I got to a point where nothing seemed important any more. Days were repetitive; each rolled into the next with no real meaning; my life was ending and I was achieving nothing. I woke up every day at seven and went though the same routine; shower, eat, dress, take the train to work. Work was at a bank, with people who looked just like me. We dressed the same, counted the same money and passed the time people-watching, simply because our own lives were so goddamn boring.
Money surrounded us and yet it wasn’t ours. We just gave it to other people and advised them on loans and mortgages and how they could expand the wealth they already had. I’d been working there for five years, ever since I left school, and things had hardly changed. I thought about getting into another career, doing something new, but I guess I was afraid. I didn’t want to take that risk. At least I had a steady job. Sure, I didn’t get paid much but it was enough. My life had a structure, my expenditure had a structure; everything was neat and orderly and exceptionally dull.
I went home at half past five and ate healthy food and watched shopping channels on the television. I read about celebrities’ lives on the internet. Who was dating who, who’d cheated on who, who bought a twenty million pound home in cash, who had a small penis, who was hosting the next big talent show. It went on and on. I read it like I genuinely cared about their vapid, materialistic lives and then I went to bed. The next day it’d all happen again. I was drowning in monotony and no lifeguard was ever going to save me.
Things changed, one Friday afternoon.
It was a bleak, rainy day, typical London weather. Business went on as normal. The blonde newsreader warned of thunderstorms. The cash registers pinged, the time ticked on. People came in, people went out. Everything was ordinary. And then the power cut off. We presumed it was due to the weather; that is until five men ran in, brandishing guns like some scene from Public Enemies.
“Nobody move!” one of them shouted.
I reached under the counter, trying to find the panic button before I realised that it wasn’t going to work since the electricity was cut off.
They were already at the counters, having the tellers fill their hockey-style duffel bags with the contents of the cash registers. It felt almost surreal. There was literally nothing we could do. The phones weren’t working, the alarm wasn’t working; they were free to do as they pleased until someone could slip away and find a mobile. Mine was in the locker room. The men moved mechanically, emptying tills before moving on to the next, each of them keeping their guns pointed towards at least one person. They were smart enough to take only the register money, not the stacks standing to the side. They must have known about the dye packs.
I don’t know why I wasn’t more afraid. I stayed pretty calm, my hands not even shaking as I passed the money over, my eyes flicking up to look at the unobscured face of one of the gang. He wasn’t even disguised. You could see exactly what he looked like. He was focused intently on the task in hand, but every so often his eyes would dart over to the doors at the front and then to the clock on the wall and I knew he was wondering how long it would be before the police arrived.
“Where’s the vault, Lara?”
He’d checked my name tag.
I pointed my chin towards the door that led to the basement. “Down there.”
I walked out slowly from behind the counter, knowing that the slower I moved, the more chance there was that the police would arrive in time. I wondered if they’d been alerted yet. There was silence in the building, aside from the rustle of cash and the panicked breathing of some of the staff and customers.
I went down the stairs and into the basement.
“It’s on a time lock,” I said. “You’re not going to be able to open it.”
“Forget the time lock. Just try.”
I shook my head. “I can’t open it anyway. It’s a dual lock. You need two people who each know one of the combinations. I don’t know either.”
“Are you serious?”
He narrowed his eyes, like he was trying to tell if I was lying but then he went back upstairs and soon returned with two of the branch managers. The time lock wasn’t working. Usually if you wanted to open the vault door, you had to wait for two hours before it would let you in. It was an anti-robbery measure. The clock was mechanical, meaning the power cut shouldn’t have affected it. Only for some reason it didn’t work and when the combinations were entered the door clicked open.
As if on cue, two of the other gang members came down and started taking the cash and emptying the safe deposit boxes that filled the vault. I was amazed at how organised they were, and how easy they made it all seem. I wondered if they knew about the trackers. If they did, they didn’t seem particularly bothered. They were moving fast, taking as much as they could carry and just as I thought they might be satisfied, I heard the sirens.
