Page 71 of The Moneychangers

"You told him about the dead man?" Alex had learned about Vic, from Wainwright, several months ago. "Yes." "I still don't like the idea any of it."

"You'll like it even less if Keycharge fraud losses keep increasing, as they are."

Alex sighed. "All right. It's your department and you're entitled to run it your way, which is why I've given in. But I'll impress one thing on you: If you've reason to believe Eastin is in immediate danger, then pull him out at once." "I intended that."

Wainwright was glad that he had won, though it had been a tougher argument than he expected. However, it seemed unwise right now to mention anything else for example, his hope of enlisting Juanita Nunez as an intermediary. After all, he rationalized, the principle was established, so why bother Alex with details?

6

Juanita Nunez was torn between suspicion and curiosity. Suspicion because she disliked and distrusted the bank's vice-president of security, Nolan Wainwright. Curiosity because she wondered why he wanted to see her, apparently in secrecy.

There was nothing for her to be concerned about personally, Wainwright had assured Juanita on the telephone yesterday when he called her at the main downtown branch. He would merely like the two of them, he said, to have a confidential talk. "It's a question of whether you'd be willing to help someone else." "Like you?" "Not exactly." "Then who?" "I'd prefer to tell you privately."

Prom his voice, Juanita sensed that Wainwright was trying to be friendly. But she parried the friendliness, still remembering his unfeeling harshness when she had been under suspicion of theft. Not even his subsequent apology had wiped out that memory. She doubted if anything ever would.

Just the same, he was a senior officer of FMA and she a junior employee. "Well," Juanita said, "I'm here, and last time I looked the tunnel was open." She assumed that either Wainwright would walk over from the Headquarters Tower or she would be told to report there. However, he surprised her.

"It would be best if we didn't meet in the bank, Mrs. Nunez. When I've explained, you'll understand why. Suppose I pick you up in my car from your home this evening, and we talk while we drive." "I can't do that." She was more wary than ever. "You mean, not tonight?" "Yes." "How about tomorrow?"

Juanita was stalling, trying to decide. "I'll have to let you know."

"All right, call me tomorrow. As early as you can. And meanwhile, please don't tell anyone else we had this conversation." Wainwright hung up.

Now it was tomorrow Tuesday in the third week of September. At midmorning, Juanita knew that if she failed to call Wainwright soon, he would call her.

She was still uneasy. Sometimes, she thought, she had a nose for trouble and scented it now. Earlier Juanita had considered asking the advice of Mrs. D'Orsey whom she could see, on the other side of the bank, at the manager's desk on the platform. But she hesitated, remembering Wainwright's cautionary words about not telling anyone else. That, as much as anything, had piqued her curiosity.

Today Juanita was working on new accounts. Beside her was a phone. She stared at it, picked it up, and dialed the internal number of Security. Moments later, Nolan Wainwright's deep voice asked, "Can you make it tonight?"

Curiosity won out. "Yes, but not for long." She explained that she would leave Estela alone for half an hour; no more. 'what will be long enough. What time and where?"

Dusk was settling in when Nolan Wainwright's Mustang nosed to the curb outside the Forum East apartment building where Juanita Nunez lived. Moments later she emerged through the main floor entranceway, closing it carefully behind her. Wainwright reached over from belund the wheel to open the nearside door and she climbed in.

He helped fasten her seat harness, then said, "Thank you for coming."

"Half an hour," Juanita reminded him. "That's all." She made no attempt to be friendly and was already nervous about leaving Estela alone.

The bank security chief nodded as he eased the car away from the curb and into traffic. They drove two blocks in silence, then made a left turn onto a busier, divided road, lined with brightly lighted stores and eateries. Still driving, Wainwright said, "I hear young Eastin came to see you." She responded sharply, "How did you know?" "He told me. He also said that you've forgiven him." "If he said it, then you know." "Juanita may I call you that?" "It is my name. I suppose so."

Wainwright sighed. "Juanita, I already told you I'm sorry about the way things went between us once before. If you still hold that against me, I don't blame you."

She thawed slightly. "Bueno, you had better tell me what it is you want." "I want to know if you'd be willing to help Eastin." "So he is the one." "Yes." "Why should I? Isn't forgiving him enough?"

"If you ask my opinion more than enough. But he was the one who said you might…" She interrupted. "What kind of help?"

"Before I tell you, I'd like your promise that what we say tonight will go no further than the two of us."

She shrugged. "There is no one to tell. But you have the promise."

"Eastin is going to do some investigative work. It's for the bank, though unofficial. If he succeeds it may help him get rehabilitated, which is what he wants." Wainwright paused while he maneuvered the car around a slow-moving tractor-trailer. He continued, "The work is risky. It would be riskier still if Eastin reported directly to me. What the two of us need is someone to carry messages both ways an intermediary." "And you decided it should be me?"

"No one's decided. It's a question of whether you'd be willing. If you were, it would help Eastin help himself." "And is Miles the only one this would help?"

"No," Wainwright admitted. "It would help me; also the bank." "Somehow that is what I thought."

They had left the bright lights now and were crossing the river by a bridge; in the gathering darkness the water gleamed blackly far below. The road surface was metallic and the car wheels hummed. At the end of the bridge was the entrance to an interstate highway. Wainwright turned onto it.

"The investigation you speak of," Juanita prompted. 'Yell me more about it." Her voice was low, expressionless.

"All right." He described how Miles Eastin would operate under cover, using his contacts made in prison, and the kind of evidence Miles would search for. There was no point, Wainwright decided, in holding anything back because what he didn't tell Juanita now she would find out later. So he added the information about the murder of Vic, though omitting the more unpleasant details. "I'm not saying the same will happen to Eastin," he concluded. "I'll do everything possible to make sure it won't. But I mention it so you know the risk he's running, and he understands it, too. If you were to help him, as I said, it would keep him safer."

"And who will keep me safe?"

"For you there'd be virtually no risk. The only contact you'd have would be with Eastin and with me. No one else would know, and you wouldn't be compromised. We'd make sure of that."

-  "If you are so sure, why are we meeting this way now?"

-  "Simply a precaution. To make certain we're not seen together and can't be overheard."

Juanita waited, then she asked, "And that is all? There is nothing more to tell me?" Wainwright said, "I guess that's it."

They were on the interstate now and he held the car at a steady 45, staying in the right-hand lane while other vehicles speeded past. On the opposite side of the divided highway three lines of headlights streamed toward them, passing in a blur. Soon he would turn off at an exit ramp and return the way they had come. Meanwhile, Juanita sat silently beside him, her eyes directed straight ahead.

He wondered what she was thinking and what her answer would be. He hoped it would be yes. As on earlier occasions he found this petite, elfin girl-woman provocative and sexually attractive. Her perversity was part of it; so was the smell of her a bodily feminine presence in the small closed car. There had been few women in Nolan Wainwright's life since his divorce, and at any other time he might have tried his luck. But what he wanted from Juanita now was too important to take a chance with self-indulgence.

He was about to break the silence when Juanita turned to face him. Even in the semidarkness he could see her eyes were blazing. "You must be mad, mad, mad!" Her voice rose heatedly. "Do you think I am a little fool? Una boba! tonta! No risk for me, you say! Of course there is a risk, and I take all of it. And for what? For the glory of Mr. Security Wainwright and his bank." "Now wait…"

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