The Bank Heist — A Long-ish Short Story

The story of Doug, his best friend Hale, their assorted parents,
brothers and sisters, and a secret that just might be true.

An Eddy and McClure Story

Mrs. Eddy peered through the screen door wiping her hands on her apron. “Why, hello, Douglas,” she said. She always called me Douglas, not Doug.

“Is Hale around?” Hale is my best friend.

“Why, I don’t know.” Mrs. Eddy always started her sentences with “why.” She said it was because she was from Ohio.

“I saw his bike outside, so I thought he’d be around.”

“HALE!” Mrs. Eddy had a big voice for a small lady.

No answer.

“Why, I’m sorry, Douglas,” she said. “Can you come over later?”

“Sure Mrs. Eddy,” I said. “Bye.”

I had found out that her name was Eloise, Ella for short, but it wasn’t proper to use her first name. Like with a teacher. But I really wanted to feel the sound of saying “Ella Eddy” in my mouth.

I found Hale later that day at Crawford Lake over by the Dunkin’ Donuts. He was watching the dogs romp around in the dog run the town had built, his bike up against the fence.

“Hey, Hale!” I liked saying that. Not as much as I would have liked saying Ella Eddy, but it was close.

Hale never said hello, he would just start in talking. “See that big Lab?” Pointing. “And that little Bichon Frise? That little guy’s chasing the Lab like nobody’s business.”

I looked. Little white dog. Big black dog. Uh-huh. “So, Hale, I was looking for you this morning. Saw your bike in the yard, but you weren’t around.”

Hale was watching the dogs intently. “Ha! The Lab stops short and whips around! The little guy does a doggy-style child’s pose and bounces off.”

“That’s yoga, right?” I stared at the little white dog front paws stretched out, hind end up in the air then pivoting like a top.

“Yeah. A yoga thing Lizzy does. She thinks no one notices.”

I tried to imagine Lizzy Eddy, Hale’s older sister, with her hind end in the air. She acts all a grown up at 18. Looks all curvy and such like. I couldn’t imagine her doing the child pose.

By the way, for the record, I’m 14. Hale’s 15. We’re in the same grade. I should be a year behind Hale, but they bumped me into his grade cause when we moved here I took a placement test and that was that. Hale’s tall and muscular and generally bigger than the other guys in our class. Certainly bigger than me.

Hale hooked his fingers through the chain link fence which went around the dog run then shook the fence so it rattled all along one side. The dogs stopped dead and stared.

“Hey! Quit that!” One of the dog owners shouted. Hale acted like he didn’t hear a thing.

“Come on, Doug,” he said grabbing his bike. “Let’s go over to DD’s.”

“Sure, Hale. Lemme just text my mom where I am.”

We ambled along the lake over to Dunkin’ Donuts, Hale walking his bike from the seat.

“So, Hale, where were you this morning?” I said picking up the thread. “Your mom called out real loud and your bike was there.”

“I dunno. Around I guess.” Hale stopped and took me by the shoulder. “Listen, can you keep a secret?”

“Sure, Hale.”

“This is for real.” Hale was acting real intense all of a sudden. ”No foolin’. No kiddin’,” he said. Hale dropped his bike on the lawn and plopped down next to it.

“Have a seat. Here’s the thing. Last night I was coming home the back way on my bike. Just cruising. It was maybe 9 o’clock. The moon was out and real bright. Everything looked sorta blue-ish with those dark moon shadows.

“I was coasting downhill on Gardner by the bank when I heard voices. Then the sound of breaking glass and more voices — heavy voices like two men arguing. Then the sound of a car taking off tires spinning on the gravel,” Hale stopped and looked at me meaningfully. “I think it was your dad and some other fella.”

“What!? My dad? What made you think it was my dad?”

“I dunno. The voice was a little sorta like his. And the SUV was real white in the moonlight. Looked like your dad’s.”

“Jeeze,” I said. “Why would my dad be at the bank at nine at night arguing with some guy?”

“I dunno. Maybe it wasn’t your dad. But I think it was. All I really heard clear was the voice saying ‘tomorrow, then.’”

I shook my head. “Well, that’s some crazy secret. I sure won’t tell anyone.” I shook my head in amazement. “Anyway, where were you this morning, anyhow?”

“That’s another secret,” Hale said. “But I can’t tell you what it is.”

After that, we went to Dunkin’ and Hale had a macchiato and I had iced tea with a flavor shot. But I just didn’t want to hang out anymore. Being around Hale who had a secret about my dad that now I had to keep too wasn’t so much fun after all.

I walked home wondering about secrets and moonlight on white SUVs.


Later that same day, Doug’s sister Nancy McClure was sitting at the desk in her bedroom writing in her diary.

Dear Diary, my brother Doug has been acting pretty weird today. I see him now from my window hanging around Dad’s SUV— just staring at it. And earlier, when he came home, he looked like someone smacked him on the head. I said, ‘Duggie, did someone smack you up upside your head?’ And all he said was ‘Yeah, something like that.’ I mean, seriously? That’s not weird? Doug —

“Nan! Nancy! Dinnertime!”

—aw, shoot, Diary. Here we go again. I promise to write every day, but there’s always something…

“Nan! Dinner!”

“Coming, Mom.” Nancy slid off the bed and took the wide front stairs two at a time, slipping into her seat at the dining room table just as Sydney McClure came in through the kitchen door with dinner.

