Author : Bob Newbell
Wachter ran out of the bank just as the alarm sounded. It was not an auspicious beginning to what Wachter had imagined would be a long and successful criminal career. The teller had initially thought he was kidding when he’d asked for $20,000 in cash. And when he’d pulled out his 9mm automatic he’d dropped it on the floor and had to scramble to recover it. But if I can just make it to my car, thought Wachter, it’ll be smooth sailing.
Watcher leaped in through the open door of the waiting self-driving automobile and yelled, “Go!”
“Please tell me where you’d like to go,” the car responded in a pleasant female voice.
“Take me to the hideout! Fast!”
“Do you mean The Hideout at 27844 Ryan Road? If so, The Hideout is the city’s friendliest lounge, catering to LGBTQIA patrons but welcoming anyone who enjoys good food, great music, and–”
“I don’t want to go to a bar! Take me to the storage unit I rented on Blackburn Street! Quick!” screamed Wachter who thought he heard the wail of a police siren in the distance.
“Certainly,” replied the car. “Would that be Sammy’s Storage at 1132 Blackburn Street or U-Stor-It at 1610 Black–”
The car pulled out of the bank parking lot, drove 20 feet, and stopped at a red light.
Wachter nervously looked through the car’s rear window and saw a police cruiser pull into the parking lot. After an eternity of seconds, the light turned green and the car moved forward.
“Step on it!” commanded Wachter.
“I’m sorry, the speed limit is 45 miles per hour,” said the car. “This vehicle’s battery is in need of a recharge. There is a Fast-Charge station 0.25 miles up the street. Would you like to stop there?”
“No. Just go to the hideout.”
“Understood. Destination changed to The Hideout at 27844 Ryan Road.” The car darted into the turn lane and took a side street. “Tonight is karaoke night at The Hideout. Step up to the mic for your chance to win one of several prizes including–”
“I don’t want to go to that bar!” protested Wachter. “Take me to Sammy’s Storage!”
“Understood. Destination changed to Sammy’s Storage at 1132 Blackburn Street.”
The car turned left into the parking lot of a dentist’s office, circled the building, and exited back on the street. Wachter was sweating profusely. He heard a squad car’s siren but couldn’t localize the sound.
“Cafe Zoltan is 0.4 miles up the street,” said the car. “Would you like to stop in for a thick, luscious cup of Turkish coffee? Cafe Zoltan also has a selection of–”
“No! Keep going to the hide– Keep going to Sammy’s!”
“Okay,” said the car.
The vehicle quietly rolled on for several minutes. Wachter no longer heard any sirens. He sat back and relaxed. He looked at the bags of money in the passenger seat and smiled. “I did it,” he said with satisfaction.
A moment later, the car’s right turn signal came on. The vehicle pulled into the parking lot of a police station. Wachter stared out through the windshield in disbelief.
“What are you doing?!”
“This vehicle’s battery charge is critically low. Per state law, this vehicle has diverted to the nearest safe parking facility. Would you like me to call Shane’s Roadside Recharge?”
Wachter opened the door and ran from the car, leaving his gun and stolen money behind.
“I’ve got to get to the hideout!”
Behind him a distant voice said, “Tonight’s featured cocktail at The Hideout is a gin fizz.”