I know I should have gone home to Mama and Johnny, but I decided to hang around instead. See what Trenchard was up to.
I discovered him enjoying breakfast with a woman. Clients he called them, but none were averse to his charm and generosity, as Mama had been in the early days of their courtship. He sat facing the woman in a place called The Little Bakery. She was young and pretty, and Trenchard sickened me when he kissed her hand. Perhaps, however, while he was otherwise engaged I might try and ask for a bank loan. So I had few assets, but I was desperate enough to attempt anything, short of murder.
I had not got much further than the steps of The Municipal, when I encountered old Alfie Tressler. Alfie was one of the bank’s oldest employees at over seventy. He reminded me of the Old West tellers with his eye shade, his arm bands on his shirt sleeves and black pinstripe vest.
His legs were very bowed, and he blinked owl-like from behind his wire spectacles.
“Well, if it isn’t young Luke. You looking for your Pa?”
“My Pa is dead, Alfie.” I hadn’t meant to sound quite so offhand. Alfie was such a likeable fellow and reminded me of my old grandpa. But as far as I was concerned I had only ever had one father.
“I know, I know what you mean.” Sympathy rode his voice. “So what are you doing at the bank?”
“I don’t really know. Maybe I figured I could try for a loan, but I guess they wouldn’t give me one. So where you headed?”
“Just to the store. You wanta walk with me? I could use the company.”
“I guess so.”
The town was becoming busy, though the hour was still early. Although I knew Alfie was a bank employee, as we walked, the old man and I, I decided to lay bare my soul and relate everything that had occurred. I half expected him to sing Trenchard’s praises, tell me that it was all my imagination, but he didn’t. When I mentioned that Mama needed almost a thousand dollars for her treatment, Alfie shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry about your poor Ma, that I am. But he won’t give it, no more’n he’ll give me the cash for my operation.”
“You need an op, Alfie?” I echoed surprised. “What for?”
He pointed to his eyes. I saw how rheumy they were, and filled with water. “It’s the cataracts, Son. They say I’ll be blind in a year or two. Then what’ll Mister Trenchard do? Won’t even give me a pension. No sir. Not a goddamn pension. Course, he got money, and plenty of it.” The old man grew excited, and with surprising strength and agility he dragged me down a back alley.
“I know that, Alfie. Guess he keeps it all in the bank.”
“No, no he don’t, Son. He has a private office, see, where he…” he cleared his throat, “likes to entertain his clients. All roses in vases and sweet smelling cushions and the like. I should know ‘cos I havta keep it nice. On the wall there’s one of ’em fancy paintings. Behind this ‘ere painting he keeps his safe. His safe mind you, ain’t nothing to do with the bank. I reckon there’s over thirty thousand dollars in there, and… and it’s only me and Trenchard that knows the combination.” His cracked old voice had dropped to a whisper.
“Sure, Alfie. Then he must do well at the bank to have that much money.”
“No, that’s from after the War. What with that and the Depression, Trenchard was one of ’em who made sure the farmers got poorer, and the bankers got richer. I mean, he got all the dough from the farms he foreclosed on, including your Pa’s.” Alfie shook his head. “You ain’t getting my meaning are ya?”
“I’m sorry, guess I’m too choked up with anger right now.”
“Ain’t that the best time?”
“Best time for what?” I ran a hand through my hair absently.
“For a-robbin’ that safe.”