(Diary, even if I can’t write to you, at least I can talk to you in my mind. Here goes…)

I’m looking around the dinner table and there’s my dad looking hungry, and Mom, setting out the casserole and salad, smiling at me. Desi and Danny, my twin brothers, are wiggling and poking each other like they always do. Diary, do twins really have secret languages? If so, poking is Desi and Danny’s secret language.

So, I innocently ask, ‘Where’s Doug?’ You know, casual-like. And Diary, you and I both know he’s outside hanging around Dad’s car.


Dad has a powerful voice. Must come in handy when he’s coaching little league.

Faintly. “Coming!”

(Here he comes, Diary. I’ll talk to you later. We’re having my favorite dinner: macaroni and cheese the way Mom makes it — two kinds of cheese and buttery toasty breadcrumbs on top.)

“Hey, Dad. Sorry I’m late, Mom.”

Doug piled into his seat across from me, helped himself to mac and cheese, and passed the bowl.

“Take some peas, Douglas.”

Doug pauses, chewing, then he goes all out on the twins.

“Desi, quit it! Mom, the dog’s under the table again and Desi’s teasing her.”

“No I’m not!”

This was true. I could see Desi was actually feeding Mischief, the beagle, his peas, which he detested.

“He’s right,” chimed in Danny. “He’s not teasing the dog, he feeding the dog.”

“No, I’m not!”

“Yes, you are! Look! The dog has peas on her nose.”

“Don’t poke me!”

“I’ll poke you if I want to —-“


(Diary, I got to tell you, those little league kids, they must be able to hear Dad in the next county! Then Mom took over.)

“Desmond. Daniel. Stop it and eat your dinner. Including peas. Doug, switch places with Desi. Desi, you sit next to me.”

“Aw, Mom! Desi’s got food on his chair and peas on the rug…”

“Douglas. Do. As. Your. Mother. Says.”

Dad sighed. It must have been a long day.

“All right, everyone, let’s start this meal over. Put down your forks and put your napkins alongside your plates. You, too, Sydney. Now bow your heads and be thankful for our food, our family and our health. When I say so, we can start dinner again.”

(Diary, I think the silence lasted for about a year. This was a dinner for the history books.)

“Alright. Bon appétit, everyone.”

For a while after that, all you could hear was the clatter of forks and the sounds of chewing.


“Yes, Doug.”

“Why did you take the stick figure family off the back of our car?”

Dad stops still, forkful of macaroni and cheese poised midair. There’s more silence. Only this time it was suspenseful, not prayerful. I watch Dad and Mom just stare at each other. What is going on?

“Huh? Dad?”

“I, uh, you know, I always thought those decals were silly. Telegraphing to anyone exactly who is in our family right down to the dog. And I, um, today I decided to do something about it. Last night, actually after you were in bed.”

(Diary, I think Dad just caught a case of “weird” from Doug. What was that all about? Soon as dinner’s over ole Duggie’s gonna tell me what’s going on.)

A crock with baked beansDINNER AT THE EDDYS

“Mom, any more pork chops?” Hale Eddy asked.

Mrs. Eddy put down her fork. “Why, I believe so.” Getting up, she headed toward the stove.

“Yes. Three.”

“What I was saying,” Eddie Eddy continued, “was that if they are going to wait fill potholes in Crawford Lake rim road til next winter, it will be minutes before they’ll have to do it all over again.”

“How come, Dad?” Palmer Eddy always catered to his father’s monologues at dinner so he could help himself to more food without being interrupted with how school was going.

“It’s the weather, Palmer. Those holes fill up with water, they pound the blacktop in, it freezes, the water expands, breaks up the blacktop, and the cars just dig it out again.

“Besides,” Eddie said around a mouthful of pork chop, “those guys over at Highway, they’re always in a hurry. No supervisor to keep them honest. If I was supervisor at Highway, I’d watch those guys like a hawk. I just know in my bones that all those new black-topped driveways in town weren’t all paid for legit to a licensed contractor. You know what I mean? And cement. What about the Neri’s patio that got installed last year? They don’t have that kind of money. I tell you if I was supervisor, I’d be watching them like a hawk and taking inventory every night. Any tires missing from the garage? Know what I mean? Yeah. If I was supervisor—“

“Now, Ed,” Ella Eddy looked up from serving Hale. “You’ve been wanting to move to Highway as long as we’ve known you.” She looked around the family table before she sat down. “Palmer, pork chop? Anyway, put in for a transfer, that’s what I say.”

“Huh. You know the story. Boy’s club all the way. Look down on Parks ‘cause we don’t have big machines. They ever mow grass on a hill? Forty-five degree incline? Huh?”

“Mom? Any more baked beans?” This time it was Palmer.

“Why, yes, Palmer. One minute.” Ella put down her fork and went to the stove, ladled some beans into a bowl and returned to the table. “Here you are.”

“I’ll take some too,” Hale said, reaching for the bowl. “Hey, Dad? Are there alligators in Crawford Lake?”

“What the blitz are you talking about? You drunk or something?”

“Now, Eddie. He’s 15.”

“I got drunk when I was 15.”

“Still do,” Hale muttered.

“Wait just one blame minute, young man.”

“Now, Eddie…”


“What now, Palmer.” Eddie shook his head.

“Are you gonna run for Highway Supervisor? Mrs. Sackett said you couldn’t run for dog catcher and win. She said…”

“Ella, these kids are going to make me NUTS. I’m going for a walk. Don’t expect me til later.”

Sound of screen door slamming. Car starting. Wheels on gravel. Silence.

“Palmer. Hale. You shouldn’t tease your father like that. He works so hard. And you know he loves you.”

Hale got up from the table and started for the door. “Ma, he just talks too much is all.”

