Once, long ago, banks had more humans in them than computers. And a bank clerk who put a foot wrong in a dim corridor could get herself all tangled up with a very important customer.
There's a financial newspaper on my desk and it says that Georgie Kalvos is dead. I'm half wishing he's doing a stint in hell and half hoping he's got plenty of good looking women down there to keep him company -- yes, and an occasional bottle of ouzo as well. It's been many years since I last saw him and if I'm going to remember him I'll remember him as he was. A middle aged man with the smile of a boy, the build of a gorilla, the manners of a courtier and the morals of a shark.
Talking of sharks, I wonder if Colette the big time Madam is remembering Georgie and the first girl who ever turned a trick for her? For a long time I resented Colette and Georgie because they made a fool out of me. Yet if Colette was here now I'd gladly share a toast with her to our Greek lover's memory. Colette runs a brothel and I run a bank, and still I think that Georgie was one of the few real man that either one of us has ever known.
Slowly, I rub my palms over my desk, thinking back to that other manager's office, that other desk, the one that creaked underneath my weight as the bars of sunlight leaking through the blinds fell onto the dollar bills jammed into the tops of my bank-uniform nylons. I remember the roughness of Georgie's hands between my opened thighs and Colette's excited voice jeering at me: "Hey, Yvonne, I think he wants to make a deposit in you!"
It was when I'd first joined the bank, as a teenage junior teller. It was a time when all the world loved the Beatles, when computers were still out of sight and out of mind, and when I was terribly excited about living away from home for the first time. Not that the branch I'd started in was located anywhere at all exciting. Just a small fishing town where the fresh sea breeze was often tainted with the smell of drying nets and diesel fumes from the trawlers.
The bank had arranged accommodation in the local YWCA, and it was Colette who showed me around it for the first time. She was a plump, cheerful girl with an outgoing personality who had the room next to mine and also worked at the bank. In fact the bank was such a small one that Colette and I were the sole full time staff, plus the manager. The only other employee was a local married woman who came in during the mornings to help with the book work.
Though everything seemed fine at first I soon had an vague impression that Colette had something on her mind that she wanted to talk about. One afternoon she invited me into her room to share some beer she'd smuggled in and to have a little chat. It turned out to be a little chat with some big surprises in it.
"Listen, Yvonne, I've got a private arrangement at the bank. The thing is, I need your help to keep it going. The girl who had your job before was happy to help out and I'm hoping you'll do the same."
My first reaction was a horrible fear that I was being invited to help cook the books.
"God, no," Colette had answered, laughing. "No, it's nothing like that at all. It's to do with Georgie Kalvos."
As new as I was to the area I already knew something about Georgie, a classic immigrant success story. He'd arrived in town as a teenager with only the clothes on his back and hardly able to speak a word of English. A lot of people thought that originally he'd jumped ship. If so, it had been the first of many smart moves: now he owned four fishing boats, a processing plant and even the trucks that took his catch off to the markets had his name on their sides. But what he and Colette could have in common I couldn't imagine. So I asked her.
"Well . . ." Colette seemed rather coy. "Before I go back to the city I'd like to make as much spare cash as I can. And what Georgie wants is some fun on the side. He's certainly got the money to pay for it. The problem is that this is a small town and his wife is a Greek as well. You know how jealous these foreign wives can be about every little thing."
I hardly knew anything at all about marriage or marriages, whether foreign or domestic. But I just nodded.
"So, we've got this arrangement. Every Thursday afternoon our boss goes off to the weekly managers' meeting upstate. Which just leaves me and the other teller in the branch. Which also means that from now on you'll be the other teller, right?"
Yes, I said, I supposed so. Of course this was a small town back in an era when people went on holiday without bothering to lock their doors and bank robberies only happened in Westerns.
"So what?" I asked.
"So on Thursday afternoons Georgie comes in to collect the payroll for his workers."
"What about it?"
Colette sighed in frustration and looking back I can't blame her. I must have led quite a sheltered life.
