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Rick Bennette

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by Rick Bennette   

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Books by Rick Bennette
· Last Chance
· Aliens in Paradise
· Why Do Men Cheat?
· The Boss
                >> View all



Publisher:  Rick ISBN-10:  B008SGKA4O


Copyright:  2012 ISBN-13:  9781476180427

Avid golfer Jack Preston is Bernie Madoff's best friend and right hand man. When the financial scandal hits the news, Jack faces serious prison time. To avoid incarceration, Jack is forced to give up the only career he's ever known. The bank forecloses on his home. Despondent and broke, he must find a new direction in his life.

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Avid golfer Jack Preston is Bernie Madoff's best friend and right hand man. When the financial scandal hits the news, Jack faces serious prison time. To avoid incarceration, Jack is forced to give up the only career he's ever known. The bank forecloses on his home. Despondent and broke, he must find a new direction in his life.


“So you don't want to talk about your golf game or about your best friend. You want to talk about shoes instead? I can tell you all there is to know about shoes.”

I roll my eyes. I know she's right, but shoes? Could anything be more boring? How the heck can women get so excited about footwear? They're just appliances for your feet. Who cares? Oh, right. The other woman in my life. Heather, our daughter. And wouldn't you know it? Think of the devil, and there she comes flying down the stairs and into the kitchen like she's late for an appearance on a late night TV talk show.

“I'm goin' out.”
“Where you goin', young lady?”
Out where? And with who?”
“You mean whom. Well, no one.”
"This 'no one', does he have a name?”
“Is that his name, or your vocabulary?”
“Who is it?”
“Why do you even care? You're never here.”
“I'm your father. And you're not goin' anywhere unless I know who you're with.”
“OK. You wanna know so bad? It's Larry. OK?”
“Forget it.”
“What do you mean forget it?”
“I mean forget it. Larry's not the kind of boy I want you seeing that way.”
“What do you mean, that way? We're just friends. Besides, he's your best friend's son. You should be happy I'm with someone you know.”
“He's too old to want to be just friends. Why don't you meet someone your own age?”
“Like who?”
“There's boys your age at the club.”
“A preppie? Give me a break, Dad, really.”
Heather turns to her mom for support on this matter, knowing she's more of a softie than I.
“I'm sorry, honey. You father said no.”
“But Larry's the bomb.”
“That's exactly why your mom and I don't -”
“- Jack, give us a moment, please, would you?”
“Good luck.”

Indifferent to my wife who seems to spend money like a drunken sailor and clueless as to the total lack of respect from my daughter who I do my very best to provide for in life, I retreat to my home office. My cocoon of privacy.

“I know what you're going through, sweetheart. Really I do.”
“How would you know, Mom?”
“My dad was like that with me when I was your age.”
“No way.”
“Way. He always tried to hand pick my dates.”
“He wanted me to date someone who could take care of me. In case we got serious.”
“Larry and me - we aren't serious. We're just buds.”
“But if it gets to be more than that someday, is Larry the kind of guy who could provide for you?”
“I'm sure he will be by then.”
“Sweetheart, Larry isn't the kind of boy who's ever going to make it.”
“How do you know that?”
“When you're our age, you know these things.”
“Larry likes me. And he's a gentleman. Isn't that what's important?”
“A relationship like that can turn into much more than what you think it is now. We just want the best for you, that's all.”
“I'm not gonna marry him. It's Friday night. I just wanna go out and have some fun. Larry has a car.”
“Is that the issue?”
“Livin' here in the sticks, you can't date a guy who doesn't have a car.”
“I can solve that. You forget about Larry, and this weekend I'll buy you a car.”
“Nothing fancy. But yes.”
“Dad's never gonna go for that.”
“Dad won't know a thing until it's parked in the driveway. It'll be our little secret.”
“Girl's honor.”
“This is gonna be so awesome!”

Chapter 4

The following Monday, the local news is on as Molly passes by the TV in the kitchen. The headline story grabs her attention. She stops to watch it, and then calls out to Jack.

“Jack, come see this. Right away.”
“What is it, dear?”
“Just get in here and see this right away.”
I come running in to see what the fuss is about.
“What's so urgent?”
“Isn't that your boss on TV?”
“My God, you're right. What could he be up to now?”

Molly and I are glued to the screen as the newscaster reads the story.

