Garrison Satch walked through the lobby of the old 23 Building on Wall Street and winked at the receptionist. Fannie was wearing red that day and was quick to return a faux-demure smile. However, his thoughts quickly turned to VeRA–not a woman, but a secret initiative launched by the owners of the Building and the New York Stock Exchange. VeRA had her own underground facility that was accessible from both the 23 Building and the NYSE at 11 Broad Street. She also had a street entrance, but Garrison never used it because of the stench of garbage in the alleyway. Besides, Fannie wasn’t hard on the eyes.
As he descended the granite steps into the basement that Friday morning, he adjusted to the dim light and the air turned noticeably cool and musty. A light near the bottom of the steps flickered and gave glimpses of the seemingly endless rows of metal storage shelves that were stacked with boxes, books and bundled papers. As he walked through the narrow space between the rows of shelves, his thoughts drifted again to VeRA. It had been nearly three years since that fateful October day in 1929, and his excitement was momentarily tempered with doubts of success.
He reached the far end of the basement wall and unlocked what looked like a closet door. A dimly lit hallway greeted him and he picked up the pace as it would be another underground block before he got to the facility. As he finally approached, he could hear the clicking and churning of gears, not unlike the slots at the underground casino he loved to catch a drink at after hours. Fuck La Guardia—who did he think he was anyway?
He unlocked the final door, taking into his lungs one last breath of stale musty air that would soon become laden with tobacco smoke. He cracked the door open slowly as his ears adjusted to the clatter and his eyes to the light–a bit brighter, but not by much. He stood at the top of a small set of stairs that led down to the main floor of the facility, and he smiled, seeing VeRA in all her glory. Ten rows of desks, six in each row–plus one odd lot in the corner–were manned with a green legal lamp, a Remington Rand adding machine and an operator, each of whom was furiously pounding the keys with the left hand and intermittently grinding the crank with the right hand. Occasionally, an operator would take the right hand off the crank to ash the cigarette clenched in his mouth, or to make a quick notation. Runners frantically brought stacks of order tickets to the operators, and would take from them any completed note pages. It was organized chaos, like the trading floor of the NYSE Garage itself, but a darker, seemingly sinister version.
Garrison walked slowly through the rows of operators, like a drill sergeant inspecting a barracks. He nodded approvingly with each step, though nothing different was going on from one desk to the next. The operators seemed like carbon copies of themselves–cogs in a wheel. If one burnt out, it quickly would be replaced, not unlike the vacuum tubes that would populate the space thirty years later. Though most of the operators paid no notice to Garrison, a small wiry man seated at the odd lot desk in the corner sprung up and rushed over to greet him.
He was a bit obsequious and Garrison could not hear him over the clicking and whirring, so Garrison politely brushed him off after getting the latest Dow quote. It was well above 50 at 54.25 and holding support, poised to close a second strong week in a row after having been beaten down to 40.56 earlier in the month. This time, though, there would be no new low. VeRA would make sure of it. There would be pain at times, sure, but not the three year 90% down blood bath that had just run its course. He smiled smugly with self-satisfaction and lit a cigar he had stashed in his pocket.