The Banker  

To call Colin a true “banker” would be to overstate his position somewhat.

Granted, he was - at that particular time - responsible for a considerable amount of cash but, in hindsight, “cashier” might have been a better title.

The word “banker” implies somebody who has built a career in the industry; possibly a person who has studied for the examinations (with enigmatic titles such as “Finance of Foreign Trade” and “Principles of Credit”) of the Chartered Banker Institute and who perhaps is now responsible for mortgage and other lending decisions.

Colin was none of these things. He had arrived at his position largely because nobody else seemed particularly interested in undertaking the work involved, which was perhaps surprising given the available talent pool. However, there he was and it was his duty to be responsible for the various cash transactions which came his way. This task included ensuring sufficient funds were available at all times to pay out from the substantial float over which he had control and to follow through any and all outstanding debts, making sure these were settled in a timely fashion.

Colin’s trust was never called into question when he was appointed to the the post and perhaps this is one of the reasons why nobody felt particularly minded to impose any rigorous audit procedures. To be fair, the introduction of anything overly stringent might have been difficult to undertake under the circumstances but the fact that there were few checks and balances within the system unquestionably left it open to abuse.

Colin would never have given such a course of action a second thought, save for one thing. Over time he noticed those around him with whom he was acquainted becoming steadily more wealthy whilst his own financial position seemed to be in gradual decline. It was not that he was particularly jealous of others; indeed, he wished them well as their capital carefully accumulated, especially his friend Nigel whom he had known since school days. It was more a case of him feeling that the cards he was being dealt whilst he remained stolidy honest were somehow stacked against him. Colin came to believe that it was - in a word - “unfair” that fate should take a hand in his decline whilst at the same time manifestly aiding others.

The more he brooded about this depressing state of affairs, the more his resolve to stay on the “straight and narrow” was eroded. Of course, once the devil had been allowed access he gained a foothold and then a stronghold, as ways of trying to work the system to his advantage first took root and then began to grow in Colin’s mind.

After a while, he decided to succumb but only in a small way at first. He kept telling himself that it was only to try and redress some of the unfairness which had come in his direction and, mindful of the maxim “little but often makes much”, he felt he could at last really begin catching up apace with those whom he had seen succeed.

His strategy was one which could be repeated elsewhere, so I won’t go into too many details here, save to say that Colin contrived to begin appropriating for himself small amounts of cash when dealing with certain transactions. He perfected a method, when parcelling together the notes, for counting in some extra ones here and there but then managing to appropriate these additional ones for himself, prior to their despatch, when there was no scrutiny operating.   

Colin was acutely mindful of the risks involved but he was relieved and amazed how good it felt to be able to cheat the system and to do something for himself for a change. He experienced no shame or remorse but only a pleasant satisfaction in being in control, of dextrously managing a potentially disastrous situation and of bringing off these little victories without query, censure or, indeed, any notice by anybody else whatsoever.

At least, that is what he thought but he was soon to discover, to his initial horror, that his ruse had been spotted on more than one occasion by another person. Quite how Colin’s tactics were discovered by Damien he was never sure, for he felt that he had covered his actions and tracks thoroughly and competently. Now, however, he faced imminent exposure.

Damien was a clever fellow who, although originating from Devonshire, had grown his wealth sufficiently to be able recently to purchase a property on Marlborough Street in London. He decided to utilise his knowledge of Colin’s misdemeanours to his and, as it turned out, to Colin’s advantage. I am not party to the whys and wherefores but I do know that the initial conversation between the two regarding this serious matter actually occurred, of all places, in a domestic kitchen! Suffice to say the outcome of their detailed discussions was that Colin felt enormously comforted, for his protagonist was prepared to strike a deal. Essentially, it seems, if Colin were willing to continue his legerdemain on a larger scale when making out remittances to Damien, the latter would keep his silence and reserve an acceptable proportion of the additional funds back to Colin.

This was indeed a “win, win” situation. Colin’s deceptive practices would remain a secret for as long as he continued to line Damien’s pocket and, equally for as long as he did this, his own financial position would continue to be enhanced by virtue of Damien’s “cut” of the proceeds. Actually this was a much less risky process when compared to Colin simply “helping himself” because he was now one step removed from the nefarious process itself and, if everything were to have unravelled, he could simply feign error and categorically deny any separate arrangement or involvement with Damien.

I am sure you are eager to know the outcome of this little scenario so, to cut a long story short, I will simply say the following. It was not too much time after his innovative arrangement with Damien that Colin found himself in jail. Whilst he was there, Damien’s  fortunes suffered a sharp reversal and he was forced to mortgage his Marlborough Street property. Three turns later, Colin landed on “Community Chest” and received a “Get out of jail free” card. Peter eventually won the game of Monopoly and, next time they all played together, Nigel was elected “banker”.

© Richard Farquharson, Haddenham, Cambridgeshire November 2019