Excerpt: Jed Rubenfeld's "Death Instinct"

Photo: The Death Instinct by Jeb RubenfeldPlayCourtesy Amazon.com
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Best selling author Jed Rubenfeld released his second book "The Death Instinct" where he gives the reader a fictional interpretation of what happened September 16, 1920 when a bomb exploded on Wall Street.

Read an excerpt from the book below, then check out some other books in the "GMA" library.

DEATH IS ONLY THE BEGINNING; afterward comes the hard part. There are three ways to live with the knowledge of death—to keep its terror at bay. The fi rst is suppression: forget it's coming; act as if it isn't. That's what most of us do most of the time. The second is the opposite: memento mori. Remember death. Keep it constantly in mind, for surely life can have no greater savor than when a man believes today is his last. The third is acceptance. A man who accepts death—really accepts it—fears nothing and hence achieves a transcendent equanimity in the face of all loss. All three of these strategies have something in common. They're lies. Terror, at least, would be honest. But there is another way, a fourth way. This is the inadmissible option, the path no man can speak of, not even to himself, not even in the quiet of his own inward conversation. This way requires no forgetting, no lying, no groveling at the altar of the inevitable. All it takes is instinct. At the stroke of noon on September 16, 1920, the bells of Trinity Church began to boom, and as if motivated by a single spring, doors fl ew open up and down Wall Street, releasing clerks and message boys, secretaries and stenographers, for their precious hour of lunch. They poured into the streets, streaming around cars, lining up at favorite vendors, fi lling in an instant the busy intersection of Wall, Nassau, and Broad, an intersection known in the fi nancial world as the Corner—just that, the Corner. There stood the United States Treasury, with its Greek temple facade, guarded by a regal bronze George Washington. There stood the white-columned New York Stock Exchange. There, J. P. Morgan's domed fortress of a bank. In front of that bank, an old bay mare pawed at the cobblestones, hitched to an overloaded, burlap-covered cart—pilotless and blocking traffi c. Horns sounded angrily behind it. A stout cab driver exited his vehicle, arms upraised in righteous appeal. Attempting to berate the cartman, who wasn't there, the taxi driver was surprised by an odd, muffl ed noise coming from inside the wagon. He put his ear to the burlap and heard an unmistakable sound: ticking.

The church bells struck twelve. With the fi nal, sonorous note still echoing, a curious taxi driver drew back one corner of moth-eaten burlap and saw what lay beneath. At that moment, among the jostling thousands, four people knew that death was pregnant in Wall Street: the cab driver; a redheaded woman close by him; the missing pilot of the horse-drawn wagon; and Stratham Younger, who, one hundred fi fty feet away, pulled to their knees a police detective and a French girl. The taxi driver whispered, "Lord have mercy."

Wall Street exploded. Two women, once upon a time the best of friends, meeting again after years apart, will cry out in disbelief, embrace, protest, and immediately take up the missing pieces of their lives, painting them in for one another with all the tint and vividness they can. Two men, under the same conditions, have nothing to say at all. At eleven that morning, one hour before the explosion, Younger and Jimmy Littlemore shook hands in Madison Square, two miles north of Wall Street. The day was unseasonably fi ne, the sky a crystal blue. Younger took out a cigarette.

"Been a while, Doc," said Littlemore. Younger struck, lit, nodded. Both men were in their thirties, but of different physical types. Littlemore, a detective with the New York Police Department, was the kind of man who mixed easily into his surroundings. His height was average, his weight average, the color of his hair average; even his features were average, a composite of American openness and good health. Younger, by contrast, was arresting. He was tall; he moved well; his skin was a little weathered; he had the kind of imperfections in a handsome face that women like. In short, the doctor's appearance was more demanding than the detective's, but less amiable. "How's the job?" asked Younger. "Job's good," said Littlemore, a toothpick wagging between his lips. "Family?" "Family's good." Another difference between them was visible as well. Younger had fought in the war; Littlemore had not. Younger, walking away from his medical practice in Boston and his scientifi c research at Harvard, had enlisted immediately after war was declared in 1917. Littlemore would have too—if he hadn't had a wife and so many children to provide for. "That's good," said Younger. "So are you going to tell me," asked Littlemore, "or do I have to pry it out of you with a crowbar?" Younger smoked. "Crowbar." "You call me after all this time, tell me you got something to tell me, and now you're not going to tell me?" "This is where they had the big victory parade, isn't it?" asked Younger, looking around at Madison Square Park, with its greenery, monuments, and ornamental fountain. "What happened to the arch?" "Tore it down." "Why were men so willing to die?" "Who was?" asked Littlemore. "It doesn't make sense. From an evolutionary point of view." Younger

looked back at Littlemore. "I'm not the one who needs to talk to you. It's Colette." "The girl you brought back from France?" said Littlemore. "She should be here any minute. If she's not lost." "What's she look like?" Younger thought about it: "Pretty." A moment later, he added, "Here she is." A double-decker bus had pulled up nearby on Fifth Avenue. Littlemore turned to look; the toothpick nearly fell out of his mouth. A girl in a slim trench coat was coming down the outdoor spiral staircase. The two men met her as she stepped off. Colette Rousseau kissed Younger once on either cheek and extended a slender arm to Littlemore. She had green eyes, graceful movements, and long dark hair. "Glad to meet you, Miss," said the detective, recovering gamely. She eyed him. "So you're Jimmy," she replied, taking him in. "The best and bravest man Stratham has ever known." Littlemore blinked. "He said that?" "I also told her your jokes aren't funny," added Younger. Colette turned to Younger: "You should have come to the radium clinic. They've cured a sarcoma. And a rhinoscleroma. How can a little hospital in America have two whole grams of radium when there isn't one in all of France?" "I didn't know rhinos had an aroma," said Littlemore. "Shall we go to lunch?" asked Younger.