by Mike Knowles
Glen watched the kid creep up behind the armoured car guards from across the street. The kid only got his right hand on one of the bags sitting on the snow-covered sidewalk before a guard noticed. The kid took off, leaving the bag where it was, with the guard in tow. Robbing a bank is easy, Glen thought as he watched the chase. Easy when all you put into it is balls. Glen stood outside Union Station looking at his watch. The Timex Ironman he wore digitally showed him everything: Friday, December 14, 9:57 a.m. The snow was coming down heavy; big flakes fell on his face making him blink to get the cold powder out of his eyelashes. Robbing banks was easy all right, Glen thought, but doing it right took more than balls. You have to treat it like a job, and do that job by the numbers. Plenty of cons have balls. They also have a 6 a.m. wake up call every morning in their cages. Pro’s do the job, get paid, and go home.
The light went green and a crowd of people began to build up beside Glen at the curb. Everyone held shopping bags in their gloved hands. The slush on the ground was too thick to splash, so everyone crowded close to the street waiting for the blinking white man to tell them they could cross. Glen watched a cab accelerate over the slick pavement trying to beat the yellow. He positioned the box he was carrying under his arm and put a gloved hand to the watch. He accessed the stopwatch, and hit start. The numbers sped by in milliseconds as Glen’s foot found the ass of the best-dressed shopper holding the most bags. By 00:00.75, the woman was in front of the cab. By 00:00.85, she was under the wheels.
There were screams, panic, phone calls, and accusations, but Glen didn’t pay any attention. He was already at the stairs. Glen took the stairs two at a time down to the subway platform.
At the bottom of the stairs, Glen caught sight of Terrence standing in the corner of the platform. There was a ten-foot radius of space between Terrence and the rest of the crowd waiting on the concrete. The men and women on the edge of the circle forced the other people towards the waiting train like Spartan warriors. The smell coming off Terrence was a fate worse than death. He saw Glen and walked in his wake towards the waiting Train. He caught up easily, people parted like puddles in front of Moses when they caught sight or smell of the bearded man. His coat was a seasons old puffy winter ski coat with several holes leaking down. His shoes and gloves were wrapped in duct tape, and a smelly toque was stretched over his long filthy dreadlocked hair.
“Good to see you, Terrence,” Glen said as they boarded the train. He glanced at the Timex and saw that it read 00:45.15. By 02:00.00, the first cops would be on scene at the accident on the street above. More cops would stream in every minute after as the calls to 911 set off chatter all over the police bandwidth.
“I hope this female is as fine as you say ‘cause my time be worth money, Charlie.”
Glen had told Terrence that his name was Charlie when he befriended him over a week ago. “I told you; she’s just back on the market, and she has a thing for bad boys.”
“Well, they don’t get badder than Mr. T. She probably just pity fools like you.” Terrence laughed at his own joke while the subway car shifted away.
“Here, this is two dozen long stem roses. She loves roses.”
Terrence accepted the box and examined its four sides. “You start a bitch on roses, you can’t end with dandelions. She gonna haf’ ‘pectations from this.”
“She won’t. Now leave the box alone, it’s classy if they come in a box. Chicks dig classy.”
“I be a classy gent, Charlie.” Terrence laughed again, but Glen didn’t think he got the irony of his own joke.
The train came to a second stop, and the two men left the vacant part of the train car they stood in. As they walked away, Glen saw the people file into the space they had left open for Terrence and his smell.
They climbed the stairs together while Glen laid out the plan. “She might not be on break yet, so wait by the doors until I tell you to come over. I don’t want her boss to get upset; it will ruin your chances.”
“Once she gets a load ‘a me and these here flowers, she won’t care what her boss gots to say.”
“Just wait, okay? Be patient.”
“Whatever you say, Charlie man. But remember, I got plans. I got to meet with my many associates today.”
Glen led Terrence into the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. He took him by the shoulder and stood him to the side of the doors. “Stand here. Hold the flowers up so when I point you out, she sees them.”
“Okay, player. Do your thing. Do that voodoo that you do so well.”
Glen got in line and looked at the Timex – 4:57.28.The two local squad cars would already be at the accident scene four blocks away. The ambulance would be another minute out on a good day, but the snow, combined with the traffic that had instantly started building up around the accident, would grind everything in an eight-block radius to a halt. Response time for the wagon would be in the double digits.
Glen got in line behind three old women. The bank had opened less than two minutes ago and there was a backup already. The time of year and day was a bitch for bank tellers. They had to be ready early with three times as much cash in their tills to help every grandmother, who was still petrified of the ATM, fill their grandchildren’s Christmas cards with crisp twenties and fifties.
Sweat built up under the two coats Glen was wearing, but he kept his head tilted down and a smile on his face. The outer coat was a leather Harley Davidson motorcycle jacket; it was adorned with several orange and silver crests and a huge eagle emblem on the back of the coat. Over his shoulder, Glen had a Harley Davidson duffel bag he bought at the same store he picked up the jacket in.
“The snow is coming down so hard today. I’m glad I wore my boots,” an old woman said gesturing to her tiny feet.
