© Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Lynch
The Old Man slept heavily, weary from the exertions of the day. When he awakened, he would rest for several more hours wrapped in a thermal blanket, the old dog curled around his aching feet.
He had always been a good provider thought the Old Lady who watched him resting peacefully. She would fix him a steak dinner tonight. They would dine leisurely, talk about some of their good times together, and share a glass of wine. After dinner they would count the money.
This time the take was higher than usual, $38,400.00. As always, they would use money orders to pay monthly bills and the workmen who were renovating the house. The money orders would be purchased in a neighboring city just in case any of the cash was traceable.
Neither of them had anticipated this new way of life. They had both retired, supporting themselves on Social Security Retirement checks. The monthly bills were paid and all went well for a few months, but the old house was more and more in need of costly repairs. They had no funds for these extraordinary expenses, so the repairs were left undone. In time, the structure became so run down that they worried about the authorities stepping in, taking them out of the house and placing them both in a nursing home. They would have none of it!
They needed money, several hundred dollars every month to keep up their home. Increasing infirmities prevented them from working at steady jobs. Banks wouldn't lend money to people who were not employed, no matter how spotless their history of paying the bills. Their fears and frustrations continued to mount in the face of no apparent solution. Finally, the Old Man put down his wine glass one evening and said simply, “We need to rob some banks”.
So it was that he had used the internet to order the highly crafted realistic mask of an elderly man which he always wore to disguise his own face. She purchased the gun, a black water pistol from the toy department at Walmart. The end of the barrel was colored red to distinguish it as a toy, so the Old Lady spray painted the end black to produce a realistic, formidable looking weapon. The bag for carrying the money came from the second hand store.
The plan was simple, always the same. The Old Lady would withdraw several twenty dollar bills where her check was deposited. She would then drive alone to the bank they had chosen to rob, wait inside for her turn, and ask the teller for smaller bills. By the time she left the bank, she would know the exact physical layout, the location of the cameras, the number of tellers, and whether any security officers were on duty.
The following day they drove to the bank where she waited for him behind the wheel. He would enter the bank, wait quietly for his own turn, hand the teller a note, get the money, and walk briskly to the car. She was extremely careful to park outside the scope of the stationary cameras, but close enough for him to get away. When he reached the car, he lay down on the back seat to avoid being seen, and use a portable oxygen pack stored there to recover his breath.
So it was, that the two of them who had raised a family together and supported each other for years through sickness, health, sadness, an joy, became a smooth running bank robbing team, who would be known to the world as the Geezer Bandit.
Everyone knew that bank robberies were investigated by the FBI. What the public did not generally know was that since 2001, many agents had been reassigned to terrorism task groups, drastically reducing the personnel available to investigate other domestic crimes. The Feds had been careful not to publicize these reassignments, fearful that this knowledge would embolden criminals to commit crimes such as bank robbery more often.
Someone had apparently figured this out since there had been a string of 16 bank robberies in southern California. Two agents were assigned to all of the cases since they appeared to be done by the same perpetrator. These heists had them running from one bank to another, interviewing tellers, customers, passersby, anyone who had seen or heard anything.
What they now knew was that the robber wore an old man mask and gloves. He handed tellers a prewritten note, then pulled a gun out of his shirt jacket and held it close to his chest while the teller filled the bag with money. He did not directly point the gun, nor did he speak. Nothing in his behavior while he spent time in the bank indicated that he was up to anything but normal bank business. Only the teller knew that there had been a robbery.
What they did not know filled several expanding files. The robber could be a young or old man, or for that matter even a young or old woman, They had no idea how the robber got to the bank, or how he left the area. A stolen bicycle found near one bank site led to the possibility that he pedaled his way to and from the crimes. They had no fingerprints, no voice recordings, no marked money to be traced.
After every robbery they held a press conference.. They were “in the process of interviewing witnesses. There was “going to be a resolution soon”. They encouraged anyone with information to come forward to collect the ever increasing reward. The truth was, they had nothing.
Many bank robbers were caught through extravagant cash spending. The Agents placed wanted posters at car dealerships, as well as places selling, boats, expensive electronic equipment, and exotic vacations. They produced no leads.
The public was becoming increasingly enamored by this robber who had so far single-handedly stumped the FBI. He was slick and unaggressive, but at the same time incredibly daring.
The media was having a field day showing the videos of the Geezer Bandit calmly waiting his turn in line and walking slowly out of the bank entrance. In one film, they froze the coverage repeatedly to show him holding the bank door open for a woman customer who was entering the bank as he was leaving with the money bag.
The house was remodeled now. The Old Man and the Old Lady enjoyed most days living out their retirement within its walls.
They traveled once a year to visit each of their children. At family gatherings, she often called him “Geezer”, a term or endearment he seemed to enjoy, and the family members assumed was a reference to his advancing age.
Yearly vacations also became part of their routine. At times they saw pictures of the Geezer Bandit displayed on faraway post office walls, advertising the $50,000.00 reward for his capture. They had made the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List, though neither had ever sought such an “honor”.
In time, the Old Man fell ill and it did not look good. Hospital doctors told the Old Lady that he would not survive. The machines would keep him going for a while but when they were disconnected, he would be gone.
Now she gathered the old man mask, the plastic gun, and the money bag from their hiding place behind the washing machine in their home. Placing the mask and gun in the bag, she slipped it into the closet of his hospital room.
She called the FBI to make sure that the reward for identifying the Geezer Bandit was still available. She told them that their assurances of payment had to be placed in writing, and then she would provide the information. When the Agents came to the hospital room with the promised paperwork, the Old Lady directed them to the closet.
They cuffed him to the bed, but he did not stir. The Old Lady silently thanked him for the pact they had made long ago. If either of them were in danger of dying, the one who was going to be left behind would produce the evidence, blame the other for the robberies, and collect the $50,000.00.
Three days later the Old Man died. The FBI reluctantly paid the reward, publicly regretting that the Geezer Bandit “would never be brought to trial', but privately glad to buy the bragging and gloating rights that allowed them to announce that they “always got their man”.
Epilogue: The Old Man's funeral was attended by many strangers. They wanted to honor the Geezer Bandit for the slick and gutsy way that he had withdrawn so much money from so many banks.
The Old Man's adult children believed that the FBI had it completely wrong! Their hardworking parents had led a simple, blameless, no frills life. The Feds were just looking for a scapegoat! They held on to this belief until the Old Lady died several years later. To their surprise her bank account contained years of the couple's Social Security Retirement checks, deposited but unspent. The two of them had obviously been living on money from some other source.
Memories of their mom calling their dad “Geezer” flooded their thoughts. They marveled at the ingenuity and grit which had kept their parents out of the nursing home and in their newly remodeled home for the remaining days of their lives together.