Ryan left his office, and walked to his car with a song on his lips and a spring in his step. He was happy because it was shaping into a beautiful morning after far too many days of rain. He was happy because he had his driver's license. But most of all, he was happy because he and Alexandra were going to the ball at Hotel Roanoke that very night, and Ryan was never happier than when he was spending time with his girlfriend.
Ryan just had one simple errand to take care of, and then the rest of the day could be dedicated to preparing the perfect evening for his goddess.
As Ryan reached his car, he saw his driver hurrying across the parking lot.
"Mr. Caern," the driver called out. "Sorry I wasn't here, sir. I didn't know you needed to go anywhere." Ryan smiled to calm his friend and servant.
"It's all right, Rodger. I'll be driving today." Ryan hopped into the car and started the engine before Rodger could object. As Ryan pulled away, he saw his worried driver in the rear view mirror, watching him as he drove away. Ryan appreciated his driver's concern, but he wished Rodger would calm down. Ryan had only ever wrecked one car. Since then, Ryan had learned how to drive and had obtained a legal permit. Besides, he had wrecked only because he had taken his hands off of the wheel to choke the life out of the man in the back seat. I never would have strangled the fellow, if he hadn't shot me in the back, Ryan thought. How likely is that to happen again?
Ryan arrived at the nearest branch of Magnolia Bank and Trust. He strolled in, pausing to hold the door for an elderly lady. Ryan walked over to the table built against the wall, and endorsed the check he had come to cash. He got into line and soon it was his turn. Ryan presented the check and his bank card to the teller.
"I'd like to cash this check," Ryan said with a smile. The woman set to work on the transaction. Suddenly she stopped, and looked more closely at the check.
"I'm sorry sir, I can't cash this check. It is over a year old," she apologized automatically, blandly, and without sincerity.
"Over a year old? But I only received the check in the mail this morning." Ryan said, perplexed.
"Perhaps the issuer put the wrong year on the check," the teller responded. "This check is drawn on an account at the Princeps Bank. I believe there's a branch at Tower's Mall. You could see if they will cash it for you there." Ryan could have compelled the human to cash the check, but that would not have been very nice, and it would probably get her into trouble.
"Thank you, Miss Cole," Ryan said, as he noted her name plate. "I'll try the bank you named." The Mall was a good distance away, and traffic would be bad, but Ryan knew he still had plenty of time. He could afford to be patient.
After fighting traffic for about a half an hour, Ryan Caern reached the Princeps Bank at Towers Mall. He walked in and joined the long line. When his turn came, Ryan set the check on the counter.
"I'd like to cash this check, please," Ryan said, pleasantly. The teller peered intently at the check for several seconds, as if expecting it to vanish if he waited long enough.
"May I see your identification, sir?" he finally asked. There was an unmistakable sarcastic emphasis on the last word. Ryan knew that he was young, or looked young at least, but he didn't care for disrespect. "Do you have an account with us, Mr. Caren?"
"No, and it's Caern," Ryan answered, with a trace of anger.
"Excuse me?" the teller said, looking over the top of his glasses.
"My name is Caern. Ryan Caern."
"Isn't that what I just said, Mr. Caren?" The man's tone was one of annoyance, as if he was doing Ryan an enormous favor by performing this transaction and Ryan simply wasn't remotely grateful enough to suit the teller.
"No," Ryan said, holding on to his temper with both hands. "You said Caren, both times. My name is Caern."
"What's the difference?" The teller said with a dismissive gesture. "At any rate, I can't cash this check for you, because you don't have an account here. This branch is only allowed to cash checks for people who have accounts with our bank." There were a lot of things that Ryan wanted to ask. Were you born a horse's ass, or did you develop into one? How is it that no one has killed you? Do you think you could have saved a little time by telling me that at the start?
"Where is the nearest branch that can help me?" Ryan asked instead.
"There's one on Maclanahan."
"Yes, do you know where Roanoke Memorial Hospital is?" the teller asked snidely.
"Yes, it's that way," Ryan said, gesturing over his shoulder. You walk a fine line, Ryan thought with growing anger. Back off if you know what is good for you.
"Very good," the teller responded, using the smugly condescending tone reserved for small children and the mentally retarded. "If you turn left out onto Colonial and turn right onto Brandon and go through the Franklin Road intersection, like you were going to the hospital, then you will be on Maclanahan."
"You know, I wish you would keep a civil tongue in your head," Ryan said at last. The man gave Ryan a look of undisguised contempt.
