Mayıs 13, 2024

High Society to Chain Gang

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8th May 1929. Wednesday.

She came down main street in that brand new Studebaker of theirs, the 1929 model straight eight one hundred horsepower President model, gee did I feel small, how in the hell could I look her right in the face as I walked down that boarded sidewalk past the chain gang filing in the holes in the dirt street.

She pulled to a halt outside Grays Bank, I couldn’t turn around so I just had to brazen it out.

“Hi John!” she said breezily as she opened the drivers door.

“Hello Mrs Meyer,” I said deferentially, gee she was beautiful, her hair was lighter now, peroxide blonde not the light brown from when we were kids, and her dress was pulled in around that slim waist of hers and the shoulders was padded out and she looked just like some movie star hell she bought her clothes from the same Paris designers that supplied the Oakland or New York stores movie stars bought their stock from so she really ought to have looked like a movie star.

“John,” she says, “Help me with my shoes will you, I can’t walk in these and I can’t drive in my heels.”

I never had a choice, I had to kneel down in the dust in my only half decent suit and ease the flat shoe off of her elegant sheer hosed foot and slip the fancy French heel shoe on in it’s place, and then she changed feet giving me a glimpse of bare skin above her stocking tops, and I had to do the other.

I looked up the street, embarrassed until I saw the chain gang, such a familiar feature except this was a gang of women, chained at the ankles, all in knee length striped dresses, sweeping not mending the streets, sweeping a dirt street, utterly pointless labour, of course I knew about them but, well, never gave them a thought, but the contrast was total, she who had the world, and me literally at her feet and they with nothing, not even their liberty.

It was all such a change from when we were kids, skinny dipping in the creek, all innocent, play fighting, all that, she was my age see, a couple of months in it and we lived on the same side of town, her ma worked in the dress store every now and then, and her pa worked on the railroad, while my ma helped out in the general store and pa was guard at Grays Bank.

I guess my life was mapped out before I was born, yep Bank Clerk.

It never mattered I was top of my class at school, as soon as I got my school certificate pa took me for a job at Grays, old Silas Gray he interviewed me, “What’s the future son?” he asked.

“Gee, sir, I don’t know,” I said. “I’d like an Automobile.”

“Stocks son, some of mine cost a dollar a while back and they’re worth nigh on a thousand today.” he joked, “Now listen up, you pay your ma half your wage and you buy stocks with the other half, no smoking, no drinking, no women, no automobiles, do we have a deal?” he asked.

Of course I said yes and that was that.

She had a different path, I always knew we would get married, we petted enough but never quite went too far, and then I went to work and she went to university at the state capital she was going to be a fashion designer or some such and next thing she comes back in a big swanky Hotchkiss with Toby Meyer, hell he wasn’t a day under forty, big guy with a big nose, some said he was jewish, but hell was that guy loaded.

There was no contest, Jane Hicks suddenly became Sarah-Jayne Meyer, I guess the church service changed the Meyer but where in the hell Sarah and the Y in Jayne came from I never knew.

So there I was, luckily they didn’t live in town, or come by too often but Meyer had this old plantation house where he brought his swanky friends, they came overnight by Pullman train, it turned out Sarah Jayne had done some waitressing out there and old Meyer who was between wives at the time took a shine to her, anyway within six months her education was over and she was very much Meyer’s girl.

I guess she spent her time far away, New York, California, Europe maybe, but every now and again they came back to the plantation house and just after a whole sack load of cash arrived at the bank from the Meyers big bucks and half the time I ended up counting it.

Trouble was I never shook off the notion that she, Jane, Mrs Meyer, was my girl, and I saved my money and bit by bit I saved and borrowed and like Mr Gray said I started to make some serious gains, except it was all paper gains, you try to sell some stock and the price comes down.

It set me thinking, what if everybody wants to sell at one time, anyway old Gray trusted me and pretty soon I was ripping him off big time, loans see, borrow a few dollars, make a few dollars trading pay them back, a hundred or so to start with, then a thousand, pretty soon I had enough to start trading accounts off my own bat, and faked some new accounts, no body queried anything, stocks were on the up and then in the fall of 27 things started to unravel, it’s ok paying ten cents on the dollar and selling before settlement day when prices are going up but I had a serious scare that fall, hell if I hadn’t stole kuşadası escort twenty thousand dollars I’d have been broke but I weathered the scare and made a profit overall but that’s when I knew I had to get out.

