OK, you see, it all started in 1964. There was this bank robbery over in Thornton. And that's, maybe ... eighty - ninety miles as the crow flies, from here. Across the state line. It's a pretty big city.
You're askin', "where's here..."
Well now, this little podunk spot is Station Gorge. Once hailed as the Gate Way to the Wilderness. Back in its heyday.
But now days - well, spend a little time here. Look around. Decide for yourself.
The day of the robbery, the four guys on the scene knew exactly what they each had to do. One, the big Driver, was lookout. He had a walkie-talkie and waited in the stolen, red Cadillac convertible.
It was buttoned-up tight, parked in the rain. The engine runnin'; the Caddie faced the Bank.
The Bank was at the end of the block, down the wet, one way street. That time of day, what with the storm an' all, the Driver hadn't seen a moving car for the last fifteen minutes.
The rain storm pounded down on the one-way street, that dead-ended onto an avenue. Behind the wheel of the parked Caddie, the Driver had a rain-softened view of the marble facade of the Bank, and the big front doors. The building was half-a-block away, just on the other side of the intersection. It was a impressive sight; even in that weather.
The Driver listened to the rain hittin' the tight material of the convertible top. An open parking space was right in front him. He hoped it stayed that way for the next ten minutes or so. That way, the powerful Caddie could just ease out onto the street. The big man wouldn't have to maneuver to get the big car out of the parking space.
He was glad the traffic on the avenue in front of the Bank seemed almost nonexistent. The morning radio said the storm socked-in the whole Midwest. The Driver felt good about that. He'd seen no sign of it lettin' up; and now, the rain was comin' down harder.
The three other men were on foot. Each one took a separate route to the Bank. The two veterans were feelin' confident as they approached the building. They both knew that today, any security alarms in the Bank that got set off, would not go off.
The Fourth Robber turned at the corner in the rain. From under the wide brim of he oversized rain hat, he could now see the Bank across the avenue. He smiled to himself. Well - he was by far the youngest of the bunch. A youngster, really. This would be his first bank job. Heck, this would be his first any job. But he was excited, and felt filled with life. The training the other three men had given him bucked-up his confidence.
After this job, he wanted to go some place the sun would shine everyday. He was thinkin' that he just might skedaddle out to the West Coast with his share of the loot. Maybe try his hand at actin'.
After all, he told himself, he was a bad boy. Sure, he was a little bit nervous. But, he was a bad boy. And this heist would prove it. Not that he'd be tellin' anybody about it. Especially since he might be a movie star some day. But this day would mark, he felt, as a man of consequence. People would notice that something extra. Just by the set to his eyes.
The two veteran robbers on the street, were each armed with pistols. The First Veteran held up a big, opened, black umbrella. He kept the rib-taut material of the final close to the crown of his head, over his shoulders. The rain drummed off the top, almost drowning out the ambient street sounds around him. He had a walkie-talkie stashed under his long raincoat.
The Second Veteran wore a wide-brim hat that looked like a cowboy hat, but wasn't. An' if you asked him, he'd set you straight about it. 'I be lookin' like some cowboy ta', sonny? 'Cause, this ain't. no. cowboy. hat! OK?'
He had the shoulders of his long London Fog rain coat, covered by the wide brim of his hat, hunched up to his ears. The lapels up to further hide his face. He splashed up onto the wet curb, and looked down the sidewalk, to his right; then to his left. Then he made for the front of The Bank. He had his pistol in a waist holster, under his clean, heavy sweatshirt; ready for a quick cross draw to bring his heat into play.
The youngest, the Fourth Robber, felt the crude pistol-grip of his pump-action shotgun bump against the side of his chest. He drew the arm of his duster to his body. That caused the action and barrel of the gun to snug up against his side and his hip under his rain gear. Now that it wasn't bumpin' around, the young man told himself, the shotgun shouldn't be drawing any attention beneath his long, old-fashion cowboy duster.
Once he pulled out the shotgun inside the Bank, he reminded himself, he'd release the gun from the sling around his shoulder. The sling wouldn't hamper his weapon movement that way.
