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Loan Ranger: The Good, the Bad and the Euribor – The coming of the storm

loan ranger

In which our hero's escape only brings something much, much worse...

For ages they galloped, through cattle fields, beside rivers, up desolate mountain passes and out onto a dusty prairie – which presently became desert.

“Do you think you might have taken a wrong turn back at that ranch with the angry pony?” offered Tonto.

“We ’ave definitely outrun it now, my ’ero,” said Liboria-Ursula-Andress-Federer, still a little sore about the outcome of the high noon showdown.   

High noon still burned in the Loan Ranger’s memory as well, but the hours had sped by and the blazing sun of afternoon had given way to a biting breeze.

If they didn’t find a saloon and quick they could be in trouble.  

“We’re going exactly the right way,” he said defiantly. “I just took you the scenic route because I was very nostalgic for those…er… childhood landmarks. Consider yourselves lucky.”

“He’s right!” exclaimed Tonto, gesturing ahead.

“What?” said the Loan Ranger, turning and squinting in the direction of Tonto’s pointed finger.

“A saloon!” chimed a much relieved Silver, who had suffered the worst from the day’s ordeal.

Sure enough, a mile or so across the desert, in the worst location imaginable, was a shadowy looking tavern.

“Looks great,” said Liboria-Ursula-Andress-Federer, in a voice that had become more sarcastic with every step of their journey. “If I’m going to die today, it might as well be in such a place as zees. I can smell it from ’ere.”

Loan Ranger was firmly of the opinion that a decent boozer should at least smell a bit, but even he had to agree that this one came across as a bit dicey.

“Gentlemen,” he said to Tonto and Silver. “We will ride to that patch of cactuses over there, then you guys stay put and keep Liboria safe. I will go ahead and make sure that everything is OK for our patronage of this establishment.”

"Cacti," said Tonto.

“Is this some ruse to get out of buying a round?” asked Silver.

-----

The wind was really picking up as the Loan Ranger approached the foreboding wooden façade of the venue. He put a hand up to protect his eyes from the dust and tumbleweed that were blowing about him.

He was not 200 yards from the place, however, before there was a crack of lightning that blasted a cactus off to his left and then the sky opened up in torrential downpour. He was soon utterly soaked as he ran for the doors of the saloon, which were swinging to and fro.

Wait, though, he told himself, before he went in. Must make myself look as tall and tough as I can for whoever is inside. First impressions were important in these situations.

Into the bar he went.

But something was terribly amiss inside. The place was in absolute mayhem, with shadowy figures running here and there in panic, some knocking over games of cards, tossing aside their cheroots and knocking over barmaids, brandishing one-stringed banjos or throwing knives at the ceiling.

All this stopped immediately however, on the Loan Ranger’s entrance.

There was a cold moment of silence. He stood dripping in the doorway, with steam rising from his boots. The rain seemed to have been partially acidic.

“Oh Mr Darcy!” exclaimed a voice from the back.

That really didn’t help with the impression the Loan Ranger was shooting for. There was a patter of nervous laughter, but elsewhere the icy stares continued.

Frantically, his eyes stared for somewhere – anywhere – that he could go and be out of the focus of attention. Every table and booth seemed more menacing than the last.

Finally he spotted one booth with just a loan figure slumped over the table. He couldn’t see the fellow’s face, but it was probably just some old man who had had too much to drink and would be no trouble. The Loan Ranger moved sideways in that direction like a giddy crab.

At which the mayhem erupted again. He just had time to ease himself into a seat before a pint glass sailed by his head and hit another poor soul in the back.

It was impossible to make out what the fuss was about, but he thought he heard the words, “tornado”, “benchmark” and “negative rates”.

Suddenly the din was punctured again by another, more terrible sound.

There was a broken-violin screech as a leather-skinned old sea dog silenced the fray by scraping his haggard, blackened fingers against a conveniently placed blackboard. Happy hour from 7pm till whenever, the Loan Ranger noted on the board with approval, even as he put his fingers in his ears.

Everyone looked to the man in fear.

“Y’all know me, know how I earn a livin’,” he said in a voice that dripped with danger. “I’ll sort out this storm for you, but it ain’t going to be easy. Bad rates… They will swallow you whole…”

The Loan Ranger was now as fearful as everyone else, with horrified fascination to hear the rest of what this man had to say.

But there was a crash as the storm announced its arrival with something heavy smashing through one of the windows of the saloon. Broken glass whipped about the place and the man’s low, scratchy voice was drowned out by a terrible howl.

"It's the end of the world!" someone wailed.

And there was a deep growl coming from below the table. The Loan Ranger looked down and found a mangy, one eyed mutt giving him a look of sheer hate and threatening very unfortunate violence on his person.

And worse was to come, for a scrawny arm shot across the table and a gnarled hand gripped the Loan Ranger’s own arm with a steely, vice-like grip. He sat bolt upright and stared with terror at the nightmarish face opposite him – the old man had awoken.

“Let me tell you a story, boy...”

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