The cash drawer which Miles Eastin had referred to was actually a portable strongbox on an elevated stand with wheels, light enough to be pushed around easily. Some banks called it a cash truck. Every teller had one assigned and the same cash drawer or truck, conspicuously numbered, was used normally by the same individual. A few spares were available for special use. Miles Eastin had been using one today.
All tellers' cash trucks were checked in and out of the cash vault by a senior vault teller who kept a record of their removal and return. It was impossible to take a cash unit in or out without the vault teller's scrutiny or to remove someone else's, deliberately or in error. During nights-and weekends the massive cash vault was sealed tighter than a Pharaoh's tomb.
Each cash truck had two tamperproof combination locks. One of these was set by the teller personally, the other by the operations officer or assistant. Thus, when a cash unit was opened each morning it was in the presence of two people the te ller and an operations officer.
Tellers were told to memorize their combinations ant not to confide them to anyone else, though a combination could be changed any time a teller wished. The only written record of a teller's combination was in a sealed and double-signed envelope which was kept with others again in double custody in a safe deposit box. The seal on the envelope was only broken in event of a teller's death, illness, or leaving the ba n k's employ.
By all these means, only the active user of any cash drawer knew the combination which would open it and tellers, as well as the bank, were protected against theft.
A further feature of the sophi sticated cash drawer was a built-in alarm system. When rolled into place at any teller's position at a counter, an electrical connection linked each cash unit with an interbank communications network. A warning trigger was hidden within the drawer beneath an innocuous appearing pile of bills, known as "bait money."
Tellers had instructions never to use the bait money for normal transactions, but in event of a holdup to hand over this money first. Simply removing the bills released a silent plunger switch. This, in turn, alerted bank security staff and police, who were usually on the scene in minutes; it also activated hidden cameras overhead. Serial numbers of the bait money were on record for use as evidence later.
Edwina asked Tottenhoe, "Was the bait money among the missing six thousand dollars?"
"No," the operations officer said. "The bait money was intact. I checked."
She reflected: So there was no hope of tracing anything that way.
Once more Miles Eastin addressed the teller. "Juanita, is there any way you can think of that anyone, anyone at all, could have taken the money out of your cash drawerT' "No," Juanita Nunez said.
Watching closely as the girl answered, Edwina thought she detected fear. Well, if so, there was good reason because no bank would give up easily where a loss of this magnitude was involved.
Edwina no longer had doubts about what had happened to the missing money. The Nunez girl had stolen it. No other explanation was possible. The difficulty was to find out how?
One likely way was for Juanita Nunez to have passed it over the counter to an accomplice. No one would have noticed. During an ordinarily busy day it would have seemed like any routine cash withdrawal. Alternatively, the girl could have concealed the money and carried it from the bank during her lunch break, though in that case the risk would have been greater.
One thing Nunez must have been aware of was that she would lose her job, whether it was proven she had stolen the money or not. True, bank tellers were allowed occasional cash discrepancies; such errors were normal and expected. I n the course of a year, eight "o vers" or "unders" was average for most tellers and, provided each error was no larger than twenty-five dollars, usually nothing was said. But no one who experienced a major cash shortage kept her job, and tellers knew it.
Of course, Juanita Nu nez could have taken this into account, deciding that an immediate six thousand dollars was worth the loss of her job, even though she might have difficulty getting another. Either way, Edwina was sorry for the girl. Obviously she must have been desperate. Perhaps her need had to do with her child.
"I don't believe there's any more we can do at this point," Edwina told the group. "I'll have to advise head office. They'll take over the investigation."
As the three got up, she added, "Mrs. Nunez, please stay." The girl resumed her seat.
When the others were out of hearing, Edw ina said with deliberate informality, "Juanita, I thought this might be a moment for us to talk frankly to each other, perhaps as friends." Edwina had banished her earlier impatience. She was aware of the girl's dark eyes fixed intently on her own.
"I'm sure that two things must have occurred to you. First, there's going to be a thoro ugh investigation into this and the FBI will be involved because we're a federally insured bank. Second, there is no way that suspicion cannot fall on you." Edwina paused. "I'm being open with yo u about this. You understand?" "I understand. But I did not take any money."
Edwina observed that the young woman was still turning her wedding ring nervously.
Now Edwina chose her words carefully, aware she must be cautious in avoiding a direct accusation whi ch might rebound in legal trouble for the bank later.
"However long the investigation takes, Juanita, it's almost certain the truth will come out, if for no other reason than that it usually does. Investigators are thorough. They're also experienced. They do not give up."
The girl repeated, more emphatically, "I did not take the money."
"I haven't said you did. But I do want to say that if by any chance you know something more than you have said already, now is the time to speak out, to tell me while we're talking quietly here. After this there will be no other chances. It will be too late."
Juanita Nunez seemed about to speak again. Edwina raised a hand. "No, hear me out. I'll make this promise. If the money were returned to the bank, let's say no later than tomorrow, there would be no l egal action, no prosecution. In fairness, I'll have to say that whoever took the money could no longer work here. But nothing else would happen. I guarantee it. Juanita, do you have anything to tell me?"
"No, no, no! I lo jure For mi hija!" The girl's eyes blazed, her face came alive in anger. "I tell you I did not take any money, now or ever." Edwina sighed.
"All right, that's all for now. But please do not leave the bank without checking with me first."
Juanita Nunez appeared on the verge of another heated reply. Instead, with a slight shrug, she rose and turned away.
From her elevated desk, Edwina surveyed the activity around her; it was her own small world, her personal responsibility. The day's bra nch transactions were still be ing balanced and recorded, though a preliminary check had shown that no teller as was originally hoped had a six-thousand-dollar overage.
Sounds were muted in the modern building: in low key, voices buzzed, papers rustled, coinage jingled, calculators clicked. She watched it all briefly, reminding herself that for two reasons this was a week she would remember. Then, knowing what must be done, she lifted a telephone and dialed an internal number. A woman's voice answered. "Security department." "Mr. Wainwright, please," Edwina said.
Nolan Wainwright had found it hard, since yesterday, to concentrate on normal work within the bank.
The chief of security had been deeply affected by Tuesday morning's session in the boardroom, not least because, over a decade, he and Ben Rosselli had achieved both friendship and mutual respect. It had not always been that way.
Yesterday, returning from the tower executive floor to his own more modest office which looked out onto a light well, Wainwright-had told his secretary not to disturb him for a while. Then he had sat at his desk, sad, brooding, reaching back in memory to the time of ho own first dash with Ben Rosselli's will.
It was ten years earlier. Nolan Wainwright was the newly appointed police chief of a small upstate town. Before that he had been a lieutenant of detectives on a big city force, with an outstanding record. He had the ability for a chief's job and, in the climate of the times, it probably helped his candidacy that he was black.
Soon after the new chief's appointment, Ben Rosselli drove through the outskirts of the littl e town and was clocked at 80 mph A police patrolman of the local force handed him a ticket with a summons to traffic court.