Steve Kryder settled into Row 22, Seat A, and smiled. Sometimes, he thought, it all just comes together.

This weekend, he would be flying for 31 hours. And that was fine - in fact, it was great. Today would be New York to San Francisco, then San Francisco to Tokyo. Sunday would be the return flights, and he'd be back at the international equity desk on Monday morning.

Someone would ask, "Hey, Stevie, how was your weekend? You got any stories for us?" And everyone would look up, grinning, because Steve Kryder wasn't bashful about his love life. It was a man's world on the I.E. desk; women and sensitive souls didn't last long.

"Nothing to tell," he would answer, and there would be a chorus of boos. "But Mindy's coming into town next weekend." And there would be cheers. "You'll get a full report."
Then they'd all go back to their analysts' data and the news and numbers from the Asian markets, Zurich, Frankfurt, and London. Later, they'd call the portfolio managers, syndicate desks, and special clients and begin the salesman's pitch: "It's undervalued ... It's about to take off ... This is a good one." Now was the time for some company, some industry, something.

Every minute, someone made a fortune on Wall Street, and someone else lost one. And the difference, Steve had decided, wasn't brains - a lot of dummies were millionaires and a lot of smart guys went bankrupt. The difference was timing and luck, that's all, and the fates didn't care who you were. Life wasn't fair, Steve thought, and that's why he was going to Tokyo.

Flight 127 to San Francisco was almost finished boarding when a slender, blond woman started down the aisle, ticket in hand, looking at the row numbers. Come on, Steve urged, come on back to Row 22.

She was cool and sleek, and in her late 20s, he guessed. Her makeup was perfect, the tight, gray sweater would be cashmere, and he knew there'd be just a touch of perfume. Keep coming, Steve thought. She stopped at Row 22, faced him, then turned around and slid into a seat across the aisle.

So close. Steve watched as she put on her seat belt, and he decided that sometime during the flight he'd get a conversation going with her. After all, he had the looks - dark hair and an athletic build that looked good in Wall Street's uniform of button-down shirt, striped tie, and dark suit pants.

And she would notice the aura of success that he'd so carefully cultivated since his first month on the I.E. desk, when he had been told, "Act like you're rich and that your job is just a hobby." Of course, he wasn't rich; he didn't even have that first million, "starter money" as they called it. But he would tomorrow.

(End of excerpt)