Killgrace In Depression

Mary had left, and to Susan’s great relief she had taken a couple of Killgrace’s less legitimate employees with her. It would be no surprise if this so-called broker was actually a bucket shop trying to bleed the family dry – on top of what they would get if they just closed the bet. After all, if the shares had never actually been purchased, they could not be sold to cover the position. Such people could be quite nasty, but then so could Killgrace.

With no more distractions, Susan had to force herself to stay away from the ticker. The information was out of date, and even if it was not she had no way to act on it. In her office, the wireless was grim listening. She sent an office boy out to get the rumours, and any extra editions, again. What he reported was no shock: most people were wondering where the bankers were, and why they had not intervened. Another show of support like Thursdays could surely slow the run. Susan knew the answer, and it made matters even worse. It was coming up to twelve o’clock, and she had no idea how bad the market was going to get.

Awful though it was, she still had one duty to do. At midday precisely she picked up the phone and dialled George’s office. He was still not there, so she left a message.

“Any share positions I still have open? Close any that remain tomorrow afternoon.” The broker should have no trouble buying shares on the market at that point. If everything went as planned, if the out-of-date stock ticker was right, she would have doubled her funds in less than a week – assuming of course, that her broker had not gone bankrupt.


Susan had hoped she was wrong, but it all happened as she had learned. By the end of the day the market was down thirteen percent, on top of its losses from Thursday. It was then she heard on the radio the announcement she both hoped for and dreaded. The bankers were not going to fight for the market. Unthinkably, they were going to allow prices to fall. Tomorrow would be worse.

~ End Entry ~

(Closing Index: 260.64)

Black Tuesday 29th October 1929

On Tuesday morning, the day that history knew as Black Tuesday, the papers were full of talking heads, a gaggle of King Canutes ignoring Thursday, viewing yesterday as an aberration, and trying to explain why the fall could not continue. Susan flicked briefly through the pages and put it aside, feeling sick. She already knew how the day would go. Despite the attempts of the rich to boost confidence, buying stocks left, right, and centre, the market would continue to fall.

She sat down in front of the wireless, and prayed. The ticker tape was behind almost from the moment it started to print. The day’s rumours stared coming in — the banks were selling stocks, there were suicides at Wall Street, — and she tried to filter them out and focus on business. Going down to the chaos outside Wall Street was pointless. All she could do would be to sit in the viewing gallery, until they inevitably closed it, and watch. She had placed her orders with the brokers, and now there was little more she could do. If anyone needed her she could be contacted more quickly here.

The crowds outside the stock exchange were not rioting, they were too stunned. The stop loss orders were not working, as the prices fell, and now there was no one to buy. As more and more shares flooded the market, the prices fell ever-faster in a vicious spiral triggering more of the stop-loss orders. At eleven o’clock she heard over the wireless that the visitors’ gallery had closed. She could sit here and watch the ticker, hope to get a call to George, but all she would do would be to distract him. It was out of her hands now.

With the bank at risk after yesterday, it would be – her phone rang, cutting off her train of thought, and she seized on the distraction.

“Miss Chapman, there’s a messenger for you at the front desk.”

“Thank you, I’ll be down immediately.” As Susan ran down the stairs, she nearly ran into Mary who was walking up. The other woman gave Susan a single dignified, painful, nod, and stepped round her, walking upstairs towards the typing pool. With no time to talk, Susan kept going for reception.

The messenger was waiting in reception. Taking the envelope, she ripped it open on the spot, skimming the contents. To her relief it was not a second bank run. As he waited for her reply, she tipped him, pulled her coat on, and headed downtown to the tea shop to meet Ferris.


“Mrs. Wells, first I must apologise. We were unable to borrow further shares to keep your Case position open. We had to close it yesterday,” Mr. Ferris said hoarsely. He looked as thought he had not slept in a week.

“Understood. What is the situation?”

“Well, we hope you will be happy with the outcome.” Ferris pushed a set of accounts across the table towards her. She looked down the columns, noticing the extra trades every few days and frowned.

Ferris had not been able to borrow the Case shares for long enough to keep her short open over the weeks. Instead they had been borrowing, closing the trade after a few days, taking the profit and fees, and re-opening the position reinvesting the profits they had just made. On margin, the gains had added up quickly.

