The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound – Chapter 53 t0 58

The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 53

After taking several minutes of verbal abuse from the pregnant woman’s husband, the two officers were able to make contact with Chief Thayer to say they had lost track of the armored car. While they were talking on the radio, the husband helped his wife back up the stairs into the house above the garage. Two minutes later, when the officers went upstairs to get the names of the couple, no one answered their knocks. Through the front window the two officers saw the unit was empty.

From the front porch they could also see all the way through the kitchen to an open window situated next to an empty refrigerator.

When they reported into headquarters they were informed the Dodge Comet driven by the pregnant woman was stolen.

The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 54

Chief Thayer turned onto Older Avenue and split his entourage. He and the lead would enter Ruef Street while the next two cars would proceed only as far as the corner of Older and Ruef where they would block the cul de sac. The last car would proceed around to the Spreckels Parkway where they would block anyone coming down the slope from the back of 1906 Ruef.

The map showed a short walkway and the Chief had made it clear to his men he wanted the back door closed before he went in the front. Two minutes behind them was SWAT, one of the few times when blues went in before the hardware boys.

With clockwork precision the San Francisco Police took 1906 Ruef. Spilling out of their cars the men grabbed critical locations around the garage. Three patrolmen took positions on their bellies, shotguns leveled at garage doors. Two patrolwomen were sweeping around to the blind side of the garage while a team with drawn pistols was hunching through the painting scaffolding and tip-toeing through the spilled paint.

Chief Thayer, behind the front door of his patrol car, was bellowing threats over the microphone in his car when the middle garage door was slowly raised. Inside, clearly lit by the glare of the naked bulbs, were Harrah, Billingsley and Hardesty standing around what appeared to be a pallet of bricks. Noonan and Smith were standing at the edge of the garage door hauling on chains slowly raising the plated door.

The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 55

“Here we go!”

Rasperson switched the automatic camera drive off and took
the photographs manually. “18, 17, 16 . . . 3, 2,” and the camera jammed. Quickly he popped one camera off the tripod and bolted the other one down. It took him an instant to focus and then he started snapping again, “36, 35, turn a little bit, just a bit, Thank you, 34, 33”.

By frame 30 the blue uniforms obscured the view, but he kept snapping. He only stopped at 21 when the garage door came down again. Then he reloaded the first camera.

“This ain’t over yet ‘cause the fat lady hasn’t sung yet.”

The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 56

After what seemed a lifetime, the truck suddenly braked violently and then took a left turn. For a moment the centrifugal force strained to pull Greenleaf out of her seat and then, when it abated, she was slammed back into her chair and against the wall. Now the ride was smooth and the truck slowed almost to a crawl. The noise of traffic disappeared and only the staccato of wheels on the cobblestone streets could be heard.

As the truck slowed even further, the new voice came over the intercom. “Your journey is just about completed, my friends. As long as there is no difficulty on your part, there is no danger. And I repeat, as long as there is no difficulty. Momentarily you are going to be leaving the vehicle and entering a building. We will be pulling this vehicle inside the building where it will be pitch black. While I will be wearing night vision equipment, you will be, as they say, as blind as bats. Just because it is dark, however, do not believe I cannot see what you are doing. And I will be armed.”

Just as the speaker took a breath, the truck slowed to a crawl and then came to a stop. There was a grinding of gears, the transmission of the panel truck screaming in agony as its direction of travel reversed. Greenleaf was now pulled toward the front of the truck as it backed up. The truck traveled a dozen yards and then stopped. The engine idled and the truck rocked as someone got out, the door slamming.

Almost immediately there was the faint sound of a large garage door being raised. The truck rocked again as the driver got back into the cab. Again the vehicle was reversed, only to stop within 10 or 15 feet and gently tapped something solid. The truck shook again as the driver got out and, once again, there was the sound of a garage door. This time the sound of the door was
punctuated with a slam indicating it had come down and met with the pavement. But this time the driver did not return to the cab.

“This will be your last transfer,” the voice came back over the intercom. “In a moment I will flick off the lights in the vehicle and open the rear doors. You are to move forward slowly. The back of the truck is buttressed up against a loading dock so you should raise your feet a little as you step out of the truck. Though you will not be able to see it, there is a hallway directly in front of you. Once you are in the hallway, feel your way back to the last door. Open it and go inside. Don’t worry about any of the other doors; they are all locked. And, once again, remember, I have night vision goggles on and I assure you if there is any hanky-panky not one of you will reach the last door alive. Now, please rise and stand in a line. Put your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you.”

There was a general rumbling of feet as the hostages stood. Suddenly the lights went out and instantaneously the back door to the van popped open. The rush of fresh air washed over the hostages and chased away much of the stench of the van.

“Move! Move! Move!” There was a tapping on the side of the van as the hostages were urged forward.

Greenleaf, her hands on the shoulders of the assistant branch manager, waited for him to move. When he took a step forward, she did as well. Behind her she could feel the rest of the line moving forward. In the pitch darkness she slowly shuffled forward, her toes gently probing the darkness for the loading dock. When the Assistant Branch Manager took a step up, she followed suit and felt the line behind her doing so as well.

