Bill Green felt nervous as he was driving his black ford SUV down Liberty Avenue in the city of Pittsburgh. The young black male took his right hand from the steering wheel to loosen two more buttons on his blue shirt in order to cool off a bit more. On a hot summer day like this he was starting to regret wearing his black jeans instead of a pair of shorts. His black sneakers were causing his feet to sweat. Bill could have dressed in a more cooler attire. But the phone call that he received this morning from his employer, Jake Braxton, caused him to leave at a moment’s notice. Bill parked at the side of the street and then looked out of the driver’s side window at the glass doors of the Integrity Bank building. Bill was nervous because of what was about to take place at the bank. Even though he was not going to actually step into the building he was going to be a part of a withdrawal. A very large withdrawal that would certainly land him in prison for ten years or worse if he were caught. But Bill was confident that he could get away free and clear. Bill had a plan. A plan that could only succeed with the help of the unique passenger sitting next to him. A male figure dressed in black pants tucked into black knee high boots. He had on a black shirt and necktie. And black gloves on his hands. But his most prominent feature was the long black hooded cape that he was wearing. The hood concealing the features of his face. This mysterious person was known as the Sandman.
“So here we are,” the Sandman said. “I hope you’re not planning to park here very long. Charging $3.00 an hour to park your car is a little too rich for even my blood.”
“We won’t be here for long,” replied Bill. He was still gazing out of the window at the bank. “This is going to be quick. And thanks for coming.”
“Not a problem,” the Sandman assured him. “As long as we can wrap this up so that I can get back in time to catch the Price is Right.”
Bill was surprised to hear this. “You watch the Price is Right?”
“Sure. It’s my favorite show. I like the concept. Even though it’s a bit tame by my standards.”
Tame by his standards? I don’t think I wanna go any further with this, Bill thought.
“So tell me, Bill. Why are we here?” the Sandman asked. “And I can’t help noticing that you seem to have a preoccupation with the bank across the street.”
Bill explained, “The bank is the main reason why we’re here. You see, this jackass that I work for, Jake Braxton, and a couple of his boys are planning to rob it. The reason why I’m here is that Braxton wants to use my car as a second getaway vehicle. The plan is for Braxton and his boys to hit the bank and then hop in their getaway car. Then they drive into this allay behind Liberty Avenue and then get into my car. Braxton says that it’s a good tactic to throw off the cops. They go from a blue car to a black one. What do you think?”
“A fairly decent idea as far as bank jobs go. So what part do you want me to play in this?”
Bill looked at the Sandman and laughed. “This bank job is Braxton’s plan. But I’ve got a plan of my own. After Braxton and his boys hit the bank and show up in that alley I’m going to stage a little robbery of my own.”
“I can see where this is going,” said the Sandman. “I get the feeling that there’s some kind of history between you and Braxton. Am I right?”
“Oh yeah. I’ve got a history with that pig Braxton.” Just the thought of Jake Braxton invoked a deep feeling of resentment in Bill. “Braxton is a big jerk who thinks that he’s king thug of Pittsburgh. He deals in drugs, stolen cars. If it’s dirty then you can bet that he’s got his stinking fingers in it. Now me? I was an up and coming player on the streets trying to make a name for myself. I wanted to make it to the top. And I thought that working for Braxton would be a good place to start.”
“You have to start at the bottom and work your way up,” the Sandman’s comment. “So how did it go?”
Bill was both ashamed and bitter to admit the result. “Working for that scumbag Braxton sucked. The worst deal of my life. I spent two years being his flunky and garbage man. I’m the one who got all the trash jobs and had to go out and sell his dope on the days and places that nobody else wanted. But the worst part happened two months ago. The cops were making this drug sweep in Homewood. I was in my apartment and the cops came pounding on my door. I had $4,000 worth of Braxton’s merchandize with me. What the hell was I supposed to do? Get caught with it and go to jail? I’m not going to jail for anybody. Especially Braxton. Just the thought of being locked up makes me edgy. So I flushed Braxton’s dope down the toilet.”
