November 7, 2021:

The "manager"'s title belongs in quotes, because come hell or high water he would not make decisions.

He evolved this muscle memory from decades in the Foreign Service, where he learned the cardinal rule: never ever ever under any conceivable circumstance accept responsibility. His language, his demeanor, most importantly his strategic absences were each calibrated expertly to never be in charge.

And yet — and yet and yet and yet — over the course of his years not in charge he arranged to embezzle tens of thousands of dollars, possibly hundreds of thousands, leaving no written trace and almost no discernible footprints.

It was all about the special handling required by a certain credit card company. Paper records from our pre-digital system were walked to the bank for processing — walked by him exclusively, of course. All he needed was an accomplice, in this case a young bank teller he befriended, mentored, and corrupted.

The tip off was obvious, although you had to be there. He'd spend entire afternoons "at the bank"; yet on your own breaks you'd note the two of them in leisurely tête-à-tête at very expensive village cafés — establishments neither could have afforded so regularly without outside financial assistance. With that evidence in mind it was easy to monitor the transactions they conspired to erase. Regularly, long stays with large rents charged to that particular brand of credit card would disappear from the boards. The charges would not appear on the bank statements, but the money went somewhere.

I knew where. But I let them have it. The owners were evil — prior to Paris Hilton they were the poster children for inheritance tax. The "manager" taxed them, in his particular way. I was fine with it.