Shifting her weight onto the loading dock, she felt the solid surface beneath her feet, clearly different from the springy bed of the cargo vehicle. The crunch of her feet on the loading dock told her she was walking on concrete. She felt rather than saw she had entered a hallway when the sound of her shoes told her she was on a slick tile or linoleum surface. Her hands still on the shoulders of the assistant branch manager, she moved forward.

After progressing a dozen steps into the hallway, Greenleaf was startled by the slamming of a massive door somewhere behind them. Then, muffled as though through a wall, came the sound of a large door being raised and the cough of a truck engine being started.

“Which door am I supposed to enter?” The voice of the assistant branch manager boomed in the darkness as Greenleaf felt him reach to his right and begin feeling for a wall.

There was no response. The only sound was the muffled slam of a heavy door.


Still there was only silence.

“Hey, you!” Still silence.

The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 57

By the time Douglas Hopkins pulled up to 1906 Ruef, the area was littered with police cars. Harrah’s Bentley was boxed in by a SWAT van and the lawns were awash with police officers, their bright badges sparkling in the headlights of the police vehicles as they stood around outside of the garage. No one seemed poised for action even though quite a few of the men and women in uniform were carrying shotguns at the ready.

As Hopkins pulled into the open driveway, two men in flak jackets held up their hands in a motion to indicate he should stop his car. Their uniforms were slick from the rain. He pulled to a stop and one of the men came around to the driver’s side window. Hopkins rolled down his window.

“Who are you? And please keep your hands on the top of the steering wheel, sir.”

“Douglas Hopkins. Capital Assurance and Fidelity, Inc. I was told to be here with a Ryder truck by my client. What’s going on here?”

The man with the shotgun didn’t bat an eye. “Will you please open up the back of the truck for us?”

“Is there something wrong?” Hopkins turned toward the window and his hands slid on the steering wheel. This caused the remaining policeman in front of the truck to react nervously.

“Please keep your hands on the top of the steering wheel, sir. Now. I would like to check the contents of the truck.”

“There’s nothing in the truck.”

“Yes, sir. But I’d still like to have a look. You see, I’m from Missouri.” Hopkins nodded his head. “How am I supposed to get the key to the back off the keyring when it’s in the ignition without taking my hands off the steering wheel?”

“Very slowly, sir. Very slowly.” He nodded to the shotgun-wielding SWAT troop and then returned his gaze to Hopkins. “Now, sir. Very slowly reach one hand down and turn the engine off. Then, toss the key ring out the window.”

Slowly Hopkins reached down and turned the engine off. He extracted the keys and dangling the ring from the very tips of his right hand, he lifted the keys well above the level of the dashboard so there was no question his hand held no weapon. Keeping his left hand on the wheel, he passed the keys out of the driver’s window and handed them to the police officer.

“Just keep your hands on the wheel, sir. This won’t take long.”

Hopkins kept both his hands on the wheel and smiled weakly at the SWAT trooper in front of the truck. Behind him the cargo doors of the truck were pulled open. The well-oiled back gate was opened and then quickly closed.

“You’re quite right, sir. The truck is empty. Please step outside, sir. We still have to check the cab – and you.”

“Am I under arrest?” Hopkins said it with such trepidation the SWAT trooper with the keys in his hand laughed.

“Should you be?”

“Well, I ran a few yellow lights getting here. I was afraid my evil ways had caught up with me. What’s going on here?”

“You’re not under arrest and as to what’s going on here, I’m not so sure myself. All I do know is you’re expected but I’m under strict orders to make sure nothing goes awry. So, if you will, I need to search you.”

“Not a problem.” Hopkins turned toward the side of the truck and leaned against it. He spread his feet and the policeman began patting him down. “If you find any money, let me know.”

After the body search, Hopkins was directed to a side door in the garage.

The Matter of the Vanishing Greyhound

Golden Gate Disappearing Greyhound Bus Caper

Steven Levi

Master of the Impossible Crime

Chapter 58

“Sounds like we’re on our own people,” The assistant branch manager said, his voice reverberating in the hallway no one could see. “Everybody find a wall and see if we can find a door somewhere.”

There was a general shuffling of feet and the sound of hands fumbling in the dark. Greenleaf found a door handle but it was locked. Someone found a nonworking light switch and Cheri Molk found a working drinking fountain. “At least we can have a drink,” quipped one of the tellers.

Finally someone found a door that would open. Navigating by the sound of her voice, Greenleaf moved toward the door. Guided by her hands, she passed from a narrow hallway into a massive, cool room. From the way the sound dissipated, it clearly had a high, vaulted ceiling.

“Feel your way around the walls carefully,” the Assistant Branch Manager said. “See if you can find a light switch.”

“I already have,” someone said, “but it takes one of those special keys to get the lights on.”

“Well, keep feeling your way around the walls, maybe something will turn up.”

Greenleaf’s hands hit something familiar about five feet above the floor level. Even without the power of sight she knew instantly what it was and, without a second thought, grabbed the lever and gave it a power jerk. In the next instant emergency lights exploded to life and the wail of a fire alarm reverberated throughout the room.

It took less than a second for every true San Franciscan to know where he or she was. For those who didn’t know, the name of the room was written in six-inch letters running along the curved wall of the room: De Young Museum Planetarium.

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.