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For the first time in my career, I was completely stumped.
The video replayed over and over in my brain, my photographic memory meticulously picking it apart to seek a difference between the two suspects. The video was of two different security films - one from Northern California and another from Maryland - playing side by side. Recorded at the same time down to the second, the videos showed two people breaking into international banks on opposite coasts.
The suspects could have been identical twins. Two females, in their early twenties, fiery red hair in a curly ponytail; dressed in black jeans and brown Ralph Lauren blazer. Their movements seemed identical. The way they pressed the ear to the combination lock, the way they looked twice over their left shoulder before pushing the safe door open, even the way they pushed up their sleeve to reveal a stunning Rolex watch was exactly the same. Perfect synchrony. In total, she…they… stole seven million dollars, three and a half from each bank. When the FBI initially asked me to join the investigation, I dismissed it as a strange coincidence. Then they showed me the fingerprints.
A 100% match between the suspects.
The same person - at the same time - robbing two banks on opposite coasts. Although it was completely impossible, the two heists were considered by experienced investigators to be among the most skilled bank robberies in US history. Though they neglected to wear gloves, which I would otherwise consider an amateur mistake, these girls - or girl - were obviously professional.
I arrived at the FBI’s headquarters that Friday morning.
Eyes followed me as I strode through the entrance, my tall stature most likely sticking out against the never ending flow of busy agents swarming the hallways; papers and photos clutched tightly to their chests as the bustled off to important destinations. With a sigh I reached the front desk, ringing the clerk bell. The clerk, who looked what I might call a the epitome of a grouchy librarian, excused herself from her other visitor and walked briskly over to my end of the desk.
“Name, sir?” she rasped, clicking her nails against the mahogany desk.
“Detective Rudolf Black,” I recited.
The librarian clerk pushed her half moon glasses up the bridge of her bulbous nose, pulling up a sticky note from her desk. “Please wait here.”
I waited patiently as she dialed an extension line on the phone.
“Haggermann will see you now,” she sighed plopping back into her seat, leaving her previous visitor to throw her hands in the air and leave. “Second floor, first office on the right.”
I reached the office quickly, knocking on the frosted glass door with an etched “HAGGERMANN” in bold letters.
“Come in,” a hoarse voice said.
I entered the room, peering around the corner of the door to see a large man typing at an equally bulky computer.
“Have a seat.”
I proceeded to sit across the desk from him.
After an interesting episode of watching Haggermann eat cheese and crackers for a minute or two, I coughed and adjusted my glasses to break the awkward silence.
Haggermann looked up from his snack and stuck out a pudgy hand. “You must be Rudolf Black.”
“Well,” I smiled, meeting his greasy palm with my slender one, “Detective, Detective Rudolf Black. I’m eager to get working on this case. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
Haggermann chuckled heartily and twisted his chair towards me. “Boy you’re in for a treat. CPD says you’re the best they got.”
I furrowed my brow. “Well, I... “
“Is that true?” Haggermann said, leaning farther over the desk. “You think you’re the best?”
“It’s a nice compliment I seem to get frequently.”
Haggermann shook his head. “Seven million. Boy, you got one helluva situation for you here. Criminals these days are gettin’ above our heads,” he belched and punched at his chest.
I felt my irritation flush my cheeks. “So, is there any more evidence? I mean, as to who it was or might have been?”
Haggermann stared at me like I was the victim of some epic prank.
“Ahh boy,” He laughed heartily, slapping my hands clasped on the edge of his table, “We already gotter!”
“Yeah, got one of them anyway. She’s in the interrogation room!” he boomed. “Turned herself in two days ago!”
“You’re kidding,” I spat through my teeth, standing up from my seat. “Why wasn’t I notified? Could’ve saved me the trouble of coming all the way down from Chicago. ”
Haggermann’s face turned stone cold. “Frankly, Detective Black, we never needed you to solve this case.”
My heart leapt up to my throat.
“The suspect asked to speak with you… specifically,” Haggermann shook his head, “Arresting her was not the issue - finding out how she was able to steal seven million dollars from banks on clear ends of the United States - was.”
