The Bank Manager Who ...

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
An elderly man retraces the steps of his grandparents.

Submitted: February 22, 2015

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Submitted: February 22, 2015

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THE BANKER WHO …

 

The ancient bank with living quarters above it, had finally collapsed due to abandonment. Over the years talk about it being dangerous and how it would need to be demolished, were often in the air. Nobody ever wanted to be the one to say, let’s do it and get the place out of the way for good and all. The fact it was no longer fit for anything other than a site for something else to be constructed on, meant that there would be no grieving over its disappearance. For quite a long time the bank had been a point where the main street began and ended, depending which direction you were coming from. A hundred years ago the town was nothing more than a muddy mess of a main street lined by what could only be called wooden shacks. From just looking at it, the town at that time was nothing more than a disaster. The only hotel was a refuge for men and women for various reasons. It was the most comfortable place in town. The hotel was run by an over made-up blonde called Hannah. It was from the hotel, called The Last Resort, that the town was managed. Everyone who arrived in town after crossing the muddy land, made their way to The Last Resort because that’s how they felt, they couldn’t go on any further. Hannah ruled the hotel from her office on the ground floor, and woe betide if anyone tried to pull the wool over her eyes.

The bank appeared around the time of Hannah’s arrival. At first, the bank and the hotel had only business dealings, but on one fateful night, when Zachary Mason, the bank manager who had gone there to set up his own bank, entered the bar with an arm dripping with blood. Hannah had rushed out of her office, and had taken charge immediately, and put Zachary to lie down on the sofa she had for resting, in her office. They both said that was when their romance took off, and it might well be, for six months later they were married.

 

The rubble from the last walls of the bank to disappear, were to be cleared away to make way for the widening of the main street. Stanley, the grandson of Zachary and Hannah, stood at the site of what was once the beginning of the wealth of his family. The Masons had always lived far better than anyone else, and the first Mason generation after Zachary and Hannah, had lived like princes and princesses, albeit in Spain. Stanley had travelled a long way from where he lived in Spain to see the old bank. He remembered where The Last Resort had been, but it had gone before he was born, and he had to rely on a few old photos and what his grandparents had told him. The town as it was once upon a time, was no longer a mud bath but a modern city with solid brick houses lining the streets full of motorized vehicles. Stanley asked himself whether his grandparents would have recognized it.

A tipper truck stopped beside Stanley, and the driver poked his head out of the window, “Hey! You! Get out of the way, can’t you?”

“Yes, of course. What was here before it fell down?” Stanley asked out of curiosity.

“Some old bank,” the miserable driver answered.

“Why was it left to fall down?”

“The bank manager ran off with the money many years ago, and after asking around to find out who owned the property, it was decided that the road was more important than a building the owner didn’t even want, and that was of no use whatsoever.”

“Thank you for the info. Bye.”

The driver and his truck drove onto the site, and Stanley was left outside to wonder. He wanted to see for himself, if it was true about his grandfather running off with the money.

 

When Hannah had first laid eyes on Zachary, she had said to herself that he was the one for her. She wasn’t quite sure how she would catch him, but she had no doubts that everything was possible in love and war. Hannah had been working ever since she had left school and had never wanted to get married, but at the time she met Zachary she was already thirty years old, and had the notion that time was running out for her, although she was still very pretty. Zachary represented all the things she wanted in a man: he was tall, dark, and handsome, and startlingly slim. He cut a very dashing figure whatever he was wearing, and Hannah was delighted when she was able to help him.

