An honest-to-goodness office with door and window was the perquisite of an assistant loan supervisor whose quality of initial extended higher, to a half million dollars. He also rated a capacious desk, an oil painting on the wall and printed memo pads with his name, a free dail y copy of The Wall Street Journ al and a complimentary shoeshine every morning. He shared a secretary with another assistant supervisor.
Finally, a loan officer-vice-president whose initial was good for a million dollars, worked in a corner office with two windows, two oil paintings, and a secretary of his own. His name memos were engraved. He, too, had a free shoeshine and newspaper, plus magazines and journals, the use of a company car when required for business, and access to the senior officers' dining for lunch.
Edwina qualified for almost all the quality-of-initia l perks. She had never used the shoeshine.
This morning, she studied two loan requests, approved one and penciled some queries on another. A third proposal stopped her short.
Startled, and conscious of a bizarre coincidence after yesterday's experience, she read through the file again.
The loan officer who had prepared the file answered Edwina's intercom buzz. "Castleman here." "Cliff, please come over."
"Sure." The loan officer, only half a dozen desks away, looked directly at Edwina "And I'll bet I know why you want me."
Moments later, as he seated himself beside her desk, he glanced at the open file. "I was right. We get some lulus, don't we?"
Cliff Castleman was small and precise with a round pink face and soft smile. Bo rrowers liked him because he w as a good listener and sympathetic. But he was al so a seasoned loan man with soun d judgment.
"I was hoping," Edwina said, "that this application is some kind of sick joke, even if a ghastly one."
"Ghoulish would be more apt, Mrs. D'Orsey. And while the whole thing may be sick, I assure yo u it's real." Cas tleman motioned to the file. "I included all the facts because I knew you'd want them. Obviously you've read the report. And my recommendation."
"Are you serious in proposing to lend this much money for this purpose?"
"I'm deadly serious." The loan o fficer stopped abruptly. "Sorry that wasn't intended to be gallows humor. But I believe you should approve the loan."
It was all there in the file. A forty-three-year-old pharmaceutical salesman named Gosburne, locally employed, was applying for a loan of twenty-five thousand dollars
He was married a first marriage which had lasted seventeen years, and the Gosburnes owned their suburban home except for a small mortgage. They had had a joint account with FMA for eight years no problems. An earlier, though smaller, bank loan had been repai d. Gosburne's employment record and other financial history were good.
The intended purpose of the new loan was to buy a large stainless steel capsule in which would be placed the body of the Gosburnes' child, Andrea. She had died six days ago, at age fifteen, from a kidney malignancy. At present Andrea's body was at a funeral home, stored in dry ice. Her blood had been drawn off immediately after death and replaced with a blood-like "anti-freeze" solution called dimethylsulfoxide.
The steel capsule was specially designed to contain liquid nitrogen at a subzero temperature. The body, wrapped in aluminum foil, would be immersed in this solution.
A capsule of the type sought a giant bottle, really, and known as a "cryo-crypt" was available in Los Angeles and would be flown from there if the bank loan was approved. About a third of the intended loan was for p repayment of vault storage rent for the capsule, and replacement of th e liquid nitrogen every four months.
Castleman asked Edwina, "You've heard of cryonics societies?" "Vaguely. It's pseudo-scientific. Not very reputable."
"Not very. And pseudo indeed. But the fact is, cryonics groups have a big following and they've convinced Gosburne and his wife that when medical science is more advanced say fifty or a hundred years from now Andrea can be thawed out, brought back to life and cured. Incidentally, the cryonics people have a motto: Freeze wait reanimate." "Horrible," Edwina said.
The loan of ficer conceded, "Mostly I agree with you. But look at it their way. They believe. Also they're adult, reasonably intelligent people, deeply religious. So who are we, as bankers, to be judge and jury? As I see it, the only question is: Can Gosburne repay the loan? I've gone over the figures, and I say he can and will. The guy may be a nut. But the record shows he's a nut who pays his bills."
Reluctantly Edwina studied the income and expenses figures. "It will be a terrible financial strain."
"The man knows that but insists he can handle it. He's taking on some spare time work. And his wife is looking for a job." Eldwina said, "They have four younger children." "Yes."
"Has anyone pointed out that the other children the living will need money soon for college, other things, and that twenty-five thousand dollars could be put to better use for them?"
"I did`" Castleman said. "I've had two long interviews with Gosburne. But according to him, the whole family talked that over and they made their decision. They believe the sacrifices they'll have to make will be worth the chance of bringing Andrea back to life some day. The children also say that when they're older they'll take over responsibility for her body."
"Oh Godl" Again E dwina?s thoughts went back to yesterday. Ben Rosselli's death, whenever it ca me, would be dignified. This mad e death ugly and a mockery. Should the bank's money in part, Ben's be used for such a purpose?
"Mrs. D'Orsey," the loan officer said, "I've had this on my desk for two days. My first feeling was the same as yours the whole thing's sick. But I've thought about it and I've come around. In my opinion, it's an acceptable risk."
Acceptable risk. Essentially, Edwina realized, Cliff Castleman was right because acceptable risks were what banking was all about. He was also right in asserting that in most personal matters a bank should not be judge and j ury.
Of course, this particular risk might not work out, though even if it failed to, Castleman would not be blamed. His record was good, his "wins" far greater than his losses. In fact, a perfect win record was frowned on, a busy retail loan officer expected, almost obligated, to have a few of his loans turn sou r. If he didn't, he could be in trouble in reverse when a computer printout warned management he was losing business through excessive caution.
"All right," Edwina said. "The idea appalls me but I'll back your judgment." She scribbled an initial. Castleman returned to his desk.
Thus apart from a loan for a frozen daughter this day had begun like any other. It stayed that way until early afternoon.
On days when she lunched alone, Edwina used the basement cafeteria over at FMA Headquarters. The cafeteria was noisy, the food only so-so, but service was brisk and she could be in and out in fifteen minutes.
Today, however, she had a client as a guest and exercised her vice-president's privilege by taking him to the senior officers' private dining room, high in the executive tower. He was the treasurer of the city's largest department store and needed a three million dollar short-term loan to cover a cash deficit resulting from light fall sales plus costlier-than-usual purchases of Christmas merchandise.
"This goddamned inflation!" the treasurer complained over a spinach souffle. Then licking his lips, he added, "But we'll get our money back this next two months, and then some. Santa Claus is always good to us."
The department store account was an important one; nevertheless Edwina drove a tough bargain, with terms favorable to the bank. After some grumbling by the customer, these were agreed by the time they reached Peach Melba for dessert. The three million dollars exceeded Edwina's personal authority, though she anticipated no trouble getting approval from Headquarters. If necessary, for speed's sake, she would talk with Alex Vandervoort who had backed up her judgments in the past.
It was while they wer e having coffee that a waitress brought a message to their table.
"Mrs. D'Orsey," t he girl said, "a Mr. Tottenhoe on the phone for you. He says it's urgent."
Edwina excused herself and went to a telephone in an annex.
The voice of her branch operations officer complained, "I've been trying to locate you." "Now you have' What is it?"
"We have a serious cash shortage." He went on to explain: A teller had reported the loss a half hour ago. Checking had been going on continuously since. Edwina sensed panic as well as gloom in Tottenhoe's voice and asked how much money was involved. She heard him swallow. "Six thousand dollars." "I'll be down right away."