That was just one of the many things the older guys drilled him to remember. They'd given him a numbered list a month ago and expected him to memorize the thing. It was a step-by-step script on his role in the heist. It was an insult, as far as he could see it, at first.
Then, it dawned on him, it was a script. Like, a role in a movie he might star in when he became an actor. A movie about robbin' a bank. OK, he'd told himself, his first major role. He'd nail it.
There was a Fifth Man. He put the job together. But it was only the four robbers who got together in Thornton. They met up three days before. To get the final pieces set up for the heist.
The Driver, and later the First Veteran now carryin' the walkie-talkie, had agreed with the demands of the Fifth Man. That he would get an even share of the cash. And because of all the stuff the Fifth Man told the Driver - well, the Driver and the First Veteran felt sure there would be a lot of it in the Bank. Just waitin' for somebody, who had a clue, to take it.
Plus, the robbers had agreed to steal some large, locked satchel during the heist. The Fifth Man told the Driver that he was certain the thing would be delivered to the Bank. Dead certain. And, the Fifth Man told the Driver when. And when - was in about five minutes.
So the robbers were gonna' hit the place fast. They'd snag the loot and the bag at the same time. Let those scared tellers step on those alarm buttons all they wanted. Do 'em no good that day. That'd been taken care of already.
The fact it'd been rainin' cats-n-dogs all day helped the plan a lot. In the neighborhoods and business blocks around the Bank, some streets were floodin'. The storm was playin' hell with that section of Thornton's storm sewers. With this much rain comin' down, people knew backing-up water would threaten the utilities that ran under the streets.
It so happened, all the phones in the immediate area went on the fritz fifteen minutes before the first robber walked into the Lobby. 'OK, ' office workers in the surrounding buildings told the people next to 'em, 'it's the storm. Expect the electricity's next. It's happened before, yah know. Might even get to go home early.'
The Fifth Man's payment for puttin' the whole shebang together and bringin' the four robbers in on it—well, he claimed the satchel. And whatever the hell is in it. And nobody—was to try and get the thing opened. At all.
And, the Fifth Man would collect his share of the money. But you knew that already.
The Driver and the First Veteran—lugging the walkie-talkie—well, they recruited the other two guys. And they didn't let those other two guys in on the name of the Fifth Man.
And those two guys, they didn't really care to be introduced, either. In fact, they were damn happy not to know anything about the guy. It was, a very good plan.
It was no coincidence, three of the robbers served together in the South Pacific during World War Two. They were proven combat veterans of Guadalcanal.
After that campaign, those three found 'emselves fightin' the Japs again. It had seemed, only the devil wanted have anythin' to do with happened on a couple of those islands. Back then, they were just kids. But, they'd grown up mighty fast. Learnt things nobody in that Bank was gonna' know.
OK. So two of the veterans lived in Station Gorge. They had young, strugglin' families. The Second Veteran—well, he'd grew up in Station Gorge. But after the War—just seemed he could never find any one place ta' call home.
He'd stopped by for visits. 'Bout every year or two. But seemed he was always on his way somewhere else.
The Fourth Robber—the other three called him 'the Kid' because his real name, Teddy, didn't seem dangerous enough. He happened to be the nephew of the Second Veteran.
Now, that boy had been in some state prison out West. In the slammer from the time he was nineteen, 'til he was just about twenty-three.
Said he'd gotten arrested for auto theft, corruption of a minor, transportation of a minor across state lines for immoral purposes, statutory rape and some other crap. But he'd only went up the river on the auto theft. And the other crap.
Turned out the minor, the nephew was accused of havin' corruptin', had pooped-out a baby that just—could not—have been his kid. Happened a week before the boy had been to go on trial. So, the Kid copped to a plea on the stolen car and the other crap.
And, he'd done his time.
The Kid had known how and when to fight. He'd also known how to get along. He'd paid attention while in the joint. And he'd picked up some skills he'd not had before he went in. He'd gotten some tattoos.
