© Copyright 2003 by Rin Steketee
She knows damned well what she can do for me! Henry thought. He wanted to say it, but thought better and answered, " Please let me have a zipper bag and some coin wrappers, Msss Murkel." He had been saying the same thing to the same bank teller for twenty-seven years, and wished that she would some day learn how to say his name properly.
Henry Stroud had been coming into the Midvale Bank ever since he opened his hardware store so many years ago when Mr. Linderman, the bank manager, was the head teller and Eleanor was his young apprentice. Mr. Linderman quickly climbed up the ladder of success, thanks to his uncle, Tom Linderman, the Midvale Bank president. Eleanor, with that huge beak of a nose and hideous cackle, remained his obedient servant and only bank teller for all those years.
Ms. Murkel handed Henry a blue zippered deposit bag, eight coin wrappers of various denominations and a receipt for the previous day's deposit that he had dropped through the slot, outside the bank, the night before. He thanked the ageless bank teller, and she responded with her usual, "Have a good day, Hen-ery," followed by, "Next person in line, please," even if there were no other person in the bank; Eleanor's eyesight was failing and she couldn't see beyond the end of her nose.
Henry left through the side door, almost tripping over old Gus Potter, the bank guard, who was snoring loudly, hunched down in the leather chair over by the loan officer's desk. Henry walked down the alley to Thirty-eighth Street, turned right and continued on for two blocks to his hardware store, just in time to open up at ten o’clock sharp.
It was hardly worth opening his store any more. Ever since the big hardware chain opened up their giant store just down the road. It wouldn't be very long before Henry would have to file bankruptcy and go out of business. He wondered how things were, these days, at the Poor House. He kept busy most of the morning, dusting over the entire store; the same thing he had done the day before and the day before that. He had exactly three customers and only one sale all week long. Maybe he would get a few customers, he thought, when Midvale Pioneer Days began. He looked again at the poster in his window. All next week the whole town would be preparing for the big wagon race on Saturday. This year the first prize was fifteen thousand dollars. The second prize was ten thousand and the third prize was five thousand dollars. Henry sure could use first prize. He could really use all of the money. He remembered seeing the prize money down at the bank. It was stacked up on the table inside the vault; six stacks of one hundred dollar bills just laying there on the table inside the open vault. It would be sooo easy for someone to steal all that money, Henry thought, Just walk in, and stick a gun in old Ms. Murkels's face, scoop up the money and run. Old man Potter wouldn't even know what happened.
It was right there and then that Henry got the idea. He fixed himself a baloney sandwich, poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down at his big desk at the back of the store and started to plan the heist. He drew out a diagram of the area, making X's and dotted lines. He made notes then scratched through several of them and made corrections. All day long Henry worked on his scheme, being interrupted only three times; once when a customer came in for a refund on a screwdriver he purchased a week ago, then when two boys bought a pack of chewing gum and a lady wanted six - ten penny nails for which Henry said, "No charge." And finally, he had a plan that would have made John Dillinger jealous. It appeared to be flawless.
Every man in town that was able would grow a beard for the Pioneer Day Celebration. (Anyone caught not wearing a beard on Pioneer Day would be arrested and fined five dollars). Henry would intentionally not grow a beard. That way he would remain very conspicuous. Henry would be the only man in town without a beard. He would gladly pay the fine.
However, on Friday morning, Henry would put on a false mustache and beard, an old red plaid shirt, some faded Levis and a pair of old worn out boots he found down in the basement. For a final touch, he would wear that battered old straw hat he found in the Dumpster out back of his store. This done, he would look just like every one else in town. Any one witnessing the robbery would give a description of the culprit that fit just about two hundred other men. It was a magnificent scheme he had concocted. He meticulously went over the flawless plan, step by step, fourteen times.
He would walk right into the bank at exactly nine fifteen on Friday morning, whip out the horse pistol he had hidden under his red plaid shirt, and announce that it was a stickup!
Old Gus Potter would probably wet his pants; Eleanor would most certainly faint dead away, right there on the spot. Next, he would herd them all into Mr. Linderman's office. Henry envisioned tiny Mr. Linderman trying to drag Eleanor's huge, limp body across the long green carpet to his office. The vision provoked, in Henry, a tiny smile and nervous laugh.
He would then go quickly to the open safe, grab the stacks of one hundred dollar bills, stuff them in a plain paper bag, and swiftly exit out the side door into the alley. He would run down the alley, turn right at Thirty-eighth Street and continue on to the rear entrance of his little hardware store.
Once inside his store, he would place the money in the floor safe, then go to the basement, remove his disguise; beard, shirt, pants, boots and straw hat, and toss them all into the incinerator; thus turning all the incriminating evidence instantly into ashes. After that, he would return to the bank and enter through the front door, at exactly nine forty five, just as he had done for the past twenty-seven years. By that time there would probably be many police officers and several curious onlookers in the bank. Henry would act surprised and horrified when told by the sobbing Ms. Murkel that the bank had just been robbed, and she had been assaulted by a horrible bearded man wearing a red plaid shirt, and how they would probably never catch the desperate criminal. He could hardly wait to proceed with the brilliant plan.
Friday morning arrived. Henry carefully put on his disguise and set out to perform his evil deed. At exactly nine fifteen he walked deliberately into the front entrance of the Midvale Bank. Old Gus had just unlocked the door and was shuffling off toward his leather perch. Eleanor was busy stamping the back of some deposit slips as Henry approached the teller window. He stuck his hand through the opening in his shirt and gripped the handle of the old rusty pistol hidden inside. He was trembling with excitement. Sweat rolled down his face and dripped from his phony mustache. He stood silently in front of Ms. Murkel, waiting to be noticed.
Eleanor looked up, peered over the top of her Coke bottle reading glasses, and stared pensively at the pitiful soul standing nervously in front of her. She looked directly into her customer's frightened eyes and cackled, "Good morning Hen-ery, you're in early this morning," adding quizzically, "What can we do for you, today?"
Henry was taken aback,
he stiffened, and his phony mustache came unglued and hung to the side.
He stood there for several minutes, groping for a reply. He was furious!
The old crow had recognized him through his brilliant disguise. She had
ruined everything. He drew out his rusty old pistol, waved it in the startled
old bank teller's birdlike face and shouted in a very nervous, high pitched
voice that woke up old Gus Potter and brought Mr. Linderman's head sticking
out from inside the open safe, "You know damn well what I want, Eleanor,"
he screamed, "Gimme a stinking zipper bag and handful of those lousy money
(Messages are forwarded by The Preservation Foundation.
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