Mickey Outside


Mickey Outside

A White Collar Crime Thriller


David Lender

Copyright 2014 © by David T. Lender

   Chapter 1

Mickey Steinberg sat at a picnic table, watching a softball game on the diamond at the Federal Prison Camp, Yankton, South Dakota, the unfenced minimum-security prison he’d called home for two years and ten months. It was the first game of the FPC Yankton World Series, and the bleachers were filled with a noisy crowd of over 200 inmates and their visitors. The smells of hot dogs and freshly cut grass were in the air. Mickey enjoyed the sun on his face and arms, but if he closed his eyes he could still see the scene in the South Dakota winter, the lush grass a forbidding expanse of rock-hard tundra, the warm breeze a subzero wind that sliced like razors.

Mickey was chatting with the guard they called Sly, who stood next to him. The man had once confided to Mickey that he knew why the inmates nicknamed him Sly: he was built like a young Sylvester Stallone and could bench press 390 pounds. Mickey never told him it was really because Sly was as dumb as Rocky in the movie. Mickey was patient with him, though, explained things to him when no one else was around, so Sly wouldn’t feel as if he was as dumb as he was. Mickey had also been struggling to tutor him through his GED high school equivalency for two years.

Mickey had just commented to Sly that if somebody clobbered one to straightaway center, the inmate playing center field could follow the ball into the trees and keep going straight across Douglas Avenue, like the only inmate to have ever escaped had done seven years ago.

When the batter yanked one down the left-field line, Mickey saw Sly’s body tense as the left fielder chased it down toward the Forbes Building. The left fielder, Steve Gleason, a man in his late 50s, in for seven years for embezzling $2.6 million from Canton Savings Bank, caught the ball in foul territory. Gleason then lumbered toward Douglas Avenue before he circled back and threw the ball in. Mickey couldn’t tell if Gleason was jerking the guards’ chains or hot-dogging for the fans.

“So you were sayin’,” Sly said, “you’re lookin’ for a certain type.”

“Picture a BMW car salesman. Good-looking, well-dressed, well-spoken, but with an edge, so he doesn’t come off as too smooth, but maybe as a little slick, even dangerous.”

“You want him for pickin’ up chicks?”

“No. But think about it, you have to admit that type appeals to you and can sell you.”

“You sayin’ you think I’m gay?”

Mickey restrained a sigh. “Of course not. I’m saying even men identify with that type. Men who watch James Bond movies, for example. Think image advertising. The Marlboro Man.”

“Marlboros are bland. Camels are a real cigarette.”

“You’re missing the point. Marlboro picked that image because you identify with the Marlboro Man—”

“I just told you—”

“—alright, people identify with the Marlboro Man. That’s why they buy the cigarette. That’s what I’m looking for.”

“Somebody like the Marlboro Man?”

“No, a man who fits a different type, the BMW salesman.”

“What for?”

“Somebody I can get to know in here, hook up with for when we both get out. For a deal to get me started again.”

“Started again? A big time Wall Streeter like you? You must be loaded, have a pile waiting for you when you get out.”

“I wish.” Mickey reached down and turned his pockets inside out. Between what the Feds took from him in fines, his legal expenses, and with Rachel hacking off half his assets with the divorce, right now he had about $3,500 in the bank. Add to that the additional few hundred he’d make each month teaching accounting, basic finance and GED courses for the other inmates and guards. That, and whatever he could convince Rachel to loan him for a fresh start after he got out.

Sly said, “Then you really need this guy and this deal, huh? A man’s nothin’ if he’s gotta settle for bein’ a has-been nobody the rest of his life.”

Mickey nodded

“So what’s in it for me?”

Mickey raised his eyebrows. “Haven’t I gone out of my way to help you on your GED? You’ve said yourself it will raise you two pay grades after you get it.”

“Yeah, but this won’t be easy. There’s like, eight hunnert guys in here.”

“Yes. Hard to get to know them all. That’s why I need your help.”

“I can’t just walk in, pick and choose who I get reassigned.”

Mickey remained silent. Here we go.

Sly said, “I’ll need you to sign off on my GED.”

“You’re only halfway through. I can’t do that.”

Sly didn’t answer right away, then asked, “Then how can you expect my help?”

Mickey let it hang a moment. Sly was dumb, but he had street smarts. Mickey figured it would turn out this way; that’s how he would have played it himself. “Okay, deal. You find me my type, I’ll sign your papers.” Mickey stood, gave him a big smile and slapped him on the back.

