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July 22, 2024

Geistmann 3: To the Ends of the Earth, Chapter Fifteen

By Ron Singer

Chapter Fifteen.

Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Saturday, February 16th - Sunday, February 17th, 2019;
Florence, Italy, Sunday, February 17th & Monday, February 18th, 2019.

Geistmann had long since realized that his two primary passions in life were mayhem and art, or as his mentor, Arnold M. Weatherbee (RIP), had put it, "chaos and order." It was, in part, to indulge these passions that he flew from Sarajevo to Florence on Sunday, February 17th, with a stopover in Munich. His itinerary was simple: rob a bank in Florence; then view, once again, two of his favorite paintings, both by Piero della Francesca, in nearby Monterchi and Sansepolcro. In the process, he would begin to replenish his finances and, more importantly, refute the criticisms of his nagging inner voice, by paying meticulous attention to detail. He would show that carping egotist!

After eating a mediocre meal, then spending a restful night at a lovely hotel adjacent to Sarajevo International Airport, or SJJ (aka Butmir Airport), he awoke early and forced himself to perform an insanely strenuous forty-minute workout in the hotel's small gym. Showering and dressing, he enjoyed a leisurely, fat-laden American breakfast in the hotel dining room, accompanied by a reading of the local paper (which also allowed him to work on his Serbian/ Croatian/Bosnian skills). As he had anticipated might be the case, the journalist reported that the triple murder at the Nebeski Lodge in Lake Boracko the previous day had been ascribed by the desk clerk to "an American or Canadian, disguised as a bird-watcher wearing lederhosen."

After paying the bill with the credit card of Casper Featherstone-Whistler (which gave Geistmann his usual frisson from intentional risk), he drove the SUV to the car rental kiosk at the airport. Paying the moderate bill for the week's rental with the same credit card, he shuttled to the main terminal, where he carried his duffel bag into a spacious toilet stall for the disabled, in a Men's Room in a back corner.

Using his battery-operated miniature shredder, he destroyed Mr. F-W's credit card, after which he set to work assuming his new identity. The principal implements for this task were, of course, a new set of clothes (generic rich urban European tourist), plus a pair of scissors, an electric razor, clippers, and a bottle of hair dye. He chose black for his new hair color, to cover up the British bird-watcher's auburn, which was also Geistmann's natural color, although by now speckled with gray. With mild regret, he razed off the small chin beard, which he knew some vulgar Americans (like Scott Peters) called a "pussy tickler."

Attention to detail, at this point, also meant not using the mirror over the sinks to check his progress. Instead, as usual, Geistmann employed his portable mirror, with the LED light, also battery-operated, which he propped up on the toilet tank. From the duffel, he extracted a portable charger that worked for both shredder and light. Its dimensions were only 3.9 inches deep, 0.9 inches high, and 2.4 inches wide, which was why he had bought it, in Tokyo several years before. He determined that neither battery needed charging.

From Sarajevo, the dark-haired businessman flew to Munich (Munchen), where, after a ninety-minute stopover, he continued on to FLR Airport, near Florence (Firenze). At FLR (aka Peretola), he rented another car, then spent the night in an anonymous nearby student hostel.

Having set his phone alarm, by 7:30 Monday morning, he had donned yet another disguise, and was on his way to the city. He stopped at a petrol station to top up the tank and to drink a small espresso, but deferred eating until later, when he planned on enjoying an early lunch in a fine bar-ristorante in Monterchi. Only in film comedies were bank robbers side-tracked by calls of nature.

Of course, Geistmann's motive for robbing the Banca Ingente di Firenze was not only to create chaos; he needed the money. Fortunately for him, Italy, where many of the most beautiful paintings in the world were housed, was also the European country whose banks were easiest to rob. Even the weather today would cooperate. It was raining steadily, which meant traffic in the city would be even more snarled than usual. Accordingly, his escape would be on foot, as would his approach to the bank from the outdoor parking lot where he now left the newly rented sports car. His only regret was that the chilly, rainy weather would force him to forego one of his very favorite pleasures: la luce del sole.

Modeling the operation after previous bank robberies (seven or eight, over the years), he approached the Banca Ingente at 8:25 a.m., five minutes after it opened. He was now a bearded Franciscan friar, whose brown robe was like a poncho, although woolen, and hence only water-resistant, not waterproof. Geistmann also wore his usual running shoes. These days, he had observed, when it came to footwear, there was no such thing as incongruity.

Looking both ways to be sure there were no Carabinieri nearby, Geistmann slipped up behind the elderly guard, who was already dozing on a wooden stool under an awning to one side of the bank's entrance. A chloroform dart deepened the man's slumbers. Making sure his back was propped against the building, Geistmann assumed most passersby would be amused by the sight, rather than indignant. Italians were, in general, a tolerant people.