“Where you off to, Hale?”

“I dunno. Around I guess.”

“Be home by 10, please.”

“Yeah. Okay. Come on, Palmy.”

“Don’t call me Palmy!”

“Okay, Pa. Let’s go.”

Uninterrupted at last, Ella Eddy finished her dinner.


“Hey, Doug. Can I come in?” Nancy was at the door to my room.

“I suppose…uh, yeah, sure!” I said. I sat up and put my phone down. “What’s up?”

I had been lying on my bed, phone in hand, staring at the ceiling. I had Googled a map of Crawford looking for Gardner Blvd and the bank — satellite view. I was wondering whether it really was Dad who met that guy behind the bank. Not that scraping stick figures off the back of your car is damning evidence. Maybe just coincidence. Or meeting a guy behind a bank at 10 at night for that matter. But if your car could be recognized with stick figures on the back and then they were gone and your car now looked like every other white SUV…

“I saw you staring at the back of Dad’s car before dinner. Then you asked him about the stick figures. You made him stop in his tracks. What’s going on?”

Oh, boy. Nancy’s too smart for me to get away with any lame excuse like ‘I forgot what the stick figures looked like and when I went to check they were gone.’ Like that. Wouldn’t fly two feet. But should I tell her Hale’s secret? The one he made me part of? On the other hand, it’s about our dad. And the disappearing stick figures.

“Dougie? Hello?! You re acting really weird and I wish you’d stop it. Come out of your trance and tell me what is going on?”

I shook off my thoughts. “I dunno, Nan,” I said. I thought for a moment. “There’s…well, there’s something strange that Hale saw last night. And he told me about it this afternoon.”

“What was it?”

“He swore me to secrecy. I can’t tell anyone.”

“What did he see that is secret-worthy? It’s something that has you bugged. I can tell.”

I looked at Nan. She’s twelve. Old enough to understand stuff. Smart enough to honor secrets. She didn’t look nosey, she looked worried. And that made up my mind right then and there.

“Okay. You’re family. I trust you. But now you will have to keep the secret too, no matter what.”

“I can do that Doug.” I noticed that when Nan was serious she called me Doug. When she was being a pain in the neck she called me Duggie.

I rolled off the bed and sat cross-legged on the rug. Nan sat down cross-legged facing me.

“All right,” I said. “Say after me. ‘I promise with all my heart…””

“I promise with all my heart…”

“On the life of Mischief…”

“Oh! Duggie, not the dog!”

“On the life of Mischief…”

“Oh, all right. On the life of Mischief…”

“…that I will never tell…”

“…that I will never tell…”

“…what I hear tonight…”

“…what I hear tonight…”


“Oh, come on!”


“Okay, okay. Ever.”

I grabbed Nan’s left hand and hooked my pinky through hers and twisted. Not so it hurt or anything.


“Sorry. Okay. Ready?”

Nan gave me a look like a combination of get-on-with-it-already and this-better-be good.

So I told her how yesterday when Hale and I were hanging out, he swore me to secrecy. That he saw two cars behind the bank at 10 o’clock on Friday night and some voices. That he concluded one of the cars and voices was Dad. To say Nan was skeptical was an understatement. Her “Really?!” dripped with sarcasm. I know she doesn’t think much of Hale, but I went on the defensive anyway to my regret.

“Then why was Dad so flustered when I asked him about the stick figures? I think he’s got something to hide and that could be it,” I said. “Besides, Hale distinctly overheard one of the voices say they were to meet again at nine tonight and I plan to be there and see for myself.”

“And just how are you going to be downtown at nine at night? Mom and Dad would never let that happen.”

“I’m gonna tell Mom I’m staying over at Hale’s and that it’s okay with his mom. Then I’ll take the bike and go downtown,” I said.

“Wow. That’s a whopper. You’ll get in trouble big time for that.” Nancy shook her head looking at me like I was nuts. “Besides, what’ll you do between now and 9 o’clock since you’re not really going to Hale’s house?”

I stared at her. I hadn’t thought of that in my plan. We both thought for a bit. Nan broke the silence.

“How about this? Why don’t you go to the Community Center at Crawford Park? Is it open until nine? Google it! Play pinball or shoot hoops or something.”

I looked at Nancy in awe. Swearing her to secrecy did more than keep a secret, it put her on the team. “You’re right!” I said looking up from my phone. It’s open till nine.” I looked hard at Nan. “You won’t tell, right?”

Nancy solemnly shook her head. “I want to know what this is all about,” she said.

We shook on it. I told Mom about staying at Hale’s and took off on my bike for Crawford Lake. Seemed like Crawford Lake was a part of my life these days.


After dinner, Hale and Palmer walked along the edge of the road toward Crawford Lake. At twelve, Palmer was feeling somewhat important hanging with his older brother.

“Should we bring our bikes?” he asked.

“Nah, it’ll be dark by the time it’s time to go home. I hate riding in the dark. Besides, I want you to do me a favor.” Hale had a tennis ball and was pitching it at a tree trunks catching the bounce back as they went along.

“I want you to go home in a little while and pretend you’re with me. You know, talk like I’m there, bang the screen door twice, make noise like two people going upstairs and close the door to our room. Both our bikes will still be in the yard. That’s the real reason I don’t want them now.”

“Gee, Hale. What you up to? A girl?” Palmer was getting interested in girls, Nancy McClure for example.

“Nah. A secret I got to check out.”

“Like what?”

“A secret that calls for me to be out past 9 o’clock, okay?”

