An Excerpt from BORN SLIPPY by Tom Lutz

BORN SLIPPY

Tom Lutz (www.tomlutzwriter.com)

Repeater Books (repeaterbooks.com)

£10.99

He left the bank and got in a cab. The cabbie turned and looked at him, waiting for an address. Frank pointed to the Bank of China bankbook; the driver looked confused, but then nodded and took him to a branch. Frank went in, waited briefly in a line, and then asked the open-faced teller if he might make a withdrawal of five million yen from his account. She took his Quentin Compson passport and the passbook and walked over to talk to a guy who looked like a manager. The manager came over and asked how much he wanted. He told him five million yen. The manager took him over to a desk and explained he could only withdraw three million a day. Frank said OK, no problem, and they filled out some forms. He sat wondering at the strangeness of it all. The man signed off on it and walked away with the teller. He felt like a hundred security cameras were trained on him, but he reckoned there were only a dozen or so. His adrenals kicked off again when the teller returned with three million yen in six bundles of 10,000 yen notes and receipts for him to sign.

“Thank you,” he said, trying to keep his hand from fluttering as he put everything in the canvas bag the Bank of Japan had given him.

“We are glad to be of service, Mr Compson,” she said. “If you have a minute, our manager would like to speak with you.”

OK, here we go, he thought, and considered running. But it was too late. The manager and another man in a suit had come up, bowed low and motioned him toward an office. He walked in and took the seat they offered.

“Mr Compson,” the man who appeared to be in charge said. “We noticed that you have withdrawn very large sums in recent days, and we just wanted to make sure that you were pleased with our service, and whether there was anything we could do in the way of investment management for you.” He felt like singing. “We very much appreciate your business, and would hate to lose it.” He looked at the bankbook the teller had updated and saw that the ninety million yuan had grown, over the last several years, to ten times that, but that in the last weeks it had shrunk back to some forty-two million, less than five million bucks. The dozens of recent withdrawals had been electronic. Each of the last withdrawals had been for three million yuan each, and were happening every day.

Someone had electronic access to these bank accounts, someone who, right then, sucking the majority of the funds out.

“Yes,” he said. “You can help. I’m superstitious. I want to start an entirely new account, and transfer the remaining money into that account.”

“Right away, Mr Compson.” He bowed and came back with a form to fill out. Frank did, and five minutes later Quentin Compson had a new account, a new VISA card, a new PIN number, and a new first pet: Fishy.

“There is a maximum for transfers?”

“That is for interbank transfers, sir. For same-bank account transfers there is no limit.”

He asked the man if he could use a computer in the bank, guessing a millionaire had some perqs, and the manager took him to a small, unoccupied office, opened the computer to a browser, and left him alone. Using the information from the different envelopes, he went online and started opening new accounts at each bank, transferring the maximum allowable in each case to them, and setting up new passwords and security questions. The Cayman Island bank was very quick and easy. The Bank of Japan as well. The Cyprus Bank account showed withdrawals of ten thousand euros a day for the last three weeks or more.

There were still some six million left, but the bank would let him transfer just a million a day, and he set up recurring transfers for the following days. When he got to the Swiss bank, it was empty, some twenty million Swiss francs moved only minutes earlier. Someone else was moving money. He pulled up the Bank of Japan account. Empty. Thirty million dollars, maybe more, of Yuli’s money, lost forever in minutes. Someone had already figured out what he was up to. Someone out there was watching.

There was a shredder in the office and he fed the defunct bankbooks into it, the cards and information sheets. He kept just the Compson passport, his new account book, a debit card, and the cash. His accounts for Yuli were worth over $50 million. And he had $80,000 in his pocket — well briefcase — they had brought him a briefcase while he was working and had called him a limousine. He thanked the manager, who along with a half dozen minions bowed almost to the floor, and walked out into a fearsome Japanese sun.

