No Way Out – Chapter 1.
Peter sat in his office on the tenth floor looking out the window over the city landscape, day dreaming about having a cool exciting job. A glamorise job like a formula one driver or actor, he fantasised about living a play boy life style and living on the French Riviera and driving a Ferrari. Travelling the world in his private Lear jet with a super model on his arm and mixing with the rich and famous. A knock at the door snapped him out of his day dream, it was his secretary, she came in and said, “your next appointment is here.”
“Send them in,” said Peter.
His life was nothing like his fantasy, he worked for one of the big banks as an embezzlement hunter. He spent his days looking at spread sheets, reports and statements. There was some mystery to his job as he worked under cover at different branches across the country, mostly as a loan officer. While all the time trying to uncover fraud in the banks accounts. He had a talent for numbers, he could see discrepancies by just looking at a spread sheet, it was a great talent but not very glamorise. It was not the sort of talent that would endear him the ladies, not in the same league as being able to play the piano and guitar.
In fact he had learnt over the years that the best way to ‘loose the girl’ was to start talking about his job, their eyes glassed over and they couldn’t get away fast enough. He admired some of them for the inventive way they made there excuses. The best excuse a woman had told him was, “I’m sorry I have to go my cats having kittens and I need to be there.”
At thirty five he was quite young for the job which was an added advantage as embezzlers didn’t see him as someone to worry about. It also helped that he was not the sort of person who stud out, if there was such a thing as a natural banker than he was. Not exactly boring and bland but not far off, if you were to describe him as a colour it would be beige.
Peter’s life revolved around his job, not by choice but by circumstance. He never spent more than a few months at one branch before moving on to the next one. This did not lend itself to forming close friendships so other than a few old school friends that he rarely saw, he was a bit of a loner. His week would involve work, lunch in the park opposite work, dinner at a small restaurant on his way home and reading detective novels in the evenings. The weekends were taken up with the necessities of life, house work, washing and ironing and shopping.
His currant assignment would be for a longer period than usual as Head Office had a large staff and the volume of money going through the accounts was very large. He expected to be in his current location for at least the next six months which he was looking forward to. He licked the idea of staying in one place, the thought of getting to know the area and in a small way, settling down was appealing to Peter. He knew it would come to an end but the idea of six months at the same branch was very attractive to him.
Working under cover meant Peter had to balance his time between his cover job, a loan officer and looking for wrong doers. He did this by pretending to be a very slow loan officer. He would only see a few load applicants per day with the rest of his time taken up with looking through the accounts. This did make a few problems, his secretary was not very busy and his boss was not impressed.
No one at the branch knew the real reason he was there, not even the manager. This made life very difficult for Peter as he was expected to perform as a load officer while searching for embezzlers. At small suburban branches this was not that difficult but at Head Office it was much more challenging. As the new boy he was cut some slack but that would not last long so his first few weeks were taken up with making shore the Manager was clean. Once he knew the Manager was not an embezzler Peter could tell him the real reason he was there. This meant the Manager could turn a blind eye to Peter not pulling his weight as a loan officer.
A little over a month of working at Head Office Peter had fallen into a routine. He had crossed the Manager of his list so the Manager was now aware of his reason for being there so the pressure was off him to perform as a loan officer. He was enjoying his time at Head Office as he was just one of many employees and a bit anonymous. He could relax, he did not feel like he was living a lie. At a suburban branch there were only a small number of employees and he had to interact with all of them on a daily bases, but at Head Office he was just one of many. He did not have to be guarded about getting to know his co-workers as it was unlikely that anyone he became friendly with would turn out to be an embezzler.
Peter could not be described by any stretch of the imagination as a lady’s man. He had no talent for the dating game and he rarely attempted it but he found himself attracted to a woman who, like him, had lunch in the park opposite the Bank each day. He new nothing about her other than she brought he own lunch each day and would feed some of it to the pigeons when she was about to go back to work. He had seen her coming out of the opposition Bank which was next to Head Office, a few times, so there was a good chance she worked there. He had no plan or intention to try and meet her until one day.
