With the skill of a nocturnal animal, he slipped to the end of the alley. He crouched to absorb his surroundings. The stench of forgotten trash permeated the darkness and a sudden gust of wind carried a whiff of freshly cut grass up his nose. He gasped and choked back a sneeze.

From his hiding place behind a stockade fence, Johnny could see through the windows of the small bank. A spotlight above the teller counter reflected off the vault door, a golden glow that rivaled the light of the full moon. A sticky sweatshirt clung to his back as an irritating trickle of sweat slid below the waistband of his underwear. The only sound came from an occasional vehicle in the distance as it rushed down an empty street.

Johnny chose this bank because it sat on the quiet corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Harvest Street. He had watched the corner street lamp that shed a ray of light on the small building. As the cars traveled down the steep hill toward MLK Boulevard, their headlights would invariably hit the photocell causing the lamp to temporarily go dead. The automatic sensor, recognizing the sunny illusion, would then turn the light on again. Over the last several weeks, Johnny had timed the duration of these mini blackouts. They lasted three and one-half minutes.

At 4:15 A.M., as expected, a police officer drove down the hill at Harvest Street. As the headlight beams of the vehicle bobbed down the hill, the street lamp flickered and went dead right on cue. As Johnny had watched him routinely do, the officer eased through the stop sign by the bank, downshifted, and drove off into the blackness.

Johnny slipped across the parking lot and slid behind the shrubbery next to the building. With a swift and fluid movement, he drew a odd-shaped circle with a glass cutter in a window near the ground. Then, with his glove-protected hand, he punched out the glass. After what seemed like an endless minute of silence, he lay on the ground and slithered into the bank like a snake.

Once inside the building, Johnny crouched on the floor and listened, allowing the pounding in his chest to subside and his eyes to adjust to the surroundings. Losing no time, Johnny verified what he already knew -- the room contained no glass-break sensors and no motion detectors. Like the other small bank branches he had encountered during his illustrious criminal career, the only alarm was installed on the vault to protect the money, with little thought given to the rest of the building or the safety of the employees.

The street lamp relit as he moved out of the office and into the lobby. The best place to wait, he decided, was behind the teller counter.

Deception on All Accounts, by Sara Sue Hoklotubbe. 2003 Sara Sue Hoklotubbe.
Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.
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