Secretly, I’ve been working on a book. And this is one of the chapters. Actually, one of the last chapters.
Then Jan starts the whole thing. It’s standard by now.
“Everyone down on the ground,” he yells as he pulls out his gun. “This is a robbery, and if everyone plays it cool, we all get to leave.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see a little kid holding his mother’s hand. He looks at me funny, not sure what is happening. Then he smiles and waves. I wave back. No reason not to be nice.
As I watch Jan jump from teller to teller, I realize he’s moving slowly. Too slowly. But it isn’t just him. Everything is moving slowly today. I close my eyes, shake my head, and try to concentrate.
I look back at the little boy. He’s crying now. It breaks my heart. I want out of here.
“Move it,” I yell to Jan.
“It’s taking too long.”
“I said, shut up.”
But I won’t give up. Something’s not right. I want out of here. Everything’s moving slower. Slower. I start to yell, “Listen, forget the rest. We’ve got enough. Let’s just…..”
But I never get to finish. From the back – behind the tellers, the wooden cabinets, the large office desks – there’s a gunshot. A single one. Then another. Everyone in the bank starts to scream or cry. And then I hear what I think is a third, but it is actually the door banging open as a security guard comes running from the back. He’s bleeding from his chest. Or is it his stomach? His face is ashen, and as he runs, he bumps up against desks, chairs, walls. There’s a trail of blood behind him. He’s King Midas, except everything he touches runs with blood.
“There’s two more in the back,” the guard yells, tripping over a lady that is lying face down on the ground. She screams as he falls on top of her, his guts starting to come out of his shirt. He lands on his stomach and I see that the back of his shirt has a gaping hole it in and is soaked with blood.
“Beat it,” I yell to Jan. My feet feel like lead, though, and I wonder if maybe we had a bad hit before coming in. What happened to the good days of cheap H? Good H. Pure H. I feel as if I am running through concrete. Jan continues to empty each drawer, but by now I want out. “Fuck the lot! Just beat it. The cops will be here soon.” I run towards the back, from where the guard came, and bust through the door.
Mickey is in the back room, kneeling next to Deb. “She’s shot,” he said to me.
“How? What the fuck were you two doing in here anyway? Why weren’t you in the alley?”
Mickey looks me square in the eyes. “There’s fucking cops everywhere. Plain suits, uniforms, vests. This is rotten, Danny. Rotten. Someone knew. Why do you think there was a fucking rent-a-cop in the back, and not out front?”
I have a sudden urge to vomit, but then it is gone. My mouth is dry and my lips are pasty. I run the back of my hand across my face and realize I am sweating. A lot. Through my shirt, my hat, down my back.
“Danny – what we gonna do? We got to get Deb out of here.”
“How much blood she lost, you think?” I look down at Deb, and she’s panting, eyes wide open, staring straight up at the ceiling. There’s no blood on the floor, at least not yet. Her sweater is wet, almost purple. It’s just her left side, right below her ribcage. “How much?” I ask again. Mickey shrugs.
“Deb darling,” I touch her face. “Deb, sweetie – you hear me? We got to get out of here. We got to go. Can you move?” She turns her head to look at me. “Deb, I gotta look, okay? I’m not going to hurt you.” She looks over to Mickey, and he grabs her hand. I reach down and pull up her sweater. As soon as I pull it back, blood pulses up through a dime-sized hole in her stomach. Her entire front is covered in blood. I think of the security guard out front. I put my hand on the hole, trying to stop the blood from coming, and Deb moans.
“Danny, Danny, Danny,” Mickey whispers and pulls back my hand.
I sit back on my knees. Shit. Fuck. This is bad. The nausea hits again.
“Danny, where’s Jan?” I give Mickey a blank look. “Jan? Is he out front? What’s taking him so long? This is rotten, you know? “
I nod. I know.
Jan bursts through the door, with two bags full of money. “Cops are coming,” he says.
“What about the customers?”
“Gone – ran out after you left me alone. What was that for?”
