|Publisher:||R J Gagnon Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.71(d)|
|Age Range:||17 Years|
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053803 Life at Fifteen
By Robert J. Gagnon
R.J. Gagnon PublishingCopyright © 2006 Robert J Gagnon
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Crime
December 19, 1975
The bank was a small building, about the size of a convenience store. Double glass doors swung outward from the entrance. Ten paces past these doors; the patrons waited at a counter that spanned the width of the interior. At the far right, a small cluster of desks faced outward, awaiting the day that business warranted additional staff. This bland building served as the temporary branch, in the shadow of the main building still under construction. Zig had chosen this particular bank for its unimposing size and location. Standing out near the South West corner of Commercial and Federal Highway in northern Fort Lauderdale, this small building had caught Zig's eye, and I'd agreed this would be a good practice run. On an overcast Friday evening, Zig and I sat in the parking lot alongside of the bank debating whether we should cancel our mission.
The Camaro we had planned to use for our getaway had broken down the day before and our back up, a red, white, and blue AMX, had a starting problem. Zig had brought this last minor technical problem to my attention as we entered the bank parking lot. The vision of us trying to push start the car while the cops stood around laughing, played itself out in my head, along with the realization that one of us would have to stay with the car. Since Zig was the better driver, it wasnow up to me to either go in alone or cancel the robbery. My gut feeling was to just walk away and forget the whole thing, until my partner evoked the magical word "chicken". I told him to keep the engine running and began walking towards the front entrance.
A strong wind had sprung up during our debate, impeding my every step and making it unusually hard to pull the glass door open. How amusing I thought with a smile, it's as if the elements themselves were trying to stop me. I sensed that familiar tension in my stomach, that stuffy tightness that reached up my spine into the back of my head. It's always like this at the start, sometimes referred to as the butterflies. This feeling would pass once the actual robbery started. Then I would get the RUSH. The rush that makes you feel god-like with infinite authority, all too soon followed by the overwhelming need to run like hell, to get away, to haul ass out of there.
Inside the entrance, I took a moment to scan the layout and the position of everyone inside. An average looking teller stood before me to my left, a frail Asian girl in the middle, and a tall dorky character was leaning over one of the desks off to my right. The lone guy in line ahead of me was kind of on the big side, but he'd be out the door and gone before my thing started.
The Asian girl's nametag identified her as "LISA". She would have been cute if not for her love of potato chips and rebellious complexion. She was my best bet. Get her squealing in fear; and the other employees would do whatever they're told to protect her. I thought this would be an easy in and out, as I approached the counter.
"Can I help you?" Lisa asked. With a smile I responded, "Yes Ma'am, I'd like to make a withdraw." Then I handed her the note:
I have a gun, give me all the money you have in ten seconds or I will kill!!!
She read the note, then studied it for a few moments before asking, "Are you serious?" Still smiling I replied, "As a heart attack, now if you could hurry it up please, I have someone waiting for me outside." She looked at me for a very long moment with those expressionless Asian eyes then announced, "We have no money."
I had planned for any conceivable statement the teller might make after reading the note, but this response threw me for a loop. I imagined myself pulling the gun out and shooting her for being so blatantly stupid, I decided instead to be a little more assertive.
"Now look," I said, "this is a bank, and a bank has money, so give it up!" Lisa said, "I must ask boss for money."
She then walked over and handed the note to the tall skinny guy whose nametag identified him as "Kim" the Branch Manager.
This guy was no bomb threat. Tall and skinny with glasses, a better name for him would have been 'Poindexter.' I pondered how a guy could have a name like Kim. (Maybe he was a Savings and Loan cross-dresser.) I watched him read the note, look at me for a second or two, then tell Lisa, "Give him the money." "But we have no money," Lisa still insisted. Kim repeated himself, "Give him the money.... NOW!"
Very slowly, Lisa unlocked the cash drawer and put a stack of bills on the counter in front of me, then slammed the drawer shut. "What's this," I asked, "I said all the money!"
Lisa retorted, "I tell you we have no more money. You go now!"
I realized at this point that I'd lost control of the situation.
This wouldn't have happened if I'd have followed my plan. My partner Zig was the one that insisted on the note idea. The good thing about the note was that I didn't have to pull a gun. If by some chance things did go wrong, the charge would be simple robbery, not armed robbery. Now a big gun and a cold voice give you the power of command where people do as they are told without a hassle. All I had was a little .22 stuffed in the front of my pants that wouldn't scare anyone if I did wave it around. Either way, I'd already been inside too long. Getting away with something was better than not getting away at all.
