The Million Dollar Girl
A Novel

Robert Harris
Version Date: October 11 2008

Chapter 14

Professor Miller and Gina had not been seated long at the Del Oro Steak House before Mr. Trimmer arrived. He was smiling the smile of self satisfaction. As he sat down, the waiter came over to him with a table setting and a menu. “No menu,” said Trimmer. Just bring me your best sixteen-ounce filet mignon, rare. Baked potato with too much butter. Something from the vegetable kingdom, but nothing disgusting. And a bottle of Cabernet, you choose, and make it a good one.”

Miller thought the clues were obvious, but asked politely, “Success?”

“Oh, yes, my good sir,” said Trimmer jovially. “In fact,” he went on, reaching into his coat pocket, “here are the results of your investments today.” He handed each of them a certified cashier’s check for $6,240.

Gina was struck with amazement. “I can’t believe this,” she said. “Yesterday I was a poor, simple college student eating burgers and fries. Now I’m in a fancy steak house with a check for six thousand dollars in my hands. I must be dreaming.”

Miller was impressed by the check, but his mind was already far beyond it. He was calculating the possibility of further investments and how larger sums might return even larger rewards. He was a shrewd one, all right.

“This is wonderful,” he said, to fill in an expected response.

“Wait until my friends hear about this. New outfits, tuition and everything.”

“Your friends mustn’t hear about this,” Trimmer said quickly and a bit sternly. “This is a confidential business we are involved in. A business which requires the utmost trust and secrecy. I thought that by your returning my wallet you were people who could be trusted.”

“You can trust me,” Gina said, now feeling chastised. “I promise not to tell. Why is it so secret?”

Miller had an expression on his face that was the equivalent of saying, “Any idiot knows this must be kept secret.”

The three were silent while a waiter brought ice water and a setup for Mr. Trimmer. Trimmer waited until the man was several steps away before speaking again. He kept a low tone.

“My company gathers inside information of the most confidential sort about various companies, and that information allows us to know which stocks are going to rise suddenly and which are going to fall suddenly. That information allows us to make informed purchases and thereby make guaranteed profits.”

“I don’t understand,” said Gina.

“That’s not important,” said Trimmer. “The important thing is that the information must be kept secret until the time we share it with the world.”

“But if you share it, then why keep it secret at first?” Gina asked.

“Well,” said Trimmer, “if we know the information about a company is good, we can buy a stock at a low price before others find out about it and buy the stock, causing it to go up in value.”

“Buying a stock makes it go up?” Gina asked. Trimmer and Miller looked at each other, as if to agree that the girl was hopelessly clueless.

“That’s right,” Miller said, only a little patronizingly.

“So we buy a stock, it goes up, and we’re rich?”

“Something like that,” said Trimmer.

Miller was beginning to catch on to the plan. “You buy a stock, then put out the news about how great it is, and when it goes up suddenly and dramatically, you then sell it at a big profit, right?” he asked.

“That’s one method. Or if the news is going to be bad, we sell the stock short and then buy it after it falls. Are you familiar with short sales?”

“Only a little,” said Miller, hating to have to admit ignorance in any area.

“A short sale involves selling a stock that you don’t yet own. Perfectly legal and ethical. Then, when the stock falls, you buy the stock at the low price and use those shares to cover the ones you sold but did not have. It is simplicity itself.”

“And if the stock goes up rather than down?” asked Miller.

“Ah, but we are sure it won’t. When we share the news about the stock, we know that it will go up on good news and down on bad news. There is no risk involved. As I said, I work for a large company with field representatives like me and operations like this one all over the country. None of us believe in gambling.”

“How do you share the news?” asked Gina.

“If you’d like to open a trading account, perhaps with your current profits, I would be happy to show you,” said Trimmer. “After all, you will never believe how you helped me by returning that time-sensitive information this morning. It made a substantial difference. Substantial.”

“You mean you’d let us trade with our $6,000 and make some more money?” gasped Gina. Then turning to Miller, “Let’s do it!” she said. “I promise not to tell.”

“Yeah, why not?” said Miller. “Seems like a reasonable deal. And I could always use a little extra money. And Gina wants to take the night helicopter flight over the city, see a show, and upgrade our room to a suite.” The possibility of making a large amount of easy money was very appealing, even though it seemed to involve some kind of trading that was not strictly legitimate.

Gina excused herself to go to the restroom.

“A lovely girl,” Trimmer observed, his eyes following Gina as she walked away. “I believe you said she was your niece?”

“That’s the public information,” Miller said. “And as we both know, public information is for those who don’t know what is really going on. The girl’s actually just a diversion.” Miller liked pretending that this trip was merely one of many others, one of so many that he was almost bored with it. “She’s here for the same reason that psychic hotlines exist.”