The Kid had been out for over a year. But, he'd been on the outside for much longer than that.
If you know what I mean.
When the Driver asked about his parole, the Kid said he'd seen his parole officer twice before he'd hit the road. On the West Coast, fer' cryin' out loud. And the Kid hadn't looked back since.
As he walked down the sidewalk in the rain, it didn't seem to connect with the Kid, that if he went back out there and tried his hand at actin', that whole parole thing might come back and bite him on the ass. That was just a little detail. An' with his talent; well, he'd never sweated the details.
The Fifth Man? Well, well, well. Turns out he was some kinda' intelligence officer durin' the war. The Driver knew he'd spent some time in North Africa—then the South Pacific.
But the Fifth Man didn't go into details; whenever he talked about it. And he almost never—NEVER—talked about it.
Seemed to the Drive, maybe, the Fifth Man was still in the game or somethin'. The Driver got the feelin' the guy was lookin' over his shoulder. All the time. And that didn't surprise the Driver, one bit.
The talk the Driver'd heard—and there wasn't much talk—was after the war, the Fifth Man had gotten sent back to Europe. An he had been over there, oh, maybe three years.
Doin' who knows what, to who knows who.
And, it would seem, the Fifth Man'd brought a couple of his crooked angles back to the States with him.
Granted, the guy was one creepy, little shyster. And—the Driver had this sneakin' suspicion—the Fifth Man might be makin' some of his 'investment income' as a fence. If a person weren't local, that is.
And, provided they had the right kinda' merchandise to unload.
Also—to his grief—the Driver knew for certain, the Fifth Man dabbled in blackmail.
Anyway. For his own reasons, the Fifth Man did his homework and set up the job.
Knowin' the Driver's situation at that time, the Fifth Man had approached him with a proposition.
The Fifth Man figured the big guy to be his best asset for the job. In a military kinda' sense. 'Cause he knew the Driver's war record. The Driver'd been a hard-bitten Marine. And the Fifth Man was more than aware of the campaigns the Driver'd survived.
So, once the Fifth Man had gotten the Driver's attention, he'd laid out his objectives. He had pointed out the opportunities for those who'd agree to participate. He'd listed all the possible obstacles.
And, he had presented a point-by-point plan to suppress and defeat 'em. Every last one.
And the Driver understood tactics. They'd tried to give him stripes during the war.
Then, Fifth Man had told the Driver how the loot would get divided up.
Impressed, in spite of himself, the Driver had agreed to sign on.
Didn't even have ta' think about it all that long. The blackmail thing was the kicker, actually.
Once he'd accepted the terms of the heist, it had been up to the Driver to round up a good crew who could pull it all off. The Driver had ideas on who he'd talk to, Pronto.
Fate did it's part when the Second Veteran had rolled into town a week later.
So, that's how the robbers had signed on to the plan.
They'd done a few recon missions to Thornton. Then the Driver schooled the other three on what they're roles would be. What each one of 'em needed to do. Again and again. They'd rehearsed, off and on, for a month.
Finally, the Fifth Man had set the exact date and the time.
Sitting in the Caddie in the rain, the Drive was determined and felt confident. Well, the Kid was a little iffy, the Driver thought. But he'd halfta' do. And all they really needed, was the Kid standin' there and hold a gun. And actin' confident.
The Kid already was cocky as hell.
"I can do it," the Kid told 'em. "Seen stuff in prison you guys wouldn't believe. Turn you stomachs..."
None of 'em set him straight on that point. They'd never really talk much 'bout stuff that had happened—back when they'd ett sand and drunk piss; an' kilt guys 'cause it just so happened, they're finger nails had been sharper than tha' other guys' that particular day. On that particular bit of coral. In that particular hell.
But now, things were fallin' together. Plus, the plan was sure first rate. An' that was somethin' all four of the robbers could agreed on.
The Kid didn't think it wise to count on the weather as part of it; not havin' been raise anywhere close to these part. The others laughed an' told 'em; 'round here, people call early spring—Monsoon Season.'
