Friday, April 21, 2017

III - Schrodinger's Robber

“And you say it’s perfectly legitimate?” Quincy asked.

“Look,” said Sal Wentworth, courier for one of Quincy’s fence contacts, “I like you, so let’s dispense with the cloak and dagger for a minute.”

Quincy nodded and motioned for Sal to continue.

“You call a guy to order something… unusual, right? Then, a couple days later, somebody slips a note with a location under a seat on a downtown bus, yeah? Then, you pick up that note, and you meet me in an alley—just like this one—and you give me an envelope full of cash, but not before asking me—every time—if the goods are perfectly legit. Can we assume, from this point on, anything you order through a company, cash on delivery, that sends you tracking confirmation via downtown bus seat note will be perfectly legitimate?”

“Point taken,” Quincy said and passed Sal a envelope full of cash. Sal motioned to two men standing at the back of an open box truck. The men struggled to carry a box the size of a mini-fridge to the back of Quincy’s waiting cargo-van. When they sat the box down, the rear of the van dropped two inches.

As Quincy got in the van, his phone vibrated in his pocket.

“Hello, Detective Warner,” Quincy answered. This was how Quincy always answered his phone, partly because no one ever called him, but mostly because he knew the day it was Detective Warner, it would seem clever. He was right.

“How did you know it was me?” Warner asked.

“You found the chop shop I left you in section E-5,” Quincy stated.

“No.”

“Ah, maybe later," Quincy paused, "You caught Chaz Jordan with the money under the pork tenderloins in his deep-freezer?”

“No… Wait, what?”

“Why are you calling me?”

“First, you have to be absolutely discreet about this, Rathbone. I need you to come down to Everless Credit Union, and don’t talk to anyone on the way in—I don’t even know how the vultures found out about a closed crime scene, but I’ll fire some… It doesn’t matter, just come down here and don’t talk to anyone.”

Quincy paused in confusion. A crime he didn’t know about? A crime he didn’t know may even happen? He felt a pang of embarrassment. He’d have to wing it this time, which was alright—he knew he’d have to eventually—but he was hoping to know when that was going to be first.

“I’ll be there shortly.” Quincy hung up the phone and departed for the bank.

At the bank, Quincy parked next to five police cars and a mobile laboratory—the laboratory was not marked as such, but it was a giant white van with city plates parked in a lot of only police and the bank was closed. Discreet, Quincy thought to himself.

Detective Hubbard opened the door for Quincy and introduced himself. Quincy followed Hubbard into the vault where Warner was carefully looking at every part of the vault, from the steel floor with the bank’s logo etched into it to the empty slots in the walls where the safe deposit boxes normally go. He eyed the pyramid of boxes for a moment, then shifted his gaze to the steel ceiling that had been designed with one foot brushed steel tiles with alternating pattern that gave the appearance of a food-safe chess board. He even played with the inner door for a moment before spotting Hubbard with Quincy in tow.

“Mr. Rathbone,” Warner began, “it’s good to finally meet you in person.”

“Don’t lie, it doesn’t accomplish anything productive on your side of the badge,” Quincy said as he glanced around the vault quickly. “If you were that eager to meet me, you would’ve called me a year ago.”

“Well, it’s not an easy process getting an outside consultant approved—there’s background checks and paperwork to be done,” Warner had a sudden, brilliant notion, “In fact, we’re not really finished, but we could use your insight and my superiors think this may be a good trial run.”

Quincy, of course, knew none of this was true—it only required minimal approval to work with a consultant—but he wasn’t sure of the detective’s motives for not wanting to work with him directly. Mr. Bradford joined them and Warner asked him to fill Quincy in on the details of the vault. Bradford ran down the thicknesses of the walls and door, he explained that the door was held tight by pressure stanchions capable of exerting several tons of force on the door, and he explained the timed lock.

“How big is the inside of the vault?” Quincy asked.

“Four thousand, eight hundred cubic feet, not counting the deposit boxes themselves.”

“So, twenty feet wide, twenty four deep?”

“Err… yes. That’s right,” Bradford was impressed at Quincy’s quick calculating ability. Bradford appreciated a head for math—he was after all a bank manager.

“And when will you open the vault to the public again?”

Hubbard glanced at Warner just as Warner glanced at a piece of dust floating through a sunbeam from the glass front of the building. Mr. Bradford cleared his throat.

“Well, there are several processes involving the insurance companies once the police report is filed. It will probably be a week before we can allow anyone back into the vault, and some of the existing customers will undoubtedly leave.”

Quincy walked around the vault for a second trying not to smile. This is great, he thought, I wonder how long I should wait. He walked out of the vault and paced at the counter for dramatic effect. Warner, Hubbard, and Bradford followed.

“You’re looking for three people, although you’ll likely only catch two of them doing the heavy lifting—so to speak.”

“The heavy lifting has already been done,” Hubbard said. Quincy scowled at him and continued.

“The second one you’ll catch in a week when he comes to buy a new safe deposit box. He’ll have a large bag or case, likely a rolling case.”

“Okay,” Warner said with only slightly exaggerated disbelief, “What about the first one?”

“The first one you’ll catch in three minutes—give or take.”

“How’s that?” Hubbard asked.

“He’s in the vault,” Quincy stated plainly.

“Look, Rathbone, I don’t like…” Warner started to shout.

“I’ll get him for you, but I’ll probably need some help,” Quincy said as he motioned for them to follow him back into the vault.

“If this room is twenty feet wide, twenty four feet deep, and contains four thousand, eight hundred cubic feet, that means it is ten feet tall.”

They all nodded and instinctively looked up at the steel checkerboard. Nothing seemed out of place. Quincy noticed the three noticing nothing out of place and shook his head.

“This room is only nine and a half feet tall,” Quincy stated plainly. He walked to the pyramid and began explaining as he moved.

“The boxes aren’t here just to show you how much time the robber had to himself…”

“Robbers,” Hubbard corrected. Quincy turned to him patiently.

“Yes, but only one actually doing the robbing. That robber wasn’t just trying to show you how much free time he had in your vault,” Quincy started to walk up the pyramid of boxes, “he was trying to reach the ceiling, where…”

Quincy pulled a small pry bar from his jacket and tried sticking it between the tiles on the ceiling.

“You can’t pry that, it only looks like they’re individual…” Mr. Bradford’s mouth stopped moving a second before his voice stopped working and half a second after the steel tile fell to the floor revealing a six inch long piece of wire with strong magnets on either end—one was holding the tile, the other still attached to the ceiling.

“Ahhhhrrrrrrumphhhh!” exclaimed the man who burst through several of the tiles a few feet from where Quincy stood atop the pyramid. The large magnets strapped to his elbows and knees had foiled his attempt at running through the door by snapping him to the floor as he flopped awkwardly from the ceiling. Hubbard immediately drew his firearm on the man. Two uniformed officers removed the straps holding the man to the ground and put handcuffs on him.

After pulling all the tiles down, several dozen magnetic boxes holding the contents of the deposit boxes, and a bag of water bottles and potato chips, the officers started going through the contents with Mr. Bradford.

“That was impressive!” Hubbard said.

“Yes, very impressive,” Warner said, “I’ll be sure to let our superiors know what a great job you did. I’m sure they’ll want to review the reports.”

“Yeah… I’ll be at the Criminal Licensing Department tomorrow to pick up my Private Investigator’s Permit,” Quincy stated before walking out of the bank.

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