Miss Fiona Wetherton was a woman of middle years with too much make-up and bleached-blonde hair. She had worked as a cashier at the bank for thirty years. Harding could imagine the immaculate little flat with two bedrooms, one for Fiona and one for a friend. Except that the spare room had never been occupied except by her two... no, three... cats. 'Guess the witness' life' was a game he had been playing all his career, with limited success. He would put money on this one, though.
“Thank you for taking the time to speak to me, Miss Wetherton,” he began, rising as she entered the little office he had been given and extending his hand. “I'm Detective Sergeant Harding from Brook Street Police Staion.”
She took the hand in a limp grip of her own that gave him the creeps. “Anything I can do to help, Sergeant.”
“Of course. Please, take a seat. Now, I believe you were the person who... dealt with the thief?”
“Yes, that's right.”
Great. She was the 'answer the question and no more' type. “Can you describe her, please?”
“Well, not really. She was dressed like... in one of those Arab get-ups.”
“Arab? I don't understand...”
“She was covered from head-to-toe – except her eyes.”
“Oh, I see. She was wearing a hijab and niqab?”
The woman nodded doubtfully.
“OK, let's move on. Can you tell me her eye colour, how tall she was, whether she had an accent, anything else that might help to identify her?”
“She had blue eyes – lots of eye make-up. She was about my height, I think. And she sounded local – but she spoke really low. I could hardly hear what she was saying.”
“OK,” Harding said, scribbling notes as he spoke. “Now, please walk me through what happened.”
“She asked for the money and I handed it over.”
“Yes, I understand that, Miss Wetherton. But could you describe exactly how she asked for it, the words she used? You see, there have been a number of similar robberies committed against local banks over the last few weeks and we want to see if this might have been done by the same person.”
“Oh, I see. Well, she came up to the counter and said she wanted to take some money out. I asked her how much and she passed me that note.” She pointed at the bagged note lying on the table next to Harding's notebook. It had '£49,999.99 – used notes' written on it.
“Did the amount strike you as odd, at all?”
“Well, I thought it was a joke at first.”
“A joke? There's nothing funny about fifty K.”
“That's the joke. It's not fifty thousand. We are told that if someone asks for less than fifty thousand pounds, we should just hand it over and raise the alarm after they've gone.”
This tallied with what the other cashiers had told him. On each occasion the thief asked for a penny less than whatever that bank's limit was.
“So this would have to be someone who knew the banking system very well?”
“She must, yes.”
“Well that's all for now, Miss Wetherton. Unless there's anything else you'd like to tell me?”
“Oh, her hands!”
“Yeah, it was her nails.” Miss Wetherton showed her own perfectly manicured hands with pride. “She had pink shellac nails and a little nail charm on the ring finger of each hand.”
“A nail charm?”
“Yes. We can't have them here,” her voice was filled with regret, “but they are like the charms you get for bracelets. The nail technician puts a tiny hole through the nail and then adds the charm.”
“Do you remember what colour the charms were?”
“Silver with pink jewels.”
“Thank you very much, Miss Wetherton. You've been a great help.”
Harding waited until she had left then read through his notes. This thief was a mystery to him. For one thing, what was she doing with the money? Whilst the amount was something the cashiers would hand over without question, the notes were marked but so far none had shown up anywhere.
He gave a mental shrug and left the bank. As he stepped outside his 'phone rang. “Harding.”
“Tom, it's Elsie. Some of that money's turned up. From one of the robberies.”
“That's the thing – she hasn't spent it, she's donated it to charity.”
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