“But it won’t be me,” said the middle manager. “They don’t pay me enough to pass on that sort of bad news!” He looked around the crowded office, frowning, until his gaze alighted on Alice. “You do it,” he said, pointing his skinny finger with the dirty fingernail at her. “You’re new, you’re expendable. You don’t have a pension to protect. You do it.”
“You must be bloody barmy if you think I’m goin’ to tell ‘im,” she rasped. “I don’t even know ‘is first name, for gawd’sakes.” Pointedly, and with a modicum of grace, she picked up her handbag. “I’m leavin’. You’re all bloody mad.”
“You can’t go ’til the police gets ‘ere.” It was a little man in the corner, a little man with a weak voice whom the others seemed to shun.
“I can do what I bloody well please,” said Alice. But she didn’t move and, after a few seconds, resumed her seat behind the reception desk.
“I’ll tell ‘im meself, then” said the little man, now pushing his way to the centre of the office where he could face — looking up at least — the middle manager. “What’s ‘e goin’ to do? Bite me ‘ead off?” He swung on his heel and the others seemed to move away from him like a wave retreating from the shore.
After a moment’s hesitation, he straightened his already perfect tie and began to walk slowly towards the panelled door marked “PRIVATE. MANAGER”. Another hesitation, a second only, and he knocked. Once.
“Come!” boomed a voice from within. With a less-than-confident look around to the eager anticipatory crowd of colleagues, the little man opened the door and disappeared within. The crowd was hushed, for a moment at least, and then let forth with a hissing of gossipy whispers.
Suddenly, silence once again. A blue-uniformned policeman had entered the bank. The middle manager greeted him.
“What seems to be the trouble, sir?” asked the constable.
“There’s been a robbery, I’m afraid. A hold up. With a gun.”
“Thousands and thousands.”
“Did you see the robber, sir?”
“O yes, sir. It was the manager’s wife!”