Hopefully, neither one grabs the cash and runs!
This story is a continuation of THE TROUBLE WITH CHERRY.
Mike dropped the forged checks back into a folder. “We’ll confront Cherry later this morning,” he said to me softly, so no else could hear. “I’ll come get you.”
Shocked to learn of this episode of check forgery, I walked slowly back to my desk and tried to lose myself in the work of international renewals. As I wrote in my last story, I wasn’t sure why this discovery affected me so much. But it had. I could barely think of anything else. I pushed my papers around mindlessly and listlessly. Maybe I got off an order of renewals to Brazil or France when Mike popped his head downstairs, looked at me, and motioned with his head that it was showtime.
On the second floor, I joined Mike and my Dad. On the way over to Cherry’s office, Dad tapped Bob Gerhardt to join us. Seemed to me that Bob had been tipped off as well as to what was about to go down.
The four of us marched into Cherry’s office, which was the size of a large closet. Cramming four men and a thief in a closet makes for a tight squeeze. Cherry looked apprehensive all at once, as this was anything but a normal assembly. She instinctively drew in her paperwork and looked up expectantly.
Dad took the lead, though he looked uncomfortable. “Young lady,” he started awkwardly, using the same tone of voice he used to address the pharmacist at the Shop Rite with the shrimpy rubbers. That was not an expression I ever heard him use (as opposed to “Madame Pharmacist” which I heard him use exactly once). He motioned to Mike who then produced several bad check specimens. Dad took them in his hand and flipped the edges against his fingers nervously. “It has come to my attention that you have written several unauthorized checks to yourself.”
“Open your sexy.” Reminds me of the type of mangled English to be seen in a variety of commercial signage and commercial products as showcased in the famous website: Engrish.com.
Cherry sat there, frozen in Dad’s headlights, like a deer on a dark mountain road, instants before impact. Dad presented the evidence by laying the phony checks down on her desk. Cherry scarcely looked at them.
Dad ended what had been an incredibly short speech by ordering her to pack up her belongings and leave. I felt compelled to add a sharp, “We trusted you! How could you?”
Dad rebuked me immediately with a loud “James!” Meaning he would take care of it. And for me to shut up.
Bob lifted his hand up in my direction as if to say, “Let your Dad handle this.”
If Dad was gonna shut down this kind of pickpocketing forever, I was all for it.
We watched in pained silence as Cherry hurriedly collected her purse and overcoat. She was out the door in less than 30 seconds. And then she, too, like Lenny 20 years before her, disappeared, in her case into the miasma of Hudson County, New Jersey, never to be seen or heard from again.
Mike passed along the operating wisdom to me later that day. “One person keeps the books,” he said to me, meaning himself. “Another writes the checks,” he nodded in the direction of Cherry’s former office. “You never have one person doing both.” Sounded like good advice to me.
Of course, tragically, Lenny and Cherry were just the beginning. Already gracing these pages was Herby the stockbroker from Slamex, who churned Dad for a million. There was also a string of litigation filed by my Dad (and his Estate) against an oil promoter (not Bobby Edwards) to recover multimillion-dollar losses stretching over 30 years!
And then there was one from the Bahamas who took the lion’s share.
When I would ask Dad about these brigands, he never had much to say other than “everybody steals.” I was never satisfied by such generalizations. First of all, the inherent lack of discernment is problematic. Modern life requires a lot more.
Once, Dad even accused me of “embezzlement” when I applied funds provided by him for his grandchildren’s education to, of all things, their tuition bills. But this was at least 12 years after Cherry’s dismissal, when Dad’s fog of dementia was thicker and more impenetrable.
In any event, the Pride of Bernard Olcott earned her Bachelor’s Degree last year and will earn her Master’s Degree in a few days; one has already accepted a prestigious internship starting this summer. The other Pride has an internship this summer in Rockefeller Center, where I coincidentally have my first memory of Dad’s office.
Both prides of Bernard Olcott. Dad was right about education — as long as he was thinking clearly. Discernment is everything.
No money was ever better spent: a family value.
I was, and am, grateful for those tuition payments, all of them, for everybody. Even for myself. So, I plead not guilty, and with no small amount of pride myself.
And the thief, mentioned above, who took the lion’s share, the one from the Bahamas?
No one compares to him.
His story next week.