It wasn't exactly a secret. Mike found a bunch of old photos of him online. A few of them misspelled his first name (the Union County News, serving Elizabeth, Linden, Plainfield and more!, called Harry Specter the most formidable fastballer in the New Jersey under-14 leagues), but black-and-white newspaper scans still made it obvious.
And anyway, he was blond as late as Harvard. Not tow-headed any more, but still more like a Ken doll than not. And he sure as hell wasn't blond now.
There was no way to ask that though, right? Mike had enough caution to think that one through. There was no smart way to say to an egomaniacal millionaire, "Hey, do you dye your hair?" As well ask Tom Cruise if he's had chin implants.
Really, Harvey didn't seem like the type. He was vain -- Mike hadn't known it was possible to spend that much money on a suit -- but he wasn't vain in that self-deluding way that keeps up a fiction anyone with access to Google Images can see through. Harvey Specter did not broadcast his insecurities like that. It was possible he didn't have any insecurities. Mike wasn't sure yet.
So he sat in Harvey's office and got yelled at twice weekly and observed his senior partner the way he usually observed words on a page. Moles on Harvey's face, slightly crooked bottom teeth, a scar on the underside of his chin. Mike never saw him do it, but Harvey obviously shaved at some point in the afternoons: his jaw was as smooth at sunset as at sunrise. His eyebrows and eyelashes were unremarkable matching brown, and anyway facial hair wasn't a great predictor of the hair on your head. (Mike's own beard grew in red.)
People's hair does change colors naturally, over the courses of their childhoods and even as late as college. But close observation caught it, in the end. In morning sunlight, Harvey's hairline in front developed a thin pale line over the course of two weeks, just enough for someone supremely alert to notice it on the second Friday. Not even that pale, just paler than the rest of his hair, just a curious reverse shadow that made his forehead seem higher. The following Monday it was uniformly dark. So he dyed it very often, more often than he got his hair cut. (Mike really didn't want to know what Harvey spent on a haircut.) That meant he dyed it himself, most likely. Mike didn't have any sisters or close female cousins. He knew nothing about how hair dye worked.
He planned his approach to Donna carefully, with a bribe and a compliment and an innocent-sounding query in hand, and of course, Harvey got in the way. Just as Mike was handing off an iced latte, a voice came from behind Harvey's closed door. "Hey Donna!"
Donna gave Mike a polite smile and put down her offering and stalked to the door and flung it open. "Did you just Hey me?" she demanded.
"Absolutely not," said Harvey, with unimpeachable innocence. "But you've got to see this." He stood in front of his bank of windows, arms crossed. Donna came to look, and Mike saw no reason not to follow suit. Harvey hovered behind them, and Mike could feel the imperious charisma at his back.
Three blocks north, in the middle of Park Avenue, a black horse stood loose in the intersection, dancing fitfully. A long rope hung from its bridle-halter-thingy and dragged on the tar. It wore no saddle. The taxis were trying to edge past it, and only drove it into a frenzy of rearing and extending its neck, teeth bared. There was no clear indication where it had come from.
"Hundred bucks says they have to put it down," said Harvey, over their shoulders.
Donna answered him without turning around, "You are a monster. Hundred bucks says some kind of horse whisperer will lead it away unharmed."
Harvey made a face at her behind her back and she reached back and swatted his arm without even needing to look. Mike stood there watching, and tried to reason out how you even got a horse into Manhattan. It was too small for a police mount (those things looked like cannon on stilts), and the horses that drew carriages for tourists in Central Park were the same kind of bulky. Some show at Madison Square Garden? But that was twenty some-odd blocks away, and implied that you would drive a horse on the BQE, or worse, over the Triborough Bridge.
Cops were already on the scene, pushing the gawkers back with arms wide. Someone in a bright shirt stood there arguing, maybe the horse's owner.
Mike asked, "Is it even dangerous? We're not talking about an elephant, here." Out of the corner of his eye Mike saw Harvey pull a billfold out of his pocket, and actually peel off a hundred-dollar bill. Mike mostly avoided hundreds -- too easy to trace, too hard to break --, and here was someone with one in his pocket on a Thursday in July. More than one, probably. Mike considered the possibility of a second career in mugging lawyers. He griped, "Why would they put it down? It's a public street. There's a City of New York right-of-way code specifically for horses."
Harvey laughed at him. "Who are you, Howard Cosell? Quit kibbitzing and place your bet."
Mike was making a lot of money now, but -- a hundred dollars on a game of chance.
"Who's Howard Cosell?" he asked, in cheerful misdirection. That the question implied Harvey was old didn't hurt either. He didn't place a bet.
Donna won in short order anyway. Whoever it was down on the street in the bright shirt caught the tail end of the rope, shortened it, and had soon thrown something over the horse's eyes to lead it safely away. Harvey handed over the hundred with a smile on his face. Donna accepted her due, snapped the bill in front of them, and pranced back out of Harvey's office, leaving Mike behind.
