©01 The Media Desk
I still don't know how to report the robbery we investigated at the Southtown bank. Was it one robbery or two? An inside job from the beginning or a very well planned, no, a very well scripted, job by professionals.
It happened like this.
Wednesday morning I got a call at the police station that the bank had just been robbed. A man had walked in and demanded the cash in the teller's drawers in small bundles. They had complied without argument. He was gone in minutes with no weapon ever being displayed. The dye pack went off in one bundle. He dropped it and ran off with the others.
We were on the scene in minutes, but the suspect was long gone.
As we got statements and checked the security tapes, the local FBI field Agent and two bank examiners came in. They spoke to the branch manager and began to do their job determining how much had been taken and look for clues.
During the course of the investigation a count of the cash on hand was conducted.
I was relegated to duty at the front door telling customers the bank was closed for right now, but should be open again shortly.
The FBI left and came back. One of the bank examiners stepped out and returned. Other officials arrived and left as their duties dictated.
Finally the bank manager said she was opening the drive up and for me to point the customers that way.
The bank opened for regular services that afternoon.
We continued the investigation into the robbery with only a bad picture and sketchy description of the robber.
Then Friday afternoon we got another call.
I drove down to the bank and met the FBI Special Agent that was handling the case.
"Four hundred and seventy thousand dollars." The manager said.
"How? When?" I asked not immediately grasping what was happening.
"It wasn't during the robbery." The FBI Agent said.
"He only got about six hundred dollars."
"Six hundred and forty." The manager said.
I looked around the bank. "You're sure the money is actually missing. That it's not just a paperwork mistake."
The manager nodded. "We've counted this branch down to the nickels. I personally went through and balanced it up, including the money lost in the robbery. Everything in and out. The transfers and receipts. It's really missing."
The FBI man had his face screwed up. "Wednesday. We need to know everybody that was here and everything that happened."
And so the second investigation began.
We got a break that night. The robber had been out celebrating at a topless nightclub and had said too much.
"Clairice heard the whole thing." I said to the Agent.
He smiled at her.
"He had been in here before." The waitress said. "But tonight he had more money than usual. He gave me a twenty-dollar tip and I told him he couldn't afford that. He said he could afford a lot of things, he had just hit a bank."
She pulled her sweater around herself and smiled at us.
This close, it was obvious she was twenty years older than she was trying to look with twice the makeup she would wear in public. She continued. "I smiled and nodded, then on break, I called you guys."
"Thank you." I said to her, the Agent nodded and thanked her as well.
Downtown, the suspect, one Jason Elmo Fredrick Williams, current address a men's shelter, confessed to a string of robberies, burglaries, and one dog napping. "But the bank weren't my idea. I only got six hundret bucks."
The public defender told him not to say anymore, but Jason kept talking like a pull string doll. "The man sai't all I hadt to do was walkt in and get the money and he't see to it I didn't get in trouble." He had a slight speech problem that was evidently made worse by stress.
"Which man?" The Agent asked him.
Jason sat there.
"Did you know him before he set this up with you?" I asked him.
"I'd seent him aroundt."
"Does he have a name?" The Agent asked him. "Even a nickname."
"Some o' the guys at the labor temple call him Prof'ss'r or Doct'r, stuff like that."
"Labor temple." I said.
"Ya know. Downt where you get work."
We got a rough description, which could have been about half the men in town.
He was put in holding for further questioning.
The Agent and I set up shop in my office and went through what we had.
"I wouldn't put a bet on good mister Williams being our mastermind." I said.
"Me either. Now. You ever heard of somebody called 'the Professor'?"
"Just on cable reruns."
He nodded "We need to stop by the union hall."
"Tomorrow morning." I looked at the clock.
"I'll meet you here."
There is a certain look people give police officers when they are not guilty, but they are suspicious. I've heard it called 'fear and loathing' after a seventies journalist. The labor hall was full of people giving us that look.
We talked to the woman at the main desk. She didn't have his real name or address. But she knew him. Or at least had seen him.
"Yeah. He's been here. He works a lot of casual labor. Ain't seen him last couple of days though."
I gave her my card. "If he comes in, call me."
Back in the car the Agent grinned. "Any bets she'll call?"
"Any bets 'the professor' will know we were here before we're out of the parking lot?"
Back at the office we got a surprise, the bank manager was waiting for us with her boss.
"You're kidding?" I said to the manager.
The Vice President of Branch Operations had a perpetual serious look on his face. "We never kid about a loss due to criminal actions."
The Agent fought down a smile. "We're not kidding either, it's just hard to believe."
The Vice President nodded. "Yes, it is."
"The names on the ID they showed you. Did you recognize it?" I asked to change the subject.
"No, but it was from our main office, I don't know everybody." The manager answered.
"The names are of our employees, however, they were not in town Wednesday. They were in our main office. This has been verified. The examiners that appeared at the Southtown branch were not bank employees."
"Can I see your ID?" I asked the VP. He reached into his jacket and produced it. "That looks just like what they had Wednesday."
