Page 12 of The Moneychangers

It took three quarters of an hour, during which Juanita Nunez's version of events remained identical with what she had stated earlier. While disappointed at having uncovered nothing new, Wainwright was not overly impressed with the girl's consistency. His police background made him realize that such exactitude could have two interpretations: Either she was speaking the truth or she had rehearsed her story so carefully that she was perfect in it. The latter seemed a probability because innocent people usually had a few slight variations between one recounting and the next. It was a symptom which detectives learned to look for.

At the end, Wainwright said, "All right, that's everything for now. Tomorrow you can take a lie detector test. The bank will arrange it."

He made the announcement casually,-though watching for a reaction. What he had not expected was one as sudden or as fierce.

The girl's small dark face flushed red. She shot upright n her chair. "NO, I will n ot! I will not take such a test! " "Why not?" "Because it is an insult "

"It's no insult. Lots of people take the test. If you're innocent, the machine will prove it.'?

"I do not trust such a machine. Or you. Basta con mi palabra!"

He ignored the Spanish, suspecting it was abusive. "You've no reason not to trust me. All I'm interested in is getting to the truth."

"You have heard truth! You do not recognize it! You, like the others, believe I took the money. It is useless to tell you I did not."

Wainwright stood up. He opened the door of the tiny office for the girl to go. "Between now and tomorrow," he advised, "I suggest you reconsider your attitude about that test. If you refuse to take it, it will look bad for you."

She looked him fully in the face. "I do not have to take such a test, do I?" "No." "Then I will not."

She marched from the office with short, quick steps. After a moment, unhurriedly, Wainwright followed.

Within the bank's main working area, though a few people were still at desks, the majority of staff had gone and overhead lights were dimmed. Outside, darkness had descended on the raw fall day.

Juanita Nunez went to a locker room for her street clothes, and returned. She ignored Wainwright. Miles Eastin, who had been waiting with a key, let her out through the main street door.

"Juanita," Eastin said, "is there anything I can do? Shall I drive you home?" She shook her head without speaking and went out.

Nolan Wainwright, watching from a window, saw her walk to a bus stop across the street. If he had had a larger security force, he thought, he might have had her followed, though he doubted it would do any good. Mrs. Nunez was clever and she would not give herself away, either by handing the money to someone else in public or even storing it in a predictable place.

He was convinced the girl did not have the money on her. She was too astute to run that risk; also, the amount of cash would be too bulky to conceal. He had looked at her closely during their talk and afterward, observing that her clothes clung tightly to her small body and there were no suspicious bulges. The purse she carried from the bank was tiny. She had no packages.

Wainwright felt certain that an accomplice was involved.

He had little remaining doubt, if any, that Juanita Nunez was guilty. Her refusal to submit to a lie detector test, considered with all other facts and indications, had convinced him. Remembering her Emotional outburst of a few minutes ago, he suspected it wins planned, perhaps rehearsed. Bank employees were well aware that in cases of suspected theft a lie detector was employed; the Nunez girl was likely to have known that, too. Therefore she could have guessed the subject would come up and been ready for it.

Remembering how she had looked at him with contempt and, before that, her unspoken assumption of alliance, Wainwright felt a surge of anger. With an unusual intensity he found himself hoping that tomorrow the FBI team would give her a hard time and shake her down. But it would not be easy. She was tough.

Miles Eastin had relocked the main street door and now returned.

"Well," he said cheerfully, "time to head for the showers."

The security chief nodded. "It's been quite a day."

Eastin seemed about to say something else, then apparently decided otherwise. Wainwright asked him, "Something on your mind?"

Again E astin hesitated, then admitted, "Well, yes, there is. It's a thing I haven't mentioned to anyone because it could be just a wild pitch." "Does it relate in any way to the missing money?" "I suppose it could."

Wainwright said sternly, "Then whether you're sure or not, you have to tell me." The assistant operations officer nodded. "All right." Wainwright waited.

"It was mentioned to you by Mrs. D 'Orsey, I think that Juanita Nun ez is married. Her husband deserted her. He left her with their child." "I remember."

"When the husband was living with Juanita he used to come in here occasionally. To meet her, I guess. I spoke to him a couple of times. I'm pretty sure his name is Carlos." "What about him?" "I believe he was in the bank today." Wainwright asked sharply, "Are you sure?"

"Fairly sure, though not enough so I could swear to it in court. I just noticed someone, thought it was him, then put it out of mind. I was busy. There was no reason for me to think about it at least not until a long time later." "What time of day was it when you saw him?" "About midmorning."

"This man you thought was the Nu nez girl's husband did you see him go to the counter where she was workin g "?" "No, I didn't." Eastin' s handsome young face was trou bled. "As I say, I didn't think about it much. The only thing is, if I saw him, he couldn't have been far away from Juanita." "And that's everything?"

"That's it." Miles Eastin added apologetica lly, "I'm sor ry it isn't more." "You were right to tell me. It could be important."

If Eastin were right, Wainwright reasoned, the presence of the husband could tie in with Wainwrightis own theory of an outside accomplice. Possibly the girl and her husband were together again or, if not, had some arrangement. Perhaps she had passed the money over the counter to him, and he had taken it from the bank, to divide it with her later. The possibility was certainly something for the FBI to work on.

"Quite apart from the missing money," Mastic said, "everybody in the bank is talking about Mr. Rosselli we heard about the announcement yesterday, his illness. Most of us are pretty sad."

It was a sudden, painful reminder as Wainwright regarded the younger man, usually so full of banter and joviality. At this moment, the security chief saw, there was distress in Eastin's eyes.

Wainwright realized that the investigation had driven all thought of Ben Rosselli from his mind. Now, remembering, he experienced new anger that thievery should leave i t’ s ugly mark at such a time.

With a murmured acknowledgment and a good night to East n, he walked through the tunnel from the branch bank, using his passkey to re-enter the FMA Headquarters T ower.

8

Across the street, Juanita Nunez a tiny figure against the soaring city block complex of First American Bank and Rosselli Plaza was still waiting for her bus.

She had seen the security offi cer's face watching her from a window of the bank, and had a sense of relief when the face disappeared, though commonsense told her the relief was only temporary, and the wretchedness of today would resume and be as bad, or even worse, tomorrow.

A cold wind, knifing through downtown streets, penetrated the thin coat she had on, and she shivered as she waited. Her regular bus had gone. She hoped another would come soon.

The shivering, Juanita knew, was par tly from fear because, at this moment, she was more frightened, more terror-stricken, than ever before in all her life. Frightened and perplexed.

Perplexed because she had no idea how the money had been lost.

Juanita knew that she had neither stolen the money, nor handed it across the counter in error, or disposed of it in any other way. The trouble was: no one would believe her.

In other circumstances, she realized, she might not have believed herself.

How could six thousand dollars have vanished? It was impossible, impossible. And yet it had.

Time after time this afternoon she had searched her recollection of every single moment of the day to find some explanation. There w as none. She had thought back over cash transactions at the counter during the morning and early afternoon, using the remarkable memory she knew she had, but no solution came to her. Not even the wildest possibility made any sense.

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