Neither her truck nor her boss act normally after Vicky leaves Fortek’s farm. The Feds descend upon them, convinced Vicky is withholding information. She is not telling everything, but it couldn’t have anything to do with either the government or the bank. On the other hand, maybe it could.
Vicky glanced at her gas gauge as she got close to Alma. Even without the detour to the Fortek place yesterday, she should be at less than a quarter tank. Surprisingly, the gauge read just under a half tank, which was where the needle showed before going out to see Fortek. Just to be sure, she went into the combination truck stop and convenience store on the edge of town. Filling it took the amount she knew would be half a tank.
As she got back in her truck, she saw Julie come out of the cafe next door to the convenience store. They waved to each other as Vicky pulled out and headed the short distance to the bank. There, amazingly, Roger was already inside and waiting for her.
“Did you say he planted amaranth?” were the first words out of Roger’s mouth.
“Where will he sell it? It’s several hundred miles to the closest place that would handle anything like that. Don’t you remember those folks who tried to convert their farm to organic standards several years ago?”
“Fortek didn’t say. I see your point, but it isn’t as though we gave him a mortgage or production loan. I didn’t think about that angle, to tell you the truth. At the same time, you sent me out there to scout around. I did that. The man was at least as strange out there as he was when he was in here. All I wanted to do was take care of business and scram.”
Julie came in, and Roger headed to his office. Typically, Roger never showed up for another half hour or forty-five minutes. Julie always came in for girl talk unless there were people in the bank. Today, she glanced nervously in Roger’s direction and went directly to the teller station.
It was just as well, since somebody pulled up to the drive-through, and Julie had to hustle over to handle the transaction. A few minutes later, two men came into the bank. They smelled like Feds, both wearing ties and wrinkled shirts. Vicky guessed times were tough all over.
They glanced around the bank, stared at Vicky and then made a bee-line for Roger, who was standing in the doorway of his office. They all went inside and shut the door. Vicky didn’t recognize either of them. They could have been anybody. She couldn’t tell one Fed from another in any case.
Two hours later, they were still in there. Maybe those were aliens, and they abducted Roger. Vicky couldn’t imagine what they could discuss for two minutes, much less most of the morning. That time span brought the clock to a couple of ticks after eleven. Vicky decided that if Roger was still in his office, her phone should ring pretty soon. It did.
“Vicky, call the sandwich shop down the street and order three sandwiches and drinks. Get whatever their special is.”
She could hear voices in the background, and Roger amended the request or order. “Make that four sandwiches and drinks. One will be for you. Bring them on in the office when they are ready. These gentlemen have a question for you. I’ll reimburse you.”
Now there was a thought. Roger was always going to reimburse her for things. Vicky had never seen a nickel so far. That was business as usual. These Feds, though, could damn well pay up or she would eat their sandwiches for them.
A young couple recently opened the sandwich shop. Vicky liked them a lot. That made supporting them much less painful.
Returning, she saw the car that waited for her outside Fortek’s farm. It had dents along with pits and breaks in the windshield. That told her all she needed to know about their visitors.
Carting the bag of sandwiches and drinks into the bank, trying not to spill the drinks as she went through the door, Vicky mentally added up what the Feds owed her. They were watching since the office door opened as she approached. Inside, the Feds had their money out to pay her for the meal. It was too bad. She had looked forward to raining all over them.
Afterward, the Inquisition did not immediately begin. The Feds chatted about their families and other nonsense. All the while, she could see they were trying to get her into their little dialogue. That was the point, though. It was their conversation. If they wanted to talk to her, they could address her directly.
At the same time, she noted the fact that her personnel folder was sitting on the edge of Roger’s desk next to the Feds. They knew what was in her file and she already told them everything there was to say about Fortek. Vicky finished her sandwich and part of her drink when she decided to take the bit in her mouth.
“I can only assume you held off your interrogation to avoid having to clean a sandwich and drink off your face and shirt. There’s still half a cup of tea here, and I’m about to take it and my indigestion somewhere else.”
The one Fed licked his lips. “That possibility had not occurred to me. What we need to know are all the details of what happened in the forty-five minutes you spent with Fortek.”
Vicky shrugged. “I went at Roger’s request. The purpose was to protect the bank’s interest in the situation when it became evident you gentlemen had an overwhelming interest in him. As I told your people when they grabbed me, I took a couple of forms and had him sign them.”
“That took nearly an hour to do?”
“When I drove into the place, I hit a pothole and something popped loose. Fortek was kind enough to do a repair so that I could leave. Maybe he wanted me gone almost as much as I wanted to get out of there. We tested the repair, driving to the end of his field where three laborers got in the back. Then we went back to where he’s living. They offered me a drink, which I took. Then I left.”
“You didn’t tell me about the truck breaking,” Roger accused.
“It doesn’t belong to you or the bank. I saw no point in bringing it up since you wouldn’t do anything about it whatever I said.”
“Are you sure that’s all that happened?” the one Fed asked, leaning forward.
“Your man mentioned that all your surveillance toys decided to take a break while I was there. I’m sure you’d like to create a case out of it. The fact is that while you obviously want to connect my visit with your equipment, they have nothing in common. I’ve heard some people have a hard time believing in coincidences, but sometimes the timing is all that two events have in common.”
“I’m sure something must have happened,” the Fed insisted. “Satellite, drone, and terrestrial coverage all went down at the same time.”
Vicky shook her head. “I’m like the kid who hit a power pole with a stick at the moment the electricity went off. You’ll have to look somewhere else.”