Production No. BPP-617

written by:
Robin & Paula

edited by: Karen, Shirin, and Bonnie


Tandy Randall glanced at the long queue of Friday afternoon Cascade Community Bank customers waiting their turn at her window and sighed. Her life could be summed up in one short word -- boring. Up at six, to work by eight, lunch at noon, home at four, dinner with her cat at seven and in bed by ten to start it all over again the next day. Boring. Dull.

Pasting an insincere smile on her face, she motioned the next customer forward. She processed his deposit (with a cash return of fifty dollars), allowing her experienced hands to practice the well-honed skill while her mind continued to wander.

Yes sir, 'dull' aptly described her life. Dull, as in no excitement. Definitely no social life, no warm hug awaiting her in the evening. An affectionate tabby hardly substituted for a pair of warm, strong arms -- rather like the ones attached to the handsome floral deliveryman that had just entered the bank. Devastatingly handsome, she mentally amended as he drew closer. A double whammy. Handsome and carrying flowers. Just one of her many versions of the 'ideal man'. Tandy noted that this incarnation was wearing faded blue jeans, brown hiking boots, a Jags windbreaker and matching ball cap. A large leather satchel hung from one shoulder

Tandy tore her attention away from the entrancing sight, sighed again and mechanically thanked her current customer for banking with Cascade Community Bank. The customer, well aware that he had received less than Tandy's full attention, grunted resentfully and turned away.

Reaching for the next customer's transaction slip, Tandy surreptitiously monitored the deliveryman's progress, wondering who the lucky recipient was. Certainly not her. The last time Tandy had received flowers was on her birthday three years ago, and those had been sent by her mother. She still flushed with embarrassment whenever she recalled the good-natured ribbing she'd received from her co-workers once they'd realized that the flowers were not from a male friend. Upon arriving home that evening, Tandy had immediately called her mother to thank her for the flowers and to tell her (lovingly) to please not send any more.

Crossing to the information desk, the man glanced at the delivery card buried in the colorful blooms and spoke briefly to the bank's concierge, Linda. With a slightly raised eyebrow, Linda reached for the bouquet only to have it pulled out of her reach. The deliveryman shook his head and whatever he said to Linda after that caused her to frown. After a moment's hesitation, she waved a hand toward the teller windows and, had she not known better, Tandy would have sworn that the motion was directed at her. Fat chance, Tandy snorted. She was the first station in the row, next to the windows that lined the street. Linda could have been pointing to Ericka or Donyelle's station, she told herself. They were always getting flowers.

Seemingly oblivious to the string of customers that wound away from Tandy's window, the man strode to the front of the line and smiled broadly, ignoring the patrons' grumbles of protest. "Tandy Randall?" he queried, the grin never leaving his face.

"Yes," she replied somewhat breathlessly, praying that her expression didn't broadcast the astonishment she felt.

"These are for you!" he declared happily, shoving the flowers across the counter in front of a customer. The woman sputtered in irritation, but pushed the issue no further. Several customers, sensing that the delay in the line they currently inhabited would increase, darted into other, shorter lines. Tandy figured she would be reprimanded for letting personal business cause a delay, but she was too excited to care. Someone had sent her flowers!!

"I...uh...wasn't expecting any flowers," Tandy stammered, afraid her bubble would burst at any moment. "Are you sure they're for me?"

"They've got your name on them, Gorgeous, so that makes them yours in my books!" The man's brilliant blue eyes sparkled good-naturedly behind his stylish brown, plastic-framed glasses as he rested an arm on the marble partition that separated Tandy's station from the teller next to her.

"Oh my!" was the best that Tandy could manage through her surprise. Smiling apologetically to the impatient customer in front of her, Tandy snatched the card from the bouquet and, with shaking hands, ripped open the small envelope. Almost reverently sliding the card from the torn envelope, Tandy read the handwritten message: From a secret admirer. She didn't know whether to be thrilled or disappointed. It was exciting to think she had a secret admirer, but extremely frustrating to not know who it was!

She hardly noticed as the man reached into his satchel then slid a clipboard across the counter. "If you'll just sign here, ma'am, I'll be out of your hair." Tandy absently scrawled her signature on the indicated line, but her benefactor's next whispered words brought her crashing painfully back to earth. "Oh, and while you're at it, why don't you put all the cash you have in your drawer in this bag." She lifted her eyes to find that he had raised the front of the clipboard slightly, revealing a small handgun pointed directly at her. He was holding out the satchel that had been dangling innocuously from his shoulder. Oh my God!

The amused smile never faded as the man leaned toward her to offer some advice in a stage whisper. "You wouldn't want anyone here to get hurt, now would you?"

Tandy could only shake her head 'no'.

"Good. I don't want to hurt anyone either, so why don't we just quietly finish our little transaction here and go on about our business? You don't make a fuss, I don't have to make a mess."

Tandy's eyes darted around the lobby only to find that all the customers had disappeared from her line and that her curious co-workers had gone back to minding their own business. Unless she made a scene, no help would be forthcoming from those arenas, and she'd been warned about the results of making a scene.

