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INSUFFICIENT FUNDS

by

Tom Sheehan


Her lipstick was perfect. She put the rearview mirror back in place. If David Belmont came in today he’d notice. She was sure of that. The one remark Nell had made about a smudged line had been enough for her. It would never happen again. David was a good prospect, but her mother kept saying it was all a matter of luck. "Be in the right place at the right time, honey, and his goose’ll be cooked.

The car clock read 7:50 as she stepped out of it onto the parking lot pavement. She liked this same spot for the car. The sun would be good for most of the day, and now the sun reflected like silver shots off the bank windows.

Big Mike Ludecki, guard, former Marine, smiling, opened the bank door for her. As big as a house he was, as big as her father had been. "Like clockwork, Amie. Just like clockwork." He read his wristwatch like a salute, his elbow at a perfect 90 degrees. "They should all be like you." He locked the door behind her.

She brought her tray from the vault, counted in, looked up as Nell came in the door; another new outfit showed off her shape. " ‘Lo, Amie. How’re things today?" Her long stride brought her past the cage and on to the rear of the bank. So-perfect Nell. The looks. The shape. The clothes. The guys hanging at the edges. Nell was prettier than she was, she knew. Her mother had said, "It’s not pretty, hon, it’s luck, believe me. And then some." She had a way of rolling her eyes and not saying anything else, but it was as though her sentence had not been completed and you had to fill in the spaces.

A bit later Amie looked over. Nell had her first customer, the lady from the restaurant with the big deposit. The bag was up on the counter and looked heavy. Nell was particularly beautiful today, Amie thought. Then she saw the next customer get in line behind the restaurant lady. Figured, she said to herself. His haircut was brand new, etched in place. Perhaps the hairline across the top of his ear, at his sideburns, was made with a ruler, it was so straight. The color of his complexion gathered at that line and set if off. He was not looking at her, but he had nice color in his cheeks, maybe a piece of the morning. The gray and blue ensemble he wore was tasteful, clean, pressed. One dimple stole one whole cheek. His tie was one she would have picked out. He did not look her way.

Instead, through the door, coming her way, was a very seedy looking man in his early thirties. Here goes the start of my day, she muttered in the cage. The man looked to be just above street level, his clothes in disarray, sloppy more like it. He needed a shave and promised odor. She hoped she wouldn’t get sick. He signed his name to a check on the counter and pushed it towards her. His eyes were pale blue or pale green, sort of faded perhaps from a harsh personal history.

Behind the restaurant lady the other young man still had not looked her way. Leave it to Nell. She could bring them like flies. Trying to remember what her mother had said, she reached for the check.

A jolt hit her. The check was an Arthur P. Chorliss check, her renegade ex-brother-in-law. Arthur didn’t have a penny in the bank, she knew that. They all knew it. But this seedy-looking character had signed Arthur’s name for $25 cash. Had this man stolen the check? It looked like he sure could use $25, but not out of her pocket.

Beside her Nell was muttering about dirty money and how hard it was to handle, not always healthy for you. The good-looking guy was still in line, still not looking over at her. What a start for the day, she thought. I wonder if the dominoes are going to fall like this all day.

Her customer was expressionless on the other side of the counter, his eyes with a papery quality to them, still faint as old postage stamps or her mother’s re-used Christmas wrapping paper. On the air she caught a whiff of the promised odor. She shivered.

Well, she’d take care of this one, daring to cash a check that didn’t belong to him. But the joke would have been on him. Arthur Chorliss didn’t have a penny to his name. Would serve him right.

At the next cage the good-looking, well-coordinated, now-handsome young man, stood easily in his place behind the lady from the restaurant. With one last look at him, Amie said to her customer, "I’m not sure there are sufficient funds for this check, sir." It hurt her to say "sir." In the same breath she pushed the alarm button under the counter.

The alarm sounded like an old klaxon. It blared a raucous, hideous noise. It bounced off the walls. The man behind the lady from the restaurant spun on his heels, leaped from his place, bumped into big Mike Ludecki. The young man fell down, a small revolver popped from one of his pockets and clattered on the floor. Mike, the Marine with three tours on a now-quiet Southeast Asian peninsula, quickly stood over him with his own .38 Special pointed down at his forehead. Mike was smiling.

There was a bit of screaming, other kinds of noise, small bedlam. The good-looking fallen man started to whimper, then went fetal on the floor. A woman three tellers down sat down on the floor when she saw the revolver on the floor, her mouth wide open, fighting for air. Nell had her hands on her hips.

When Amie looked back, the seedy-looking, somewhat-of-a-street person was gone. So was Arthur P. Chorliss’ check. There was a bit of luck. She hadn’t even had time to stamp it.







ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Sheehan is one of 3 AM’s favourite writers. There’s more on him in this issue: “Falling Down Jack” and “A Toast to Skink”, and more to come, including an excellent interview. “One Oh for Tillie” was published a few months ago.






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