"And I wish I didn't have to listen to the belly aching of spoiled brats like yourself," the teller answered nastily. He was surprised and a little frightened by the wicked smile that spread across his customer's young face.
"So be it," Ryan said. He then turned and left. The next customer walked up, and began moving her lips silently.
"I'm in no mood_" the teller stopped speaking because he hadn't heard anything he had just said. He shouted, and heard nothing. He shouted louder, and still he heard nothing. The teller took no notice of the way the customer recoiled in fright. He screamed himself hoarse, but to no avail. He would never hear another sound so long as he lived.
Ryan got into his car and drove to the exit of the parking lot. To follow the directions he had been given, he would have to turn left. Traffic was not co-operating with that. When the near lanes were clear, the far lanes were full and when the far lanes were clear, the near lanes were full. Ryan knew that if he followed Colonial Avenue to the right, eventually he would reach an intersecting road that led to Franklin Road. Then he could drive back to the intersection the man had named. Ryan turned right, and began looking for his turn.
There were two turns that Ryan could take to reach Franklin Road. He missed the first one, and had to drive all the way to Tanglewood mall, on the county border. Then, he had to drive all the way back into the city proper.
Ryan finally reached the indicated cross-roads, and turned right onto Maclanahan. The street in question was only four blocks long. Ryan drove up and down that stretch of road twice, but there was no sign of a branch of the Princeps Bank. There was a National Bank Branch, so Ryan stopped there to ask directions. The teller he asked told him that the only Princeps branch she knew of was in Vinton.
"Vinton?" Ryan asked in shocked surprise. "All the way over on the other side of the valley?"
"Yes sir," the teller said, taking a step back. Ryan had made no threatening moves toward the bank employee, or even raised his voice, but the teller retreated into an unconscious half-bow of respect and fear. Get a grip, Ryan. You're starting to leak, he thought. Ryan was starting to lose control. His frustration was whipping his natural abilities into a tempest that he couldn't fully contain. Ryan asked for directions to the Vinton bank, and left as quickly as he could.
Ryan spent the time he was driving to Vinton doing breathing exercises and trying to calm down. Ryan was ruled far more by emotion than by reason. Right now, his frustration was turning to anger. Think happy thoughts. Ryan thought of Alexandra and how wonderful their date that night would be. This pleasant daydream sustained Ryan until he found the Princeps Bank branch in Vinton.
Again, Ryan waited in line, and again he gave the check and his driver's license to the teller.
"Ryan Caern?" the woman asked excitedly. "Did you know that you have the same name as a famous author?"
"I wouldn't say famous," Ryan answered with a slight smile. Though, it is nice to meet someone who likes my writing. The true meaning of Ryan's words went right over the teller's head. She frowned at the perceived insult.
"He didn't steal your name, you know," the teller said. "You don't need to be jealous of R P Caern's well-deserved fame." Ryan chuckled at the thought of being jealous of himself.
"I assure you, Miss Carter, that I am not jealous. The fact is_"
"The fact is that you are a boorish clod," the teller interrupted. "If you ever bothered to read any of his work, assuming you can read, you would know that he is the greatest writer of our time." The teller's words angered Ryan. On the one hand, her praise for his writing was very flattering. On the other hand, the teller was clearly too stupid to understand that he was her favorite author, and too rude to let him explain, so what value could be found in her words?
"Just cash the check, please."
"I need your thumb print on the check," she answered angrily, gesturing at an ink pad setting on the counter. Ryan jabbed his thumb into the pad and pressed it to the front of the check. The bank employee took the check, and shoved the money at Ryan. He could have tried to explain who he was to the teller, but Ryan wasn't sure what her reaction might be. He wouldn't waste the time.
The drive home was uneventful enough that Ryan was able to relax a little. The check ordeal was behind him now, and he could devote the rest of the day to preparations for his date.
Ryan returned to the large house he had purchased in Cave Spring. He was there for barely a minute when life tossed another monkey wrench into his plans. He went into the kitchen to get some juice. The cook was in the kitchen, making potato chips for the staff's poker game that night.
"Oh hello, sir," the cook said. "The Jack Daniels cake is in the fridge."
"Jack Daniels cake?" Ryan said quizzically. It was a sort of firm sugary cake, drowned in whiskey and refrigerated. He only knew one person who requested that particular dessert. "Is Mr. Cooper coming over?"
"Uh, no sir, he requested that I send one with you when you went to discuss plans for Highsummer Night."
"But that appointment isn't until next week..." Ryan's voice trailed off at the onset of a sinking feeling.