Sly leaned away and squinted at him.

Mickey said to himself, You see? He knew from long experience that he couldn’t carry off the hail-fellow-well-met routine. He needed a talker, a salesman. Somebody born to it, who was just smart enough to understand what Mickey laid out for him to do, and polished enough to sell it. Somebody who could walk into a room at a conference, any conference, and come away with 50 business cards from people to pitch later. The type of man, like Sly had said, who could pick up women. A man who was shameless and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Somebody like Jack Grass, his former partner at Walker & Company, the investment bank they ran together for almost 20 years. Jack, the charismatic salesman who roped in the clients with impetuous promises. Promises that Mickey, the quiet one with the brains, figured out how to make into deals with his genius at financial engineering and his insight into human nature. A team that did their ham-and-egg magic until Mickey dreamed up the idea to start buying the stock of their clients’ takeover targets in secret offshore accounts, based on inside information before the deals were made public. An idea he now wished his talker had talked him out of.

After they got caught, Jack turned on Mickey, so Mickey did him one better and cut a deal before Jack could. He told the Feds everything as part of a plea bargain for a short sentence in a white-collar prison. The Feds stuck to their word. They put him in Yankton, one of the cushiest country clubs in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The place had everything—plenty of computers with e-mail in the study rooms, a weekly bookmobile, pool tables, Ping-Pong, music lessons, intramural sports, a huge gym, a track, vocational training and stress reduction classes—everything except tennis courts and a golf course.

Now that Mickey’s roommate had just been released, he saw a perfect opportunity to find a new partner—another talker—to help in his resurrection. Mickey knew Sly would come through: he didn’t stand a chance of passing his GED unless Mickey signed for him. And Mickey was scheduled for release in two months.


Paul Reece walked with the guard, Sly, beside the Forbes Building, the Romanesque redbrick building that was the former main building for Yankton College before the Feds turned it into a prison camp in the 1980s. Sly had walked into Paul’s room five minutes earlier and told him Mickey Steinberg, the man himself, wanted to meet him. They now stepped out of the lush grass next to the baseball diamond, then crossed a stretch of dusty earth with tufts of unwatered grass toward where Mickey sat alone on one of those built-in benches to a picnic table, his newspaper spread out on the top.

A week in, Paul was still out of his element, uncertain. He always relied on a smile, a can-do attitude and his firm handshake to break the ice. But here in Yankton he had no idea how it worked, how he needed to conduct himself to get an introduction started in the right direction.

As they approached, Paul could see Mickey wasn’t much to look at. A little paunchy and soft, not very tall, with frizzy Jewish hair. Mickey didn’t glance up until they stopped beside the table, then showing lazy, blinking eyes.

Sly said, “This here’s Paul Reece, the guy I told you about, another Wall Streeter. He arrived last week. He’s in unit two over at Kingsbury right now, but we could move him into Lloyd with you if you guys get along.”

“Don’t get up,” Paul said, and stepped forward to shake Mickey’s hand, pumping it hard. “Nice to meet you.”

“You too.” Mickey said. His gaze went from Paul to Sly. He nodded and Sly moved off.

Paul sat down, reminding himself that Mickey was regarded as one of the smartest guys on Wall Street, and for whatever reason Mickey had summoned him, that this was a rare opportunity. Don’t blow this.


Mickey took in Paul, watching him sit down after that forceful handshake, imagining what he’d look like in a suit, all 6’3” of him, almost as solid as Sly, in his mid 30s, hazel eyes without a hint of world-weariness, eager. He wore a friendly smile.

Mickey thought he looked the part. But so did the five others Sly had brought him, all duds. Let’s see if this one can talk.

Mickey saw Paul’s gaze go up over his shoulder as he felt someone put a hand on his back. Mickey turned. It was Stanley Cohn, an accountant from Cleveland, in for eight years for misdirecting $600,000 of clients’ IRS refunds on e-filed tax returns to his personal bank account.

He had two men in tow.

“Mind if we sit down?” Cohn asked.

Mickey didn’t respond.

Cohn was a dope, always trying to ingratiate himself with Mickey, introducing new inmates to him because Mickey was a celebrity around there. Cohn sat down next to Mickey, the two other men on the bench across from Cohn and next to Paul.

