Linda Farwell launches her pitch, and he wants a test drive. When she returns with the keys, he's on a cellular phone, blowing a kiss and telling someone goodbye. Nice guy, she thinks. "Anyone special?"
Twenty minutes later, Linda Farwell is still thinking sales commission, when Mr. Wonderful pulls out a gun and asks her to get out of the car. He dumps her on a Rockville parking lot, laughing, as if he nailed the lottery. She's fired the next day.
The distinctive coupe comes in handy. By February's end, it will be noted in robbery reports in Anne Arundel, Charles and Prince George's counties.
Meanwhile, Howard and Arundel detectives cover familiar terrain. Two days after the Rockville carjacking, Howard has more than 20 officers in unmarked units stretched along U.S. 1 and Route 175 in midafternoon. Instead, a Crown station in Odenton is hit at half past three.
Sitting on a Jessup lot, Kenny McGlynn hears the Odenton call and gets wired. These guys will hit twice in a day, he thinks; if they come west now, they're ours. So everyone stays put, their minds collectively trying to will a robbery. But nothing happens, and at midnight the stakeout teams depart.
By mid-February, it's clear the robbers are pushing away from the I-95 corridor, breaking their late-evening pattern, making stakeouts problematic. The short one now wears a puffy black jacket, and -- when he jumps on the counter of the Odenton Roy Rogers -- his Timberland boots are confirmed. The two are risking afternoon jobs, spending less time at the register, hiding from security cameras.
At one point, they venture as far north as Glen Burnie, hitting the Greentree Exxon just off Route 3. A cashier there tries to chase the gunman back to his car. It's enough of a show that a customer gassing his pickup gets a good look at a green Lexus coupe.
"Beautiful car," says Ronald Johnson, the cashier. "See it once, you know it."
'He's a driver'
Steven E. Miller III is in the back of his Crown gas station at Route 216 and All Saints Road in Laurel, doing paperwork and oblivious to the brief drama taking place on the video screen above his desk. His clerk rushes back. "I got robbed."
The station owner runs out and sees a short, stocky suspect running to a Nissan 300ZX on an adjacent supermarket lot. Steve Miller is furious, taking the robbery as a personal affront -- not so much because of the money, but because his clerk has just had a gun pointed at her. He won't abide that.
He runs to his car, a Corvette, knowing the gunman has to drive past the station to get back to I-95. He momentarily considers ramming the Nissan, but the Corvette is not expendable. Instead, the gunman races past and shoots for the southbound 95 ramp, pursued by the station owner.
The two are on the interstate, dodging early afternoon traffic at speeds as high as 150 mph, sharing the adrenalin rush. South of Route 198, Steve Miller closes the gap, gets the tag and pulls even to see the suspect -- a lone gunman in this incident -- waving the gun. The station owner brakes and then returns to the Crown lot where Kenny McGlynn is waiting.
"He's a driver," Steve Miller assures him.
A U.S. Park Police helicopter gets up too late, and the tag -- stolen in College Park -- is a dead end. Detective McGlynn goes into the station with Mr. Miller to replay the security camera's videotape. "Sixteen seconds," the detective says, shaking his head. "These guys get better and better."
Better, faster, crazier.
Three hours after the chase, a white Nissan is seen at the robbery of a Waldorf area gas-and-go. A Charles County detective punches the tag into the statewide computer, and a Howard bulletin jumps back. The second robbery -- immediately after the wild chase -- confirms an elemental truth about the spree. It's no longer about money, Detective McGlynn tells himself, it's the game of the thing. In Anne Arundel, Todd Young is thinking much the same way: "It's a drug," he tells colleagues, "the best drug these guys ever had."
'They hit us'
The high-speed chase and the Waldorf hit leave Kenny McGlynn certain of something else: Draw a line between those two points, and the essential terrain is Prince George's County. That's home to these two.
Detectives McGlynn and Sappington had been in touch with Prince George's detectives repeatedly, but nothing matched. Then again, Prince George's copes with so many robberies that patterns get lost.
Three days later, the Lexus shows up again, spotted -- miraculously -- by the same pickup truck driver who saw it at the Greentree Exxon more than a week before. He spies it near Routes 32 and 198, gets the tag and watches the Lexus turn into an office park before he goes to a pay phone.