Her initial ten thousand dollar stake had been reinvested repeatedly. The share price had not fallen two hundred points once, because of small rises between trades it had fallen by more than fifteen points, twenty times. With the effect of compounding, and the margin making each extra dollar worth ten…Susan looked at the final figure and felt light-headed. She was suddenly a very rich woman in her own right, which was definitely not part of her plans.

If, if nothing went wrong, she had enough here to support the company from personal funds for almost a year. Her private emergency fund had never been meant for this, but the figures were uncontestable. If nothing else went wrong. It was a big if.


Susan got back to the factory as quickly as she could and headed up to the ticker, stopping to get a glass of water on the way. The door was open, and she could see people clustered round it in the opening. They were silent, and yet from inside she could hear a hoarse voice speaking. She tapped one of the girls on the shoulder and the girl looked round and shuffled to one side. Inside there was a crowd, people from all parts of the factory pressed inside. One of the typing pool girls was bent over the ticker tape, reading it off in a continuous monotone. Every now and again, one of the crowd would react. The girl’s voice sounded cracked and hoarse.

Susan put her untouched glass down, and pushed it across to the girl, taking up the tape in her free hand and began reading where the girl had left off. The typist gratefully downed several sips of water. It took the girl a few minutes to recover, and then she held up a hand for the tape again.

“It’s over an hour behind,” Susan said quietly as she passed the ticker tape back. The girl nodded and started relaying the prices again. Susan left them to it, walking back to her office. She had forgotten that some of her filing clerks might be able to read ticker tape, but with Wall Street and the brokerages such large employers it should not have been a surprise.

She left quietly, with no desire to follow the ticker. Either George had managed to close their sales, or at their leverage, they would be bankrupt midway through tomorrow.


Cet monitored the share prices from the basement, through the wires. Another position had been closed when the share price of the fund dropped to a dollar instead of the twenty it had been acquired at. The broker had been drawing out the process of closing positions in an attempt not to inflate the prices, but it was unnecessary. On assessment, the fund values had already collapsed. The underlying securities were largely worthless.

It took a moment to re-assess its current position, and was satisfied that progress towards objectives had been made. The overall objective underway was planetary conquest, but the constrictions of the timeline, its treaty with Susan, and the physics of the world limited its options. Nonetheless it was inevitable that, by one method or another, control of this planet would be required. It had therefore identified an alternative method. What it could not conquer directly, it would buy.

The currently selected approach provided the advantage that the humanoid scientist was assisting without the necessity of duress. Indications showed that this would reach the desired end within two centuries, with the acquisition of troop servitors, resources and total domination of the planet. Events were suitably on course. A crude but necessary first step to acquisition and control. It could be patient.


Susan tried the brokerage again at five-thirty. George was not answering, and the brokers’ office was taking messages only. Susan hoped he was at home, recovering, but she suspected he was still at work, and would be for some time. She remembered the stories, brokers collapsing from exhaustion only to be revived and put to work again, frantically trying to keep up with the trades when everything had to be recorded on paper. She knew she was hardly the only person in New York who could not contact their broker today.

The ticker in the office was still quietly churning its tape out, in spirals and coils on the floor. There were a small group of workers still there, clustered around it even though the office shut half an hour ago, people who did not want to wait until the newspapers tomorrow to know how their lives had changed. Somehow she could not bring herself to turn the machine off and send them home.

It was not in her to watch with them. Every downward movement of the ticker that she needed, they dreaded. It was too cruel an irony, that the same thing that was destroying their savings was saving their jobs. Instead she unlocked the breakroom, quietly passing the key to a factory foreman she recognised, and walked down to the lounge in the basement. She collapsed into the sofa, staring at the fireplace blankly. It took her a moment to get going, to rise mechanically to her feet, pour herself a sherry from the stash she kept in the cupboard and then for the first time this year, light the fire.

She still felt cold.


At six o’clock, there was a light knock at the door. Expecting one of the workers Susan opened it, and stepped back to allow Porter entrance. The bank manager was still wearing his outdoor coat and hat.

“The girl on reception sent me down.”

