Bank Job

Bank Job

by Robert L. Fish

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Overview

Lieutenant James Reardon hunts for a gang of killers terrorizing San Francisco’s banks

The men enter the Jerold Avenue branch of the Farmers & Mercantile Bank wearing matching suits, hats, and plastic masks. They demand cooperation, and their machine guns ensure that they get it. Less than three minutes after they enter, they leave, their bags bulging with the shipyard payroll. A passing cop tries to stop them, emptying his revolver as they peel away, and catches a bullet in the heart for his trouble. This is the gang’s first job in San Francisco, and it has been baptized with blood.
 
Taking the criminals down falls to homicide lieutenant James Reardon, who has never encountered such determined thieves. The gunmen leave no trace behind, but witness testimonies suggest there may have been an inside man. To break up the gang, Reardon will have to follow them across the country, and put his neck on the line.

Bank Job is the 3rd book in the Lieutenant Reardon Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504012713
Publisher: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
Publication date: 06/16/2015
Series: The Lieutenant Reardon Mysteries , #3
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 187
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Robert L. Fish, the youngest of three children, was born on August 21, 1912, in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended the local schools in Cleveland and went to Case University (now Case Western Reserve), from which he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. He married Mamie Kates, also from Cleveland, and together they have two daughters. Fish worked as a civil engineer, traveling and moving throughout the United States. In 1953 he was asked to set up a plastics factory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He and his family moved to Brazil, where they remained for nine years. He played golf and bridge in the little spare time he had. One rainy weekend in the late 1950s, when the weather prohibited him from playing golf, he sat down and wrote a short story that he submitted to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. When the story was accepted, Fish continued to write short stories. In 1962 he returned to the United States; he took one year to write full time and then returned to engineering and writing. His first novel, The Fugitive, won an Edgar Award for Best First Mystery. When his health prevented him from pursuing both careers, Fish retired from engineering and spent his time writing. His published works include more than forty books and countless short stories. Mute Witness was made into a movie starring Steve McQueen.
 
Fish died February 23, 1981, at his home in Connecticut. Each year at the annual Mystery Writers of America dinner, a memorial award is presented in his name for the best first short story. This is a fitting tribute, as Fish was always eager to assist young writers with their craft.
Robert L. Fish, the youngest of three children, was born on August 21, 1912, in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended the local schools in Cleveland and went to Case University (now Case Western Reserve), from which he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. He married Mamie Kates, also from Cleveland, and together they have two daughters. Fish worked as a civil engineer, traveling and moving throughout the United States. In 1953 he was asked to set up a plastics factory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He and his family moved to Brazil, where they remained for nine years. He played golf and bridge in the little spare time he had. One rainy weekend in the late 1950s, when the weather prohibited him from playing golf, he sat down and wrote a short story that he submitted to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. When the story was accepted, Fish continued to write short stories. In 1962 he returned to the United States; he took one year to write full time and then returned to engineering and writing. His first novel, The Fugitive, won an Edgar Award for Best First Mystery. When his health prevented him from pursuing both careers, Fish retired from engineering and spent his time writing. His published works include more than forty books and countless short stories. Mute Witness was made into a movie starring Steve McQueen.

Fish died February 23, 1981, at his home in Connecticut. Each year at the annual Mystery Writers of America dinner, a memorial award is presented in his name for the best first short story. This is a fitting tribute, as Fish was always eager to assist young writers with their craft.

Read an Excerpt

Bank Job

A Lieutenant Reardon Mystery


By Robert L. Fish

MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media

Copyright © 1974 Robert L. Fish
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1271-3


CHAPTER 1

Thursday—2:58 P.M.


According to the first of the after-the-fact witnesses, the car was a black Chevrolet, three, maybe four years old. The second witness thought it might have been black, although he would have called it dark green himself, but it was definitely a Pontiac, not a Chevy, and no more than two years old at the most. So of course the third witness knew it to be a dark-bluish Mercury, practically brand-new, almost like the one he owned himself—or had owned, that is, until the company had repossessed it. About the only thing all three witnesses agreed upon was that it wasn't a polka-dot horse-drawn buggy or a subchaser painted with stripes.

