The unfortunate times were about to get worse. An Unlikely Arrangement. Chapter 4

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Chapter 4

Banker Eric Horton admired his likeness in the cherry-finished floor mirror in the bedroom of his childhood home, long past its prime. A lifelong bachelor, the décor lacked any hint of a female touch. Dark wood and dreary curtains, threadbare and ancient, left the chamber cold and colorless.  The room echoed at the snap of his gold-plated pocket watch. “This evening I will make my intentions known to Mrs. Squire. I have maneuvered her thus far and now she can’t deny me. It won’t be long before I will insure my standing in this community with the introduction of a new wife, which will secure my promotion to bank president. They can’t say no if I have the required family already in place.”

He put the watch back into his waistcoat, straightened his brocade vest, and slicked back his thin, black hair. “Manson, have Audie bring the car around. I am going out this evening.”

The stooped-shouldered, white haired butler entered the room with Eric’s black suit jacket. “Should I help you with this first, Master Eric?”

“No, I can manage. Get the car.”

“Right away, sir.”

Eric preened like a peacock in the mirror, his prominent stomach sucked in to better show off his profile. The back of his left hand patted the jowls of an abundant chin. He chose to ignore the cartoon like appearance of his hawk-like nose. “Not a bad catch, if I do say so, at forty-five years old. Any young woman would be delighted to bag me as a husband.”

He shut the bedroom door and whistled as he hurried down the stairs and out the front door.

The butler closed the door on the new ForDor Sedan, and Eric instructed his driver to head for the Squires address on the wrong side of Woodward Ave. He enjoyed the envious looks on his clients’ faces when the sleek, black automobile arrived in front of their humble homes. It gave him great pleasure to know they could never own such a vehicle.

The brass knocker reverberated in the clear, star-filled night, and he thought the Squires might not be at home after all, though lights shown through the curtains. He had almost given up when the door opened a crack, and Sarah peeked out.

“May I help you, sir?” she asked.

“Yes, I am here to speak to the Squires, Miss. Tell them it is Eric Horton from the bank.”

“I’m sorry. They aren’t here. They went to New York for a few days. May I take your card? I will let them know you called.” She stuck her hand out the door.

“Oh, of course, not home. I see. Well, yes. Here’s my card.” He flinched at the abrupt way Sarah snatched the document. The closed door mocked him as he realized it slammed in his face. He straightened his jacket and turned toward the car.

On the ride back to his home, he muttered aloud, “Just a minor setback. I can wait a few more days. It will be better anyway, put them deeper into my debt.”

“Did you say something, sir? No problems, I trust.” Audie addressed Horton as he rounded the corner.

“None you can help me with, I fear, only the same ignorant, puffed-up arrogance of the lower class. It’s very wearisome.” Horton knew he could trust his driver of many years, but all in all, he too, was of the lower class. Still…it was nice rely on his loyalty.

Eric found solace in the library, another dark, gloomy room in the house. He detested the place, and it irked him he could not afford to move into a newer house in the more affluent district of town. “It was all right for my poor parents, but I am made of more extravagant fiber. It will bring a tidy sum from an unsuspecting young couple, and I already have someone in mind.”

A knock interrupted his musing. “Yes, Manson. What is it?”

“Your evening cognac, sir,” he replied.

“Yes, yes. Set it down on the desk. That will be all tonight, Manson. I have plans to make.”

The butler placed the silver tray with the lone snifter of cognac on the desk, bowed, and left the room.

“I never thought to ask if they took Ruth with them. What in the world would they need in New York? Moreover, how could they afford the trip? They are in the throes of bankruptcy, thanks to me.”

He lifted himself from the chair, grasped the snifter in his hand, and inhaled the robust aroma of the golden brandy in a grand amateurish manner. “All my hard work is about to afford me the status to which I am entitled. Yes, I can wait a few days to issue the ultimatum.”

Pudgy, jewelry-encrusted fingers strummed the desk as he thought out the well-formed plan. In a sudden burst of energy, he took a piece of personal stationery and penned a letter. Under his elegant initials E H, on the parchment he began….

            “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Squire,

            It is with regret I must inform you of the foreclosure of the mortgage on your home. As you know, I have made several attempts to collect the past three month’s payments without success. I stopped by your house this evening to discuss the matter and found you not at home, but off to New York. For what, I can only imagine. It is imperative you contact me on your return. You have no more leeway. I can, however, offer you a way out of this unfortunate situation. You must act immediately. A week. No more. My number is on my card. I expect to hear from you at the earliest possible time.

Always your servant,

Eric Horton, Account Manager”

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

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