Last chapter ended with Gris being reminded (again) that there is an unseen assassin lurking nearby, waiting to strike at the first sign of failure. So of course this chapter opens with "It was Tuesday at 4:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. Heller had had his usual day..." After losing some sleep to the death threat, Gris is back on the couch watching TV, with no further indication that he's concerned about the threat of an "auto accident."
Come to think of it, didn't last book end with Heller despairing at the wicked creatures he was trying to save, men convinced they were soulless monsters? And one chapter later he's chilling with his buddy Bang-Bang, and hey, gold mines! Let's do that! And send flowers to the lady nearly raped by said soulless monsters.
It's enough to make me double-check that I got the right book, but yeah, this is volume three. It's weird - even though this was all written as one dreary narrative, and the interruptions between books were only put in by the editors, it still feels like I've missed something.
Heller's on the steps of the High Library (of campus) when Izzy Epstein the neurotic sorta-anarchist economist arrives. Heller bids him sit down, but Izzy refuses, arguing it's only appropriate that he stand in the presence of his "superior."
Didn't even finish the chapter's first page before I wanted to put the book down.
Would you believe that most of this chapter is a tour of an office complex? Izzy explains that he's gotten some things done, and after signing Bang-Bang up as an employee of the New York Amazing Investment Company... wait, wasn't he supposed to be a cabbie? Whatever, they all get on the subway and go to Times Square, because Izzy's set up offices for Heller's matrix of corporations on half a floor of the Empire State Building.
The interior is all tasteful marble, with the word "palatial" being thrown around about once a page and black onyx making a triumphant return. Architecture all circa 1930, of course, because that's the decade Hubbard's mind retreated to before departing the material plane. Workers are setting up bronze signs for Incredible Opportunities Inc, Fantastic Mergers Inc, The Beautiful Tahiti Gilt-Edged Beaches Wonder Corporation, and all the other mask companies protecting Heller from enemies who have consistently failed to pose any sort of threat to him. Izzy explains that everything's legal, he has the signatures of the company presidents, there's no interlocking between the dummy businesses, etc.
The mighty office of Multinational, the heart of this bit of economic sorcery, is decorated in stark steel, with a map of the world made from all its countries' currencies. Heller, of course, gets his own office complete with a private restroom and secretary's "boudoir" and a panoramic view of Manhattan and a picture of a Boeing on the door because his nickname's Jet geddit. And it's really hard to be interested in any of this, because Hubbard went on and on about how wonderful Tug One's accommodations were, but the damned spaceship has been sitting in Turkey unused for hundreds and hundreds of pages now.
The tour wraps up with a walkthrough of the communications center full of modern (as of thirty years ago) equipment allowing people with money to take advantage of exchange rates to make more money by moving numbers around in a system in which participants agree that said digits are worth millions of dollars. It's all good to go, it just needs an initial investment from Heller.
So they go back to the Gracious Palms and Heller robs his own safe, and a Brinks armored truck takes it away with nary a receipt to be seen. Gris hopes that Izzy is conning Heller, but starts to worry when he hears how confident the Fleet agent is about the situation. Vantagio lets drop that this is a Saturday, so the Civic Betterment League is having its weekly meeting where that Narcotici fink will divvy up the bribes between the mayor and police chiefs and everything. Heller's interested in going, but is reminded that anyone under eighteen can't drive the streets of New York City.
In conclusion... there are tastefully-decorated offices in a building somewhere, and the already-wealthy main character is set to become even more so.
I'll admit, I panicked a bit and read ahead. And the good news is that Raht and Terb will turn up the next chapter. The bad news is that Utanc will arrive the chapter after that.
This is going to hurt.
Back to Chapter One