The business of gaining clients usually happened out of Mike's view: all the wining and dining and shmoozy events were the sort of thing to which freshman associates were not invited. (Even if they were invited, they had better be too busy to go.) What Mike got to see was the line being reeled in, new client already hooked. Today's fish was an aging, bulky man named Anthony Bardo, and from the bio Mike had hastily worked up that morning, it was clear he was worth a lot of money.
You can always tell a Wall Streeter because the first thing he looks at after your face is your shoes. They're weird about that, apparently. Because Mike had got the complete Harvey Specter Wardrobe Overhaul upon being hired, he was wearing black Oxford shoes when he met Bardo. Not custom-made by the finest child-labor of Paraguay or anything, but Bardo didn't sniff at them the way he did a few other associates he saw in the hallways. (Why open-laced shoes weren't good enough was a complete mystery to Mike. Harvey wore wingtips that day, to Bardo's evident delight.) Mike led Bardo down the hallway and into Harvey's immaculate glass office with every effort at pleasant chat withering on the vine. Pleasant chat was of no interest to a man like Bardo.
Unimpressed by the expensive furniture or the expensive view or for that matter the expensive outfits everybody was wearing, Bardo lit up at the sight of Harvey striding toward him, his suit finely pinstriped and his hand outstretched. He shook with Bardo enthusiastically and acted as if Mike were not even there. The only way Mike knew he was supposed to stay in the room was that the door was not closed in his face.
Mike had learned to take notes at meetings like these, because he did not look industrious if he sat physically idle. He perched in the corner with a notepad and listened to Bardo explain about the piles of cash he was going to make managing his own hedge fund. "The market doesn't know shit about technology," he told Harvey earnestly. "Not a goddamn clue. If they're going to be a bunch of fucking idiots about it, then I'm going to make a buck off those fucking idiots."
Harvey gave one of his enigmatic little smiles. Mike was learning: that was a smile that loathed what it was smiling at. He turned the conversation smoothly to the management structure and compensation plan. They spoke with interest but not awe about the trillions of dollars, with a T, that would be transacted by this fund. Bardo was looking at a performance fee of 25% on any profits, and that wasn't including the basic management fee he would get whether the fund made any money or not. Harvey was obviously in the wrong business if he wanted to make real money.
"I just want out from under the SEC," said Bardo at last. "Holy hell, I am so tired of them up my ass all the time."
"I'm afraid," said Harvey, with reptilian calm, "that government interest in hedge funds has increased since 2008. We're not in the wild west any more."
"It's a fucking tragedy, is what it is. As if I care --"
"Anthony." Harvey's vocal control was striking. He could stop a conversation without raising his volume, just by employing a particular pitch and tone. He folded his hands as if he sat at tea with the Queen. "I don't take on boring clients. When I have to send my clients trotting up two floors to Criminal Defense, they become much less interesting to me."
In his multi-thousand-dollar suit, probably more thousands that Harvey's, Bardo sat very still. His Italian collar seemed to fit him a little too tightly, and he fidgeted with his hands rather than loosen it. Mike watched in silence as Harvey stared him down.
Bardo patted his dark hair. "Ha ha, I always want to be interesting," he said.
"Yes," said Harvey, "you do."
The F-bombs fell sparingly after that, and Bardo got down to the details of the agreements Harvey would be setting up for him. Mike was there at the right moment to provide the standard paperwork, and then again with a pen (one of Harvey's, a fountain pen) for Bardo to sign. He caught Harvey's eye while Bardo bent to the page and tried to assess the power there, the reason why a pushy billionaire would be so intimidated. But Harvey only raised an eyebrow as if inviting Mike in on some ineffable joke. Mike couldn't quite suss out what the joke was supposed to be, except for the basic irony that Harvey clearly held finance people -- the majority of his clients -- in a cordial and distant contempt. Maybe that was why they liked dealing with him so much: he wasn't overawed by their money and their aggressive talk. Why Harvey dealt with them in return was -- well, they were about the only people who could afford to pay his fees.
After a last handshake, Mike was tasked to walk Bardo back to the elevators (and report back any comments made along the way, verbatim). The return trip was surreal, intimate, as if they'd just spent an hour in a foxhole together instead of in a sumptuously-appointed office.
"What a competitor," Bardo gushed. "Did you see that? I heard the trading houses tried to hire him away ten times. Total waste of his talent that he's not out there making deals himself. He says he likes the law. I still don't get his angle."
Mike was not born yesterday. He could deflect Bardo's implied question and answer it truthfully in the same phrase: "Yeah, he keeps it pretty close to the vest."
"He used to be a pitcher, he ever tell you that?" Bardo did not even notice the shoes of the associates who crossed his path. The scenery no longer had to impress him now Harvey had done the job thoroughly. Mike wondered suddenly whether Bardo dyed his hair, whether out of his suit he looked like one of those scary dentist from the neck up, bouncer from the neck down aging steroid guys. Finance people seemed like prime candidates for that kind of insane physical competition.
"Yes," said Mike, suppressing his dislike.
"Talk about your command of the field. I want that guy on my side."
