You should be kissed often, and by someone who knows how. Rhett Butler

It seemed that everything had been taken care of at the Zurich Cantonal Bank and that we were home free. But I’d overlooked one crucial item.

After Dr. Brenner and I had shaken hands with the bank officials and I was already fantasizing about the celebration we would have in the bar at the Baur au Lac Hotel, one of the bank officials said, “And now, Dr. Curtis, if you would kindly have funds transferred into the new account, we can open the vault in three days.”

What?” I shouted.

But the bank officials were right. In those days it took three days to transfer money from Credit Suisse to the Cantonal Bank headquarters, even though the two banks sat a mere two blocks from each other.

“Never mind,” I said. “I’ll walk over to Credit Suisse and get a cashier’s check and bring it back.”

“Excellent,” said a bank official. “That will reduce the delay to two days.”

“Plan C,” I cried in exasperation. “I walk over to Credit Suisse, withdraw five hundred thousand Swiss francs in cash, then bring it over here and dump it on this damn table!”

The bankers faces were turning pale when Dr. Brenner cleared his throat. He said to them, “Might we attorneys have a private moment to consider the situation?”

The bankers bowed themselves rapidly out of the room and Dr. Brenner said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my law firm has an account at the Cantonal Bank. An internal transfer from our account to Miss Goldie’s can be done instantly. And then, if you would be so kind, we can walk together to Credit Suisse and you can transfer funds to replenish our account. It will take three days, but we’ll know the funds are on the way.”

He wasn’t the only one who couldn’t believe he was saying it, but that’s what we did. Once the bank officials confirmed that the funds were in the account, I paid the vault fee and we were in business.

Dr. Brenner and I walked outside, intending to supervise the unloading of the gold and the transfer of it to the new vault. Unfortunately, the bank’s workers were way ahead of us. Dr. Brenner and I stopped dead in our tracks and stared. A crowd of at least a hundred people was milling around the armored car, blocking the street. Some people were taking photos.

Bank workers had laid out pallets on the sidewalk and the fools were unloading the gold right out there in the open, in front of the gawkers and their cameras! I could see in my mind’s eye the photo appearing on the front page of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. I could imagine Goldie seeing the photo in her copy of the paper a week later, her gold bars shining brilliantly in the sun, hundreds of Zurichoises gawking and taking pictures.

And I could imagine Goldie pointing to the tiny figures of Dr. Curtis and Dr. Brenner there off to the side and saying to me, “And who are these two idiots?”

I could go into excruciating detail about the many agonies associated with the gold being unloaded right out there on the sidewalk, but I’ll skip most of that. At one point I did turn to Dr. Brenner and say, “Suppose some fleet-footed fellow comes running through here, grabs a gold bar and races off. Are those soldiers really going to shoot him down?”

“Yes,” said Dr. Brenner.

Back in the states I gave Goldie copies of all the documents she would need and told her everything had gone off like clockwork. Shortly after that, I left the law – which I decided was way too exciting for my taste – and went off to run a family office. But although Goldie was no longer my client we remained friends and occasionally had tea together.

One day she called to tell me she was selling her house and moving permanently to Lugano. I was astonished because I knew how happy she’d been in that house. But what the hell, it was her life. She told me to be sure to call her the next time I was in Lugano and we would have lunch.

Over the next ten or twelve years I was in Lugano twice. I called Goldie both times but she didn’t pick up. After the second visit I sent her a letter telling her what had happened, and a few weeks later she wrote back. She said she traveled a lot, especially in Italy, and was very sorry to have missed me. If I would give her some notice the next time I came to town she would “stop my gallivanting so we can have lunch.”

Over the next five years, by which time Goldie was in her mid-eighties, I never made it to Lugano. One day an envelope arrived for me from Dr. Brenner’s office in Zurich. There was no cover letter, just Dr. Brenner’s business card paperclipped to Goldie’s obituary.

My throat caught and my eyes stung. I hadn’t seen Goldie for more than fifteen years and now she was gone.

The obituary was in Italian, cut out of the old Giornale del Popolo newspaper that was published in Lugano (it’s long since defunct), but someone had thoughtfully provided a translation. The obituary was fairly brief, describing Goldie as “an American philanthropist” who had long made her home in Lugano. It mentioned Goldie’s contributions to the cultural life of the town and listed some of her board memberships.

It was the last sentence that stopped me. Goldie, it read, “is survived by her beloved partner of many years” and listed the name of a well-known Milanese industrialist. My jaw dropped and I exclaimed out loud, “Goldie, you fox!”

Next up: No Country for Old Men

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