Rachel White was cooking supper when she heard a soft knock on the door of her apartment. Moving slowly—Rachel usually moved slowly, even in her own home—she left the kitchen, crossed the small living-room, and put her ear to the door. “Who is it?”
“Joe.” The voice was little more than a whisper. “We need to talk.”
She unlatched and opened the door. Joe Elliott stood there in the hallway, looking at her. She faced him, but it couldn’t be said that she was looking at him.
Rachel White had been blind for ten years.
She moved aside so he could enter. When he’d stepped past her, Joe said, “Lock it again,” and waited while she put the chain in its slot.
“What is it?” she asked. “And why are you whispering? You’re scaring me.”
He cleared his throat. “Sorry. I just heard about the bank robbery.” He took a seat on the sofa. “Saw it, actually. On the news.”
Rachel sat across from him, in a rocker that had belonged to her grandmother. “I meant to call you. It was quite a day.”
“Have you seen—heard, I mean—the news? Channel Five showed you talking to one of their reporters.”
“Lord no, I don’t want to hear that. I didn’t have anything to tell them anyway.”
“That doesn’t matter. The thing is, they showed you on TV. You were at the scene.”
Rachel stayed quiet a moment. “What’s going on here, Joe? What are you saying?”
He sighed. “First, tell me what happened. Tell me everything.”
“Just a minute—let me turn the heat down on my soup.” She made her way to the kitchen and back again.
As it turned out, there really wasn’t that much to tell, and under normal circumstances she wouldn’t even have been a part of it. Rachel rarely went to the bank, for obvious reasons; old Mr. Hargrove, down the hall, usually handled her business errands for her while she was at work—Rachel taught violin courses at a local college—in return for a home cooked meal now and then. But Hargrove had caught a bad cold, and since he’d examined her mail with her last night and informed her that she’d received a substantial stock-dividend check, she’d gone to the bank to cash it herself this morning between classes, and had wound up in the middle of an incident.
In fact, she’d arrived before it happened. Rachel was sitting in one of the little chairs in an alcove between two big potted plants near the bank entrance, waiting for the crowd to thin out a bit and making sure she had the correct envelope ready to hand to the teller. She could usually figure out, from the voices and the commotion, whether a gathering of people was too big for her to be comfortable in, and just after she’d heard the last person in Ms. Langford’s teller line thank her and leave, she also heard someone else enter the lobby—the truth was, it sounded like two people entering at the same time. She sat there twenty feet from them, facing in their direction, sensing that something was amiss but not knowing what. They paused there a moment, talking to each other in low voices, then their footsteps headed toward the teller counter, and Rachel heard a deep, muffled voice say, “Fill the bag, sister, and make it fast.” The teller did, apparently, because a minute or so later both sets of footsteps returned to the door and left. Rachel just sat there in her chair, sweating and petrified, and after awhile the police arrived and asked her a barrage of gently-spoken questions. More questions followed, by news-media voices that were not so gentle, and she was finally told she could leave. She hadn’t even remembered to cash her dividend check.
“And that’s it?” Joe asked.
“What’d you expect? Descriptions of faces? Eye color? Hair color? I don’t know what those guys looked like.”
“You’re not the only one who doesn’t,” he said. “The teller and a loan officer—they were the only people in the lobby at the time, since the bank manager was in the back and the other customers had left—didn’t see faces or eyes or hair either.”
“Because the robbers wore ski masks and dark glasses. Maybe it’s one reason they didn’t see you, on their way out. Too bad they didn’t run into the doorframe and knock themselves cold. Point is, the cops have no leads at all.”