PENALTY FOR EARLY WITHDRAWAL
Ellen smiles sweetly as she bade her last customer of the day goodbye. The four younger tellers are busy discussing holiday plans as Ellen closes her cash drawer and proceeds to lock up the drive-through lanes of the busy local bank. The group of women working under Ellen are happy to have a boss as nice and considerate as their head teller. Here it is Christmas eve and all are in a hurry to get home or on their way out of town, and Ellen volunteers to stay and close everything up and make sure the bank is secure for the three day holiday weekend. Ellen herself starts vacation and will be gone for the next ten days. What a great boss Ellen is.
The heavy vault door is slowly closed and locked (by Ellen) before the four hurriedly exit the bank. It is bank policy that two people must set the timer on the vault and lock the massive door everyday before leaving. Ellen is so helpful to set the hours on the timer and asks Jean to verify the time. It’s not her fault that Jean has taken off her glasses and barely glances at the timer or the alarm before she signs the log and hurries out the door. Ellen waves goodbye and wishes each a happy holiday as they rush to their cars to begin their holiday weekend.
Looking at her watch, Ellen calculates the time it will take her to drive across town in traffic. Smiling, she gathers her purse and slowly walks out the door to the now deserted parking lot. Todd Jenkins, from the insurance agency down the walk, waves to Ellen and wishes her a merry Christmas as he locks his office door. She congratulates herself on this lucky encounter as she turns the ignition on her three year old Toyota Tercel. As the engine warms up, Ellen asks herself, is she really doing this?
A forty-five year old widow (six years, childless) she has been an employee of First State Bank for fourteen years. Ellen belongs to the Baptist church and has been a devoted member for twenty four years. Her little house is well kept and her bank account holds a total of $7346.15. She contributes to four charities and always gives her tellers small birthday and Christmas presents. Ellen is pretty in a matronly fashion and dresses very conservatively. Ellen always saw herself as a dull person with no imagination or excitement in her life. Thanks to her bosses degrading remarks, he helped her realize there is an exciting, wild woman waiting to emerge. Ellen smiles as she contemplates pulling off the biggest bank heist in her state’s history.
Driving across town in the hectic rush hour traffic, she once again reviews the details of her planned robbery.
· Security cameras loaded with overexposed film rendering them useless.
· Vault timer set for only two hours instead of the required eighty seven hours (stupid Jean for not checking).
· Alarm not turned on (stupid Jean again).
· Bank empty until 8:00 am Monday morning (it is now 5:30, Thursday afternoon).
Her fabricated vacation to
Ellen cautiously pulls the car over to the grass on the near deserted side street. Exiting the car, she checks her pockets and proceeds to place her purse and car keys in sight on the front seat and locks and shuts the door. As this is a crime ridden section of town, she figures the car will be broken into and driven off within the hour.
Removing her hairpins and tossing
her glasses aside, she quickly makes her way to the corner bus stop. Fluffing
her hair and removing her full circle skirt to reveal a tight mini skirt,
changes her appearance drastically. Riding the bus filled with other workers at
rush hour leaves little chance of anyone remembering her. Exiting at a busy
corner and walking a quarter mile to her destination gives Ellen time to reflect. Borrowing her bosses keys to
secretly copy his car keys was stressful. She was barely able to replace his
set of keys before he noticed. With him out of town until Tuesday, she has use
of his car with no worry of police involvement until then. Locating his house
and driving away in his car was much too easy. “No wonder crime is rampant” she
mused out loud. Driving to her house to pick up a small overnight bag and her
suitcase of new stylish clothes exhilarates Ellen. In approximately ten hours
she will be on her way to
Establishing a new identity was easier than she thought possible. Of course it helps to work at a bank and be privy to confidential information. Just waiting for the right person to come along was more time consuming than the forgeries. Oh well, she has a driver’s license, social security card, and VISA credit card in the name of Patricia Herbert, age forty-three, and that is who she will be from now on. Stealing the identity and waiting six months to use it was very cunning. Ellen checked twice with the credit bureau to make sure there were no warnings or flags attached to Patricia’s file. Must not arouse the suspicion of the real Patricia Herbert.
Giving her neat attractive home one last glance, she picks up her bags and heads toward the door. One last look at her late husband’s picture brings a lump to her throat. All she ever wanted was a nice home, friends to play bridge with and a man to go out to dinner and dancing with twice a month. But no, she had to fall in love with Mr. Wrong. The first two years weren’t bad but the last four were hell. He was a selfish man and their marriage was miserable due to his lack of warmth. She only kept his picture around to remind her what a mistake she had made and to never repeat that experience.