In any event, the car pulled up before the front door of the Jerrold Avenue branch of the Farmers & Mercantile Bank on the edge of the Bay View section of San Francisco just two minutes before closing. Three men got out; the driver remained. The hats of the three were pearl-gray in color, wide-brimmed, and pulled low over their foreheads, leaving their faces in shadow, and they wore almost identical double-breasted gray suits. One of them carried a briefcase, a bit deeper than most. They walked without haste into the bank and one of them took a stand near the door. The second, reaching casually into his jacket pocket, moved evenly in the direction of the uniformed guard who was on his way to stand at the bank door until the exact minute of three o'clock, at which time he punctually locked the door against any potential late customer. The guard's mind was on the element of time; when he looked up he was struck at first by the odd lack of any expression on the pasty face approaching and realized too late that he was staring at a plastic mask. The Saturday-night special seemed to appear in the masked man's hand at the same instant, and the guard froze.

The man at the front door slipped the lock over and drew down the shade that indicated the bank had closed for the day. The third man walked toward the large front window facing the street, drew the drapes, and opened his briefcase in almost the same motion. He removed a Thompson submachine gun and swung it about. It was a flat type, available at most surplus stores, and had a short support and a serrated silencer.

He said, "Nobody move and nobody gets hurt."

His voice was not particularly loud. Although muffled by the tightness of the mask, the words were sufficiently clear to command instant attention. Behind the plastic the man's lips quirked an instant and then straightened. Banks—especially branch banks—were like libraries or cathedrals; anyone raising his voice in one seemed almost sacrilegious. The man maintained the same calm tone.

"We're not interested in your pocket money, so just stand still. And I do mean still."

Everyone remained absolutely still, staring at the man. There had been only one customer in the bank, an elderly man at the teller's counter. There were three tellers back of the new-style unencumbered counter, all women of various ages. A girl sat at a typewriter outside of an empty office in one corner. At the command her fingers went rigid on the typewriter keys; she looked like an exhibit in a waxworks. The man with the submachine gun moved it in her direction.

"Up and with the others. But this side of the counter. Next to the old man."

She seemed to feel her being selected for separate action was a bad omen. She tried to rise, but couldn't.

"Up," the man said in a deadly tone and bobbed the muzzle of the gun to give emphasis to the statement. The girl found herself next to the counter without having been conscious of moving. The man with the machine gun nodded his approval and spoke over his shoulder.

"Let's move out."

The man facing the guard had removed the .38 police positive from the guard's holster and dropped the weapon into his jacket pocket. If the action told the guard anything at all, it told him the stub-nosed pistol the other was holding was real, loaded, and in working order; not that the guard had seriously doubted that fact before. The gunman raised the pistol slightly, aiming it at the lettered MICHAEL KRYSAK pinned in a neat rectangle to the uniformed blouse.

"Downstairs," he said.

The guard was a retired cop who had put in thirty years' duty on the Oakland force. He was no hero, but his many years in uniform made him at least give it a try.

"The vault's already locked up for the night," he said, trying to sound both sincere and serious. "Lock's automatic. Can't be opened before nine tomorrow morning."

The gun shifted slightly, coming higher, wavering between a spot under the right eye and the bridge of the nose, as if the gunman hadn't made up his mind yet which was the better target. The muffled voice was almost bored.

"Downstairs. Last time."

The ex-cop tried to read something in the eyes that stared back at him through the narrow slits of the mask, but there was nothing to be read, not even impatience. Not even, in fact, color; the man's eyes were shadowed by the stretch of the opaque plastic between cheekbones and forehead. Michael Krysak shrugged and moved to the steps that angled their way from one corner of the room to the basement vault below. He wasn't paid to be a martyr. And the bank had ample insurance, which was more than he had. As the two started to descend, there was a sudden sharp rattle at the front door of the bank. Krysak paused in unexpected hope, but a sharp stab with the revolver muzzle sent him stumbling a step or two before he could regain his balance. After that he went the rest of the way without the need for further inducement.

The gunman at the bank door spoke without turning his head.

"Customer," he said. It was the first time he had spoken. The word came out 'customah' with a deep southern accent. "Guess mebbe Ah closed fo' the day too soon."

The rattling was renewed; an impatient eye tried to see past the edge of the drawn shade.

"Let him in," the man with the submachine gun said.

"Mah guest," said the man at the door accommodatingly, and unclipped the lock, opening the door. He stood slightly to one side, his hand in his pocket firmly holding his revolver.