My breath came to a halt, heart skipping every other beat as my brain tried to untangle the situation.
Haggermann’s broad smile returned to his face. “We need you, Detective Black, to figure out how she did this. Talk with her. Entertain her, if you will. But know this. Singlehandedly or with a following, we need to know how she managed to accomplish this. She won’t speak a stitch until she talks to you, so instead of torturing her for the answer, we decided we might as well give her what she wants while obtaining information we need.”
I wiped a bit of sweat from my brow. “Okay.”
“Nervous, Detective?” Haggermann grinned a slimy toothed smile.
I glared down at the bloke, my grey eyes digging into his solid brown ones.
She was by far the most beautifully horrifying creature I’d ever seen.
She sat tranquilly in her seat, bound by duct tape to her chair with two guards on either side of her. Her calm appearance was the kind that looked like it had the potential to erupt into a volcanic fury. Electric emerald eyes, that same tightly curled fiery hair bouncing just below her shoulders - this was definitely one of them. Her nose was slightly turned up with a smirk strewn on her ruby lips, almost as if she took pleasure in the naiveness the FBI.
I watched her intently through the large glass pane, clenching and releasing my fist.
“Why’s she tied up?”
“She tried to kill me,” a passing police officer scoffed, stirring a coffee. “The witch.”
“Is it safe for me to go in there?”
“I don’t know, is it?” the officer rolled her eyes, mumbling and waddling out of the viewing room.
After I requested permission, a set of guards pushed open the heavy iron door to the interrogation room. The icy stillness of the room raked shivers down my spine. The girl’s gaze fixated on me, watching my every move as I sat across from her at the tiny metal table. With a click I pulled the hammer back on my gun and set it in my lap, just in case push came to shove. The guards beside her left, leaving us alone in the tight room.
“Hello Detective Black,” she said coolly, a grin creeping from her thin lips. “It’s so nice to finally meet you. Just so we can set things straight, I found you through the Chicago Tribune. Your name is practically plastered on every investigation story they publish.” A chuckle jumped from her throat. “I would love to shake your hand, but as you can see, I’m a little caught up at the moment.”
“I see you know me,” I remarked, genuinely impressed. “Talkative, aren’t you?”
“Yes, one of my many faults,” she winked. “But it comes in handy from time to time.”
I furrowed my brow, leaning my elbows on the table. “Like I said - you know plenty about me, yet I haven’t the slightest clue who you are.”
The girl narrowed her eyes on me. “I don’t see how that’s important.”
“Well it looks like you don’t have a choice but to tell me.”
The girl’s smile disappeared. “Well, Detective Black, I would be more than happy to inform you, but first I would like it if your ordered the men behind that one way mirror to turn recording devices off. Just vocal, I don’t mind being on tape.”
“How did you kn -”
“It’s an interrogation room,” she smirked, “and believe me, it’s not my first time being in one.”
“And why should I do that for you?”
“Because,” she said whispered, leaning into the table, “If you don’t, you might not figure out how I robbed those banks.”
My heart dropped to my stomach and all of my training went down the drain as I waved for them to switch off the sound recorders.
“Plus you have an excellent memory, photographic if I remember, don’t you Detective Black?”
“Now you said something about telling me how you robbed the banks…”
“My name is Ira Epsilon.”
I pulled out my notebook and scratched away. “Like the Greek letter?”
“Like the Greek letter,” she purred.
“So you were going to -”
“No, I said might, didn’t I?” she beamed, “Why should I tell you? Right off the bat Detective, you expect me to tell you how I achieved such a feat as if we are musing over cup of coffee? Please, Sir, that’s not how I work. That’s not why I brought you here.”
“I can always make them turn the recorders back on. That’s how I work.”
“Oh Detective Black,” Ira growled, her eyes darkening to a menacing ebony, “You really don’t want to do that.”
I took her word for it, taking a deep breath to help hold my composure.
“You have anxiety, don’t you?”
