The complete story is printed below and also available as published in the photo gallery, in English and German.
Just One of Those Days
Harry came into the motel room as I was putting my shoulder holster on. “Forget it, Ralph,” he said.
I looked at him. “Forget it? What do you mean, forget it?”
He took off his coat and tossed it on the bed. “The bank’s closed,” he said.
“It can’t be closed,” I said. “This is Tuesday.”
“Wrong,” he said. He flipped his automatic out of his holster and tossed it on the bed. “It can be closed,” he said. “Everything can be closed. This is Griffin’s Day.”
“This is what’s Day?”
“Griffin’s,” he said. He shrugged out his shoulder holster and tossed it on the bed. “Kenny Griffin’s Day,” he said.
“I give up,” I said. “What’s a Kenny Griffin?”
“Astronaut,” he said. He opened his shirt collar and tossed himself onto the bed. “Comes from this burg,” he said. “It’s his Homecoming Day. They’re having a big parade for him.”
“By the bank?” I asked.
“What difference?” He moved his automatic out from under his hip, adjusted his pillow and shut his eyes. “The bank’s closed anyway,” he said.
I cocked my head, and from far away I heard band music. “Well, if that isn’t nice,” I said.
“They’re gonna give him the key to the city,” Harry said.
“That is real nice,” I said.
“Speeches, and little kids giving him flowers.”
“That’s so nice I can’t stand it,” I said.
“He was in orbit,” Harry said.
“He should of stayed in orbit,” I said.
“So we’ll do it tomorrow,” said Harry.
“I know,” I said. “But it’s just irritating.”
It was more irritating to me than to Harry, because, after all, I was the planner. I hated it when a plan went wrong or had to be changed around, no matter how minor the change. Like planning a caper on Tuesday and having to do it on Wednesday instead. A small alteration, an unimportant shift, but we’d have to stay in this town one day longer than expected, which increased the chances of identification at some later date. We’d have to change our airline reservations, which maybe some smart clerk would think about afterwards. We’d show up at the Miami hotel a day late, which would tend to make us conspicuous there, too. Nothing vital, sure, nothing desperate, but it only takes a tiny leak to sink a might battleship. I remember reading that on a poster once when I was a kid, and it made a big impression on me.
I am the natural planner type. I had cased this bank and this town for three weeks before making m plan, and then for another five days after it was set. I worked out just the right method, the right time, the right getaway, the right everything.
The one thing I didn’t work out was one of those astronauts hailing from this town and deciding on my day he’ll come on back again. As I later said to Harry, why couldn’t he of just phoned?
So we did it on Wednesday. We went to the bank at precisely two tufty-four, flipped the masks up over our faces, and announced, “This is a stick-up. Everybody freeze.”
Everybody froze. While I watched the people and the door, Harry went behind the counter and started filling the bag.
Actually, Wednesday worked just as well as Tuesday so far as the mechanics of the plan were concerned. On all three midweek days, Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, all but three of the bank employees were at lunch at two fifty-four p.m., having to take a later-than-normal lunch because the bank was at its busiest during usual lunch hours. On the days I had checked it, there had never been more than three customers here at this time, and the average had been only slightly over one. Today, for instance, there was just one, a small and elderly lady, who carried an umbrella despite the bright sun outside.
The rest of the plan would work as well on Wednesday as on Tuesday, too. The traffic lights I’d timed worked the same every day of the week, the plane schedule out at the airport was the same as yesterday and the traffic we could expect on the Belt Highway was no different, either. Still, I did hate to have things changed on me.
Harry was done filling the bag at one minute to three, which was full minute ahead of time. We both stood by the door and waited and, when the second hand was done with its sweep once more, Harry put his gun away, flipped his mask off, picked up the bag and went out to where we’d parked the stolen Ford in front of the fire hydrant.
I now had 40 seconds. I was looking everywhere at once, at my watch, at the three employees and the little old lady customer and at Harry out front in the Ford. If he didn’t manage to get it started in time, we’d have to wait another minute and ten seconds.
But he did. After 31 seconds, he gave me the sign. I nodded, let nine more seconds go by and dashed out of the bank. Eighteen running paces while I stuffed the gun away and stripped off the mask, and then I was in the car and it was rolling.
There was a traffic light at the corner. “Twenty-two miles an hour,” I said, looking at that light, seeing it red down there in front of us.
“I know,” said Harry. “Don’t worry, I know.”
The light turned green just as we reached the intersection. We sailed on through. I looked back, and saw people just erupting from the bank.
Midway down this block there was an alley on the right that led through to the next block. Harry made the turn, smooth and sweet, into a space hardly any wider than our car, and ahead of us was the MG. Harry hit the brakes, I grabbed the bag, and we jumped out of the Ford. Harry opened the Ford’s hood and grabbed a handful of wires and yanked. Then he shut the hood and ran to the MG.