Accepting defeat, Tandy took the satchel, quietly opened her cash drawer and began to stuff the contents into the worn leather bag. She willed her fellow tellers, the customers, or the security guard to glance her way so she could try to signal them, but they steadfastly ignored her, intent on eliminating the lines that stretched before them in anticipation of closing.

Tandy finished filling the bag and silently slid it across the counter to the robber, who had quite naturally lost a great deal of his previous appeal. He graced her with another dazzling smile and slung the pack across his shoulder once again. "Remember," he admonished her softly, "no tripping the alarm until I'm gone, Gorgeous. I really, really don't want to shoot anybody today, okay?" Mute with fear and shock, Tandy could only nod. "Oh, and keep the flowers, Gorgeous, you deserve them."

Pulling the clipboard and its hidden threat close to his chest, the robber turned and strode confidently towards the exit. Spying the security camera high in the corner of the lobby, he stopped and, facing it squarely, doffed his cap and offered a huge grin for posterity.

Standing frozen at her window, Tandy watched sadly as the man of her dreams made off with approximately two thousand dollars from her window. Once he had cleared the door, Tandy reached beneath her station and activated the silent alarm.

Within minutes the downtown branch of the Cascade Community Bank was seemingly overrun with police cars and uniformed officers. The red and blue flashing lights of the patrol cars shimmered and flickered on the bank's windows, mixing with the natural sunlight to produce an almost kaleidoscopic effect. Some officers roamed the street, searching for potential witnesses to the robbery, while others interviewed the bank customers and employees. Naturally, the focus was on Tandy and Linda, both of whom had spoken to, and gotten a good long look at, the man known as the Bouquet Bandit.

"And he was wearing a very nice Jags windbreaker. You know, the kind you can only get at the arena -- an 'official' windbreaker." Linda had happily regaled Officer John Rollins, the uniformed officer in charge, with a description of the robber. Now that things were over with, she had to admit that it was just about the most exciting thing that had ever happened to her and she was going to milk it for all it was worth! Besides, Tandy, the poor child, was virtually mute with both disappointment and shock and had offered only the barest amount of information.

Rollins added the item to the others in his notebook and turned to Tandy. "Do you have anything to add to your statement, Ms. Randall?"

"I guess not," Tandy said quietly. "Just that he was very polite and said he didn't want to hurt anyone."

"Thank you, Ms. Randall," Rollins said kindly. "I'm sure the detectives assigned to this case will have more questions for you, but you're free to go for now. Do you need someone to drive you home?"

"No, I'll be all right." Tandy straightened her shoulders, stood and crossed to her teller's window. She gathered her purse and her sweater and turned to leave. Almost as an afterthought, she paused and regarded the flowers. Then, with a flourish and a small smile, she gathered the bouquet into her arms and strode, unnoticed, out of the bank.

Rollins joined Tim Anderson as he completed interviewing a possible witness to the getaway. "Whatcha' got, Tim?"

"A couple of folks reported seeing our guy get into a small, economy car. One said it looked like a Plymouth Horizon and the other said a Ford Escort. Either way, it was one of those compact jobbies. Light brown or tan. Neither of them got the plate number since they didn't realize there was any problem. They both agree there was one of those magnetic florist signs on the side of the car. Real bright colors, with that little FTD floral delivery guy on it." At Rollins's raised eyebrow, Anderson grinned self-consciously and admitted, "I couldn't've told you that's who he was. One of the witnesses, Jean Davis, told me."

Rollins chuckled and pressed for more details. "Either of them manage to get a company name or phone number off this sign with the little FTD guy on it?"

"Yeah, same woman. Says there wasn't a phone number, but she remembers the name of the florist because she's never heard of it before. Perfect Petals."

Jim Ellison gently knocked on his captain's door. The muttering he heard coming from Simon's office did not bode well, making him nervous about entering. When Banks talked to himself it was never good news, and Jim was certain that once or twice he had caught the sounds of a fist pounding a desk, as well. Thinking that his partner could benefit from an early warning, he turned and quickly whispered what he knew.

"He doesn't sound like he's in a good mood, Sandburg. Let's get in there, find out what he wants, and then try to get out with our hides intact."

Blair's eyes were wide. As much as he hated to admit it, he still cringed when Simon Banks directed a tirade his way. He didn't think he'd ever become immune to them, no matter how long he worked for the man. "But we haven't done anything! We just tied up our last case and..." He yelped when the door was yanked out of his partner's hand and flung wide open. Simon stood there, glaring at the both of them. To say that the man didn't look happy would have been an understatement.

"Are you two coming in?" The captain's question was a tightly controlled growl. "Or are you going to stand out there gossiping like a couple of teenagers?"

"Uh, coming in, sir." Ellison strode by his superior with more nonchalance than he actually felt and hoped it was convincing. Giving his partner a quick backward glance, just to make sure Sandburg was still there and hadn't high-tailed it out of the building, he started to take a seat in front of the large desk when Simon's voice stopped him.

