The Great Irish Birdseed Caper

That’s right, a trio of geniuses in Limerick, Ireland knocked off an armored truck and all they had t show for it was a bag of birdseed.

This story brings to mind one immediate question: Who do you think got their ass kicked for this?

According to the article, there were a minimum of three dudes on this job. So, was it the guy who planned this shit show or the guy that mistook birdseed for a cash transport bag that got punched first?

When I walk through this one, I have to start with the stakeout. Let’s give them credit enough to stalk the armored car, learn its routes, maybe time its stops? Clearly, we can’t say that they paid a whole lot of attention to what the money bags looked like. Unless the brand of birdseed was so cool the bags resembled locking, security laden, reinforced cash transport bags (some how I doubt it though).

Anyway, lets put the three of our robbers in the car, a white Skoda sedan, since we’re in Ireland. Thad is the getaway driver, Kev is the bag man, Liam is the leader, and on overwatch. According to the article Kev used an ‘implement’ to subdue the armored car guy. What the hell do they mean by implement? Like a crowbar or something? If it was a crowbar why didn’t the journalist just say they used a crowbar to smack the security guard and make off with the loot? Another stray thought I had on this was how is it after all of Ireland’s ‘troubles’ in the seventies and eighties they don’t have more guns lying around?

Liam is driving Kev and Thad bonkers. He keeps calling out stops and times that he armored car is making along its route.

                “Nine oh five, bank on Smythe,”

                Then…

                “Nine ten, petrol station, Glenhadden,”

                And…

                “Nine fifteen, Western Union, Waller street,”

                Liam’s foot is tapping a staccato on the floorboards of the Skoda.

                Thad’s too afraid to say anything to Liam about the toe-tapping. This is his first gig with these guys, and he doesn’t want to mess up his big break. He concentrates instead on checking his mirrors for the cops. Thad jumps in his seat when Kev finally blurts out,

                “For fuck sake Liam. We know the fuckin route, the schedule, the whole things, shut it man!”

                At least Kev got the toe-tapping to stop.

                “You just watch your lip Kev,” Liam snaps back, “This is serious shit, every detail down to the hair on your arse’s gotta be perfect,”

                “Perfect this,” says Kev waving Liam the finger, “I know the job,”

                “You better,” states Liam flatly.

                “Clear off,”

                Thad straightens in his seat, “Boys, boy’s!”

                The armored truck is rounding the corner. The next stop on its route is a bank located in a strip mall. It sits between a discount store and a shoe store.

                “I told ya!” exclaims Liam, “Right on time,”

                Kev doesn’t say anything, he’s focused. He’s got plans for the money, and it’s so close now. The vision of himself rocking a new gold watch with a diamond encrusted face the size of his head. Rolling through Fitzpatrick’s Casino in Limerick like a whale.

                The armored truck rolls to a stop between the discount store and the bank. Thad, Liam, and Kev sitting thirty feet away in the front row of the parking lot.

                “Here we go,” says Liam.

                Liam and Kev exit the Skoda while one of the guards waddles his way from the passenger seat and down to the pavement. He’s older, with a brown mustache. The guard’s blue uniform is oversized, even for his pot belly. The guard straightens his uniform cap before shuffling around the back of the truck. Kev takes the rear while Liam rounds the front to keep an eye on the driver. Kev has a little further to go than Liam and when he makes his way to the rear fender the last person, he expects to find is the mustachioed guard walking right toward him, a canvas bag in his hand. The two almost run into each other.

“Ahhh!” screams Kev with the genuine inflection of a six-year-old girl.

                The excitation takes the old guard by surprise too. He screams the same way, “Ahhh!”

                Kev rips the crowbar from his jacket and bashes the wide-eyed guard over the head. As the guard stumbles back, Kev snatches the bag from his hand,

                “Let’s go!” he yells only a decibel under the scream he let fly a moment before.

                Liam follows and Thad pulls the Skoda out, its tires squealing. Thad pops the boot and Kev throws the bag in the dark compartment before jumping in the back seat.

                “Move!” Liam barks and the three thieves roar out of the parking lot.

                Twenty minutes later the Skoda pulls into a garage on the other side of Limerick.

                “Whew, that was flawless boys. I told ya! I told ya we couldn’t lose!”

                “Yeah, you said it alright,” comments Kev.

                Thad had heard them but was more interest in seeing the money. He curled around the boot and popped the latch with the key fob. His hands shaking as he lifts the lid.

