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Casing The Joint

Casing The Joint (Pt 1)
Jules — 5 Oct 1998, 3:10 PM

Miss Julie looked up from her desk at the back of the bank as she heard the faint ching of the doorbell. Jenny Delaney stepped inside the bank and looked around her, as if checking her bearings, or perhaps looking for someone. Julie turned away slightly, to hide her grin. She'd seen this scenario played out several times in the past few days, and had come to rather enjoy it.

She moved forward to the cashiers' stalls and tapped Detective Magnum, who'd arrived this morning and was taking his turn to play bank staff, on the shoulder. "You can take your break now; I'll deal with this customer," she said. "Good morning, Miss Delaney. We don't often see you in here? How may I help you?"

Jenny Delaney looked around one more time, and her shoulders drooped a little in disappointment. "Well, I was thinking about opening an account to keep my life savings safe..."

"A very wise decision," agreed Miss Julie, keeping a straight face by willpower alone. It was simply amazing how many of Quark's girls had had second thoughts about the security of their money in its previous resting place under their pillows and sewn into their mattresses this past week. Susan Nicolletti and three others had been in the previous day, and Megan Delaney two days before that. And every day since, to deposit her tips from the bar. And, if they seemed to linger a little over the business of paying in, Miss Julie didn't mind particularly. She was reasonably certain that it wasn't the security and impregnability of the bank that was uppermost in their minds. Which was probably just as well, since the bank's chief attraction was there for the sole reason that that security and impregnability was supposed to be under threat.

She hoped Nicholas Locarno would be back from his morning's errands soon. She didn't want to disappoint Jenny's hopes entirely. And perhaps she shouldn't have sent Thomas Magnum away to the back room, after all. He might have proven an acceptable substitute.

"It'll take some time to process the details," she said however, as encouragingly as she could. "There's a form to fill in. Why don't you take it over to the table by the window, and sit down and be comfortable while you do it? Take your time. There's no hurry."

Jenny's face brightened slightly, and she did as had been suggested, settling herself down in the chair with a flounce of bright silken skirts. Julie kept a casual eye on her while checking the morning's transactions in the ledger, and noticed that she spent altogether more time looking out of the window than she did writing on her form.

Julie sighed. She did hope that there was nothing in this rumour that the bank might get hit. But she couldn't shake the rather unworthy thought that perhaps if things dragged on into next week and the detectives stuck around for a while longer, she might start picking up business from the ladies at Madame Maxine's as well.

Casing The Joint (pt 2)
Jules — 5 Oct 1998, 3:13 PM

Nicholas Locarno breezed into the bank, a cheerful twinkle in his grey-blue eyes. "Good morning, Miss Julie. Sorry I'm a little late. The wire from Federation City hadn't come through, so I had to wait a while at the Telegraph Office." He put on a penitent look. Julie thought he looked way too pleased with himself for it to be genuine, but it amused her anyway.

"I take it that everything's okay though?" she questioned. "Any word about these outlaws?"

"Well, they were spotted over near Defiant City the day before yesterday. Changed horses at a livery stables on the edge of town. Everything seems to indicate they're headed this way." He patted her on the shoulder. "Don't look so worried. You can rely upon us to look after your money as if it were our own."

Miss Julie sighed. "I suppose so. Now, you might like to take up a place behind the counter. We have a customer."

"So we do. Ah, good morning Miss Delaney. You're opening an account here? Trouble filling out the form? Here, let me go through it with you..."

The door opened again, and Cowgirl Vickie came in. "Morning, Julie. Is the Circle V payroll ready for me yet? I don't have a lot of time to spare, I'm afraid. Too much to do before the race. Are you coming to watch?"

"Of course. I wouldn't miss it. You're riding in it, aren't you?"

"I am. Not that I've much of a chance against the Delta Q entrants, or the judge's brother, but I aim to have fun and give Mesquite a bit of a run."

"Well, good luck anyway. Now, about your wages... Mr Magnum here was supposed to be putting them together, but I'm not sure if he got finished before he went on break. Thomas? This is Miss Vickie from the Circle V. Do you have her money ready for her?"

The dark haired, dark eyed detective smiled charmingly at Cowgirl Vickie. His moustache lifted slightly along with the upturned corners of his mouth, and his eyes crinkled attractively at the edges. "Not yet... Vickie. But it won't take any time at all to finish, if you have a moment to spare."