“That’s fine.” Susan looked him up and down. “Is there a problem at the bank?”

“There’s a problem in the city. It’s six o’clock. The ticker’s still going.” Porter said. He looked exhausted. She nodded, pouring him a drink. Illegal or not, he needed one.

“It will go on for a while yet.”

“You have a well-stocked alcohol cabinet.” He took the glass gratefully, and she refilled her own.

“I need it for dealing with him.” Porter sat down and there was a silence as they watched the fire.

“What do we do tomorrow?” he asked at last.

“We wait. We ride it out. And on July 8th 1932, we buy everything.” She swirled the sherry in the glass. The plans had been so easy to develop, and yet now the right time was here and everything was working out she felt empty. They would come out of this with a foundation to get all the resources they would need, but the cost… “You know, sometimes learning something and living it aren’t the same thing.”

“It’s 1907 all over again,” he said, but the whisky was taking effect and the colour had come back to his face. “You think it’s going to get worse?”

“Yeah. You could make some quick funds with buying and selling tomorrow. Just don’t get left with stocks at the end of the day.”

“The dead cat bounce huh? So what are you going to do next?” He held up an empty glass and she took it, walking back to the cabinet.

“Me, nothing.” She poured him a new drink, then knocked her sherry back at a gulp and poured herself another before she sat down. “I made a mistake.”

“What? Is it anything I can help with?” he asked. She could see the thoughts on his face, that she was bankrupt, that the company was going down, and for some reason it was suddenly all very funny.

“Not really. I got a bit carried away. I begged, stole, and borrowed options from every broker I could and went short on 3rd September. I think I had a few thousand dollars worth open.” $10,256 on the first day, in fact. “I made a few trades along the way, but I sold the remainder all back yesterday.”

“You went short in September…” The light dawned in his eyes. So did dollar signs.

“That’s right. I am now worth one million dollars in 1920’s money. One. Million. Dollars. And there’s not a single thing on this planet that I want to buy. And I’m meant to be the responsible one.” Susan was not drunk, she was almost hysterical and she still was not sure about how she felt about what she had done.

“Silly isn’t it?” she giggled, and pressed a hand against her mouth to stifle it in embarrassment. “I’ve had the fate of entire species resting on my choices, I’ve held lives in my hands, I work with the thing in the basement daily, and all it takes is some made up currency jiggerypokery on a backwater world, and I’m giggling like a school girl.”

“Well, I would have to suggest you make a deposit with our bank,” Porter said, chuckling and obviously brushing off most of what she said, in favour of the ‘one million’ comment. Her laughter was contagious, even if it had an edge to it.

“Does that mean I’m worth enough to be eccentric, not odd?”

“One million bucks buys a lot of ‘eccentric’.”

“Why, Mr. Porter, I’d say you only like me for my wallet.”

“I like your boss more for his.”

“I’ll tell him you said that. He’ll be…totally uninterested as usual.”

“He’s a bit of an odd fish, isn’t he?” Porter said, and Susan choked on her drink, wondering if it was her third or fourth sherry that evening.

“Trust me, you have no idea.”

`”So how’d you get this job then?” Porter said, sitting next to her as an arm snaked across the sofa. She stood gracefully, instantly sober, realising her mistake a moment too late. Male-female relations were very different in the 1920’s to when she had grown up. She had forgotten he may assume the wrong things from a drink in a private lounge after hours. Now she needed to defuse this without losing an ally. “You engaged to him?”

“He’s my brother,” she said, noting with disappointment that the prospect of alienating his best client was not putting Porter off. It might have been the mention of her stock market gains.

“No special someone?”

“My husband died.” She reached up in a familiar almost unconscious gesture to the chain round her neck.

“The war?” She nodded. It had been the results of a war, at least. Seizing the chance, she cast her eyes downwards. “I’m sorry, Mr. Porter, those are painful memories. I should get on. I’ll call Henry to take you home.”

She opened the door and called for the driver, as Porter picked up his coat, obviously disappointed.

“Give my regards to your wife, Mr. Porter.” As he left, she turned, clicking the wireless on. The news was bleak as the ticker continued to churn out its steady slide.

~ End Entry ~

(Closing Index: 203.07)

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