It’s rush hour in New York City. There are six inches of snow on the ground. Taxis and pedestrians slip and slide as they rush to wherever they need to be.
The Assistant Bank Manager unlocks the two-foot-thick steel door precisely at 8:00AM, as is his custom. He deactivates the office alarm, turns on the lights and proceeds to his office next to the vault. He hastily throws his briefcase onto his desk, knocking over a photo of his elegant wife. She’s rich and beautiful, a product of Manhattan society, unlike himself. His father was a coal miner. His mother died in childbirth. He’s embarrassed by his father’s lack of education and his rough edges. The young banker conceals his heritage and wears his Harvard degree as his epitaph.
By 8:30AM, most of the bank employees, including the lone teller, are in their positions waiting for the bank’s doors to open for its loyal customers. Several employees, including the Manager, have been delayed because of the treacherous weather conditions. They were expecting the Bank Manager back that day after he’d been out sick the previous two days with the flu.
It’s a slow day for the bankers. By 9:00AM only one customer has come in, and that was a stranger asking for directions to the nearest Starbucks. Shortly thereafter, the Bank Manager arrives. The hooded jacket that he is wearing muffles his cough. He shivers from the chill of his fever. He grumbles to his administrative assistant, “I’m sick. I don’t want to be disturbed. I have two days of work to catch up on.” He drops into his chair, leaving his jacket on to fight the chill. He faces forward. A large window facing the street is to his left. The pile of two day’s work is stacked on the right side of his desk.
A snowplow sprays salt as it passes in front of the bank. The snowplow stops abruptly, without warning. An SUV swerves to avoid it, but crashes into the bank, narrowly missing a man who is just entering the building. The man is coated in salt – a victim of the plow’s haphazard spray. The bank’s emergency alarm, triggered by the crash, is deafening.
No one hears the explosion in the vault. Not even the Assistant Manager.
Fire engines, police cars, ambulances and the media converge on the bank at the same time. Still not one person is aware of the hole in the vault opening to the vacant building next door.
The man covered in salt seems undisturbed by his near-death encounter with the SUV or by the fact that his expensive suit is now well-seasoned. His eyes are directed only at the lone bank teller. He ignores the commotion that excites everyone else. The Salted Man is on a mission.
The SUV came within inches of the Bank Manager’s desk, sparing him from what would have been an instant death. The glass slivers from the exploding front window weren’t as kind. The right side of his face resembles a porcupine.
Inside the bank’s vault three men are at work. They are three ex-convicts and they are brothers. Crime is what they have done together since they were teenagers. Their capers were always small and unimaginative, until now; until the Mastermind came into their lives.
They met the Mastermind when he caught them attempting to break into his Park Avenue brownstone. He locked them in his cave-like wine cellar for a week as he figured out what he might do with them. The Mastermind had one flaw; a gambling addiction. He owed the Mafia millions. He miscalculated the range in which he could leverage his genius IQ. The odds of the roulette wheel were controlled, not random. The fact that gambling was fixed didn’t matter. He still had to pay. He needed to raise money and quick. He had a job for the three brothers.
For five months they had rehearsed the plan the Mastermind had designed. Stopwatches had measured every step and every action. The Mastermind had insisted upon precision. For him every second and every inch mattered. Even conducting the caper when there was snow was all built into the plan. The Mastermind was truly a genius.
Now, as they work, they know exactly what to do. Within fifteen minutes the vault is empty. Everything is proceeding exactly as the Mastermind had planned.
Thirty minutes later, the bank window is boarded up, the SUV has been towed away, the snowplow has resumed plowing, and the Bank Manager has been taken to the hospital. Although his face will be scarred, the injuries are not life-threatening.
“Back to work everyone! We have a bank to run!” the Assistant Manager announces.
The Salted Man approaches the teller. “Good morning. How may I help you?” she asks. She can’t help but notice how distinguished the man looks despite the snow and salt that cover him.
He slides his check forward. “I’d like to cash this, please. My apologies for the amount. It’s an emergency,” he declares in a measured voice. The check is for $100,000.
Although she has never seen this man before, the check is from their bank, and his identification confirms that he is the holder of the account.
“Excuse me sir, I will need to get the approval of the Assistant Manager,” she advises. The Salted Man nods that he understands.
The teller returns minutes later. Her face is pale, her head looks downward, and her voice has a slight stutter. “I’m sorry, sir, because of the turmoil, the Assistant Manager refuses to open the vault today. He wants to conduct a full inspection of all of the bank’s security systems after the bank closes. Until then the vault will remain shut.”
“I understand,” he says, and leaves.
Funny, the teller says to herself, I thought he said it was an emergency.