"OK then, keep your damn money!" I said, while grabbing the stack of bills from the counter and hurriedly flipping through them. There was a Hundred, a Fifty, and what looked like fives and fifties mixed. There was about a grand or so from the looks of it. Turning away to leave I noticed the camera in the upper right corner near the door. I couldn't tell if it was on or not, but I had to smile in its direction while stuffing the money into my pocket. Ten more feet and I would be out the door. It was hard to casually stroll outside with every muscle screaming to run. Were the cops outside waiting? Would they jump out as I'm getting into the car? There was only one way to find out ...
Pushing the door hard against the wind, I made my way outside. Dusk had turned into night during my mission, and walking from light into darkness left me temporarily blinded. I stumbled towards the parking lot straining for any sign of Zig, but I couldn't see him or the car anywhere. Then I stopped, realizing that something else was wrong. The door hadn't slammed shut behind me. As I started to turn for a look back, something heavy slammed into the middle of my back knocking me forward. I barely got my hands in front of me to break my fall as the ground rose up to meet my face.
I was face down with a knee in my back and an arm around my throat. I turned my head expecting to see a cop, but instead I caught a glimpse of a white shirt. IT WAS POINDEXTER! He'd decided that I wasn't going to get away with this. Not only did he have me pinned from behind and in a yoke hold, but the heavy jacket I wore severely limited any defensive movements.
Wrestling was not an option, I'd already been here way too long, and it was a sure thing the cops were on their way by now. No way would I let this geek hold me until they got here. I reached for the gun, but it was gone! The gun had fallen into my crotch, loaded and cocked with the business end warming itself between my testicles.
Thoughts of unpleasant possibilities passed through my mind as I shook my leg and tried to work this destructive little problem out of my pants. We were about ten yards from Federal Highway in North Lauderdale and a crowd was starting to form. Some were the people from the bank, and a few curious passer-bys. A couple of people were sitting through the green traffic light in their cars, to watch this odd spectacle. I could see a security guard from across the street unholstering his gun and running towards us from across the Highway.
One of the girls standing over us tried to kick me and got Kim instead. I would have thanked her for the help, but I was too concerned about the whereabouts of my partner. It was starting to look like I was on my own. The gun was almost to my ankle and I began to shake my leg like a dog to get it out. Kim changed his grip and started grunting and growling like some kind of an animal. I began to laugh at the thought of how much he sounded like a poodle fighting over a sock you're trying to take away. Then the gun was out and on the ground somewhere behind us. Kim reached back and grabbed it first, putting the barrel up to the side of my head.
Now I was screwed, there is nothing scarier then a Dork with a gun, and the advantage. I reached up with both hands and wrestled the gun away from my attacker. A woman's yell, "Oh my God, he's got a gun," came from somewhere in the crowd. I heard the sounds of feet moving as everyone ran away in different directions. I could see the traffic dodging guard from across the street, run all the way back across the highway and duck behind a car, his gun drawn, peering from around the bumper. I pointed the gun at Kim's head and said, "Get off me man, or I'll shoot your ass!" He answered with some more persistent growling.
This was his big chance to get his revenge for all the times he'd been slapped around in gym, or didn't have lunch money because someone else wanted it more than him. Either way I was not about to be caught by some Mamma's boy, wanna-be hero. I didn't want to kill him. Hell, I didn't even want to shoot him. I couldn't shoot his arm that was around my neck, since .22's tend to follow the bone and might get me instead. Someone in the crowd got brave and kicked Kim again trying to get me. Soon, they would be trying to get the gun away.
I switched the gun to my left hand, reached behind my back and aimed as best as I could at his ass. No way was he getting a dignified wound out of this! I fired the gun, which sounded more like a cap pistol in my moment of need, but the bullet had missed its target. There was the sound of more feet scurrying around and a scream or two from the women nearby, as Kim tightened his grip around my throat.
Something popped in my neck, as a flash appeared somewhere to my left. I squeezed off another shot. Had someone in the parking lot just fired a gun at me? The grip around my neck relaxed, and Kim slid off my back and onto the ground. Lying next to me on his belly, some funny gurgling sounds emanated from him. 'Can't see any holes or blood, he must be faking it,' I thought as I rose to my feet. The temptation to shoot him for making this whole thing such a mess was overwhelming. Instead, I kicked him once, as everyone else had. Now it was time for the get away.