"Yvonne, what I'm trying to tell you is that when he arrives I take him into the manager's office to get the money out of the safe. He'll arrive just before closing time and we'll be in there for about an hour. So I'd be really grateful if you'd cash up and keep look-out for us until I let him out of the back door. And please don't come knocking on the office door unless you have to."
I nearly dropped my glass in surprise when I finally understood what she was talking about: "In the bank! You're doing it with a customer in the bank!"
"I told you, he has to be very careful about his wife not finding out. So going to the bank for the payroll is a perfect alibi. Who's ever going to suspect that anything would be going on there?"
"But, Colette, why do you do it?"
"For money, that's why. He leaves me a hundred dollar tip from the wages afterwards."
I was astonished all over again. In those days fifty dollars was a good wage for a week's work. For a woman, anyway.
"Look, all I need is for you not to tell anyone. It's worth ten bucks for you to cover for me. The important thing is that you keep an eye open for the boss coming back early from the meeting and maybe dropping into the bank on his way home. He never has done yet but it might happen sometime. If it does just ring the office bell under the counter and then keep him talking as long as you can. It doesn't have to be all that long because I always keep most of my clothes on -- all except the really important bits."
I recall how she'd giggled in amusement at her own bravado. I'd thought she was a silly little girl who was one day going to miserably sad about how she'd sacrificed her virtue for a few dollars. Yes, well, the world was different then, or at least a lot of us had been brought up to think it was. Anyway if anybody wants to look for a moral in all this, Colette is now worth millions while I'm still looking after other peoples' money.
At the time though I was as stuck up and snotty as only a young fool can be. I'd said that I didn't want her dollars and whatever she did with Mr Kalvos was her business and nothing to do with me.
"Well, suit yourself," Colette had answered cheerfully. "Susie, the last girl, she had a different ideas altogether. I'd better not tell you about what the pair of us got up to though, or you'll be really shocked."
And this was the same girl I'd seen carrying the collection plate around in church on Sunday!
"But you won't tell on me?"
"No, I won't say anything -- but, Colette, isn't it -- well, awful? You know, doing it with an old man? An older man, anyway."
That had amused her a lot: "Yvonne, Georgie is a wonderful lover. If you ever find a man half as good you'll be lucky. Anyway, always remember, the older the man is the more likely he is to be telling you the truth about his vasectomy."
It was a conversation which made me think I still had a lot to learn about life. It was also a long time before I got to sleep that night -- especially as it was a Wednesday night. You could say I was gripped by a lot of conflicting emotions. But for all my brave words it was my curiosity which was most stirred. I'd always thought sex for normal women was all to do with marriage and white gowns and honeymoons and lifelong romance -- not something to be bought and sold in a bank office like any other commodity. Or was it all some huge joke that Colette was playing on me? I finally decided it had to be a joke, and that my co-worker must have a very strange sense of humor.
Georgie Kalvos arrived precisely when Colette said he would though, and we both called him Mr Kalvos respectfully; after all, he was the bank's biggest customer. And he behaved like it, with not the slightest hint that he was there for anything but business reasons.
On the other hand, things happened exactly as Colette had predicted. She and Georgie went off to the manager's office together and after I'd locked the front doors and emptied the cash registers they were still in there. Almost a quarter of an hour by then. Something more than checking the payroll had to be going on, but what? Where they really having sex together, or was Colette teaching him double entry book keeping or something?
It was driving me crazy, not knowing. There was a way to find out though -- just to slip out very quietly into the corridor and listen for a few seconds. Whatever was going on in the office, I should get a clue to it from some very discreet eavesdropping. I'd like to say I had to struggle with my conscience before I decided to do it, but the truth is that my conscience was as curious as the rest of me.
When I tiptoed out into the gloomy corridor I was totally surprised to find that the manager's office door was half opened. What was more, I could hear Colette muttering softly and giggling. Like a cat being drawn towards cat mint I simply couldn't help taking a few more steps down the corridor. And what I finally saw made me gasp and then clasp my hands to my mouth to belatedly stifle the sound. For Colette was bent over the desk, her back to the door. She was still wearing the white crisp blouse which, with a dark skirt, was the bank's summer uniform. But she certainly wasn't wearing her skirt, just a wispy pair of black panties, a black suspender belt and dark stockings. It was a sight which made my heart jump, my mouth go dry and set my legs trembling.