“You flushed it down the toilet? All $4,000 worth?” asked the Sandman. “So what do you want to do? Make a wish for new plumbing?”
“No. I’m not finished. Braxton gets pissed at me for flushing his dope and then tells me that I owe him $4,000 to cover the cost. That’s when I had enough of Braxton. That’s when I came up with this plan to get even with him.”
“Sounds like your pal Braxton is a cross between Leona Hemsley and Scrooge,” The Sandman told Bill. “Typical jerk boss. I’ve dealt with those types before. So now I’m dying to hear this plan of yours.”
Bill rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “It’s simple and brilliant. Part one. I park my car in the alley and wait for Braxton to show up after the bank job. Then I pull out my .9MM and take the money off of him. Then leave his ass for the cops.”
“A bold plan. But that’s going to leave him pretty pissed off,” said the Sandman.
“That’s when we come to part two of my plan. My getaway. Pissing off a guy like Braxton is something you don’t take lightly. He can be like a pit bull after a rare steak. And he has people all over Alleghenny County. If I get on his bad side then I’d never live to finish out the week. But my getaway is fool proof. after I rip off Braxton I want you to send me back in time.”
The Sandman laughed.
Bill was insulted. “Did I say something funny here?”
“Sorry,” the Sandman told him. He laughed a bit more. “It’s the time travel idea. Back in 1945 I had a customer who wanted the same thing. It didn’t work out so well.”
“It didn’t work out? Why not?”
“Mainly because he was an idiot.”
Bill was again insulted. “An idiot? Then what the hell does that make me?”
“A little more up to date. But if this is what you want then so be it. But just to make it a little easier for you is there a specific year that you want to go back to?”
“Yeah. I got my sights set on 1970.”
“1970? Did you wake up with a serious urge for disco?”
Bill grinned. “It’s the perfect plan. Me, a bag full of cash back in 1970. Stuff was a hell of a lot cheaper back then.”
“You’ve got a point,” the Sandman admitted. “Gas was .50 cents a gallon back then.”
“Hell yeah,” Bill exclaimed with glee. “With a few thousand dollars I can live like a king. Set myself up in an operation just like Braxton. Only I’ll be the top dog. I’ll be an unstoppable bad ass.”
“The Sandman nodded. “Yeah. I’ve heard that one before. So right after you rob your boss, Braxton I’ll send you back in time to 1970.”
“Not just yet,” said Bill. “I want you to give me enough time to go and get my girlfriend, Lisa. I want to take her with me.”
“Ok. You want me to hold off sending you back so that you can take your girlfriend with you. Anything else you want to take? You want to stop by Macy’s and buy a new wardrobe to take with you too?”
Is this guy a first class smart ass or what? thought Bill.
“I’ve got just one question here. You want to take your girlfriend with you back in time. Did you happen to talk this over with her first?” the Sandman asked.
Bill hesitated for a moment before he answered. Almost embarrassed to confess, “Not exactly.”
“Not exactly? Then it’s going to be a bit hard to explain it to her at the last minute. Don’t you think? Hi honey. How was your day? We’re traveling back in time to 1970. Pack light.”
“She’ll understand,” was Bill’s simple reply.
“It’s your life,” said the Sandman. “It’s 10:16. At 12 noon you and anybody you happen to be holding hands with will be transported back in time. How does that sound?”
Bill liked the idea. “Sounds great.”
“But the deal’s not set. This isn’t for free. You know how I operate.”
“Yeah. I give you either one of my dreams or nightmares and then you give me a wish.” Bill took a few seconds to summon the memory of his most previous dream. “I had this one last week. It was so creepy that I still remember it. I was walking through these woods. And it was dark. Then I see this thing up ahead. And it starts to come after me. When it gets close enough I get a good look at it. It’s this big dog. But it has the body of a dog and the face of a person. And I recognize the face as one of my teachers from high school. A mean old bag named Miss Ackerman. Anyway, this dog thing starts to chase me. And instead of barking it’s bitching at me about being late for class. And where’s my homework? Then I start to run and I climb this tree to get out of the dog’s reach. And I’m stuck up on this tree branch while the dog keeps bitching at me and jumping up to snap at me. Then I woke up. What do you think?”