I even paid everything off, squared everything, although how in the hell I was never caught I never knew.

“I have to see Mr Gray,” Sarah-Jayne said as she walked across to the Bank, “Tell him I’m here would you?”

“Yes Mrs Meyer.” I said, and I saw them girls on that chain gang all filthy with dust in their hair and filthy hands and fithy bare feet and chained together with irons on their ankles just staring at her.

“Don’t you dare stare at me you filthy imbecile,” she snapped, “Get to work!” she said and she turned to me and said, “They really should lock them up and throw away the key!”

“They’re just regular folks fell on hard times,” I said, but she ignored me, and stormed into the bank.

I scurried after her, “Mr Gray, Mrs Meyer wants to see you,” I said.

“Ok, send her in and boy,” he said, “You sit in boy.”

“Mr Gray will see you right away Ma’am.” I said.

“Thank you,” she said and she went right into Silas Gray’s dusty old office.

“Sit yourself down my dear,” he says, “And what can I do for you?”

“Does he have to be here?” she said meaning me.

“No, what you standing there for boy, ain’t you got work to do?” he says like I was nothing so I just slunk away.

He came to find me pretty quick, “Say they want’s a million dollar loan on the place of theirs,” he said.

“Yeah well, that’s maybe what it’s worth,” I said, “Offer em a quarter million.” but he never did, he lent a million dollars at eight per cent.

“Eight per cent boy!” he said, like he was a big shot or something, “Heh think of that eight per cent on a million.”

I thought who the hell would actually pay even half that if they defaulted, but then again I saw a girl from down town not the flashy clothes draped over her.

Friday 25th October 1929

I knew things were bad at Wall Street yesterday, stocks crashing everywhere, guys losing fortunes on paper, but only on paper, not real money, I knew it was a readjustment, it would bounce back, give it a month, I had the hatches battened down for months, waiting for this to happen, most of my cash was in gold, or gold mining shares, rock solid investments.

Silas came round my place around 6 am, “It’s bad boy,” he said and shoved a copy of the newspaper at me, “I went down the depot to get it,” he says “They’re calling yesterday Black Thursday,” he says, “Biggest fall of stock prices ever!” he says “October twenty four will go down in history,” he said like he was about to crap himself..

“I know,” I told him, “I only just got to bed,”

“You’re wiped out I guess?” he asked.

“Damaged,” I said, “Damaged, come in sit down,” and he just sat at the table.

“I’m too old for this John,” he said, “I’m seventy three years old, I don’t need this.”

“What you saying sir?” I asked.

“You’re a smart guy, I need you to take over I guess,” he said, “There will be a run on the bank this morning I can’t face all those guys.”

“What are you offering?” I asked.

“Equal partnership, half of nothing?” he suggested,

“Fine,” I agreed, “If you’ll step back and be a sleeping partner?” and he agreed, “Get some sleep sir.” I suggested.

The bank books were dire, although most of the losses were paper, except the damned brokers fees, and at least we knew Meyer was Europe based, like the Rothschilds someone we could rely on.

We never had a run on the bank, “That’s fancy New Yorkers,” I told everyone before doors opened, and we had the doors open early and we brazened it out, my pile of gold in the safe was all the reassurance most of the guys needed and then came Black Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 30 1929.

The morning after Black Tuesday, Gee had I ever got things wrong, there were tales of suicides in New York, millionaires wiped out, and gee, did we have a job to stem the tide of withdrawals, I decided to cut and run from most of the investments, Railroads and stuff like that were fine but Silas had gone for big profits and well there was a massive black hole where there should have been a reserve, luckily the regulators were chasing the banks that had failed so we got left alone.

We held our nerve and stopped a run on the bank and then we let them the folk down gently over a few months, luckily many had invested in share accounts but far too many were in ordinary accounts which Silas had no business using for speculation, but we were desperate for cash foreclosed a hell of a lot of loans when folk struggled with repayments, guys Silas knew from when he was a kid.

We had no truck with sentiment, you seen them share croppers loading their Model T Fords with stuff and heading for California, well we had the truck and the stuff off them as well, auctioned it off, trucks, furniture, paintings, pianos, silver spoons, kuşadası escort bayan some say we took a wooden leg but that was an heirloom not one as they used, and plenty of respectable folk farming folk caught the westbound freight with no more than a hairbrush and a spare shirt.