“This is Randy Sturgis and Jim Weiss, new around here.” Cohn never looked at Paul or made any move to introduce the men to him.

Mickey nodded.

“Fellas, I’m sure you know who Mickey is—everybody does—on account of the $2 billion in profits his insider trading ring racked up over all those years, and him having Harold Milner, who I’m sure you also know on account of his being takeover maven of his generation, as Mickey’s top client, at the center of it all.”

Mickey looked Cohn in the eye. The last time Cohn did this he referred to Mickey as “Ivan Boesky and Mike Milken to the 10th power,” after which Mickey sent Cohn’s neck receding into his shoulders with a glare.

There was an awkward pause as Mickey and Cohn looked at each other for a long moment, Mickey now sure Cohn remembered the last time, too. Mickey turned his gaze to the two men and said, “Welcome to Club Fed.”

As Mickey was turning to introduce Paul, Cohn said, “Fellas, I told you Mickey was an expert on deals, that maybe he can give you some advice on the Brinker and Sterling deal.”

Mickey tensed. Not this nonsense again. “I’ve been out of the mainstream for over two years.”

The man introduced as Sturgis cleared his throat and said, “I had a position in Sterling’s stock prior to Brinker’s takeover offer and I’m wondering should I hang on for a higher offer or take my profit and run?”

“I don’t know anything about the deal,” Mickey said. He turned to Paul again. “This is Paul Reece, also new in here, a fellow Wall Streeter. Maybe he has some perspective.”

Paul opened his mouth to speak.

Cohn cut him off, saying, “That’s okay,” still not even looking at Paul. “We’d like your opinion, Mickey.”

“Let the man talk.”

Paul’s face brightened, as if the teacher had called on him. He said, “It’s an all-cash bid, so it stands by itself. Simple.”

Sturgis said, “Yes, but Sterling’s board of directors has rejected the offer.”

Paul said, “Right, they always do that first. So either somebody else steps in and offers more, or Sterling’s board squeezes Brinker for a higher offer.”

“But what if Brinker won’t offer more?”

Paul smiled. “Not possible. You ever take your best shot out of the box when, say, you’re trying to buy a house or a car?” Paul continued, now getting loose, his voice confident, starting to gesture as if he were addressing clients at a dinner. “Brinker’s CEO isn’t gonna surface a public offer for Sterling to suffer the embarrassment of limping away with no deal.”

Mickey was starting to enjoy himself.

Cohn said, “Do you know Brinker’s CEO?” making it sound like an accusation.

Paul went right back at him. “No, but I’m talking about common sense. If Sterling’s board said no, Brinker’s CEO isn’t just gonna say, ‘Okay,’ and walk away without at least bumping his bid higher.”

Mickey said, “I know John Dobbs, the CEO of Brinker. He’s an egomaniac.”

Paul said, “There you go—but it doesn’t matter if he is or not.” He looked back at Sturgis. “If you sell your stock now, you’re betting against human nature. Dobbs’ll go higher.”

Mickey added, “Even if Sterling is already fully valued,” unable to resist a little ham-and-egg to top it off.

Cohn said to Paul, “What was your position on Wall Street?”

“I was a stockbroker.”

Cohn wrinkled his nose. “I’d still feel better if you gave us your opinion, Mickey.”

Mickey felt a twist of annoyance. “Don’t be so quick to judge,” he said to Cohn. “When I was on the Street, my deals involved a big network of contacts, really smart people, many of whom never came to light. You never know where one of them might surface.” He looked over at Paul, then made eye contact with Cohn again.

Sturgis stood up, said, “Thanks for your time, guys.” He narrowed his eyes at Cohn and said, “Come on, Stan, we’ve imposed on Mickey enough. Let’s go.”

After Cohn and the two men with him got up and walked off, Paul said to Mickey, “Why’d you infer that I was part of your ring?” He looked pained.


Paul looked at him as if he was confused.

“Never mind,” Mickey said.

“No offense, but I’ve never traded on insider information and I don’t like the idea of anybody thinking I have.”

“If they do believe you were part of my ‘ring,’ as you call it, you just went up about ten notches in their esteem. In here there’s a social hierarchy. If you’ve got status, you don’t need to worry about some slippery little worm like Cohn snitching on you if, for example, Sly sneaks you in a bottle of Bordeaux once a week, like he does for me. Relax, I just did you a favor.”

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