They drove into
around mid morning the next
day. Slade had been up well before
sunrise and had hot coffee and cornbread when Ellen roused. They’d gotten re-packed and ready
easily. Ellen had combed her hair and
twisted it high on her head then covered it with her scarf so it would stay
neat till they arrived. Around the last
bend before the buildings of Santa Fe
began she stood and unbuttoned her old skirt.
Slade had pulled it down over the fullness of her dress and she fluffed
the folds into smoothness. He turned and
dug her shoes from the trunk and tossed the old boots down beside it. Santa Fe
Ellen McPherson Aguilar carried herself as every inch the Spanish lady when she stepped from the wagon. She left the old coat on the wagon and wrapped the green shawl gracefully around her shoulders, draping it over her forearms and stepping down in the quiet sunshine in front of the bank. It was here her husband’s family had maintained their financial accounts ever since she had been a member of the family and for years before that. She planned to see the family’s attorney whose offices were located above the bank and then visit the bank itself to determine the full extent of the Aguilar holdings. She needed to discover the extent of the damage to the property and buildings and obtain funds for her private use as well as the repair of the property.
Her first setback was in discovering that Senor Gutierrez no longer maintained his offices above the bank. The present occupants professed no knowledge of where he had gone. Since Ellen had known the bank president and manager personally she went instead to the bank offices. Slade followed slightly behind and beside her as escort and bodyguard. He walked smoothly and carried his rifle with a casual non-threatening grace.
Ellen entered the bank and was immediately recognized by the janitor sweeping sand from the entrance hall. He greeted her happily and welcomed her back to
. Ellen went into the wide banking area and
walked directly to the first window. The
teller was unknown to her, but she introduced herself and asked to see Mr.
Woodrow, the manager. Santa Fe
She was told in an arrogant tone that Mr. Woodrow had passed away but Mr. Ellington might agree to see her. He asked again who she was. His attitude when she repeated her name became visibly suspicious. Never the less he carried her message to Mr. Ellington.
The Anglo man, rather than invite her to his office, strode into the outer area.
“My name is Robert Ellington. I am the present supervisor of this financial institution. And you are..?” He stopped and rudely surveyed Ellen’s simple dress and shawl.
“I am Elena McPherson Aguilar, the widow of Alejandro Victoro Aguilar y Garcia, son of Don Francisco Cesar Aguilar y Rodriguez. I have come to investigate the standing of our accounts.”
“My dear madam,” the haughty banker answered her. “I have no reason what so ever to believe that you are the said Senora Aguilar and further more I have it on reliable information that Senora Aguilar is deceased.”
“Yes, that is perhaps the belief; however I’ve brought papers with me to verify my identity and my entitlement to all properties and financial deposits for the estate of my late husband.”
“I repeat, madam, that Senora Aguilar is deceased. My information is of the highest caliber and I have no reason to doubt the word of Don Aguilar’s recognized heir.
“Please be so kind as to leave the premises or I shall be forced to call the proper authorities. If I were to believe every raggletag gypsy who walked through the door there would be no cash reserve left in this institution.
“It is my responsibility to safeguard these monies for Senor Aguilar until such time as he is established in the area and able to rebuild the ranch.
“Now remove yourself.” Mr. Ellington snapped his fingers at the teller. “Go and call the Sheriff and have this woman removed.”
“Don’t bother Mr. Ellington. But I must tell you that I will be returning in short order with individuals of standing in the community who will be able to verify my identity.”
“Of course you will madam. And I’m sure I will recognize them as easily as I have you.’ And he turned on his heel to tread heavily from the room.
Ellen had difficulty controlling her temper as she left the bank.
“The conceit of that man! Refusing to look at my identification! Ooh!” She stomped her foot.
Slade chuckled. “Think about it for a minute, Ellie. He has never seen you but he has heard you are dead. You can’t expect him to just hand over whatever you demand! I expect from what you’ve told me, that the Aguilar money just about sustains all the business in his bank. You could bankrupt him!”
“I’ll bankrupt him. The arrogant miser!” Ellen stomped from the steps of the bank onto the tile of the walkway. She stood a moment getting her bearing.