And—if ya' hadn't noticed yet—there sure as hell ain't no ocean nearby. Not by a long shot.
So, the day of the heist arrived, and the weather was cool and wet as could be. Every step of the plan was clickin' along like clock work. Until two things happened. And—well—you'll see.
A teenage girl thought she recognized the young robber as he walked down the wet, puddling sidewalk up ahead of her. The gentle thrill she felt at seeing him took her mind off her anger at the errand she had to do for her mother; it was storming for goodness sakes, she told herself.
The Kid was a good distance away when his bearing caught her eye. It wasn't like there were other people braving the sidewalks in this weather, if they didn't have to be outside in it.
It couldn't be, she told herself at her first inkling of who the figure walking well ahead of her might be. But, yes—it had to be him.
She called out through the heavy rain. Her voice sounded loud to her with the hood of her bright raincoat up over her damp hair. But he was too far away to hear it.
She tried again, as loud as she could yell. It felt unlady-like, and he didn't even look back. Well, she consoled herself, he WAS way ahead of her.
Then, he ducked around the next corner.
So, now more determined to catch up with him and get his attention, she started to walk as fast as she could. She was just short of break into a run. She wasn't going act like some little kid, she told herself. Still, she really needed to talk to him.
The young robber splashed crossed the street to the Bank.
Approaching the Bank, the Kid's back was to the girl when she came around the corner.
He was in a hurry now himself. As he came up the wet sidewalk he'd seen the other two veterans already go inside.
So, the girl was across the street from the Kid and down the block. Just about anybody else but her would never have even supposed they would have been able to recognize some body that far ahead of them. Especially in that storm. At least not be so dead certain of it.
Right before he got to the doors, the Kid flipped the big collar of his bulky duster up around the sides of his face. He'd practiced doing lots of stuff wearing the thin, calf-skin gloves they each wore. No finger prints, they said. Now, he wasn't even aware he had them on.
He slipped the handmade, varnished, paper mache mask from under his big rain hat and over his face.
It looked really nasty. Like he'd caught a firebomb with his face and survived.
The Kid went into the Bank Lobby, the shotgun coming smoothly out from inside the long, wet duster. He remembered to unhook the gun from his shoulder sling. The other two robbers were in position.
And, just like that; the heist began.
When the girl finally arrived at the pedestrian crossing at the 'T' intersection in front of the Bank, she had to make herself wait for the light to change. Standing there in the hard rain, she didn't feel cold or wet. Her errand would just have to wait, she told herself. She was excited about seeing this guy again.
How could he have done this to me, the girl asked herself. It just wasn't fair.
But she felt so, so dangerous, and alive; right now. She decided she didn't even mind all this stupid rain.
When the light finally changed, what little traffic there was—one taxi and a delivery van—came to a halt. The teenager crossed the street and headed for the building she'd seen the young man enter.
She was imagining his reaction to seeing her again. It made her smile to herself as she splashed though the down pour, up to the Bank doors.
She felt a strong thrill and discovered—she was feeling almost as excited as the last time they'd been together. On their date; their one, and only, date.
Now, she was only a little annoyed at him for not calling her to go out to the Drive-In again. Like he'd promised.
Not being called for a second date had been a new experience for her. Just like everything else.
As she pushed through the front doors, she called out his first name in loud voice. She threw back the hood of her raincoat.
The pretty, teenage girl broke into intense emotional atmosphere in the Lobby—everyone being held static by fear, and trembling; because of the on-going felony and the drawn guns.
And she had no clue to what surrounded her as she marched further into the Bank Lobby. It was like she had tunnel-vision.
She continued across the marble floor, smiling and seemingly unaware of the people prone on the ground—toward the young man.
She was accustomed to being the center of attention; especially her own. Her friends told her—she had a flair for attracting it.
People who weren't her friends had other words for it.
And those people wouldn't be surprised that—like so many other things in her young life—the self-centered teenager was wrong about recognizing the young man. Dead wrong.
