W. Slammer, Private Eye
February 12, 2013
Let me not bore you with the one hour drive. Unless there is plenty of hair-raising excitement, driving stories are worser than ‘what I did during my summer vacation’.
The SUV followed at a respectable distance all the way to Smallberg where we parked right in front of the only bank in town. Brick. Guess brick banks gives one a sense of security like the house built by Practical Pig.
The SUV parks a block behind us. No one gets out. So we do, and walk past an elderly guard at the doors and head straight for the bank manager’s desk. How did I know? There was a plaque on his deck that said Manager. Well, it didn’t actually say it – that was the name embossed on the plaque. Manager.
We go right up to his desk and the Marlene dame introduces us. I’m guessing Mr. Wilson P. Roberts, Bank Manager, must one of the same fiscally conservative generation as the deceased William Nelson Chamberlain. Silver hair at the temples – distinguished - conservative dark blue suit with an American flag pin in the lapel, and an equally conservative blue and white tie. His facial tan says ‘I vacation in the tropics’ – well, it didn’t actually say that, but ... never mind. After exchanging introductory blah blahs, Miss Chamberlain leans close to his ear and whispers something I can’t hear.
Mr. Wilson P. Roberts nods to the guard at the door, then says to us, “Follow me.”
We do, into the big stainless steel bank vault. He goes to the wall of safety deposit boxes, stops and looks at the Chamberlain dame. She lifts the chain with the dangling key from its hiding place and hands it to him.
He holds his key up next to hers and checks the numbers. Apparently satisfied, he puts the two keys side by side in one of the standard size safety deposit boxes, turns them, opens the door and slide out the box. Marlene is waiting and takes it.
“Use this room to examine the contents of your box,” says W.P. “For added security you can lock the door from inside.”
So far the whole business seems business as usual. Why do I keep waiting for a big surprise? I don’t know. I never got invited to surprise parties when I was younger. That woulda been fun, I think, imagining good eats and presents . . . especially the eats. That’s what my stomach is complaining about. Where’s the food?
“Lock the door,” says Marlene, and when I do, she puts the box on the table and opens it.
All I see is a couple of plain envelopes. She opens them and removes a few fancy looking legal documents – deeds and bonds and corporate notes. We sit and go through each document. I’m still listening to my stomach asking, Where’s the food?
“So . . . why put these papers in a safety deposit box an hour away from home when you probably have one of the best safes in your library?”
She looks at me, sighs, and hands me one of the documents – a detailed report by a private eye, revealing the clandestine activities of one of the Chamberlain’s employees – a report suggesting an ‘in house’ conspiracy to murder old man Chamberlain. Now I see why he used a safety deposit box in a small town bank.
“I had no idea,” she says, shaking her head in disbelief. “It’s hard to believe this was going on and I knew nothing about it.”
“People aren’t always who they appear to be,” says me, as though no one ever thought of that before. “Humm. Maybe no one has?”
“No one has what?” she asks, giving me a blank stare.
“Thought that before – people not being who people think.”
She gives me a long look. Maybe she’s impressed. She should be.
So I follow with, “Let’s go see the agency that wrote this report and find out why it didn’t come to light during the police investigation. This is getting stranger and stranger. Let me check outside the door before we come out.”
She puts papers back into envelopes, envelopes into the box, and enters the name and business info of the detective agency in her smart phone. I take a peek to see if anyone is lurking in the bank. No one out there, so we put the box back in the bank safe wall and lock it. We stop to say goodbye to W.P. – exchange pleasantries. The guard opens the doors for us as we leave the bank.
“I’m still stunned,” she says, unlocking the Lincoln and holding the door open for me as I get it. “Stunned.”
I have that effect on women. “Maybe it’s hunger,” I say, having noted the bank clock saying 11:05 on our way out. Actually, it didn’t say ‘eleven o’ five’, but that’s where its hands pointed. “We haven’t had breakfast. The most important meal of the day.”
She’s in the driver’s seat, looking in the rear-view mirror. “Did you notice that the SUV is gone?”
“I did, but so what? Maybe they went to find something to eat.”
“I don’t think so,” she says. “They’re waiting at the next corner. Any suggestions?”
“Pizza. If you see a pizza place let’s stop and get a couple.”
“There’s another SUV that just pulled up behind us – almost bumper to bumper. So now we have two vehicles to worry about.”
“Don’t worry. They’re not going to try anything here – right outside of the bank. Let’s head for home and see if this is going to turn into a car chase like Bullet or the French Connection.”
“It’s bullets I don’t like, ” she says.
She starts the engine and does a tire burning U-turn that would make Steve McQueen give her two thumbs up. I’m still trying to buckle my seat belt.
Two dark SUVs are making it clear that they aren’t going to let us get away without doing their best to stop us.
My stomach’s still thinking pizza.