One of the stranger events that anyone who had been there could recount was the Eustace Corners Bank Robbery Showdown that had transpired at the end of the nineteen-forties in the midst of what was then the new town square. Many had talked about it in the years following the incident but no one could be found who could claim to be an actual direct eye witness to the event. The reason being that all that were close enough to view the action were themselves now absented participants. This fact alone was noteworthy even within a tiny backwater Illinois farming community whose concerns beyond the current price per bushel offered by the local grain storage facility and the latest level of wages at the tool works plant resting twixt the branch of the river by the Jonesboro ford seemed meager at best. This was not a community ready to surrender itself to morbid daily speculations so rife in the larger municipalities upstate. The incessant stories concerning A-bombs and Dengue fever epidemics and periodic warnings of the inevitability of more dire days ahead through some yet undetected menace held no credence here.
The intervention of the call-up of young men to protect the far off shores of the nation as a whole had not resulted after the fact in any subsequent change in the paltry amount of influence the surrounding world could claim over the daily activity of the town. Being composed of some twenty square blocks centered around a railroad depot and the Saline county bank, the small business community of Eustace was ever more interested in keeping their corner of the world functionally as distant as possible from the rest of the world while still conducting its business with it. The town sheriff had once boasted offhandedly to members of an annual church social that he might consider pitching a hammock in town square for all he had to do here beyond rustling an occasional stranded kitty or escorting a wayward coyote back to the nearby nature preserve that lay at the southern boundary of the county. The reason for this lack of activity not so much in the lack of necessity for his usefulness as it was the nature of the attitudes within the town that were ever watchful for activity from outside destabilizing influence that might upset the balance of everyday desirable mundanity. The exceptional or unconventional was unwelcome here and quickly escorted out not by any demonstration of force but by the uncomfortable sense of town unshakeable solidarity.
The occurrence leading up to the incident seemed to have commenced with the arrival of one of the town’s lesser appreciated native sons, one Manhattan Gomez who had been released from active service two years later than the other eleven native sons who had assimilated back to their former employ. A strange boy by any standard, no one in the town could find out what his participation in the wartime effort had amounted to. When asked, he made no claims to overseas assignments or official duties of any discernible domestic nature. He merely replied enigmatically that he had been, “Out West.”, and then fell silent with a strange self-serving sly grin. Somewhat of a miscreant by town standards he generally kept to himself except when he surfaced around dinner hour at the local cafe near the plant to eat his supper. He was recollected as being the overly smart and out of place boy who lived with his aunt when he had attended the local high school. His precociousness went fully unappreciated by his teachers and fellow students who thought that where ever his type had come from it might be better for all if after he had concluded his education that he return back there. His only friend in town was a mixed breed mutt that was as much a coyote as fox terrier. It followed him about trailing close behind only barking when challenged by anyone trying to separate the two of them. The fact of the close relationship of the animal the owner causing even more intolerant speculation for its unsupervised propensity to freely water flower gardens and water hydrants alike. The sheriff having to contend with the continual constant complaints about the animal’s doings, imagined or otherwise. It was obvious to him that the main source of general displeasure was not centered around the dog but the uneasiness that its owner inspired in a place where those of like minds seemed uncomfortable with the owner whom despite his growing up locally they judged to be an interloper.
The slow boil of enmity continued for many months until one day Gomez after consuming his regular meal came out of the cafe to find his dog missing. The animal was absent from its accustomed place on the porch and no where to be found despite the fact of Gomez spending the rest of the evening plodding repeatedly through the town’s grid looking for it. The residents could hear him desperately whistling for it as he passed outside and some sat back into their rockers with a smug grin that this town irritant had somehow gotten his just come uppance. The general consensus privately held was that this might be enough of a hint to tell him that it was time to move on to another place. Though no one was willing to publicly admit it, some claimed private knowledge that the dog had been taken to the far off woods on one of the sheriff’s coyotes runs. The constable’s part in the plot being his mounting frustration at having to repeatedly address the ire of residents who claimed damage to their flower plots, real or imagined. The resultant absence of Gomez from the cafe for the next two weeks was taken as a sign that this unsavory gambit however mean spirited had achieved the desired result and would better for all parties concerned in the long run. Life returned to its pleasurable sense of banality and ignorance now erased from the menace of minor irritation of speculation.
It was on Monday morning of the third weekend when the large handbill in large printed scrawl was found bright and early on the bank’s main entrance. “Residents of Eustace, as you have seen fit to make your anger known to me by the kidnap of my dog, I have decided to take something from each of you in return.” The bank manager somewhat aghast when moments later after opening the large two foot thick stainless steel door of the bank’s safe to find the inner compartment completely emptied, safe deposit boxes and all. The state police were immediately called and after subsequent detailed investigation found that there were no apparent signs of tampering that could explain anything but normal entry into the bank’s vault. The five bank employees being put under intense scrutiny having their backgrounds checked for months but each being subsequently given a clean bill of health after an exhausting investigation had concluded. As for Manhattan Gomez, despite an equally intensive manhunt, no trace of him seemed to any further exist. The strangeness of the incident might have become national news except for the forbearance of the surrounding community to remain close mouthed to outsiders poking their noses into details beyond those offered by the official state police spokesman. Privately, there was an unprecedented level of consternation at the outrageous nature of the enigmatic event. Town meetings held in private away from outside scrutiny railed at high pitched volumes about the failure of local officials to deal with past events both official and off the cuff. Though no firings were imminent in terms of the sheriff or any bank employees, a shadow had been cast over them that led to a sense of community unease. The town council an local pastor urged a reconciliation with the strange facts brought to light by the incident and the need for acceptance so as to move back to the town’s former state of blissful mentally peaceful ignorance. But to no avail. Tempers were inflamed to the point that several of the more outspoken who had suffered the most from the theft vowed mortally vengeance on Gomez if he ever had the bad sense to show his face in the town ever again. Throughout the ensuing Fall, the holiday spirit seemed burdened by a sense of bitterness that seemed extraordinary even by that of the example of the largest crime ridden municipalities of the nation. Anyone having the temerity to even mention the words, “Manhattan” or “Gomez” in the same sentence risking a bloody nose or sore jaw.
