The Belafonte Fund

She sat quietly with her hands on her lap. Her face unassuming, her
eyes lively and watching under brown curls. She kept her feet
tucked under her chair and her knees together in a black skirt.

“Who’s next please?” The voice hardly penetrated the thick,
professional blanket of soft footfalls and polite murmurs. She started
to stand, but movement to her side caused her to pause. An old man
shuffled right past her. He wore sky blue denim and smelled of grass
clippings and potent cologne. He brandished some papers at the woman
who had spoken. His voice croaked.

“Yes. There’s been some mix-up with my son’s loan.” The bank executive
peered over his shoulder to the girl in the black skirt. She
apologised with her eyes, but the girl just smiled sweetly and sunk
back into her chair. The old man took a seat at the desk, and the
woman walked around to sit behind it.

Soon enough, the old man stood up and left without shaking the woman’s
hand. He looked at the girl as he passed, finally seeing her now that
his needs had been met. His expression was smug, like a mollified
bully. He let his eyes linger on her, but she pretended not to notice.
The executive followed close behind him, almost shooing him away lest
he cause further offence.

“I’m so sorry about the wait!” She looked genuinely upset, her hands
stretched part way out, palms up.

“That’s alright,” the girl’s voice fit her posture, hopeful and
pleasant, yet demure. They took their places at the desk. It was a
large, glass-topped expanse, uninterrupted by the usual office clutter
or family photos. It’s only features were a telephone and an engraved,
brass nameplate:

Rachel Sears

Vice President

“So! How can I help you today?”

“Well, I’m here to collect some bonds. I’ve got the paperwork here…”
The girl drew up her bulky purse onto the desk and began to search
through its contents. Rachel smiled at her endearing disorganization.
She didn’t know what the girl could be talking about, but she decided
that she would go out of her way to help. The girl pulled out a single
sheet of paper and slid it across the desk. It was a form, neatly
filled in. It was not one of the bank’s forms, so Rachel really didn’t
know what to expect.

“Restoration and Reclamation, Collections Department,” the first field
said. She looked up with a question on her lips, but the girl’s purse
on her desk arrested her attention instead. The heavy wood grip and
brushed steel hammer of a revolver peeked out over the edge of the
bag. The girl lifted the purse off the desk and set it in her lap. The
meek expression on her face didn’t change, but she looked directly
into Rachel’s eyes.

“What do you want?”

“Bonds. The twenty thousands. No cash, no bugs, no paint. Two fat
envelopes, please.” Rachel’s mind spun and flashed with understanding.
The bonds!

“I’ll… I’ll have to go to the safe.”

“Of course. I’ll wait here, with your customers. My associate will
keep her eye on you.” At that moment, as Rachel looked with rising
panic for the other bank robber, a girl in the line for the teller
turned and winked at her. Rachel was floored. No large men in ski
masks shouting and pushing customers to the ground. Just two girls.
The one in the teller line could pass for fifteen years old. She was
short, strawberry blond, and had mirth in her eyes. She would have a
commanding view of Rachel as she was in the safe. “We’d really rather
if nobody else knew, so don’t tell anybody. OK?”

Rachel took two manila envelopes from her drawer and stood up. She
left the girl sitting at her desk, coded in through the man-gate, and
passed through the bullpen to the safe. Inside, she ventured a look
and saw the younger girl’s eyes on her. She had a face that looked as
though it always smiled, enthusiastic, like she was cheering Rachel on
to do her best. How could they be so threatening and so gentle at
once?

Rachel opened the drawer with the bonds and began to pull the slips of
paper from the back. How did they know about the bonds? They even know
what denominations to ask for!
Rachel’s bank was only to hold them for
a week before they passed onto the central corporate safe. The
envelopes were soon full. Rachel couldn’t even guess how much money
she held in her hands. She turned to leave, and saw that the short
girl had moved ahead in the teller line a little. She was still
smiling and blinking like day-old Eve in the garden. Rachel was
unnerved by the implication of violence behind it all.

The other girl remained at her desk, her back to the rest of the bank,
still sitting with her arms around the purse on her lap. Such pretty
curls.
She looked up expectantly as Rachel walked around and sat back
down at her desk. She pushed the envelopes across the glass desktop.
The girl picked each one up, opened it, and inspected the contents. She placed them in her purse. Now, a touch of triumph reached her smile and gleamed in her eye. Her voice, however, stayed even.

“OK, thank you. You should sign here,” she said, pointing to an empty
box on the form. Rachel was numb, but she managed to pull a pen from
her desk and scribble her name onto the paper. “Can I have the pen now
please?” The girl spun the paper and wrote something herself. “Here
you go! Thanks again!”

The girl in the teller line suddenly got a phone call. She pressed the
phone to her ear and stepped out of line. “Hi. What? Hold on, I’m at
the bank,” she whispered loudly into the phone and hurried out the
door. The girl at Rachel’s desk stood, smiled once more, and followed
her accomplice. Rachel watched her go, black heels to match her skirt
clicking smartly as she went. Rachel’s mouth hung slightly open and
she breathed heavily. She felt exhausted. When the door shut behind
them, Rachel took another deep breath, picked up her phone, and
dialed the extension of her boss.

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