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Cash Card

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A man offered me $200 to hold his money for him while he met up with a prostitute. "I hear you can't trust prostitutes in Chicago," he said.

He was from Haiti.

"Don't trust anyone," I said.

He told me he'd hooked up with a prostitute when he first reached town, and while he was in the bathroom she ran out with his pants and all his money. He had to chase her down the hall without any clothes on. Other people heard him, looked out of their hotel rooms, and saw him naked in the hallway. Now he had another prostitute waiting for him, and this time he figured he'd take no chances.

I met him on Washington near Michigan, and he asked me if I knew where a hotel was. It began with a B, but either he was saying it wrong or I couldn't understand him (he spoke broken English with a strong accent). I said no, and he asked me if I could read the yellow book. I figured he was talking about the yellow pages, so I said yes, I would help him. He said he'd give me $20.

"I don't want your money," I said.

"No," he said, "I give you $20 if you read yellow book."

We entered a store that didn't have any phone books, so we walked on. I told him I had to go to a movie at the Fine Arts. He continued walking with me. He asked me if I had a job. I told him I was a bartender. He asked me if I made good money.

"Yeah, it's good money," I said.

That's when he offered me $200 to hold his money while he went with the prostitute. "If you got money," he said, "I know you're not going to take my money."

He had $5,600 on him, he said. He got it from his grandfather's lawyer that morning. That's why he was in Chicago. His grandfather died and left him $160,000.

He thought the lawyer wanted his money. The lawyer tried to give him a check and he didn't understand it. He demanded cash. He also thought the lawyer's secretary was plotting to steal his money. She told him about a "magic card" where one could get money out of a machine.

I reached in my back pocket, pulled my wallet out, and showed him my bank card. It was a Citicorp card.

"Hers was green," he said, "with gray stripe."

"That was a Cash Station card," I said. "This is the same thing."

"You can get money with that card?" he said.

"Sure," I said.

The secretary had told him he could get a card for himself. I told him it would take at least a week. He said he'd give me $1,000 to hold his money and show him how the card worked.

In front of the Fine Arts, he looked to his left and to his right nervously. People were leaving the building. "I don't want anyone to see," he said.

He pulled me off to the side and took out a brown paper bag from his front pants pocket. I saw a wad of bills in it. For some reason I realized I had just paid my rent and I had no money left in my account.

"I can show you how the card works," I said, "but I can't get any money out. It's all tied up in checks."

"You don't have any money?" he said. "How can I give you my money if you don't have any money?" And he walked away.

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