For some reason I had a sudden mental picture of Colette standing in her booth and calmly serving the customers the way she was now, perfectly normal from the waist up and practically naked below. In fact I'd never before seen panties like the ones she was wearing, of the thinnest silk and briefest cut imaginable, panties which looked as if they would float like thistle seed if somebody threw them into the air. In fact that seemed to be exactly their raison d'etre, to be dragged off their wearer and tossed carelessly aside by some lust crazed male. Even at the time I couldn't help wondering where the shop was that she'd bought them from.
George appeared in the doorway, also with his back to me. In his hand were what looked like a wad of bills. I saw him take one of them in his other hand, fold it and slip it into one of Colette's stocking tops. Then the same hand lifted up and gently caressed the gusset of her panties. Colette giggled again, stirred around on the desk top and hissed approvingly. Her well rounded buttocks lifted up higher in an obvious invitation to Georgie's fingers, which probed a line of blonde curls that had suddenly appeared in the panties. I found myself blushing at the sight.
For a second or so I actually thought her underwear had split open, until I realized that they had an open gusset, that the panties were actually designed that way, to reveal much more than they hid. At least my curiosity was satisfied now about whether Georgie and Colette were indeed having an affair. What also amazed me was that they hadn't even bothered to close the door properly. Still, they certainly hadn't seen me and all I had to do was to creep away softly from this embarrassing situation.
And it was then, when I tried to back away, that I found out how big a mistake I'd made. Because the hem of my skirt tugged around my legs when I tried to step back, just as a bell tinkled inside the office. I gasped in horror and tried to flee but my dammed skirt seemed to be stuck in mid-air, and then I heard the sound of tearing cloth as the bell kept on tinkling. Georgie had already swung around towards the doorway. Panic stricken by then, I bent over and brushed my hands over the places where the skirt seemed to be held, then yelped as something small but viciously sharp snagged one of my fingers. The office door flew open, casting more light into the corridor and finally letting me see what was happening.
On each white painted wall were tiny pieces of clear sticky tape, opposite to each other and about two feet above the carpet. Stretched between them was a length of very fine black fishing line which had been invisible in the dimly lit corridor. And hanging from every inch of the line were tiny black painted fish hooks with four barbs sticking out of each of them, barbs with extremely sharp points. It was these which had gotten caught up in my skirt. In total panic I made one last desperate attempt to pull free of the hooks and achieved nothing but making one or two more rips just above the hemline.
The bell tinkled again as if an impatient customer was waiting and Georgie's laughter echoed it. He bent down and picked up another length of fishing line which was obviously attached to the one with the hooks on. The other end was just as obviously attached to the bell in the office.
Standing there with my mouth hanging open I stared at the man's grinning face as I finally understood how I had stumbled into a trap, a simple but very effective one which had snared me as easily as a rabbit in a noose. Not only trapped, but warning Georgie and Colette that I was standing out in the corridor! What a fool I'd been!
Before I could even think of anything to say Georgie walked towards me, grabbed my wrists, pulled me towards him and kissed me full on the lips. A mingled and overpowering aroma of spearmint mouthwash and garlic went into my nose and deep down into my lungs as I made a futile attempt to push him away. It was like trying to shove a wall over. He simply lifted my wrists up over my shoulders without the slightest effort, as though he were dangling a rag doll.
"Beautiful girl, Yvonne. I like you so much," he said happily.
Behind him Colette was standing in the doorway, apparently not embarrassed at all about the way she was dressed or what I'd seen them doing. "I thought you'd come and have a look. That's great, now you can see as much as you like."
"No, I don't want to see anything," I protested, still squirming ineffectually in Georgie's iron grip.
"Then how come we've caught you snooping on us? That wasn't what I asked you to do, that was something you decided to do yourself. Keep her there, Georgie."
