Friday, May 30, 2014

#FridayFlash - The Way You Do It

Dan knew how to remain calm during the chaos of an operation. He had learned it while serving two tours in Iraq. The primary key was having a plan, which involved the procurement of intelligence—and of course the skills to use it. In the end it took clear-headed thinking, plus an ability to sell one's vision. It almost always involved selling a vision to everyone else.

Through his training in the Corps, Dan had learned that in any plan there were multiple decisions to be addressed, and for every decision there was also an actual process. First, one had to define the problem. Then it was time to assemble the information and develop alternatives. You always had your preferred route, of course, but you never engaged until you knew the potential land mines that could derail your objective.

Sitting next to him in the passenger's side of the car, Mike asked a question.

"What's a seven letter word for 'It's out of here!'?"

Dan closed his eyes. He pinched the bridge of his nose. Brilliant, he thought.

He sighed and said, "At a time like this, you want to fill out a cross-word?"

Mike shot him a hard look, but Dan didn't care. A secondary key to staying calm and achieving success, he knew, was having the ability to focus on the task at hand, and to keep those around you focused as well. Dan only bought the paper this morning in order to read the latest developments on a group who executed a botched-up plan down in San Luis Obispo. He had no intention of using the paper for anything else, and certainly not so Mike could test his mental prowess.

Mike looked away for a moment, not saying a thing. Finally, he folded the newspaper and stuffed it in the door panel pocket.

Satisfied, Dan raised the field glasses and watched the next car to arrive. It was the blue Honda with a crinkled rear panel on the driver's side. It pulled into the far parking slot, the same one it did on every workday for the last three weeks.

"There's our girl," Dan said.

He watched as she stepped out of the Honda and closed the door, looking one last time at her reflection in the window before turning toward the building. She walked with her head down, her back bent. Dan looked at his watch and smiled—two more minutes before the front doors opened. It was the same thing every day. She would put in the hours, but don't ask for anything more.

Dan waited another ten minutes. Then he pulled the car into the parking lot, backing it into the slot outside the front doors.

"Here we go," he said. He left the engine running and opened the driver's side door. Mike climbed out as well. "No deviations, just in and out. Two minutes and nothing more."

"Yes sir," Mike said. Dan didn't like Mike's tone, but chose to ignore it.

They walked into the bank, Mike first, who made his way to a walk-up table where he grabbed a template deposit slip. Dan walked over to the teller counter and found the woman he'd watched for the last three weeks.

"Lana," he said, and gave her a warm smile. "I have a problem, and I need your help." He nodded his head back toward Mike at the table. "See my friend over there?"

She looked from Dan to Mike and then back. Confusion filled her eyes. This was a strange conversation.

Dan said, "He and I visited a bank just the other day, over in San Luis. You know, the one that was robbed?"

Her eyes focused on him, and Dan knew she understood now. In truth, Dan and Mike were not the fools who took down that other bank, but the key was that she didn't know it. Perception was reality.

"Yeah, I know, it wasn't very pretty." He kept his smile relaxed. "He tends to be slightly excited, and that's my problem. We don't want anything like that to happen here, right?" He tapped a bulge under his jacket where he kept his gun. Her eyes followed his hand. "I mean, who would pick up your little boy from daycare?"

This was another piece to his preferred route. Find the intelligence, isolate the best alternative, and select the path. Lana shook her head. She didn't want people to die like they had in San Luis.

His smile widened. "Great. Now I'm going to give you this phony check, okay? If you act like you always do—just another day, just another transaction to process—nothing goes wrong."

She did as she was told, and Dan added, "Use a nice big envelope, please, and make sure there're no surprises that might cause me to visit the day care. That would really foul up my plans."

Tears formed in Lana's eyes. She finished the job and slid the envelope over. He nodded.

"Thank you so much. Now don't do anything rash for the next few minutes. My friend and I need to leave quietly." He smiled once more. "And give your boy a nice kiss tonight, okay?"

Dan left the bank. As he reached the car, Mike was walking out behind him. They slid into the car, and Dan pulled out just as nice and easy as a Sunday drive.

"That went well," Mike said.

Dan nodded. He turned the corner two blocks away and stepped on the brakes just behind their other getaway car. Mike reached to open his door, and Dan pulled out his pistol and shot him in the head.

"As Ben Franklin once said..." Dan took out a rag and started wiping down the pistol, the steering wheel, and everything else. "Three may keep a secret if two are dead."

Finished, he grabbed the envelope, stepped out of the vehicle, and walked toward the getaway car.

That's the way you do it, he thought.


  1. but he didn't solve the crossword clue! Nice easy style of pulling a bank job here

    1. Yes, he struck out instead of swinging for the fences. Too bad for him.

  2. It seems Dan has all the angles covered here, pity for Mike that he didn't too.

    A believable and atmospheric story Stephen, I particularly liked the way Dan used someone else's violent rep to avoid needing to use it himself during his own robbery. Much of the time, it's not what is true that matters, it's what people believe to be true.

    1. Perception is reality, isn't it? I'm guessing the reason Dan picked Mike in the first place was that Mike didn't think far enough ahead. That's the way it is, though. Some are players, some are pawns.

  3. Nice to see a robbery go smooth with everything planned out so well. Smooth read, too.

  4. As Marc said, very atmospheric, I felt I was right there with them....but sure am glad I wasn't!
    (Deanna Schrayer)

    1. Thank you, Deanna. I'm glad neither one of us were there, too. :-)

  5. Ah he had plan that he didn't share - nice twist to the tale Stephen ^_^

    1. Thank you, Helen. That's what I find with most leaders: they don't share all of the details of their vision until the deal is done.

  6. Accomplices are supposed to be expendable, right? And I think the hapless Mike was looking for "homerun." :-P

    1. You are right on target, Larry. That's what he was looking for. And yes, some are expendable.

  7. Me being me, the crossword puzzle clue was frustrating me throughout the whole story. I think Larry's got the answer, though :-)

    Hm, personal, specific threat as a way to rob a bank... that would work, at least for a few minutes. It really does ratchet up blackmail to a whole new, instant sort of level.

    I really liked the flow and tone of this. At first I thought they were cops on a tricky stakeout, which just made the payoff even better.

    1. Thank you, Katherine. As the saying goes: Knowledge is power. We see it play out all the time—whether in fiction or in our own personal lives. The more one person knows about someone else, the more leverage the first one has.

  8. Very smooth definitely, very relaxed pace of storytelling and an inovative way of robbing banks. Touche. If Mike hadn't only been so into that crossword puzzle he might have guess his desired outcome earlier.

    1. Thank you, Cindy. I think you're right. Mike's failure to think two steps ahead (or even three) cost him dearly.