Mike bit his tongue. The whole retro-tough guy baseball mythology thing was tiresome, not least because everyone brought it up. Everyone except Harvey himself. He carefully cultivated everything on the GQ checklist: the right watch, the right clothes, the right kinds of extracurriculars, but he didn't talk about baseball as if it were some kind of gladiatorial precursor to the business world. He really didn't talk about baseball much at all, unless someone else brought it up first.
"I'm sure he's glad to have you," Mike said at last. They were, mercifully, approaching the elevators and he would not have to manufacture cliches about a sport he'd never followed.
One last handshake and Bardo stepped onto the elevator. He turned and faced back at Mike as he waited for the doors to close. "The Yankees would kill to have a guy like that on their team," he said, as the doors began to move. "Wonder why he never went pro?"
Mike did not know why Harvey had never gone pro. Bardo disappeared from view and Mike headed back to Harvey's office to pick up the paperwork. Harvey was sitting in his chair again, deep in thought, his eyes on his bookshelf. Mike followed his gaze and noted (not for the first time, but with fresh interest) that a baseball glove sat on top of the shelf, with a ball in it, as if set aside after an afternoon of play. Mike had never seen Harvey touch it or put it on: maybe he didn't, or maybe he did it only in private. He stared at it though, moody, and shooed Mike out of his office so that he could stare by himself.
"So, about Harvey," Mike started. He'd rehearsed a few times, and came armed again with a bribe.
"You say that like you've got a crush on him," Donna teased. But she sipped on her gift latte and relented. "It's okay, most of the associates do. You don't have to question your sexuality unless you want to."
"I was going to ask," Mike strangled out, "How the two of you met."
"How do you think? Nothing exotic: I was assigned to him. We were young and dumb. We clicked." She neglected to mention where they'd met, and let Mike assume it was at Pearson Hardman. (He didn't realize it was at the DA's office till weeks later, and that one little fact changed the story in his mind.)
"So did you know him before he went brunet?"
Donna was smooth; Donna was prepared. It was possible she'd taught Harvey that bland, unrevealing smile. "Yes of course," she answered, without hesitation. "He did that about six months after we met."
As confessions went, this was skimpy. Mike abandoned his roundabout strategy. "He ever tell you why?"
This is where Donna paused. Her dark eyes traveled up and down his face, critical.
"Just don't --" she stopped and repeated herself, lower, "--just don't ever call him a golden boy."
"That was his nickname?" Mike laughed, then saw Donna's face and stopped laughing.
"If you value your dignity and your life and the respect of every person who has ever thought well of you --"
"Jesus, what happened?"
She sat back in her chair and ran her fingers over her keyboard. She didn't read the screen, just touched solid objects as if gathering evidence. "He was so meteoric. Everyone knew he was going places. Most of the other secretaries called him Hollywood behind his back, and he loved that." Mike loved it too. He would have to find a way to drop that into conversation someday. Donna went on and her absent smile faded. "I don't know who started the other name. One of the attorneys, I guess. After five months on the job, some jackass lost against him and had the nerve to say it to his face."
"Oh my god, did Harvey rip him to shreds?"
"No," said Donna. "He went home that night and put his hand through a television."
Mike waited for the just-kidding laugh. It didn't come. "He punched a television."
Donna eyed the closed door over her shoulder. "Yeah, the old kind with the glass and a tube in back. A 12-incher, I think."
Mike was suddenly recalling that time Harvey had yelled, really yelled, at Louis. He'd been so wrapped up in his anger he'd forgotten Mike was a witness. He'd knocked Louis back, but he'd been subdued for the rest of the day, ashamed and unwilling to admit to shame. It had baffled Mike then, and baffled him still. "Harvey. Punched a television."
Donna was regarding him dubiously. "I believe that's what I said the first time?"
"I just... he doesn't seem like the type."
"Well, it was 14 years ago. He's mellowed since then." Her voice was light, but a rueful smile spread across her face before she controlled it. "Anyway, after he got the stitches out, he asked me who cut my hair and whether they could make time for him. I talked him into doing it gradually instead of all at once. He's been doing it so long by now, he's probably forgotten what his real color is."
Mike thought it over. Harvey claimed disdain for emotions, or at least the willpower not to succumb to them. Such a weak, schoolyard taunt, like picking on someone for having freckles: of all the stupid things to get a rise out of him. His hair color? Surely he'd heard worse, rubbing elbows with the moral cretins of Wall Street.
"Any ideas why that bothered him so much? So I don't make the same mistake," Mike added hastily. The expression on her face showed he'd crossed the line between ordinary intelligence-gathering and prying. But maybe only by a little bit.
"You'll have to ask him," she said, and made clear that she was done entertaining clueless associates.
"Okay," Mike told her, still mystified. "Thanks for the heads-up."
"As long as we understand one another," sniffed Donna.
Mike walked three steps away, and then turned around and came back. "What's the story you tell to people you don't trust?"
Donna smiled at him with greater satisfaction than ever graced the face of a Persian cat. "What makes you think I trust you?"
Mike smiled back at her; he couldn't help himself. He was just restrained enough not to answer that. She was like Harvey: she liked you better if you could avoid stating the obvious. Mike was getting a lot of practice at it, and improving every day.