Biographical, Historical, Fiction

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The recession continued into 2012 but there were still a lot of people that had an abundance of disposable income. Unfortunately, there were a great many more people that had no disposable income and were going deeper in debt each month. The many companies that had massive layoffs in Kansas City were not expecting to rehire anyone for years, if ever.

Eight young men had developed a very close relationship while working at a food processing plant. They were all in their late twenties or early thirties and were all unmarried. The eight young men went everywhere together and shared four apartments in the same apartment complex in North Kansas City. They were all laid off at the same time.

All of the men were collecting unemployment compensation but that was going to expire in few more months. They had no idea what they would do after the money stopped coming in. They were looking for jobs but their skill set was limited. Two of the men worked at McDonalds for a short time but the pay was less than the unemployment compensation. They had to earn at least ten dollars an hour to beat the unemployment payment. They really needed a minimum of twelve dollars an hour to meet their expenses.

Jack and Eddie heard of a short term deal that may be fun. They wouldn’t make much money but it could be a kick. There was a small organization that did special events for groups and individuals. The entertainment involved an old steam locomotive and a fifty mile stretch of abandoned railroad track. They would have special trains on weekends. In the fall they had the spook train for Halloween. They had a Santa train for the children for Christmas. In the spring they had a valentine train for lovers and an Easter train with the Easter bunny for the children. The most popular event was in the summer. Every weekend in July they had a train robbery with horseback riding train robbers. The robbers wore their handkerchiefs over their face to hide their identity. This was like the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Everyone had a great time during this event.

Jack and Eddie volunteered to be amongst the robber group. They wouldn’t be paid but the robbers made a few dollars in tips from the passengers. Some days they could make $100 and didn’t have to declare that to the unemployment folks. The first two weekends went well and the boys had a great time. The third weekend they learned of a special run of the train. Usually it ran at eleven, one and three and then quit for the day. On one Saturday they were having a special run strictly for patrons of the local opera company. The run would start at five and then they would board a bus back to the city for an elegant meal. All of the passengers would be in evening clothes and ready for a fun evening.

When they heard about this event, Jack and Eddie had an idea. If the passengers were expecting a robbery then they would have a robbery. They told their other friends about this and they were all interested in seeing if there was some easy money to get them through this rough period of their lives. They sat and discussed how they could do the deed. None of them were crooks. They only had two guns between the six of them and they were shotguns. They did have some western clothes. Two of the men had never been on a horse and only Jack and Eddie were experienced horsemen. They were desperate and they felt that they had to try.

Each of the men used the last of their resources to purchase the proper outfits for the robbery. The planning was very explicit so on the day of the train ride they were all prepared. Jack and Eddie went to the first event at the usual time so they could participate in the first three sham robberies. The fake robbers always rendezvoused at the same place. This was a forested area. There was a corral for the horses and a place for the men to relax between robberies. Jack and Eddie told the men to hide in the trees just out of sight and to be in position no later than four o’clock.

The first three sham robberies went off without a hitch. The men were looking forward to the special event as they were sure they would be getting good tips as these riders had money. They were in good mood when they arrived at the rendezvous only to be met by the six friends of Jack and Eddie. They now called themselves the “gang”. Two men carried the shotguns to limit dissent. Each man was taken into the woods in different places and tied to a tree with their bandanna as a gag. Jack and Eddies were the last but they were not tied. They were to participate in the robbery. One last chore was to remove one of the rails so the train could not go forward after the robbery.

The train was rolling and the guests were having a great time. There were two cars and each car carried sixteen couples. The champagne was flowing and light snacks were being served. The train rounded a bend and the robbers were ready. The engine stopped and the engineer and fireman were told to get down from the engine. This was a departure from the normal routine but they figured that this was a special thing for these guests. The engineer and fireman were tied up to a tree and the eight robbers went into the cars to rob the passengers. They gave each passenger a cloth bag and told them to write their names on the bag for later ID. Then they had each guest put their money and jewelry in the bag for collection. They also collected all of the cell phones. They all did this willingly as it was part of the game. After all the valuables were collected the men left the train to applause from the passengers.

Two men went behind the train to remove one rail and now the train could not move. They were ten miles from anywhere and the passengers would have to walk out. The gang felt that this would give them about two hours before anyone knew what had happened. They would be home in their apartments by then. The last thing that they did before walking the half mile to their cars was to tie Jack and Eddie to trees so they wouldn’t be suspected. They felt that everything had gone perfect and they were in the clear. They estimated that they had over six thousand dollars in cash and a large haul of jewelry. Life was good again.

It took the fireman and one of the younger passengers about two hours to walk out to where there was a phone. Fifteen minutes later the train was surrounded by the county sheriff’s deputies and soon after that Kansas Bureau of Investigation had taken over the investigation. There was one anomaly that no one could explain. The passengers said there were eight robbers but the sham robbers said they were imprisoned by six robbers. Where had the other two robbers been when they imprisoned the sham robbers? One investigator postulated that the two may have been there all along. It was determined that Jack and Eddie were the last two restrained so one of the investigators was assigned to find out about those two.

Another thing happened that doomed the bad boys. A local farmer had seen two strange cars parked on a dirt road and had noted the license plate numbers. He called the local game warden to see if there was any illegal poaching going on in the area. The game warden said that he was unaware of any poaching but asked for the license plate numbers in case he found something.

The investigator checking on Jack and Eddie went right to work. By that evening he was at their apartment complex talking with other tenants. They all said that Jack and Eddies were really nice men and so were the other six men that they hung out with. Bang. Strike one.

The game warden learned of the robbery on Sunday and thought that the two cars may be involved. He called the sheriff and gave him the license plate numbers the farmer had furnished. They checked the plates and found they were registered to men that lived in the same apartment complex as Jack and Eddie. Bang. Strike two.

One of the men was desperate for money. He was about to lose his car so first thing Monday he took one of the stolen rings to a jeweler to try and sell it. Not being knowledgeable about how insurance companies work was a major error. There was over three hundred thousand dollars in jewelry missing. On Sunday the ten insurers of the jewelry had gotten together and put together a list of the jewelry and faxed every jewelry store in a five state area a listing of the jewelry with a reward. The jeweler in Overland Park thought it strange that this young man of obvious limited means would have a ring that would retail for over twenty thousand dollars. He asked to take the ring to the back and check it under the microscope. He checked the insurance company list and found the ring. He went back out and told the man he didn’t have the cash but if he would bring the ring back in two hours he could give him ten thousand dollars. The robber was ecstatic and said he would return. Two hours later he marched into the jewelry store and into the arms of the KBI. Bang. Strike three.

By Monday evening all of the jewelry was recovered and all but a thousand dollars of the cash. The robbers didn’t take any debit or credit cards. Those items, and other ID things, were left with the passengers.

The eight men were arrested Monday night and held in the Jackson County jail. The next morning they were arraigned and held for trial. Bail was set but none of the men could make bail as they had no credit or assets and no bail bondsman would take a chance on them. They sat in the county jail for three months before being brought to trial. The trial was brief as each of the men entered a guilty plea. No one was hurt and the passengers admitted they thought it was fun. The passengers were treated with respect. In fact, the judge’s brother was one of the passengers. Six of the men were given sentences of one year with credit for time served. Jack and Eddie, as instigators, were given two years with credit for time served. They would serve their time in the Kansas State Prison.

Was this a good plan gone awry or a bad plan that was doomed?

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