I’ll be posting a short story on this page from time to time. My offering today is a short story in which I was required to have the protagonist read between the lines. How did I go?
Something wasn’t right: I could see it in the way her eyes held mine for a second before darting away to glance at the man beside her.
‘You’re closing your account?’ I queried. ‘You’ve been a customer for over twenty years. Are you unhappy with our service?’ I’d been a cashier in our small bank for a long time but it was the first time a long-standing customer had closed their account. And it was a big one – nearly a million dollars.
The old woman bit her lip, ‘Nothing’s wrong, I just want to close the account.’
There wasn’t much I could do. ‘Certainly, Miss Wilson. Would you like to take a seat while I process the documents?’ I waved her and her companion to a sofa and put up a ‘closed’ sign on my window before hurrying into the Manager’s office.
‘Brian, Miss Wilson is here to close her account. She looks unhappy and there’s a strange man with her. I’m sure something’s going on.’
Brian sat back in his chair. ‘You’re kidding! Miss Wilson? She’s had an account with us for years and her father before that. We’ve been the family bankers since Wilson & Co. started in the early 20s.’
‘I told them I was filling out forms. We can’t actually stop her from closing the account, can we?’
‘No, but we can stall,’ Brian looked thoughtful, ‘Let’s get her in here before we go any further.
I returned to the bank foyer where Miss Wilson was sitting on the sofa. The man was standing beside her, looking out of the window.
‘Miss Wilson, the Manager would like to talk to you himself. As a long-standing customer, he’d like to oversee the details, such as the transfer of funds and so on.’
‘She doesn’t want them transferred.’ The man turned from the window and took a step towards me. ‘She wants cash. Now.’
‘That’s not possible,’ I said. ‘We don’t carry that amount of cash in this small branch of the bank.’
‘That’s all right,’ the elderly lady said gently. ‘I have a solution to that.’ She turned to the man who was now leaning over her shoulder to mutter something in her ear. ‘It’s all right, dear. We can work this out.’
He stood back, glowering at me. ‘We need the money now.’
Miss Wilson nodded gently. ‘Shall we go into Mr. Brougher’s office?’ She stood up shakily, resting her hand on the back of the sofa. The man took her arm as if to assist her but it looked forced to me, almost as if he was keeping her in check rather than helping her up.
Our strange entourage moved into the manager’s office, where he greeted us with a smile. ‘Miss Wilson, good morning! How are you today?’
‘Very well, thank you, Mr Brougher. I need to close my account today but this young lady tells me you don’t have enough cash in the bank?’
‘That’s true. We don’t carry large amounts of cash.’
Miss Wilson continued as if she hadn’t heard him.
‘There’s an easy option. We can open the bank vault so I can retrieve my diamonds and the pearl necklace father gave me for my 21st. And the deeds to the property on Peel Street.’ Her eyes bored into Brian’s as she spoke.
Brian hesitated for a moment and then nodded. ‘Certainly,’ he said.
‘This is my nephew, Ralph,’ Miss Wilson explained. ‘He’s borrowing some money from me for a business venture. He can sell my jewellery or sell the Peel Street property. It’s worth a great deal.’
The Manager nodded thoughtfully. ‘Jane, could you take Miss Wilson and Ralph down to the vault to retrieve her jewellery?’
I could hardly believe my ears. I was sure the old lady was being coerced. The man oozed evil, his eyebrows meeting together like a giant caterpillar crouched above his eyes. Why didn’t Brian do something?
But it seemed he was happy to let them into the vault. There was nothing I could do. ‘Come with me,’ I requested.
In the vault, Miss Wilson opened her deposit box, exposing the sparkling diamonds and the warm gleam of pearls. The man pushed her aside and shovelled all the jewellery into one of the large envelopes in the bottom in the box.
‘Careful!’ I said. ‘There’s no need to be so rough.’
He ignored me and stood back, holding the envelope in his hand. “Let’s go.’
‘Have we got everything, Ralph?’ Miss Wilson asked, peering intently into the box. ‘What about the pearls? Have you got them? I don’t want to leave them behind. You must have the pearls.’
‘I’ve got them,’ Ralph snarled.
Miss Wilson sighed. ‘Always in a hurry.’ She stood up moved towards the door. and tottered a little. ‘Oh dear, I feel a little giddy. Could I trouble you for some water, dear?’
‘Of course. I’ll just lock the vault first,’ I said.
I was about to close the door when she suddenly cried., ‘Stop! Ralph, I forgot the deeds to Peel Street. They are worth more than anything else. We must have them. Could you get them?’ She held out her key.
Ralph swore as he grabbed the key and stormed into the vault towards the box.
In an instant, the frail old lady shoved me aside and slammed the vault shut.
‘Bastard,’ she said. ‘Now we’ve got him.’
I gaped at her.
She laughed at my shocked face and then cocked her head on one side. ‘I think I hear sirens,’ she said. ‘Mr Brougher must have taken the hint.’
‘Hint?’ I said.
‘I’m an only child, dear. Therefore, no nephew. And Peel Street is where the police station is, not a property I own. I believe the police are on their way.’
Copyright Alene Ivey 2018