“You’d have the shirt off my back,” one guy accused as we re-possessed his farm, hell I let him borrow his own cart to get to the train depot, and the shirt was full of holes anyway, but things were so bad we were literally taking paintings, furniture the lot off guys who were respected citizens last year, Silas could never have done it, but hey, it was them or me.

That’s when I snapped up a whole load of solid property for a knock down price, at auction all above board, immoral maybe, then we loaned some guy twice what I paid to buy it, that way I could double the money in a week, good sound business

10 June 1930. Tuesday.

Toby Meyer’s loan interest was due, $80 000, then it was overdue, Silas had agreed a good interest rate but just one annual interest payment, I told him not to but greed got to him.

I set foreclosure in motion.

Meyer sent his wife to plead for more time to pay, she came all the way from Europe to see me, same swanky Studebaker except she had a chauffeur now,

“Why John, I expected to see Mr Gray,” she said as I ushered her into the office, an office that was now a lot less dusty, but maybe a lot less tidy than before.

“I’m the manager now, Mrs Meyer,” I said, remembering I maybe should have put my jacket on to greet her, “Long time, you’re looking good.” I said, and she sure looked good, shoulder pads, lip gloss, her blouse cut to give a hint of her soft breasts, skirt just to the knee, just like a film star.

“Well,” she explained, “Obviously its just a temporary cash flow problem.”

“Fine,” I said through a haze of her French perfume, “It’ll take a while for the foreclosure to go through.”

“John,” she said, “Surely under the circumstances.”

“Sounds like you have more than a simple cash flow problem.” I said.

“Oh, oh no, we’ll be fine.” she said, “But if you are happy for us to re finance that’s fine.”

“Well,” I said, “That’s your call.” I knew she was playing me for a fool, Meyer would be snapping up properties for ten cents on the Dollar, he was hoping for some deal, I knew it, a repayment holiday, reduced interest, something, anything.

I watched her go, and she walked away without a backward glance, then she stepped up into that Studebaker and they roared away, Back to Europe I figured, but I was wrong.

She stayed around at the plantation house, and even appeared at the foreclosure hearing pleading there were problems changing Marks to Dollars but the judge never listened to her, he had heard it all before so he granted us possession and we arranged a time and date one month hence to take possession.

10th July 1930. Thursday.

We still expected Meyer to find the cash to stave off the inevitable and so I went myself, Jayne seemed to know the score, and just before noon she handed me the keys and had her stuff loaded in the Studebaker and drove away.

I looked around, there was pictures and carpets, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth, everywhere, and before I could catalogue even half of it I find the whole lot is in hock to a New York outfit.

She had a whole load of debt, a crippling pile of it, Jesus had Silas been a fool, I could scarcely believe it but we took what was ours and I went to see her at the Grand Hotel where I found she was staying, which didn’t need no Sherlock Holmes sleuthing as she parked the Studebaker right outside of it.

She wouldn’t see me first off, but she relented, “Jayne,” I said, “What’s happened to you?”

“Ah,” she said, “Toby, has problems, but he’s going to wire me some money pretty soon so I can go home.”

“New York?” I asked.

“Dresden,” she said.

“If you need a loan?” I said.

“From you?” she said dismissively, “No thank you.” and she sneered at me, “Is that all?”

I wanted to stay and ask her if she remembered skinny dipping in the creek, and fooling around but with her husband six thousand miles away that was a dumb ass idea so I said, “Well goodbye,” and I went back to the bank.

I thought that was the end of it but about a month later Silas came around my office with the newspaper, apparently Jayne had been in court, “Refinanced the same car with three outfits, then the cheques bounced.” he chortled.

I checked downstairs, but it wasn’t our cheque that bounced, and then I found we were still way short on the foreclosed Meyer plantation place.

I went to see her, she was still at the Grand, “How are you paying for the room?” I asked.

She couldn’t answer.

“Look, plead guilty get a fine and come work for me,” I suggested.

“No way,” she snapped, “Toby will wire the money, I just need to get back to Dresden.”

“And you can’t afford to,” I guessed.

“Not escort kuşadası until the cash comes through.” she said.

I gave up.

18th August 1930 Monday.

They set a court hearing for Monday the eighteenth, I went to the Courthouse, Judge Henry Myors was presiding as always and he sat at his great polished oak bench, while Jayne stood in the dock like some film star as always, all glossed up, shoulder pads, heels and everything, and then the charges were read, it was fraud, chicken feed compared to what I’d done but I never been caught.