Palmer stopped short and faced Hale. The returning tennis ball skimmed out into the street. “Look, if I’m gonna cover for you, I want to know why. Or I’ll tell Mom when I get home.”

“Aw, geez, Palmer. Alright. I saw something last night behind the bank. Two men talking. Being furtive — know what being furtive is?”

“Yeah, sneaky. So there.”

“Yeah, sneaky. And I overheard one say ‘nine tomorrow night’. Tonight’s ‘tomorrow night’ and I want to find out what’s going on. Having my bike would just get in the way. And if the bike wasn’t in the yard when you get home, Mom would know I didn’t come with you. Get it?”

“Cool, Hale. A mystery. Like those Hardy Boys books Dad keeps in the attic.”

“Don’t know about that. But it could be a big deal, this clandestine meeting. Know what clandestine is?”

“Yeah. Secret. Come on, Hale. We ain’t in school. And you ain’t my teacher.”

“Well you could learn a lot from me if you wanted to.”

“And one more thing,” Palmer folded his arms and stared at Hale. “You tell me what happened tonight behind the bank or I tell Mom.”

“Cripey, Palmer. That’s blackmail. Know what blackmail is?”

“Just sayin’, Hale. I’ll do it, but remember, you’re telling me what’s up.”

The tennis ball had rolled into the gutter. Hale picked it up and did a couple hand to hand bounces. “Just head on home and do the favor. I’ll tell you what’s up tomorrow.” Suddenly Hale lobbed the tennis ball as hard as he could into the woods and walked off. Palmer shook his head and started back home.

Screenshot of Space Invaders gameHale continued walking down Spring Street toward Gardner Boulevard. Hand in pockets, he kicked a pebble along the sidewalk. He spied something shiny, a quarter. He picked the quarter up, tried to knuckle-roll the coin like he once saw Val Kilmer do in a movie. Exasperated, he flipped it into the grass.

Pete’s Saloon was on the corner of Spring and Henry. Hale looked through the window for his father. Not seeing him, Hale entered an took a stool at the bar.

“Hello, Hale,” Bud Rawlins said, wiping down the bar with a wet cloth. “You’re not supposed to be here.”

“‘Cause my dad isn’t?” Hale countered.

“Naw. Cause you’re too young to drink.”

“Alcohol. Ugh. Hate the way my dad smells after he’s been here. No offense to you,” Hale added quickly.

Bud flexed the tattoo on his tricep. “None taken,” he said.

“I just need to hang out for a bit before I have to go home. Can I play Space Invaders?”

Space Invaders was this ancient arcade game. One of the most famous ones. It was a fixture in Pete’s Saloon going all the way back when Pete himself was behind the bar.

“Sure. Got quarters?”

Hale thought briefly of the quarter he tossed into the grass. He shrugged. “Naw.”

“Lucky I’m in a good mood tonight,” Bud said. “Here’s a roll of quarters. But when it starts to get busy, you got to go.”

Hale inserted a quarter and the screen filled with rows and rows of highly pixelated alien space ships raining fire on his barricades while he expertly maneuvered is laser beam back and forth taking out invaders as fast as they marched down the screen. The sound of the laser beam rang out on the bar and the drumbeat of invasion grew faster and faster. Once the last invader had been wiped out or Hale’s position blew up (which wasn’t very often), the whole thing started all over again.

Hale’s brow was furrowed with intense concentration. There was nothing else in his world but pixelated spaceships and laser beams.

The bar started to fill up. One and twos, mostly men. The jukebox started playing and the TV was turned on to the basketball game.

Bud Rawlins loomed up behind Hale. “Time to go, fella. I’ll take the rest of those quarters.” he said.

It was 8:30.


I think I would even admit it to Nancy that I was nervous leaving the house in a lie. I had so convinced myself of it, that I almost turned into the Eddy’s house on my way to the lake. I wondered if I was doing the right thing, whether there would be anyone from school at the Community Center, whether I would get to the bank when things were happening, what Hale might say… I guess I was in a sort of a dither, like Dad calls it.

It was quiet at the Community Center for a Saturday night. Couple guys on the indoor court playing hoops and a wild game going on the outdoor one. I stopped to watch some muscular guys taking some serious long shots and scrambling for the ball like they were playing defense and offense at the same time.

The lake was quiet in the twilight. Sleepy birds were twittering around, and clouds were reflected in the still water. It was kinda nice actually. Calmed me down a bit.

I went checked the clock in the club house. 7:30. Boy, time was going to be going really slow.

I hung around the ping pong table. A guy and his girlfriend were laughing and hitting the ping pong ball all over the place. Twice I caught it midair arcing toward the bathrooms and tossed it back their way. After a while they gave up and went outside.

I picked up the paddle and a ball and tried to play by myself using the wall as a back board. 7:45. Man, this is gonna take forever to get to 9 o’clock.

“Play you a game.” a voice startled me out of my thoughts.

It was a girl. Maybe 18. Skinny. Tall. Crooked smile and a lot of eye makeup.

“You’re Doug McClure, right?”

“Yeah?” I said staring at her. Did I know her from somewhere?

“I saw you with my brother this afternoon over by the dog run.”

Oh my god. It was Lizzy Eddy. I almost didn’t recognize her. Sheesh. Another girl to mess up my plans.

“Oh, hi Liz,” I said. “I, uh, didn’t recognize you — uh, didn’t expect to see you here. I mean, I wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew.” I was just getting in deeper and deeper.

“So you want to play a game or what?” she said.

“Sure.” And we played. She was fierce. Hammered the ball. Took long shots that stopped the ball dead just on my side of the net. Or sent them rebounding so I had to jump for them. It was all I could do to keep up. After a while, I said, “Whew. Okay. You win and we weren’t even keeping score.”

