The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound – Chapter 48 to 51

The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 48

Chief Thayer got his call seconds after the Ryder truck and the armored vehicle parted company.

“Which one do I follow?”

“Follow the money! The armored car! We’re pretty sure where the Ryder is going. Follow the money!”

“Yes, sir.”

“He says to follow the armored car.”

“That won’t be hard.”

“Just don’t lose him.”

“How can you lose an armored car in San Francisco?”


The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 49

As Rasperson maneuvered his way through the shrubbery, Noonan and Smith prepared to advance on the garage. Smith pulled her .38 from the small of her back and clicked the cylinder open. After checking the loads, she replaced the pistol and then pulled a .25 caliber out of a holster on her right ankle.

“You certainly come loaded.” Noonan smiled as he opened the cell phone.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in there. Now, I assume you’re calling for backup. This is not going to be a picnic.”

Noonan hit speed dial. “Right you are. At times like this, I’ll need all the friends I can get.” He smiled at Smith and then broke into conversation on the phone. “Chief. Yes, it’s time for backup. What?”

Noonan was silent for a moment as he listened intently on his cell phone. Then he looked up at Smith. Covering the mouthpiece, he said, “Hopkins and the armored car split up. There is an unmarked car following the armored van but Hopkins is on his own. The Chief is assuming he is on his way here.”

“I sure hope he is.” Smith looked out the front window of the van nervously.

“The Ryder truck is empty so it’s only reasonable he’s on his way here. I think it’s about time we close in.”

Noonan looked at his cell phone again and spoke into the equipment. “Chief. We’re on our way in. Yes, we are armed. Rather, Smith is armed. No, I don’t expect any trouble. You have the address, right? Good. Harrah is here now so I’m sure he’ll talk rather than fight.”

Noonan was silent for a moment and then confirmed the address of the house. As Detective Smith listened, Noonan gave the layout of the house and the garage. Smith let her hand stray to her pistol. Noonan closed the phone and turned to Smith. “OK, Detective. Time to earn those big bucks.”

They both went out different doors of the van, Smith on the driver’s side and Noonan from the passenger side. It was still raining outside and the cool, wet staccato of the rain drops on their heads was a relief from the stuffy interior of the van. All around them was the wet smell of the flowers and the pungent odor of some kind of brush. Noonan couldn’t see Rasperson but he knew wherever he was, there was a telephoto lens focused at the garage.

Noonan and Smith casually walked across the rain-slickened street and up onto the sidewalk on the far side of the street from where the van was hidden. Down the cement slab they walked, a house and a half and then cut across the wet lawn to the corner of the house at 1906 Ruef. If anyone was watching they didn’t give the alarm, or at least there was no movement discernible from Noonan and Smith’s vantage point. Smith pulled her pistol free and looked at Noonan.
“You didn’t bring a gun?!” Smith’s whisper was harsh and incredulous.

“I hate to get powder burns on my cuffs. They are so hard to get out. Let’s go.” He pointed toward the garage with his head. “Shall we make our entrance?”

Smith nodded and the two of them stepped under the scaffolding and moved through a tarp tunnel parallel to the house. When they were less than a dozen feet from the side door of the garage, Noonan broke out from the protection of the house and walked quickly to the door. He had his hand on the knob and was turning it just as Smith caught up with him. He twisted the wet knob in his and hand and pushed the door open. Stepping inside in front of Smith and her leveled revolver, he made his entrance. Behind him, Smith stood in the doorway, obligingly holding the door wide open allowing the light inside to spill out onto the wet lawn and walkway.


The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 50

If the driver of the armored van was aware of the fact he was being tailed, his driving gave no indication he was aware of the unmarked car at his back door. But it was clear he was trying to be as difficult as possible to follow. Staying well below the speed limit, he wound his way through the city streets, double backing once and even stopping for 60 seconds twice in parking lots.

During the whole time the two detectives in the shadow vehicle were able to maintain their distance and surveillance without much difficulty. The only time the detectives became concerned was when the van went down Lombard Street. Once into the brickwork there was no way they could stay far behind and maintain any reasonable visual contact with the truck. But luck was with them because it was early enough there were other cars on the street, tourists from the license plates, and though they were two cars back, they could keep the van in sight the entire time.

