Piled into grandpa’s old Chevy pickup, the unlikely trio drove to the nearby city of Newport to visit his bank. Charlie’s grandpa figured bankers knew other banks, right? So, naturally, the fastest way to find what Lorelei was looking for – and consequently, rid himself and Charlie of her presence – was to visit his banker. Grandpa drove, Charlie rode in the middle, and Lorelei squeezed in near the passenger-side door. The woman was trying very hard not to touch Charlie; if she squeezed herself any further into the door, she’d be out of the truck. She appeared to be calm, but Charlie’s grandpa was quickly learning that Lorelei had quite the poker face. Her white-knuckled grip on the door handle gave away her true feelings.
Her odd appearance and men’s clothing did not seem to bother the banker, who upon receiving Lorelei’s carefully memorized account number, retreated to his office to phone Hibernia Bank of New Orleans. When he returned to the lobby, however, he asked to speak with Charlie’s grandpa privately.
“It is an odd thing,” he began, “that the account number she gave is not only the largest account at the bank, it’s the oldest. It was opened in the same year the bank was established, 1812. The account has been monitored by a power of attorney for almost 200 years. The management at Hibernia has never seen or spoken to the owner – or any member of the owner’s family – in person.”
“Is the account in her name?” Charlie’s grandpa asked.
“Surprisingly, yes, the account is in the name of Lorelei Strange, recently of New Orleans. When long-standing accounts pass down through families or acquaintances, it is customary to keep the death certificates of each primary owner on file. Oddly, for such an old account, there are no such certificates on file. Only the power of attorney … and something else.”
“A small painting. For identification of the account owner.”
Charlie’s grandpa looked incredulous.
“Yes, a painting,” the banker continued, “and in order to proceed, Hibernia will need positive identification that Ms. Strange is indeed the woman in the painting. They will overnight the painting to a member of their West Coast affiliate, who will send a man out to make the identification.”
Both men stared silently at Lorelei, still sitting next to Charlie in the lobby. Neither knew how to pick up the threads of their odd conversation. Lorelei appeared so serene, so still, that she could have been a statue. As if she could feel their stares, she turned from her chair and rose, looking directly at the men as she glided into the banker’s private office. Charlie scowled.
“Is there a problem, gentlemen?” she asked as she entered the room.
“No, Ms. Strange, no problem. Are you aware that a representative of your bank must provide positive identification?” questioned the banker.
“Ah, the painting.” She did not seem surprised. “Yes, I am aware. Once their man makes the identification, may my funds be transferred?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Then please have him meet with me tomorrow. I am anxious to once again have my own means.” She swept gracefully from the room, returning to the lobby.
The above post is a beta excerpt from an ongoing novel-in-progress tentatively titled “The Curious Tale of Lorelei Strange”. To read all related posts, click on the associated category. All post titles in this series contain numeric labels so that you may read the story in consecutive order (i.e., LS1 is the first installment, LS2 the second, etc.). ©Awen Blackbird/Jamie Waggoner, all rights reserved. Featured photo credit: Issara Willenskomer via Unsplash.