                “Huh?” he utters. The boot is full of…dust? Thad had checked the whole car himself before they took off for the job. The compartment had been spotless. Thad reaches in and grabs some of the…birdseed?

                “What’s that?” Liam pushes passed him and reaches for the bag. He freezes as his hand reaches the bag. Instead of finding strapped bills filling the canvas bag he retracts his hand to reveal a fist full of birdseed.

                Thad, Liam, and Kev watch as a long sad stream of birdseed sifts from Liam’s hand like sand from an hourglass.

As I write this I kind of don’t want to say who his who first. Instead of a beat down, I like to think Kev and Liam just go at it in a rolling throwdown like when Peter fights the giant Chicken in Family Guy. When it’s all over I have to end it with the three of them standing together watching the Skoda go up in flames. These criminal masterminds have seen every episode of CSI (every flavor, even Miami) and know that they have to burn the getaway car to throw the cops off their trail. Kev has a split lip, and one of Liam’s eyes are swollen shut. Thad is holding an empty gas can wondering when he can get away from the other two without it being awkward. From the boot random bits of birdseed pop every now and then like popcorn.

The article notes that the guard had stopped at the discount store next to the bank to buy some birdseed in between stops. Kev apparently stumbled into him after the discount store but before the bank. I can’t say this enough. I love dumb criminals.

We’ll just leave it at that.

Three men arrested in probe into cash-in-transit robbery where bird seed was stolen instead of cash – Independent.ie

It’s the Little Things

 

Has anyone ever told you that it’s the little things that get you? Maybe you didn’t get in as much trouble as I did growing up but I have been told (usually by Mom) and have told (bad guys during my Cop life) that it is the little details, those fine points that even the most careful of us overlook that end up bringing all our nefarious plans crashing down on our heads. When I think of this I think of wearing gloves to hide your fingerprints. Or if you are a teenager in upstate New York in January, maybe watching out where you leave footprints in the snow when sneaking out at night. Oh I also got caught once when my folks asked me if I was power sliding my little VW down the street during an ice storm. When I denied that I would ever do something like that they gently showed me to the tire tracks that lead directly from the sideways prints on the street to my rear tires parked in the driveway: the little things.

I saw this little gem of an article and had to share. The next time you step onto a subway train, board an airplane, or take someone else’s phone to watch the newest annoyingly cute animal video think about this. “How your micro-biome can put you at the scene of the crime,” by Kai Kupferschmidt from Science Magazine.

Turns out that by the time we are 3 or 4 years we have gathered a unique set of bacteria from the environment we grow up in, and that mix remains fairly stable throughout our lives.

In 2010 a paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers showed that bacterial DNA recovered from computer keyboards matched the micro-biomes found on their owners’ fingertips. The authors also sampled bacteria from nine computer mice and used the results to pick the owners out of a database of 270 micro-biomes.

Did anyone else just squirm a little when they read that?

A paper from 2015 identified that individuals have a theoretically unique microbial cloud that we carry with us, and deposit wherever we happen to go. We shed bacteria constantly spitting it from our mouths, breathing them out. Bacteria are so small that our clothes have no effect at containing them. Whenever we sit down or pick something up bacteria is deposited on that surface and it persists until the next person comes along. In the paper, researchers measured the bacterial cloud surrounding volunteers by placing them in a sanitized chamber and sampling the area around them. What they found was that they were able to identify individuals by this micro-biome we carry with us.

To apply this to the criminal world researchers swabbed places suspects are believed to have touched at crime scenes then sequence captured DNA in the laboratory. Once sequenced the profiles can be compared to a database and individual strains of bacteria can be identified. The mix, or unique ecosystem of different species of bacteria that are identified in the sample from the crime scene can then be compared to a known suspect sample to see if the two micro-biomes match.

In a practical evaluation, researchers in Illinois staged a fake break in then took samples from where the “burglars” handled things in the house. When the signatures from the suspects were reviewed the scientists not only could identify individual micro-biomes, but from residues in the samples determine the amount of alcohol one of the ‘suspects’ consumed each week and that one of them was on migraine medication. Even if the bacterial cloud could not be determined to be individual enough to identify a suspect to the exclusion of all others, (to date a sample size and technique has not been complete enough to try and take an identification based on bacteria to court), how great would it be if traits such as drug use, medication, or drinking habits could be used as leads in narrowing down the suspect pool?

Recently the J. Craig Venter Institute received a $900,000 grand from the National Institute of Justice to build a micro-biome database. That is a first step in evaluating whether or not bacteria can be used to identify someone. Practical application is a long way off.

