bank. Chad said that he will put together a task force to investigate into this matter.
“Mr. Ford would never have any contact whatsoever with such criminal activity. Someone else must be using the account.”
“Who else has access to Mr. Ford’s account?”
“Nobody except our account security expert and after his death, Jack.”
‘Jack? The guy is a drunk slob but he can’t be a criminal’ John thought.
John Stones took the next day off work to think clearly about this issue.
He was in his room gazing at the ceiling thinking why would someone at the biggest bank in New York be supplying money to a hitman.
He jumped off his bed suddenly as if something had jolted him up.
His phone rang. It was his assistant.
“Sir, you told me to put a tab on that account. A $50 million sum has just been transferred to the Cuban account. You wouldn’t believe who accessed the account right now.”
Bill was a contract killer. He was a hitman who worked freelance, not because he wasn’t good enough to work for a mafia family. In fact, he was one of the best in the business. He never associated himself to any group because he believed that he should be able to kill for whoever paid him to do so. He had worked with the most notorious crime families in the country as well as some of the top corporate kingpins. No one knew his real name. Everyone called him ‘Bill’, or ‘The Bill’ since he sent a bill for payment after every job. People believed he was in the US army during the war. People thought he was in his forties. No one knew if it was true. There were only stories about him.
He took great care of his M1911 pistol. It was his weapon of choice. May be that’s why the rumor about the army started. The M1911 pistol was one of the best pistols used in the World War-II by the US army. Unlike most common pistols, the M1911 contained 7 rounds of bullets instead of 6. That feature provided a great advantage during combat. While the ‘job’ ,as Bill called them, thought you are out of rounds and relaxes, he struck his one lethal last round, almost always on the head.
Tonight Bill had a new ‘job’, a young banker staying alone in his hotel room. He knew who was behind this job. He knew that he too was a banker, at the same bank.
He cleaned his beloved pistol and opened the envelop. The address of the hotel and the room number was printed on a piece of paper. The name of the ‘job’ was not written. A picture of a young man in a suit was there though. He felt no sympathy towards the man. Instead he looked at the wide forehead and smiled. Like he was measuring his target.
He combed his silver grey hair and put on a suit of the same color. Bill was now ready, dressed impeccably and completely focussed at what he needed to do. He was already in the city and was ready for the kill. All he needed to do was to go to the hotel and kill the man. He had done it numerous times. It had been years since he started killing people for money. It was business as usual for Bill. He got on a cab and went to the hotel. His ‘job’ for tonight was in the fifth floor. He went to the lobby and smiled at the lovely receptionist. She smiled back.
“Good evening sir”
“Good evening. I’m here to meet my business associate. I already have the keys.”
“Very well sir, have a pleasant evening.”
“Thank you”, he said with a smile. ‘Like clockwork’ he thought.
He took the elevator and stepped out into the narrow hall on the fifth floor. He gazed through the window at the end of the hall and admired the city lights. He remembered his first job. It was here in the same city that he killed a mafia runaway.
‘Blew his brains out’, he thought, ‘ maybe that’s why I still love to do that. No sight like the sight of a hole in a man’s forehead.’ He let out some muffled laughter.
He approached the door of room 504 and inserted the key. Slowly turning the knob, he pushed open the door. No one. He checked the bathroom. No one. Letting out a frustrated groan, he picked up the telephone receiver and dialled the number of his client.
“He’s not here.”
“What do you mean he’s not there? I just called him a few minutes ago and talked to him. Did you check the bathroom?”
“You think I am that stupid? I have been doing this for a very long time my friend. I know when a man’s in the room and when he’s not.”
“Like now?”, a voice spoke from behind.
Bill turned his head and immediately recognized the man holding a gun at his face.
“I didn’t know it was you”, he said, “so you set this all up to kill me?”
“You killed my father.”
“Nice plan young man, you outsmarted me this time. But can you outmuscle me? You’re just a little banker. I am the killer son, let me do the killing”, he said with a steely smile.
“There’s no need to outmuscle anyone”, he said as he pulled the trigger.
Bill fell on the ground groaning loudly. The bullet had passed through his neck.
“I should have killed you when you were a boy, you son of a bitch”, Bill struggled to breathe as he spoke his last words.
Fate had played a twisted hand to put these two men in the same room again. The last time, Bill was the one who stood looking at the blood drenched face of a young boy.
John Stones had his revenge.
John picked up the receiver. The man at the other end was breathing heavily.
“You are next”, he said.
Jack Ford knew what he had to do. He looked at the mirror. He knew he was not the man with great conviction, especially with a gun in his hand. He had just received a disturbing call from Los Angeles.
He took a sip of whiskey and left his hotel room. He took his car and drove to a beautiful building that housed many rich and famous people in New York. Chad Bingham lived in the fourth floor of the building. He called Chad from the newly installed intercom. Chad, unsure what to expect from the unusual visit from Jack at this time of the night, asked what he was doing here.
“I need to talk to you Chad. You are the only person my dad trusted. I need to talk to you about something”, Jack said in an assertive manner.
‘Oh, what now you miserable idiot?’ Chad thought. He let Jack in.
Jack took out his small flask of whiskey and took a sip before entering the apartment.
“What did you want to talk about Jack? It’s not such a good time right now. I have a lot in my mind.”
“How was my dad? I never knew him properly.”
“What? You came all the way here to ask me that?”
Jack smiled, “No uncle Chad.”
“Your dad was a great man. It’s a shame that you never appreciated him when he was alive. He really loved you Jack.”
“Yeah”, sighs, “but he was always busy and always with you on business trips and monetary deals. He never had the time for me.”
“He did that so that you could have a future. He did all that for you Jack.”
Jack let a tear roll off his eyes.
“My dad really loved everyone around him, didn’t he?”
Jack stood up and let some more tear roll off his eyes.
“What’s the matter Jack? Why are you asking me all these questions?”
“I’ll ask you one final question Chad. Why did you kill him?”
Chad got up.
“What? You are accusing me of killing your father? I was his most trusted man Jack. He was like a big brother to me.”
“That’s why nobody suspected it was you. Everyone thought the drug cartels killed him. While you plotted against him, you snake.”
“I’ve had enough of this Jack. You are clearly drunk. Go home or I’ll call the police.”
Jack took his left hand out of his pocket with a snub revolver. His hands were clearly shaking.
“What are you doing Jack? Put that gun away”, Chad’s face turned red.
“The Bill. Do you remember him Chad? My mother, remember her? It was never an accident Chad. You hired a hitman to kill both my parents. And now that your treachery was about to be revealed, you tried to do the same to John? Rot in hell Chad”, Jack fired.
“I’m sorry Jack. I got too greedy. I wanted the control of the bank and for that I tried to kill your father. Instead your mother died. It was never my intention to kill her. After that, I had lost my will to kill him again but after he refused to launder a huge sum of drug money, I thought I could take that opportunity. I did but you came and took the bank on a downward spiral. I thought I was too old to try something like that again. So I didn’t try to kill you. Spare me son.”
“Don’t call me son. I’m not your son, Chad. You are my parent’s murderer.”
Jack fired again. This time it hit Chad on the thigh.
Rolling around, Chad tried to get away. Jack took another shot. This time it hit the back of his head. Chad died that instant.
Jack Ford had his revenge. Fate had something to do there as well.
The bullet missed Chad by a foot.
Jack Ford had his revenge. Fate had something to do there as well.