[personal profile] walk_ins
Karen Linh wakes up with a hunch: it's going to be today. She's been waiting for it, as morbid as it sounds — but then, this is her job. It stays with her all through breakfast, and by the time she steps out of the shower (and off the scales, with a satisfied grunt), it's resolved itself into a solid certainty.

Wú Sheng Bao is one of the Alliance's premier financial institutions. Its primary function is as an exclusive banking establishment for the elect and the elite — one of perhaps half a dozen of its kind, all told, catering to the top half-percent of the 'verse's earners. They deal with many things — investments and brokerage and bonds and securities, just like any other bank. But most of all, Wú Sheng Bao deals with the sort of numbers that are so vast, they skirt along the edges of abstraction; the sort of numbers people describe as 'incomprehensible', and which Wú Sheng Bao has made a business of comprehending. The sort of numbers, in fact, whose movements Karen has been quietly tracking now for these two months past, drifting under the surface and behind the curtains of the 'verse with a slow, tectonic majesty — one that, upon closer inspection, belies a level of complexity that makes even the manager of Wú Sheng Bao catch her breath in admiration. Transactions, investments, and transfers, settlements and payments, funds splitting and flowing and converging and separating again, veils, proxies, and dummy corporations — all intricate and elegant and fiendishly legal, and all set in motion by the death of one of Wú Sheng Bao's oldest clients.

You have to hand it to him, Karen thinks, every time she indulges her professional curiosity and pulls up the private feeds. Andronicus Crowley might have been a mercenary bastard of the first order, but he was rutting brilliant at it.

Precisely one hour after eating, she reaches for the medicine cabinet: one pill for her blood pressure, and another for her heartburn. She does her breathing exercises, thinks wistfully of the coffee she's no longer allowed to have, and on the way to work, tries not to be snappy with her new pilot (it's not his fault, after all).

It's no longer possible to keep track of it all, of course. By now, most of the money has been funneled away along channels whose end even she cannot see. She'd had to pick and choose, and with the unerring instinct that got her where she is today, she'd picked right. And now, the wealth she's watched trickle down and down towards its final destination is about to arrive. Today (she has a hunch), a few slices of Andronicus' Crowley's legacy are about to flash across the digital ether and land softly in Wú Sheng Bao's coffers.

When they touch down, the first thing Karen does is send an intern running for some tea. Decaffeinated, of course, but at least the hot liquid might go some way towards helping her shake the morning fog. She drinks it in the sun-drenched lobby, chatting with a nervous-looking receptionist and watching the early headlines scroll across a muted newsfeed perched above the desk. When it's finished, and she feels a little more human, she tosses the cup and heads for the elevator.

Her office, behind a tastefully gold-lettered door, isn't as big as people always seem to expect it to be. But then again, neither is it exactly undersized. Rather, it's precisely big enough to give visitors a sense of importance, but precisely small enough to provide the illusion of intimacy. Of privacy.

(In addition to a capacity for dealing with sums measured in immensities, a bank with clientele such as Wú Sheng Bao's must necessarily be able to offer several things. The first of these is the guarantee of absolute discretion: a principle upon which this establishment was founded, and one which it has never failed to live up to. Another is a certain category of services, based on private contracts between client and institution, which largely concern... specialised accounts, and the details of their administration once the esteemed client has departed this mortal coil. Nothing illegal, naturally; nothing under the table. Wú Sheng Bao offers these services merely so that — for example — particular dues can be paid, or particular promises kept, or, perhaps, certain bequests made which, for one reason or another, it might not be quite appropriate to document in the dearly departed's official will. Any one of a thousand little details which the wealthy and the powerful might wish to see quietly and invisibly taken care of after they're gone.)

Settling in, Karen slips her stylish orthopaedic shoes off under the desk, and attends to the messages that have piled up overnight. It takes her an hour, perhaps a little more, but this is due more to the quantity of messages than their urgency. It's midmorning before she leans over to the intercom, orders another cup of tea, and, grinning a little in smug expectation, turns to the day's real work.

Andronicus Crowley held a number of private contracts with Wú Sheng Bao; some of them more than a decade old, others less than a quarter of that. Yesterday, the accounts attached to these contracts were empty.

Today, they are not.

Karen Linh does love being right.

As manager of Wú Sheng Bao, she is naturally bound to confidentiality, but — just as with the artful diffusion of Mr. Crowley's fortune — that doesn't mean she doesn't wonder. As her fingers dance over her console, bringing up the details, her eyes skim over the list of names with a detached sort of interest. Most, she doesn't recognise: Frye, Finnegan, Reynolds, Warren and Washburne (a joint account). Some, she does: there's one for the NPO Verrou Faire Dénouement — why hide that away with us?, she wonders idly — and (she raises her eyebrows) a second joint account bearing the names Tam and Tam.

Of course, it's possible that they're no relation. It's possible, of course, that Andronicus Crowley had entirely different acquaintances who simply happened to share the names of Senator Gabriel Tam's controversial children. And of course, if he did have reason to leave certain endowments to the Tam siblings, and if he did have reason for doing so outside the public eye... well, that's the sort of minor, posthumous wrinkle that Wú Sheng Bao prides itself on smoothing away. With a personal touch, no less; Karen cracks her knuckles, informs the intercom that her tea had best be sitting on her desk within the next sixty seconds, and begins to compose a textwave. Several, to be exact.

Some, as per instructions, have a vid attached. Others do not. But they all begin the same way.

To Whom It May Concern,

I write to you on behalf of the late Mr. Andronicus J. Crowley, hereafter referred to as our client
.
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walk_ins

November 2009

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