“Okay, Doug. Cool. Well, I’ll be taking off.” And like that she was gone through the swinging doors and out into the night. She was like Hale that way.

The room felt very empty all of a sudden. I started thinking again about the meeting by the bank and whether my dad would be there. I felt for my phone to check the time. My heart went cold. I didn’t have my phone. Oh, man.

I looked around the ping pong table. Maybe some of those shots Liz sent me knocked it out of my pocket. But I would have heard that. Maybe it dropped out by the basketball court. I went out and ruffled the grass with my foot along the fence where I had been standing watching the guys play man-to-man.

Maybe it dropped while I was riding here.

Sheesh. Mom will kill me. She’s gonna kill me anyway for lying and being out late, so what’s a one more thing? I went back to the club house and looked at the clock. It was 8:40! It was time! Heart beating, I hopped on my bike and headed for the bank.


After Doug left, Nancy McClure went to her room and caught up with her diary.

Okay, Diary. Thing have gotten even more interesting, if that’s possible. It goes like this. Hale has a secret which he tells to Doug who now has the secret which he tells to me (some secret, huh?). After this is all over, I’ll tell you what it is Diary, but not now.

Anyway, Doug’s off to a place in town — which I can’t name for fear of reprisals, as they say — to see if the secret that Hale told him is true. Got that? Haha! Here’s Mom coming upstairs with the laundry.

“Nan, here’s your laundry. Put your things away tonight, please.”

“Yes, Mom.”

Sydney McClure peeled off a stack of shirts and undies and put them on Nancy’s bed and went out to Doug’s room with his clean shirts and socks.

Mom was in Doug’s room when I heard her saying something.

“What is it, Mom?”

Mom came into my room with a cell phone in her hand.

“I found Doug’s phone next to his bed. He forgot to take it with him to Hale’s. I’ll call over there and tell him. He’ll be looking for it.”

Oh, man. Mom calling the Eddy’s! And neither Doug or Hale are there. This was going to be tough.

“Hi, Ella? This is Sydney McClure. Fine thanks. I’m calling because Doug left his phone home. I just found it. Can I talk to him?”

I can hear the garbled sound of Mrs. Eddy talking at the other end.

“Doug’s not there? He left for your place 15 minutes ago!”

“Yes. Please check with Hale. I’ll hold.”

There was what seemed like a very long pause.

“Yes? What? Hale’s not there? And Palmer hasn’t seen Doug? What’s going on? Doug left here on his way to you. Why isn’t he there by now?”

“Ella, let me call you right back.”

Diary, I could feel the Inquisition coming.

“Nancy Grace! Did Doug tell you where he was going tonight?”

Hmmm. How to answer. Simple is best. “Yes.”

“Did he say he was going over to the Eddy’s?”


“Then where is he?” There was panic in Mom’s voice.

Diary, I couldn’t let my mom think something happened to Doug between here and Hale’s house, no matter how much my finger got twisted. I just couldn’t. You wouldn’t either. Mom sat on my bed. She was looking awful worried.

“He said he was going to the bank at 9 o’clock to check something out but he didn’t want anyone to know.”

“Nine o’clock? The bank? What bank? There’s got to be at least 20 banks in Crawford, maybe more.” At my look, she said, “Well, six, maybe. But every bank will be closed at 9 o’clock on a Saturday — on any day. Why was he going to a bank at night?”

“He said it was a secret and I wasn’t supposed to tell.”

“You will tell me. Now.”

Diary, when she gives me that look, there’s no hope for it.

“Hale heard two guys talking behind a bank last night and saying they would meet again tonight at 9.”


“Doug said that Hale said one of the guys was Dad.”

“Our Dad? I mean, your Dad? Sanford?”


“That’s crazy. Hale is not to be trusted. I think he just says things to get people worked up. Ella — Mrs. Eddy — doesn’t know where Hale is, but I’ll bet Doug is with him wherever he is. I’m going over to the Hale’s — I mean, the Eddy’s. You stay with Desi and Danny and when your father gets home tell him I will call. Doug’s grounded for the rest of the school year, that’s for certain. And he’s going to stay away from Hale.”

That’s Mom. Goes right for the punishment before all the facts are in. Hale’s just Doug’s best friend.

Screenshot of Clan of CLans appPALMER GETS A GRILLING

Palmer was deep into Clash of Clans. A marauder had taken out his barracks since the last time he logged on. Looking over the carnage, he considered how best to realign his defenses. Should he spend some gold to upgrade his archer tower? Or maybe buy an additional mortar? If Mom would only let him buy some gems, he could add new defenses and not worry about his barracks. Vaguely he heard the phone ring and his mother’s voice saying, “Hi, Sydney! How are you?”

Palmer perked up. Sydney. That was Doug’s mom’s name. Like the city in Australia. Strange name.

“Why, Doug’s not here, Sydney.”

He could actually hear squawking coming over the phone. Then his mom said, “At least I don’t think so. I heard the boys clattering in a while back, but I thought it was just Hale and Palmer. Let me go check.”

“Hale! Palmer! Where are you?”

Palmer sighed. Here we go. “In here, Mom.”

“Where’s Hale?”

“I dunno. Right now, you mean?”

“I mean generally. He is not here. Where is he? I think you know.”



“He’s hanging out behind a bank waiting for something to happen.”

“What bank? What’s going to happen?”

“I dunno. That’s all he said. Told me to cover for him. Leave our bikes in the yard and make noise like we were both coming home.”

