Bank Robbery in the Old West
Dave Greer mounted the steps to the boardwalk and glanced around. It was twelve o’clock straight up and most folks were busy eating their noon meal. No one was on the street and the only sound was the ring of a hammer at the blacksmith shop across the creek. Behind the bank building, he’d spotted a young cowboy seated on a stump. He looked to be mending a piece of harness and lost in his own thoughts.
To his left, an old man was seated on a bench, dozing in the warm sun. His mouth was slightly open and his hat was pulled down low over his eyes with a light blanket spread across his knees. It was late August, but the small Arizona town of Show Low, high up in the Mogollon rim country, was already chilly, though there wasn’t a cloud to mar the brilliant blue of the mountain sky.
Greer had a soft spot for old timers. His mother and father had been taken by influenza when he was a child, so he had been raised by his elderly grandfather and great uncle on the family farm outside Broken Bow, in the Oklahoma Territory. The old man mumbled softly in his sleep. Greer smiled and entered the bank.
“Be right with you mister.” The teller nodded at him and turned back to the lone customer. The banker, seated at his roll top, didn’t look up. “Sure thing. Be right back,” Greer called out as he stepped back out the door.
He nodded to the two men waiting by the hitch rail and peered carefully up and down the street as they came up the stairs. An old dog lay under the boardwalk across the street, worrying a found bone, and up on the hill behind the boarding house, children played in the schoolyard. No one else was in sight. He turned and all three men stepped into the bank, spreading out along the wall.
“All of you, throw up your hands,” Greer commanded, “We’re robbing your bank and there’s nothing for it but to do what you’re told. We’re all armed and we damn well mean business.”
The lone woman customer turned and gasped as the teller slowly raised his hands. The banker looked up from the papers on his desk, realization dawning on his ashen face. He swiveled in his chair to face them and stood, carefully raising his hands. He stared owlishly at Greer through his thick spectacles.
Greer looked to the man on his left and jerked his head in the direction of the teller. The man nodded back at Greer and pulled a canvas sack out of his shirt. Waving the woman back to the wall with his pistol, he handed the bag to the teller. “Fill it from your cash drawer. You right or left handed?”
“Huh? What? Oh, uh, right…r-right handed,“ stammered the teller.
“Then keep your right hand in the air and use your left to fill the bag.” He waved his gun barrel at the cash drawer, never taking his eyes off the teller’s face. The teller bobbed his head up and down nervously and began to load the bag.
“You. Banker. Open the vault,” Greer ordered. “Be quick about it. The longer we‘re made to be here, the more likely that someone gets hurt. Are you armed? You have a hide out weapon?”
“The vault is already open sir.” The banker pointed with his chin. “And no, I’m not armed and I want no trouble. We’ll not hinder you in any way.” Greer nodded and grinned. “Well then, you can help by loading up!”
Greer’s other man pulled out a second bag and motioned the banker into the vault. Greer backed into the door opening and craned his neck both ways to check the street. It was still empty and there was not a sound except the old man’s soft snoring. Up on the hill, he could still see the children at play. Somewhere a dog barked a single bored yelp and went silent.
Greer turned his attention back to the bank. The teller handed over the bag to the outlaw, who glanced to make sure the cash drawer was empty before coming to stand by Greer. The second outlaw emerged from the vault, a large grin plastered across his face. It was a good haul.
“You folks have played it smart so far.” Greer waved them all into the corner farthest from the door. “Just stay put and say nothing about this for the next twenty minutes. If you do that, I won’t be back. But if you sound an alarm before that time passes, I’ll come back sure as anything and hunt you down, one by one.”
The woman customer began to swoon and the teller grabbed her. The banker glared at the thieves through his spectacles. Greer took one last look down the street and nodded at his men. They all holstered their guns and stepped swiftly out the door, down the stairs and into the dust of the street, grabbing up the reins of their waiting horses.
“You boys be smart now and keep your hands away from them guns.”
All three men froze and Greer slowly turned around. His searching eyes went to the door, fully expecting to see an armed and triumphant banker. Nothing. He looked rapidly from one window to another. Nothing. No one on the roof either. He scanned the boardwalk, passing by the sleeping old man and down the street. Nothing! Nobody at all…but wait!
His eyes darted back to the old man, whose hat was now on top of his head and whose cold grey eyes were locked on his own. A small smile played across his craggy face as he stood up.
“You’d be Dave Greer of the Greer gang, I’m thinking. Down from Kansas by way of Santa Fe. I’ve been waiting on you boys nigh on a month now.”
Bewildered, Greer stared. The old man was thin and bony, but he stood tall and straight. He seemed assured and rock steady. There was no trace of fear or nervousness and his weathered face somehow didn’t look quite as old as it had when he was sleeping. But had he been sleeping? What the hell was going on here?
“Who are you?” Dave demanded.
“Name’s Angus McCoy. I’m an Arizona Ranger and you boys are currently under my arrest. You‘d best shuck those guns and come along peaceable like. When they hear of it, the good folks here in Show Low won‘t cotton much to having their bank robbed. Better for y’all to spend some time in Yuma than get your necks stretched by irritated citizens.”
There was no gun on the old man’s hip and his hands were empty so Dave made a decision and grabbed for his pistol. The old man’s hand flashed inside his vest and came out with a Colt .44.
“A shoulder rig,” Dave thought to himself as his own gun came up. He knew he was already badly beaten but it was far too late to stop, so it was no surprise when the slug slammed into his chest. His own gun seemed to fire by itself, digging harmlessly into the stairs before it fell from his suddenly nerveless fingers. His knees sagged and he found himself gazing at a loose nail protruding from the worn wood of the bottom stair tread. “Somebody ought to fix that,” he thought. “A body could get hurt tripping over such a thing.” Then he was dead.
Footsteps came running from around the corner of the bank behind McCoy and skidded to a stop.
“That you Al?” McCoy asked over his shoulder. “How many times have I told you not to come running up like that? Them boys there coulda shot you or I might have shot you my own self!” He thumbed a shell into his revolver.
The young Ranger flushed. “Yes sir. I heard gunfire, so I come a-running in case you needed help. I got all caught up pretending to mend that dang harness and missed seeing these fellers. I wasn’t thinking.”
“Well, you’d best start thinking if you want be in this here business. Dead men ain’t much help. Next time, you stop at the corner and size up the situation before you foolishly expose yourself to gunfire. Now let’s round these two jaspers up and get ‘em to jail. I’m hungry.”
Al Davis glanced across the table at Angus McCoy quietly eating his stew. The café was almost empty at two in the afternoon. Most folks had already eaten and they were now gathered by the bank, talking excitedly about the robbery. Most did not yet realize that the old man who had quietly drifted into town last month was also the lawman who had stopped the robbery. They were all looking for a younger man, like Al.
“When are you going to retire boss?”
“Soon as you get some common sense,” Angus McCoy replied without looking up,” I don’t want you on my conscience.”
Al grinned and looked out the window at the crowd. He had a lot to learn, sure enough, but there was no better place to learn it than standing next to Angus McCoy.