Trimmer looked at him expectantly.

“For entertainment purposes only.”

They both laughed.

“I’ve been chewing on a huge workload at the university and thought it was high time for an after dinner mint,” said Miller. Trimmer smiled again.

“Quite right,” he said. “However,” he added, changing his tone, “I hope you can count on her to be discreet.”

“I’m sure I can.”

“After all, if you want to make a few dollars in the market, you don’t want her to call her mother and blab it all over.”

“Oh I plan to take good care of her,” said Miller. “She won’t have a chance to talk to her mother, or anyone else for that matter.”

“You’ll keep an eye on her, then.”

“Both eyes.”


Miller took advantage of a pause to ask a question. “How is it that your company has all this exclusive information about certain stocks?”

“Research,” said Trimmer, winking. “We find out the most amazing information and share it with the world and the stocks cannot help but move in the predicted direction.”

“And the authorities take a dim view of your public spiritedness, no doubt,” said Miller, catching on to the disinformation game Trimmer’s company was playing.

“Alas, that is so,” said Trimmer with affectation. Then, continuing matter-of-factly, “Our position is that day traders know what they are doing and are responsible for their own actions. If they act before checking out the information, then too bad for them. We are sincere when we say a stock will rise or fall, and, as I said, we are always right. You might say we are fortune tellers. We’re just sorry that the authorities can’t be reasonable about all this. So, we just operate quietly.”

The conversation changed to Miller’s good luck in “reeling in” Gina, as Trimmer called it. When Miller attributed it more to skill than luck, Trimmer became very interested in Miller’s technique. He was clearly envious.

Professor Miller spoke complacently about his happy position in the world as a professor constantly surrounded by attractive young women, many (he said) of whom he found it easy to attract for romantic adventures (as he called them). Gina, of course, was proof and example. Mr. Trimmer admitted that he would not mind having a romantic adventure with Gina and congratulated Miller again and again over the course of the conversation.

“Something about her smile,” Trimmer said, “and those eyes. Powerful, aren’t they?”

“Yes,” Miller agreed.

Trimmer listened with great attentiveness to Miller’s opinions and ideas and echoed many of them. The man seemed almost like an uncle to Miller. He was one of the most affable people Miller had ever met. Just as Gina returned, Miller had concluded, “This man thinks just the way I do.”

“You’re a very accommodating and generous person,” said Miller. “I imagine that you don’t even get upset when you see people take an unreasonable amount of crab legs at the buffet.”

“Ah, no,” said Trimmer. “I’m one of those who likes his crab. I like to pile those crab legs up as high as anyone does. And I consider my behavior to be quite sensible. After all, what’s reasonable to you may not be the same as what’s reasonable to me. Who’s to set a standard for crab legs? We live in a world that has found standards inconvenient. They interfere with our desires.” He gave just the slightest tilt of his head in the direction of Gina, who was conveniently looking at her food and did not notice.

The meal that night seemed exceptionally good to Professor Miller, his taste buds being enlivened by the general gusto he was feeling. He relished every bite as it seemed to symbolize his prospects for eating large at the table of life. Trimmer ate his steak happily; Gina ate hers with expressed satisfaction. Her eyes sparkled and she smiled at the two men. “This is all so great!” she said, more than once. Miller thought she chewed in a provocative way, almost as if she were pursing her lips, moistened by the eating, but perhaps it was just her smile or his imagination. Trimmer gave her an admiring look and plunged into his baked potato. The butter spilled over the top and onto his plate.


While the full plates and empty stomachs were in the process of trading adjectives, Professor Miller and Gina were entertained by the jovial and knowledgeable Mr. Trimmer. He seemed to know about every show, every attraction, every restaurant, and every behind-the-scenes tidbit in the city.

“This man is a walking encyclopedia,” Miller thought, “only funny.”

“This is an excellent Cabernet,” Trimmer noted, as he began his third glass.

During the intervals between stories, it was decided that Miller and Gina would join Mr. Trimmer the next day and go to his trading office to invest their current earnings.

“There’s a nice trade coming up tomorrow morning that should be good for us all,” he said. “We don’t even have to get up very early. I don’t have final word yet, but my estimate is that the trading window will be around noon, which is three o’clock market time.”

“What’s market time?” Gina asked.

“The stock market is on the East coast,” Miller said. He was actually amused that Gina was so uninformed. Smart women can be dangerous, he thought. They might put two and two together.

Though the time seemed to pass quickly, everyone eventually became aware of being tired of sitting. When the dessert tray came around, Miller declined any, saying that he and Gina might indulge in a midnight snack after the show they were going to see.