All she kept on was funds was coming from Germany, and she didn’t get very far.

“Mrs Meyer,” the Judge said after he heard everything, “You have lied and cheated these good people of what is to most of the good folk of this town several years wages, you live in luxury on cheques that bounce and your whole life seems based on deceit and even today you lie, lie, lie.”

He paused while the words sank in, “I find you guilty on all five counts of deception and fraud.” he said, “Have you anything to say in mitigation?” he asked.

“Toby will wire the money.” she said again.

I stood, “Sir,” I said, “May I speak,”

“Mr Lawson, you might just as well,” he said, “Nothing I say gets through.”

“Well sir, the thing is we, the creditors,” I said, “We want our cash back, so maybe, if you give her probation she could work for me and start paying back what she owes.”

“No way, I don’t work!” she snapped.

“You heard Mr Lawson she doesn’t work,” the Judge said, “And if it comes to that why should I help you get your money back when you would have the shirt off a mans back if you could, no.”

He doodled some figures, “Tell you what Mr Lawson,” he said, “I have a winding up order for her estate here on behalf of the New York creditors, I suggest you add your name and I’ll appoint you as receiver.”

“Can you do that sir?” I asked.

“You saying I can’t because that sounds mighty like contempt of court to me.” he snapped.

“No Sir, I just don’t understand these matters sir, I’ll do just as you say sir.” I agreed.

“Then Sarah-Jayne Meyer, I sentence you to a period of two years imprisonment,” he paused, he always paused before he said suspended for two years, except this time he said, “Guards take her down,” instead.

I just stared, “Sit down Mr Lawson,” the Judge ordered, “You look like a grounded dogfish.”

I was in a daze, but I went out back and down to the cells where she was waiting, “I’ll appeal!” she said.

“Where’s your stuff?” I asked.

“At the hotel,” she said.

“I’ll get it,” I offered, I went and paid her bill, cleared the wardrobes, packed her cases everything seemed brand new and top quality, especially the lingerie, Paris fashion sheer silk so I had it all sent to the bank.

I followed her to the gaol, she rode in the black prison van, I rode in my old Model T and after an hour or so we arrived at the forbidding high brick walls of the jail. I parked up and went in the reception, and signed the visitors book.

They let me through to see her booked in, it was an open courtyard with buildings on all four sides, and there was the governor old Menzies Moorhouse, a guard I didn’t know, an inmate they called Carol and this ageing, fat, grey haired, legend of a warder Miss Albany who led Jayne through, Moorhouse hands her a form, “Sign here,” he told her, “That’s two years, maybe eighteen months with good behaviour five years if you get scrapping.”

“I’ll appeal!” she said.

“You ain’t got the price of an appeal,” Miss Albany the ugly spinster on duty reminded her, “Now lets get you chained, you put this on right,” she said, “Get her a smock Carol,” and the inmate threw her a filthy black and white striped dress.

“Where do I change?” Jayne asked.

“Why right here your boyfriend seen it all before.” Miss Albany replied nastily.

“I’m not the boyfriend,” I pointed out.

“So look away,” Miss Albany suggested, “You want to argue?”

I heard rustling, “Gee a Corset, well looky here, you wont need that girlie, and the hose,” Miss Albany ordered, “And the brassiere,” she added, “And get them pants down, you can’t wear pants with leg irons girl.”

I looked around too soon, Jayne had the dress on backwards first time and it was over her head showing every one of her charms as she twizzled it round when I looked. She was a bit fat, flabby, pasty, too much worrying and nibbling chocolate, too much fine wine, fine food and not enough exercise, she wasn’t my Jane any more, the shapeliness was down to her corsets, bought with dollars she never had, it was a hell of a shock.

“Pick those rags up Carol,” Moorhouse said, “Mr Lawson will want them.”

“Right, I guess as receiver you best take this high quality merchandise, you just send something plain for her if she gets out.” Miss Albany said.

“Ah, can I stay just a while, see what she wants done about stuff?” I asked.

“Sure, we gotta wait for the smith to rivet her leg irons on before she can go down anyways.” Miss Albany said, “You just talk away, no screwing though.”

“I’ll get things sorted, I’ll have you out of bankruptcy before you get out.” I promised.

“Look Toby will send money, it’s all a big mistake,” she said again.