A short, fat man bustled through the door without paying attention to whoever had opened it for him. He was sniffing audibly at this unjustified jumping of the clock on the bank's part. He headed toward the teller's counter, fishing in his pocket for his bankbook, dragging it out. It was filled with bills, checks, and a deposit slip. He slapped it down on the formica counter-top, frowned in irritation at the lack of attention he was receiving, and turned about abruptly to see what more important matter than accommodating him could possibly be occupying the teller's attention.

The sight of the man with the submachine gun and the man relocking the front door unraveled the mystery. The fat man's eyes widened; his mouth opened and closed again without making a sound. He looked like a guppy inhaling. The man with the submachine gun waved the weapon casually, bringing the fat man into the intimacy of the muzzle's range. The fat man winced physically as the muzzle passed him; he took his hand hastily from the money in his bankbook, willing it to the gunman. The gunman paid him no further attention, but glanced instead at the camera mounted on a bracket high in one corner, as if wondering if the scene were being properly recorded. The camera eye stared back impersonally. The gunman turned back to his frozen hostages.

In the vault below, Clarence Milligan, youthful manager of the Jerrold Avenue branch of the Farmers & Mercantile, looked up with an expression of profound annoyance on his usually pleasant freckled face. Mike, the guard, was well aware of the reason for the look. The orders were explicit; Mr. Milligan was never to be disturbed in the vault on Thursday afternoon until the Brink's truck appeared at three-thirty. And bringing a stranger down to the vault while the shipyard payroll was being made up was an even greater breech of the rules. Mulligan looked up from the suitcase he had been bending over, saw the two men come down the last few steps, and shut the case firmly. He frowned through the bars of the locked vault gate.

"What is it, Mike?"

A pistol appeared over Mike Krysak's shoulder, clarifying the situation. It was pointed at the manager's forehead. The hand holding the pistol might have been carved by Henry Moore.

"Open the gate."

The manager looked at the mask, now identifiable over Krysak's shoulder. In the small, musty vault there was no possible hiding place from the demanding muzzle. The pistol was moved now, coming to rest against the guard's sweating temple, as if the threat to the employee might have greater moral weight than the threat to the employer. Mike felt the sweat spread to his crotch. He hoped the character with the gun wasn't one of those psychos who killed just for the fun of feeling a revolver buck and knowing they've taken a life; Mike had known one man on the outside and two on the force who felt like that. He also hoped his boss didn't value the reputation of his branch's record more than the life of his guard.

But nobody broke any rules. The manager recognized the situation for what it was and reached out his hand, twisting the gate key in the lock, opening the vault to the intruder. His face was sullen, like a kid whose toy has been unfairly taken from him. The gunman could not have cared less. He shepherded Krysak into the vault ahead of him, waved the two men into the most distant corner with his pistol, and picked up the suitcase. He hefted it as if checking its weight and then managed to get it under one arm. It was a clumsy arrangement, for the suitcase was bulky, but at least it allowed him the use of both his hands. He backed from the room, making no attempt to search for further riches, apparently satisfied with the payroll. The key in the lock was removed and reversed, placed in from the outside; the gate was closed and the key twisted again, an awkward movement hampered by the suitcase under the gunman's arm. The robber finally tugged the key free, dropped it in his pocket, and backed up to the steps, his pistol aimed steadily on the two men in the corner of the vault. He took the treads one by one, still alert, aware of the possibility of a weapon in the vault; then he came to the landing and turned, trotting swiftly up the rest of the flight, stowing his pistol in his jacket pocket, carrying the suitcase more comfortably.

As he came into the view of the man with the submachine gun, he raised the suitcase and nodded his head. The man with the submachine gun returned the nod in satisfaction, and swept the hostages with a final threatening movement of the muzzle to indicate his desire for their continued co-operation. Satisfied that he would get it, he backed away evenly. The three bandits met at the front door of the bank; the machine gun was snapped back into the briefcase and the case closed. The man who had been standing guard at the door now brought out his pistol for the first time. He unlocked the door, raised the gun toward the frozen group in one final silent threat, and then the three men were out of the bank, running swiftly toward the curb and the waiting car.

They had been in the bank exactly two minutes and fifty-six seconds.