Her office was not all that large, but big enough for a sofa, a desk and chair, and not much more. On the night Zachary was stabbed in his left arm by a drunken idiot who tried to rob him, and had left him dripping blood all over the street, Hannah had seized her chance and pulled all the stops out as regards seduction. At last she had him in her power. If Zachary noticed anything strange or odd in her behaviour, he never said. The wound in his arm was rather bad and the town doctor was sent for. The wound was stitched up, and then Zachary was sedated, and the doctor told Hannah (to her delight) that he should rest for a few days, due to his loss of blood. The banker was too worn out to resist the doctor’s instructions, and did as he was ordered and stayed at The Last Resort till he felt well enough to go back to work. Hannah was a good business woman and cook, and Zachary felt that he had been missing out on something in his life. He was thirty-five years old at the time he met Hannah, and was not exactly every woman’s dream. He had travelled a lot, and had discovered the town by chance, and thought he would be able to start his life again, after the mess up he had made of it, when he had got involved with  a couple of shady characters. Zachary had unintentionally made off with their share of the booty from another bank robbery. His companions had gone off to jail and he, to open Mason’s Bank. He wasn’t too keen on telling Hannah, unless he had to, so he kept that part of his personal history to himself. Hannah had not been without her adventures too, and had ended up in a similar situation as Zachary’s. She had fallen in love with a man who turned out to be married, and whose wronged wife had gone to Hannah’s previous place of work and created a scene. Hannah had felt railroaded, and gathered up all her possessions and money, and had left that same day. On arriving in town, she had decided to buy an hotel for business, and forget all about men. The problem for her was, that she found Zachary too handsome to resist - but she did - for a while at least.

 

Stanley left the town where his grandparents had met, and drove out to an hotel along the beach. He lay down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. His thoughts were on his grandfather and what he had said to him, that he had hidden some money in a safe in the house. He knew that if there had been anything of any value it would have been discovered by now. Stanley had fond memories of his grandparents, because they had brought him up. The stories they had told him about the town when it was nothing but mud, and how they had married and gone to live in a more salubrious area. He also knew that his grandfather had never gone to work, once married to Hannah, and yet there was always money from somewhere.

 

After getting married and, unfortunately, having their photos published in the local rag, Zachary was rather worried that his ex-companions would search him out. That was when he suggested to Hannah to move to another place. Hannah wanted to know why, and so he told her the bare bones of the bank robbery.

“I have an idea. Why don’t you and I rob your own bank, and leave this place for good?”

Zachary’s eyes opened wide, and he stared at his wife as if for the first time. “Darling, I think you have criminal tendencies. We’d have to be careful. It’s not so easy. There are all sorts of unknown dangers in such an undertaking.”

“You should know, but if you think I’m going to wait here for some idiots to arrive and take everything we have, you’ve got another think coming. OK?”

 

At the time of that conversation, Zachary and Hannah had two young children to think about, and it was their children’s future they were most concerned about. Zachary had put his ill-gotten gains in the bank, and then he had rented the fine house they were then living in.

He went to bed that night with his head full of plans of how he would be able to leave the property and get the money out of the bank. The bank, as a building, didn’t represent a great deal if he just walked away and left, so he fabricated a plan on how to get the best out of the situation. The most important thing of all, was to make sure that Hannah and the children were away safe, in the event that the two people he most wanted to avoid turned up. Not many people knew where he and his family had moved to, but the very fact he still worked at the bank, was the weak point, and the one he would have to get rid of in order to be free.

 

Hannah and the children left by train for the coast one Sunday evening, when the vast majority were at church. Zachary was inside the bank, emptying all the cash into body-bags that were to cover his slim body all over. He then put on an extra long coat and left by the back door. The one thing he wanted to do was to burn the bank down, but it wasn’t really necessary, and it might have drawn attention to him. In his long dark coat, Zachary walked out of the town to his rented house. There, he changed his suit, and dyed his dark hair to white, and wearing some old clothes Hannah had got from a thrift shop, he left for the coast, where he and Hannah were to meet up.

There was a scandal when the news broke out that the bank had been robbed by the banker himself, and that he and his family had absconded. The local vicar, who had liked Zachary, stood up in church the following Sunday, and denounced him as a person of no morals.

A troop of his clients in the bank, went to the lovely house he had lived in till the day of leaving, only to find it as empty as the bank. They sold what furniture they found, to get some of their money back, but it was nothing in comparison to how they felt - that Zachary had let them down.

 

Stanley went out to dinner without any appetite for food. He had thought the bank might still be there, but why should it be. Stanley had waited till his grandparents were dead, before going back to where they had met and married. He knew that they had changed their surname, and now the story was being completed. During his dinner, he made up his mind to try and get a look at some old newspapers of that time, the next day. Stanley was eighty when he went sniffing out his family scandal, and did so because he wasn’t sure how much longer he had to live, and he wanted to know how they had made it to another country where they didn’t even speak a word.

