In the seven years since his son, Kyle, disappeared off the streets of Manhattan, Mark Wallace has been slowly rebuilding his career as an energy market analyst and struggling to keep his family intact. But things are about to take a dangerous turn. After a terrorist attack on a Russian oil pipeline, a colleague slips Mark classified information about Saudi oil fields, then suddenly turns up dead. With his family still reeling from Kyle’s disappearance, Mark takes it upon himself to learn how these seemingly disparate pieces all fit together. In a remarkable high-wire balancing act, Lee Vance has combined the intrigue of finance, the cutthroat world of energy politics, and the emotional pull of a family in crisis into a powerful, gripping thriller.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.40(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Lee Vance is a graduate of Harvard Business School and a retired general partner of Goldman Sachs Group. He lives in New York City with his wife and three children.
Read an Excerpt
I woke early and listened to Claire breathe. She had her back to me, but she didn’t sound like she was sleeping, so I rolled onto my side and used one hand to gently massage her neck and shoulders. Some mornings she ignored me, some mornings we made love, and some mornings she wept. After a few minutes of no response, I got up and got ready for work.
The kitchen was dark and cold. I flipped on the under-counter lights, opened the valve on the softly clanking radiator, and then set out the usual weekday breakfast for Claire and Kate—fruit, cereal, and yogurt. On Fridays I add a chocolate croissant, cutting it in half for the two of them to share.
Frank, the night doorman, had a taxi waiting by the time I got downstairs. He said good morning and solemnly handed me a few pieces of mail addressed to my son. It was a shock when I first received mail for Kyle about a year after he disappeared—a solicitation from some preteen magazine. I spent the day thinking about it and then knocked on the door of the building super, Mr. Dimitrios. Tears in his eyes, he admitted that he’d been intercepting junk mail addressed to Kyle for the past twelve months and turned over a shoe box full. I made myself go through it—Reggie Kinnard, the detective working with us, had mentioned that the psychopaths who kidnap children will occasionally amuse themselves by sending mail to the victim’s family. There wasn’t anything unusual in the box. A friendly representative of the Direct Marketing Association, who I spoke to on the phone, suggested I simply scrawl the word “deceased” on everything and return it to the post office. Instead, I had Mr. Dimitrios continue intercepting it, so Claire and Kate wouldn’t see it, and arranged for Frank to pass it along. These days, it’s all solicitations for acne products and CD clubs and summer-job programs and magazines like Maxim and Outside. The kind of stuff any nineteen-year-old might receive. The kind of stuff Kyle might actually be interested in, if he’s still alive somewhere.
I stopped to pick up the papers at an all-night newsstand on Seventy-second Street and then went to work. There’s always someone at the office when I arrive, no matter the time—the hedge fund I rent space from trades twenty-four hours a day. There are only about sixty employees, but they occupy an entire floor of a Midtown office building, the northern half of which is a single large unpartitioned trading room. One corner of the room is taken up by the fund’s namesake, a midnight blue 1966 Ford Shelby AC Cobra that sits on a low dais, halogen spotlights reflecting off its mirrorlike finish. The car had proved too large for the elevators, so Walter Coleman, the fund’s founder, had arranged to have it hoisted by a crane after workers cut a garage door–sized opening into the side of the building.
When Walter’s son, Alex, first suggested setting me up as an independent energy analyst a year and a half after Kyle vanished, I was hesitant. I needed the money, but I didn’t know if I was capable of committing to a job the way I had before, or if I could be successful as a freelance pundit even if I did. My entire career had been on the sell side, peddling research on oil companies to clients of the investment bank I worked for. Eighteen months out of the market, and lacking the institutional connections that had made people want to talk to me, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to deliver anything of value. Save one or two old friends, I was right to think that my former sources would abandon me but wrong to worry that it would matter. Cobra was the granddaddy of the hedge-fund community, progenitor of multiple generations of firms that gossiped and fought and generally behaved like an extended family. Alex and his father made a few calls on my behalf, and suddenly I had a dozen clients, all funds that Wall Street was clamoring to do business with. Pretty soon there wasn’t a sell-side guy on the Street who wouldn’t drop everything for me, anxious for a favorable mention to my clientele. And as I grew more influential, my old sources started reaching out to me again. Business prospered. Even the recent market crash had been a blessing in disguise, the clients who went under replaced by newly de-levered and deeply chastened survivors desperate for genuine ideas and analysis to supplant their soured credit strategies.
