“Does anyone here have something to say before the show begins?” says our leader, who is loading his rifle before anyone else in the black, four-wheel car. He continues.
“LaRoulette Bank closes at midnight, right now it’s 10:25 pm. The customer that leaves the bank will be our signal to start. Make sure you’re armored.”
That’s right, we are going to rob a bank tonight. This is a four-men job because LaRoulette Bank is still one of the largest bank in Los Angeles--and the only bank that opens late evening; It's colossal, lavish-looking, and has a security update every once in a while. The security is well maintained, so if a metal-like object of any kind were to be detected, the alarm goes off. Thankfully, one of our men is a former employee at LaRoulette Bank. That man is none other than our leader--or so we consider him the leader, since he’s the one who orchestrated the plan.
We were four, each being different from one another by his own nature. I am sitting next to Caster McClain, a 31 year-old technician who has a wife and two daughters. Although he’s the most introverted in our group, he’s more alert and responsible than any of us; he always thinks about the consequences before executing the actions. Caster McClain struggled throughout his life after he learned that one of his daughters had a brain tumor. Thereafter, he began to put most of his earnings into savings in hopes that his daughter gets chemotherapy. However, things fell apart when all of his savings vanished in a blink of an eye. He consulted with the Los Angeles Bank about this, but the officials were too busy about other matters rather than resolving his predicament. The case of his money being lost was ignored for many years, which made Caster McClain to make a vow: revenge. Vengeance was his only salvation to happiness, and is the reason why he’s here, with us, about to rob a bank. I met McClain--before the others--at a park sitting on a bench, alone.
In the front seat--next to the driver—is Terry “T-bone” Barnfield, a 33 years-old Cuban and former inmate at Guantanamo Bay. Convicted of second degree murder (murdered his girlfriend and her secret “new” boyfriend), he was released from detainment due to lack of evidence to prove his guilt--he would constantly remind us that he did, in fact, kill his girlfriend and her new boyfriend. T-bone is unlike the rest of us in terms of physique; he was big and tall (nearly seven feet), had bulky muscles, vicious looking but calming, and strategist. In the underworld where norms and sanctions are prohibited, T-bone is recognized as the head of drug trafficking. His reason for robbing a bank is still unclear, though he talked about giving up drug trafficking and getting money to flee the country without the feds on his back. McClain and I met Barnfield in the underworld, during which time we were evading a pursuit from the police after we were caught selling elicit drugs to prostitutes.
The driver, or leader, is the oldest of our gang. Garfield Suprani, 39, formulated the plan for the robbery long before we met him--actually, he found us first. Garfield is about the same height as T-bone, more adult and serious, and has distaste in women. He lives in a secluded area we’ve never known of until recently. Although he has a deep voice, calm personality and is easy-going, he’s ruthless and unpredictable. Garfield Suprani is a former employee at LaRoulette Bank. He worked at the bank for three years, and was given a promotion as the assistant manager thanks to his dedication and hard work. However, he did not make friends at work but rather enemies. The bank lost $25,000 in cash last year, and Garfield’s co-workers used him as a scapegoat for having stole the money. The Supreme Court reached a verdict that he no longer works for the bank, rather than being incarcerated. Garfield knew this was coming; it’s just that he didn’t act fast enough. After his plight, he became a money launderer--he is highly skillful and knows much about anything related to finance. Garfield is untraceable by the police for wirelessly transferring money from foreign banks to some untraceable accounts he’d created. He never leaves a trace that would reveal his identity.
Finally, Leonel Masters, a name given to me by my mother whom I’ve never seen. As a 29 year-old individual who’s unemployed and the youngest of the gang, gambling is what I do for a living. I have no family or friends. I do, however, have an estranged girlfriend, whom I haven’t heard a word from since last year. I live in a loft at Cornell Street, uptown LA. The only person in the group whom I'm close to is Garfield. Despite that we're all, in short, friends who trust only one but not the other. We don’t share common grounds, don’t like the same food, and certainly have different views of the world. But one thing was for sure, though; we each have our own reasons to do what we must do to survive. The only problem we have is that neither of us knows what the other is capable of.
It is ten-thirty five before midnight when a customer leaves the bank. Garfield looks at us.
“This is it, guys. Remember, this should go according to plan.”