The following morning, Stanley went to the local library to check out the bank robbery from old newspapers. The lady who was in charge of the section was a great help, and said, “It’s amazing how many visitors have come here for the same era, so there must be something that attracts their attention. Here you are, you’ll find everything you need on this reel.” The librarian had placed a reel in a machine that ran it through.

Stanley had the shock of his life on seeing a couple of ancient photos of his grandparents. It must have been taken on their wedding day. Hannah was in a white dress, and his grandfather was in a formal suit. He remembered having seen photos like it at their house, where he had gone to live after his parents died in a drowning accident. Zachary and Hannah had done their best for Stanley, and they had done it well. Stanley was a lovely boy, and had grown into a lovely man. The article was quite long, and told how the Masons had stolen the money and crept out of the house during the night. It made no mention of the other bank robbery his grandfather had been involved in, nor the two accomplices he had betrayed. It had all been so long ago, Stanley wondered if anyone remembered it. He somehow doubted it. He called the librarian over to ask her, “Are there any other news items referring to that time in that area?”

“Yes, Sir. I’ll get you everything we have.” She went off, and came back almost immediately with more of the reels. “Here you are. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

Stanley began his search for more information on his grandparents. What he did discover, was that two characters had arrived in town some weeks after his grandparents and children had left. They had asked questions about Stanley Bentley, but nobody knew who they were talking about. Stanley realized that his grandfather had given him his own name, so Zachary had not been his real name either. Stanley was getting tired, and told the librarian he wanted to give it up for the day. She took the reels away, and Stanley walked slowly back along the windy street.

His grandparents had never told him about their names. His only clue was, that they had changed their surname from Mason, and now he had found out that that was false too. The weather was getting to him, and he wanted to go home to his sunny terrace with his lemon and orange trees in tubs, and his wife, who still managed to present him with two well-prepared meals a day.

 

The hotel was full of visitors who were staying for a three day conference. From the look of them, they were all doctors. Stanley thought that if he got sick, he would get the required attention with all the medical guests staying there. He didn’t fancy lunch in the hotel, so he walked to a small restaurant he had seen on his walk to the library. He was getting more and more anxious to get home, and forget all about a trip that hadn’t told him anything much that was new. Stanley ate without tasting anything, and then returned to the hotel, where he asked the receptionist, “Is it possible for you to get me a flight back home tomorrow, please?”

The man behind the desk, said, “I expect so, Sir. Weren’t you supposed to be staying longer?”

“Yes, but I don’t feel quite well, so I prefer to go home.”

The receptionist tapped away on the computer, and after a few minutes, he said, “There’s a flight to Spain at either four o’clock in the afternoon or seven in the evening, which do you prefer?”

Stanley didn’t hesitate, “The flight at four o’clock, please.”

He had no problems about spending the morning in the hotel knowing that he could go to the airport when he liked.

 

Stanley was back home and lying in the cane chair that his grandfather had used so much. He loved the feeling of the soft sunshine on his face. No wonder his grandparents had chosen to live in Spain. He of course knew nothing else. He hadn’t told his wife anything much, especially about the bank robberies, and his grandmother’s part in the second one. He never mentioned that Hannah had run an hotel that was more or less a bit of a brothel, and that she also had not been exactly on the straight and narrow.

 

As he was getting older, Stanley realized that unless you come from a family flush with money, you have to work hard all your life. He went upstairs to the attic where his grandfather had deposited his belongings on arriving at the villa so many years before. The area which was under the roof was full of old travelling trunks. He opened one of them and found what he wanted. It was the sign that had been over the bank entrance all those years ago. Zachary had stashed away most of his money in the sign. What he had taken on his person as padding to his slim body had been minimal. Hannah had put her jewels on the children and in their bedding. Stanley reached inside the sign, and fiddled around till he found what he wanted. It was a bank note - about a hundred years old. It had dropped out of the sign when he was little, and his grandfather said it was a souvenir from a rather more dramatic moment in his life.

 

Stanley wondered, as he had done so on many occasions, how much his grandfather had actually taken. He remembered the newspaper article in the library in England, headlined: THE BANK MANAGER WHO ROBBED HIMSELF


© Copyright 2019 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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