Who is this guy with no memory, lots of cash, and a focus on where he’s going? Could he have three wives? Enquiring minds want to know.
Once she escorted him outside, Vicky looked up and down the street. She was curious to see what Paul Fortek drove to the bank. The town of Alma, Nebraska was small enough that Vicky was able to identify every car in sight. Today, she could even include those at the grocery store half a block away. The real estate office was on the opposite side of the commercial center of the town. That might have been a significant distance elsewhere. In the case of Alma, it only amounted to a block and a half. Along the way, Vicky made another attempt at conversation.
“What will you do with the land, Mr. Fortek?”
“I will grow grapes for wine. I also plan on bottling wine. Since that will take some time, my first crops will be quinoa and amaranth.”
“I suppose you’re going organic.”
Fortek looked at her, a puzzled look in his eyes. “No, I will not grow any organs. Why would I do that?”
Vicky considered the size of the deposit. She hoped something good would come of meeting this character beyond the dollars in the bank’s vault. Having anything like an intelligent conversation certainly didn’t seem to be on the list. For the moment, the closest approximation to a good time was how fast they arrived at the real estate office. Vicky introduced him to Rhonda, who was both the broker and owner. Vicky was acquainted with her since she had been suggesting local properties to her for some time. Vicky couldn’t complain about her being too pushy, though. As a matter of fact, her impression was that the broker was quite personable. She appeared to get the same mixed signals from Mr. Fortek that Vicky did.
After the introductions, Vicky made as graceful an exit as possible under the circumstances. There was no doubt in her mind this new account would be the subject of further discussion at the bank. That foreboding was the case. Roger immediately dragged her into his office when she walked in the door.
“You realize we have to do a suspicious activity report for this deposit. It smells like money laundering and who knows what else. Have we done everything possible to meet due diligence requirements?”
“I’m sure you already know the answer to that from Julie. His name is bogus. However, the computer validates both his name and identification. The address he gave appears valid although I’m not familiar with the area. It’s near Omaha. To check further, I looked when we went outside, and if he drove here, he hid his vehicle somewhere off Main Street.”
“That was all excellent, Vicky. We’ve done everything properly. You even managed to go beyond the requirements. Julie expressed concern that you might have a personal attachment to the man.”
Vicky could only snort and shake her head. “Julie was the one with the massive reaction to him. She thought he looked like a Hollywood star. That may be so, but the man has such a huge short circuit between the ears that when I was able to wish him off on the real estate broker, it made my day.”
Julie knocked on the office door. “The real estate broker is on the phone. Our new customer wants to write a check as earnest money for a property.”
Roger waved her into the office. “I’m going to put this on speaker, and I want both of you for witnesses.”
The broker’s voice filled the small office. “Mr. Fortek was very specific about the nature of the property he needed. I didn’t know of any, but when I looked it up, the exact property he described is available. He will to pay the full price and is ready to write a check for the earnest money. I need to verify the funds are available.”
She saw Roger take a deep breath and grit his teeth before replying. “The gentleman opened the account with sufficient cash to take care of almost any earnest money requirement you might have. My head cashier, Julie, can confirm the specific amount. I have to tell you, though, that by law, the funds are available now.”
“Thank you, Roger. Julie did confirm the specific amount but suggested I chat with you, as well.”
“I appreciate that, Rhonda. Is Mr. Fortek listening to our conversation?”
“No, he isn’t. He is in the other office right now. He is a bit of a weird bird.”
“You will get no disagreement from us. The consensus here is that you should treat Mr. Fortek in as conservative a manner as possible. While the funds are technically available, we have to report the deposit under money laundering regulations.”
Vicky expected a pause from the other end as Rhonda digested the information. Instead, the response was nearly immediate. “I expected things might be along that line. I’m writing the offer. I have to, after all. At the same time, I will take that into consideration. With the possibility of the Feds raining on our parade, I don’t want to build the seller’s hopes for nothing.”
Rhonda never mentioned who was selling. Neither Roger nor Julie brought it up. The community being as small as it was, there was no doubt the name would be familiar to everyone there. For that matter, there was every chance the seller had an account with them. It could make the situation that much more touchy, and everybody knew it. The possibility that Paul Fortek, or whatever his name was, might have just invited unwelcome State and Federal attention on their private little corner of the planet was bad news, indeed.
The call ended and the only thing bringing an end to the three of them commiserating with one another was Grace arriving with the day’s deposit from the coffee shop. Her place closed at two in the afternoon, which gave Grace plenty of time to close out and get the deposit to the bank. Vicky recalled how people used to talk about banker’s hours being short. Of course, the cafe opened at six every morning. The main benefit of working there was being able to keep up with the local gossip, and while Julie kept up with it very well, Grace was Alma’s rumor control.
That made it very significant when Julie and Grace conversed while Julie processed the deposit. The point was that Julie did not say a single word about what went on. Come to think of it, Grace didn’t bring anything up either, and half the town had to have seen Vicky walking Mr. Fortek down to the real estate office. That also meant everybody in Alma knew about him and were keeping their eyes open and their mouths shut.
As Vicky thought about it later, she didn’t think Fortek could have caused more concern if he’d walked into town wrapped in high explosives. About the only good thing was that Julie was no longer trying to redesign Vicky’s life. At the same time, tomorrow was another day and old subjects would rise from the ashes of today’s distractions. It would be a while before the government came snooping, and even the real estate transaction couldn’t happen overnight.
Author’s note: Could it?