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My feet dangle from the bed, as they slowly go numb like the rest of me. My eyes
begin to roll upwards, as my head spins and nausea rises from my stomach.
Everything washes over in red, as my eyes slowly focus around the room. It is a
mess, and at the same time looked like every other American dorm room. This room
is different though. It isn’t a room. It is a tomb. Two of my best friends in
this world are here and miles away at the same time. A third friend is in the
bathroom. He is unconscious. He is bleeding, dying and alone.
Joe sits in the corner. His large frame takes up the entire corner that he
squats in. His Hispanic face is a mask, eyes closed tight, his mouth drawn
closed. He is silently pushing the barrel of his shotgun against his forehead.
He is praying to it. The gun is his savior. It is his new God. When the madness
begins he knows it will be the shotgun that saves him just like it did when
things went so wrong at the bank.
From across the room, a whimper sends my eyes drifting in this sea of red and
nausea to Jeff. He is curled on the cheap carpet floor. He looks like an embryo
in reverse. He shakes madly, letting only a whimper and the hint of tears out.
He cannot handle this, but none of us can if we dared to be honest with
ourselves. He looks like a lost soul in some black and white Capra film. His
skin is pale white, although he was not shot. The only color on his round face
is the brown of the makeshift beard he has been trying to grow for several
As Bart screams, from in the bathroom, my heart drops to the bottom of my chest.
He lets out pain. It is not a continuous scream, but a touch of conscious waking
him in pain to remind us all that he is still alive in there. He is alive. He is
propped in the shower, laying in his own blood. There is cold water pouring down
on him in a thunder and it turns the red of blood into a deformed Cool-Aid
color. The shower’s roar helps drown Bart’s screams, but I can hear him. His
pain is like a cannon firing in my ears.
My eyes roll back down to my hands. My fingers still throb from the pistol going
off. They are still shaking and I am not sure I will ever be able to make them
stop. It feels like my whole body is shaking. I have been afraid before, but
this isn’t fear. It is something else.
My eyes roll over the room again. It is a silent roll; painful roll and my eyes
seem to focus on everyone and no one at the same time. Joe and Jeff are waiting
They are waiting on me to jump off this bed, and say, “to hell with it, here’s
what we do.” The only problem is I don’t know what to do. I don’t even remember
how we got here. It is just a game, a damn prank.
It all started the last week of our freshmen year before Christmas break. All of
us had a hard time with the adjustment from high school to college and were all
looking forward to Christmas break. Joe had come up with the idea to go to
Mexico for a week and just blow of steam. We all wanted to go but none of us had
the money. We had been talking about it for weeks. It had become the present you
secretly ask Santa for but know you’re not going to get it. We knew we could
never afford a trip, even somewhere as cheap as Mexico, and that is when I came
up with the bookstore idea.
I had tossed the idea in my head for days before I got the nerve to tell Joe. I
think now it is because I knew Joe would go for the plan in a second. I needed
his support to help talk the others into it. I had told him the plan earlier in
the afternoon, so when we got together in my dorm room he was already jazzed. I
knew he would be up for it. Joe has always been up for anything and specially if
there was some law that we could break. He was my ace. If the other two wouldn’t
go for the plan, I knew I could count on Joe to egg the others into it. He
excelled at making Jeff and Bart feel like less of men whenever they didn’t do
something that lived up to his standards. The fact that Joe had no standards was
just classic irony. Joe sat Jeff and Bart down right in front of me, buzzing
around their ears about how they were going to love this.
“Okay, I got a plan,” I said dryly as if I was some general in charge of
thousands of troops. “The bookstore starts buying books back on Wednesday, and
they pay straight cash. So we are going there Tuesday night and rob it.”
Joe went off like a rocket, “This is great guys. We will get at least two grand
easy and then it’s Mexico here we come.” Bart just sat there and I could tell he
was trying to catch up to what was going on. He was showing his normal tells.
His mind was rolling it over as he tugged on his curled hair. Jeff, well, Jeff
said what I knew he would.
“What if we get caught, Conner, have you thought of that,” He said, his voice
trying not to sound weak. “How are we going to get in there anyway?” Joe slapped
Jeff on the back of the head, calling him every name he could think of to test
his manhood. At the same time, Joe hovered down on Bart. He was saying something
to both of them at the same time. My mind was drifting over the robbery. I
didn’t need to hear Joe’s words. I knew he would tell them what I wanted.