Banks veered off, heading for the large maple colored table. "The conference table, gentlemen." Pulling out a chair, he offered his two detectives a small smile. "You can both relax. You're not in any trouble. In fact, I'm glad you're back."

Relieved, Blair dropped into the chair next to his partner. "You had us worried, sir."

Chuckling, Simon picked up a file folder. "I could see that, Sandburg, but there are some other things going on that I'm sure you'd prefer me not to bore you with." He tossed the file across the table at the young detective and then slid another over to Ellison. "You're picking up a new case."

Scanning the contents of the file, Jim's frown deepened until it became a scowl. "Not the Bouquet Bandit. C'mon, Simon. It's not much more than petty theft. He's only hit one bank."

"Exactly," Simon interjected. "And that bank is managed by one Jeffery Inch, the son-in-law of our renowned mayor. This has now become a case for Major Crime. Besides, he's starting to make Cascade PD look bad."

"But still, Simon, a small time thief?"

"Not just any thief, Ellison." The captain's grin became mischievously wicked. "He's a flower toting thief. And who better equipped to sniff him out, than you, Jim?"

Jim shot his partner a perplexed look. Blair's snort of amusement wasn't helping. He knew that his captain was not about to be talked out of assigning them the case so he just shook his head. "You've been waiting to say that for a long time, haven't you?"

Simon's grin grew into a toothy smile. "I have, Ellison, I have. Now let's get to it." Standing, he went to retrieve a notepad from his desk. "Since the mayor insists that this is such a sensitive case..." Sandburg's chuckle brought him up short. It took a second for him to realize what he had said. "Sorry, Jim. That was unintentional." He cleared his throat to continue. "As I was saying, the mayor insists that this case is of some importance." He gave Blair his best stare. "Albeit, it does seem to be something not really in the league of what we normally see here, but only on the surface."

Both Jim and Blair raised their eyebrows and waited for their captain to continue. Simon grunted in satisfaction. He now had his men's attention. "I was going over the reports. Our Bouquet Bandit has hit maybe five or six different establishments. It's always the same M.O. He picks the middle of the day; he brings flowers, and leaves without ever publicly displaying a gun, issuing threats or anyone being injured. In each case he's managed to walk in and walk out without anyone being the wiser. Except for the person being robbed, of course."

"So he's polite," Jim offered. "That doesn't make him unusual, Simon. We've seen a lot of quirky cases."

"Yeah," Sandburg added. "Last month we had that guy that always sent us an apology after bombing buildings." His face broke into a lopsided grin. "Nice guy, even if his deck was a few cards short."

"True," Banks agreed. "But call it gut reaction or instinct, I think that when the two of you sit down and start poring over witness testimony and evidence, you're going to be thinking the same as I am. This guy isn't exactly what he's wanting us to think he is."

Jim was still unconvinced. "For instance?"

Simon looked at his notes. "We've got five different robberies. Our man is described as looking like a college kid, a model, and a cowboy. He's clean-shaven, he's bearded. He's reported as weighing 160 pounds, and weighing 200 hundred pounds. He's got blue eyes, he's got brown eyes. He's been described as 5'11, 6'2, walks with a limp, has a real cocky walk... Need I go on?" He looked at Ellison and then at Sandburg. "He certainly does enjoy his work, it seems. He puts enough effort into it."

"There's got to be more than that, sir." Blair joined his partner in his skepticism. "Unless you're thinking there's more than one of him."

"That, Sandburg, is a distinct possibility. As are many other possibilities." Banks stood. "And you two now have the pleasure of discovering which of many scenarios is true." He paused for effect. "Let's try to make it before he strikes again?" At both men's nod he added one more piece of information. "We also have another reason for trying to nail this guy very soon. I've had calls from legitimate delivery services that the public is starting to treat their employees with suspicion and open hostility. I don't want any vigilante attitude developing in this town. With the number of thefts and break-ins on the increase, I can understand people's fear. We just don't need them acting on it."

The 1992 light tan Ford Escort, proudly and colorfully promoting the Perfect Petals floral shop, slid smoothly to a stop in a vacant space of the nearly deserted parking lot. The car's occupant took a moment to survey the surroundings and, assured of his anonymity, pushed the car door open and stepped from the vehicle. He opened the trunk and pulled out a large duffel bag. Whistling happily to himself, he shed the Jags windbreaker and cap and pulled a stylish brown leather jacket and worn sneakers from the canvas bag. Then he stripped the magnetic signs from the sides of the car and stuffed them into the duffel. Sliding into the car to sit sideways in the driver's seat, the man began changing his shoes, pitching the hiking boots into the duffel. He occasionally cast a cautious glance around the lot to make sure his actions continued unobserved. Finally, the Bouquet Bandit removed his brown, plastic-framed glasses and carefully extracted the blue prescription-free contact lenses, returning his eyes to their natural deep brown. He nonchalantly tossed the contact lens carrier in the bag and zipped it shut with a flourish.

Donning his jacket and slinging the duffel bag over his shoulder, Alonso Skotty, AKA the Bouquet Bandit sauntered off to plan his next caper.

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