"Okay, here's the plan."
Max placed his enormous hands on the edge of the table and leaned forward as delicately as possible, so as not to break the only piece of furniture remaining in the abandoned Folding Tables Incorporated warehouse that now served the crew's hideout. Across from him, Lewis cringed.
"Hey, you sure you want to do that?" Under a mop of fiery red hair, the smaller man's eyes shifted from Max's hands to a pile of splintered table tops and legs that had been stacked ten feet high in the corner of the room.
"I practiced pitching this plan in a very specific pose. If I don't lean I'll be outta my element. You mind if I continue?"
"Thank you. So, the plan." Max furrowed his brow, mentally rewinding. "Okay. You go to a burger joint with a drive thru window, right? Order some burgers at the little speaker thing. When you drive up to the first window where you're supposed to pay, you hold the money just out of reach of the cashier and let it drop to the ground. Then you say 'Ooops' in a really smarmy way and drive away."
"Is that the entire plan?" asked Lewis.
"No, it gets better." Max grinned broadly. "We all do this at different drive thrus throughout the city at the same time. There's no way they'll have a system in place to cope with a three pronged attack."
"You do realize that if you drop your money at the first window, you don't get any burgers."
"It's not about the burgers," Max sighed. "It's about pulling off the perfect crime."
"And you lose your money. You're out a couple of bucks and a couple of burgers."
"The burgers and money are minor details. I have no idea why you're so fixated on them." Max opened his mouth to explain, then stopped himself. "I don't know why I'm pitching this to you. You have no appreciation for the big picture. Now Bannon, he appreciates the art of a great plan."
One of the delivery doors squeaked as it rolled up its rusty tracks, revealing a dark figure in the torrential downpour of a summer storm.
"That I do," said Bannon. "Matter of fact, I've got a little plan of my own. We're taking a trip to the bank."
A flash of lightning struck dangerously close, illuminating Bannon's crooked smile.
Detective Kraultz played the tape back once again. On the screen, three men strolled into the Main Street Bank in broad daylight without disguises of any sort, raised their arms outward and extended their middle fingers toward everyone in the bank, then calmly walked back outside. Three men, six arms, no way for the innocents inside that bank to avoid getting flipped off. It was the perfect crime.
"Now we know one thing about these monsters," he said to the rookie detective beside him. "Their planning and execution may be impeccable, but their technology is limited. This video's black and white for chrissakes. It's not even in high def. If this had been professionally lit and recorded on film we'd know these guys were well-funded."
"Sir," said the rookie with some hesitation, "the bank's security camera recorded this video."
"So this whole thing was an inside job. I knew it!"
"No, sir. Every bank uses security cameras in case of events like this."
"Hm." Detective Kraultz chewed his mustache thoughtfully. "Which means that our suspects knew we'd think it was an inside job and that we would devote our resources to pursuing that lead. These men are one step ahead of us at every turn. Luckily, we were able to get a positive ID on each suspect."
Kraultz flipped through the three folders on his desk containing the suspects' criminal records.
"First we've got Max Testosteroni. He's your typical product of a broken home. The cracks in the foundation of his house were large enough to slip through, so he snuck out of the house a lot as a kid and got mixed up with the wrong crowd. Got picked up a few times for Failure To Tuck In A Shirt and Attempted Yelling, but he hasn't popped up in the last three years. A small-timer."
The rookie picked up the second folder.
"Next is... Lewis Osgood. Wanted in three states for Laughing At Unintentionally Funny Parts Of A Serious Film In A Movie Theater. One of those counts came in Wyoming, where the offense is a capital crime. He disappeared three years ago too."
"Which brings us to the ring leader," said Kraultz, skimming the last folder. "Trevor Bannon. Genuine psychopath. His first foray into madness came at the age of ten, when he was charged with Aggravated Refusal To Pass The Salt to his own grandmother at Thanksgiving dinner."
The rookie turned and vomited in the general direction of the wastebasket.
"I'm sorry, sir. I'm just not used to this..."
"It's okay," replied Detective Kraultz. "Everyone goes through it the first time they face something so heinous. You mind if I go on?"
The rookie wiped at his mouth and nodded.
"He bounced around a few foster homes after that, and was picked up for Possession Of Shaving Cream With Intent To Place It In The Palm Of A Sleeping Friend And Tickle His Nose."
The rookie began urinating on Kraultz's bookcase.
"I'm sorry, sir. I thought I was strong enough, but..."
"It's perfectly fine," replied Detective Kraultz. "We all react to barbarism the same way. It's nothing to be ashamed of. It means we're still human."
"I suppose you're right, sir." The rookie finished urinating, then zipped himself back up. "You can go on."
"Nah, there's too much to mention. Not Waving Back To An Officer Of The Law, Leaving Before The End Of A Sports Game, Nodding In Agreement To Someone With A Strange Accent Without Understanding What They Said. It goes on and on. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to his acts of depravity, which is somewhat contradictory to his clinical and genius planning."
Detective Kraultz approached a massive map of the city and folded his arms. There were dozens of pushpins spread across the map, each signifying a store that sold pushpins.
"We've got to stop these bastards," Kraultz whispered to himself, "before they strike again."
Beth Jacobs was frozen in place.
On the pavement before her were three dollars and seventy cents. One of the quarters was still spinning, and she stared into its hypnotic blur with a mixture of utter confusion and disbelief.
On her headset an angry woman was ordering chicken nuggets and fries again and again, increasing the volume of her voice each time in case the microphone only picked up sounds louder than a jet engine during takeoff. To Beth, the voice might as well have been a million miles away.
All that she could see was the coin spinning, and all that she could hear was the squeal of tires as the car that had just pulled away turned onto the highway.
Elliot said my breakup must have been due to the sweater curse, an unexplained phenomenon where anyone who gives their significant other a hand-knit sweater gets dumped. The only way to break the curse, Elliot said, was to destroy the sweater.
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