“We’ve got tickets to the Amazing Khan, the 10:00 show,” he said, looking at his watch.

“Well,” said Trimmer, “you two go have some fun, then. Stroll down the strip and enjoy the evening. There is much here to see, much to enjoy. I’ll meet you, oh, say outside the buffet at, oh, half past nine. That will give us plenty of time to eat, get down to the office, and get things ready. Yes?”

“Nine thirty it is,” said Miller.

“This is so cool,” Gina said, as they walked toward the front doors of the hotel on their way to the strip. “We need to do this more often!” She laughed. Miller smiled to himself. He had been thinking the same thing.


The Amazing Khan exploded on stage in a shower of fireworks and a cloud of smoke. A loud orchestra underscored the drama of his entrance, and of his every move throughout the performance. In fact, there was never a moment of rest for the audience. An announcer gave what amounted to a play-by-play of the Khan’s tricks; huge video displays showed the tricks from varying angles and in replay; the orchestra kept up an almost incessant accompaniment; and even an occasional horn or bell could be heard.

Noticing this constant busyness, Miller leaned over to Gina and said, “They don’t want us to get bored or fall asleep.” Regular visits by cocktail waitresses provided further stimulus for staying awake. Miller ordered a glass of wine and Gina asked for iced tea.

The Khan began with simple tricks, including materializing a dove from under a handkerchief, pulling an extensive ribbon from his mouth, and doing a few card tricks with extra-large cards.

“Look at his left hand,” Miller whispered to Gina while Khan held a dove in his right hand. “While we’re supposed to be looking at the dove, he’s reaching under the edge of his coat behind him with his other hand.”


“It’s called misdirection. They get your attention focused on one thing and then do something else while you’re not looking. It’s the basis of magic.”

“You really know a lot.”

A lovely assistant joined Khan on stage. Stage hands dressed in black wheeled a large cage into the center of the stage and left. Khan put the girl into the cage and then threw a black sheet over it. Loud music, reaching a crescendo, cymbals, a firework blast, smoke, and then the sheet was ripped off, to reveal a live tiger in the cage in place of the girl.

“So that’s how you turn a woman into a tiger,” Miller joked.

“Maybe there’s a tiger inside every woman, waiting for a magician to let her out.”

The tiger was no sooner wheeled out than four men dressed as bank guards rolled out a strong box, covered with chains and locks and elaborate closures, which they laboriously proceeded to undo, until the lid of the box swung open. While Khan tilted the box toward the audience to show that it was empty, the guards left the stage briefly. Soon they returned carrying large money bags. Each guard opened his bags and poured bound stacks of bills out onto the floor, forming one large pile.

“There is a million dollars in cash here,” Khan said. “Do we have an honest volunteer from the audience to come up and check it?” Hands all over the room. “You, ma’am,” said Khan, pointing to an elderly but eager woman. The woman made her way up on the stage and over to the cash, picking up four or five bundles and looking them over.

“It’s the real thing!” she said, and then pretended to secrete some of it in her blouse. The audience laughed.

The guards now put all the money into the large chest and once again laboriously closed each latch, connected each chain, and fastened each padlock. Then the guards left. Khan acted as if he were going into a trance to get extra magical power for the trick he was about to perform. The orchestra grew louder. Khan waved his arms over the chest, this time not using a black cover, but uttering some magical incantation. At the last word, there was another firework, more smoke, more cymbals. The chest looked the same. Guards rushed out and rapidly removed the locks and chains. The lid flew open and out jumped Khan’s lovely assistant, dressed in a costume that appeared to have been made of the currency that had been placed in the chest.

“A babe dressed in money,” Miller thought. “What more could a guy want?”

“Ooh, wow,” said Gina, in awe. “How did they do that one?”

“Well, it’s really hard to see up there. Notice the black stage, the black curtains, and the dark room. The darkness makes it hard to see what’s going on. It’s almost blinding.”

“Hah! Blinded by darkness. Now that’s funny.”

Miller was somewhat annoyed by Gina’s flippancy. Her laughter made him feel less respected as an analyzer of magic. But he said nothing.

For the last trick of the performance, Khan and his assistant rode an elephant on stage. The elephant turned from side to side and bowed, as the performers thanked the audience for their appreciation. Then, just as the elephant gave another bow, there was a final firework and puff of smoke and all the lights in the room went out. Two spotlights came on and hunted the room for the performers briefly. Then the lights came back up, only to reveal an empty stage. This final trick almost stunned the audience, for no one believed that a slow-moving elephant could either walk or be moved off stage during the short time the lights were off. It was truly amazing.

It was midnight before Professor Miller and Gina rode the elevator back to their room.


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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com