Regardless I thought it interesting that when we now warn someone that it’s the little things that get you. We really mean it is the little things that get you, like your own bacteria, little.

Reference:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/how-your-microbiome-can-put-you-scene-crime

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The Window (Short)

Hey, I really liked the female protagonist in this story so I figured I would share. It’s another one of the shorts I found in my files. Here you go, let me know what you think.

The Window

 

Behaviorally speaking, there is no difference between a five-year-old boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and a thirty-five-year-old accountant accused of raping and murdering a twenty-one year old bartender. The two mirror each other in movement, posture, responses. Tapping feet, shifting eyes, slumped shoulders. These movements betray their secrets. They try to put up a strong front; to deny their truth, both know what the outcome will be. Each can feel the ‘other shoe’ poised over their heads waiting to drop. The only difference between the two is a matter of time. Where the five year old will fold under the withering gaze of grandma in moments, the thirty-five year old thinks he’s crafty, ahead of the game. He requires a little more convincing.

    The way he slumps in the cold hard metal chair; one leg outstretched, his left arm crooked over the seat back. He looks calm. The expensive black suit says he is important, and the smug grin shows he believes it. His eyes angle toward the dull gray metal table, feigning indifference. He’s checked his watch three times in the fifteen minutes he’s been in there. All of that is betrayed, however, by the subtle movement of his lower lip. Beneath that smug, half grin, he gnaws on it like a wolf chewing though his leg to get out of a trap. This is where time comes in.

    He gnaws on his lip. After a few minutes his left knee starts to bounce ever so slightly. His eyes fix across the table. He just noticed the file, a simple manila folder. The word Subject precedes his name, and a thick stack of various forms hide beneath its cover. One form peeks out from under the off-white cover. The title reads, Search Warrant. His name is at the top of that too.

    His eyes dart to the window and he catches his own reflection. There’s a lack of confidence he can’t bear to see so he turns back to the warrant. Yearning to see without overtly straining, he reads as much as he can. Only three lines of text are available to him. When he scans the text his eyes flash wide, though only for a micro second. Instinctively, his right hand snaps to his left collar bone. He doesn’t consciously realize he is trying to hide the deep gashes that stretch from the base of his neck to his chest. He looks back to the window. His eyes are wider now, like the eyes of a person who realized they just stepped out in front of a bus. He is searching for help, searching for hope. It only takes a moment for him to recover.

    On the other side of the one way glass she looks once more at the photo in her hand. Swollen, closed eyes, black, blue, purple, the bloody pulp was once the beautiful face of Shannon Wells, twenty-one, bartender. She could quote the Medical Examiner’s report by letter and verse. Shannon Wells was a fighter, and that made Detective Kate Mills smile. Shannon died as a result of manual strangulation coupled with an intracranial hematoma. The medical examiner found mounds of ripped skin, not Shannon’s, buried under her fingernails. Shannon also had a chunk of areola lodged in her trachea. The girl fought for her life, no one could ask for anymore. And she had had a lot to live for.

    Shannon was a scholar in the truest sense of the word. Daughter of a single father; her Mother, Maya, died while delivering her. Shannon was valedictorian of a class of less than a hundred students in a speck of an upstate New York High School. She led her high school soccer team to a state title her senior year then shot out of town like a rocket. Despite being wooed by every major team in the NCAA, Shannon hung up her cleats in favor of Physics. She was a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a full academic scholarship. Shannon studied Physics by day and slung drinks at night to make ends meet. Then she met Anthony ‘Tony’ Chapman. The crime scene examination showed forced entry through a shattered door frame. Holes in the sheetrock, a broken coffee table, and shattered television showed Tony liked it rough. Alex Newton, Manager of the Thirsty Owl where Shannon worked picked Tony out of a line up and remembered Tony hovering around Shannon until closing time the night before she went missing.

    Tony is a proud product of South Boston, and he has a record. He married once however that marriage ended with facial reconstruction for his wife, a restraining order, and ninety days in county jail. It seemed Tony liked to hit his girls, and the wife wasn’t the only domestic trouble he’s been a part of. Interviews of former girlfriends yielded adjectives such as scumbag, Napoleon, sadist. Mills also found a south side hooker named Tina who pressed charges on him for assault a few years back. The assault failed to stick since Tina was a hooker. Tony liked to make himself feel strong at the expense of his girls.

