The bank stood squarely in the centre, on the preferred side, of the Avenue Hoch.
Even to Adrian, who was not a student of architecture, the pleasing dimensions of the structure added nothing, but a plus, to the superb architecture of Paris.
It looked solid and forever, imbuing clients with a sense of security and reliability, of tradition and service. It looked everything a bank should look.
If the outside of the building was imposing, the banking hall blew Adrian away. Whilst welcoming, it also astonished. Marbled floors, wood panelled walls, gleaming chandeliers and furnishings all fashioned and placed in the year of the birth of the bank -1899.
For the aficionados of art nouveau, they were entering Heaven.
Yes, decided Adrian, this was the bank that had been recommended to him, the bank he had been looking for, this was the bank he wanted.
Yes, this was the bank he was going to rob.
Behind her ornate yet functional serving position sat Michelle, not only the slightest, but also one of the more experienced of the banks cashiers. White haired, smart in her dark lace blouse, she served customers with the ready smile of an employee who loved her work.
Adrian did not hesitate, she was his target.
Suddenly Michelle’s ready smile was not ready, it froze before Adrian. The black hole of the barrel of his gun was pointing at the centre of her forehead, through the sleeve of his coat. Slowly, threateningly and with eyes as hard as granite, he pushed a plastic bag towards her.
“Fill it up.” His tone was calm and positive, “with 500 euro notes.” Adrian did not believe in snarling.
Michelle stared at the bag in horror. Slowly she transferred her gaze to Adrian.
Her speed surprised even the experienced bank robber.
“Give me that!” The bag was snatched from Adrian’s grasp.
“We do not have plastic bags in this establishment.” Michelle was furious, the tone of her bank was being lowered, cheapness was scarring quality, the bag scrunched in her hand and was tossed with disgust into the waste paper basket beside her.
Adrian leaned forward threateningly, then stopped. He was bag less, he had nothing to fill. There was a hole in his script.
“This is a hold up!” This time he did snarl. It was a desperate attempt to regain his authority, he was a bank robber, bank robbers should not be treated like this.
Michelle stared at the gun, tutted and shook her head.
Adrian nodded, pursed his lips, switching on what he considered his most menacing expression.
Then it happened.
Michelle gripped the barrel of the gun between her forefinger and thumb and with gentle pressure eased it down his sleeve, turned the weapon around and pointed it at him.
Adrian looked around wildly, he was bag less, gun less and defenceless. He was a minus bank robber.
With a practiced movement she cocked the weapon with her left thumb, her right forefinger pointed, emphasised by a wave from his gun.
“Would you go down to that door please, and wait?” It was a question delivered with the force of an order.
He could turn and run, surely the woman would not shoot him, but a security guard standing by the exit rooted his feet to the floor.
Sirens blaring, police cars skidding, constables rushing, crowds gathering, people shouting, cameras flashing were not scenes he could associated with such a dignified bank. He was to be arrested elegantly, in the silence of a side office.
The door opened almost immediately, Michelle, still holding his gun, stood aside as he entered.
“If you had robbed my bank, what would you have used the money for?”
The gun now stood in a corner, Michelle had a fresh sheet of paper on the desk between them and he had been offered a very comfortable chair.
This was not the right scenario, by now he should be on his bike, his bag stuffed with cash as pedalled furiously, escaping down the narrow lanes behind the bank.
“The money, what would you have used it for.” Michelle broke into is reverie.
“I would have bought some models.” He always bought model kits with his earnings.
“I make them, models of boats, planes, trains.”
Michelle pondered for a moment, her banking brain adding up the possibilities. But first a total was required.
“And how many models do you have?”
The distance between the gun and where he was sitting was three good strides, the woman would be unable to stop him.
“Thousands,” he replied. “Been making them for years.”
He could tie her up with her tights, his glance checked she was wearing a pair, and gag her with the large page of blotting paper on her desk.
“Instead of robbing banks, why don’t you make and sell models?” Michelle’s eyes sparkled with the brightness of her idea.
Then he could take a casual walk through the banking hall and into the street.
“In a shop.”
He dragged his concentration back to the woman, she had suggested he sold his models in a shop. There was one small problem with her plan.
“I don’t have a shop.”
He had tucked his feet under the chair and placed his hands at the side of the seat for extra force when he sprang at her when she floored him.
“Supposing the bank lent you the money to get one?”
Adrian could not answer, his mouth had sagged open. He had come to rob the bank, not open an account.
“Do you own the house you live in?” Michelle was now in full banking mode and bristling with efficiency.
Adrian stuttered and nodded a reply; he had inherited it from his mother.
The idea pitch forked his gaze from his gun, making his beloved models was easier than robbing banks, especially when you met someone like Michelle.
With his collateral Michelle assured him, the loan form and paperwork were just a formality.
“Could you make a model of a tank?”
He hadn’t tried but he was sure he could.
“Then I will have two for my grandsons.”
His world had moved. A new career opened before him, he already had his first order!
“I am positive you will be very successful.”
Michelle carefully filed the papers away, came around the desk and shook his hand.
“I will not wish you good luck – I do not think you will need it.”
Blinking back his daze, Adrian felt himself being led to the door.
“Ah!” Michelle stopped, and went back in to the office.
“If you could just put it under your coat.” She handed him back his gun.
He found himself on the pavement with Michelle waving goodbye. An hour before he had stood on the pavement opposite, an experience, competent bank robber, now, he was going home an inexperience but excited shopkeeper with access to far more cash then he could have got into his plastic bag.
Michelle closed the door of the bank and returned to her position, with a friendly nod to the security guard,
The rest of the staff had ignored Michelle and the whole incident and continued with their work, it was all part of the day, and the fourth bank robber Michelle had converted this month.
She never forgot the banks motto ‘EVERYTHING THAT WALKS THROUGH OUR DOORS IS PROFIT’.