The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound – Chapter 10

The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 10

Strapping herself into the plastic chair which had more to do with safety than comfort, Greenleaf mumbled to herself as the truck went around some sharp turns. The other hostages clearly felt the same way because none of them had their hands in their laps. Everyone had a death grip on their seat belt.

“Death grip,” Greenleaf muttered to herself. “How appropriate.” It was gallows humor but it wasn’t particularly funny.

Had the situation been different, perhaps if Greenleaf had been a Hollywood producer of comedies, the scene in the back of the truck would have been visually hilarious. The truck would drive straight and everyone would relax. This would only last until the vehicle slowed and then everyone would tense. Which way would the cab lurch? Would it be a sharp turn or a smooth sweep? Would the wheels find the curb? Would it slide on the wet cobblestones? Slower and slower the truck would go and each hostage would sink his and her fingers into a death grip on both ends of the seat belt strap which bound them to the wall of the cargo bay. Then the truck would make its turn and all ten hostages, five on either side of the hold, would lean in the direction of the turn. When the truck actually made the turn, the hostages on the inside of the turn would be pressed flat against their respective wall by centrifugal force.

On the other side, invisible hands would pull passengers forward until they were leaning well out over their own chairs. The truck would complete the turn and half the hostages would be settled gently back into the seats while the others would have to pull themselves back from hovering over the splintery floorboards. There would be a momentary respite of
relief and then the process would begin again as the truck slowed for yet another turn.

Outside there was an ongoing cacophony of noise, most of it traffic. Vehicle engines whined by, horns honked and bus engines revved up. Once a trolley car clanged by. Occasionally all the hostages could hear was the drum of the truck’s wheels on pavement. Once, when the truck came to a stop, they heard a snatch of a conversation, close enough to distinguish the voices were human but too distant to distinguish the words. Someone said they must be at a traffic light and suggested they bang on the side of the cargo hold. Before anyone had a chance to react, the truck lurched forward.
The dim light in the cargo interior cast an eerie gloom, which was accentuated by the guttural noises of fright from the hostages, male and female, young and old, macho and management. Not making circumstances any easier was the fact the van carried an odor, which was a cross between moldy lettuce and rabbit droppings tinged with just a hint of ammonia.

“It won’t be long now,” John’s voice broke over the speaker in the cargo compartment. “You all know what to do. Just like last night, when I tell you to queue up, stand in a line at the back of the vehicle. The rear door will be unlocked and you are to walk straight forward. Do not look either way; just walk directly forward. Once again, make yourselves comfortable. You’re going to be here for most of the day.”

The truck made a few more lurches and then slowed, almost to walking speed. The going was smooth now and there was drumming coming from the wheels beneath the floor, like the truck was traveling over bricks. Gradually the vehicle slowed to a crawl and then stopped. But it was only for a second. Then it moved forward again at a crawl, the front of the truck rising as though it was stepping over a curb. A few seconds later the back wheels went up over the same bump. The sounds of the street were gone now, replaced by a rain of noise on the bottom of the truck.

“Must be gravel tossed up from the roadbed,” said one of the vice presidents. No one else said anything. Vice presidents don’t rate much of a response at banks, particularly Butterfield-Fargo where there were more vice presidents than lice on a punk rocker. Then there was some scraping on the side of the truck, as though the vehicle was going through a forest.

Finally the truck jerked to a stop. Gears ground and then the vehicle moved backward, slowly, until the rear tires felt some obstruction. The truck stopped and the light in the cargo hold went out.

“All right, ladies and gentlemen,” came the voice from the darkness. “You know the drill so let’s not have any problems. Line up. Wait for the tailgate to rise and walk forward. No wandering eyes, now.”

Steven C. Levi is a sixty-something freelance historian and commercial writer who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, his home for past 40 years. He has a BA in European History and MA in American history from the University of California Davis and San Jose State. He has more than 80 books in print or on Kindle.