The Agent looked at it. "It wouldn't be a tall order if somebody knew their stuff to counterfeit it."
"The magnetic stripe is coded." The manager said.
"What would you need the stripe for?" I asked her.
"Vault access. To open a terminal. To set the alarm."
I looked at the Agent. "I don't remember them doing any of that Wednesday."
He nodded. "The vault was already open, they had put the drawers in it after they counted them down."
The manager caught our drift. "And the alarm had been disabled already."
I sat back and sighed. "Perfect."
The Agent nodded. "No wonder they call him the Professor."
The VP frowned at us. "You will bring in the perpetrator."
"Oh yeah, the guy that set this up is going to walk right in here and give up."
"You have the robber in custody."
"No." The Agent said flatly. "We have the fall guy in custody."
Monday morning we got another break.
"That's one of the examiners." I said looking at the body in the cooler.
"Suffocation." The Coroner said. "I'm still waiting on blood tests."
The FBI Agent looked at the dead man's face. "I don't think this guy is the Professor."
I nodded slowly, "He doesn't look the part, but he was one of the examiners."
"Yeah, the quiet one." The Agent looked up and took a deep breath. "How long has he been dead?"
The Coroner shrugged, "Three days, four, I'll know more tomorrow." He reached for a folder, "I got the ID on him back a few minutes ago."
We drove out to where Mr. Beuford (Sammy) Sheppard had been discovered by a busboy dumping trash behind a restaurant.
A uniformed officer was sorting through the garbage in the dumpster for evidence.
We drank coffee and talked to the old man that was still pretty shaken up by the events that morning. "It was just after daylight, I went back out and there he was. I didn't see him earlier. It was dark you know."
We nodded and went back outside.
"Sir. Sir! I got something." The officer said. He handed the Agent an evidence bag.
"The ID's." He said handing it to me.
"Wanna bet there's not a fingerprint to be seen?" I said looking at them. The picture on the one that wasn't the late Mr. Sheppard was gone. The ID cut in half.
"We'll check them anyway." The Agent said.
For all the breaks in the case, we were still missing two very important things. The money, and the Professor.
Mr. Williams recognized the unfortunate Mr. Sheppard as one of the occasional workers that operated from the union hall.
"I didn' know he knowedt the Proff'ss'r."
"Didn't know." The Agent said. Jason was confused.
"Look at the third picture again." I said.
He did. His eyes got wide. "That man's dead!"
"That's what the Medical Examiner said." I said with a slight grin.
"Now. Do you remember anything else about the Professor?" The Agent asked him.
"No, sir." He was still staring at the dead man. "But'n if'ns I do, I'll shorely tell ya."
The charming residence of Mr. Sheppard was no help at all. He lived, as it were, in what used to be called a cold water flat. Except now, I'm not sure the cold water worked either.
There was no money, no plans of the bank, no laser printer with discarded copies of the ID's lying next to it.
The only link to the Professor was a copy of the local paper that had been folded in quarters for reading. From the contents of the apartment, Mr. Sheppard wasn't one that read the paper on a regular basis.
I carefully picked up the newspaper, it was last Thursday's with a front page story about the bank robbery.
"Nobody's been here for a few days." The Agent said.
I nodded and showed him the paper. "I'll bet he was here that morning and decided his partner had outlived his usefulness."
"I'll take that bet." The Agent nodded.
"So where did he take him for three days before dumping him behind the trash bin?"
"If I knew that we'd be finishing up our arrest reports right now."
The other tenets in the building knew, or said they knew, nothing.
We left the apartment to the fingerprint guys and started downstairs. But the first few surfaces they dusted had been wiped clean.
For a week we got no further on the case.
The Agent said he had some vacation time coming, he'd be in touch.
"I wish I did." I said checking my time sheet.
I kept the file open on the case, but... other things came up and it got pushed back on my desk near the calendar and a baseball signed by Pete Rose.
Three days later a deceased 'John Doe' turned up near an international airport back east. He loosely matched the shaky description and bad security camera picture we had of the other bank examiner. It seemed 'the Professor' had found his way out of town only to wind up sitting in a parked car. There was no ID on the body. Also, there was no money in the car.
One day about a month later I got a letter that reopened the case, only to close it.
Inside the envelope were a postcard, and the other half of the Professor's ID.
The postcard was from Rio.
"Excellent investigation. We'll have to do it again sometime."
The signature was that of the Agent.
For more adventures with The Detective see:
1. The Robbery
2. murder and other fun at The Sun Club
3. The Water Murders
4. Amused To Death
5. Too many suspects spoil the case.
6. The Grand Conspiracy.
7. Murder isn't a Joke.
8. "Sometimes you can't arrest the perpetrator."
9. A Partner In Crime.
10. "Somebody is killing all the bad guys."
the Desk's Fiction Department
[NOTE: All characters, places, events, and businesses/organizations are FICTIONAL. NO inference to REAL anything is to be made. No similarities to ACTUAL anything is intended. This Piece Is FICTION, enjoy it as such. Thank You -the Author.]
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