He was sitting in the park, it was a beautiful spring day so the park was unusually full of people enjoying the weather, when due to the lack of seating, she sat next to him. He was about to start his lunch when she sat down which made him self conscience. He knew he should say something but he was at a total lost as to what to say, so he said nothing, but she did.
“I hope you don’t mind,” she said indicating she meant sitting next to him.
“No problem,” replied Peter.
“The park is full today,” she said and then added, “I haven’t seen it like this in a long time.”
“It’s the fullest I’ve ever seen but I’ve only been working around here for a month.” replied Peter.
“My names Sandra,” she said as she put her hand out.
“I’m Peter,” he replied as he shook her hand.
“I’ve seen you having lunch here each day, where do you work?” Sandra enquired.
Peter pointed towards the Bank and said, as if he was apologizing, “I’m a banker.”
“So am I,” said Sandra and then added, “I know, it’s not something you tell someone when you first meet.”
“I’ve been known to empty rooms by just saying, ‘I’m a banker’,” replied Peter.
“I think it’s a combination of people associating bankers with financial shenanigans as well as the perception that bankers are boring,” said Sandra, as if it was something she had given some thought.
“You’re dead right there, replied Peter before adding, but there is some merit to the notion that bankers are boring, you only have to attend a bank Christmas party to come to that conclusion.” replied Peter.
“I don’t think I’m boring, do you see yourself are being boring?” enquired Sandra.
“Oh yes, if being boring was an Olympic Sport I would be a gold medallist,” replied Peter in some what of a joking way.
Sandra took a bite from her sandwich and then took a small plastic bag from her lunch box, opened it and through the contents on the ground. Pigeons came from no were and started fighting over the food. Sandra through the last piece of her sandwich at one of the pigeons and said, “stop that Bill,” and then said to Peter, “that Bill is such a bully and a wife beater as well.”
“I call him Joe as he reminds me of someone I went to school with,” replied Peter, and then added, “do you have names for all of them?”
“Most of them,” said Sandra.
“The poor old pigeon gets a bad rap, flying rats etc, but I don’t think it’s deserved,” replied Peter.
“Well that’s the end of another lunch break,” said Sandra before adding, “I might see you here again some time and we can talk about pigeons then.”
“Tomorrow would be a save bet,” replied Peter.
She stud up and walked away, as Peter watched her walk towards her Bank he wondered if he would meet her again. As she got to the boundary of the park she turn and waved but a group of people were in the way so Peter did not see her wave.
Peter sat on the park bench for a while, he smiled to himself, a smile of self satisfaction. His interaction with women don’t usually go very well but this time it did go well, by Peters standards any way. She did not make up implausible excuses to get away, her eyes did not glass over when he talked. All in all he was feeling quite smug with himself.
He walked back to work with a silly smile on his face. The fact that a brief pleasant interaction with a woman could make him so happy said volumes about Peter’s lack of success with women. As he walked through the front door of the bank the Manager was walking out, the Manager looked at his watch but did not say anything. Peter was half an hour late back from lunch but he had found over the years that once the managers found out why he was working in their branch they would become scared of him and cut him a lot of slack.
Peter enjoyed having that little bit of power over managers but it was not in his character to abuse that power. The occasional late lunch was about as far as he would go but some times, just sometimes if the manager was a bully he would flex his mussels. No matter how honest a manager might be they never liked their branch being put under scrutiny so they generally gave Peter a wide berth.
Peter did not have much time for bank managers as his early years working for the bank had not been very happy due to being bullied by managers. It seemed to be a common trait among managers to be bullies, it was part of the banking culture.