“Actually, Jeff, I have thought of the consequences,” I quipped when Joe’s storm
had died down. “Personally, I don’t see any chances of getting caught if we
stick to the plan.” I had them. “It is simple. Bart has drama practice in the
same building. We go see the practice and some time during clean up we
disappear.” Their eyes were on me. “We know the security guards lock the
buildings at 11:00 p.m. Therefore, as soon as he locks this one, we go down
stairs across to the student center, and kick in the glass door. I mean there’s
not even any alarms or cameras in the entire store. They have the money under
the counter in a lockbox. For god’s sake; I saw them put it there yesterday.” I
was smiling wide. The smile now pains me. I was so smart and so stupid all at
the same time. “Then we just kick out another door and leave. We can go see a
movie or just back to the dorms. They are never gong to expect one of school’s
freshmen students of doing this anyway. Not on this little campus.”
Even with my confidence and Joe’s intimidation it took two more hours of
convincing, but we did it.
It was too easy. Everything went just as we planned. There was not a single
glitch. The campus officials didn’t even call the cops. They told everyone it
was simple vandalism and dismissed the whole thing. We all went down to Mexico,
ate, drank and were merry for one week. Then we came back, parted, and did not
see each other until the spring semester. Spring semester, that is when
We were going hard. School was fast paced and crammed. Joe was doing awful,
though he tried, nothing would work for him. It was clear by mid-semester, he
would not pass this term. I was not doing so hot either. My personal life was
interfering with my grades. Failed relationships, no money, and lack of
interest. Those factors don’t add up to the greatest lucky streak. Bart’s world
just kept spinning from day to day. The most he worried about was what was going
to happen in X-men next month. Jeff was the lucky one. He had met a girl, fell
in love, and got engaged. He was all set to quit school and live on love when I
came up with the idea of the prank. I wish now we had let him.
A scream from the bathroom sends my mind racing back to the present. Bart is
awake. His pain is loud like a cannon. Joe is out of his corner, shotgun in
hand, before my eyes could even catch up to see him move.
“Damn it, Conner, we have got to shut him up or the whole dorm is going hear
him,” Joe shouts as he passes me. His anger is like a hot breeze on my face.
“You need to get up and think of something now. It’s not going to take those
cops long to figure this out that is if they don’t already know.” I am already
off my bed and behind him. It’s funny, I can’t figure out how my legs are
working. My stomach drops as Joe opens the door and we step in. Joe grabs a rag
and shoves it in Bart’s mouth as blood is coughed out of his mouth.
“This is no good, Conner, we have to get out of here,” Joe spits. “If the cops
found us at that bank then you know they can trace us here too.” I watch as my
hands turn the water on higher. Hot and cold water mixed spraying on Bart’s
blood soaked shirt. The force of the water hits Bart in the stomach making his
whole body flip like a fresh caught fish.
“I know Joe,” I reply my voice calm as my soul shakes. “I’m sorting it out, just
give me some time. I can’t figure how they got to the bank that fast.”
“Well they did. And this idiot and that baby in there froze,” Joe sneered. “If
it hadn’t been for me, we would all be dead. I didn’t die there, and I’m not
going to do it here. Conner, just think of something.” Bart let out another
scream, and Joe responded by shoving the rag deeper. I looked at Bart one last
time and left the room.
The wall feels cold, as I slide down it. My face is hot, and my hands seem to
stick to it. God, how did we get this far? Why did I come up with this idea,
“Jeff, the cops here are a joke, and so are the banks,” I told him in March. It
was Christmas break all over again. Bart and Jeff sat in front of me and Joe
hovered behind them. “We hit the bank on the edge of town. As long as we get
only the teller money we can be in and out before the cops even have a chance to
show.” It was so simple.
“I don’t know Conner,” Jeff said in a stammer of nervousness. “This isn’t like
the bookstore. I mean we can get into a lot of trouble if they catch us.”