I glared back at Ira’s eyes, which had now returned to their calm emerald state. “That’s not what we’re talking about right now, Miss. Epsilon.”
“Your Grandfather,” she said leaning back in her seat, “You get it from him don’t you?”
“Ah - um, well...” I had nothing to say. She was completely correct.
Ira smiled with her crystal white teeth as she saw the realization come to my face. “Yes,” she cooed, “And what did he do for a living?”
I opened my mouth to object but she cut me off again.
“That’s right, he was one of the founders of Fort Knox,” Ira said, snapping her fingers from under the duct tape. “Now isn’t that interesting?”
I was loosing control. “Listen,” I slammed my fist into the table, “I came to get answers and answers are what I’m going to get, or I could set you up with a lifetime in the can. Now, are you going to cooperate or not?”
“That’s not how the justice system works, Detective Black.”
My hands trembled violently and my throat filled with cold, dry air. Not only was I losing control of Ira, I was losing control of myself. In a weak and humiliating attempt at a whisper I mouthed “Stop that.”
“Stop what?” she replied innocently.
“How did you do it?” I grit through my teeth, crumpling my notepaper in my fist. “I must know.”
Ira sighed and looked off to her right, tapping her foot on the ground in thought. “Okay,” she responded sweetly and quietly, “I’ll tell you, but tell me something first.”
My ears were open.
“Do you own a blueprint of Fort Knox?”
“Well do you? Surely your Grandfather handed one down to you to support that dumb hobby of yours,” she asked, eyes wide and alert.
My mind exploded. How on Earth could she have possibly known that? I stared at her dumbfounded. “Look”, I stumbled over my words, “I don’t know how you know this much about me but -”
“Answer me Rudolf,” she warned, a black ebony clouds stirring in her eyes again.
Without thinking, my mouth spat “I do.”
Ira laughed loudly, straining my ears as the sound absorbed the cramped room.
“That’s great,” she smiled after she returned to her normal self, “And now I suppose I get to tell you how I robbed the banks.”
My skin tingled as we leaned in closer on the table.
“I robbed them,” she whispered softly, “all by myself.”
“All you?” I whispered in awe.
“But how?” I rasped, leaning on my chair, “That’s impossible!”
“No, not impossible,” Ira giggled, placing her loose hands on the table. “I do appreciate you giving your time to me today, and your cooperation has been most splendid. Take care Detective Black.”
The last thing I remember was gazing into Ira’s piercing emerald eyes before something was pounded into the back of my head.
I was allowed to leave the hospital three days later after suffering from a minor concussion. Ira Epsilon, singlehandedly, escaped the FBI’s headquarters - leaving three dead and eighteen in the hospital (including myself).
Though unadvised by every doctor in that hospital, I took the first flight back to Chicago. It was brutal and my head felt like it was going to split, but yet I stayed alive and made it into my apartment by that evening. With a groan I laid gently down on my cluttered couch, setting my head gingerly on a stiff pillow.
I wondered about where Ira was.
The FBI had sent me home with a copy of the soundless video of the interrogation with her, which I had, again against the doctor’s orders, watched countless times on the plane ride back. The video blacked out just before the end of the interrogation - at 10:15am - seconds before something knocked me out. I couldn’t see how she could have possibly done this.
A sudden wave of panic swept over me as I remembered her talking about my blueprints. Fort Knox…
Forgetting my headache entirely I leapt from the couch and fumbled into my bedroom. My breath escaped me as I beheld my bedroom in complete disarray - curtains were torn to shreds, papers and crushed computers dismembered on the floor. My eyes traced the chaos to a shattered picture frame, from where I hung my Grandfather’s prized blueprint.
But that blueprint was gone.
I ran back into the other room, my sore brain rattling in my skull as my shaky fingers scrambled to flip on the news.
A helicopter view showed SWAT teams surrounding a shamed Fort Knox. Bombed and void all but a bit of gold, SWAT searched the desolated building.
Ira Epsilon had escaped with nearly eight billion dollars worth of gold at exactly 10:15am on Friday last.