Page 38 of The Moneychangers

The airport became a shambles with hundreds of angry anguished passengers complaining bitterly and heatedly to airlines who, in turn, assailed airport management. The latter found themselves frustrated and helpless to do anything. Other observers, not involved or in need, found the situation hilarious. No one was indifferent.

News media representatives, tipped off by Margot in advance, were present in force. Reporters vied with each other to write stories which were carried nationwide by wire services, then repeated internationally and used by such differing journals as Izvestia, Johannesburg Star, and The Times of London. Next day, as a result, the entire world was laughing.

In most news reports the name Margot Bracken figured prominently. There were intimations that more "sit-ins" would follow.

As Margot had calculated, ridicule is one of the stronger weapons in any arsenal. Over the weekend the airport commission conceded that discussions would be held on janitors' and cleaners' wages, which resulted in increases soon after. A further development was that the corrupt union was voted out, a more honest one replacing it.

Now Margot stirred, moving closer to Alex, then said softly, "What kind of a mind was it that you said I had?" "Convoluted-pixie." "That's bad? Or good?"

"It's good for me. Refreshing. And most of the time I like the causes that you work for." "But not all the time?" "No, not always." "Sometimes the things I do create antagonism. Lots of Suppose the antagonism was about something you n't believe in, or disliked? Suppose our names were linked together at a time like that, when you wouldn't want to be associated with me?"

"I'd learn to live with it. Besides, I'm entitled to a private life, and so are you."

"So is any woman," Margot said. "But I wonder sometimes if you really could live with it. That’s if we were together all the time. I wouldn't change, you know; you have to understand that, Alex darling I couldn't surrender independence, nor ever stop being myself and talking initiatives."

He thought of Celia who had taken no initiatives, ever, and how he had wished she would. And he remembered, as always with remorse, what Celia had become. He had learned something from her though: That no man h whole unless the woman he loves is free, and knows the use of freedom, exploiting it in fulfillment of herself.

Alex dropped his hands to Margot's shoulders. Through a thin silk nightgown he could sense the fragrant warmth of her, feel the softness of her flesh. He said gently, "It's the way you are that's the way I love and want you. If you changed, I'd hire some other lady lawyer and sue for breach of loving."

His hands left her shoulders, moving slowly, caressingly lower. He heard her breathing quicken; a moment later she turned to him, urgent and gasping. "What the hell are we waiting for?'' "God knows," he said. "Let's go to bed."

3

The sight was so unusual that one of the branch's loan officers, Cliff Castleman, strolled over to the platform.

"Mrs. D'Orsey, have you looked out of a window yet, by any chance?"

"No," Edwina said. She had been concentrating on the morning mail. "Why should I?"

It was 8:55 A.M., Wednesday, at First Mercantile American's main downtown branch.

"Well," Castleman said, 'I thought you might be interested. There's a lineup outside such as I've never seen ahead of opening time before."

Edwina looked up. Several staff members were craning to look out of windows. There was a buzz of conversation among the employees generally, unusual this early in the day. She sensed an undercurrent of concern.

Leaving her desk, Edwina walked a few paces to one of the large plate-glass windows, part of the street frontage of the building. What she saw amazed her. A long queue of people, four or five abreast, extended from the main front door past the entire length of the building and out of sight beyond. It appeared as if all were waiting for the bank to open. She stared incredulously. "What on earth…?"

"Someone went outside just now," Castleman informed her. "They say the line extends halfway across Rosselli Plaza and more people are joining it all the time." "Has anyone asked what they all want?"

"One of the security guards did, I understand. The answer was, they've come to open accounts."

"That's ridiculous! All of those people? There must be three hundred I can see from here. We've never had that many new accounts in a single day."

The loan officer shrugged. "I'm simply passing on what I heard."

Tottenhoe, the operations officer, joined them at the window, his face transmitting his normal grumpiness. "I've notified Central Security," he informed Edwina. "They say they'll send more guards and Mr. Wainwright's coming over. Also, they're advising the city police."

Edwina commented, "There's no outward sign of trouble. Those people all seem peaceful."

It was a mixed group, she could see, about two thirds women, with a preponderance of blacks. Many of the women were accompanied by children. Among the men, some were in coveralls, appearing as if they had left their jobs or were on the way to them. Others were in casual clothing, a few well dressed.

People in the lineup were talking to each other, some animatedly, but no one appeared antagonistic. A few, seeing themselves observed, smiled and nodded to the bank officials.

"Look at that!" Cliff Castleman pointed. A TV crew with camera had appeared. While Edwina and the others watched, it began filming.

"Peaceful or not," the loan officer said, "there has to be a motive behind all these people coming here at once."

A flash of insight struck Edwina. "It's Forum East," she said. "I'll bet it's Forum East."

Several others whose desks were nearby had approached and were listening.

Tottenhoe said, "We should delay opening until the extra guards get here."

All eyes swung to a wall clock which showed a minute to nine.

"No," Edwina instructed. She raised her voice so that others could hear. "We'll open as usual, on time. Everyone go back to their work, please."

Tottenhoe hurried away, Edwina returning to the plat form and her desk.

Prom her vantage point she watched the main doors swing open and the first arrivals pour in. Those who had been at the head of the line paused momentarily on entry, looked around curiously, then quickly moved forward as others behind pressed in. Within moments the central public area of the big branch bank was filled with a chattering, noisy crowd. The building, relatively quiet less than a minute earlier, had become a Babel. Edwina saw a tall heavyset black man wave some dollar bills and declare loudly, "Ah want to put ma money in the bank."

A security guard directed him, "Over there for new account'."

The guard pointed to a desk where a clerk a young girl sat waiting. She appeared nervous. The big man walked toward her, smiled reassuringly, and sat down. Immediately a press of others moved into a ragged line behind him, waiting for their turns.

It seemed as if the report about everyone having come to open an account had been accurate after all.

Edwina could see the big man leaning back expansively, still holding his dollar bills. His voice cut across the noise of other conversations and she heard him proclaim, "Ah'm in no hurry. There's some things ah'd like yo' to explain."

Two other desks were quickly manned by other clerks. With equal speed, long wide lines of people formed in front of them.

Normally, three members of staff were ample to handle new account business, but obviously were inadequate now. Edwina could see Tottenhoe on the far side of the bank and called him on the intercom. She instructed, "Use more desks for new accounts and take all the staff you can spare to man them."

Even leaning dose to the intercom, it was hard to hear above the noise.

Tottenhoe grumbled in reply, "You realize we can't possibly process all these people today, and however many we do will tie us up completely."

"I've an idea," Edwina said, "that's what someone has in mind. Just hurry the processing all you can.

Yet she knew however much they hurried it would still take ten to fifteen minutes to open any single new account. It always did. The paperwork required that time.

First, an application form called for details of residence, employment, social security, and family matters. A specimen signature was obtained. Then proof of identity was needed. After that, the new accounts clerk would take a documents to an officer of the bank for approval and initialing. Finally, a savings passbook was made out or a temporary checkbook issued.

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