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1201

Chapter 1

 

Ari quickly slid his car into the last underground parking space near his office. The long, slow drive had left him irritated and on edge. He pitched his empty cigarette packet into the waste bin outside the newspaper kiosk and bought a replacement pack, along with the Athenian Cross morning edition. The front page headlines leapt out at him....PANIC SPREADS. As he lit yet another cigarette he read on ....Families, middle and working class people, likely to be worst hit. Today it was officially announced by The World Incorporated Banking System that the monetary systems of all countries, including all stock exchanges, ceased operations yesterday. Ari knew this meant the New Zealand stock exchange, normally the first to open in the world each day, because of its proximity to the International Date Line, had not opened. Australia and all other countries East of Greece would have followed suit.

The news article continued. Many are expected to gather outside all money institutions in the hope of reclaiming cash or gold before all available money is exhausted. Insurance companies also expect many policy holders at surrender departments in a frantic effort to cash in their life policies. However, the government of Greece has issued a plea to all people - PLEASE DO NOT PANIC! This is a temporary crisis caused in all countries due to continuing bad debts. These debts are transactions on paper only and should not affect the supply of actual cash and gold. By the end of this week it is expected that all trading will return to normal.

Cars, squeezed bumper to bumper, crawled along the four lane highway leading to the city centre. Early morning grey mist, filled with a stinging acrid stench, annoyed the eyes and nostrils of everyone who must work in the city. They were the lucky ones. In some homes, fathers, unemployed for many months, despaired as they watched their wives prepare for work. The small wages earned helped provide necessities for their families. So many survived below the so called poverty line. Husbands planted vegetables and fruit trees on every patch of available soil. Garden beds had sprung up overnight alongside railroad tracks. These narrow stretches of earth once overgrown with grass and weeds, were beginning to yield crops.

Drivers honked and swore as cyclists wove their tenuous trails in and out of the traffic. Some bore hessian sacks on their backs, or across the handle-bars of their old reliable bicycles. They carried vegetables, or much loved family treasures, to market for sale. Grim faced people on foot, young and old alike, dodged one another, each knowing time was running out. All were driven by the same emotion. Fear! They must get there before it was too late. Sleepy eyed babies and children cried, as mothers or fathers pushed prams and carried or hurried them along. These innocents were infected with that same fear, something they had never seen on the usually happy faces of their parents. Radios were being flicked from station to station in hope of hearing better news of a last minute solution to this sudden money scare.

Ari opened the door to his well appointed office suite and consulting rooms. He now knew why all roads were unusually jammed with traffic this morning. He made himself a cup of strong black coffee and sat at his leather topped, intricately carved cedar table with his thickly padded leather chair tilted back to give him some comfort. The ringing telephone interrupted his thoughts.

"Hello," growled Ari.

"Yani here," came the reply.

"I think you had better get down here in the next hour as things aren't looking good . I missed you at the club last night, otherwise I would have warned you earlier."

"Sorry Yani. Helen and I were busy preparing for my old uni friends who arrive tomorrow."

Yani continued, " I have been expecting a money crash similar to those of 1987 and 1995 and have learnt to read between the lines of our latest market reports. I have a large amount of cash and gold on hand for my business associates and valued friends. No one will know if I pay out these accounts, or security deposits first, before the banks officially close today. Over the last few months I have been gradually closing our family accounts to avoid arousing too much suspicion. We have various substantial amounts of gold and cash hidden in steel boxes buried throughout our family properties. I suggest you do the same as I have heard, from high banking officials, that all amounts of gold, presently registered at any institution, are to be compulsorily sold to the Government at their price."

"So it is true", remarked Ari to his long time friend.

"Thanks for the warning. I'll be around in about 30 minutes."

Ari slammed the elegant telephone back into its gold cradle and switched on the answering machine. He quickly scribbled a note and placed it in his receptionist's tray. It read..."Maria, please cancel all appointments for today - urgent business at the bank. Please ring Helen at home and tell her not to attempt the drive into the city - I will see her tonight."

With banking papers and books safely locked in his brief case, Ari was soon being whisked downstairs in the cage like elevator. As it descended he felt something of the same fear that gripped the man on the street. All were now driven by the same urgency, united by a common need - the need to survive.

Outside, the crowds were gathering. Traffic was now at a standstill. Motorists parked on pavements or in any other available space, adding to the frustration and anger of pedestrians. Ari strode into this mass of people bumping them as he went. His heart beat quickly, it's rhythm far outpacing his footsteps. On the way , his thoughts were of his wife and family. They were accustomed to a rather luxurious life- style. Helen, his wife, worked with him in their busy Counselling and Psychology practice, trying to help people reshape shattered lives. People trudged in every day, seeking solutions and answers that would help ease their pain and torment. Some were able to break through these emotional walls or barriers into wholeness and, through their own adversity, become more empathetic with others . A few, like frightened children, stayed wrapped in their own shrouds, never able to break free, spread their frail wings and fly on fresh strong currents into a better time. Ari and Helen hoped their own children, Nicholas and Elena, would grow strong and healthy in body, soul and spirit-the very essence of life itself.

Ari looked saw many people already gathered outside the bank. They spilled onto the roadway. In their urgency to get inside, those nearest the bank beat their fists on the doors and windows. Ari took the back lane and was himself soon pounding on the door to the manager's private entrance.

"Yani, let me in", he cried.

"Hurry, before the crowd spreads into the lane."

He heard the bolt slide back and a key turn in the stiff lock. Yani's face showed lines of worry and concern, not perhaps for the people outside but for his own safety. He quickly slammed and bolted the door and led Ari inside, past the empty teller's booths, into the huge vault. On the table were canvas bags, their bulging contents secured firmly with thick leather thongs. Yani motioned Ari to sit opposite him as he began to untie the heavy bags. Much later, notes and gold bars stacked in neat rows were locked inside a secret safe in the floor under Yani's desk. Ari's completed withdrawal forms sat in the teller's drawer, no doubt the first of many hundreds to be processed today before all available cash ran out.

"I'll bring the money to your office late tonight when the panic has died down a bit", said Yani.

His voice faltered as his dull brown eyes watched staff push their way through the waiting crowd to begin a day that all would remember. People surged through the open doors, each one jostling others to be first in line. The security grills remained down until all tellers were safely confined within their boxes. Each had been previously warned by Yani to check all alarm buttons in case of an emergency. Trading had begun when Ari eventually emerged cautiously from the laneway. He could not help thinking there was a sinister reason for today's events. Was there some sort of conspiracy by powers unknown to common people? Noticing the Real Truth Community Church opposite the bank, he wondered what role, if any, they might play in the light of today's news.

Click here for Chapter Two