I was already in it, putting on the beard and the sunglasses and the cap and the yellow turtleneck sweater. Harry put on his beard and sunglasses and beret and green sports jacket. He started the engine, I stared at the second hand of my watch.
“Five,” I said. “Four. Three. Two. One. Go!”
We shot out of the alley, turned left, made the light just before it went red, turned right, made the lights perfectly for three blocks, then hit the Schuyler Avenue ramp to the Belt Highway.
“You watch the signs,” Harry said. “I’ll watch the traffic.”
“Naturally,” I said.
Almost every city has one of these bypass highways now, a belt that makes a complete circuit of the city. Not only can travelers passing through use it to avoid getting involved in city traffic, but local citizens can use it for high-speed routing from one part of the city to the other. This one, called the Belt Highway, was an elevated road all the way around, giving a fine view of the town and the countryside.
But it was neither the town nor the surrounding countryside I was interested in at the moment. Right now, my primary concern was the Airport Road exit. As Harry steered us through the light midweek afternoon traffic, I watched the signs.
One thing I have to admit, they did put up plenty of signs. Like for the first exit we came to, which was called Callisto Street Exit. First there was a sign that said, “Callisto Street Exit, ¼ Mile.” A little after that, there was a sign that said, “Callisto Street Exit, Keep Right.” And then finally, at the exit itself, a sign with an arrow pointing to the down-ramp at the words, “Callisto Street Exit.”
Of course, all of this was mostly geared for local citizens, so there wasn’t any sign telling you where Callisto Street itself might take you, but if you knew it was Callisto Street you wanted there wasn’t a chance in the world that you’d miss it.
Harry buzzed us along in the white MG, just exactly at the 50-mile-an-hour speed limit, and I watched the exits go by, with the standard three signs for each one: Woodford Road, Eagle Avenue, Griffin Road, Crowell Street, Five Mile Road, Esquire Avenue…
I looked at my watch. I said, “Harry, are you going too slow? You’re supposed to go fifty.”
Harry was insulted; he prides himself on being one of the best drivers in the business. “I am going fifty,” he said, and gestured for me to take a look at the speedometer myself.
But I was too intent on watching for signs. Airport Road I wanted, Airport Road. I said, “It shouldn’t be taking anywhere near this long. I know.”
“I’m doing fifty–and I been doing fifty.”
I looked at my watch, then back out at the highway. “Maybe the speedometer’s busted. Maybe you’re only doing forty.”
“I’m doing fifty,” Harry said. “I can tell. I know what fifty feels like, and I’m doing fifty.”
“If we miss that plane,” I said, ‘we’re in trouble.”
“We won’t miss it,” said Harry grimly, and hunched over the wheel.
“The cops will be asking questions all around the neighborhood back there now,” I said. “Sooner or later they’ll find somebody that saw this car come out of the alley. Sooner or later they’ll be looking for us in this car and with these descriptions.”
“You just watch the signs,” said Harry.
So I watched the signs. Remsen Avenue, De Witt Boulevard, Green Meadow Park, Seventeenth Street, Glenwood Road, Powers Street…
Harry said, “You must of missed it.”
I said, “Impossible. I’ve read every sign. Every sign. Your speedometer’s off.”
Earhart Street, Willoughby Lane, Firewall Avenue, Broad Street, Marigold Hill Road…
I looked at my watch. “Our plane just took off,” I said.
“You keep looking at your watch,” Harry said. “That’s how come you missed it.”
“I did not miss it,” I said.
“Here comes Schuyler Avenue again,” he said. “Isn’t that where we got on?”
“How did I miss it?” I cried. “Hurry, Harry! We’ll get it this time! They’ll have a plane going somewhere!”
Harry crouched over the steering wheel.
They stopped us halfway around the circuit again. Some smart cop had seen us–the description was out by now, of course–and radioed in, and they set up a nice little road block across their elevated highway, and we drove right around to it and stopped, and they put the arm on us.
As I was riding in the back of a police car, going in the opposite direction on the Belt now, I asked the detective I was handcuffed to, “Do you mind telling me what you did with Airport Road?”
He grinned at me and pointed out the window, saying, “There it is.”
The sign he pointed at said, “Griffin Road, ¼ Mile.”
I said, “Griffin Road? I want Airport Road.”
“That’s it,” he said. “We changed the name yesterday, in honor of Kenny Griffin. You know, the astronaut. We’re all real proud of Kenny around here.”
“I better not say anything against him then,” I said.
Copyright © 1966 by Donald Westlake