J. Wellington Willoughby, the esteemed and elderly president of the First National Bank of Chicago sat behind his oak desk and buried his face in a newspaper.
The main headline -“The West Has Been Zombed!”
Sub-headline One: “Wall Erection Efforts Along the Mississippi River Underway”
Sub-headline Two: “Legion Corporation Denies Allegations of Impropriety”
Willoughby lowered the paper. His head was bald, yet the white hair stuffed in his ears was quite lush. He licked his finger and turned the page. His eyes were giving out on him, so he studied the small print with a magnifying glass.
Further articles included, “Scientists Currently Researching the Causes of Zombification” and “U.S. Government Urges Citizens to Turn In All Suspected Vampires and Werewolves.”
Thomas Sinclair, Head Clerk, knocked on the door then let himself into his boss’s office. He was a young man with dark hair who wore a bow-tie and a green eye-shade.
“Incredible,” Willoughby said to himself. “Sinclair!”
“Right here, sir.”
Whether it was deafness or dementia, no one could be certain, but Willoughby continued to shout. “Sinclair!”
“Here, sir,” Sinclair said as he waved his hand in front of the octogenarian’s face.
“Oh!” Willoughby said as he clutched his heart. “Are you trying to kill me, Sinclair? Announce yourself next time, will you?”
“I will, sir,” Sinclair said as he laid out a pair of documents on the desk. “Sir, I need your approval on…”
Willoughby tapped on the newspaper. “Have you read this?”
“Yes,” Sinclair said. “Dreadful business.”
“Are you kidding?” Willoughby asked. “This is wonderful business!”
Sinclair waited for the proverbial other shoe to drop.
“My holdings in the construction industry are going to surge in value thanks to this wall!” Willoughby declared. He strained to smile as much as the spent muscles in his face would allow. “Oh happy day.”
“I uh…suppose that’s one way of looking at it, sir,” Sinclair said.
“Buy up all the raw materials you can my boy,” Willoughby ordered. “Lumber. Stone. We’ll sell it to the government at triple the price and make a killing.”
“Very patriotic of you, sir,” Sinclair said as he pointed to the documents. “Now if I could just get you to look at these for a moment.”
“I swear even though my genitalia hasn’t functioned properly since Andrew Johnson was impeached it feels as though I’m experiencing a phantom erection right now.”
Sinclair choked back a touch of indigestion and avoided thinking of that image any further.
“Right then,” Sinclair said. “Sir, I need you to review a rather irregular transaction.”
“Irregular transaction you say?”
“Quite,” Sinclair replied. “In the lobby I have a woman who has identified herself as one Mrs. Annabelle Faraday. She has presented me with a certificate of marriage purporting that she is the wife of our client, Dr. Elias T. Faraday. You’ll note that the certificate has been signed by Marshal Rainer Slade as a witness.”
“Why do those names sound familiar?” Willoughby asked.
Sinclair turned the page of his boss’s newspaper to reveal two additional headlines. “Western Refugees Laud Marshal Slade as Hero Who Saved the East” and “Incompetent Doctor Who Unleashed the Zombie Chaos Presumed Dead.”
“Right,” Willoughby said.
“She also presented me with this Last Will and Testament, naming her as the sole heir of Dr. Faraday’s property, including any and all funds in his account with our humble institution.”
“It all seems to be in order,” Willoughby said. “The paper says the man’s dead. She has paperwork signed by a hero no less. What’s the problem?”
Sinclair nudged his head toward the door. “You’ll need to see for yourself, sir.”
“Oh for the love of…”
Willoughby’s bones creaked and cracked as he stood up. He reached for his cane and hobbled to the door. “You know how I feel about unnecessary movements, Sinclair.”
“I know sir.”
Sinclair escorted his boss out to the teller’s desk which overlooked a large lobby, decorated with two large marble columns and fancy works of art.
“What am I looking at?” Willoughby asked.
Sinclair pointed out Annabelle, who sat on a bench, twirling a lock of her blonde hair around and around in her finger. Her face and dress was covered in a thick layer of dirt. When she grew tired of twirling her hair, she stuck her finger into her ear, whisked it around a bit, then pulled it out, sniffed it, and winced.
“Where?” Willoughby asked.
Sinclair pointed again. “There, sir.”
Willoughby pulled a pair of spectacles out of his pocket, put them on and squinted.
“She looks like an unwashed prostitute,” Willoughby said.
“She is an unwashed prostitute,” Sinclair said. “Three customers have already lodged complaints that they were propositioned.”
Willoughby stepped up to the desk. “You there! Young woman!”
Annabelle looked around and then made a face as if to ask, “me?”
“Yes,” Willoughby said as he waved her over. “Come, come.”
Annabelle stepped up to the desk. Even Willoughby, with his failing eyesight, was able to scope out her heaving bosom.
“Yes?” she asked.
“Young lady,” Willoughby said. “Are you an unwashed prostitute?”
The blonde’s brain cranked and sputtered. What to do. What to say? Finally, she took a stab at it.
“Good enough for me,” Willoughby said as he hobbled back into his office. “Pay the lady, Sinclair.”
After Willoughby slammed his office door, Sinclair picked up a large, leather-bound ledger and thumbed through the pages.
“Let’s see,” Sinclair said as he reached the “F” section. “Fanning…Farmington…and ah! Faraday. How do you wish to settle your account, Mrs. Faraday?”
“Settle?” Annabelle asked.
“What would you like to do with the money?”
“I’m sorry,” Annabelle said. “Good old Elias and I never talked business. How much did he have?”
Sinclair pointed to Doc’s line in the ledger. It read, “Dr. Elias T. Faraday…$50,000.”
Now you, the modern reader, might look at that sum and not think it to be a big deal. Sure, you wouldn’t scoff at it. You might use it to pay off some bills, buy a new car, or tuck it away in the bank for a rainy day, but your life wouldn’t change all that much.
But the thing you have to remember is the year was 1880 and back then $50,000 would be the rough equivalent of being handed somewhere in the ballpark of $1.5 million dollars today. Doc sure had sold a metric shit ton of his Miracle Cure-All.
And thus, Annabelle briefly lost control of her legs and grabbed the side of the desk to keep from falling. Her eyes rolled back into her head as she achieved full orgasm, making unseemly sounds for all the customers to hear.
“Holy shit,” she said as she caught her breath.
“Are you all right?” Sinclair asked.
“Mmm hmm,” Annabelle said as she struggled to regain control of herself. “I’d like to take some with me. Walking around money.”
“A hundred dollars?” Sinclair asked.
“Shit no,” Annabelle replied. “Someone will conk me on the head for a hundred dollars. Better make it fifty.”
“Very good then,” Sinclair said as he handed Annabelle a fifty-dollar bill. She tucked it right into her bra.
“I have some business in Boston,” Annabelle said. “Can you send a thousand there?”
“Of course,” Sinclair said. “We regularly trade with Edgemont Savings and Loan. You’ll be able to draw upon it there. And the rest?”
“Can you send it to England?” Annabelle asked.
“It will take some doing but yes it’s possible,” Sinclair said.
“Hold onto it and I’ll send for it,” Annabelle said.
“I’ll put your name on this account and await further instructions,” Sinclair said.
“OK then,” Annabelle said.
The blonde returned to the bench and sat down.
“Was there anything else, ma’am?” Sinclair asked.
“No,” Annabelle said. “I just need a minute.”