Treating managers with indifference was something Peter enjoyed but there was more to it than that. Bank managers are at the top of their tree, they see themselves as ‘the boss’ and they expect to be treated with respect. It was part of Peter’s strategy to show indifference to the managers as it would wind them up and unsettle them.
Peter’s ability to fine embezzlers was not just an eye for numbers, he also had a knack of reading people. This was a lot easier when people were under stress. Often when the manager was unsettled it would also affect the rest of the staff which in turn would make it easier for Peter to get a true idea of everyone’s character.
This manager was dealing with Peter very well, in fact he was not a typical manager. He was completely relaxed with Peter being there and seemed completely unfazed about Peter looking into his branch. This was not something Peter had come across before, he found it refreshing to find someone confidant with themselves. But it did make Peter’s life a bit more difficult as this branch was very relaxed, everyone seemed happy and unstressed. This was not what you would expect at head office.
The next day sitting in the park eating a ham sandwich Peter found himself looking for Sandra but she did not appear. May be she had changed her lunch break time to avoid him or may be she was just not in today. He chastised himself for getting it so wrong and pondered on why he had the ability to find wrong doers in the banking system but was so inept at reading women.
He spent the rest of his lunch break sitting on the park bench watching the pigeons. His mind wandered and he wondered if his life would be better if he was a pigeon but after watching them for a while he concluded that there was not that much of a difference between humans and pigeons. Pigeon society seemed to parallel human society pretty closely, the dominate males were bullies and had all the power as well they were the ones that got the girls.
He walked back to his office with an afternoon of two appointments dealing with loan applications plus a number of spread sheets to read through. Later that afternoon as he read through the spread sheets his eye court some numbers, everything added up but there was something not right. He worked late that night following a trail of numbers that had him transfixed, so much so that it was after eleven before he headed home. It would take a lot more work but he was on someone’s trail, the hunt was on and were it would take him was anyone’s guess.
Peter found this point in an investigation both exciting and sad. Exciting as it challenged his abilities and skills making the work worthwhile but sad as when he worked out who was steeling from the bank and reported them, their lives would be forever changed and not for the better. Some people who steel from banks do it because they can, some for the excitement, some because they need the money and some because they see it as a challenge. Peter did not like catching these people as for the most part it was just a bad decision by an average person.
The people Peter liked to catch were the ones who were steeling the money for the money. People who wanted money for wealth and used money as power to control others. It was another form of bullying and he didn’t like bullies but at this point in the investigation he didn’t know who he might catch. It might be a nasty arrogant bully but it could also be a do gooder who has given it all to a charity, only time would tell.
As he sat in the park eating his lunch his mind was still full of numbers and patens so he did not notice Sandra sit next to him and say, “Hi how are you today?”
Still totally engrossed in his thought Peter said nothing.
Sandra then said, “do you mind if I sit here?”
Finally realising she was there Peter replied with, “No, yes, of course, how are you today?” and then, “sorry I was a hundred miles away.”
“A penny for your thoughts,” said Sandra.
“Just work stuff,” replied Peter.
“Never, never take work outside the building for lunch,” said Sandra.
“Rule number six,” replied Peter.
“No rule number three,” said Sandra.
“You have a list of rules as well,” replied Peter.
“Yes doesn’t everyone?” said Sandra.
“No I don’t think so, I always thought it was only weirdos like me,” replied Peter.
“No it’s the people who live with out rules who are the weirdos,” said Sandra, and then added, “you know this is a vital part of the day and leaving everything inside those building is very important if you are going to survive life as a banker.”
“Your right of course,” replied Peter.
“What do you do for the bank?” asked Sandra.
Peter wanted to tell her the truth but didn’t, instead he said, “I’m a loan officer, what about you?”
“I’m an accountant,” said Sandra.
“If I ever were to write my autobiography it would be called, ‘my life in numbers’ what do you think?” replied Peter.
“I like it but I’m not sure it would have that much mass appeal,” said Sandra.
“Non at all, springs to mind,” replied Peter.
