They made me swear by their lives. I have sworn never to tell – or else. Now it’s too late. It’s all too late.
I was married. We were happy. We had two children. I think we still do, but I’m not so sure.
The bank I worked at was just a small branch. An Italian name, if you must know. I worked first at the counter, then they promoted me. Back office. Deputy manager. Manager. All that within a year.
And then the men came. There were four of them and they opened an account for a small company. I don’t know why i had the account number written on my notebook. I must have told it to them or maybe they asked me to write it down. I wish I’d remember.
I checked just out of curiosity. It’s something I did – not often, but once or twice a day. When a customer looks interesting and you are curious who they are – nothing is more enlightening to check their account.
The account was not even a day open. 700 million. Seven Zero Zero Million Dollar.
The money came from different accounts, not just one or two – hundreds of them.
I thought it was a money laundering scheme. I followed procedure – freeze the funds, send a message to the internal anti fraud team and another to the feds.
I felt fidgety and nervous for the rest of the day. I thought any moment someone might enter the bank with a weapon or bomb. Nobody came, not even the police.
I went home early, took the bus, carefully stayed in crowds.
When I got home the front door was locked. The light inside was on. A radio was playing.
I unlocked the door and stepped inside. It smelt like stale tobacco.
I felt my voice quivering in my throat.
I grabbed my umbrella like a weapon.
I stepped through the corridor and into the living room. I didn’t take my shoes off.
“Hello? I’m home! Anybody in.”
I was certain that I had seen her car outside.
And then I saw it. A white piece of paper with handwriting in blue pen. Three lines.
We have them.
We will keep them as long as we need you.
Don’t make another mistake.
I ran frantically through the house. Her mobile was on the kitchen counter, right next to a chopping board with three half-sliced carrots. No knife.
I called her best friends and family. Nobody had any idea.
For half an hour I sat on the kitchen floor, my back curled against the hard wood of the pot cupboard. Then, without thought, I grabbed my phone. My fingers were shaking when I typed the three numbers.
There was a dial tone.
“You’re not very smart, aren’t you?”
The voice was deep and throaty.
“Sorry,” I said. “I must have misdialed.
I hung up and typed the emergency number again.
“Welcome back,” said the voice. “And now you listen.”
He told me I would have to obey. He promised that they wouldn’t hurt them.
“Although,” he said. “Your wife is pretty attractive.”
“Oh, no.” I heard the grin in his voice. “I will fuck you.”
I don’t remember how I cursed him.
“Open the door,” he said.
“Open the door.”
WIth the butcher knife in my hand I crawled towards the front door.
He edged me on. He told me that they wouldn’t be there, that I would have been long dead if they wanted to.
“Just open it. There is something that you want back.”
I pulled the door slightly open. There were three stacks of clothes, clothes I knew. In the center was hers. Underwear sat on a white top sat on a pair of jeans.
On top of the underwear was something small. Something pink. There was a red ring on the panty below it.
The screams and gags blocked each other in my throat. I couldn’t breath.
“Yes,” he said. “That’s your wife’s nipple. The right one, if you must know.”
“Will you listen now?”
He made me swear by their lives. Swear never to tell.
Lies in all directions, her and my parents screaming. Her parents got angry, said they would call the police. I told them not to. They too disappeared.
Six years. A gray blur. If you wonder how I survived – I don’t know. I lost most of my weight, most of my hair, all of my friends.
Sometimes they sent me a few pieces of hair. A few times they sent photos – always them, in a white room, sometimes with straps on their arms, sometimes free and with toys or books. They looked thin.
Once they sent me a used pad.
“Your daughter’s first,” said the handwritten note. “We thought you might want to see it.”
Their demands were simple enough. They sent me names and addresses, I opened new accounts. Sometimes they made me close other accounts. I had to make sure none of the automatic safeguards went off.
Sometimes I saw the accounts. Saw the transfers. Saw the names. You wouldn’t believe the names. The people you elected; the people you thought were governing for you. Some of them were paid – but most of them were the ones paying.
