Killgrace In Depression

Outside her office window, Susan could see people leaving Williams. The arrival of mounted police had quelled the crowd, and now most of them just looked shell-shocked. She wanted to help but she knew too well that the first rule of rescuing others was to never endanger yourself. A reserve fund meant to support three hundred workers could not sustain another fifteen hundred as well.

“You can’t save everyone,” she said to herself, and Henry coughed. Susan jumped, looking round as he dropped the last of Sarah’s folders on the new desk by the door.

“I thought you were a driver, not a porter,” she said, reflecting that she would need to re-arrange the office. Susan needed her privacy.

“You think I should’ve let Sarah carry it all up those stairs on her own?”

“Where is Sarah?” Susan asked.

“Carving out room to move her desk in the admin room next door.” Henry grinned. “She didn’t think you were the type to share your office, and she likes company.” Susan listened for a moment. From the office next door there were the sounds of someone industriously shuffling furniture into place, to the directions of the admin staff. It seemed as though Sarah was definitely going to work out.

“Henry, that reminds me, I don’t have a direct contact for Jeannie. Could you ask her to come in next week? And if she can scout out a few boarding houses–” she paused, smiling. Henry’s grin was broad and infectious. “–that may be available and bring details.”

“Then it’s over?”

“The crash is. The consequences aren’t.” She shivered for a moment, feeling the world changing around her. The Roaring Twenties were ending, and the world was beginning its slow slide into darkness.

“And the company’s safe?”

“This one is. Touch wood.” She laid a hand on her desk, as there was a knock at the door. Her new secretary looked in.

“Miss Chapman, Mr. Porter and his senior clerk are waiting in the lobby.”

“Thank you, Sarah, I’ll be right there.” Susan stood up, reminding herself that even if the foundations were shifting, life still went on. And her life was definitely going to be easier with a secretary.

“Miss Chapman?” Henry said as she picked up her papers. “A lot of the workers won’t trust the bank.”

“That, I can’t help. I can only make sure they have the option.” She smiled, a little distantly, and walked down to reception to show Mr. Porter his new bank branch.


To Susan’s private relief, the meeting-room-come-bank-branch was ready. The door had been re-painted black so the new sign stood out: the Porter and Mason logo. The sign had been painted using a sheet of the bank’s headed notepaper as a guide, and it was close enough. Inside the workers had been busy, crafting steel reinforcement for the door, knocking in access to the mail chute, and making sure the vacuum tube system worked. The ticker, on its new stand and enclosure, stood still and silent.

Porter made the right approving noises, and the two clerks with him set to work organising things under his watchful eye. After all the account closures last week, it seemed the bank manager had sensibly decided money was money and customers were customers. His new branch manager, a dour fellow with a French accent, appeared to share the same view. Quickly realising she was only in the way, Susan retreated to her office, leaving them with a couple of the porters to give them a hand. She was sure they could arrange the branch to their liking.

The only thing she really wanted right now were her final figures. George had been right. The stock market was indeed closed, because of staff exhaustion, and was due to reopen on Monday. It had taken so much of her time over the last few weeks that she did not know what to do with herself. Williams was no longer a threat. The bank was comparatively secure and the new branch was being set up. There were no business meetings to go to at the moment, though those would not resume until the following week as the world picked itself up. The factory was still at work, and ran without her interference, and the thing in the basement was not something she really wanted to try to simply chat to. She had even sorted out a secretary, Sarah – the same Sarah who was now standing in the doorway holding a parcel. Susan knew the handwriting at a glance.

“Miss Chapman, this just arrived at the front desk?” Sarah said quizzically, and Susan fought down the urge to snatch it from her, to scream, or just to hide.

“Thank you, Sarah. I’ve been expecting that,” she said with poised calm, taking the parcel. “I’ll need to handle it in private.” With complete control of herself she shut herself in the office, grateful for the privacy. Depending on what the news was, she did not trust her self-control and her reaction may be better kept to herself.

She set the parcel down on her desk, surprised by the weight. George had said ‘huge profit’, so she knew she had not made a loss, but that did not mean ‘huge’ was enough to sustain the company. Just in case, she sat down and pulled her chair in.

It was with some trepidation that she opened the parcel, forcing her hands not to shake as brown paper crinkled under her fingers. The final figures were on top of a huge pile of papers, duplicates of transactions and order sheets that she would need to go through and reconcile. To her dismay she recognised the papers at the bottom as stock certificates. Something had gone wrong.

Heart in mouth, she skipped the totals sheet, looking first of all for the explanation of the share certificates. It came on an attached page at the end: George had miscalculated and over-bought a couple of hundred shares in radio. Killgrace might still have shares to its name, but Susan could not complain. At the price George had purchased at, the shares could drop another fifty percent and she would still have made a profit.

Susan closed her eyes, fingers rustling the paper edges as she found the side of the page before, the last page of the true accounts. She had lost track somewhere on Thursday, when she knew they should have made around five million. All they needed was enough to tide them through and repurchase the factory. Her quick, involuntary glance out of the window at Williams did not help her nerves. She told herself to get on with it, and flipped the sheet.

She looked blankly at the closing figure. All she could think was that she had misjudged Friday and Saturday very badly.

She looked at the figures again. They had not changed. She did not know whether to laugh or cry, or what she should feel aside from the utter emptiness. Finally, instead of feeling anything, she shut the parcel in her drawer and locked her desk, keeping the top sheet aside. As she opened the door, Sarah stepped inside. She asked her something that Susan did not quite hear. Susan nodded vaguely and stepped round her new secretary on her way to the basement, oblivious to the look the girl was giving her. Almost unaware of her movements, she let herself into the laboratory and stood by the door.

“Cet. I have the final figures.” The creature did not react, at all. She wondered why she had thought it might. Finally in the silence, a sensor light moved to focus on her.


“We have two hundred and eight shares remaining in various radio companies, purchased at fifty percent discount, which I will sell back in April.” She paused, drained, and looked at the paper again, half-believing it must have changed. “Our final reserves are thirty-five point one nine million dollars.”

And now, now she could finally forget the facts and figures, clear her head of everything she had been thinking of for the last four weeks and start planning for the future. Well, not everything. The company pool was now worth seventeen dollars and ninety cents for every dollar they had invested. That should keep the workers happy, and turn a few heads in the direction of their new bank branch. It was finally all over. Now all she needed to worry about was getting investigated for insider trading.

“You are also capable of offworld trips.” Oh yes, and that, she thought to herself.

“Yes.” Susan put the paper down on the side and walked over to the capsule. She owed the alien for agreeing to the delay, but there was no way to say ‘Thank you’, since even the words would be taken as subordination. “Let’s go.”

~ End Entry ~

(Market Closed)

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