Sandra through a hand full of grain on the ground for the pigeons, got up and said, “Well its time to do battle with the numbers again, see you.”
“May be tomorrow,” replied Peter.
Sandra walked away leaving Peter watching the pigeon fighting over the food. After a few minutes he headed back to work, as he walked through the foyer towards the lifts he saw someone at reception who looked formila but he could not place them. Peter waited for the lift with John, one of the accountants from the twelve floor who Peter knew by name but only to say hello to. He had met John on a number of occasions as he seemed to be quite friendly with his secretary and was often talking with her at her desk when Peter arrived for work. While they waited, the person from reception came over and said, “high how are you?”
Still unable to place them Peter said, “fine thank you how about you?”
“I’m good, I’m here for a job interview,” then paused before continuing, “you don’t remember me do you? I’m Mandy from the Liverpool branch,” said Mandy.
“I remember, my goodness that must have been two years ago,” said Peter.
The lift doors opened and a few people came out before Mandy, John and Peter went in. Peter pushed the ten floor button and John the twelve floor but Mandy didn’t seem to know what floor she wanted.
“Personal are on fifteen,” said John.
Mandy said, “thank you.” and pressed the button.
The lift stoped at the tenth floor and as Peter got out he said to Mandy, “good luck with the job.”
“Thank you,” replied Mandy.
“So you worked with Peter at the Liverpool branch, what was he doing there?” asked John.
“He’s an investigator, he court our manager for embezzling,” said Mandy before she paused and continued, “Sorry I should not have told you that.”
“No you shouldn’t have,” said John.
“Can you forget I said anything,” asked Mandy.
The doors of the lift opened and as John walked out he said, “I’ve forgotten already, good luck with the job.”
John was a tall good looking man in his late twenties, charming and a bit of a ladies man. He lived the life style of a young play boy, night clubs, sports cars and beautiful women. He came from an old family but a family who were not as well of as they once were. He had an air of entitlement about him and he had been known to live beyond his income.
With the weekend came the necessities of life for Peter, shopping, washing, ironing and house work. It was a welcome change from looking at number but he did find himself looking forward to Monday and seeing Sandra again.
Lunch time Monday and Peter found himself sitting on a bench in the park opposite work with one eye on the opposition bank hoping to see Sandra emerge. He did not have to wait long before she walked out of the bank and head toward him. She was a good looking woman in her mid thirties with long blond hair that she wore out. Peter could not help watching her as she walk toward him and as she did he dared to think about the possibility of her being interested in him in a romantic way. He chastised himself for thinking in those terms as thinking like that could only bring unhappiness.
Sandra sat next to him and said, “Hi, how was your weekend?”
Peter tried to think of something cool or witty to said and after an uncomfortable pause he said, “good, you no, same old things, shopping, washing, ironing, house work.”
“Same for me,” replied Sandra.
“How is accounting?” asked Peter.
“Just numbers,” replied Sandra and the asked, “how is loaning?”
“Just numbers,” said Peter.
“I found a decimal point in the wrong place this morning,” said Sandra with a rye smile on her face.
“Did it make the number bigger or smaller,” replied Peter.
“Bigger,” said Sandra and then added, “my goodness we live exciting lives.”
“It can’t get much better than this, a decimal point in the wrong place and its only Monday, imagine what could happen for the rest of the week,” replied Peter.
“I know, I can hardly contain myself,” said Sandra, before they both starting laughing.
Sitting not that far away was John who was keeping a close eye on Peter and Sandra. Having lunch in the park was not something John would normally do, he was more of a restaurant man so eating a sandwich while sitting on a park bench was not John’s idea of a good lunch. But since finding out Peter’s real job John was on a mission to discover as much about Peter as he could.
Sandra through a hand full of grain on the ground for the pigeons before they both headed back to work. John followed at a distance but court up to Peter while he was waiting for the lift.
“Hi,” said John and then, “hows the loan department?”
