Page 86 of The Moneychangers

The Fed had been informed of, and had approved, the FMA emergency plans. A Midas fortune in currency and coin, already counted and in labeled sacks, was loaded onto armored trucks while an array of armed guards patrolled the loading ramp.

There would be six armored trucks in all, several recalled by radio from other duties, and each would travel separately with police escort a precaution because of the unusual amount of cash involved. However, only three trucks would have money in them.

The others would be empty dummies an extra safeguard against holdup. Within twenty minutes of the branch manager's call, the first armored truck was ready to leave Headquarters and, soon after, was threading downtown traffic on its way to Tylersville.

Even before that, other bank personnel were en route by private car and limousine.

Edwina D'Orsey was in the lead.

She would be in charge of the support operation now under way. Edwina left her desk at the main downtown branch at once, pausing only to inform her senior assistant manager and to collect three staff members who would accompany her a loan officer, Cliff Castleman, and two tellers. One of the tellers was Juanita Nunez.

At the same time, small contingents of staff from two other city branches were being instructed to go directly to Tylersville where they would report to Edwina. Part of over-all strategy was not to deplete any branch seriously of staff in case another run should begin elsewhere.

In that event, other emergency plans were ready, though there wu a limit to how many could be managed at once. Not more than two or three. The quartet headed by Edwina moved at a brisk pace through the tunnel connecting the downtown branch with FMA Headquarters.

From the lobby of the parent building they took an elevator down to the bank's garage where a pool car had been assigned and was waiting. Cliff Castleman drove.

As they were getting in, Nolan Wainwright sprinted past, heading for his own parked Mustang. The security chief had been informed of the Tylersville operation and, with twenty million dollars cash involved, intended to oversee its protection personally.

Not far behind him would be a station wagon with a half-dozen armed security guards. Local and state police at Tylersville had been alerted.

Both Alex Vandervoort and Tom Straughan remained where they were, in FMA Headquarters Tower. Straughan's office near the Money Trading Center had become a command post.

On the 36th floor, Alex's concern was to keep close tab on the remainder of the branch system, and to know instantly if fresh trouble erupted.

Alex had kept Patterton informed and now the bank president waited tensely with Alex, each mulling the unspoken questions: Could they contain the run in Tylersville?

Would First Mercantile American make it through the business day without a rash of runs elsewhere? Fergus W. Gatwick, the Tylersville branch manager, had expected that his few remaining years until retirement would pass unhurriedly and uneventfully.

He was sixtyish, a chubby apple of a man, pink-checked, blueeyed, gray-haired, an affable Rotarian. In his youth he had known ambition but shed it long ago, deciding wisely that his role in life was supportive; he was a follower who would never blaze a trail.

Managing a small branch bank ideally suited his ability and limitations. He had been happy at Tylersville, where only one crisis had marred his tenure until now. A few years ago a woman with an imagined grudge against the bank rented a safe deposit box.

She placed in the box an object wrapped in newspaper, then departed for Europe leaving no address. Within days, a putrid odor filtered through the bank.

At first, drains were suspect and examined, to no effect, while all the time the stench grew greater. Customers complained, staff were nauseated. Eventually suspicion centered on the safe deposit boxes where the awful smell seemed strongest.

Then the crucial question arose which box? It was Fergus W. Gatwick who, at duty's call, sniffed his way around them all, at length settling on one where the matador was overpowering.

After that, it took four days of legal proceedings before a court order was obtained permitting the bank to drill the box open. Inside were the remains of a large, once-fresh sea bass.

Sometimes, even now in memory, Gatwick still sniffed traces of that ghastly time.

But today's exigency, he knew, was far more serious than a fish in a box. He checked his watch. An hour and ten minutes since he had telephoned Headquarters.

Though four tellers had been paying out money steadily, the number of people crowding the bank was even greater, with newcomers pouring in, and still no help had come. "Mr. Gatwick" A woman teller beckoned him.


He left the railed management area where he normally worked and walked over to her. Across a counter from them both, at the head of a waiting line, was a poultry farmer, a regular bank customer whom Gatwick knew well. The manager said cheerfully,

"Good morning, Steve." He received a cool nod in return while silently the teller showed him checks drawn on two accounts.

The poultryman had presented them. They totaled $23,000.

"Those are good," Gatwick said. Taking the checks, he initialed both. In a low voice, though audible across the counter, the teller said,

"We haven't enough money left to pay that much." He should have known, of course. The drain on cash since opening had been continuous with many large withdrawals.

But the remark was unfortunate. Now there were anew rumblings among those in line, the teller's statement being repeated and passed back. "You hear that! They say they don't have any money."

"By Christ!" The poultry farmer leaned wrathfully forward, a clenched fist pounding.

"You just better pay those checks, Gatwick, or I'll be over there and tear this goddam bank apart." "There's no need for any of that, Steve.

Not threats or shouting either." Fergus W. Gatwick raised his own voice, striving to be heard above the suddenly ugly scene.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing a temporary cash shortage because of exceptional demands, but I assure you a great deal more money is on the way and will be here soon."

The last words were drowned by wrathful shouts of protest.

"How come a bank runs out of money?"… "Get it now!"… "Forget the bullshit! Where's the cash?"… "We'll camp here till this bank pays what it owes."

Gatwick held up his arms. "Once again I assure you

…. "I'm not interested in your sleazy assurances." The speaker was a smartly dressed woman whom Gatwick recognized as a newish resident. She insisted, "I want my money out now."

"Damn right!" a man behind her echoed.

"That goes for all of us." Still others surged forward, voices raised, their faces revealing anger and alarm. Someone threw a cigarette package which hit Gatwick in the face.

Suddenly, he realized, an ordinary group of citizens, many of whom he knew well, had become a hostile mob.

It was the money, of course; money which did strange things to human beings, making them greedy, panicked, at times sub-human.

There was genuine dread, too the possibility, as some saw it, of losing everything they had, along with their security.

Violence, which moments ago appeared unthinkable, now loomed close. For the first time in many years, Gatwick felt physical fear. "Please!" he pleaded. "Please listen"

His voice disappeared under growing tumult. Abruptly, unexpectedly, the clamor lessened. There seemed to be some activity in the street outside which those at the rear were craning to see.

Then, with a bravura flourish, the bank's outer doors flung open and a procession marched in. –

Edwina D'Orsey headed it. Following her were Cliff Castleman and the two young women tellers, one of them the petite figure of Juanita Nunez.

Behind was a phalanx of security guards shouldering heavy canvas sacks, escorted by other protective guards with drawn revolvers.

A half dozen more staff who had arrived from other branches filed in behind the guards. In the wake of them all a vigilant, wary Lord Protector was Nolan Wainwright.

Edwina spoke clearly across the crowded, now nearsilent bank. "Good morning, Mr. Gatwick. I'm sorry we all took so long, but traffic was heavy.

I understand you may require twenty million dollars.

About a third of it just arrived. The rest is on the way." While Edwina was speaking, Cliff Castleman, Juanita, the guards and others continued through the railed management area to the rear of the counters. One of the newly arrived relief staff was an operations man who promptly took charge of incoming cash. Soon, plentiful supplies of crisp new bills were being recorded, then distributed to tellers.