The Wraytown Incident | Shaun Turner

The Wraytown Incident | Shaun Turner


We heard about it like any other Wraytown rumor: passed on in prayer groups, and hashed out over paper cups of water, and whispered while we stood in line together at Bailey’s Grocery, our hand-baskets straining our upper arms.

“They didn’t take anything?” we’d hear someone say, their voice rising. We all knew how they felt. Wraytown had virtually no crime, especially nothing like the reverse thieves.

We all heard, one way or another, how the unrobbers carried out the first night. We heard that while Gary and Wanita Floyd were away on a weekend vacation to Gatlinburg, the unthieves used a crowbar or a hammer then burst through the basement window of the Floyd family’s little brick house on Brookline Street. The neighbors didn’t hear a sound, just the usual summer noises—crickets, a dog barking.

When the Floyds returned Sunday night—they had work the next morning—they found their house filled full of valuables—plasma televisions stacked in corners, jewelry and unmarked bills stuffed into each kitchen drawer.

Then we heard about Mike Kirk, who worked down at Wraytown Garage. He opened shop one morning to find all the damaged cars replaced with newer models, each engine growling, their smooth fiberglass exteriors buffed to a showroom shine.

Soon after, Linda Potter unlocked her apartment one night to find her bedroom filled with silver ingots, so heavy that the wood floors sagged down three inches.

And at the Rise-N-Shine Cafe, Lou Webb found all his sausage patties and T-bone steaks replaced with filet mignon, thick ropes of French charcuterie. His paper napkins and plastic glasses swapped for thick linen, fine crystal.

We all heard when the unrobbers struck again, this time at the high school.

Joe Carr, the janitor, drove up to the building at 5 AM on Wednesday morning to see the front door held ajar by a brick. He called the principal and the assistant principal. He called the county sheriff. One of the deputies called her brother down at the Wraytown Weekly, and the reporter called his photographer.

By 6 AM, a small crowd had built up in the parking lot—every deputy in town, members of the school board, half of the PTA. By 7, the state police finally arrived from London, and two uniformed officers were the first to enter the building, followed by the janitor.

Joe Carr used his key to turn on the fluorescent lights. Gold coins—old-looking, but unmistakeably gold—lined the wide halls. In the library, a mound of laptop computers in their factory boxes—at least 300—sat piled in the break room behind the wide librarian’s desk. In the gymnasium, a fleet of 5-speed bicycles sat in V-formation, the kickstands down. In the principal’s desk, she found a small exquisite diamond ring.

They found something in every room.

Eventually, someone let the reporter from the Weekly in, and he snapped dozens of pictures on his iPhone. They were blurry with motion, but you could see things well enough. We passed the photos back and forth. We listened to other people’s stories.

We heard that the unthieves were getting bolder. One unmugged a great-grandmother, Naomi Wise, outside Wraytown Hospital. She was on her way in to visit with a sick friend when a tall masked man pushed her down and stuffed twelve thousand dollars into her handbag.

Another masked unburgler broke into old Jim Hughes’s farmhouse, tied him up in bed. Jim said he could hear more than one of them downstairs, whispering to each other, as he strained against the ropes. They left dozens of platinum wristwatches, scattering them like chickenfeed all over the kitchen floor.

None of us knew how they were able to get so much in, but it was often questioned.

“So was there a van seen anywhere? Or a semi-truck?” someone would doubtless ask, but the sheriff had said no.

Not too long after Jim Hughes was tied up, Sonny Moore up at the Shell station was unrobbed at gunpoint. A masked woman held her pistol to his temple, forced him to open the cash register.

“I could feel the muzzle pressing against my skin, so I did what I was told,” he’d say,if we’d happened to buy gas when he was in a certain mood. “I opened up my drawer. She knocked the butt of that gun into the side of my jaw, and I was out.”

If pressed further, Sonny would show his missing tooth, pulling back the fat part of his cheek. Press him further, he’s talk about the bearer bonds.

“Stacks of them, one from 1862.” He’d look away then, his eyes wet. Rumor was, he kept one of the bonds in a little dollar-store frame, tucked underneath the counter.

Eventually, the unrobberies became like any other Wraytown fear, like carbon monoxide poisoning, or flash floods.

We just listened, and lived with the knowledge of what had happened.

We just listened, waited for some masked unthieves to burst into our houses at night with pistols—maybe bigger guns—and with something gold outstretched, thinking about their fingers at trigger when they would say, take this from me.

Shaun Turner is the author of “The Lawless River” (Red Bird Chapbooks) and editor at Fire Poetry. His work can be found at the Southwest Review, Bear Review, Permafrost Magazine, and Connotation Press, among others.