“Hi,” replied Peter then added, “hows the accounts department?”
Peter was not very good at male pecking order interaction, and rarely engaged in it but there was something about John that made Peter uneasy.
The life doors opened and they both went inside and pressed the revellent floor buttons.
“I saw you talking with the opposition outside, you better be careful she might be a spy,” said John.
The lift doors opened and Peter got out and said, “see you around.”
Peter was finding that the shear size of Head Office, the large number of staff and the considerable amount of money being moved around was making his job very hard. It was a lot harder to see pattens within such a large amount of information. The old saying, ‘can’t see the trees for the forest’, was very app. He started to think about changing tack, may be stop looking at the big picture, instead look at each department individually. As he sat on the park bench eating lunch with Sandra the next day he wished he could ask her what she thought, but he couldn’t. Instead they talked about how pigeons interact with each other as well as how they interact with others.
Then without thinking it through or rehearsing what to say, he just found himself asking Sandra out for a movie and dinner. It was something that just happened without a second thought, like some sort of out of body experience. By the time he realised what he was saying it was too late to stop himself. It wasn’t that he didn’t won’t to ask her out, it was more to do with him not wanting her to say no.
Much to Peter’s relieve Sandra said yes without the slightest hesitation and they settled on the next Saturday night and a movie yet to be determined.
On getting back to his office and quite on impulse Peter said to his secretary, Jill, “can you arrange for a bunch of flowers to be delivered to Sandra at the bank next door?”
“Yes, any particular type?” ask Jill.
“Red roses,” replied Peter and after a breve pause, “no, no make that some sort of native flowers, oh and send a card as well, just say, looking forward to Saturday.”
“What’s her second name?” asked Jill.
Peter suddenly felt a bit silly as he didn’t know her second name so he said, “on second thoughts, don’t worry.”
“I’ll find out,” replied Jill.
“How will you do that?” asked Peter.
“Don’t you worry about that, I have contacts,” replied Jill.
Once Peter was in his office Jill got on the phone and rang John and said.
“You asked me to keep you up to date with anything interesting about Peter, well he’s got a date with someone call Sandra who works for the bank next door.”
“That was not the sort of info I had in mind,” replied John and then, ”I am more interested in were he use to work.”
“Will I see you tonight,” asked Jill.
“No I have something I have to do,” replied John.
“How about Saturday night?” asked Jill.
“I’m busy Saturday night, lets make it Friday night,” replied John.
As Peter walked out of the bank and down the road that afternoon towards the train station he had shadow, John was following him. Peter took his usual route home, a short train ride, followed by dinner at a small restaurant and then a short walk to his house. The house Peter lived in belonged to the bank, as he moved around so much and due to his success rate catching embezzlers it was part of his job that the bank supply housing. John followed him all the way making shore to keep out of sight and to take care that Peter did not see him.
The next day as Sandra left work and walked to the near by bus stop John followed her. A half hour bus trip and a short walk later and see was home. She lived in a quite street in a leafy suburb in an old style house that she owned, well was paying off. John found it a lot easier to follow Sandra home as she did not know him so he did not need to be so careful about not been seen.
As Peter and Sandra sat on a bench in the park having lunch they talked about what movie they would see on Saturday night. They both had done some research about what was on and they both were struggling to find something worth seeing. There were lots of, ‘shoot em up films,’ ‘horror films,’ ‘kids/teenage films,’ but not much else. There was one romantic comedy but did they want to see a romantic comedy? But as it was the only film that was remotely watchable they settle on the romantic comedy. Peter liked romantic comedies but they also tended to leave him feeling a bit down as the boy always got the girl and in Peter’s experience that is not what happens in the real world.
He reminded himself that when watching a movie you were suppose to, ‘go with the movie,’ and not say to yourself, ‘oh that would not happen.’
