“I see,” said the manager, as he put the phone down and looked at the patron very carefully. Mr. Vanier was a patient man, working his way up the bank for over ten years until they finally decided he would suit them more favorably “running the whole show” – the owners’ phrase – instead of handling individual bank loans or opening and closing accounts. There was much to be said for the new job. The hours were brief and he did not have to deal with as many problems back in his private office. There had once been a bank robbery at a branch nearby, but the robbers made the mistake of leaving behind a bandanna, a set of keys (were they for a car? He could not remember), and several eyewitnesses who could recall what they sounded like and wore within a week of the heist. There was nothing to worry about here. Everything was fine.
The lady sitting across from him tapped his desk with her umbrella and he lost the moment he had in his head.
“Sir, I feel like I should protest over this!”
“Ms. Crusette. And I have been a loyal customer of your bank for over twenty years without a single problem or concern about my account…until today!”
Mr. Vanier sighed. Why did she specifically ask for the manager over something like this? Was Herman or Gordon or even Gloria (oh Gloria, so much for so little by hiring her; she even brought in more male customers who suddenly did not want to do everything over an ATM; a good choice there). He looked out the glass panel separating his office from the main floor and noted only one of them was at the wicket (where the hell were Gloria and Herman?). Mme. Cruel. was all his priority.
“Ms. Crusette, could you please tell me what happened exactly?”
The lady in front of him slowly opened her bag. How old was she, he wondered? Maybe late-forties, no wedding ring (no surprise), clothes were not anything special (Anne of Green Gables meets…? He could not really find a match), umbrella despite the weather, and now, a bank book was on his desk.
An actual bank book? Did they still have them (Mr. Vanier would ask about this at the next staff meeting)?
“This just feels…wrong.”
Mr. Vanier picked up the bank book.
“You have a problem with the total? The amount is not correct?”
“A very big problem, sir! And the amount is definitely not correct.”
He flipped through the pages, noting the dull grey numbers and ink that darkened his fingers as he got to the last entry.
He stared at the number for a very long time.
“Ms. Crusette, you must have friends in high places.”
That was a mistake, he thought. A woman with that much money and no sense of humor was a dangerous thing.
“It is not funny, sir! And I do not have such friends. I am a secretary for an accounting firm, and I came to the bank today to deposit my paycheck. Now, usually I don’t use the machines… But I wanted to things done before it started to rain. So, I went to an ATM…and found that this…amount was in my bank account. When I went inside, the teller,” she looked behind her (was she talking about Gordon or Herman; he did not think Gloria was the one she dealt it), “took a look at my book and let me walk away without saying a single helpful word.”
He sighed and took a look at the number again. Mr. Vanier tried to calculate how long it would take him to earn such an amount of money in this job. The number of years felt infinite. He looked at his desk for a moment.
“Would you excuse me for a moment?”
He took the bankbook and walked over the tellers. Gordon was just finished with a customer who accidentally stumbled inside to get out of the rain and managed to get him to open up an account (always doing his best, he thought). No sign of Herman…or Gloria (he would not let his thoughts go there; just…no).
“Mike.” They were often informal with each other, but Mr. Vanier still felt like he should be a little more professional during work, even on an empty floor (would he start calling Gordon “Mr. Pimm”? He could not bear that).
“Did you handle her account today?” Mr. Vanier gestured toward the woman, slightly shifting on his feet. Ms. Crusette was adjusting her jacket and tapping one of her feet.
Gordon looked at the woman. “No, I was putting away some papers. Herman had her for a moment.”
He tried not to laugh at that line (Herman having anyone seemed ridiculous). “Okay, and did you hear or see anything unusual when you were in the back?”
Gordon was a young man and he had not heard or seen everything that Mr. Vanier experienced. He could be forgiven for his next thought.
“You think she’s…a bank robber?”
Mr. Vanier really should have done this in private. He was standing in front of the grill like a customer on the now empty floor, but he still felt ridiculous.
“No, that is not it. It is just…” He passed the bank book on the marble space between them. “She thinks this is a mistake.”
Gordon stared at the amount, his mouth dropping open for a moment. “Jesus…”
Mr. Vanier grabbed it back. “Okay, so you don’t know anything about this?”
“If I did, I would have to say something, right?” Gordon seemed dazed right now.
“Right, that is right. So…thanks.” He began to walk back and paused. “Did you see Gloria?”
“Think she’s on her break.”
The daze that was on Gordon’s face was gone in a moment. Mr. Vanier wondered if he could play poker with the kid one day. Such a tell…
“I don’t know…”
“Seriously? Now you’re going to lie to me? What’s going on?”
Gordon was bright enough to figure out he was caught. They both listened to the growing sound of the rain outside. “Long lunch break for them both.”
“What does that mean?”
“They said you’d know. That was all they said to me.”
So, it was both of them. Well done, Herman; not sure what to say to you, Gloria.
“Great. Just great.” He walked back to the office.
Mr. Vanier suddenly had a thought.
“Ms. Crusette?” He stood at the door as she turned around in the chair.
“I have done a little check up on this, and it seems like there has been no mistake with your account.” He held the book out to her.
Ms. Crusette, rising slowly from her chair with her umbrella in her hand – it reminded him of a samurai handling a katana – looked at the bank book as if it were candy from a stranger.
“As I said,” he now smiled at her and hoped she would repeat the gesture, “you must have friends in high places.”
She now stepped out of the office and stood in the marble hall, looking around her at the empty space and the main wicket (Gordon waved over at her; she touched the air with a raised hand).
“I see…” She looked down at the book and took it. “So, it is mine?”
“As far as this bank is concerned, yes.”
She stared at the book and looked at Mr. Vanier. Was there a smile there?
“Thank you, sir.”
“Mike. And thank you, Ms. Crusette.”
Yes, that was a smile.
“Oh, Gloria. We have a woman on our staff named Gloria…”
“Oh, yes, I know. She is the one I spoke to when I checked the amount.”
The rain began to pick up outside. And was there thunder behind it?
“She handled your account?”
“Oh, yes. That was why I wanted to speak to you. She seemed very happy and…I have to say ‘jumpy’ as well. That was the reason why I was so nervous. She kept talking about how lucky I was and how she was going to move on with her life after things were done. When she brought back the book, she said that life was too short and that she needed to ‘get back at people who kept using her’. Nothing about money or mistakes with my account. And I must say,” she adjusted her jacket and looked out one of the windows at the storm, “she did not sound happy at all.”
A clap of thunder shocked the speech to a pause. Mr. Vanier felt ill, and scared. He needed a very long lunch break.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Vanier. It’s just thunder. And you have really put my mind at rest.”
She walked out of the bank, holding her handbag with her bank book in it and dreaming of what she could do on a rainy day.