"Bond"- Chapter Three
River Road
The Virginia Exhibit
A Lost Car on Spike Canyon
The Beneficiaries
Invisible The Morning After
Beautiful Shadows
Something Like Wonder
Try to Keep Up
A Series of Moments Between Clocks
The Unromantic REAL World of Gulliver's Travels
Meant for One Thing
The Lesser of Evils
Love and Nemesis
The Sinning Bishop
The World In Your Pocket
Higher Purpose
A Promising Look at Genesis
Not For The Ladies
Fooling Around and Falling In Love
The Tediousness of Tragic Love
Poetic Analysis for "The Trees"
Creation On Dub
Creating the Universe
Fast Acting In Small Doses
As Crazy As They
We Can Always Use More Utopia
A Little Church in Corinth
The Theory of Carl Rogers
Historically Speaking
Different Shades, Same Color
A Rose for a Funeral
Obsessed With Race

     Cian had tried not to look at the layabouts as he turned onto the wide, open lawn of the Banker's quarters. There were fewer here; the Banker was very apt when it came to keeping his grounds attractive and free of the questionable economic nature symbolized by the poor and homeless.

     The door was opened for him before he could even touch the handle, and a stout little woman in a brightly printed dress welcomed him inside. Pleased to be out of the rain, Cian removed his coat and shook it gently before laying it over the outstretched arm of the frumpy door-woman. She bowed slightly and disappeared with it, leaving Cian to navigate the familiar path to the office alone. He made quick of it, having seen all the elaborate decorations and paintings on display in the hallway many times already- many of them similar to things in his own home.

     Francis Harlon's head snapped up as Cian entered the main office, and a smile nearly wider than his already wide face spread in welcome.

     "Master Norse, how nice to see you."

     Cian seated himself in a great stuffed chair in the corner of the room- a good ten feet from Harlon's desk, where two smaller chairs sat. He let his expression indicate his bitter mood, and watched with enthusiasm as the Banker's smile faded in surprise and concern.

     "I am in great need of a favor from you, Frank."

     In a split-second, Francis Harlon was on his feet, ready to move to whatever file or safe Cian commanded. Master Norse, as he labeled him, was his number one customer; no one else in Palmer Ellis had a financial elevation that could touch Cian's with a kite, and all knew so.

     "What would you like, sir?" Harlon inquired, letting his genuine desire to fulfil Cian's needs melt through his mask of professionalism.

     "You surely heard of the events last night at the Crossing." He explained no further, knowing it had been the news of the morning- passed around like wildfire. Harlon had surely heard it from one of his other customers.

     "Yessir!" he responded, adding, "Marie Lissel told me. She said the store was turned over like a tornado had gone through it. How much was taken?"

     Cian had been sure to inquire about this with Frally. Being a widow to one of the greatest right-hand men Cian had ever had, he trusted her to be straight with him about all things, and she had told him that nothing had been stolen. Everything was still in the store, but thrown about and out of place. Neat piles of grain and soil bags had been knocked over, but none had been ripped open or pierced, as Cian had expected.

     Frank, deciding his question was being ignored, thought to press for information some other way. "Marie said she heard it was one of the workers."

     Cian wrung his hands in his lap, noticing a loose thread at the inseam of his smooth pants. At last, he decided what was to be done.

     "I heard a rumor myself..." he began, fixing his eyes solid on Frank's. "I heard that the Ander Frip family hasn't made a payment on their farm in over three months."

     The Banker opened his mouth to answer, thinking the subject had been changed, then snapped it closed in realization of the connection. "Tyler Frip? But why would he overturn the Crossing?"

     "As a business man, that is not my concern," Cian replied, standing abruptly. As he expected, Frank rounded the desk in a heartbeat, jerking open a decorative crate of files. After frantically sorting and mumbling names and figures to himself as Cian stood on, watching, he pulled out a thin file and held it up to the light.

     "Master Norse... the Frips are just a tiny little account. They hardly have anything to speak for or live on. It is no surprise that their son would turn into a delinquent."

     "Once again," Cian repeated impatiently, "Not my concern."

     Less than five minutes later, his impatience had been sated. He found that when he reached the end of the hallway, the door-woman was waiting there for him with his coat held up. He merely had to slip his arms into it.

     "Master Norse, would you like to stay and relax until the rain lets up?" she asked with a polite smile, knowing already he would refuse.

     "No, ma'am," he responded just as politely, without a smile, "I have had a long day already. I think I will go home and have some tea."

     With her help, the door opened and relinquished him into the rain, which was coming down much harder than before. He pulled his coat tight around himself, tucking his knuckles against one another and feeling his sharp stubble scratch his neck as he ducked. While he was having his tea, perhaps he would remember to shave as well. It was a wonder Harlon had even recognized him. Then again, his scent was always of money and a Banker could never miss that.

     Harlon had been reluctant, but not for long. He had agreed that sometimes the best business message is a harsh one, and that the Frips should be held accountable for the damages their son had caused on the previous night. Harlon promised it would be very harsh indeed, and Cian had thanked him genuinely for his favor.

     He hoped that the Frips would learn a valuable lesson in sticking to their payment schedule, and that they would learn said lesson this very day, when the merciless rain would increase their schooling.

     Cian smiled for the first time that day- washed over with the pleasant satisfaction of business taken care of and a work day ended.