“In a move that rocked the Palm Beach community, evidence is shaping up to reveal investment manager Bernie Madhoff may have bilked investors out of as much as sixty billion dollars in what appears to be one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history. This could turn out to become one of the worst financial disasters in modern times and could affect investors around the world.”

“Don't we have our money in his company?”
“The news always embellishes these things. It's probably just wrong information.”
“There has to be something to it if it made national news.”
“I've known Bernie for years. I know a lot o' guys at the club that made a lot of money from Bernie's investments, including us. Real money, not just on paper. So I think someone got it wrong.”
“Is there a way you can get online and check?”
“Of course. I'll do that right after dinner. Whatever it is, it won't affect us. Bernie's a friend as well as a boss. Even if he screwed up, I'm sure our accounts are OK.”
“You know best. Dinner's almost ready. Is Heather home yet?”

Jack looks out the window and sees Heather's new car.

“Her car is here. By the way, that was pretty sneaky, getting her that car while I was at work. Why didn't you ask me to help you out? I probably could have made a better deal.”
“I promised I'd get it for her if she stopped seeing Larry.”
“That might last a week. What are ya gonna do, keep buyin' her off not to see him? Not that I'm complaining, mind you, I just don't see it lasting.”
“She gave me her word. She loses the car if she breaks her deal. Besides, I have the other key.”
“Whatever works. I just don't see how a son of Steve could be so unmotivated.
Steve may not be the biggest success, but the guy's got a great work ethic. I'd hire him in a minute if he had any interest in the financial market. Larry could take some lessons there.”

Heather comes down the stairs and into the kitchen. Jack greets her with a snide remark.
“You must smell the free food.”
“Hello to you too, Dad.”
“I was just making a joke. Don't get all bent out of shape. I see you got your car.”
“Thanks to Mom.”
“Just remember. You made a deal. You have to keep your deal if you want to keep the car.”
“I know that.”
“Just reminding you, that's all.”
“Hey, it isn't Larry the feds are after. So what's up with your boss, anyway?”
“I'm sure it's all just some big mistake.”
“Oh, right. If it was Larry, you'd be all over me telling me what a loser he was.”
“I got news for you. Larry doesn't pull his weight. He never has and he never will. He's already a loser.”
“He's just an artist, that's all. He'll do well when his time comes.”
“In case you didn't know it, Picasso died a poor man.”
“I'd rather have a poor man who's honest than a rich man who's a crook. By the way, what did Bernie have to say for himself today?”
“He wasn't at work.”
“Right. Skipping town, I bet.”
“I doubt that. It isn't unusual, he travels a lot. Can we just have a nice dinner together for once?”
“You're the one who started it with your 'free food' and all.”
“I told you, I was kidding. Let's all sit down and eat like a normal family.”
“I don't even know a family who's normal.”
“You can at least try.”

We go through the complete meal with barely another word spoken between us. Heather's cell phone rings and she runs to answer it. I can't hear much from where I sit, and I don't want it to be obvious I'm trying to hear if it's Larry. As her volume level increases, it no longer takes much effort to hear my daughter's end of the conversation.

“I'll call you later,” I hear her say before she hangs up the phone and returns to the dinner table.
“That wasn't Larry, was it?”
“I didn't know my calls were being bugged all of a sudden.”
Molly reminds Heather, “Don't forget what we agreed on.”
“I know, Mom. We agreed I wouldn't see Larry. We never said anything about talking to him.”
“I think you know what I meant.”
“But that's what we said, right?”
“I suppose if you want to get technical, yes.”
“Then I'm not breaking our deal.”
“Is that true, Molly?”
“I suppose. Just figured she knew it meant cutting him off completely.”
“I'd have to believe that's what you meant, too, but if that's what you said, then Heather's right. Not that it makes me happy they're talking, but if we catch her sneaking out and seeing him, the car goes bye bye.”

Later that evening, when the girls are busy with other things, I run in to the computer room to check my portfolio. When I finally see my balance, the blood rushes from my head. I can feel the room begin to spin and out of fear I might pass out, I hobble to the couch and fall onto it. Molly sees me do this, and comes running over.

