By Philip Scholz
I’d chickened out the last two times, but not now. I had to do it now. Grabbing my backpack, I got out of my car. I feared this would be the time my door would just fall off when I closed it, but the thing held.
Sure, I was nervous, but I needed the money. Cleaning toilets wasn’t paying the bills. And, thanks to my lousy ex-manager at the computer store, I was pretty much blackballed from getting anywhere in this world. It wasn’t like I’d been smoking the weed. I just put it in my locker for a party I was going to after work. What right did he have to go looking in there? He’d told me my poor attitude didn’t help anything, but what was that supposed to mean? It wasn’t my fault most of the moronic customers didn’t know a hard drive from a flash drive.
I walked into the bank and got in line by the tellers. My turn soon came and I stepped up to the booth. Behind the glass sat a woman older than me. Maybe thirty, but I wasn’t sure. She looked kind of like my ex-manager’s wife, but I wasn’t sure. Under these particular circumstances, it’s hard to recall all the details about a woman who thought you were meant to be her personal slave whenever she proved herself too stupid to turn on a laptop. My willingness to help counted for nothing when her husband found the weed. I was nothing to them both, then. Just a pothead with a poor attitude, not worth spit on the sidewalk.
I shook my head to focus. Needing to get this done, I stuck my hand in my pocket.
“What can I do for you today?” the woman behind the glass asked. God, she sounded way too sweet. Her voice gave me a headache.
I withdrew the note and thrust it through the slot in the glass. She read my message and her face became pale. She understood. She’d never noticed that my hand had been shaking.
“Now,” I hissed, showing her the gun in my backpack. “Nothing funny.”
With that, I became more confident. This would work. I was in charge now.
She retrieved the money, pushing stacks of bills through the slot. I stuffed them into my backpack. When no more came, I zipped it shut, noticing I’d gotten a good haul. I had to push the loot down a bit to get the zipper closed.
“Nice job,” I commended. “You stay quiet about this until I’m gone. Got me?”
She nodded. I turned and headed for the door. The adrenalin was pumping now, but I had to stay focused.
Glancing around, I saw no one else looking back at me. No one was alarmed. My low-profile method seemed to have worked. Heck, some suit, probably the bank’s manager, stood nearby, talking to some lady in a pink sweater and blue skirt, a customer, for all I knew. They never stop chatting. Customers never knew when to shut their mouths and actually let you help them.
I kept moving, working hard not to draw attention to myself. Finally, I reached the door. It didn’t resist as I pulled it open. I darted past the ATM to the other door and got it open too.
I was outside the bank. Fresh air filled my lungs. No army of cops was waiting with their guns out and ready. I’d done it. My backpack was slipping down my shoulder, so I hitched it up again.
That teller had to be calling the cops right now. She looked like the type who’d go running to someone else to help her. Could anyone do anything alone anymore?
Still trying not to be obvious, I walked to my car, taking one quick step after another. I took deep breaths, trying to calm my nerves. I’d made it.
Two steps from my car, someone grabbed me by my shoulder and threw me to the ground…oomph…hard. That’s gonna hurt in the morning. Heck, it already hurt.
Dazed, I looked up and saw two cops in full uniform. A guy with short, blond hair was cuffing me while a woman with long red curls grabbed my backpack. She pulled back the zipper, looked inside, and showed it to her partner.
“Gotta be a couple thousand here. And check out the piece. Bet that’s not registered.”
The guy nodded and looked at my car.
“Same one as the last two times.”
He looked down at me, just as so many others always looked down at me.
“Listen, don’t go casing a bank in such a trash heap. People remember that.”
My head was pounding and I tasted blood. I felt like I’d been punched in the ribs. Man, those cuffs were tight.
Looking up at him, I thought he seemed familiar. It had to be my imagination. I didn’t know any cops. But there was something about him. I’d seen that scowl before.
Then I remembered. My ex-manager had sometimes said his brother was a cop. The resemblance was there. Could my luck really be that rotten? Could the universe play such a cruel joke on me?
“You got something to say?” the cop asked with a little smirk.
Yeah, it was the brother. My manager had asked the exact same thing in the exact same condescending tone with the exact same expression when he found the weed. There was no denying it.
I stared at the cops, wanting to give them a smart remark… go out on a high note. But I couldn’t think of anything as blood ran down my chin.