When watching crime films or action films he had no problem with, ‘artistic licence,’ like car chases were the wheels lock up even though modern cars don’t do that. Or when James Bond picks a lock in seconds when that is not possible. But he struggled with romantic comedies and even though he would laugh during the film, afterwards he would find himself feeling sad.
The day of Peter and Sandra’s first date had arrived. Using modern technology in the form of a navman, Peter drove to Sandra’s home without any problems and arrived right on time. Sandra’s home was an old style weather board house on a quarter acre with a well established garden. Roses lined the path that lead to the front door giving the garden an, ‘old English,’ style feel to it. There was a cat asleep on the from door mat, who on hearing Peter approaching, took one look and ran away.
Peter knocked on the front door and after a few moments it open. Sandra looked a picture standing framed in the door way wearing a long dress some what in the style of the hippy generation of the sixty’s. Peter stud there for a few seconds that felt like minutes before saying, “Hi.”
“You found me alright and right on time as well,” said Sandra.
“No great skill on my part, the Navman done the work,” replied Peter.
“Come in I’m just about ready,” said Sandra.
“There was a cat sleeping at your front door when I arrived,” replied Peter.
“Yes that belongs to my neighbour, but it just about lives here,” said Sandra.
Sandra picked up her jacket and hand bag and said, “well that’s me ready, lets go.”
As there drove the short distance to a near by restaurant that Sandra new well they talked about their day and what they were planing for the next day. Once at the restaurant they ordered their meals, fish and chips for Peter and lamb and vegetables for Sandra.
For weeks now Peter and Sandra had being having lunch together and were never short of something to talk about but for some reason they were struggling to maintain a conversation. May be it was because they were on a date or may be they were all talked out, what ever the reason, there were a number of awkward silences during dinner. After eating their meals they sat looking at each other wondering what to say next when Sandra said, “you know, it’s odd we never run out of conversation at lunch times, it must have something to do with this being dinner that we don’t have anything to say.”
“May be it’s got something to do with the time of day or may be it’s because it’s dark,” said Peter.
“No I think it’s more to do with the dynamic having changed from two people having lunch to two people being on a date,” replied Sandra.
“You know I think your right,” said Peter.
“So lets forget about being on a date and think more like we are having lunch in the park,” replied Sandra.
“Alrighty then,” said Peter and then added, “so what’s your dream do you want to jump out of a plan or climb Mt Everest?”
“Do you mean my bucket list?” asked Sandra.
“Yes I guess I do,” said Peter.
“It’s not a long list, I would like to drive around Australia, I’d like to learn to sail and I’d like to write a book,” replied Sandra.
“So you’re a bit of an adventurer than,” said Peter.
“No I’m not, that is why adventures are on my list because I’m not all that adventures,” replied Sandra.
“Do you think you will ever do any of them?” asked Peter.
“There is a difference between having something on a bucket list and actually doing them, so to answer your question, it’s unlikely,” replied Sandra.
They talked for a while covering many topics before the restaurant encouraged them to leave at around nine o’clock. But they were about to leave anyway as the movie was going to start at nine thirty. It was only a short walk to the movie theatre were they watched a light romantic comedy that was instantly forgettable, but quite watchable.
Peter and Sandra drove the short distance to her home. Sandra opened her front gate, lent down and picked up a stick that was about one metre long and waved it in front of her as she walked toward the front door.
“What are you doing,” asked Peter.
“Knocking the spider webs down,” replied Sandra.
The movement censer light came on as they approached the front door and the cat sleeping on the door mat ran away.
“It’s only me you scaredy cat,” said Sandra.
As they stud at the front door Peter said, “thanks for a very nice night.”
“It was a nice night, we will have to do it again,” replied Sandra.
“That would be great,” said Peter.
Sandra opened her front door, turned and said, “see you on Monday for lunch.”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” said Peter.
Sandra closed the door and Peter walked the rose lined path to the front gate with a smile on his face. For the first time in a long time Peter was feeling happy.
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