Vickie smiled back at Magnum. Observing her with a raised eyebrow, Julie concluded that she'd suddenly discovered lots of spare moments in her previously busy day, and all of them for the detective from the Hirogen Detective Agency. Glancing across to Nicholas Locarno, as engrossed in Miss Jenny's application form as she was engrossed in staring soulfully into his eyes, she wondered how much she'd have to offer the two men to persuade them to resign their current jobs and take up banking full time.

The door bell rang again. Still watching Locarno, Miss Julie saw him stiffen suddenly as he looked up, and looked across herself in sudden surprised alarm.

The man who had entered the bank was a stranger to her. His hair was grey, and as he took his hat off she could see that it was receding at the temples, enough to make the scarring on either side of his face easy to see. A cold chill ran down her spine.

Oh, lord, she thought. It must be true after all then. He looks exactly like the description Nick gave me of Annorax Heyes.

Casing The Joint (pt 3)
Jules — 5 Oct 1998, 3:16 PM

Nicholas Locarno gave Jenny Delaney his most charming smile.

"Excuse me, Miss Delaney. I've another customer I must attend to. See if you can finish that form off by yourself, and I'll get back to you in a minute."

Jenny pouted a little, but stepped aside slightly so that the newcomer could step up to the counter and look through the bars at Locarno.

"Can I help you, sir?" asked Nicholas politely.

"Sold a horse at your livery stables. The man there, Larson, said you'd pay out the money due me if I presented his bond." The stranger slipped a piece of paper under the bars and Nicholas scrutinised it. "Eighty dollars. I'm sure that'll be fine sir, but I'm new here so I'd better just clear it with the manager first. One moment."

He approached Miss Julie, who had retreated to the back room and was standing a little defensively in front of the sturdy Brooker safe. "Is that normal practice for this man Larson? Has he done this before?"

"Frequently." Miss Julie nodded. "He doesn't like to keep more cash on the premises than is absolutely necessary, and his credit has always been good, so we came to this arrangement for when he runs short." She looked at the cheque, with its careful copperplate signature. "Yes, that's in order. Although... that's him, isn't it?"

Among other things, she'd noticed the way that Detective Magnum's hand was hovering very close to his gun.

"Annorax Heyes? Yes, it looks like him," agreed Locarno. "Can't quite figure out his angle though. There's a busy street outside, and we're right next to the Marshal's office. And I don't see any sign of the rest of his gang. Perhaps he's just casing the joint."

"Perhaps," echoed Miss Julie. But her face had gone very pale, and she didn't begin to regain her colour until, after a moment or two of conversation with Locarno as he counted out the cash, Annorax Heyes departed with his eighty dollars.

Casing The Joint (pt 4)
Jules — 5 Oct 1998, 3:21 PM

Outside the Empire Bank, Heyes turned slowly on his heel, surveying the street. Spotting the fading weatherboard sign over Sandrine's Saloon, he went in and asked the female French bartender to get him a Malkothian whiskey. As she turned to pour it, he heard a quiet footstep as someone moved up beside him and settled themselves down at the next stool. Turning, he saw a pretty oriental girl. Demure and inscrutable, he decided. She didn't look at all the type to be mixed up in this kind of business. But then sometimes that could be an advantage.

"You're Ogawa?" he asked. "I was expecting someone more..."

"Male?" she asked, lifting one exquisite eyebrow. "You should know that my employer doesn't believe in being obvious."

"That might be difficult, since I've never met him... her?" After Alyssa Ogawa merely smiled with true oriental inscrutability, he continued. "My men are all holed up in that abandoned ranch house five miles from town that your boss told us about, and I've looked the bank over. We're all set for tomorrow."

Alyssa Ogawa shook her head very slightly, so that her dark curls danced. "There's been a change of plan. We hadn't anticipated just how busy Voyager City was during race week. And besides, the big money won't be shipped out of town until the middle of next week."

"So, when do we hit it? I thought we were going to use this big race tomorrow for a distraction?"

"We were. But now we have a better one. There's a murder trial next Monday. Very beautiful girl, the boss says. Likely to provoke lots of interest in the verdict. Half the town will be there."

"And meanwhile, we'll be in the bank?"


Sandrine came back with his drink, and Annorax Heyes downed it in one gulp. "Well, nice meeting you, miss. My compliments to your boss." He tipped his hat and left.