“Palmer Eddy! Shame on you! But I suppose at the very least you didn’t lie to me.” Ella Eddy thought for a moment. “Mrs. McClure is calling back shortly. Doug’s gone missing too. What do you think, it’s the same thing?”

“I dunno. Hale and Doug talk a lot about stuff.”

Just then there was a flash of headlights, the squeal of tires, and the sound of spraying gravel. Ella ran out to the driveway just as Sydney was getting out of her car. Palmer stood on the porch watching.

“Have you heard anything?”

“Why, Palmer says Hale’s gone down to the bank for some reason and thinks maybe Doug has too.”

“That’s pretty much what Nancy told me. This is crazy. It’s 8:40 at night. They shouldn’t be out this late. What bank? That’s what I want to know. There’s at least ten banks in this town.”

The two women stared at each other. Sydney was angry in her concern. Ella was more complacent, but worried just the same.

Palmer spoke up. “I think I know.”

Ella turned, “Well?” Her voice was unusually harsh.

“It’s ’cause Hale didn’t have his bike. He would have to walk there. So maybe the bank that pretty close by…” Palmer’s voice trailed off.

Sydney looked at Palmer appraisingly. “That’s very good reasoning, Palmer. You have your phone there? Google “bank near me” and let’s see what you get.”

The two women and the boy stood in the driveway their faces in blue light and dark shadow as they bent over his cell phone.

“There’s two closest,” Palmer said. “Leverage Saving and Loan on Howard and Bay Ridge Bank on Gardner.”

“Which bank should we check out first?” Sydney murmured to herself. Ella said, “Why, B comes before L, let’s check out Bay Ridge first.”

“Good idea, Ella. Let’s go find the boys.” Sydney opened the passenger door for Ella. “Palmer, you get in the back.”

And with another spray of gravel the McClure’s white SUV spun out onto the road.

Strip mall at nightDOUG AND HALE WAIT IT OUT

Even though I lost my phone, I wanted to know more about Hale’s secret. Coming from the lake on my bike, I took the hill up Gardner way too fast. I was puffing just halfway up. I wondered if Hale was there already. Without my phone I wasn’t too sure what time it really was.

Gardner Boulevard has an island in the middle with trees and bushes and grass. Coming up the hill you really can’t see the bank on the other side until you’re almost on it. There’s a break in the island so cars coming up the hill can turn into the strip mall the bank’s a part of.

That’s what I did too looking around for Hale.

Everything was quiet, no moon out yet. The only light was from tree shaded streetlights, those LED ones that make harsh shadows. I could see how eerie the white SUV must have looked to Hale last night.

I pulled up at the entrance to the strip mall. The bank is on the near side with an insurance office (closed), a nail place (also closed), and a pizza place (closed) filling in the middle.

It was so quiet that I wondered all of a sudden whether I got Hale wrong when he said he overheard the word “tomorrow.” Maybe when the voice said “tomorrow,” he meant today’s tomorrow (meaning Sunday), not last night’s tomorrow (which meant now). I slung off my bike and looked around.

“Psssst! Doug! Over here!” Hale’s voice, practically a whisper, came from behind a boulder at the edge of the driveway down to the parking lot in the back. I leaned my bike up against a tree and followed the sound of Hale’s voice. I squatted down beside him behind the boulder. He started in like he always does. Like I’ve been there all along.

“Whadaya think? I picked this spot ‘cause I can see the front corner of the bank, all along the driveway and down around the back.”

I checked it out, peeping around the rock. There were bushes between the street and the parking lot across the front of the stores, but you could pretty much see everything. “Good spot, Hale.” We sat crouching for a moment. “Wonder when they’ll get here,” I said.

“Maybe they won’t. Maybe they will, but much later. Maybe they’re meeting right now, only somewhere else. Maybe they changed their minds and aren’t gonna meet at all. Maybe they met earlier and are home watching TV by now.”

“Jeeze, Hale, that’s a lot of “maybes.”

“Yeah. I got here 20 minutes ago. Waiting gets me nervous.”

“Well, I see a headlight coming up Gardner from the lake.”

Hale started. “Where?” Then, “Oh, yeah.”

The car kept on going up Gardner toward Henry Street.

“So, Hale. How long you think we should stay before giving up?”

“All night.”

“Won’t your mom wonder where you are?”

“Naw. I got Palmer to cover for me.” We crouched for a minute. “How about you?”

I told Hale how I had said I was staying over at his house and that Nancy helped with the plan. “She’s cool,” I said.

“Girls are good for something at least,” Hale muttered. He perked up. “There’s another car coming up the hill.”

This time we could tell the car was slowing down. From where we were, we watched it turn in that break in the island on Gardener and pull into the bank parking lot.

“Holy crap, Hale” I hissed. “It’s a white SUV!”

“Whadid I tell ya?” Hale sounded very self-satisfied.

The SUV pulled into one of the angled spots in front of the bank and killed the lights.

“Didn’t you say they were supposed to meet around the back?” I whispered.

“Yeah.” was all he said.

Silence. All was dark in the SUV. It must be near midnight by now. That’s what it felt like anyway. Surely it couldn’t have been my dad creeping around in the dark on a Saturday night. Or Friday night either for that matter. We kept crouching behind the boulder waiting for what was going to happen next.


Palmer sat in the back seat of the McClure’s SUV wondering how much trouble he was really in and how much Hale would be in when an incoming message alert sounded on his phone. He looked down and saw it was Nancy McClure. Quickly he silenced all sound.

Nancy: Where are you? Are you home? What’s happening?