Yet, the following Spring, on the anniversary of the day after the dog’s disappearance an even stranger event took place that rankled the relative peace that had uneasily descended since the coming of the New Year. A handbill was discovered upon the flag pole that stood at the bottom of the steps within the amphitheater-like concrete depression that made up the town’s forum. A newly hired deputy that was engaged in morning foot patrol happened upon it as it noisily rustled in the stormy morning’s wind. To everyone’s shock it read,“Townspeople of Eustace, it has been a year since some of you had decided to steal away my companion in life in order to drive me out. Not being one to hold grudges I will forgive you all and as a sign of my sincerity will arrive here two weeks from tomorrow at 8:00 am to personally return the items that I removed from the bank almost a year ago.” The immediate reaction at the appearance of this message started a firestorm of speculation throughout the community of the veracity of the note. Some parents grabbed their children to shake out any possibility of a prank. Yet, when a small valise that had been found at the base of the flagpole beneath the handbill had been introduced at the town meeting the following night, the few items within were verified to have been some of the missing heirlooms purloined from a few of the safe deposit boxes during the robbery. The coals of doubt were once again raked to life by possibilities voiced that some old grudges nursed by a few key town employees had brought to life an extended conspiracy to gain revenge against the rest of the community for previous unacknowledged slights. The sheriff of course was at the eye of the hurricane. The raw anger of accusations that were passed in both directions at the meeting rekindled previous oaths of brutal vengeance. “God help anyone who was found to be at the bottom of this ongoing gambit, especially that demon Manhattan Gomez!” Though, the final consensus in the meeting was that while law enforcement forces outside the community should be on the alert. The town should not publicly respond to this announcement by showing up at the town square, beyond, of course, the sheriff and his deputy. The conclusion being that whomever this was, their covert manipulation of the town’s already fractured state of mind should not be tolerated any further.
The day of the event came with almost everyone within the town up before the crack of dawn by their windows keeping watch after a sleepless night. Whatever sparse activity from a passing cat or rabbit in the darkened lanes had been been meticulously followed and duly noted. A hubbub of phone activity unaccustomed at that hour had kept everyone informed so that the overall conclusion was that no one beyond the deputy on night patrol had been ranging through the vicinity of the center of town since the previous evening. No strange faces at the cafe noted or interlopers from the outside being found within the city limits. The vicinity of the square and its concrete dish containing the vertical mast of a flagpole as deserted as the surface of the moon. At 7:50 AM. the sheriff’ car arrived and he and his deputy exited, both holding their Remington riot pump shotguns at the ready. Each one taking up position opposite at the top of the steps of the fifty foot depression. A hundred sets of eyes peering out at the two of them on guard from behind curtains and doors partially cracked open. The endless seconds ticked down as nothing beyond the occasional sound of an errant leaf dragging on the pavement disturbed the unrelenting maddening calm of the scene. The immediate sound of a faraway tractor trailer shifting gears momentarily drawing a head or two turtle-like out of a few of the opened doors. The Sunday church bell began to toll its eight strokes, the two figures by the stepped depression of the town square standing rifles at the ready surveying the immediate vicinity through the v-notched metal of their sights. Nothing occurring to interrupt the calm beyond the straining mass surveillance of so many covert stares focused intensely by the flagpole. At eight precisely, some mentioned later in the deposition that their was a slight green flash. The square then was completely vacant of any human presence for the next half an hour until several of the town’s councilmen ventured timidly towards the depression and found the remaining valuables in a large steamer trunk resting beside the base of the pole. One person who had been perched behind an open window claimed that they had seen both sheriff and deputy descending the stairs by the seventh bell’s sounding but blinked and could no longer catch sight of them. All that remained was the squad car, its Mars lights flashing and two of the doors open as the lawmen had left them on arriving. Speculations by many who had not been there had suggested that the sheriff had probably become concerned for his job and mounted the whole affair after initially conspiring with someone at the bank to clean out its resources. He had let the deputy in on it and the two had planned their escape in such a way that no one could catch sight of them. Further investigation by outside authorities once again yielded nothing. After the inquiry was concluded the items from the steamer trunk were returned and the town went back to its unique sense of quietly abnormal. Many of the younger inhabitants migrating to nearby cities increasingly forestalling visits back home to their elders over the ensuing years. The subsequent recessions descending upon commerce over the following decades erasing it slowly into just another economic ghost town of more profitable times past.
“Some ten-thousand years ago . . .”, began the virtual mind-clip anecdotal listing in the entertainment segment of the Hubble Daily Galaxy Dispatch mentioning, an odd incident that had in-part occurred on the old home planet of what was once called “Earth“. One of the primary inventors of matter/time transference, M. Gomez, was found to have illegally deposited two persons from that time-space to the frozen bottom of what is now known as the Western Interior Sea. Both men’s bodies were dressed in the archaic costumes of twentieth-century law personnel and were still holding percussion based weapons. Though not of our own current time space, Mr. Gomez, was a key member of special research of the Manhattan project during the second mid-century war. He had carried these individuals forth to our present time as part of the culmination of his long held vendetta that had been held since a young man originally being raised in that region. M. Gomez is currently being sought in the vicinity of the Sirius system and any perceptions of his presence are to be forwarded to the local galaxy enforcement section without delay.