Entering the bank, and proceeding to the pre-selected teller's window, Geistmann flashed from beneath the wide sleeve of his robe a short-barreled, lethal-looking machine pistol (unloaded), and uttered a line paraphrased from the memoirs of that model American bank robber, Willie Sutton. "It's not your money, friend, so you don't want to die for it." He spoke gruffly to the middle-aged male teller, but in faultless Standard Italian (which, as he knew, was based on the Tuscan dialect). "Don't be stupid! Don't sound the alarm, and don't give me money that is dyed or in small denominations!" He snarled and thrust the gun toward the man. As he knew, the glass partition was bulletproof, but the man quivered, anyway. Geistmann was vain about his thespian skills.

The teller, a tall, slender, middle-aged man wearing an old black suit with a gray cardigan, white shirt, green tie, and black-rimmed glasses, immediately slid a thick manila envelope through the slot beneath his window. Quickly thumbing through the envelope, Geistmann saw that it contained exclusively E100 notes. Having read up on Italian banks, and their procedures, he realized that this was a pre-packaged batch of middle-denomination notes, explicitly designated for robberies. Since he knew there were 150 notes in the envelope, he quickly estimated the haul to be adequate or, at least, a start. But a moment later, he was dismayed by the realization that he would have to rob twenty or thirty banks before he could begin to feel financially secure again. Consulting his phone, he determined that he had been in the bank less than two minutes.

He closed with a parting "shot": "After I leave, don't decide to be brave, Signior Enso Foscari, 21 Via di Vingone, Broncigliano!" (The family may have originated in Venice.) "If I hear the alarm going off, your wife, Francesca, and your two children, Barto and Niccola, will be in grave danger. Do you understand?" The man nodded five or six times.

As he strolled briskly away from the bank, on Viale Gramsci, Geistmann heard no alarms. Of course, this guaranteed nothing, since there was presumably a silent alarm connected to the local police station. But the teller's pallor and violent shaking, as he listened to the threat, allowed Geistmann to assume it would take the poor man several minutes to muster sufficient courage to press the buzzer with his knee.

Quickening his pace, Geistmann was soon clear of the distretto finanziario. As he strode through the wet streets, he was conscious of the extra weight in the dufflel bag. He knew that 15,000 Euros, in 100-Euro notes, weighed about 15,000 grams, or thirty-three pounds. Ten years ago, he had been able to sprint a quarter mile in just over a minute, wearing a 50-pound weighted vest. As "they" said, however, "That was then ..."

His thoughts turned, once again, to the Pan-African Cartel. Now that he was savoring a modest tranche of new money, he made a mental note about trying to attack the Cartel's Swiss accounts. This, he realized, might yield some real money. It would probably entail kidnapping a private banking executive in Zurich, and frightening him into opening the vaults. Easier said than done! (The nagging voice, again!)

Oh, well, just an idle thought to amuse himself, as he hurried through the streets, which were lined by substantial stone buildings. It occurred to him that Zurich and Florence had much in common: coldly ruthless financial centers that housed magnificent art. He looked forward to Monterchi and Sansepolcro, two smaller towns whose artistic treasures were, in his opinion, the finest, of all.

Twenty minutes later, he reached San Niccolo, where he had left the car in a small parking lot on one of the steep hills. He paid the attendant (adding an appropriate mancia), then crouched behind the fat trunk of a funereal cypress, and changed back from the friar to the businessman. Stowing the duffel, containing the hooded robe, gun and money, in the trunk (which, like most cars, was in the rear), he fired up the engine. Soon, the excellent little black macchina was purring along the E35 toward Monterchi. The prosperous European businessman allowed himself to relax into random thoughts.

"A green duffel bag," mused the erstwhile Fra Fantasma. "Green like trees, green like the backs of American currency ... The English call the stowage space of a car a 'boot, the Americans, a 'trunk,' the Italians, 'tronco,' 'bagagliaio,' or 'baule.' Are the 'Kofferraumen' of many German cars still in front? That was the set-up with the De Tomaso Pantera, a vintage racer the cost of which, given his current finances, was beyond his wildest dreams. As a young man in Marseilles, he recalled, he had stolen a ten year-old deLorean, also rear-engined ... This morning, he would be traveling away from the Apennine peninsula, Italy's 'boot.' Glad that the sour inner voice had not interrupted these random, sanguine musings, he made a mental note to visit that beautiful region.

Perhaps from fear of this inner critic, he made a second mental note: to wire the purloined funds, such as they were, to his bank, a.s.a.p. Then, he burst into the usual song, this time in Italian: "Bee, bee pecorella," it began, followed by a bag of wool each, for "il padrone, la padrona, e il ragazzo."

If readers are interested in Reading Geistmann, it is available as a free PDF from the author. Please visit www.ronsinger.net for contact information.

And Geistmann in Africa (Geistman II):

Article © Ron Singer. All rights reserved.
Published on 2022-07-25
Image(s) are public domain.
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