But, unfortunately for her that day; she was right about the first name.
At her loud call, the young man turned to face her. It was easy to tell by the demeanor of his response—she got his name right.
So, almost every witness in the bank—even the ones cowering on the floor—sussed out that this robber was named Theodore.
Theodore, the Kid—already deep in his adrenaline and scared—was startled to his core.
Somewhere deep down in his guilty paranoia, he instantly realized every single person there now knew his name—he'd been found out. And that's one of the greatest fears of many males, no matter their age.
Time, for the Kid, seemed to turn into thick syrup. And he was gripping the shotgun for protection.
The other three robbers had figured that the Kid, being—by far—the worst shot in a group of experts, should carry the weapon that took the least skill.
Now, it seemed to Theodore almost like he was watching the actions of someone he did not know.
He saw the shotgun swing around; fast and true—away from the guy he'd been tasked to keep well covered.
He felt the squeeze of the trigger.
In close focus, Theodore observed the buckshot blast pound the girl with a tight pattern to the chest of her bright raincoat.
There was a puff of pink mist and bright raincoat confetti.
The girl, who was always the center of attention, was flung back off her feet.
For her part, the pretty teenager didn't even realize she was dead.
Her last dawning thought was something like—gosh, he's giving me a bouquet of the brightest roses I've ever seen—how nice a—
Then, fate played the second snag to the good plan.
It was the second security agent.
He'd helped deliver the satchel to the bank. He was a veteran too. He had been in the European Theater of War. But only after Germany surrendered. He seemed to overlook that fact when he told people what he'd done in the war.
Now, he was deep in his own adrenaline and guilt too. He didn't even feel scared anymore. Now he just stood there feeling humiliated.
It burned him that a guy—who seemed to be some itchy, young punk—held him at the barrel of a shotgun.
Then, he was forced to watch as the robbery went on. And the robbers were obviously getting a LOT of cash. Very fast.
Worse, they'd boosted the satchel the security agent and his partner were bonded to deliver safely to the bank.
He and his partner had delivered that same satchel here quite a few times in the last year. So, he asked himself, why did this day have to be any different? Who'd want to rob a bank in this stinking weather?
And, it seemed to him, the robbers grabbed the satchel almost as an after thought.
The second security agent was getting very angry.
Angry or not, he still noticed these guys were quick, confident and efficient. He was watching a really good and practiced plan unfold. These robbers knew what they were about, he had to admit to himself.
Well, the two doing the robbing were.
They were the ones who got the drop on his associate and himself along with everybody else in the place. It happened during the paper work on the satchel transfer.
Then, one robber forced the second agent's partner to his back on the floor and disarmed him.
The other robber took the second security man's gun and told this kid to control him—like he was of no account. Not worthy of the pro's attention.
Now, the punk holding him in check was visibly nervous. The agent could tell, even if he couldn't see the kid's face behind that frickin' weird mask.
The agent's eyes had bugged out at first.
He'd thought the punk had one, big, horrible burn scar where his eyebrows, nose, cheeks and lips should have been.
Of course, the agent told himself, that's what distracted him. That was how the others got the drop on him. If it weren't for that damn mask ... Well.
So far the robbery had taken less than maybe nine minutes. But the security man didn't know that; it felt like a life time to the agent.
As the robbers were organizing to leave, the security man saw the walkie-talkie come out.
The guy holding it to the side of his head said something into the mouth piece.
Were there more thieves outside, the agent asked himself, surprised at the walkie-talkie.
The manner of the robbers whole drill nagged the second security agent. But exactly what it was couldn't get past his adrenaline. So he allowed to himself, that these guys WERE professionals.
Except the chump pointing the shotgun at him. And that really pissed him off. If it weren't for that shotgun, he fumed to himself, he'd show that little turd a mask—FUCKIN' PUNK!
Then, the front doors of the hushed building thrust open. A girl in a long, bright raincoat marched into the Lobby from the storm outside—saying something in a loud voice.
The security agent didn't pay attention to whatever it was she said.