The biggest plus was that I rarely had to travel anymore. The traditional asset managers I’d covered had kept me on the hop across America and Europe, demanding my physical presence as an act of fealty, and dinner and a nice bottle of wine as tribute. It had been tough with a young family. I regularly kissed Claire and the kids good-bye on a Sunday night, knowing I was committed to spending the rest of the week in a series of barren hotel rooms and that I was leaving her to deal with most of the parenting alone. I missed being with them and felt bad about abandoning Claire, but—God help me—I never backed away from an assignment, craving the success, and the recognition, and the monetary reward. My new job let me be home most nights, my hedge-fund clientele indifferent to face time and insistent on buying their own meals, but the sad reality was that no amount of time now would ever make up for what I’d lost.
My office is on the southern half of the floor, around the corner from the trading room. After grabbing a cup of coffee from the kitchen, I settled in at my desk and went through the business and international news. I pay attention to bylines and keep track of reporters who seem particularly insightful or well connected; I’m wary of Wall Street groupthink, and journalists are surprisingly easy to cultivate. There’s always something they haven’t been able to write, or want to write, or already wrote but don’t feel they fully understand. And with more than twenty years’ experience with the energy markets, I’m a great guy to bounce things off. I understand the industry upside down, am free with information, and never publish anything of my own—although I can be cajoled into dictating the odd market piece when a friendly reporter is in a bind. gas prices set to soar again or ten oil stocks smart investors own now. In return, they ask questions of people my Wall Street connections might not have access to, feed me tidbits they haven’t figured out how to hang a story on yet, and give me early warning of big stories that might have market impact. Everyone wins.
At about eight, I banged out a two-page market update to my client base, telling them what they should be watching out for. I stood, stretched, and gave myself fifteen minutes to stare out the window next to my desk. The window was what made me decide to co-locate with Alex and Walter. It might even have been what persuaded me to try life as an independent analyst. It faces due south onto Park Avenue, and at almost any time of day I can see hundreds of people on the street below.
I was on a plane to London the night Kyle vanished. As we taxied to the gate at Heathrow, a stewardess bent forward and told me that a customer service manager would be meeting me on the jetway. I was too groggy to suspect anything other than the faux-warm handshake and stilted chitchat that airline management occasionally bestow on frequent business travelers. I recall hoping he’d brought a courtesy cart so I wouldn’t have to make the long walk to Immigration.
The next twelve hours are pretty much a blur. I remember the physical impact of hearing that Kyle was missing, as if I’d had the wind knocked out of me and couldn’t recover. I remember sitting hunched in my seat on the long flight back to New York, feeling as if I were falling and falling, with the ground nowhere in sight. Most of all, I remember the look on Claire’s face when we met at the police station—the grief that persuaded me the nightmare was true, and the guilt that’s never vanished. It wasn’t until later that I began wondering what might have happened differently if I’d been home.
Amy, my assistant, walks in on me occasionally when I’m staring out my office window and makes gentle fun of me for being so entranced. It helps me think, I tell her, feeling bad about the lie. The truth is something I can only just bear to admit to myself. Claire and I never discussed the evening Kyle vanished in any detail, but I read the statement she made to the police and the description she gave of the clothes he was wearing. Despite all the years that have passed, I’m still searching the crowd below for a tall twelve-year-old in an oversized parka and a green knit school hat.