“What was that for? If you hadn’t notice, nothing was right. Gunshots. Bleeding guards. I told you to bail. Then Mickey says there are cops coming to the alley.”
“Already here,” Mickey motions out back with his head.
“Out back? You sure?” Jan asks, cooly. He walks toward the back door. “That’s early.”
“You think I fucking made this up?” Mickey yells. “All of it? Deb and I only came in because we wanted to warn you. But when we came in the fucking guard shot her.”
“So you shot him?” I ask. Jan, halfway to the back door, stops and looks at us.
“Fucking hell, I did,” Mickey snarls at me.
“It’s fine,” I say. “Look…”
“Its not fine,” Jan says. He turns and looks down at Deb for the first time. He puts his hands on the back of his head, his elbows out like wings, and paces. “Not fucking fine.” Mickey and I just stare at him. He paces more. “Not fucking fine,” he yells, and kicks a filing cabinet over. No one says anything, and I realize we’re wasting time. Stupid. I stand up, grab one of the duffel bags, toss it to Jan. I pick up the other, and bend over to grab Deb. “Mickey, pull her up. We’re moving. We can’t stay. Jan, you gotta give us cover. How far is the car, Mickey?”
“Fuck the cash,” Jan says and drops the bag. Mickey and I haul Deb up. She’s limp, and her eyes are closed. Her sweater is heavy with blood, and she slips through it as we try to keep her between us.
“I said, forget the cash.” Jan walks over to me and pulls the bag from my hand. “It’s marked.”
“How?” I ask.
“What do you mean how? Its marked, that’s how. Traced. They know. They knew.” No one says anything. Jan rubs his eyes with his forefinger and thumb of his right hand, pinching his nose. Without opening his eyes he says, “We go out the front.”
I drop the bag, and wrap both my arms around Deb. I start to drag her towards the door. My heart is still pounding, like it is going to jump from my chest, and my legs tremble. I fumble with the doorknob, and turn. Jan and Mickey stand in the center of the room, staring at each other, and not leaving.
“What did you do, Jan?”
“We gotta go, Mickey.”
“What did you fucking do, Jan?” Mickey runs toward Jan, but Jan steps to the side, and throws a fist into Mickey’s face. Mickey spins around toward me, blood already coming from his lips and nose. He drops to his knees, and keeps himself from falling flat with his hand. He stands back up, keeping his eyes locked with mine.
“Jesus,” I say, looking at Jan. My throat goes dry, and I feel my eyes start to burn. I loosen my grip on Deb and she slides to the ground, limp.
“You fucking cunt!” Mickey runs at Jan again, arms swinging, but Jan is taller and bigger. He wraps his arms around Mickey’s head and shoulders, and throws him down against the filing cabinet. I open my mouth to say something, but nothing comes out. I struggle to put it together. Kind of. Mickey is crawling on the floor, trying to stand, crying. “Aw fuck. Aw… Did you?” He looks up at Jan. “Did you?”
Jan hasn’t moved from the spot. I realize now how pale his skin is, how blackened his eyes are. And he’s thin, and haggard looking. He stares at me, and his eyes are flat, gray, and dull. Suddenly, Mickey jumps up from the floor, with his gun pointed at Jan, and screams. Not a word. Not a curse. Just a painful yell.
Jan doesn’t move. He sighs, “Mickey. We have to go. Now. And we have to go out the front. Do you hear me? The front.” He motions towards the lobby, and starts to walk.
Mickey cocks his gun. “No man. Not we.”
“Mickey, you can’t get out without me. Seriously.” Jan stands with his face towards the door, and squeezes the bridge of his nose with his finger and thumb. Behind him, Mickey sways back and forth, shaking his head. Jan continues in a slow, calm voice. “Mickey, we have to go now. Deb is….”
“Don’t say it,” Mickey says. He sways some more, then yells, running towards Jan, and puts the gun against his head. “What did you do Jan? Why? Why man?”
Now I figure out it. My hands and legs start to shake, and I realize my heart is beating faster than I have ever felt it. “Mickey,” I say. “He’s right. We have to go now, and we have to go with Jan.” I bend down and grab Deb underneath the arms, and haul her up. “Come on. We’re wasting time.”
