At Providence's Gate
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Chapter Three

     Jason Biggs was a 20-year-old chameleon.  Growing up in the affluent bedroom community of Alamo Heights, he used his ability to read people and changed his behavior to fit their expectations or manipulate their reactions to him.  To his peers, Jason was a charismatic leader, active in school politics and the life of any party.  To their parents he was a polite young man any father would be proud to have dating his daughter.  To the faculty of Alamo Heights High School he was an articulate and intelligent student with a penchant for harmless pranks and practical jokes that endeared him to the teachers who never were on the receiving end of his embarrassing stunts.  In short, Jason Biggs was the Eddie Haskell of Alamo Heights.

     But to his friends, his really close chums, Jason Biggs was a bold and daring mastermind of a gang called The Preppies.  He was well-suited for that role too. At nearly six feet in height with a firm well-proportioned body, piercing dark blue eyes, finely chiseled facial features and naturally blonde hair, he was by far the most attractive of the half dozen or so boys who made up the gang.  He was also their natural leader.

     Not only was he physically imposing, he had a mind that was quick and a vocabulary that was well developed.  Add to that the wit and confidence of one well beyond his years and Jason Biggs was a powerful force, one which all of his boys looked up to and longed to emulate.

     Unlike other gangs in San Antonio that spent time defending their turf by tagging walls with graffiti and committing drive-bys, the Preppies considered the whole town their turf though they never marked it and never interfered with other gangster they might come in contact with.  In fact, so secret were the Preppies, that no one else knew the group existed outside those who belonged and a few wannabee underclassmen who surreptitiously overheard some of the Preppies discussing their exploits from time to time.

     The Preppies were slaves to fashion and that one aspect of their lives was the very reason for the gangs existence.  For while other San Antonio gangs spent their time engaged in destructive public activities, the Preppies were very secretive in theirs.  They lived to rob exclusive mens stores.

     In the three years the gang was together, the Preppies hit no less than 18 mens shops or departments in bigger retail stores, all very exclusive.  Sometimes they engaged in simple acts of shoplifting.  Frequently one or two would hide somewhere in a store and the gang would clean the establishment out after it had been closed and secured for the night.

     The final job the Preppies pulled in their senior year was the complete removal of all the stock from Zanzows, an exclusive mens store in the River Center Mall.  It was a quarter-million dollar job and they never came close to getting caught.

     Four senior members of the gang were chosen for this their final foray into one of the most exclusive mens clothing stores in the city.  It was to be their last hurrah and if the pulled it off, their biggest score to date.

     There was Frank Carr, the son of an automobile dealership owner, he stood to inherit the business, Carrs Cars.  Frank pictured himself as a leader in his own right and was second in command to Jason.

     While he lacked Fonzis temperament and boldness, the physical resemblance was uncanny.  Frank made every attempt to emulate his hero, even to the point of combing his hair ala Fonzarelli and wearing a leather jacket that looked to be an exact replica of the one Henry Winkler often wore on Happy Days.

     Mel Dixon was a somewhat short and quite chubby young man who deserved the nickname Lumpy, but who bristled whenever one of the nerds from the Nick at Night set called him that.  Mel had seen Leave it to Beaver a few times and felt he resembled the Beavs older brother played by Tony Dow.

     The final member of the foursome was Al Bateman.  The son of a custodian at the elementary school down the street, Al kept everyone laughing.  Psychologists would say it was probably the young mans way of dealing with the feelings he had about his fathers job.  All of the other Preppies as well as most of the students in the school had parents that were very successful in professional fields.  Bateman was tall and lanky and he had the well-deserved nickname, Goofy.

     Frank was blessed with three sisters, two older and one younger than he.  The younger sister he adored because she adored him.  The two older sisters, especially Sam, short for Samantha, he despised, for they had been the source of all sorts of grief ever since he could remember.

     Sam, four years older than Frank and completely unaware of his affiliation with the Preppies, was the assistant manager of Zanzows.  As such, she had access to the shops keys as well as its security code, neither of which she safeguarded particularly well.  It had been no mean feat for Frank to copy the keys and memorize the code.

     Sharing the information with Jason had been Franks first step in setting up the robbery of Zanzows.  As easy as that was the rest was to be even simpler.  On Saturday nights that she closed the shop, Samantha was always in a hurry so she and her latest flame, Biff Falcon, a goalie with the San Antonio Blades, a minor minor league hockey team, could get together and do whatever 22-year-old hot blooded girls do with their jock boyfriends.

     The Preppies decided to take advantage of this hormonally-induced behavior and hit the exclusive mens store on a Saturday night when Sam would be closing.  It would have to be a very well-timed and disciplined robbery, unlike others they had done. 

Several after hour reconnaissances of the store and the mall in which it sat revealed security walked past the front of the store on their rounds at approximately 1 am and again at no earlier than 1:50 am.  This allowed the gang to set up a 40 minute window of opportunity during which time they would clean out the front portion of the shop.

Of course, they would rob the stock room first, cleaning out the display area only after Lumpy notified them that the guard had made his first pass of the establishment.

The gang stole a truck from ABC Janitorial at about the time Sam was closing the business.  At midnight, Mel drove the truck to Zanzows receiving door and three young men with brooms, mops and a vacuum cleaner entered the store.  Jason stayed with the truck to act as lookout.