The armored car zigzagged for another few minutes and then, after some strange maneuvers through a pair of parking lots connected by an alley, headed due west. From Fell to Kezar to Third to Parnasses the van drove without any bizarre actions. It passed the University of California San Francisco and then made a left on 14th. Halfway up the block it began to pick up speed and, four car lengths back, the tailing vehicle did the same.

The men had no inkling of any problem until the ancient Dodge Comet suddenly jetted out of a driveway on the left-hand side of the street. One moment the tailing car was leisurely driving behind the armored van and the next it was slamming on its brakes to avoid a collision. The unmarked car slipped to a stop but not before smashing into the passenger side of the Comet. There was a sickening crunch as the two cars met followed by the unrelenting high pitched whine of a horn in which its on switch had been permanently jammed in the open position.

As the two detectives watched helplessly, the armored van made a left on Kirkham and disappeared. Before they could get out of their car, a man came running down the stairs of the apartment above the garage from which the car had emerged. When he helped the driver out, it was clear she was gravid.

And she was hysterical.

The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 51

Rasperson wasn’t sure what it was he was getting on film. In fact, he wasn’t sure he was getting anything at all. The rain wasn’t pelting but it was still making his job miserable. Huddling in the bushes hunched behind a tripod 20 yards back from the garage, he was praying he would be able to get a usable shot.

At least one.

All he needed was one.

But he was prepared. In addition to the 300 mm, 2.8 lens with 6400 ASA high-speed film he also had a second camera with a 500 mm lens. Whatever he got was going to be grainy. He also had the camera set on automatic and was using a power drive, two tactics he hated under normal circumstances – but there was not much normal about tonight.

The trick, he decided was getting as many quick shots as he could rather than good ones. When the side door opened he was going to have less than a second to get a shot. He had to be prepared. If he so much as blinked he might miss getting the Pulitzer Prize for Photographic Journalism.

A split second before Noonan entered the side door of the garage, Rasperson’s finger was on the power drive. Taking a deep breath he held it to keep the mist of his breath from clouding any picture. Then he pushed the switch.

He was sure he had three frames of blackness and two of Noonan silhouetted in the doorway. But the next six were a blessing. Detective Smith held the door long enough for him to photographically blast into the room. On the first two he caught the back of a man turning toward the door. He had a full profile for the next shot and then a side profile of a second person, this one with a shotgun. Detective Smith was pulled inside and the door clicked shut.

“Thank you, Lord!” Rasperson let his breath out. “Three and six is nine. 36 less nine is 28. 28 shots left.”

The reporter shuffled his feet in the mud and rotated his shoulders to drive the stiffness away. His breath clouded and obscured his vision for a moment. Still he stared through the SLR, afraid to move. Occasionally he flicked the dust cover more out of habit than necessity. If any rainwater fell, he didn’t know because he is eye was glued to the garage doors at 1906 Ruef.

One instant the garage was simply a bank of three doors, wet with rain and dark with brown paint surrounded by a lawn that was black and set off by the pale ivory of the cement walkway and driveway. In the next instant the entire front of the structure erupted into light. One of the garage doors went up and an ivory colored Ford exploded out of the driveway. Rasperson got one shot, probably blurred, of the driver’s face illuminated by the lights of the garage. At the same moment, through the lighted interior of the garage, he could see the back of a person as he or she disappeared out a door that opened onto the steep hillside of the house.

Rasperson’s finger was on the automatic as the Ford momentarily cut his vision of the garage doors. When the car passed, he could see the side door to the garage was now open wide and he could distinguish three figures dashing around the near side of the house. One toppled a can of paint as he, or she, passed and a pale liquid spread across the now-illuminated lawn and walkway like honey on a table. There was a moment of silence and then, distantly, he heard the sound of motorcycles being started.

Rasperson cursed himself for missing the shot. But still he stayed in a crouch. Something told him it was not all over yet. Noonan, Smith, Harrah and at least one person from English Petroleum were still in the garage. “How many shots have I taken,” he asked himself. “Seven? Nine?
Nineteen left.

What’s going on in there?”

He didn’t have long to wait.

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.