It was almost 3:01 exactly and Patrolman Thomas Wheaton was walking a bit more rapidly than usual down the block toward them or, rather, toward the car parked so illegally in front of a bank with its motor running. From force of diligent training Patrolman Wheaton was memorizing the license plate even as his hand moved automatically toward his holster, unsnapping the trigger guard, feeling the striated butt of the weapon so far used only on the target range. It was past banking hours, it was true, but parking with a running motor in front of a bank was illegal at any hour and called for a ticket at least.

When the three men burst from the bank, running, one with a gun in his hand, Tom Wheaton's mind at first refused to believe what he was seeing, but at the same time his body was responding to the months in the academy. His gun came up as he started running; he heard himself yelling. The gun in his hand kicked violently, firing first in the air.

The suitcase and the briefcase were thrown into the already moving car, and two of the bandits piled in behind. The third turned to throw a quick shot in the direction of the pursuing cop before putting his foot into the vehicle. The bullet caught Patrolman Wheaton in the chest; he stumbled sideward and fell, but managed to keep his gun firing constantly toward the bank robbers. The third man had the misfortune of being just beyond the protection of the car's still-open door; he caught two slugs, the first in the ribs and the second in his back as the first slug twisted him around. He stumbled away from the car and collapsed on the sidewalk, the gun skidding from his hand.

The driver did not run. Instead he braked instantly. The two men in the back seat were out of the car and bundling their wounded companion back with them in seconds, scooping up the fallen gun at the same time. The car took off at once, burning rubber as it shot into Tolland Street, heading for the freeway.

There was a final cough as Patrolman Wheaton's gun fired one last time as he died. It ricocheted from the curb and dropped harmlessly into a catch basin.

CHAPTER 2

Thursday—3:50 P.M.


Lieutenant James Reardon of the Homicide Division of the San Francisco police, stood numb-faced and watched the two white-jacketed ambulance attendants load Thomas Wheaton's body onto a stretcher and raise it to slide it into the ambulance. The technical squad under the direction of Sergeant Frank Wilkins had come and gone; they had found remarkably little to do at the scene of the robbery and shooting. There had been no fingerprints. The photographer had taken pictures of Wheaton's body from several angles, as well as the small bloodstained spot where the wounded bandit had fallen; samples of the blood has also been taken, but that was about all there had been to do. The bandit's blood would be analyzed, but unless it happened to be so rare as to constitute a partial identification, it would be fairly useless. It could, of course, eventually save an innocent man from accusation, but as far as pinpointing the guilty, it was almost sure to be futile. At the moment Reardon would have laid odds the blood would be type O. The bullet that killed Wheaton would be removed at the morgue in the basement of the Hall of Justice for whatever good that might be; Saturday-night specials were seldom registered and therefore almost impossible to trace.

The two ambulance drivers handled Wheaton's body gingerly; their movements irritated Reardon. He felt like asking them why in hell they didn't take at least equal care with men who were still alive, but he bit back the words. They were doing it out of respect for the dead cop, or out of what they conceived to be respect, and Reardon knew it. He also knew he was on edge; cop-killings put everyone on the force on edge. The doors of the ambulance were closed; the two attendants hurried to the front and climbed in, as if to remove themselves from the lieutenant's critical glare as quickly as possible. Reardon watched the ambulance careen around the corner. He still felt irritated. You're too prone to irritation these days, he told himself and shook his head.

Lieutenant James Reardon was a stocky man in his middle thirties. He had a rugged, yet remarkably sensitive face with sharp, intelligent gray eyes that seemed to probe a suspect at times more deeply than his pointed questions. His light-brown hair was already touched with gray at the temples; he often felt the world was passing him too fast. This was one of those times. He watched the ambulance escape and then walked over to the police patrol car parked before the bank. He leaned in to speak to the second-grade detective, sitting on the seat sideways, his feet on the sidewalk through the open door, listening to the radio.

"What do we have, Don?"

Detective Dondero said: "Boobly squinch." He shook his head in disgust. "With those car descriptions, what are we looking for? About all we can figure is that they haven't crossed either of the bridges so far. They're checking close there."

"Unless they switched to a truck," Reardon said. "And even then if they didn't go north, it still leaves only the southern half of the state, not to mention the rest of the country. What about hospitals?"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Bank Job by Robert L. Fish. Copyright © 1974 Robert L. Fish. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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