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Chapter 29

At half past ten the next morning, I was staring out the window of a nearly-empty 300 bus, halfway into what Google had told me would be an hour and a half ride from the airport to the southwest quadrant of Calgary.

I had twenty five dollars and fifty cents in my pocket, the previous day’s holdings less the bus fare. I had an additional fifty or so in an account at First Capital Savings that Matt had created for me, left over after I’d purchased a return trip to Calgary. The new account, Matt assured me, wouldn’t be searchable through the usual means; moreover, he’d flagged it so that if anyone tried to make a withdrawal or transfer, they’d have to phone me. The seven hundred dollars inside was from his own account, and he had offered me a pair of twenties when I’d told him of my plans, but I’d declined. However I looked at things, he was offering me money out of his own pocket, but for whatever reason, I found the prospect easier to stomach when the deed was done electronically.

He’d offered to make some discreet queries to Calgary in his role with the Vancouver credit union – “just to make sure you’re not wasting your time and money” – but by the time it had come up, the business day in Alberta had ended, and on top of that, it could take a few days for Matt to get me what I need. I said I’d take my chances, but the truth was that flying off to Calgary without knowing quite what I’d find seemed less risky than making a few phone calls, however discreet. I had a feeling my privacy would only diminish in the short term; and on top of that, I didn’t want to lose momentum.

I transferred to a second bus, empty but for three elderly men at the front, that careened down Macleod Trail before folding itself into an industrial neighbourhood. A few turns later, it deposited me at a strip mall, and I exited there and stood at the curb for a few seconds, coaching myself for what lay ahead. Act like you belong here. That’s how Manny got into your apartment. And technically, you have more right to be here than he had to be there.

And so I strode through the doors of Rocky Mountain Credit, shoulders squared, chin up. There was no one in line, so I had my choice of tellers. I selected the one who looked the youngest and least experienced, introduced myself, and explained contritely that I had an account there but that I’d lost my card the other day and needed a new one, and also I’d like to make a cash withdrawal and transfer some funds to an account with another bank.

She cut me off halfway through the story. “Photo ID.”

I no longer had a passport – a fact I’d discovered just that morning, and that probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but did – so I handed over my driver’s licence.

The teller brought up my file, and squinted at the screen for an almost unbearably long few seconds. I tried to keep my expression neutral. “This is a different address.”

“Yes, I’m living in Vancouver now.”

“Would you like to enter a change of address?”

“No, I’m still in town for a bit.” My pulse quickened, and I wondered if this account had been flagged as well.

But the teller just nodded, and tapped some more keys, and then turned around to retrieve a printout and a piece of plastic. “Here’s your new card,” she said. She tapped at a box on the printout. “Your PIN is here. You can change that at one of our machines. Sign here.”

I obliged, biting my tongue to keep from bursting into laughter. “I’d also like to make a withdrawal.”

“Certainly. How much?”

I thought about the record of two weeks of employment that the claims processor at the EI office had found on my file. I was on edge, anxious beyond reason about being discovered, and I didn’t want to ask for more than I had in the account. “Can I get a thousand?”

More clicking. “Cash?”

“If possible.”

She nodded, her eyes not leaving the screen. “I’ll see what we have. We don’t usually keep much cash on hand. But if you put in a request four or more days in advance, we can get you any amount.”

“Whatever you have.”

A few minutes later, she counted out a pile of fifties and twenties, and I scrawled a signature on another sheet of paper, delirious with success. The cash didn’t fit in my wallet, so I stuffed it into a pocket in my backpack as though I did this sort of thing every day.

“I’m looking at your account,” the teller said. “Have you considered some more long-term investments? Right now all your money is in a simple chequing account, which is convenient but doesn’t earn much interest. Would you like to meet with one of our financial advisors?”

“Oh, no, no.” I heard the door swing open behind me, and I stifled an urge to turn around. Calm down. No one knows you’re here. “I’m – I’m buying property in Vancouver,” I said. “So I want to be able to access my money for now. For a down payment”

“That makes sense. I thought I’d ask, given the circumstances.”

“Of course.” What circumstances? The door opened and closed again, and again I forced myself to stare straight ahead. “I’d also like to transfer some money to my Vancouver account.” I presented the teller with a printout Matt had given me.

“All of it?”

“No, just half.” Closing the account might set off some alarms.

She tapped away at the keyboard some more, and I heard the door open again. Behind me, a pair of customers was exchanging small talk about the weather. The place was filling up, and my anxiety was mounting with each new customer who entered.

“…thousand dollars,” the teller was saying. “Depending on your bank, this transfer can take up to five business days to clear.”

I nodded as I scribbled a signature on another printout.

“Anything else?”

“Yeah…can you give me a record of this month’s transactions?”

More clicking, and then a printer behind her coughed up another sheet of paper. I folded it without looking at it, and stuffed it into my back pocket. I thanked the teller, and left Rocky Mountain Credit as slowly as I could force myself to leave.

I walked a few blocks before calling a cab. There were two people I wanted to visit before leaving. I wanted to drop in on the first unannounced, and I didn’t know how long that visit would take. The second was lower priority but probably couldn’t be done until evening. And it was almost a sure bet I wouldn’t make it home before the last flight of the day if I had to spend, by my estimate, another three hours or more traversing the city on public transit.

I gave the driver an address in the northwest quadrant, and he nodded and turned the meter on as he pulled back into traffic. When he’d merged onto Deerfoot Trail, I finally unfolded last printout the teller had given me, and noted that Rocky Mountain Credit also had me living at 280 Abbotsford Crescent.

Manny Thomas was going to considerable lengths to set me up for something.

I gripped the page as I scanned the record of transactions, looking for a clue as to what that could be, idly mulling the teller’s suggestion that I consider longer-term investments.

And then I saw it. Two weeks’ worth of salary, such as it was, had been deposited into the account by Gordon Richards; that totaled just under thirteen hundred dollars. In addition, just over five thousand – probably my own money – had entered the account a few days earlier. Over this period, there had been a few cash withdrawals at machines – sixty here, a hundred there. But all of this was pocket change compared to a deposit from two days after Manny Thomas had entered my apartment: one lump sum, in the amount of fifty thousand dollars.

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