“Damn Jeff, you’re such a wimp,” Joe busted in a loud bomb of a voice. “You
didn’t want to do the bookstore, and now you don’t want to do this. What’s your
“No he’s right,” I said to stop Joe’s assault. “We can get into a lot of
trouble, but only if they catch us. Jeff. They won’t if we stick to the plan.” I
looked at my two friends in the eyes. “We hit the bank, get out, then get rid of
the money so there is no trace. Trust me, we stick to the plan they won’t catch
us. This isn’t about us getting rich. This is about us doing a prank that will
leave people talking about it for years.”
The next day I bought phone books for the two states closest to us, and the
prank began. Joe got us the guns, but I don’t know from where and I have never
asked. We weren’t Bonnie and Clyde or the James gang, but we thought we were.
The next week, we hit the First Pleasant Bank. We were in there like lighting.
Joe shouted and smashed his shotgun across the face of the first person he came
across. I jumped up on the customer table, and started yelling. It was just like
the movies had taught us. Bart stood by the door looking back and forth. Jeff
stayed in the parking lot with the car running. Joe had got us the car. He had
always had a knack for borrowing cars.
I continued to yell as I watched Joe jump
over the teller’s window and empty the cash. I remember how wet the ski mask
material felt against my face. In less than a minute, we had emptied the drawers
and were back in the car. We never even heard so much as a siren. Three days
later, Jeff went to the post office and mailed fifteen letters to people we didn’t even know. We only got about two
thousand from the job, but it was the rush of our lives.
After the robbery, we just acted as if nothing had happened. Joe even got upset
when the bank sent him a letter about the robbery and informed him his money was
insured. Slowly, it all returned to normal. Weeks passed and things went back
the same. Joe kept failing, I kept falling, and the world kept turning. Before I
even knew what was happening, we started planning the second robbery.
This time it was bigger. The biggest bank in Pleasant, and right in the center
of town. Two days later we were in there and shouting at the top of our lungs. I
rushed in first, moving to the center of the room, and Joe was right behind me.
He went straight to the guard, bashed him with the butt of his shotgun. It was
scary to me how quick Joe was to hit the guy and how fast he went down.
“Anybody else want some, just do something,” Joe shouted in his best Bogart.
“All we want is the money. You don’t want to be dead over it, so on the ground!”
We were faster this time. There and out before the cops had a chance to use
those radios. It was great. There was no risk. We dumped the car and were back
at our sleepy little campus. We were so proud. The cops would never think to
look here. We were so dumb. We were dumb kids without a clue waiting to screw
“How did it get screwed up,” I mumble without even realizing I was speaking.
Joe looks over at me. His mouth is moving but I can’t hear his question. My mind
is racing. Jeff looks up from his embryo. “How did everything get screwed up,” I
ask again this time with voice and clarity. Slowly, I slide back up the wall to
my feet, but still leaning against it for a backbone. “What happened? Where did
all those cops come from? Its like they knew we would hit that bank at that
My mind spins back to the planning just four days ago. The plan was to hit First
Pleasant Bank again. It had been only a month since we last hit it, and I
thought the cops would not expect it. It would be the same as before - hard and
We flew in there waving the guns, shouting, cursing, and did not even hear the
sirens. There weren’t any sirens. Cops were waiting when we came out in a little
horseshoe of cars. There was more shouting and more cursing when we came out. I
looked over at Joe. I saw his eyes and the flame coming out of them. I am still
not sure what happen next. There were gunshots. Bart screamed as half his
stomach blew out of him. Jeff was already on his knees. He didn’t want to go in
the bank, but Joe thought we might need an extra gun this time.
“My fault,” Jeff whimpers from the floor waking my mind from the gunshots
replaying in my head.
“Your fault,” I said a cold gripping at my spine. He is looking up at me. His
eyes are all red from his tears. His lips are quivering.
Before I can say anything, Joe is across the room. He has Jeff by the collar.
Pulled to his feet in one motion. He pulls Jeff from his safe embryo like a baby
being pulled into a world of pain. He heard Jeff too. Now Joe knows. He knows
how the cops got there. I just freeze. I don’t know if it’s fear of Joe or a
desire to see Jeff get his for betraying us.
“You spineless piece of crap. You sold us out didn’t you!” Joe shouts as he
buries his fist into Jeff’s stomach. “You told them where we’d be!” Jeff starts
to speak, but Joe stomps down on him. Jeff’s words fall out in rush of air and
blood under his childhood friend’s boot.
