At last someone new entered the room. The newcomer sat down at a table that I hadn’t even known was there. I heard him set something onto the table. I heard the chimes of a computer getting booted up. I heard a computer keyboard getting typed upon by a very fast typist. The typing lasted for a long time.
During the endless keyboard typing, the black cloth against my face got assailed by the sudden illumination of a blinding light that penetrated the weave. I turned my head away from its glare. The light remained on, its steady beam fixed on me. It was so powerful I could feel actual heat coming from it through the black bag.
*** *** *** ***
I left Hal’s with an expensive, silvery metal security briefcase in hand, swinging it by my side like a lunch box. While she amazed me by being foolish enough to have the money on her, I sure as hell didn’t complain. Meanwhile, part of me feared some juvenile delinquent might snatch the case from my grasp. So as a deterrent I cranked up my “very straight and very tall” to full tilt. Walk like you have a purpose in life, soldier! Those words still echoed through my head more than two decades after their utterance.
I went to my business bank over on Vine Street --the bank where I had my company’s checking account. I told the teller I needed to make a large cash deposit. When she asked how much, I hesitated. Is it really fifty-thousand? I hadn’t actually counted. But in faith I declared exactly that. The teller’s eyes at first widened, then narrowed in dark revulsion. (She must’ve thought I was a drug dealer or a pimp.) She asked me to wait while she got her supervisor.
I was next greeted by a smiling branch manager. He employed regal gestures to usher me behind the counter to a back room. In there we found the same teller preparing an electronic cash-counting machine. In polite tones he asked that next time I try to give at least 24 hours notice. I handed him the metal case, and he surprised me by handing me a bottled water --something I hadn’t seen in a year, and it was even chilled. Feeling like I’d just been given a Cuban cigar, I offered my stunned gratitude. In return he used more regal gestures to direct me to a nearby chair where I could sit and watch. From my chair I saw him wordlessly open the case and survey the banded bundles of fifties and hundreds. He then told the teller to begin, thus he supervised the teller’s chore of popping paper bands and feeding the notes into the chattering machine. Hiding my nervousness, I sipped my delicious chlorine-free water as the contraption whipped through the cash, its small screen displaying the growing tally. After five minutes the bills had all shuffled through, proving a perfect fifty-thousand. I clutched the bottle and quietly sighed in relief.
He filled out a deposit slip and asked me to sign it. He exited the room with it then returned moments later with a deposit voucher and a beaming smile.
I left that bank and went next door to my other bank where the mortgage on my shop sat in arrears. My lending agent called the first bank to confirm the cash deposit, then agreed to take a company check for the balance of the loan.
“It WILL clear, right?” he asked. “Because if you bounce a check this large--”
“--It’ll clear,” I assured him.
He turned back to his screen, clicking his mouse. But then he stopped clicking, leaned over, and whispered: “Pete, I really hope you didn’t go to a loan shark.”
I said nothing.
-------------------End of Chapter 3--------------------