“Charlie…” The two guys looked at the one who’d made me show him the vault.
“Fuck!” Apparently, they hadn’t reckoned on the police arriving this soon.
They looked at each other in a moment of indecision and then Charlie, the seeming ringleader, grabbed my arm.
“You’re coming with us.”
I wanted to protest, wanted to tell him to pick someone else but we were already going up the stairs. Through the glass doors, I could see that only one cop car had arrived but the sound of sirens was continuous and the endless blue flashes signified the impending arrival of more.
“Act scared,” Charlie whispered.
I didn’t need to act; I was
scared. Not so much of the robbers but rather of the uncertainty. I had no idea what was going to happen and it was freaking me out.
We walked out of the doors, and into the rain. There were a handful of terrified police officers there, shouting things that we couldn’t even hear over the storm. I could feel the water soaking into my clothes. I don’t think any shots were fired. The police didn’t dare shoot in case they hit the wrong person and we moved forward unhindered, towards a waiting black van. There was already a driver. The back doors were open, and the bags were thrown in before everyone got in and the doors slammed shut.
“You don’t need me anymore,” I said, but the van was already moving, speeding and lurching forward as we heard distant shots.
“Probably aiming at the tyres.”
The driving was fast and haphazard and everybody sat tight, knowing that things could so easily go wrong. In a way, I wanted them to succeed. It’s like when you watch a movie that glamourizes crime, you want the bad guys to get away with it. They seemed to have worked so hard, and yet they weren’t
going to get away with it. I knew they weren’t. There were trackers in the cash, and the police were going to follow the money and find us all.
I shouldn’t have told them. I should have sat tight and not said a word, and let them get caught. They should have gone to prison; they should have learnt that crime does not pay. But seeing them all there, so hopeful and tense, so desperate, I became one of them.
“You know, there’ll be trackers in some of this money.” I said softly, and as one they all turned to look at me.
Charlie spoke first, his voice betraying just a hint of panic. “What?”
“Tracking devices. They use low voltage transmitting microchips with transponders.”
“So they’ll be hidden in some of the packets of money. The cops can track where you’re going.”
There was silence as they all looked at Charlie for instructions.
For a minute, he screwed his eyes shut, put his head in his hands and thought about it. Then, “Take out the sealed packets. Give them to Lara. You check them,” he said to me. “If they’re clean, give them to Joe.” He nodded at one of the others, a tall, thin guy with black hair. “If you find anything, pass it to Mick. He’ll throw it out the window.”
And so it began. They started going through the bags carefully, handing me the packets of cash. I knew what the special packets looked like; we’d been trained to always be sure that robbers took them during a theft. It seemed surreal that after all the training and rigorous procedures, I was now on the other side, helping the very people I’d been taught to despise.
We worked quickly, systematically sorting through the seemingly endless packets of cash. Most of them were normal but I ended up finding twenty three separate trackers in total, all of which were hurled uncaringly out of the window.
“You’re sure that’s all of them?” Charlie asked.
They seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief as they slowly began bagging up the money again. The van drove on and in the back, we lurched from side to side, knocking into each other but five minutes after we’d finished tidying up the money, it stopped and the doors were thrown open. We were parked in the middle of a shopping centre car park, and it was fairly empty, being a rainy Friday afternoon. I figured the location meant fewer witnesses. Everyone got out, moved the bags out of the van and into the boot of a silver Range Rover before getting into the car.
There were seven of us and five seats and I ended up squashed halfway across someone’s leg as Charlie tried to squeeze in.
“Here, hold that,” he said and he handed me his sawn-off shotgun. I was too shocked to move. I just gazed at it, terrified that somehow it could go off if I moved in the slightest.
“Twelve bore Mossberg,” he said, noticing my awestruck expression. “Pump action.”