“I take it that you weren’t a straight A student back at school,” the Sandman replied.
Bill was annoyed at that statement. “That’s all you have to say?”
“It’s not my job to psychoanalyze. Just to make deals. And it looks like you’ve got one. So now my advice is to drive to that alley and wait for Braxton to show up. The clock it ticking.”
Bill smiled. “Right.” He drove off. Merging into traffic and heading down the street. Bill traveled less than a quarter of a mile before he came to an intersection. He made a right turn to enter Federal Street. Then a left turn to enter an unnamed alley. Bill drove his SUV for a few yards. Then he stopped. With the engine still running Bill turned and looked out of the rear window and waited. During this time the Sandman remained silent. Bill waited for ten minutes. Then he saw a blue car enter the alley. The car was speeding towards him. Then with tires screeching it stopped just a few feet away. A tall black man dressed in black clothes hopped out of the driver’s side. There was a black bandana covering his face. He was holding a grey duffle bag. There were two other black men with him. They were also dressed in black and hiding their faces with bandanas. The man carrying the duffle bag removed the bandana from his face.
“Braxton,” Bill snarled.
“Come on. Let’s move it,“ Braxton barked out. He rushed towards Bill’s SUV. The other two men removed their bandanas and followed him.
“It’s show time,” said Bill. He reached into his pocket and brought out his .9 MM pistol. He then got out of the SUV and aimed the gun at Braxton. Braxton halted in his tracks.
“What the hell is this?” Braxton demanded.
“It’s a stick up, jackass,” was Bill’s cheerful reply.
“We don’t have time for games,” Braxton shouted. “The cops are coming. We have to get the hell out of there.”
“Change of plans,” Bill returned. He aimed his gun down to Braxton’s legs and opened fire. With loud pops Bill shot two bullets into Braxton’s legs. Braxton yelled out in pain and then dropped to his back. Bill quickly aimed at the other two men and shot them in their legs as well. They both fell. Bill dashed towards Braxton and grabbed the duffle bag that he was carrying. The bag contained the loot from the bank robbery that Bill was now claiming for his own.
“You back stabbing rat!” Braxton shouted out. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Get your ass back here!”
“Sorry. I’m calling off sick,” said Bill as he headed back to his SUV. “You stay here and keep the cops company.”
“You get back here!” Braxton demanded. “Get back here! You think you can double cross me? I’m gonna find you, Green! I’m gonna find you and kill you in the worst way!”
“Yeah. Good luck with that,” Bill told him.
Bill heard a loud pop coming from behind. He turned to see Braxton holding a gun in his unsteady hand and aiming it at him. Braxton fired again. The bullet shattered the rear window of Bill’s SUV. Bill ducked down and returned a shot that missed Braxton. Braxton’s two henchmen took out their guns and started firing at Bill. Bill ducked down behind his SUV and fired two more shots at Braxton. The first shot missed. The second hit Braxton in his right leg. Braxton joined his henchmen in firing a volley of shots at Bill. Bill rushed back into his SUV as the shots rang out. He kept his head down as he sat in the driver’s seat. Bullets penetrated his SUV. One of then shattered his windshield.
“These jokers are serious,” Bill shouted. He looked over at the passenger’s seat and saw that the Sandman was gone. “Can’t take a little heat? I can relate to that.”
Still keeping his head down Bill shifted this SUV into drive and sped away from the area. He let out a triumphant yell over pulling off his plan that netted him a large sum of money as well as gaining him a great deal of satisfaction in getting even with Braxton. Now his only challenge would be to get back to his apartment in Homewood without the bullet damage to his SUV calling too much attention.