He got in the limo, but asked the driver to stop and got out a block later. He couldn’t go straight to the hotel. He walked south out of Shinjuku, with its commercial bedlam, its peak neon, its elaborate maze of advertisements plastered over every available surface, and headed toward a green patch on his hotel’s map named Yoyogi Park. He wanted a moment of quiet. But first he stopped in a shop and bought a small backpack. Walking around with a briefcase felt conspicuous — he wasn’t dressed for it. He transferred the cash into the backpack, and left the briefcase, open so nobody would think it was a bomb, on a windowsill.

A hundred yards into the park he passed under an enormous torii, an ornamental gate made from two perfect, round and straight tree trunks that must have been sixty or seventy feet high, with cross beams above, the top one sweeping up toward the heavens on each end, the bottom one decorated with three golden disks. Hard to say how such a simple structure could be so beautiful, Frank thought, but it was. Families walked the park’s paths, which wound off at random angles through fat old trees. A large Meiji temple complex in the middle was just what the doctor ordered — it kept him from obsessing, and he immersed himself in a simple appreciation of things Japanese. Like the kids on the streets, the Tokyo temples were all of one recognizable type or another, and all were acutely manicured. This temple had bonsai trees, purposely stunted, every twig redesigned, placed around the grounds. All the details accomplished what they were orchestrated to achieve: he felt lifted out of the trials and tribulations of his life. He felt peaceful, calm. For a time, he thought about nothing.

But that couldn’t last. Confused images of Dmitry and Yuli and Amarya and the Men in Black and the police and the dictators swirled. Whoever else had access to the accounts had taken what, hundreds of millions of dollars or more out of them since the bombing? Who was it? The resurrected Dmitry? Somebody in his office? One of the bad guys? The Cambodians? Russians? Chechens? Were they the same people who blew up the building? Was “his” $50 million safe? Or did he need to change banks a couple more times to erase the traces?

If Dmitry was still alive, he was in hiding. On his island. Was he monitoring the accounts and grabbing the money from there? Did he blow the building up himself? Not likely, he didn’t cook his own food, clean his own house, or even drive his own car. Did he have someone do it?

Would Dmitry have innocent people murdered? He was piggish and misogynist and had no conscience, but could he kill a hundred of his own co-workers, on purpose, cold-blooded, like that? Frank thought not. He knew him. No.

Besides, Yuli would never have let him… He tried to imagine her as an accomplice, but he couldn’t. No way she could have faked the connection they had, no way she could have whispered into his ear such precious, beautiful words, and not meant them. He refused to believe it. If Dmitry was a murderer, she didn’t know it.

Walking through the park, on automatic, he found himself back in front of his hotel. The thought of sitting in his room taking stock — allowing the worry and doubt and fear to creep back in, stewing about what to do next — kept him moving.

He stepped into a restaurant a few blocks away, chosen because it had pictures on the menu. He ordered a sashimi dish with a whole small fish on a skewer. When it came, the five-inch fish had been filleted, and the cartoon skeleton — the head and tail intact, a set of bones in between — was curved decoratively by a skewer and served as a theatrical backdrop for the pieces of sashimi that had been mined from it. He looked up to see, eight feet away, an aquarium with a few dozen fish exactly like the one he was eating swimming around. His fish had been schooling with them just a flash of the chef’s knife earlier. What was he to make of this? That we murder to live? Eat or be eaten, one creature’s death another’s dinner, death simply another transaction? Is this the way he would become Dmitry, coming to such conclusions?

Seeing his dinner’s brothers and sisters swimming around flatlined his appetite, but with the help of a large Sapporo he managed to finish eating it. He walked out of the restaurant into Shinjuku and let the never-ending weirdness of the Tokyo streets distract him. He must have walked three or four miles by the time the sun was setting, slowly circling back toward his hotel. A small park with a temple, set in a nook in the busy city, drew him and he tried his new contemplative skills again. They worked for a half hour or so, but then he got antsy and had to move.

The money he had saved for Yuli and the boys would turn a million and a half dollars a year in a very safe portfolio. Whatever the hell was going on, she was rich enough. Not private-jet-secure, but secure.

As for himself? He was just lost.

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