We wear our black masks on, load each of our given rifles (Terry's rifles), and get out of the car.
When the customer disappears into the glooming street of Los Angeles, Garfield takes the lead. After reaching the entrance door, he makes a countdown of three by using his fingers. Then, he starts firing after entering, following Caster and T-bone. Customers freak out in fear, kneeling down as Garfield tells them to. The security guards resist the demand and decide to counterattack. However, Caster and T-bone shoot the ones who resist, and leave those who surrender cuffed behind their backs. The scene is getting bloodier than I thought. According to my count, there were nine customers and four security guards. Garfield said the vault in which the money's being kept is under constant surveilance by a federal guard.
“Don’t do anything foolish, or else we’ll shoot you, understand?” Garfield shouts at the customers and workers behind the desks. Then, when the clock strikes 10:45 pm, it's time before our fifteen minutes end. Garfield gives the number two sign, which is to tell Caster to do his job. Caster goes to the utility room and shuts off all cameras and some lamps to avoid raising any suspicion. He returns and maintains his guard. Next, Garfield gives the number three sign, telling both Terry and Caster to move the customers and police officers to the waiting room. After minutes go by Garfield gives me the number one sign, the most important job of this robbery. My job is to get to the vault and stash all the cash in the black duffel bag. According to Garfield, the vault consists of half a million dollar, in hundred-dollar bills.
I run toward a security checkpoint while holding the schematic map of the bank. Once I bypass the security checkpoint I take the stairs down to the basement level. Ten minutes left. I run straight down the hall, turn left, and straight down again. Finally, as I turn right, my eyes gaze upon the vault, with the security guard standing post. He notices me immediately, and then reaches for his revolver from the holster. Before he could get the chance I hold him at gunpoint. Eight minutes left.
“You don’t want to do that, officer,” I tell him.
“Put down your gun, now!” he says.
“Really? How ‘bout this, I do the talking, you do the action. Capeesh?”
“You young man are offending a federal officer,” says the officer, slowly reaching for the gun.
When he pulls out the gun, I shoot him, creating an echo that fills the entire space of the basement. The officer lies on his back, blood drooping from his mouth while fighting for air. Moments later the officer falls unconscious and, eventually, dies--kill or be killed, I would constantly remind myself. Seven minutes left. I went to the vault and put the old passcode that Garfield had known while working here. He gave me a new one in case the bank has already changed to another one. Garfield acquires the bank records and transactions, when the bank will change the passcode and what it was, and the amount they store inside the vault. How he does that I don’t know.
After the security denies the old passcode, I put the new one. When the vault finally unlocks the steel-made door, I push down the handle and pull it outward. Six minutes left. I enter the inside and stood before a stack of hundred-dollar bills lying atop a metal table. The sight of the money brings sparkle in my eyes. Without wasting time I hastily stuff the duffel bag with the money. After that I run back upstairs in the lobby. Garfield turns and looks at me.
“You got all of them?” he says.
“Yeah, thought it’d be easier if T-bone carries it. It’s too heavy,” I say. I could tell a smile on his face even with the mask on.
At the last minute, right before the clock strikes 11:00 pm, Garfield gives the “ok” sign and we all readily leave the bank. Back in the car, Garfield hits the pedal and accelerates with top speed. Driving to his loft would take at least an hour, but until we get there we'll need to switch to another vehicle. Neither of us says a word the entire time. It is now 11:20 pm, driving six miles away from the LaRoulette bank. Later on we come across a roadside restroom. Garfield slows down, drives around for inspection, and stops. We get out of the car, each carrying a bag of new clothes. We use the restroom to put on clean clothes, throw the old ones in the bag, and dump them into the roadside trashcan. Then, back in the car, Garfield starts the engine and drives through the tree bushes. It's too dark to see, and darkness overpowers the car’s headlight that provides limited illumination ahead of us. At 11:38 pm, we finally come to a stop. Once out of the car, we see a white Volkswagen parked ten feet away from us.
“Leo,” he calls me, “bring the duffel bag with the money to the Volkswagen. And guys...” Garfield gives a suspicious smile, “Nice work.”
