The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound – Chapter 15 – Readers and Writers Book Club

The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound – Chapter 15

The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 15

Even though it was early afternoon, fog still shrouded the streets of San Francisco. But the fog only hovered at street level. Forty floors up, the sun began to peek through the wispy top of the layer of fog and sixty floors up, it was as if there was no city, simply an ocean of churning gray froth washing the horizon with nothing save the spires of skyscrapers which rose like teeth from the mouth of a dragon. Far to the north where its uprights were hidden by the angle of view, the rise and fall of the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge appeared as a pair of giant snakes swimming in tandem in the sea of gray mist.

At 123 floors up, Harrah was standing at his office window looking down on the city like a lord surveying his fief. At his elevation, the sun hung like a giant, sphere of fire, its heat blasting through his office window like sunlight through a magnifying glass. Though the window was cold to the touch, inside his office it was so hot the air conditioner was set at ten. With his arms outstretched as though he was about to fly, Harrah, dressed in a jet black silk suit, appeared as a cutout against the blistering sunshine to Billingsley and Hardesty who sat in matching leather chairs before the president’s desk.

“This is not a good day.” Harrah placed his hands into the pockets of jacket with elegance, as if he had a raw egg in each hand. Leaving the window, he glided rather than walked across the Persian carpets and settled behind the teak desk. “But nothing less than could have been expected.”

“Did the perp say where the exchange was to take place?” Hardesty leaned his butterball torso back against the leather chair.

“No. They just asked if we were interested in an exchange, our original $10 million for $5 million in smaller bills.”

“Clever.” Billingsley smiled. “We give them five. They give us ten. We collect another 10 in insurance. It keeps us from being very cooperative with the authorities and it gives them a clear $5 million.”

“Too clever. Too clever. Clearly they know we have to get the specific bills of the $10 million back. It means we have to deal with them. Play the game their way.”

“The flip side is also true, sir. If they don’t deal with us, we’ll hunt them down and we don’t have to know who Ernesto A. Miranda was.”

“It doesn’t mean we won’t. It just means we won’t have the incentive.”

“We can trust them, right?” Hardesty ran his finger nails along the crease in his sharkskin suit, which ran over the bulge in his midsection. He looked as though he had a bowling ball concealed under his jacket.

Billingsley snickered.

Harrah leaned back in his chair. “Oh, I trust them,” he said. “It’s whether they can trust us.”

“No honor among thieves, eh?” Billingsley leaned forward and began tapping his bony fingers on the desk. “No matter how we do this it’s going to be tricky. I don’t suppose they’d take a check?”

“Very unlikely,” Harrah said as he opened the top drawer of his desk. “I half-expected we would be getting a call of this nature so I asked a clean $10 million be set aside. Frankly I’m surprised they only asked for five. Not very greedy are they?”

“It’s not a good sign, sir.” Hardesty shook his head. “Greedy people are easy to fool. Fools are unpredictable.”

“Maybe,” replied Harrah. “But for the moment we have to play this card. It’s the only one we have.”

“How about Hopkins?” Billingsley shook his head. “Do you still want us to, uh, make sure . . .”

“Don’t worry about him yet. We know where to find him when we want to. This little ballet with the perpetrators has just begun and I’m not worried about a sharper with a Mercedes 210. We’ve only started this little dance and we don’t know where it will lead. We can’t afford to eliminate a player too early in the game.”

Hardesty sensed a change in the wind. “I still say Hopkins is involved. Deeply involved. He was in a position to tip the thieves. He’s still a key player. In fact, I’m surprised the thieves haven’t said they want to use him as an intermediary.”

“Oh, it’s coming,” said Harrah with a cruel smile. “I anticipate moves, like a chess player. We’re going to have a few false starts and some testing, at least until the perps are sure we’re serious. Then they’ll bring up the name of Hopkins who is going to refuse to become involved and then, finally, relent and participate.”

“Do we want him involved?” Billingsley drummed the desk.

“Right now we don’t have a choice.” Harrah stood up and, taking the cue, the two men stood as well. “We need the $10 million back. If we have to deal with scum-sucking pigs, so be it. At this moment, they are holding a very strong hand.”

“Perhaps,” Hardesty said as he pulled his suit jacket down over his bulbous belly. “But things could change awfully quickly.”

“But not before five. That’s when they’re going to call back. In the meantime I want the two of you to go to the Federal Express Terminal at San Francisco International. Ten million in clean money came in – or is coming in. Make sure you get an armored car that doesn’t stand out like a buffalo in a herd of goats. And stay in touch.”

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.