Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Hearing

The congressman had spoken his piece, and the eight somber men in their identical dark suits appeared increasingly withdrawn, their responses narrowing to monosemy. Or did they only need to go to the bathroom, victims of the hot lights and relentless questions? Probably not. Kanjorski had heard rumors that today's modern executives oft time would don protective undergarments before a grilling such as this. And God knows, these men could afford the very best.

He slowly ran his eyes across the line of thieving bankers. Number one was truly contrite, there could be no doubt about that. His shame had been so great that he had been moving his chair, a fraction of an inch at a time, until he was now out of the frame almost entirely.

Banker number two was on the verge of tears. In all probability, he would be sitting before an angry Corporate Board. Soon, perhaps tonight. There would be words of recrimination, and the conclusion would be short but not sweet. First to leave would be his mistress, swiftly followed by the wife, the kids, and the fortune. Number three would meet a similar fate, but it appeared as though the Zoloft would carry him to a softer landing.

It was the sullen gang of five that caused a pit to harden in the congressman's belly. Five angry bankers, their chairs pressed together in a threatening huddle, looking cocked and ready for a more violent form of confrontation than that of mere words. The promise of financial intimidation and ruin hung heavy in the air.

Ken 'Mr Big' Lewis, boss of Bank of America and quite obviously the ringleader here, peered at him over intertwined fingers, icy eyes focused on the clock at the back of the hearing room. He was not used to having his pies rejected, that much was clear. 'My ma baked it', he had said in a low threatening voice, prior to the first question. Did he even have a ma? Kanjorski prayed that at the end of the day, he would have an opportunity to research that assertion.

'Jamie' Dimon looked on with a dismissive stare, as did Vikram 'The Impaler' Pandit, who preferred to stay in the shadow of 'Crazy Lloyd' Blankfein, the feared enforcer of Goldman Sachs. There was no seat blocking him from rising to his left or from the front, and Kanjorski shivered as he suddenly realized that with the motion of a single finger from Mr Big, Lloyd could be upon him before the Sergeant at Arms was able to make it past the galley.

Kanjorski became acutely aware of the silence in the room. How long had it been since he last spoke? He did not know, but all eyes were upon him now, waiting for his conclusion. His thoughts raced. He could be harsh if he chose; his constituents were livid, and he was their elected representative. But hadn't there been enough angry words for one day? Weren't feelings and nerves already rubbed raw to a point where the moment might better be served by grace?

He stopped his pacing and stood directly before the hatchet-faced 'Johnny J' Mack, the vainglorious strongman of Morgan Stanley, forcing his voice into what he desperately hoped was a normal tone and modulation.

“When you took taxpayer money, you moved into a fishbowl,” Kanjorski started, reaching for the only metaphor that he still had at his command. "Now, everyone is rightly watching your every move from every side." He would leave it at that, less than a threat, more than a warning.

Mack did not look up, continuing to stare intently at his watermelon, counting the hundreds of small pencil punctures he had inflicted upon the fruit in the hours since the hearing first began.

Mr Big extended his pinky...

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