“Jack, what's wrong? It's not a heart attack, is it?”
“That would just be great about now. The icing on the cake.”
“What kind of talk is that? Should I call 9-1-1?”
“Maybe, but not for a doctor.”
“What do you mean, Jack?”
“They ought to arrest that scum bag.”
“Who's a scum bag?”
“Bernie, that two faced, lying piece of garbage.”
“You mean it's true what they said on the news?”
“Not only that, but he wiped out our life savings. In a matter of hours. That's what Bernie did.”
“How in the world could he have done that, Jack? It must be a computer problem.”
“It's no computer problem. The stocks are still there. They're just worthless.”
“I don't understand.”
“Let me put it to you this way. Yesterday, our portfolio was worth over thirty three million. Right now, it's worth under three thousand.”
“It has to be some kind of glitch.”
“For Bernie's sake, I hope so. Because if this is true, I'll hire a hit man to take him out.”
“Jack. Don't even talk like that.”
“If he did this, that's what he deserves.”
“Why don't you just call him now and find out?”
“Good idea. Best idea anyone's had all day.”

I call his cell phone and there's no answer. I try his home phone. It just rings and rings. Not even a voice mail. I call his office. The message says the number is no longer in service.
Things are beginning to add up, and it looks like I've been had. Not only does it look like I've lost our entire life savings, but it was done by a man I invited into our home. A man I played golf with, and looked up to as a mentor and friend more so than a boss. A day ago, I was proud to be his right hand man. Today, I'm secretly wishing he meets an unfortunate demise. The chances of all of this being a mistake are looking less and less by the minute.

I return to the computer and try to access the company mainframe to see if any other accounts are affected. My password no longer works. I'm completely locked out from gaining access at all. Failing to believe this is all true, I continue trying. After several attempts, it hits me. It's real. I invested every dollar we had in our own company based on Bernie's advice.

I know I should have put some of our money in other institutions, but in this economy when everyone else was earning one or two percent and we were earning twenty, it was hard to justify pulling any of our funds out of a twenty percent interest bearing account to earn at best, two percent. It didn't make economic sense. Like everyone else Bernie swindled, I had allowed greed to guide my decisions. Because of that, we currently have nothing more than approximately three thousand in our stock portfolio, and maybe another three thousand or so in our checking account. In this house, even being conservative with our daily expenses, that might float us another month. After that, we are virtually flat broke.

Chapter 5

The following morning, I drive into the office earlier than normal. I need answers. I hold out one last thread of hope there's a logical solution to all this. I pray somehow I'll find our three million dollar balance in good standing. A fleeting thought crosses my mind hoping Bernie transferred our funds to another account without saying anything.
I pull into the parking lot and it's empty. Not unusual for five AM, but not encouraging either. I walk hurriedly to the door. My card pass won't open the electronic lock. I try the metal key. Luckily, that at least still works. As I'm putting the keys back into my pocket, a man dressed in a cheap suit approaches me. He doesn't look threatening, but he's walking toward me rather fast.

“Excuse me, sir. Jack Preston?”
“Can I help you?”
“This is for you. Please sign here.”

I almost fall to my knees when I realize what I must sign. It's a federal subpoena to appear in court. I sign it, fold it into my pocket and rush upstairs to my office. I am still unable to log onto the main frame, but on my own computer my portfolio still shows only about three thousand dollars. It's as if Bernie had one last shred of decency, leaving me with just enough money to make one final mortgage payment. But it was more likely just the residual value of a free fallen market. A man who bilks billions from his clients can't possibly consciously care about leaving them with enough to scrape by one final month.

Before I can realize how much time has passed, it's six AM. Normally there's a flurry of activity as employees are firing up computers and office equipment. No one else is showing up for work. I just sit motionless at my desk. I'm feeling helpless. I am transfixed in thoughts of financial misc-mash, wondering how in the world I'm ever going to get past this disaster and survive.

I have no clue how a company that had over sixty billion in assets two days ago was suddenly out of business. As a board member, I should have known something was amiss, but I didn't see it coming. On the books, everything looked great. But now there wasn't a soul here to discuss it with. I can't reach anyone by phone. Not work, home or cell. The plug has been pulled on Madhoff and Remington Financial. On top of losing our personal thirty three million dollars that consumed a lifetime of my efforts to obtain, I was now out of work and called to appear in court on charges of fraudulent misconduct. Victim or not, after all, I am, or I was, Bernie's second in command. I'm certain the press or the courts wouldn't be concerned with my three million in personal losses. Fear consumes me, and with no one to hear me, I scream out in frustration as I slam down the phone so hard I crack the base.

“I'll wring his neck when I find him! I'll kill him!”

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