Locking the door behind her, Ellen slips on her gloves before entering her boss’ expensive BMW and heads to the bank. She’s driven this same route five times a week for fourteen years. Reflecting on her boss, Ellen acknowledges the idea of a bank heist was borne of boredom with her life and anger at him. She remembers the day she approached his office and from the slight opening of the door she overheard Mr. Ritchie, her boss, and his good ole’ buddy Ralph Mercer discussing the staff. Mr. Ritchie referred to Ellen as an ‘Old Prune’ and said the “only excitement in her life was when the grocery store had double coupon day.” Being a lady, Ellen backed away from the door and never mentioned the conversation to Mr. Ritchie. She never forgot or forgave him either. Ellen visualized this robbery for five years and tonight it would become a reality. “Oh yes, Mr. Ritchie, I know what excitement is,” Ellen states aloud.
Driving up to the bank parking lot Ellen scans the area thoroughly. She drives to the remote side of the lot and places her cleverly made sign in the front window.
BANK REPO- $19,500.00
Knowing this will satisfy the police if they drive by and check out the area, Ellen locks the door and hurries to the bank entrance. Letting herself in (all the bank employees have keys), she moves assuredly through the dimly lit lobby to her destination. Taking the copy of the vault key from her pocket, Ellen quietly unlocks the vault and turns the handle on the massive door. Groaning, the heavy door slowly swings open. Slipping inside, Ellen pulls the heavy door shut, making sure the handle does not pull down.
Once inside, Ellen turns the light on and opens the small case she has brought with her. The first order is to open the inner vault and remove all the hundred, fifty, and twenty dollar bills. First State Bank usually keeps a half million dollars on hand but with a little deception on Ellen’s part, it now holds one million dollars. The last cash order request sent to the Federal Reserve Bank was in error as far as everyone was concerned. Ellen was instructing Jean on ordering cash and Jean ordered the wrong amount as far as anyone knew. Jean should really wear her glasses at all times. What really happened was Ellen prepared the cash order (ordering the extra half million) and then called Jean over to order cash. The moment Jean started to execute the order, Ellen distracted her, deleted Jeans order and retrieved her prepared order of one million dollars on the computer screen. Of course Ellen was very forgiving of Jeans’ mistake and even volunteered to explain the error to Mr. Ritchie. Poor Jean was so thankful Ellen thought she was going to cry.
After filing two large trash bags with cash and all the travelers checks, Ellen begins her real task. Taking the commercial drill from her bag, she starts drilling the select safe deposit boxes. As she’s drilling the boxes, Ellen marvels at her ingenuity. Buying the drill at the local hardware store and sending the warranty card off in Franks (Jeans boyfriend) name was really smart. Jean had confided in Ellen that Frank was an ex-con and Ellen is positive he will be the first suspect the FBI questions. Who knows, if she’s lucky the police will think Jean and Frank had something to do with her disappearance.
Ellen has observed over a hundred safe deposit box drillings in her fourteen years of employment, due to lost keys, death of an owner or non-payment. It really is easier than most people think and not half as noisy as they show on television. There are only about twenty boxes she really has any interest in. Ellen is very observant and knows who tucks away money or keeps their jewelry locked up. Beginning to feel drowsy, Ellen starts to whistle as she tackles the last box. This one is for fun and revenge. As the door swings open, Ellen giggles as she pulls the heavy box out of its resting space. Peering inside the half opened lid, Ellen’s breath catches. As she pulls the top all the way open the light catches the reflection of the precious jewels thrown inside Mr. Ritchie’s safe deposit box. Hundreds of small stones roll around the envelopes and legal papers stuffed inside the box. Even unworldly Ellen realizes you don’t have this wealth on a bank presidents’ salary. Sitting quietly she picks up each stone and gazes at its brilliance. Checking her watch, Ellen realizes she’s already an hour behind schedule. Visions of opulent wealth fill her mind as she gathers her tools and plastic bags filled with money.
As Ellen turns the light off and starts to open the vault door, she hears voices. Frozen in her place, she holds her breath as the voices come near. Could that be Jean and a man in the bank lobby at this hour on Christmas day? Pressing her face next to the vault door, Ellen waits expectantly. Ellen cries out silently as she overhears Jean state, “See Frank, I knew I didn’t lock this vault properly. Miss Ellen would be so disappointed in me if she heard I left the vault unlocked all weekend.” Frozen in terror, Ellen’s silent screams are unnoticed as the loud CLANK of the vault door handle is pulled down and the key turned in the lock.