By 12:25 am, the stock room had been emptied of its entire contents.  At 12:50 am, the cleaning team entered the retail area of Zanzows.  Mel proceeded to the front where he began to assemble and use his window-washing equipment. Al and Frank vacuumed the carpet and mopped the tile area.

At precisely 1 am, the minimum-wage security guard passed Zanzows waving at Mel.  As soon as the unsuspecting rent-a-cop was out of sight, the Preppies swung into action.  By 1:40 am, the racks were bare, the lights were extinguished and the receiving area was empty.  The Preppies took their booty to a 24 hour storage facility it rented, and ditched the truck near Braunig Lake, south of the city.

Then the gang went to Jasons house where they split up and returned to their respective homes.  Although none of them were caught by their folks sneaking in, each had the same alibi memorized, just in case.  They had been to a midnight movie at the Galaxy Theater, miles from the River Center Mall.  They all had ticket stubs to prove it.

     Over the next several weeks, the gang managed to sell their stolen merchandise to other students and at flea markets in Houston and Corpus Christi.  They netted nearly fifty-five thousand dollars from the Zanzows venture.

     In the meantime, the four senior Preppies graduated from high school.  Frank joined the staff of Carrs Cars as a detailer.  His father insisted he start from the bottom and work his way up.  He also became a student at Our Lady of the Lakes University, majoring in Business Management.

     Mel spent the summer volunteering before entering Trinity University in the fall.  His father was a banker and insisted his son serve his community instead of working in an unnecessary job.  Volunteering at the SACA Shelter would look good on a resume.

     Although Al wanted to continue his education, he knew that was impossible right away.  His father was proud of the boy when he joined the Army Reserves to earn a scholarship.  Als summer after graduating and most of his fall was taken up with Army training.

     Jason Biggs probably would have gone much the same way as his Preppie cohorts had it not been for an ironic twist of fate.  His father, a fairly successful criminal attorney, had always hoped his only son would follow in his footsteps.  Since the one person in his life Jason was intimidated by was his dad, he went along with the idea.

But three months after graduation, just two weeks before he was to begin classes at the University of Texas, Jasons parents were killed in a tragic accident.

     Are you beginning to notice a touch of irony Margo?  Let me spell it out for you:  I am an only child, Jason is an only child.  I lost both my parents in an accident, so did Jason.  The demises of our progenitors were definite life-changing events for both Jason and me.

     For me, it inadvertently opened a door to scholastic opportunity and academic success I probably never would have enjoyed had my parents lived to ripe old ages.  For Jason, it redirected his life from one where he served the law to one where he was determined to become a lawbreaker. 

     As in my case, Jason became financially self-sufficient when his parents died.  Several life insurance policies, most with generous double indemnity clauses for accidental death, gave this young man more than a million dollars while he was still in his teens.

     Jason Biggs could have become anything he wanted to.  Fortunately for me, he decided a life of crime was what suited him best.  Oh, he enrolled in college for the winter semester at San Antonio Community College.  His declared major was Criminal Justice, not because he wanted to become a police officer or district attorney and put the bad guys away, but because he wanted to learn how his enemy thought and operated so he could devise countermeasures.

     For two years, Jason studied his chosen vocation as ardently as any medical student studies anatomy and physiology.  He attended trials at the Bexar County Courthouse, obtaining as much information about the crimes and criminals as he could.  He painstakingly analyzed every aspect of each robbery they committed and then developed realistic solutions to the problem that caused them to get caught.

     He was even more interested in the successful heists he read about in the newspaper, the ones that said there were no leads, no clues, and no suspects.  At one point, after being unable to garner any information at all about the successful hijacking of a trailer full of cigarettes worth nearly half million dollars, he decided to use a class project to assist him in his quest for knowledge.

     A writing assignment from his Crime Prevention class professor offered Jason the opportunity he needed to study  the details of the cigarette heist.  He asked the educator to provide him with a letter outlining the assignment so he could show it to the security manager of the trucking company.

     Armed with his letter, Jason made an appointment to speak with the head of security for Ajacks Trucking.  In a one hour interview, he was able to quickly deduce how the hijacking was performed and one more case was added to his growing file of successful robberies.

     By the time he finished his freshman year of college, Jason felt he was ready for his first job.  He had already decided it wasnt going to be a penny-ante burglary.  He was going for the gusto.  After all, he reasoned, you go to prison the same amount of time if you steal a thousand dollars or a million.

     Jason devised a plan of action and in the summer between his first and second year of college began to research possible targets.  It seemed to Jason the most lucrative and successful heists were inside jobs.  They take some meticulous setting up if they are to go off without a hitch, but if the perpetrator was smart and his preparation is adequate, the chances of getting caught are few.

     To get inside, it was necessary to apply for a job.  The young rogue began searching the classified section of the Express-News.  With scissors in hand, every day Jason would clip potential targets and post them on a corkboard he had in his bedroom.

     Above the corkboard was posted a handwritten cardboard sign.  It read, Patience is a virtue, haste is the action of a fool.  Jason Biggs was in no hurry to find the right business to apply with.  His very freedom depended upon selecting the best business to infiltrate and rob.

     A month before Jason began looking for a place to steal from, Abe Walstein, a 70-year-old diamond cutter and owner of the San Antonio Diamond Exchange lost the most important thing in his life, Sarah, his wife of 50 years.  That single sad event threw into motion actions that would eventually lead to Jason Biggs selecting Abe Walsteins business as his target.