I open the trunk of the car and lift the duffel bag filled with half a million dollar. Then, all of a sudden, before I could close the trunk, the sound of a gunfire echoes four times, causing a burst of cries from the birds that were flying away scared. I put the bag down and check out what has transpired. I see Garfield standing before two bodies lying on the ground; T-bone and Caster McClain are dead. No, I murmur in shock. My heart begins to pound fast, uncontrollably. Garfield Suprani turns around and faces me; his face wears a different expression than ever. For the first time in a while, I see the true nature of Garfield. His smile widens, which momentarily reverts to a serious look as he raises the gun to my direction. The weapon he’s holding isn't the rifle he’d held during the robbery; rather, it was a silver pistol, with an ancient-looking essence to it.
“It is my understanding that when a person is held at gunpoint, he or she suppose to beg for his or her life, or simply run away as fast as he or she can,” says Garfield.
“You expect me to run?” I say, eyes lingering on the lifeless bodies. “Why did you kill them? They were our friends...they were part of our gang.”
“First off, Leo, I’m sick of hearing the ‘why’ questions. How about saying ‘I don’t understand your actions, please enlighten me’ or ‘do you have any reason for killing Terry Barnfield and Caster McClain, I wanna know.’ See what I mean?”
The breeze begins to cause my teeth to shudder. The moon's getting brighter. A dull sound originating from a source sporadically fills the quiet atmosphere in the middle of the bushes. I stand in shock. Trembling. Sweating. Scared.
“To make stories short,” Garfield continues, “I must remove the three of you from the equation to get what I desire most: money and autonomy. You guys are holding me back this whole time. But that ends today."
Thereafter he pulls back the hammer of the revolver. I dodge as fast as I could before he could shoot me right into the chest. However, the attempt doesn't leave me unharmed; I feel the burning bullet penetrating deeper in my left shoulder. I sense the pain metastasizing, causing discomfort elsewhere in my body, including back and neck. Shit! I say to myself. Shit! Shit! Shit! Still, I’m able to walk. I make my way in the back of the car, with the duffel bag still lying on the ground. I search for a riffle--something--to save my ass. Nothing. Garfield must’ve confiscated the riffles after we were done with the robbery. He approaches as his footsteps grow louder when walking on wooden debris. I lean against the rear bumper, thinking of something quick.
“Don’t come any closer, I have a riffle with me,” I lie.
“You’re either bluffing or trying to plan something for me,” says Garfield. “I confiscated the riffles. There’s no escape, you know. I chose this site for a reason.”
“Why did you betray us...why betray me. I thought we had a... friendship.”
“You still don’t get it do you,” he said. The light from the rear bumper produced a silhouette of Garfield. The shadowy figure grows larger as Garfield approaches to where I’m hiding. Momentarily, the shadowy figure stops, and Garfield pulls the hammer back judging from its sound.
“There’s something much more powerful than friendship, and it’s greed. Greed is a product of our selfishness...the intrinsic desire of gaining something we yearn to have in our possession. You knew from the moment we met that I was a man with certain goals in mind--deadly goals. You of all people should know--given your reputation as a great glamber who reads people well, as if reading a letter--that trust isn't for granted. You have to be certain to trust a particular someone."
"You've proven yourself untrustworthy more than once," I say.
"True. Yet what bothers me is you, Leonel, didn't do anything about it--just like Terry and Caster."
“Killing two men makes you a worthless junkie,” I say, reaching a hammer inside the trunk.
“Name-calling, huh,” he say. I got up slowly, making my way around him. “You guys are dangerous, untrustworthy. I don’t know what you’re capable of. Had it not been me, another person would’ve done the same.”
When I reach him from behind, I whack him on the back with a major blow. Though on the ground, the pistol was still in his hand. I pin him down, punch him as much as I can. However, it didn’t do much when he grabs me by the neck, whirls me over, and punches me with heavy hits. He was stronger and heavier than me. I always thought that thinking smart outweighs size. But in this case, size does matter. I immediately grab a handful of sand and throw it across his face. I push him off me, got up, and kick him in the head. I stand before him, my shoulder still bleeding. Suddenly, he gets up and, with pistol in hand, pulls the trigger. Twice. I fall flat on the ground, my vision growing blurrier every second. He stands before me, smiles, and vanish forever. Before falling unconscious, I realize I forgot to take off my armor. I'm still alive.