Palmer: I’m in your mom’s car with my mom. How’d you get my number?

Nancy: From school. Remember? Crisis Buddy Day?

Palmer: Oh, yeah. I guess I have your number, too.

Nancy: Whatever. What’s going on? Is my mom still mad?

Palmer: Not so much mad as in a frenzy. My mom’s much cooler.

Nancy: Where’s Mom going?

Palmer: The Bay Ridge Bank on Gardner. Our moms decided that’s where Hale and Doug are. We just turned in to the bank and parked. Your mom drives really fast.

Nancy: Let me know what happens, okay?

Palmer: Okay.

Palmer looked out the window of the SUV. The tint made everything seem darker and more sinister with the LED streetlights piercing the blackness. His mom and Nancy’s mom were mumbling in the front.

All of a sudden, he saw a car turn hard into the driveway from the street and, dowsing its headlights, speed down to the back. Whoa. Maybe Hale was right. Maybe there would be a secret meeting.

Then, a jeep barreled up Gardner, turned into the bank driveway and zoomed down to the back all kinds of lights on – headlights, fog lights, roof lights.

Wow. Palmer thought. This was getting complicated. Like the Hardy Boys story “The Secret Panel” that Dad had in the attic. Was this a “meet” of the criminals and he was stuck in the car with his mother and Nancy’s mother? He rolled down the window just in time to hear a voice say “Hah!” and another one say,” Shush! They’ll hear you!”

Well “they” did. The car doors opened and Sydney McClure started calling, “Doug! Douglas! Is that you? Where are you? Ella, take a look. Here’s Doug’s bike over by this tree.” Then Ella called out, “Hale Franklin Eddy, you come out here wherever you are hiding.”

Palmer decided to text Nancy.

Palmer: Hey, Nan.


Palmer: Nan, checking in.


Palmer looked up as a big black police cruiser rolled up and blocked the entrance to the driveway. Oh, boy.

graphic of two moble phonesPALMER AND NANCY CHECK IN – PART TWO

Nancy sat alongside her father in the Jeep. He was so pee-oh’d she didn’t dare say anything. She couldn’t even concentrate enough to write to her diary in her mind. So she just decided to memorize everything she saw and write it up later when she got home. If she got home.

Danny and Desi were in the back putzing around with some action figures from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a hand-me-down from Doug. Dad looked like steam would come out of his ears if anything else happened. The Jeep took the roads and the curves and the hills at speed tossing Nancy around inside her seat belt.

They barreled up Gardner hill and swerved into the bank driveway and shot down to the back parking lot. Nancy regretted giving Dad all this detail, but what could she do? She could tell he was afraid Mom and Doug were in danger or at least that something unpleasant was going on.

In the parking lot was another car. Dad pulled up to his driver’s window was across from the other driver’s window. Both windows rolled down simultaneously.

“That’s for meeting me here, Eddie,” Dad said. “I had the whole story from Nancy, who had it from Doug who had it from your son Hale.”

“Thanks for the call, Sanford. What’s going on?”

“Apparently, on Friday night Hale spotted two cars down here in this lot, overheard some voices saying there was a meeting here again tonight. So Hale conceived of the stupidest —- well, he’s your son, Eddie — Hale decided to sneak back here tonight and see what was what.

“Then he made the mistake of getting Doug involved. Doug’s a good kid, but impressionable. So somewhere around here Doug and Hale are hiding. To add to the confusion, both Palmer and Nancy told their mothers what was going on and our wives saw fit to take off and arrive here to find the kids for themselves.”

“Holy mackerel,” Eddie shook his head. “Hale’s got some heavy time coming for this one.”

“When I got home and asked where her mother was, Nancy here,” Sanford gestured to Nancy with a snort, “Nancy here tells me, I tell you and…”

“Dad! Look! At the top of the drive. It’s the police!”

“Oh, oy vey.” Sanford heaved a big sigh and nodded to Eddie. “Let’s go meet the cops. Nancy, you stay here. Do not — are you listening—do not let Desi and Danny out of the car.” With that Dad moved the Jeep, jumped out, and joined Mr. Eddy who was walking up the driveway to the front of the bank.

Nancy looked down. There were two messages from Palmer. Oh, man, he must be somewhere around here, too.

Nancy: Hey, Palmer, whatsup?

Palmer: Been trying to text you. Our moms are looking for Hale and Doug. There’s two cars down in the parking lot like Hale said. The police just showed up.

Nancy: I see the flashing lights.

Palmer: Where RU?

Nancy: Down in the parking lot below the bank.

Palmer: You’re in one of those cars?

Nancy: Where are you?

Palmer: In your Mom’s SUV.

Nancy: But where?

Palmer: In front of the bank.

Nancy: Oh, man. I’m in my dad’s Jeep. He talking to your dad. He was here when we got here.

Palmer: My dad?

Nancy: Yea. You didn’t see him?


Palmer: The police are talking to your and my mom.

Nancy: I told Dad. He’s on fire! Just backed the car up, got out, charged up the drive.

Palmer: My dad too?

Nancy: Yep.

Palmer: Oh, boy.


Palmer: Here they come. They’re crowded around the police. They’re all talking at once. Your dad’s waving his arms in the air. Your mom keeps looking around. My dad’s arguing with my mom. No surprise.

Nancy: Where’s Doug and Hale?

Palmer: Don’t know.


Palmer: Hey, one of the cops spotted Hale and Doug behind a rock on the driveway.

Nancy: Behind a rock!?

Palmer: Halfway down.I can just barely see it from the car.


