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by Peter L Oughton

Brian Jones was a good, honest man. He had joined a high street bank as a clerk, and had worked his way up to branch manager.
He was normally of a cheery disposition, and was popular with both colleagues and clients.
Today, however, Brian was feeling low; in fact, very low.
It was his fiftieth birthday and, not only had his wife apparently forgotten about it (no mention of it before he left home that morning!), but not one single colleague had mentioned it, even though he had made no secret of it.
At the end of the day, he worked on a bit late, tidied his desk and left the bank.
As he turned the corner to head for the car park, a car pulled in alongside him and a masked man jumped out and ordered him to get in. His legs turned to jelly and he meekly obeyed, to find himself seated next to another masked man armed with a crowbar, who put a blindfold over Brian’s eyes.
“Can this day really get any worse?” thought Brian.
As the car sped off, Brian managed to stammer, “W-what do you w-want with me?”
“You’re a bank manager, right?” said the man next to him in a very rough and unpleasant voice.
“W-well, yes,” replied Brian, “but I don’t have any m-money with me.”
“Funny guy, eh?” came the reply. “We’re not interested in pin money – we want to know ‘ow to get into your bank’s safe to clear it out.”
“W-well, I can’t help you,” said Brian. “There are too many s-security precautions in place for that to be p-possible.”
“In which case,” came the gruff response, “me and my friend ‘ere are goin’ to have to see if we can get you to fink of a way around them precautions.”
“W-what does that mean?” croaked Brian.
“You’ll see!” was all he got in response.
They drove on, and eventually Brian became aware that they were on gravel just before coming to a halt.
“Right – out!” came the instruction.
Brian’s blindfold was removed, and he emerged to find himself outside a large, isolated house, completely in darkness.
He was bundled into the house.
It was dark, and he was afraid.
Suddenly, on came the lights and there stood his wife, friends, colleagues and clients, letting off party poppers and wishing him a happy birthday!
“You bunch of total bastards!” he shouted, much more from relief than from anger.
In the meantime, one of his ‘kidnappers’ had removed his mask to reveal that it was, in fact, his brother-in-law. “Pretty good villain’s voice, eh?” he said. “Had you fooled, anyway.”
“I was terrified,” remonstrated Brian. “I could have had a heart attack!”
“Highly unlikely,” commented the other ‘kidnapper’, removing his mask, to reveal that he was Brian’s GP! “That bank medical check-up the other day declared you as fit as a butcher’s dog, with the heart of an ox. Oh, by the way, welcome to my new home.”