Someone called my old name out at the airport today. Scared the livin’ shit out of me. Twenty-four years and no one has even come close to discovering me. The voice called again. If I had had a gun (I was at the airport, I wasn’t carrying), I’m not sure whether I would have shot him or myself.
By the third time he called out, “Stuben! Hey, Steve, over here.” My heart was racing -- fight or flight -- simultaneously scanning for the quickest escape route and anything that could be used as a weapon. Another voice off to my left yelled, “Oh my God, is that you?”
I lunged for an abandoned luggage cart knowing it was too heavy to throw, but thinking I might be able to block their path long enough to make the escalator.
The voices continued louder and closer, “My God, Steve, you haven’t aged a bit.” “Me, look at you. How long has it been?” “What? Ten years?”
As I swung the cart around, I clipped some lady’s ankle. Her scream brought the attention of the entire concourse. “Are you fucking crazy?” Looking across her bent and wincing frame, I could see the two voices hugging. I wasn’t Steve, at least not anymore.
The blood started to come back to my face when a hand grabbed my shoulder from behind, spinning me off guard to expose my left temple to a hard right fist.
When the lights came back on, I was looking up at two uniformed TSA agents. A third officer had the male companion of my ankle victim in handcuffs. Something was said about the EMT’s and police reports. I knew if I didn’t get out now, there would be no hope.
I thought clearly enough to lay my forearm across my face with a feigned recuperative moan, hoping that my attacker and the guards had kept my face obscured from the omnipresent security cameras. I protested that I was okay, explaining that the man was perfectly in his right to hit me. I related my accidental injury to his wife and pleaded to just let things go; I had no intention of pressing charges. As the three agents lifted me to my feet, I kept my face down and asked about my hat. It was the injured lady that handed it to me. I placed it on my head with the brim low over my face.
Unbelievably, they let me leave without any investigation. That’s why I’m here. Probably the stupidest thing I’ve done in these nearly two-and-a-half decades. I have a dangerous face-to-face encounter with the law, and what do I do? Head straight for my safe deposit box. Here it is, all $287,490. My dirty little secret. A stolen cache that has never been touched, never been spent, as intact as it was that long ago Friday night when I took it.
It was never the money; it was the challenge of getting away with it. I had pulled off a “perfect crime.” Well, perfect other than the fact that there is no end to this game. There’s no honor in being “perfectly unsolved.”