I struggle with Deb, and no one moves. We all just stand there. The tears are balancing on my lids, and when I blink they run down my cheeks. Jan stands facing the door still, but I can see his face. His eyes are closed – he looks almost dead. Mickey is crying so hard he can barely breathe. Finally, he sobs, “Go.” Jan takes a step towards the door, and Mickey jumps up behind him again, gun to his head. “Slowly,” he adds.
“I know,” Jan says. He looks at me, but I only turn away, and step aside so he can open the door. He walks through, with Mickey behind him, still holding the gun in both hands. I reach down and grab Deb’s legs beneath her knees, and carry her into the lobby. It’s empty, except for the guard. He’s on his stomach, the left side of his face against the marble floor. It looks as if he tried to crawl towards the door, after everyone else left. There’s a swath of blood on the floor behind him.
The entire front of the bank is glass, and there is a crowd gathered in the street. Some people stand at the edges of the building. I don’t see any cops. “Now what?” I ask.
“Out the front,” Jan says. “We always go out the back, so that is where they are suppose to be. They aren’t expecting us to come out the front.”
“You first,” Mickey says, and pushes Jan with the gun. Jan stumbles forward one step, catching his balance. He takes a deep breath, and pushes open both glass doors. Inside, it had been quiet, so the noise that greets us shocks me. Cars honks at the people in the street, the wail of sirens in the distance. As we come out, the crowd backs up, and a woman screams.
Jan turns around. “We need to…” Before he can finish, Mickey shoots him in the head, and he falls backwards with a loud thump. More screams come from the crowd, and people start to run in all directions. Mickey puts his gun in the back of his pants, turns to me, his face covered with tears. “Come on.” He turns and starts to run toward the south corner of Thorndale. I don’t move. “Danny! Run!” He turns and seeing that I haven’t moved, comes back and grabs me. I start to run with Deb in my arms. “Danny,” Mickey says. “Danny – she’s dead. Leave her. She’s dead,” he cries, putting his head on my shoulder. I look at Deb, and her skin is pale, lips white, mouth slightly open, eyes closed. I slowly kneel, and put her down to the ground, and touch her face. It’s feels strangely rough – and my hand is so covered with blood that I leave two red smears on her chin. I try to rub them off with my sleeve, but Mickey reaches down and grabs me. “Fucking run, Danny. Run!”
I get up and run after him. Finally, my legs feel normal, but my heart still feels as if it will explode. We turn the corner onto Thorndale, and facing us is the car Mickey got the night before. I go towards it, to hop in the passenger side.
“No,” Mickey hisses. “They know it is ours.” We stop, standing still, confused. Behind us, to the east, we hear the rumble of the El coming to the Thorndale stop. We both turn and sprint across Broadway towards the massive stone bridge that keeps the El above the city. As we go past a sewer grate, Mickey tosses the car keys down it. We hop the turnstile and bound up the stairs for the south bound trains. There are only a few people, and no one notices my blood soaked clothes, mostly because everything I have on is black and hides the blood. Finally the train arrives, and we enter in the last car, which is empty.
I sit down in the seat nearest the door. Mickey stands with his head hanging out the door – looking up and down the platform. Finally, a chime announces the doors are closing, and Mickey pulls his head in, and walks to stand in front of me. With a lurch, the train moves towards the next stop.
Suddenly, I burst into tears. Uncontrollable, gut wrenching, sobs. Mickey stands in front of me, and puts his hands on my shoulders. I shove him to the ground, and then lunge towards him. I drive my shoulder into his chest, and warp my arms around his waist, grabbing for his gun. But he is bigger, and stronger, than me, and with both legs kicks me back up against my seat. I hit so hard it knocks the wind out of me. He gets up, and grabs my head in his hands, and pulls me into his chest. “It was rotten,” he sobs. He holds me so tight I can’t move. I am crying so hard I am leaving wet spots on his shirt. “Fucking rotten,” he says again.
I nod. I know. I think I knew from the very beginning.