“Have you ever fired it?”
He laughed. “It’s not even loaded.”
The car started driving and he slammed his door shut.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
They were all pretty restless and the car drove fast, joining the motorway and speeding down the inside lane. Maybe I should have felt more afraid of them. They were violent bank robbers who’d taken a woman hostage while waving around (albeit unloaded) guns. They were criminals. Yet, they seemed so normal
The safe house was a ground floor flat on a leafy, suburban street. I had to admit it was a good choice. Inside, it was obviously vacant, but there were a few items of furniture that had clearly seen better days. Methodically, all the bags of loot were brought into one of the bedrooms, where the curtains were drawn and then they all finally seemed to relax.
is how you rob a bank,” Mick said and the others laughed, probably more out of sheer adrenalin than amusement.
“How much do you think there is?”
“Only one way to find out.”
They emptied the bags into a heap of cash and neatly stacked the stuff from the safety deposit boxes to one side where one of the men, a short guy with a ponytail, began examining and sorting it.
The others sat around the mountain of cash and then Charlie said, “Lara, we need you.”
I looked at him. “What for?”
Bait money was cash with sequential serial numbers that had been recorded back at the bank. It was kept especially for robberies and when it re-entered circulation, the police would hope to track it back to the thieves. Spent in small, separate transactions though, it was still good to use. We took hours sorting through the money, half afraid that they may still be a tracker somewhere. There wasn’t much bait money but checking though it all was a tall order.
Some of the guys started counting the loose cash, note by note. I could tell how much was in a wad, simply by the weight of it; so long as all the notes were of the same amount, and they all thought it was the best talent in the world. I guessed it would make the aftermath of a robbery easier, and it did. They all went off to slip out and eat, or just fall asleep in one of the other rooms, while I counted and Charlie wrote it all down.
“One hundred and thirty three thousand, seven hundred and twenty five pounds,” he finally announced. “What’s that over six?”
“About twenty two point two.”
He shot me a glance. “Twenty two? You sure?”
He looked disappointed. “It doesn’t seem like much. Not after all the risks. All the people we bribed. After expenses, it’s about twenty each.”
“Don’t forget the jewellery.”
“Scrap value.” he said. “But yeah. It’s something.”
He sighed and stretched. “Not bad for a day’s work.”
After all the rush and excitement, there was suddenly a stillness. The money lay there in uneven piles, and seeing so much made it seem worthless almost.
“How’d you cut the power off?” I asked.
“I can’t tell you that,” Charlie said with a grin.
“Okay. How’d you get around the time lock?”
“Can’t tell you that either,” he said. “God it’s hot in here.”
He went over to the window and opened it a little, the cool post-storm air bringing a damp breeze in. He pulled off his shirt and dropped it onto the floor.
I’d always imagined bank robbers to be big, scary guys with eyebrow piercings and tattoos. I did not imagine them to look like Charlie. He was seriously attractive.
“You weren’t scared,” he commented unexpectedly.
I looked at him. “I’m sorry?”
“You weren’t scared,” he repeated, turning to look me in the eye. “In the bank. Why not?”
“I… I don’t know. I guess because you came to rob us, not to hurt us.”
He didn’t say anything. He just looked at me, like he was trying to tell if I was for real.
And then, “We didn’t rob you
personally. We robbed the bank.”
I rolled my eyes and leaned back against the wall. “You mean the bank’s customers. It’s not a victimless crime, you know.”
“They’ll be reimbursed. It’s the fat cats that’ll lose out.”
“You took stuff from safe deposit boxes. People have important things in those. Jewellery.”
“So important that it’s sitting in a bank vault?” He shook his head. “Give over, Lara. We both know it’s not really that bad a crime.”
“What do you mean, ‘we both know’?”
“You didn’t even put up a fight. You just gave it to me. Why?” He came over, crouched in front of me so our faces were level. “Because it wasn’t your money. Because you don’t give a shit about the rich capitalists, just like I don’t.”