Nancy: Hey, Palmer! What’s going on? I hear voices but not what they’re saying.

Palmer: They all went down the drive. Police too. I can’t see.


Nancy: Palmer!!!

Palmer: The cop’s coming back up the driveway with Hale and Doug. I can hear Hale saying, but I saw them, I heard them!

Police cruiserBUSTED

Hiding behind a bolder was not very comfortable. There were prickly things poking in my back and I had stepped on something squishy. But if I moved, I’d blow Hale’s cover and if he moved, he’s blow mine.

So we just waited.

I heard my mom calling. It was hard not to call back. But I was in it up to my neck, so I may as well go in it over my head. Then I saw a police car with high beams on and spotlight sweeping around the front of the bank. Stopping on Mom and Mrs. Eddy. The police get out and start talking to them.

And then, Dad and Mr. Eddy came charging up the driveway from the parking lot talking to each other a mile-a-minute like my grandma used to say. All I could hear was “Why did they” “How could they” “When did you…”

Everybody clusters around the police. Seems like they are all talking at once so I can’t make out what they’re saying. I gotta guess they’re telling the police that we’re missing and what Hale told me that I told Nan that Nan musta told Mom. I wonder if Palmer is as big a snitch as she is.

One of the police broke away from the group and started down the driveway with a big, powerful flashlight. Swinging it back and forth, she didn’t have much trouble finding us behind the boulder.

“Alright, boys,” she said. “Time’s up. Let’s go.” She didn’t sound angry or anything, but I wouldn’t have wanted to say no to her.

Hale and I stood up and stepped out onto the driveway. I felt all itchy and buggy. There was a black beetle on my jeans and leaves stuck to my socks.

“Before we go meet your parents, tell me your story.” The cop was looking right at Hale, so I let Hale do the talking.

He told how he was riding down Gardner Blvd last night around this time and saw cars at the back of the bank. How he heard what seemed like an arrangement to meet again tonight. And how he came maybe tonight to find out.

The police looked skeptical.

“But I saw them! I heard them! There was a white SUV!”

She nodded and jotted in her notebook. “Okay. Come on. It’s time to go home.”

We went up to where Mom and Dad and Mr. and Mrs. Eddy were. And Palmer. I could feel Hale stiffen. Palmer was officially in trouble.

The police said a few more things to our parents that I didn’t listen to, then got into the cruiser and took off. We all just stood there for a minute.

Then the dam broke.

How dangerous it was for us to do this. How irresponsible we were. How much trouble we were in for lying, for staying out late. How worried they were. How scared they were when they couldn’t find us. To never scare them like that again. How much we meant to them. How much they loved us — you get the picture.

Finally, my dad said, “Well, it’s getting late. We can sort out punishments tomorrow. What say we all go over to the Dairy Queen on Route 60 and then go home?”

You know? My dad’s just the greatest.

So Dad and Mr. Eddy walked back down the driveway and got their cars. Dad pulled up and there was Nancy inside. She stuck her tongue out me, the snitch.

I went with Mom. Dad took Nan, Desi and Danny. Hale and Palmer went with Mr. and Mrs. Eddy.

In the car Mom and I were quiet for a while. I said, “I’m sorry Mom to cause all this trouble.”

Remarkably enough, she just said, “You know about curiosity and the cat?” I nodded. “Well in this case, you ain’t got no satisfaction.”

We were quiet again for a while. “Mom, why was Dad so uncomfortable when I asked him at dinner about the stick figures on the car?”

I saw her smile in the light from the dashboard. “Because your Dad and I had a bet that you wouldn’t notice. He said a month. I said two days. It was less than 24 hours. You beat both of us.”

“That was it!?”

She looked at me smiled. “That was it. By the way, I found your phone. It was by your bed. You have your phone to thank for this whole evening.”

“I guess I have you to thank, Mom. Thanks for looking out for me.”

By the time we got to DQ I figured it was 11:30 or something. The dash clock was only 9:56!

Yeah. I was really, really sorry I caused my parents worry. But the fact remained, what did Hale see and hear?


We were all sitting around eating breakfast together on Sunday morning. Dad was making blueberry pancakes as fast as we could eat them. Desi and Danny were making blue-tongued faces at each other. Nan was staring out the window at the sunshine on the lawn. Probably thinking what she would write in her diary about last night. I saw that book one time. It’s dynamite.

Mom had gotten a newspaper, something she rarely does unless it’s important like who won the election or where July 4th fireworks were going to be.

“Hey, guys!” she said suddenly. “Check this out!” She folded back the paper to a story on the local pages and read aloud.

Crawford, May 11 — About 9:50 Saturday night, police surprised two thieves in the rear parking lot of the Bay Ridge Bank on Gardner Boulevard. The pair were recently charged with attempting to break into an ATM in Cuttersville in March and again were found loitering near the ATM at the Bay Ridge Savings Bank on Grove last week. Raymond Jones, 18, and Sam Beckwith, 20, were arrested at gun point after trying to escape first in a white SUV and then on foot. Inside the SUV, police found two 3D printed hand guns, a hand-drawn map of the bank, ski masks, gloves, flashlight, and a tool kit.

So there everybody. Hale was right. But was I right to listen to him? Even now that seems okay. Was I right to go there without telling anyone? Maybe not. And Nancy doesn’t count. But do I have to “tattle” everything to my parents? They think so. I don’t. Besides, what about the “other” secret Hale has that he wouldn’t even tell me?

Wonder if Hale’s seen today’s newspaper.


Story by Caroline Meyers, ©2019

Photo 158178387 © Volodymyr Muliar |