Monday, April 17, 2017

II - The Empty Vault

It is a well-known, culturally universal fact that Mondays are difficult. The generally accepted reason is because it is the day immediately following a weekend no one is really keen to end. This Monday meant not only the end of a particularly pleasant weekend for Detective Warner, but he would soon discover that it could potentially destroy several weekends to come.

“So, I see you have your coffee,” Detective Hubbard was looming over Warner’s desk. Warner and Hubbard were partnered three years prior. Hubbard was good at his job, pleasant to be in the car with—as a passenger or a driver—and he had little to no terribly offensive habits. If there was a rock Warner felt he could stand on, it was Hubbard—although, Hubbard being nearly six and a half feet tall, it would require a step ladder or at least a considerably tall stool to do so.

“Yes,” Warner replied.

“Everything’s alright at home, good weekend?”

“Yes, yes. Why?” Warner’s voice was getting more agitated with each syllable.

“Well, Everless Credit Union has been robbed.”

A robbery was not good, but it wasn’t the worst thing Warner might have expected on a Monday following such an astonishingly successful weekend. He motioned cautiously for Hubbard to continue.

“At 8:02 am, Mr. Bradford, the branch manager, began opening the bank. During the day, as you may have noticed, they keep the vault door open. Today, when Mr. Bradford opened the vault, he found all of the safe deposit boxes emptied and stacked in a neat pyramid in the center of the floor.”

“So…” Warner sped up his "keep going" gesture.

“Someone broke into the bank before opening, casually cleaned out all twelve-hundred safe deposit boxes—stacked them tidily in the middle of the vault—then left with anywhere between a hundred and fifty to three hundred pounds of safe deposit box contents without tripping any alarms, tampering with any wiring, or being seen on any camera.”

“No damage at all?” Warner asked as if it was the most important question in the world. Hubbard just shook his head and continued leaning over Warner’s desk like a maple tree—a maple tree that makes you call your insurance company just to shore some things up.

“No damage, no prints, no evidence that anything happened at allsave for the fact that everything in the vault is gone and everything in it has been wiped clean, top to bottom.”

On the way to the bank, Hubbard explained that he was instructed to keep this as quiet as possible to avoid departmental embarrassment—which suited Warner just fine. Ever since Quincy Rathbone started bringing him pre-solved cases from the newspaper, his floor had gained a reputation for outstanding efficiency and productivity. 

Mr. Bradford was very collected, but the concern on his face was clear. The bank was closed, of course, and there were only a handful of employees allowed in the bank, including security. Bradford led Warner and Hubbard into the vault.

“The vault was built in 1916originally. It’s undergone nearly a dozen upgrades and updates since then. The outer walls are three-foot thick, steel reinforced concrete. The inner walls are lined with half-inch thick, drill resistant steel. The inner door is only for the privacy of our clients, but the outer door is a foot and a half thick steel with sixteen locking pins and pressure stanchions that hold the door shut with over five tons of force. This vault can withstand nearly anything. The door opens on a timing mechanism that can only be accessed with the door open.”

Warner and Hubbard looked around very carefully as they entered the vault, hoping to catch a glimpse of some piece of evidence that had somehow been overlooked. There was none. Big, heavily reinforced, and particularly shiny and clean.

“Night shift guards?” Warner asked.

“Two. Leo Felix and Thomas Nichols. Made all their scheduled rounds and didn’t leave the security cameras’ field of view all night.” Hubbard replied.

“They did an awful lot of work in here,” Hubbard began, “how long could two or three people breath in there with the door closed?”

Mr. Bradford was irritated by the question but tried his best to keep his composure.

“The idea that a person would suffocate in a locked vault is erroneous. You would die of dehydration long before you ran out of airand that would take at least three days. They would’ve had as much as they needed once they got passed the motion sensors and cameras in the bank, in addition to the two armed security guards. Oh, and the impenetrable, four-foot thick steel box with the seventeen-ton door.”

“Right, so we’ll just go round up everyone with the ability to slip through very, very tight crevices—they ought to be pretty easy to spot from the side,” Warner said.

Hubbard nudged Warner and jerked his head slightly to indicate he wanted to speak privately. They excused themselves and returned to the main area of the bank. They saw a few people staring in through the large glass front of the building. Warner ordered an officer to clear them off. Hubbard spoke in a low voice, looking around to make even the uniformed officers couldn’t hear him.

“We have nothing,” Hubbard said.

“Yes, but we can’t let that get around. Do you have any ideas?”

“Well,” Hubbard hesitated for a moment, “what about Rathbone?”

“No!” Warner shouted, then caught himself and brought his voice back to a reasonably quiet tone. “We can’t let this run in the paper, remember?”

“I know that. I just mean... You know. Call him.”

Warner balanced the idea of giving up nearly a quarter of his workforce to handle petty crimes again or having to explain why he was requesting money for outside consulting after being so self-sufficient and productive for a year. Suddenly someone tapped on the glass out front. The man was smiling immensely and excitedly retrieved a press badge from his jacket pocket and pressed it against the glass.

"I'll call him from the manager's office," Warner said.

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