Colette walked towards me, around me, so she was facing George, then quite calmly started undoing my belt!
"What do you think you're doing!" I protested.
Colette answered me in a totally unsympathetic way: "Sorry, but I guess you've landed yourself right in it now, Yvonne. Don't panic though, nobody is going to hurt you."
My muscles tensed, ready to fight or flee. But how could I do either with Georgie holding my arms and my toes hardly touching the ground?
"As for what we're doing, we're protecting ourselves, Yvonne." Colette continued briskly. "Look, this is a pretty dangerous game Georgie and I are playing. If his wife were to find out about this we'd have real problems. Personally, I want to start my own business soon and I'll probably need a bank loan to get it off the ground. I wouldn't have much chance of getting one if I was remembered as the girl who got fired from a bank herself for getting screwed by the customers. So we have to be careful."
I made one more attempt to wriggle free from Georgie and then instantly stopped as Colette unhooked the hook and eye at the skirt's waist. One more such movement and it was clear that my skirt was going to slip down.
"Now, if you hadn't come into the corridor we wouldn't have bothered about you. After all you couldn't have seen anything so you couldn't have said for certain that anything was really going on. But you did come near the office, you did see what was happening. It's a problem for us then, to make sure you don't tell anybody else."
"You left the god dammed door open, didn't you? I wouldn't have seen anything but for that!"
Colette laughed at my anger, reached out and toyed with my zipper tab.
"No you wouldn't have seen anything, so you would have crept up closer to the door and listened instead, and you would have been just as certain about what was going on from the noises we'd have been making. We left the door open so that if the bell was rung we could be out in the corridor before you ran away. Truth to tell, I didn't think the fishhooks would work as well as they did. They were Georgie's idea when we were planning this."
"What do you mean, planning it?"
"Well, it wouldn't have been much of a plan if you'd stayed out front as you were supposed to. There wouldn't have been any problem either about you telling tales on us."
I hastily shook my head in rebuttal: "There isn't any problem. I won't tell anyone, I promise."
"Yeah, Yvonne maybe, but Georgie and I would be much surer of that if you had as much to lose as we do." She jerked the zipper down and tweaked the pleats on the skirt.
Even at that moment I was surprised about how Georgie was just standing there, letting Colette do all the talking. I had already begun to realize how strong a personality she had. Now I had a demonstration of how ruthless she was as well as my skirt dropped down around my feet. Georgie laughed and said something in Greek which sounded as if he was pleased. His head was bent forward as he looked down at my legs.
"Oh, he likes you alright. He's been hoping like hell you'd come along, haven't you, Georgie?"
I tried to speak calmly: "Please, Colette, what is it you want me to do?"
She gave a little half smile, put her hands on my hips, lifted them underneath my shirt, her fingertips scratched at my skin, and then went down into the tops of my panties.
"Ten . . nine . . eight . . seven . . and still coming down!" Colette mocked me as she pulled my underwear down around my legs. Georgie whooped with glee at what she was doing. Because I was being held up on my toes the bottom of my shirt had been lifted almost to my waist and between the shirt and my stocking tops I was now totally naked. It was all a nightmare, impossible, that I could be displayed like this in front of a leering man.
"Colette, you're a slut!" I cursed her.
"And you're a miserable fucking bitch, Yvonne. For God's sake put a smile on your face and enjoy the party. And don't worry, you can come as you are."
She laughed at the expression on my face, knelt down and finished slipping the panties down to ankle height: "Off the deck, please, Georgie."
"OK", Georgie responded, lifting me completely off the floor for the second it took Colette to slip the waistband over my uniform lace-up shoes. She knelt back and jerked the fishing line free of the wall, then stood up holding my skirt and panties. "So that's it, Georgie. You can let her go now."
My heels fell back onto the carpet with a perceptible jolt as he released me: "You are OK, Yvonne?" Georgie asked me, his weathered face split open in a huge smile.
I'd actually started to massage my wrists before I realized how my shirt was still rucked up around my middle and hastily tugged it down. Even with my shirt held down at full stretch and bending forward I was barely decent.