“I’m nothing like you,” I said. “Don’t kid yourself that you’ve done a good thing.”
“Wealth redistribution,” he said calmly. “They’re rich because they make poor people work for poor wages. We’re the poor people and we’re getting it back.”
“So you think you’re Robin Hood?”
He laughed, the laugh of a carefree man who’d made twenty thousand pounds in one day. “I’ll take that. Yeah, Robin Hood.”
“I’m glad it makes you happy,” I sniffed, hugging my knees to my chest.
He shot me a glance. “Why’d you tell us about the trackers? If you really thought we were doing a bad thing, you’d have wanted
us to get caught. Yet you told us. Why?”
“Because you were on our side.” he said softly, moving to sit next to me and reaching out his hand to touch mine. “And that’s not a bad thing. Face it Lara; inside you’re just like me.”
I didn’t say anything. I heard him moving around, then the flick of a lighter.
“Do you want one?”
He held out a cigarette. I put it between my lips and he reached forward, held the flame of the lighter to the end. I hadn’t smoked since I was a teenager, yet it felt oddly cathartic. I blew the smoke out, watched it rise and disappear in the small room.
“What’s your day job?” I asked.
“Planning robberies,” he said without a trace of humour in his voice.
“Do you always take hostages?”
“No. First time. We usually get out before the cops arrive. Besides you’re hardly a hostage. You’re an integral member of the team now.”
I laughed. “So if you go down, you’re taking me down with you?”
He dragged hard on his cigarette. “No. Don’t worry about that.”
I turned to look at him, saw the soft brown of his irises, the small laughter lines around his eyes. I guessed he was about thirty five. Ten years older than me. Ten years more experience.
I reached out uncertainly, traced a scar that ran from his temple to halfway down his cheek.
“Where’d you get that?” I whispered.
“Long story,” he said, and he stubbed out his barely smoked cigarette on the floor, did the same with mine and turned to look at me, some unspoken emotion flitting across his face.
Then we were kissing, his mouth on mine, lips hard and urgent. I felt his hands find my waist, his tongue dart into my mouth and all I could think of was how beautifully wrong it all felt. I ran my hands through his hair and tugged a little, hearing him groan somewhere deep in his throat.
“It’s been so long,” he murmured.
I felt his hand move fast, pulling my blouse out of the waistband of my skirt and creeping beneath, up over my ribcage to touch my breast, his fingertips digging into it almost painfully. His rough movements felt wild and almost desperate. He moved in front of me, his fingers working quickly and carefully to undo my buttons, before moving underneath my skirt to trace a path up my leg.
I’d never done anything quite so impulsive before, yet feeling him exhale against my neck, and hearing his increased rate of breathing made me want to please him. I felt almost flattered that he wanted me. I didn’t tell him to stop even though I knew I shouldn’t be doing it. The rational side of me knew that this would be a one time fuck and I’d probably never see him again, yet I didn’t care. I wanted to feel his skin on mine, to taste the sweat on his collarbone.
His finger curled around the base of my underwear, pulling it aside and I heard his sharp intake of breath as he felt how wet I was. I reach forward to fumble with his belt, pulling it free from the buckle before setting to work on his jeans. I could feel his erection pressing against the stiff denim and it made my stomach squirm in the most delicious way.
His fingers were rubbing my clit, making me lift my ass off the floor and press against him, my skirt pushed up around my waist. I hadn’t been with a man for so long, simply because I was always so insecure. But right then, I felt completely sure of myself. His finger eased inside me, testing how tight I was and I felt him swallow hard, his Adam’s apple moving beneath my lips.
“You want it?” he murmured, and his finger moved slowly in and out of me.
“Rhetorical question, right?”