“Yes, ma’am, the snow is stacking up, but I’m gonna shop anyway. My boys need their toys.”
“The toys change every year don’t they?”
“Only the money stays the same.”
“Nothing. You’re up, ma’am.”
She turned her head to see an exasperated teller with a vacant spot in front of her. “Oh, I’m sorry. Merry Christmas.”
Glen checked the camera pointed at the head of the line with his eyes only. Chubb security cameras were old school these days. Their images were grainy and poor under the best conditions. Most new branches opted for more current technology, but the older branches subscribed to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ adage. He could smile right up at the lens and they would not be able to get more than an image that could be almost any male between the age of twenty and fifty. Glen stopped thinking about the camera and put his right hand into his pocket around the Walther PPK. The small British Gun served secret agents and James Bond well; it would do just fine in the bank.
“Next customer, please.”
Glen walked to the teller who called out to him. She was a young woman in her twenties, fresh faced, blond, and fashionable. She wore a colourful shirt with a daring neckline for the bank she worked in. She accessorized with chunky retro earrings and a matching ring. It looked like the sombre winter weather never touched her.
“How can I help you?” She asked.
Glen put an arm on the counter and looked back to Terrence.
“You see that man over there?” Glen said tilting his head towards the doors.
“The… um… gentleman by the entrance?” The teller said, choosing the word gentleman with care.
“Yeah, inside the box he’s holding is a shotgun; one of those big loud ones that you have to pump. You say a word out of turn and he will let loose with it.”
The girl looked confused and startled. Glen brought the pistol out from his pocket and put it under his palms on the counter so that the teller was the only person who could see it.
“Wave to him so he knows you understand.”
The teller waved and Terrence smiled. He lifted the box to show her the flowers and she winced as though he was showing her a dead rat.
“You been robbed before?”
She shook her head.
“It’s easy. Nothing to type in, you just load the bag with all of the cash in your till, no bait money, and we leave.”
The girl stared at Glen, then at Terrence. A single black mascara tear ran down her cheek. Glen looked over at Terrence. He saw him look, smiled, and began to walk towards the teller.
The teller saw Terrence moving in on her and said, “Okay, okay, I’ll do it.”
Glen put out a hand and stopped Terrence before he got ten steps from the door. He looked disappointed, but he stopped and went back to his spot.
“Just load the bag fast, and my friend stays where he is,” Glen said.
“Something wrong, Denise?” The older teller on the right had finished with her customer and she was looking warily at the bag on the counter, and at Glen.
“Tell her,” Glen said.
The young blond put her face to the older woman’s ear and whispered out a stream of words that caused her body to shake. When the older teller looked at Terrence, he beamed and raised the flowers. Glen nodded and mouthed the word, “Classy.” The bum smiled back and nodded his head.
“I’m going to need the money from both tills please,” Glen said.
By 7:32.41, Glen had a duffel bag full of money. “Now, I don’t have to tell you two to stay calm until we leave. None of us wants to see what’s in that box,” Glen said nodding towards Terrence. “After we’re gone, you can scream bloody murder. Okay?”
The two women nodded.
“Merry Christmas.” Glen said.
The younger teller actually returned the festive goodbye. Glen got to Terrence and whispered in his filthy ear, “They can’t wait to meet you, big guy. Keep it classy.”
“You know it, Charlie.”
The bum hustled towards the two women while Glen moved outside. He heard their screams from the street. The snow was still falling hard and it was collecting on the gridlocked cars in front of the bank. Glen checked his watch—eight and change. The bank job had taken three minutes and the nearest cops were four blocks and at a quarter of an hour away. Half a block away, he went down a flight of stairs leading to the subway and walked straight into the washroom. He pulled off the Harley Davidson jacket and took the empty backpack he wore underneath off his shoulders. He loaded the money from the duffel bag into the backpack and put it back on over the navy blue peacoat. Glen left the Harley Davidson coat and bag in one of the bathroom stalls and walked onto the waiting westbound train.
Rick got on the train behind Glen and stood behind him holding the overhead rail for stability as the train pulled away. In the tight confinement of the subway car, he could smell the stick-up man’s aftershave. The knife he was carrying was unfolded and pressed against his thigh. Rick had seen the teller’s face while he was in line at the bank. He knew the look on her face well. It was a look he had planned to put on a few faces in the bank himself. That was until the bastard in the two coats got to the teller before him. Rick watched the man gesture to the bum, watched the bag get filled, and he watched the thief leave—but it was from outside the bank. He left before the stick-up man and waited in an alley outside. He waited again outside the bathroom while the guy changed coats and bags. Now on the subway, he would wait a little longer until the packed train car was pulling into the next station. He’d slip the knife in under the stick-up man’s ribs and rip it across his back. His lungs would fill with blood while he cut the backpack straps off his shoulders. Rick figured he would be off the train and up the stairs by the time any of the busy Torontonians gave up their practiced vacant subway stares to notice the body. Robbing banks is easy, Rick thought, easy when someone else puts it all on the line for you.