Thirty minutes later Bill arrived in Homewood without incident. He parked in front of the five story, red brick building where his apartment was located. He rushed inside with the duffle bag in hand. He bolted up the stairs to his apartment on the third floor. He was excited about telling his girlfriend, Lisa, the good news about the new life that they were about to embark upon. Although he realized that explaining the notion of them both traveling back in time would be difficult.
Bill took his keys out of his pocket and unlocked his apartment door. With his face beaming a broad smile he burst into the apartment. “Lisa. Guess what? I’ve got a big surprise for you.”
Bill received a big surprise himself when he entered the apartment. and saw his girlfriend, Lisa. A young black female with long dark hair, wearing a flowery blue dress, sitting on the sofa next to a burly black male. He was dressed in black pants and a white shirt with a black necktie. There was a gun holstered at his side. Lisa and the man were both sitting in front of an oval coffee table that had two plates with pancakes. There were also two dark mugs containing coffee. Lisa sprang up from the sofa when she saw Bill make his sudden entrance. The smile on Bill’s face faded.
“Bill,” Lisa gasped out. “You’re home early.”
“Change of plans,” was Bill’s sour response. He looked over at the man sitting on the sofa. “Who the hell is that.”
Lisa looked back at the man. Then she turned back to Bill. The man stood up and crossed his muscular arms against his chest. “This is Jeff. He’s my friend.”
“Your friend?” Bill spat out. He suspected that there was more to this picture than mere friendship. “What the hell is your friend doing here in my place? Sitting his ass on my sofa eating pancakes. Can’t he eat breakfast at home? Hell. You didn’t make me breakfast. Haul your ass in the kitchen and fix me some pancakes.”
Lisa looked back at Jeff a second time. Then she turned to Bill and took a step forward. “Ok. I’ll level with you. No sense in lying at this point. Jeff and I are seeing each other.”
Even though his suspicion was now confirmed Bill was still shocked to hear this confession from Lisa’s own lips. “What? What the hell are you talking about?” he shrieked.
“I said we’re seeing each other,” Lisa repeated. “Do I have to spell it out for you?”
Bill was now becoming angered. “You’re seeing somebody else. Is that it? Really? Right behind my back. And how long has this been going on?”
“Long enough,” Lisa replied.
“No! No way!” Bill shouted. He walked past Lisa and moved closer to Jeff. “You can’t be serious. Cheating on me with this big ape.” Bill pointed a finger at Jeff’s face. “And who do you think you are? Coming in my house. Eating my pancakes. And I see that gun at your side. Who the hell are you? Another one of Braxton’s flunkies?”
Lisa stormed over to Bill. “Now you hold on. Jeff is no cheap thug like you. Jeff happens to be a detective with the Pittsburgh Police.”
“A cop?” Bill squawked out.
Lisa went on. “Yes. Jeff is a cop. And he’s a good man. Not like you. Yeah. At first I thought that you and I could make something out of this relationship. Then I found out what you were all about. You’re just like I said. A cheap thug. A cheap thug who’s only ambition in life is to become an even bigger cheap thug. You think I’d want to spend my life with somebody like you?”
Bill was at a loss for words over this revelation. This betrayal. Then Jeff stepped forward.
“So you’re Bill,” said Jeff. “Lisa told me a lot about you. And your work. I was hoping that one day we could finally meet. In a professional capacity of course.”
“Professional capacity? what the hell does that mean?” asked Bill.
Jeff grinned. “For starters I got a call from a buddy on the force. He told me that The Integrity bank on Liberty Avenue was robbed a short time ago. One of the suspects arrested was a guy named Braxton. Fancy that. I hear that you work for a guy with that name.”
Bill began to grow nervous as he looked at Jeff’s narrowing eyes. “Wow. Fancy that. He got arrested. Maybe I should order a cake to celebrate.”
“Maybe you can show me what’s in that bag,” said Jeff.
No way, Bill thought. He reached into his pocket and brought out his gun. He aimed it at Jeff. “Put your hands up,” Bill snapped.
