Here’s a new tale for you. It doesn’t involve the end of the world. At least I don’t think so. Yet.
What we do know is that nothing is quite right about the stranger opening an account in a small-town bank.
“You should get a place in town, Vicky. It makes no sense having to drive thirty miles to work, especially with what they pay here.”
Julie was in Vicky’s office. At the moment, they were the only ones in the bank. Vicky agreed with Julie but couldn’t let the old bat think she had the best of the situation.
“It’s only twenty-five miles on good roads. As it happens, I do a lot of thinking on the way.”
Julie would not let that pass. “We all know what you think about, too. Tom left you to head off to Omaha.”
Okay, that occupied a good part of her thoughts, but not in the way Julie put it. “There were no jobs for him locally. I told him to go. He needs to use his training for something worthwhile.”
The additional point was that Vicky was supporting Tom with a job that wouldn’t take care of one person’s needs, much less two. Saying she told him to go put it mildly. Vicky threw him out when he decided that being planted in front the television was better than looking for work or even helping around the place. That, however, would be grist for Julie’s rumor mill, and that was not about to happen.
“I suppose you’re plotting about how to take over the bank from Roger.”
“That would be a promotion. At the same time, Roger isn’t going anywhere. No, I think about lots of things. Why do you suppose my mind is so narrow that I would only think about men or money?”
“Maybe you hope to see some those UFO’s folks have seen lately.”
Vicky was glad the conversation moved on. “I hadn’t thought about what people said at all. Do you think there’s anything to the stories?”
“When I stopped at the cafe this morning, they talked about nothing else. Several there swore there were lights above the Republican River east of town. They were white, green, and blue.”
Just then, the door of the bank opened. Vicky’s so-called office was a cubicle, the walls glass above her desk. The location near the front door made Vicky wonder if she was more receptionist than bank officer. There was no way to tell from her paychecks.
Julie gasped and giggled as she looked at the individual in the doorway. “That outfit looks like the costume the guy wore in that old TV show, HeeHaw. Archie Campbell wore a silly straw hat and that looks just like it. On the other hand, that’s a lot of man wearing it. He could be a Hollywood star.”
With that, she scurried to a teller station. Vicky had to admit Julie’s observations were accurate. Also, he looked around as though lost. He finally walked up to Julie and said something Vicky couldn’t hear. Julie replied. After a couple of exchanges, Julie pointed toward Vicky’s office, and the man headed her way. When he turned around, Julie grinned as though the whole thing was hilarious. Sending handsome guys her way would be Julie’s idea of a good time.
“I need to open an account,” came from the man’s mouth in a smooth baritone.
“Certainly, sir. Will that be a personal or business account?”
The man looked confused. “What would be the difference?”
“If it’s for expenses, a personal account would work.”
“I will open that kind, then.”
Vicky took a form. “What is your name?”
There was a pause. Finally, “Paul Fortek.”
Red flags went up everywhere. “What is your Social Security number?”
There was a pause again, and then he gave a number. It was not from their local area. Vicky quickly checked online. The name and number were valid. After that, he produced a Nebraska driver’s license. That included the now predictable pause, as though he had to process each request through a remote computer system.
Julie’s comment about this Paul Fortek looking like a Hollywood star, together with his obviously having to think about things which should come automatically, such as his name and Social Security number, made Vicky wonder whether this might not be some television program or stunt. If so, then it appeared that she must be the object of some network silliness.
His driver’s license was valid. Vicky got to the next item, “How much of a deposit would you like to make to open the account, Mr. Fortek?”
Fortek reached into his bib overalls, pulling out a huge roll of currency. Easily visible were fifty and hundred dollar bills, and evidently a lot of them.
“How much is there?”
He shrugged and shook his head. “I don’t know. Can you count it?”
Vicky took a deep breath. “That will be no problem. We have a machine that can do it quickly. Did you say that you wanted to deposit all of this?”
The man nodded, and Vicky arose and strode to the counter. “Count this, Julie. Check all of them. They could be counterfeit bills.”
“I see what you’re saying. Still, that guy is cute.”
“That’s coming from someone who’s married, a mother, and a grandmother.”
Julie laughed and started checking the currency. Fortek, meanwhile, was still in her office and hadn’t moved. It was like he wasn’t a real person. Vicky was confident that if she handed somebody a wad of money, she’d be keeping a very close eye on the situation to ensure nobody developed sticky fingers. At the same time, she would have known the precise amount. There was a distinct air of unreality about this entire thing.
With no other customers, Julie did it in short order. Not only that, she had the different denominations banded. “They are all real. You said he wanted to deposit it, so I thought I’d save myself some time and get some of it done ahead of time. The total is on the adding machine tape.”
Vicky looked at the numbers and took another deep breath. “Roger said we’re supposed to take good care of our best customers. This Paul Fortek just joined the club. I’d better get him some counter checks right away. Could you run some for me, please?”
“I’d be glad to do that. Meanwhile, why don’t you get back in there and make sure our new best customer doesn’t decide to wander off?”
Back in her office, Vicky made several unsuccessful efforts at small talk. At the same time, she saw her boss, Roger, come in from another extended lunch. She also saw Julie gather up the counter checks and confer with him.
At a loss to know what to do next, Vicky finally asked, “Mr. Fortek, where are you from?”
He stared at her a moment, and stammered, “I have no memory. That is, I do not remember. I do know what I have to do.”
“What is that?”
“I need land on the northern bank of the river.”
“I don’t know of any for sale. A real estate office is just down the street. I could take you there.”
Vicky saw Roger standing by the corner of her office behind Mr. Fortek. He nodded vigorously and chose that moment to bring their new customer his temporary checks and register.