“It is not my fault, they made me,” Jeff screams trying to protect himself from
Joe’s boot. “I kept some of the money, Conner. I didn’t mail it all.”
“How could you do that,” I shout as I shove Joe off of Jeff. “The whole point to
this thing was a prank. That was our whole defense. If we got caught, we
wouldn’t have any trace of the money. What did you do with the money?”
“Conner, I’m getting married. I am going to have a wife to support,” Jeff cries
in a mix of blood and emotion. “All these things keep adding up. I needed money
for an apartment, food, everything. I thought if I put it back into my bank
account the money wouldn’t get noticed so I put it a little at a time.”
“You are a damn idiot, and you got us all killed,” I said dry. It was all I
could say. It was all I could think. It echoed in my head. Before my mind
catches my eyes, Joe explodes passed me. He grabs Jeff and drags him into the
bathroom. I hear Jeff crying, pleading as Joe throws him into the shower. Jeff
lands with a hard thump onto Bart’s lifeless body. I know what is coming next. I
know what Joe is going to do, but I am not going to stop it.
“You see that,” Joe shouts. “He was your friend. He was my friend and you killed
him!” He bends down and grabs Jeff by the back of the head. “I can’t believe you
did this,” Joe continues to shout. “I am going to kill you for this.” I find
myself moving into the room. It is action without though. Saving Jeff’s life, I
throw Joe into the other room.
“I’m sorry, Conner,” Jeff lets out in a pained gasp. “They gave me one choice. I
had to give it all up or I went to jail. I was the only one with the money. I
was the only one they had the hard evidence on. I could not leave her. Conner,
you have to understand. Somewhere, inside of you please understand.”
“You did what you did, Jeff” I say as I look down at Jeff. “Deep inside, I think
we all knew the risk. I can’t blame you for what I knew would happen in the
end.” I look over at Bart. He is crammed in that shower. The rag is half in his
mouth and half out. His eyes glazed over. He is dead. We are all dead. I turn in
silence and my mind has stop spinning. I walk across to my bed and pick up my
pistol. I am numb and cold at the same time. As I reload the gun it makes a loud
click. The noise is harsh and metallic as Joe rushes pass me. He has his savior
in his hands again and walks back into the bathroom. His own eyes glazed now,
but not for the same reason as Bart.
“I understand too Jeff,” he shouts from within the bathroom. As the doorknob
turns in my hand, I hear the sound of gunfire and the quiet of the shells
falling to the floor. The hall looks empty, and I start to hear the sirens
outside. The cops are here. It is just the cops and us now. I turn the corner
and head into the lobby as Joe falls in step behind me. The sirens are calling
to us. I am not scared because I honestly don’t think I can feel anymore. As I
hit the bottom step, I see the sea of cops forming around us. They all with
their guns drawn and they want our blood.
It is just like at the bank. One of
theirs died and now we get the same.
Like a firecracker, Joe goes off and fires his savior. The blast knocks out two
cops before I can even draw a breath. I stand at the steps watching, my hands
won’t move. A bullet whizzes through the air and tears into my leg. Nausea over
takes me as I begin to fire. Another shot flies into my stomach. The force of
the bullet sends me back against a wall and makes me struggle to keep my feet
under me. A scream forces my eyes to look at Joe. I didn’t want to see him. I
didn’t want to see him killed for my idea. It was my joke and it killed
everyone. Another bullet sends Joe to the floor in a lump and the guns then all
turn to me.
Blood seems to be sprayed everywhere and everything I see is turning crimson
red. With all my might, I push back down the hall and into my room. As I slump
against my desk, the cops rush in on me. I try to raise my pistol but a cop
kicks it from my hand. As a boot is placed hard against my chest, a sea of
police floods in my room. I smile a dead man’s face as they tear the room apart.
I can feel my life slipping away even while a paramedic works to save me. A cop
is hovering in my ear screaming for me to tell him where all the money is
hidden. I start laughing. A cop yells there is nothing in my desk but envelopes,
stamps and out of state phone books.
“What’s so funny,” the cop asks me in a harsh tone.
“The prank,” I say in a cough of blood. “The prank is what’s funny.”
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