I raked my fingers through my black curly hair as I waited. I straightened out the front of my shirt. I wanted to make a good first impression. I hoped that my appearance was professional but casual. I had chosen to wear dark blue pants with black loafers. My shirt, an Oxford, was neatly pressed and light blue in color. I had considered wearing a tie but thought better of it. It would only make me uncomfortable since I never wear them. Besides, I did not want to appear to be concerned with my appearance, even if I was.
Ms. Cryer didn’t keep me waiting long. I could see the elevator doors open from where I was standing. They were along the wall perpendicular to the glass doors where I was standing. She immediately turned to look in my direction upon stepping out of the elevators. She approached without hesitation, but studied me as she walked. I of course studied her in return, although I had the advantage, having already seen her at the bank. This time she was dressed more casually. She was wearing a loose-fitting grey sweatshirt with the collar stretched out, exposing more of one shoulder than the other. Quite a bit more. This was due in part to the fact that she had the tip of one sleeve pinched in her fist. She was wearing black stretch-pants and short soft-leather boots, also black. I was struck by her seemingly effortless beauty, for it was clear that she was not dressed to impress anybody.
At the door there was an almost imperceptible pause as she quickly looked me over a final time before opening the door. She wasn’t overtly hostile, nor overly friendly. She stood holding the door, saying nothing. I walked in, giving her what I hoped was a reassuring smile. I was glad to be out of view from the street and the black Caprice.
“We can talk here in the lobby,” she said. “Go ahead and have a seat.” There were two sofas in the center of the room, arranged in an `L’. Between the sofas was a small end table with a lamp and a small glass dish filled with mints. The room lighting was dim, with the lamp on the end-table being the primary source of illumination for that part of the room. On the floor was a nice (imitation?) oriental rug of red and green. This was a far cry nicer than my own apartment building. Not only does my building lack a lobby, but the hallway downstairs is tiled with cracked linoleum and the air is stale due to poor ventilation. The lone window at the end of the hallway does not provide adequate movement in the air to rid it of the musty odor. The light-bulb overhead has long since burned out, and while that one window does allow a sharp beam of sunlight to fill the hallway in the late afternoon, it is always a bit of a struggle to navigate from the front door to the staircase late at night. Even regular residents, who travel that route daily, stumble in the dark.
Ms. Cryer’s apartment building was considerably more pleasant. As we sat down in the comfortable sofas, I tried once more to figure out where to begin. I looked into her eyes and was met with a steady gaze. Her expression remained neutral; she wasn’t going to make this easy for me. Apparently she had decided that she was going to let me have my say but she wasn’t going to play her hand until she saw where things were heading. What was it about her that put me off-guard? Why did I suddenly feel so helpless? Wasn’t she the one that was at a disadvantage, having the bank breathing down her neck and not knowing what was going on? So why did I feel she had the upper hand?
I let out a long breath and dove in. “I’m aware of the situation at First Chicago and I may be able to help you. I think I know what happened. Some funds have been improperly transfered out of several bank accounts at a number of banks around the country, including accounts at First Chicago. Apparently these funds have ended up in your account, which is why First Chicago has been auditing your account recently.”
Not knowing how to continue I paused there. Thankfully, she filled the silence.
“Who do you work for? Are you with First Chicago Trust?”
OK, not exactly the question I wanted just then, but fair enough.
“No. At the moment I don’t work for anybody. I am a self-employed computer scientist. I do consulting work. I was in the bank yesterday afternoon and overheard part of your conversation.”
“Are you always this nosy,” she asked. She wasn’t angry, just annoyed.
“Well no. I had a special interest in this particular case… having been partly responsible.”