Jeff complied with the order and raised his hands.
Bill dropped the duffle bag and kept a close eye on Jeff in order to reach over to take the gun from Jeff’s holster. Bill then aimed both guns at Lisa. “Get over there next to Officer Loverboy.”
Lisa hurried over and stood next to Jeff.
With Jeff’s gun in his right hand Bill was able to grab the handle of the duffle bag while keeping the gun in his left hand trained on Lisa and Jeff. He backed away to the door. “You try to follow me and I’ll kill you, Officer Loverboy!” he shouted at Jeff. “You try to follow me and I’ll kill you both. Her first. Then you. Then her again.”
Bill exited his apartment and then bolted down the stairs. During his haste, and with his mind in a state of rage, he lost his footing and took a tumble down the stairs. Bill’s head and back were aching from the fall. He lost his grip on both guns and the duffle bag. But in spite of his pain the need to escape was still urgent in his mind. He lost sight of both guns, but the duffle bag was still in view. He grabbed it and continued running down the stairs. Bill dashed out of the building with the intention to get back into his SUV and drive off. That was when he saw the black and white Pittsburgh Police car approaching. Bill panicked and ran. He ran down the street and ducked into an alley. Then he kept running. Not daring to look back. His only plan now was to make it back into the city and try to get lost in the crowd of people. Then a name came to Bill’s mind. The Sandman. Bill looked at his watch. It was 11: 26. He had a little more than a half hour before his time jump back to 1970 would take place. 12 noon. Bill would have to hold out until then.
Bill lost track of the time as he continued running. Gasping for air. His legs were exhausted. Between hoping a quick bus ride and more running Bill made his way to Penn Avenue. The shelter of an old garage was inviting to him, so he rushed in to hide. Taking in deep breaths Bill felt that he could run no further. He kneeled down on the ground and decided to take this time and examine the loot from the bank heist. Pull pulled back the zipper on the duffle bag and opened it to find several small stacks of twenty and one hundred dollar bills. Bill would have leaped up and cheered if he were not so tired. “Look at this. I’m gonna live like a stinkin king. In 1970 I’ll build an empire with this. King Bill. That’s gonna be me. King Bill. The king of Pittsburgh.”
Bill looked at his watch. The time was now 11: 57. Three more minutes left. Keeping his eye on his watch Bill waited. Then it came. 12:00.
“Ok. So now what?” Bill asked.
Traveling through time Bill expected something spectacular to take place. Flashing lights, a swirling wind, even a bolt of lightning. But there was nothing. Bill became angry. He looked up to the ceiling. “Hey Sandman. What the hell’s going on? Did you lie to me? You big jerk!” he shouted out. But there was no answer. Bill lowered his head. Now with no escape to the past he felt trapped between the police and Braxton’s retribution.
Bill walked out of the garage and headed down Penn Avenue. He was trying to think of a solution to his problem when he saw two white teenagers on bicycles heading his way. As they passed by Bill thought to ask them the time. Just for the sake of argument. “Hey. What time is it?”
Both teenagers stopped. One of them answered. “It’s 12:00.”
“What year is this?”
Both teenagers smiled. “It’s 1970. What were you? Asleep or something?”
1970? It’s really 1970? Bill was overjoyed at this news. “It’s 1970! I’m here!” Bill shouted in joy. “The Sandman came though! He did it!”
Bill turned and walked away from the teenagers. He continued to walk down Penn Avenue to head into the city. The city of Pittsburgh in 1970. An era that he was planning to conquer as the new unstoppable drug lord.
Bill came upon the black stained glass window of a resturaunt. The large gold lettering on the window read, Penn Avenue Inn. Felling hungry and in a mood to celebrate, Bill went inside. The lighting inside the resturaunt was dim. A young black female in a black suit and a large, bushy afro greeted him with a smile. “Hello, sir. Welcome to the Penn Avenue Inn. How can I help you?”