I heard him laugh under his breath, and then he wrapped his hand around his cock, letting the head brush against my clit. I reached down, guided his hand towards where it needed to go and felt him finally press against my slick entrance. He pushed in slowly, like he was afraid of hurting me, but once he was in, he seemed to relax.
We were both breathing hard, and I opened my eyes to see him watching me. His hands reached down to grasp my hips and he began moving in and out, picking up speed with each thrust. I clenched my fists hard, fingernails digging into my palms but the pain was nothing compared to the feeling of finally being fucked. He slammed in and out of my pussy, his breath coming out in pants and growls, his face beginning to sweat.
I clenched instinctively around him, each time he thrust deep into me, as if trying to hold him there and I knew it was getting to him because his breaths were becoming shorter and his hands gripped tighter to my hips. It felt amazing. I didn’t want it to ever end, I wanted to stay there, half-lying on the hardwood floor, not even properly undressed as he slammed in and out of me, taking me closer and closer to the edge.
“That – feels – too – good…” I gasped, and his mouth fell open as I clenched hard around him.
“You’re gonna make me come,” he gasped. “If you keep doing that, Lara, I swear I’m gonna come.”
I couldn’t help it, and hearing him say my name only made it even hotter. I couldn’t hold back anymore. I came suddenly, my pussy clenching hard around his hard cock, holding it there for a precious few seconds as hot, liquid pleasure coursed through my body. He thrust in a couple more times, holding off, before he finally came too, spurting deep inside me, his eyes screwing shut, and his weight pressing me down onto the floor.
We were both breathing hard, and neither of us spoke for a few minutes. I ran my fingers absently through his hair, my pussy still spasming a little, as if I need to be reminded of the mind-blowing sex.
“So when do I get to go home?” I finally asked, knowing it was going to happen, and yet not wanting it to.
He looked up at me, vaguely guilty for a second. “You want to go home?”
“Well, yeah. Kinda. Why?”
He eased himself off my body, straightening out his jeans. “Thing is, I still need you.”
I slowly began to button up my blouse, frowning at him. “What? Why?”
He sighed. “Well we can’t hide out here forever. Tomorrow morning we’re splitting up, heading separate ways. Now, they’ll be looking for six men with large bags. They will not be looking for a guy and a girl with a small suitcase. We could go to France.”
I sighed. “Is it really that easy? I mean, why can’t I just go home?”
“You took the trackers out. You showed me the vault. They’ll think you were the inside man. Or, woman,” he added with a small smile.
“I was under duress, as it happens.”
“Tell that to the cops. Seriously, Lara, you’re better off sticking around with me.” He grinned. “Besides, nobody counts money like you do.”
“But I’m a good girl. I can’t be running around with a bank robber. Have you even heard how ridiculous that sounds?”
He laughed, grabbed my hand, and looked me in the eye. “Let’s think this through. You go back now and they’ll wonder why we didn’t even hurt you. They’ll wonder how we knew about the trackers. They’ll question you for hours on end. They might even say you were part of it, just because they want to show they’ve achieved something. You’ll lose your job, whether or not you get locked up. You’ll have a criminal record.”
“Well, yeah. On the other hand, you stick around with me, and keep your life. You’ll have money, a good-looking guy who’ll always have your back and a bunch of loyal friends. If we get caught, I’ll tell them you had nothing to do with it. You’ll be home free.”
“You think you’re going to get caught?”
He smiled. “No. No chance.”
“But you’ll be hiding for your entire life.”
“No. They don’t know it’s me. I’m a good guy, clean record. In a few weeks, they’ll have stopped looking. Be smart about this Lara.”
I thought about it. The way he said it made his idea seem like the right one. The last few hours had been the most exciting of my entire life. Excitement, fear, adrenalin and of course, the sex. If Charlie hadn’t come into my life, I would still be working at the bank, stamping deposit books and printing out summary statements. I didn’t want to go back to that life.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll stick around.”
He smiled, a real smile that met his eyes, and handed me a fresh cigarette.
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