By Jeff C. Gibson
Special Agent Benjamin Turling stepped into the interrogation room with two cups of coffee. He put one on the table in front of Charles Arthur Grogan, suspect.
Turling said, “Agent Johnson tells me you changed your mind. We’re recording, by the way.” He pointed to the camera in the ceiling. “We’ll do a formal statement later.”
Grogan nodded. “So if I cooperate, it’s only the weapons charge? No bank robbery?”
“Correct. All you have to do is tell me everything you know about Sharlene Beaumont.”
“Deal. Where do I start?”
“Try the beginning.”
“Right.” He took a deep breath. “Sharlene Beaumont is the greatest bank robber in the world. Seriously. She’s a genius. Never got caught, and I doubt she ever will. No offence.”
“She plans her jobs to the last detail. No matter what happens, she has a contingency plan. She taught me everything I know.”
“You never robbed a bank before you met her?”
“No sir, never.” Grogan sighed and looked away. “But we had a great year together. One glorious year. Pulling jobs, making love on piles of cash. The finest restaurants. It was the best year of my life.”
“How sweet.” Turling glanced at his notes. “She was twenty-two when you met her?”
“Right. She was already a pro by then. Her old boyfriend taught her how, a guy named Mitch. He told her that the most important thing a bank robber needed, more than brains or balls or sheer will, was discipline. The best plan in the world wasn’t worth shit if you didn’t follow it.”
“She pulled seven jobs with Mitch and learned all she could. But she had to dump him. He was stoned most of the time, getting sloppy on the job. What really pissed her off was that he neglected her. You just don’t do that to a woman like Sharlene.”
“We’ll get to Mitch later. How many banks did you rob?”
Grogan took a sip. “Five. The first four went down perfect, exactly like she said they would. The fifth, not so perfect. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
“We were leaving the bank and I was holding the door for Sharlene, who had the loot in an oversized purse, when some asshole customer lunged up off the floor and tried to tackle me. I never should have let him get that close. It was my job to control the civilians, and keep an eye on the clock and the street, while Sharlene grabbed the cash. He must have crept up while my back was turned.
“He slammed my face into the door. Gave me this.” Grogan pointed to the bandage on his forehead. “I threw an elbow to his temple but he didn’t go down. So I fired a shot over his head. He got the message, all right. He pissed his pants!” Grogan chuckled.
Turling didn’t. “Go on.”
“When I got outside, Sharlene was behind the wheel, gunning the engine, her eyes wild behind her mask. I slid into the passenger seat and we took off. I waited until we were a couple blocks away before tearing off my mask and wiping the blood from my eyes.
“We switched cars and went to the strip mall and stashed the loot in the utility box. Then we —”
“Wait a minute. Why a utility box?”
“It was Sharlene’s idea. She uses them all the time. You can open them with a standard skeleton key and there’s usually enough room inside.”
Turling wrote that down. “Why hide the money at all? Why not just run?”
Grogan took a gulp of his coffee. “That’s the beauty of her plan. We stash the cash and let things cool off. Even if you track us down, you don’t have a case. Without the loot or a fingerprint or a positive ID, you ain’t got shit.
“Anyway, we went back to the motel room. I was in bad shape. My head was pounding but Sharlene patched me up and said I’d be fine. Then she left to torch the clothes we’d been wearing. She also took my pistol, since you could match it to the bullet I fired.
“I took a couple painkillers and crashed. When I woke up, Sharlene was back with some Chinese takeout, which was terrible. It was dark outside. I still had a headache but I think it was from the pills and booze. We went back to sleep.
“The next morning, she said we had to implement one of her contingency plans and leave town right away. It was my job to go get the loot while she took our luggage to the bus station and bought tickets. We had three hours. Plenty of time.
“When I got to the alley behind the strip mall, it was deserted, so I ran over to the utility box and grabbed the bag. Then the whole place exploded with sirens and lights. I almost had a heart attack. You know the rest.”
Turling nodded. “You watched me open the bag. It was filled with newspapers. And the pistol you used in the robbery.”
“Yeah. And you guys got an anonymous tip. From a woman, right?
“Correct. You never suspected she might betray you?”
“Hell no! Sure, I fucked up, but nothing we couldn’t recover from. We still could have escaped together. We were in love. I was, anyway.” He grimaced and crumpled his cup.
“I didn’t figure it out until an hour ago, when I was downstairs, chained to the bench. I was looking around and feeling sorry for myself when I saw a wall calendar with the old dates crossed off. That’s when it hit me.” He grinned, because he had to. “Sharlene’s birthday was three days ago. I completely forgot. And you just don’t do that to a woman like Sharlene!”
Copyright © 2015 Jeff C. Gibson. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!