They paid hardly any attention when the elevator began "jerking and acting funny." Those who work in the Arlington high-rise say that "the elevators are always acting crazy."
But when they pushed the first-floor button the other day and the lift continued down to the fourth-level underground parking garage without opening, their suspicions were aroused.
Perplexed, the two top executives of the Printing Industries of America and their three lunch guests began pressing buttons to other floors in the 10-story Rosslyn high-rise when they heard a "voice from above."
"Get down on the floor and close your eyes," the voice commanded.
"We thought that it must be the elevator repair people and they were afraid that the elevator might fall, so they told us to get down on the floor so we wouldn't get hurt," one of the victims said.
But when one of the guests started shouting upward for an explanation, he was interrupted gruffly. "Get down on the f--- floor and close your eyes."
They were being robbed.
Perpetrated Monday by a thief -- or thieves -- whom the victims never saw, the noontime, high-tech holdup was carried out by someone who police say manipulated the elevator to pick up passengers on the eighth floor and deposit them on the predetermined basement floor.
Arlington police say they know of a possible suspect in the "elevator caper," and say the thief must be someone with "some knowledge of how the system works."
Whoever it was got $74.
After stooping to the elevator floor, the five fearful passengers emptied their pocketbooks. "I thought they got us down here because they were going to shoot us or something," a victim said.
But they never saw a gun. They gave the cash to the tallest man among them, who extended it to a hand reaching through an opened panel in the elevator roof.
The hand disappeared, and without a further exchange, the passengers pried the door open, walked up four flights to the lobby and called police.
Two men were seen running from the garage at 1700 N. Lynn St. toward Wilson Boulevard.