“I’ll take a table for one,” Bill told her.
The female waved over a young white male waiter dressed in black pants and a white shirt. The waiter escorted Bill to a small round table in the center of the room. There were several other patrons at the surrounding tables, but they paid little attention to Bill. Bill placed the duffle bag with his money at his feet on the floor. The waiter handed Bill a menu. Bill scanned over the list of selections. Then made the choice of a porterhouse steak. The waiter took the menu from Bill and left. It took only a few minutes wait for Bill to receive his meal. He ordered a glass of wine to go with it. And he ate heartily. After he was finished the waiter gave him the bill for his meal. The total came to $23.
“$23. Not a problem,” Bill told the waiter. He reached down and opened up the duffle bag to bring out a $100 bill. He handed it to the waiter. “Keep the change, dude.”
The wide eyed waiter looked at the money. Then at Bill. Then he walked away. Bill was still sitting and finishing his wine when the female in the black suit approached his table.
“Sir. There was a little problem with your payment.”
Bill was confused. ”Problem? What the kind of problem? I gave the kid cash. A $100 dollar bill. More than enough to cover it.”
“I saw that,” the female’s humble reply. “But do you have any other means of paying?”
Bill was both confused but annoyed. “Other means of paying? What the hell do you mean? They didn’t invent the $100 bill yet?” Bill reached into his duffle bag and brought out two $20’s. “Here. Take these. Give me back my $100.”
The female took the two bills and walked away. Bill waited for her to return with his change. But after several minutes he was still waiting. Finally the female and the male waiter did return. And they were accompanied by a white and black police officers. Both men dressed in their spotless black uniforms. Unnerved by their presence, Bill rose up from his seat.
The white officer raised his hand. “Sir. You want to come with us, please?”
“Come with you?” asked Bill. “Why for?”
“Just come with us, pal,” said the black officer.
Bill stood defiant. “Come with you? For what? I’m not moving my ass until you tell me what the problem is. What the hell did I do? Use the wrong fork or something?”
“Try passing counterfeit bills to pay for your dinner,” the female charged.
“Bill laughed. “Lady, are you on crack? Counterfeit bills my ass. I gave you one hundred percent genuine real cash. Right out of Uncle Sam’s backside.”
The black officer nodded. “One hundred percent real huh?”
“Yeah. That’s right, pal. How much do you make an hour?”
“One hundred percent real?” said the white officer. “One hundred percent real bills. With the date 2012 on them?”
Bill nodded. “Yeah. So what?” Then the dates came to Bill’s mind. 2012. 1970. “Oh wait. Wait a second. Hold on.” Then Bill began to work the math. “Oh holy crap!”
“What’s in the bag?” the black officer asked Bill.
“I’ll be happy to show you,” Bill told him. But instead Bill tried to make a quick dash to the door. Both officers moved faster and managed to tackle him. With an officer holding each arm Bill was dragged back and slammed onto a table. The white officer held Bill down while his partner reached down to pick up the duffle bag. He placed it by Bill’s head on the table and opened it. He brought out a handful of bills to show to his partner.
“Looks like our friend here has been busy,” the black officer said. “There has to be a couple thousand in here. And all fake.”
“What kind of an idiot runs off fake bills with the wrong date?” the white officer asked. "And he didn't even get the faces right. Look how big they are."
“It’s not fake,” Bill insisted. “I swear. It’s all real.”
“Tell it to the judge,” the black officer told Bill.
Bill was handcuffed and dragged off to the waiting police car. For a while he continued to insist that he was innocent of any counterfeiting charge. But then the futility began to sink into his mind. As well as the painful irony of the situation. He was trapped in a past time. 1970. And charged with the federal offense of possessing and trying to pass currency that was considered fake, but legal tender back in his own time. Bill had no defense. And after his trial he was sentenced to twenty years in a federal penitentiary. And as Bill was serving his sentence he would languish in his cell with the sound of the Sandman’s laughter echoing through his mind.