I guess it makes sense. It all makes sense. Even the crisis makes sense.
The system wouldn’t have failed. It was set up never to fail. There were hundreds of organizations just made to prevent the system failure.
They manufactured the crisis. They made the system fail.
The crisis. The bail outs. All of it was them.
They don’t even care about the money. Money is not the tool to control the ones in power, money is the tool to get those in power that you control.
I’m not the only one. There are hundreds like me, that can never speak about it.
“We make the punishment match the crime,” that’s what the man said when he called me. “For every time we cut a slice off.
It wasn’t me. I would have kept silent. It must have been the new guy. He saw one of the accounts. I guess he knew that it was dangerous. He must have used my name on the report form.
I didn’t know until the parcel arrived.
It was 6am. The doorbell rang loud and long. I made my way to the door.
Nobody was there. Just the parcel. About the size of a guitar.
It was heavy but soft. The contents seemed to roll from one side to the other.
There was a dark plastic around it. A small white paper lying on top. Blue pen. Three lines.
Ever wondered what an industrial meat slicer does to a body?
Your son can scream pretty loud and long.
You should really learn.
I don’t know why I opened the plastic. I just needed to know.
His whole legs. All of his legs. Thinly sliced, even the bone.
All morning I threw up. My stomach clenched so hard it felt like cement.
Around noon I grabbed the box and ran out of the house. I jumped in the car.
That’s when the call came.
“Not a good idea, is it?”
I heard my wife’s voice in the background. After all those years, just hearing her muffled voice made me choke.
“Look,” he said. “We have her here. I have a pair of scissors. Start the car and I’ll send you another piece of her.”
I turned the key. The engine roared, then turned off again.
“Oops,” he said.
I will never forget those screams.
“Now,” he said. “We will send it to you. Will you keep being stupid?”
“I didn’t do a thing.”
“Stop reporting us,” said the man. “We don’t like that kind of attention.”
I cried and screamed.
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Sure you didn’t,” said the man “At least you won’t anymore.”
I didn’t go to work that day. The box with my son’s legs sat on the living room floor when I drank myself to sleep. In the morning it was gone. There was a small box instead.
I felt the vomit in my throat even before I opened it.
A photo of my daughter. Despite the messy hair and the blue bruises on her arms she looked so beautiful. Fourteen years old. She wore a yellow dress and sat on a bare metal chair.
A note. Blue pen. Three lines.
Doesn’t she look pretty? So unspoiled. Still pure.
I hope you learn.
Else she is next.
I don’t remember leaving the house. I don’t remember the drive. I don’t remember entering the bank.
I just remember the new guy, how he knocked on my office door.
“I found something,” he said.
“It’s really important.”
“I don’t have time.”
“You have to look at this!”
He slammed two sheets of paper on the table.
Lists of names. Lists of accounts. I knew all of them.
“It’s a huge money laundering scheme. I noticed one of the accounts two days ago,” he said. “And reported it.”
I straightened my back.
“Thank you,” I said. “Well done. I’ll take over from here.”
“But let me tell you…”
“No. I’ll take over from here.”
“Okay,” he said.
I pointed to the doorway.
He turned around, then back to me.
“Just so you know,” he said. “I reported them already. And I sent a letter to the FBI.”
I whispered “Fuck” but he didn’t seem to hear.
“But there was some problem with the system,” he said. “I think I’m not registered yet. And you told me to use your name if something doesn’t work with mine.”
They heard my screams even in the front room.
I closed the branch. I sent them all home and locked myself inside.
No matter what number I dialed on my mobile, I only reached him. I reached just one police station before the landline was cut too. I sent hundreds of emails out, most of them bounced back.
Every few minutes they throw a new letter through the mail slot. They are all soaked in red.
They made me swear by their lives.
They think I broke that oath.
They left nearly a hundred voicemails.
I listened to two of them.
Each two minutes. First a man’s laugh. The rest my daughter’s screams.