When detective Paul Nichols asked the teller at the Middleton Bank to describe the robber, she replied, "He had a long, ugly scar on his right cheek. Also, he seemed quite 'ill at ease', as though he might be unsure of what he was doing. But he did it. I had the feeling, though, that he went through with it almost just to 'save face'. Once he decided to rob the bank, he had to 'carry out' his plan."
She explained that the man had come into the bank that morning and stood in line with the other customers, as if waiting to deposit money or cash a check. When he reached the window, however, he did not 'beat around the bush'he handed the girl a piece of paper that had written on it, "Do not say anything or do anything unusual. I have a gun and will use it if I have to. Put five thousand dollars in an envelope and hand it to me."
The girl was so shocked that she just stood looking at him for a moment. She realized he was not joking what he ordered was 'straight from the shoulder'. He said he would use his gun if he had to, and she was sure he would 'keep his word'if she didnít cooperate. The teller did exactly as he told her.
" 'Remember me to your mother', " the thief said. Then he walked casually out of the bank. Not even the lady behind him in line at the window realized what had happened.
The teller sounded the alarm and immediately the guards ran to find the thief. "You canít mistake him with that scar," the girl told them. "But be careful. He has a gun."
A thorough search was made, but no such person was found. The guards couldnít even 'come up with'a piece of evidence.
"I canít understand how he could get away so rapidly," Detective Nichols told his wife Nancy that evening, as the two of them were having supper. "We questioned everyone inside and outside the bank at the time of robbery. No one saw a man with a scar on his face.
"The guard at the door sees everyone who goes in and out, but he doesnít recall anyone with a scar. It looks as though the man appeared from nowhere and returned to nowhere. At least, for the moment it seems so."
"He came from somewhere and he went somewhere when he left the bank," Nancy replied. The question is, where did he go?" Nancy Nichols was a very practical woman. Her husband liked to discuss his cases with her because of this trait.
Paul continued. "The girl was surprised because it all happened within a few seconds, and so smoothly. She just stood watching the man walk away. When he went out the door, her senses returned to her and she called the guard."
"What time of day was it?" Nancy asked.
"Noon. The streets were filled with people. At that hour of the day, itís always that way in front of the Middleton Bank. He could get lost in the crowd very easily. The men on the police force insist he just disappeared."
"With a scar on his face? 'I take that with a grain of salt'. He didnít disappear; you can be sure of that. But what did he do?" Nancy began to have an expression of real excitement in her eyes. She was 'in her element'when helping Paul solve a case. She loved to 'do her bit'and resented it when Paul didnít consult with her. After ten years of being a detectiveís wife, she ought to 'know the ropes'- and she did. This was the type of case she enjoyed most.
"Thatís what is so confusing. We looked 'high and low'and questioned everyone in the area at the time of the robbery but no one observed anything or anyone unusual. Several people admitted they saw a man come out of the bank about that time, but he didnít have a scar on his face." Paul shook his head and sighed wearily. It had been a mystifying case. 'Once in a blue moon' Paul had a case that seemed impossible to solve. This was one of them. And it was 'up to'Paul to solve it.
"Donít worry," Nancy encouraged him. "In the end youíll find your thief."
When supper was over, the Nichols had their coffee in the living room. Paul turned on the television set and immediately became interested in a detective program. Nancy didnít watch the program but sat drinking her coffee in silence. When she had finished, she went into the kitchen and began washing the dishes.
Fifteen minutes later she returned to the living room. She went directly to the television set and turned it off. "What are you doing?" Paul objected, almost 'losing his temper'. "It's a very exciting story tonight!"
"Have you 'taken into account',"Nancy asked, ignoring his annoyance, "the possibility that the thief wanted the teller to see his scar, that he was just 'leading her on' ?"
"What? But why?" asked Paul, immediately forgetting the TV show. "Why should he want her to see it? It would be an excellent way to describe him. Just the opposite. He would want to hide the scar."
"As you say, itís an excellent way to describe him. And thatís exactly what he wanted. He wanted her to describe him just as she did. That way, the police would be looking for a man with a scar on his right cheek."
Paul shook his head again. "What are you trying to say, Nancy?"
She did not reply. Instead she simply peeled off one of her false eyelashes.
For a moment Paul sat staring at her, more confused than ever. Nancyís false eyelashes were one of the few things the Nichols ever argued about. Paul tried to discourage her using false eyelashes by 'making fun' of them. "I like your eyes the way Nature made them," he told her. He was always 'getting after her'to leave her eyes alone and not try to make her lashes artificially longer. But sometimes she wore the lashes anyway. "I like them," she gave as her reason.
Now she was standing in front of him deliberately removing them. What was this all about? They were talking about the man with the scar andÖ
"Of course!" he shouted, jumping up from his chair. "Why didnít I think of that?"
Five minutes later he was in his car, hurrying to the police station.
" 'Hold your horses!' "Chief Simpson said when Paul tried to tell him all at once what Nancy had discovered. "Now, begin again and this time 'take your time'. "
Paul 'caught his breath'and started again, more calmly.
The chief of police listened closely as Detective Nichols revealed his wifeís discovery. When Paul had finished, the chief turned on his radio. "Calling all cars! Calling all cars!" He gave a detailed description of the man with the scar. Except that this time he did not mention a scar.
The police 'made short work'of capturing him they had their man within twenty-four hours. Shortly afterwards they had his confession.
He was an actor without work, desperate for money. His parents were not wealthy, and the young man didnít 'have the heart'to ask them for help. This was his first crime. As an actor, he knew how to disguise himself well. He was very clever. He had come into the bank with the other customers, gone to the washroom, and put a thin strip of transparent material on his cheek. The material gave the appearance of a real scar. It looked completely authentic. Then he had gone to the tellerís window and taken the money. When he stopped to light a cigarette, he quickly peeled off the scar, just as Nancy had done with her false eyelash. The guard at the door and the people outside saw no one with a scar, because there was no such person.
The thief had walked quietly down the street in the middle of the noonday crowd, the money in his pocket, thinking he had 'pulled the wool over the eves of everyone'. But, unfortunately for him, he had 'bitten off more than he could chew'. In the end he was caught.
Nancy smiled when Chief Simpson thanked her for her part in helping solve the mystery. "Maybe now," she laughed, "Paul will stop 'getting on his high horse' about my false eyelashes."
The detective smiled, too. "Okay, okay. Iíll 'eat mv words'. You can wear them all you want. Iíll never again 'hold that against' yo.