Kate watched her quarry for another moment then knocked on the window three times. Slow and deliberate, the rumble of the heavy plate glass was like the sullen drone of a death toll. It’s an utterly unproductive gesture, lends nothing to the coming interrogation. The initial volley in an unmitigated psychological war Detective Kate Mills was about to unleash on this trapped predator.

Tony shot out of his chair at the rumbling staccato, eyes like saucers, he looked at the window, toward her. She smiled. Tony likes it rough. Tony ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    Detective Mills secured Shannon Wells’ photo to the file that will bear her legacy and turned from the window. Thirty-five or five, little boys do not change. Tony Chapman is about to realize he has been caught with his hand in a very dangerous cookie jar.

END

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Last Call

whiskey

CAVEAT: I don’t get short fiction. My mind doesn’t seem to work in short bursts of writing a single scene or putting a story together in only a couple of thousand words. That being said I was going through my files and found a couple of old stories that I like. I figured why not share them and see what you think.

My first offering is a short called ‘Last Call,’ it takes a look at a detective having a bad day. He’s treading on the edge of disaster and needs a little gentle advice to set him straight. I hope you like it.

Last Call

            Jack’s gut twisted like a cat falling off a building. He pulled on the brass handle and the heavy wooden door swung open with ease.  His eyes on the ground, he crossed the threshold.  Warm as the womb, smoke, stale beer, and the lingering scent of spilled liquor greeted him as he stepped into the bar.  It was quiet and he kept his head down as he made his way to his stool.  There were two couples in a booth toward the back by the fire place.  Three sets of slumped shouldered men hovered over their drinks as if searching for truth at the bottom of their glass.

He found his stool, snakes in his belly were writhing and kicking.  His head hurt and his hands shook as he settled in.  Bennie, the bartender and owner of Jameson’s Pub watched him from down the bar.  He managed a weak nod toward the older man and in a low voice muttered,

“Bourbon, neat Bennie,” he couldn’t meet the old man’s eyes.

He heard the old man sigh as he limped to the shelf and grabbed a tumbler and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.  He watched him start to pour as tears welled in his eyes and he again had to turn his eyes to the floor.

Go! Now! The voice screamed in his head.  Throughout the day that voice had grown progressively weaker like a clock winding down.  In the end it was over matched by the thirst.  The glass slapping the solid oak of the bar sounded like a gong and snapped him out of his thoughts.  Before him stood the tumbler, half full of the harsh amber fluid.  Flanking the larger glass on either side stood two shot glasses brimming with the same.  Bennie loomed over the five drinks, his tired eyes boring into him.  A hint of sadness trimmed the burning disgust in the bartenders eyes.

“What’s this?” Jack asked.

“This?” he pointed to the shot furthest to the right, “is for Tina,”  pointing to the next shot glass he said, “Sammy,”  Bennie skipped the tumbler and at the next shot glass said, “Jack Junior,” Bennie paused for a minute and studied him.  Then his arm shot across the bar and into the breast pocket of Jack’s blazer.  Smooth as lightning he slipped Jack’s wallet.  Flipping it open before his face flopped a  New York Police Department, Detective First Class shield.  “The last shot,”  Bennie palmed the badge and slammed it into the bar so hard it dented the wood.  “is for your badge ya pathetic son of a bitch.  If your wife and kids ain’t enough to keep you straight I thought maybe the job would.  The last time Tina came to pick you up off my bar I could see it in her eyes Jackie.  She’s done, she won’t be here for you this time.  So here you go.  Drink up, but let’s make it a toast.”  Bennie lifted the shot farthest to the left.  He then leaned in so close Jack could feel the heat of his breath.  Jack stared at the bar. He was shaking.

“But…” he offered.

“No! No But, you selfish prick!  Nobody gives a shit what your pantywaist, traumatic, predisposed, worthless excuse is or will be. Least of all me, and certainly not Tina or the kids.”  He slammed the shot down in front of Jack, alcohol spewing from in between his meaty fingers.  “So what’s it gonna be, Jackie boy,” he whispered.

Jack looked at Bennie. Met him eye to eye.  They were red, swollen, broken.  “You can be a real Son of a Bitch sometimes you know that Lieutenant? It’s a good thing you’re retired.”

“Bein an asshole is the only way I ever got you to learn boy.”

Slipping off the stool, shoulders still sagging, Jack tossed a twenty on the bar and started for the door.

END

Make sure you check out the rest of my titles here. My newest release, ‘Where Angels Sing,’ came out in October.

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