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Stories from the Verse
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Chapter 55: Kondor 60
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Kondor was going over all the things he needed, trying to make some sense of them. He would need food, and a place to stay; if possible, he wanted to get bullets for his guns, especially the M-16. He also had a notion that he needed a better way to carry everything, something like a cart, but not so big, or like a wagon, but not so childish. He realized that for the first time in his life he was in the awkward position of being a very wealthy man with no money. He was going to have to solve that, and he was not at all certain how to do it.
A bank seemed the place to start, and there was a promising looking one not far from the museum. Brushing himself off and straightening his shirt, he walked inside.
Directly ahead was a free-standing desk at which sat a blonde girl; this appeared to be the best place to get information, so Kondor walked up to it. "Pardon me," he said; "I need to speak with someone about getting some currency."
There was something odd about the way she looked at him. It was as if she was nervous. "Um," she began–not what Kondor would have called a promising beginning, "Hold on a moment, let me check." She moved over slightly to pick up a phone.
"Hands in the air now!" a voice shouted, and Kondor whirled toward it. A man in a blue uniform was pointing a pistol at him with both hands, and another was standing at a right angle to him.
Kondor did raise his hands to about the height of his shoulders; but he was angry. "What is this?" he shouted. "A black man walks into your bank to do some business and you have to threaten him with guns? Look at me! Do you see the jewelry I am wearing, worth more than your annual rent-a-cop salary? Do you think I need to rob a bank? Do you think that if I were robbing the bank, I would be stupid enough to start with the information desk? Do you think that if I had come to rob this bank I wouldn't be quite willing and able to kill both of you before you could flinch?"
"Gentlemen, Gentlemen!" A black man in a business suit had walked over from a side office. "There's no need for any of this. I am so sorry, sir," he said turning toward Kondor. "I don't know how this happened."
"I'm sorry, sir," one of the guards said. "Miss Baker pressed the alarm button; we assumed she had been threatened."
"Sir, he came up to me and said he needed money; and I saw the guns."
"I believe that what I said," Kondor offered, "was that I needed to talk to someone about obtaining some currency. I assumed that you could do that in a bank." He could hear the bitterness of sarcasm in his own voice.
"Well," the black man said, signaling the security guards to put away their weapons, "I hope you'll forgive us for this misunderstanding. If you will step into my office, I'm sure we can accommodate you."
"Thank you," Kondor said, and straightened his shirt before walking in the direction indicated. It led to a door with a nameplate which read, "Peter Winslow, Vice President".
"I'm Pete Winslow. You are?" Mr. Winslow sat down and indicated a chair for Kondor.
"Sorry," Kondor said as he sat. "I'm Joseph Wade Kondor; I'm in town in connection with a museum presentation, but I have a bit of a problem and am not certain how to solve it."
"Well, I'd like to think our bank is here to solve problems. What's yours?"
Kondor shifted in his seat and leaned on the desk. "I'm not a poor man, sir; but I tend to travel quite a bit, and often to very primitive places. So I try to keep my traveling money in forms that are perhaps less, what's the word I want? Less liquid, I think, but more universal."
"How do you mean?"
Reaching into his pocket, Kondor produced a handful of gems and gold diktar. "Most of the stones I carry right now are emeralds, because they were fairly common at one of my recent ports of call; the coins are a decorative gold medallion, solid gold, but I am no expert on purity. Perhaps I should be seeking an assayer or lapidary, but I'm unfamiliar with the customs here and thought a bank would be the best place to begin."
Mr. Winslow appeared to take the matter in stride. "We can easily have the gold assayed for you. The current price of gold is two hundred forty an ounce; those coins appear to be two to three ounces each, which would make them worth close to six hundred apiece if they're twenty-four karat. Understand this is a very rough estimate, the price fluctuates constantly on the world market, and I'm not an expert in gold. However, the bank will pay ninety-eight percent of the current market price once the quality of the gold is determined. I can also give you the names and addresses of several independent assayers if you wish another opinion on the value."
"No," Kondor said after a moment's thought; "I'm going to need cash to rent a room and buy dinner tonight. I'm willing to accept your valuation to expedite the process."
"I can't help you with the gemstones at all; for those, you would have to contact a jeweler. I could make some calls for you, if you like."
"Thank you; I don't think that will be necessary. I'm sure that a hundred will get me room and board for the night, and I'm not certain how long I'll be staying after tomorrow night. I do need to purchase some supplies, and will want a bit of extra cash." Kondor counted out ten of his gold coins. "Please have these weighed and assayed; I will accept your valuation. From what you suggest, it should be perhaps five to six thousand. If I need more than that, I can return. More likely, I may be looking to convert at least part of it back to more universal forms in a few days, but we shall see."
"Thank you very much, Mr. Kondor. Let me get you a receipt for those. Is there anything else I can help you with this morning?"
"Thank you; I don't think so. Can you tell me about how long it will be before I will have money? I would like to check into a hotel and get unpacked and showered, but I would be more comfortable knowing that I had the cash available."
"That's a lot of money to be carrying around, Mr. Kondor. Perhaps you would prefer to open a checking account?"
That would be difficult, he thought. After all, what kind of identification could he produce when writing a check? He had a Visa card, but the account was in another world. He could produce his driver's license and military ID, but they were from places that didn't exist in this world. "No," he said, "I might have to close the account before the checks arrived. If it appears that I will be staying longer than a few days I'll reconsider."
"Then perhaps traveler's checks would serve your needs better? If they're lost or stolen they can be easily replaced, and they're accepted same as cash by all reputable retailers."
It would not do to say that he might have to deal with a few disreputable retailers. He did not know what problems he might have finding ammunition for his arsenal, but if such ammo was not available legally he would have to get it illegally.
"Mr. Winslow," he answered, "I appreciate your concern. I carry with me several hundred of those gold coins, and a large quantity of gemstones. If someone robs me, knowing that I can recover five thousand in traveler's checks is going to be small comfort. I am well armed and well able to protect myself; few robbers would select me as a likely victim."
"I understand, sir. Well, if there's anything at all we can do, please let me know. And again, let me apologize for our overly nervous receptionist and Cliff Westmont wannabe guards. We don't often have people enter the bank with guns who aren't either connected to the protection of our money or trying to take it from us."
"It is partly my fault. I would have left the rifle in my room, but I don't yet have a room. How soon will you know about the cash?"
"Oh, give me two hours. I should know by then."
"Thank you." Kondor pulled his travel clock from his pocket and looked at it, and then at the bank's clock. He adjusted the hands to match. "I will be back." Stuffing the receipt in his pocket and shaking Mr. Winslow's hand, he left the office and returned to the street.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #94: Novel Meetings. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
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