Here is another extract from Due Diligence. Have you ever had a similar experience to Jenny?
As I queue in line at the bank, an officious lady with hair slightly too blonde and lipstick definitely too pink accosts me. She is carrying a clip board and wearing a navy blue uniform with the bank logo on its breast.
‘Can I help you?’ she demands busily. Her manner is brusque and unhelpful, in direct contrast to her words.
‘Oh.’ I am taken aback at first, deep in my own guilty thoughts. Having grabbed the bundle of cash this morning I decide to open a bank account with it during my lunch break, a sole account, one that Tim is unaware of, my account just for me and my future. It seems a safer place to keep the twenty grand and as I stand here excitedly I wish I’d brought it all with me.
‘Can I help you?’ she asks again and looks aggressively at her clip board as if seeking some justification for all this.
‘I want to open an account,’ I meekly reply at last.
‘An account?’ she repeats loudly. ‘Do you already have an account with us?’ At first hearing, the question appears to be nonsensical.
‘No, no, I don’t have an account. I want to start one,’ I explain.
‘You don’t bank with us?’ she demands, as if I’ve committed a cardinal sin.
‘No, but I want to.’
‘What sort of account?’
‘I don’t know, what sorts are there? Just a normal, everyday current account, I suppose.’
There is a look in her eye that makes me feel even more like a criminal than when I came in here.
She bustles off and returns with some forms.
‘Here.’ She thrusts them into my hand. ‘Complete these then hand them in at the reception desk.’ She indicates a large lady in a uniformed blouse that isn’t quite managing to contain everything it’s meant to.
I breathe a sigh of relief and use one of the pens on a chain to write my particulars on the form. The questions are impertinent, but I persevere and put the thing on the desk hoping to get away in time to buy myself a sandwich.
‘Passport, driver’s licence and utility bill,’ the large lady intones.
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Passport, driver’s licence and utility bill,’ she repeats. ‘You need to have proof of identity to open an account, passport, driver’s licence and utility bill, that’s what you need.’
I fish about in my handbag, pull out my driver’s licence.
‘Here,’ I say, ‘it’s got a photo and my address. That should do.’
‘We need a utility bill and a passport,’ she repeats. ‘It’s money laundering regulations.’
‘I haven’t got my passport with me,’ I say.
‘Can’t you go back and get it?’ she asks.
‘No,’ I reply. ‘I’m only on my lunch break, it’s at home.’
‘You’ll have to bring it tomorrow,’ she says.
I take out the money from my purse and put it on the counter with my form.
‘Can I pay this in now, then, I don’t want to be carrying it around. I’ll bring in my passport tomorrow.’
‘Oh.’ She looks at the bundle of twenty pound notes as if it were one of Toby’s soiled nappies. There is a hush. A silence seems to descend on the whole bank. Even the unhelpful lady with the clip board has disappeared, presumably to stalk people elsewhere. The plump lady gives me a conspiratorial look and whispers, ‘Not cash, love.’ I could barely hear her words. ‘At least, not a big wad of cash like that.’
I look puzzled because I am puzzled. This is a bank after all; they should be used to handling money.
‘You’ll get a visit,’ she hisses. ‘Does your husband know you have this money?’
I am shocked to the core by her inference and can’t think of a suitable response. ‘It’s all right, dear.’ I must look pathetic because she has started to patronise me in a serious way now. ‘We’re not allowed to tell people,’ but she does anyway, ‘large amounts of cash get reported, then you get a visit from the police.’
She stops whispering, then shovels the money and the form into an envelope that has the bank’s address conveniently printed on it, with a square in the top right corner that helps you to position the stamp in the event that you need to post it back to them.
I get out of there quickly, trying not to run and managing to resist screaming until I’m well away.
We live in a strange world, one where it’s assumed that any cash we might have is derived from criminal sources unless we can prove otherwise. Guilty unless we can prove ourselves innocent. It’s a harsh reality that Jenny Parker faces as she’s plunged into ever more desperate circumstances.