The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound
Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper
Master of the Impossible Crime
Candice Greenleaf, Branch Manager and Chief Teller Supervisor of the Butterfield-Fargo First Bank of San Francisco, awoke to melodious music wafting through the speakers set flush against the sheetrock walls of the room. For a moment she lay quietly on the cot, her eyes adjusting to the darkness. Then, slowly, the lights came up. When it became too bright to be comfortable, she pulled back the rough army blanket and pulled herself slowly to a seated position. All around her, the nine other employees of the Butterfield-Fargo First National Bank were beginning to stir, everyone on his or her cot and each covered with an identical gray-brown army blanket.
To the untrained eye, the room looked like a cube with five of the six planes covered with sheetrock and the sixth side, the floor, was a flat sea of particleboard.
To the trained eye it looked the same.
A bank of florescent lights was inset into the ceiling a dozen feet off the floor and twin video cameras on opposite walls surveyed the ten hostages with nary a blink. In addition to several ventilation grates, somewhere in the ceiling were some microphones, possibly in the light trenches. They had to be there, the hostages had agreed previously, because no one could spot them anywhere else.
Particularly stressing was the fact no one had been able to spot any sprinkler system in the ceiling, a fact which condemned the three smokers in the group into a fit of panic which was only alleviated when it was agreed they be allowed to smoke in the shower stall only. The butts were submerged in a coffee can half-filled with water and kept in the bathroom to cut down on the possibility of a fire.
The hostages actually occupied two rooms; three if one were to count the entryway. The main room was 100 feet long by 20 feet wide, paced for accurate measurement the first hour the hostages had been incarcerated. Ten cots with futon padding and army blankets were scattered about at one end of the room. A weight machine, three tables along with a dozen chairs dominated the other end of the enclosure. Piles of magazines, comic books, mystery novels and crossword puzzle books were scattered around the tables like flotsam around a pier at slack tide. An ongoing game of Monopoly was in play on the red card table, one of the players clearly about to foreclose on everyone else, and, on the two six-foot-long institutional Formica models, a jigsaw puzzle was painfully being assembled and a poker game, complete with Caesar’s Palace chips, had a sizable pot waiting for one of the last three of the original five in the game. In the back corner, by the bathroom door, were two large metal frames each holding an oversized, black, polyethylene garbage bag. Both bags were half-filled.
Set into the wall beside the garbage bag frames was the door to the bathroom. It was an institutional establishment with three toilets set along one wall followed by three washbasins over a tile floor. In the corner of the room was a GI-issue metal table piled with toilet paper rolls, feminine sanitary products, facial tissue, spray deodorants, toothbrushes in boxes and toothpaste. There were also some hairdryers and make-up kits. A military-style shower stall dominated the back of the bathroom like a walk-in closet with piles of white locker room towels on shelving. A third polyethylene bag, this one for wet towels, was in a frame in the bathroom.
“Good morning, my friends, good morning.” It was the cheery voice of John, the name their captor had christened himself. “It’s another typical San Francisco day, my friends. A bit cold, in the mid-60s according to the weather people. The fog is expected to blow off so it should be clear. I’m sorry you are going to miss the stunning view today.”
“We’re sorry too,” shouted Greenleaf and three of the other hostages clapped weakly from their cots.
“I know how you feel; I really do,” replied John. “Your stay here is an inconvenience for both you and me, believe me. Now, you know the routine. If you place all of your garbage bags in the entryway, I’ll see you get a nice warm breakfast. As you requested, this morning it is from Burger King.”
The room erupted with moans and razzing.
“I’m sorry but it’s the best I can do for the moment. But you may be pleased to know this is probably your last night here in the box. Everything seems to be moving along well in the outside world. If it continues to move along as well as we anticipate, there is every reason to believe you will be home in your own beds by midnight. Won’t it be lovely?”
“Up yours!” one of the tellers shrieked. Someone else gave John a raspberry.
“Not nice, not nice,” John responded. “But I understand. I do have a special treat for you this morning. I’ll give you a dozen copies of today’s newspaper so you can read all about our exploits. As you can see, we are quite modest. You may find it interesting the police believe you have been taken out of the San Francisco area because a large-scale manhunt has failed to find the bus.” The voice paused for a moment, “or you. Such a pity.”
Greenleaf shook her head clear and let her feet feel around for the floor for her shoes. She should have known better. As soon as the big toe on her right found the particleboard, she picked up a splinter. She snapped her foot back and then leaned over to pick up her shoes by hand. Overhead, John droned on.
“It’s going to be a long day for all of us so make sure you are fresh and ready to travel. It’s a little after seven in the morning and we expect to be moving by ten so you will have three hours to tidy up and make ready to go.”
As soon as John signed off, there was a hubbub of grumbling. No one was interested in staying where they were but no one seemed willing to take the chance they weren’t going to be killed.
The youngest teller, Cheri Molk, a temporary who had the misfortune to have been assigned to the bank the morning of the robbery pulled Greenleaf aside. “Do you really think they’re going to let us go? I mean, my luck so far has been bad.”
“The good news, Cheri, we haven’t seen anyone’s face. At the very least it means the bad guys are trying to make sure we don’t know who they are. The bad news is there had to have been an inside person on this job.”
“There are only three people who could have been the inside person – and two of them are in here with us.”
“Yeah. The man who’s been wearing the bow tie and the woman in the gray-and-black suit. Or what was a suit before we started on this trip. Be very careful what you say around those two.”
Greenleaf leaned over as she slipped her shoes on. As she was bent over she leaned toward the young teller and said softly, “Give me another of those deposit slips, Cheri. It’s a good thing you kept those from your interview for this job.”
Molk dug around in the jacket of her dark blue jersey which was folded on a chair at the head of the cot.
“Don’t flash those around, Cheri. You never know who’s watching.” Molk handed her the pack of deposit slips.
“We’ve got five left. We left one in the bus, one in the truck and I’m going to leave another one here. You never know who’ll find one of these.” Greenleaf surreptitiously waved one of the Butterfield-Fargo First National deposit slips as she slipped it between the rough futon and the canvas of the camp cot. “Maybe it’ll help someone find us.”