It appeared as if my partner had left the scene after shooting Kim, leaving me surrounded by a semicircle of people. There were twenty extra bullets in my pocket. I noticed a few had fallen out during the fight when I bent down to scoop up the spent shells. Standing upright, I pointed the gun into the crowd and yelled, "I'll kill every damned one of you!" They all looked more stupid then scared, as if they were not sure if they should run or hit the ground. Then one guy put his hands up. The others looked at him and did the same. This was how it was supposed to have started out. As I pondered my next move, I heard a voice from the parking lot, "Over here man, come on!" It was Zig!
I ran over to the car and jumped in. Zig asked what had happened. "I shot the hero man; now get us to hell out of here!" I yelled, closing the car door behind me. Zig calmly stated, "I'm pulling out nice and slow so we don't draw attention." I replied, "It's a little late to worry about that right now, just go!" I started counting the money from the bank and realized there were only a couple of hundred bucks in the stack. Now I was really pissed off, this idiot (Kim) had about got himself killed over a couple hundred dollars. What a moron, and thinking of what I went through for the same, didn't make me much brighter.
We had planned to play Bad Co.'s theme song for our get away. But the AMX didn't have a tape player. So there I was being driven down a side street heading west with a tone-deaf driver singing out of time and key, 'Man, it can't get any worse than this'.
Turning north, we had to wait for the parade of cop cars racing eastward to the bank to cross Commercial Blvd. We jumped the median in front of two cruisers, which ignored us. They were on their way to a shooting.
I heard later that when the first cars arrived at the scene, the officers approached the crowd and saw Kim on the ground. Someone in the group stuttered that there was a robbery, and a gun went off, and then pointed at Kim. Assuming the man on the ground was the now subdued robber, they told Kim to get up. When he didn't move, they kicked him a couple of times. Kim wasn't having a very good night.
Zig dropped me off at Randy's house; this would be part of my alibi if one became necessary. Randy was a twenty-four year old epileptic that lived in his garage, black lights and various paraphernalia lined his walls. I'd hung out here most of the day making sure his very religious mother was aware of my presence.
She was a pillar of the community and a very convincing witness. I made a point of asking her the time both when leaving and returning. Randy and I retreated to party dungeon where I filled him in on my where a bouts for the past hour. Looking at the money under the black light, he brought to my attention some florescent paint where they had been marked.
Randy didn't believe the story behind the money, nor did he care, as long it would buy something to drink. With one of the marked bills, he bought a case of beer, and we celebrated for a couple hours. Getting home about midnight I flopped onto my bed and dropped into a restless sleep filled with dreams of the robbery.
Saturday morning I sat straight up in my bed with a sore neck and a bruise on my lower back. Well that would explain the weird dream, too many good drugs especially the PCP. I'd been using the stuff so long now that dreams and imagination were easily mistaken for memories of actual events. On the flip side, what I sometimes mistook as daydreams or hallucinations turned out to be actual memories at times. The repetition of doing things you don't remember and remembering other events that never occurred had taken away my responsibility of having a conscience.
I'd adapted to my present condition of reality deprivation, but that last dream was painfully real. I would have been more concerned if not for how ridiculous it was. There was no way in hell things could go that wrong. Unless it was a sign to let me know I was about to screw up. Nah, I wrote it off as just another dream and continued lying in bed thinking about the actual robbery to come.
We'd been planning this robbery for a couple of months now. Neither one of us were in it for the money. I wanted to be the youngest bank robber in history, or so I had convinced myself. Actually, this had become my only way out. By age fifteen I had both a drug, and an alcohol habit, and I couldn't quit either. The only way to get into a clinic was if your folks had a lot of money or the courts sent you. In my house, asking for help is a sign of weakness. Less than a week before, after asking my dad about seeing a shrink, I was accused of being a flake.
Robbing a bank was my only option. If caught, they would force me to dry out, get my act together. If I were killed in the act, I'd become a piece of local history. Robbing a bank was a sign of strength, the perfect solution. No matter what the outcome, the mere act itself would leave a profound message.
Zig on the other hand didn't drink or use anything. He was just nuts. My partner actually thought he was John Dillinger reincarnated. That same character flaw was what made him such a good partner. A fanatic dedicated to an idea is the most loyal person you could have at your side.
Last night's dream had instilled some doubt; maybe this really wasn't such a hot idea after all. No one ever gets away with a bank robbery, that's why I picked this solution. Zig planned to rob a slew of banks, the temporary savings and loan was just a rehearsal to him. To me it was a one shot deal, a means to an end. But my partner did have an infectious enthusiasm that sometimes tainted my intentions. This avalanche of random thoughts was still running through my head as I stumbled into the living room and asked the Old Man what we were doing for work that day.
Excerpted from 053803 Life at Fifteen by Robert J. Gagnon Copyright © 2006 by Robert J Gagnon. Excerpted by permission.
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