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Guest Chris Sirn

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Guest Chris Sirn

The man was about to rob a bank for the first time. He pulled into the lot and parked his car, then sat there for several minutes. He turned up the music—rap and heavy metal—trying to psych himself up and remain focused. He bobbed his head to the adrenaline-inducing, mind-blowing sounds; his windows open; sweet spring air brushing his face on this beautiful afternoon.

A girl came out of Lebanon Citizens National Bank and crossed the lot without checking for traffic. Jon pulled a pistol out of his paper bag and looked at it. Chamber loaded, safety off. He thought about his ex-wife. She had left him about a year ago, after they'd been married for two years. Jon considered himself a good guy, maybe even a typical "nice guy," and his wife had left him for another man. This man was the typical "bad boy" type, and from what Jon had heard, the two of them had spent many nights partying hard, drinking alcohol... and there were rumors of drugs, too. Jon, on the other hand, swore he would never marry again.

Several months ago, Rebecca returned to his front door one night, a different woman. She was a picture of destitution: She wore no shoes or socks in spite of the weather, she had no jacket, her make-up was a mess. Her hair had seen better days. And she held a baby. She told him a sob story about the hell Rick had put her through, how she was sorry for what she had done to Jon, and although she wasn't trying to start a relationship, she wanted to know if she could please live with him for a month until she found a job. "Even my mother turned me out," she said. He reluctantly agreed, but inside, he felt a weight lifting off his heart.

Months went by, and Rebecca never found a job. Furthermore, he suspected she was seeing Rick again... or, as his friends might have said if Jon had let anyone in on "the secret," she had never stopped seeing Rick at all. Cans of food disappeared from his cupboard. Toothpaste went down remarkably fast. Money went missing from his bedroom, only to reappear weeks later on his desk. Meanwhile, Jon prayed Rebecca would go back to her old self. He prayed she hadn't been sucked into the drug trade, although the dark smudges around her eyes suggested otherwise. He prayed she and Rick weren't playing him for a fool, even if it was a matter of survival. "I'm through with that scumbag," she said that snowy night, and although he was suspicious, he couldn't shut the door on an innocent child.

Time went by. Things went from bad to worse. Jon went through all his savings and began racking up credit card debt. Rebecca stayed out even later on weekend nights, showing up hung over the next morning, disappearing for days at a time. She started telling Jon what to do and yelling at him for talking back. And when the fights escalated to the point where he almost kicked her out, she would cry and say how sorry she was, how she appreciated him so much for taking care of her and Michael, how blessed she was that Jon even existed. And eventually Jon would cave.

Things went on like that until one day it reached its climax. During the past few weeks, Jon had been debating on what to do about Rebecca. He'd had enough. She had turned his life into a living hell. It was now obvious she had been seeing Rick all along, the stories of her late-night partying were the talk of town, and, worst of all, he became suspicious she and Rick were conducting drug deals in Jon's apartment. One night, Jon came home early from work. It was April 1st. He pulled into his apartment complex and saw police cars parked in his lot. A neighbor had called the cops to report "suspicious activity." Jon headed up the walk to his home, feeling the sinking in his chest he only felt when he discovered something horrible about Rebecca.

Inside, his apartment looked like the scene of a crime. Yellow tape walled off his bedroom. Police walked around with great urgency. One of the cops—a portly man named Buck Gentlings—gave Jon the bad news. Once he was finished, Jon locked himself in his bathroom with the intent to kill himself, but he just sat there and cried.

All this happened several weeks ago. It would be safe to assume that Rebecca was no longer living with him, but his finances and credit were a ruin, he was facing eviction, and worst of all, his parents were about to retire, neither having saved a dime for retirement. They called him the other day, asking if they could please move in with him, not knowing of his recent misadventures with his ex-wife. Jon had not returned their calls.

And that brought him to this beauty of an April afternoon. He chose this day because this town was a college town, and this week was spring break. Today was the last day of spring break, meaning it was his last chance to pull a heist while the traffic wasn't congested. Ten minutes had gone by since he shifted his gear into PARK and cranked up the music. A good song started playing, and he cranked the volume up even more.

He rocked back and forth, probably looking like a mental patient to that old lady walking down the street. He didn't care. Now was his moment. He would charge the bank as soon as the song ended. Above his window, a bird chirped optimistically.

He opened his wallet. A picture of his wife from their younger years stared up at him, before she had turned into whatever it was she had turned into, and boy if his friends knew he had it, they would kick his ass. Jon put that thing away; now was no time for tears. He had to remain strong. Focused. He wasn't as wimpy as everyone thought. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, a moderate-to-successful bodybuilder in a Metallica shirt, his behavior becoming more irrational. He considered drinking a can of Budweiser to take the edge off his nerves, but then the song quit and he decided not to. He still got sick off one beer. He skipped to the next track, turned the car off (he wanted the song ready when he returned from the job), then got out of his car.


Jon entered LCNB. The bank was empty and closing early for Easter weekend, but a young girl still worked behind the counter. He had been to this bank several times (mostly to cash change so he could buy something to eat) but had never learned this pretty young teller's name. She was looking around but didn't see the masked man coming towards her. Jon pulled his gun out. This would happen fast.

He approached the counter. She still had her slender back turned to him, humming a slow and lovely tune. A plaque on the counter read: Hi! My name's Julie! I love dogs, my favorite color is blue, my favorite movie is Jerry McGuire, I graduated with a degree in English from Florida State, and I'm having a baby later this year. If you need anything, please ask!!! Below this was a hand-drawn smiling sun, and a patch of flowers, sketched in different colors.

Julie continued humming, picked up a cup of coffee, took a sip, turned around. The expression of dawning horror on her face would haunt Jon for the rest of his life.

"Don't scream," he said, pointing the gun. "I need five thousand dollars." He tossed a garbage bag onto the counter. 

"You can't do this," she whispered.

"Anyone here besides you?"

"No. I mean, yes. My supervisor. Rick. He's in the next room."

"Get moving."

"Alright. But I don't know if we have that much..."

The clock on the wall ticked deeper into the eerie afternoon silence, adding weight to an atmosphere Jon felt all too well. Julie opened the register and began stuffing cash into the bag, and oh no, she was crying. But Jon couldn't take his eye off her...except to look at that door that could burst open any time. She just finished filling the bag when a voice said: "Stop."

He turned around. A tall man in a cowboy hat stood in the entrance. A customer. Jon aimed his gun and said, "Get against the wall," then he waited to see what this man would do.


Things got worse.

Five thousand dollars! After the teller filled the third bag, Jon was satisfied. But she was terrified now; in a way, she reminded him of Rebecca when he first met her. Sweet. Open. Ignorant. She looked different from his ex-wife, yet her uniqueness reminded him of Rebecca just the same. He remembered when he started courting her, how they used to take long walks at Indian Creek Ridge before the state went bankrupt and had to shut it down. "Do you think we might own a house in Connecticut someday, Johnny?" she asked, the only time someone had called him Johnny since he was a child. She was beautiful in her plaid shirt, holding his hand. He looked into her bright, hopeful eyes and told her yes they would. What she saw in his own face must have convinced her, because she lit up like a Christmas tree and began rambling about the kids they were going to have, and how she'd researched the schools in Connecticut, and did he think such-and-such was too much to send Joshua and Biden (she had already picked out names for their kids) to one of the nicer schools? Jon gave all the appropriate affirmatives, but inside he had a different conversation with Rebecca. I'll provide you with everything you want, if you'll just tell me yes when the time comes. He fumbled with the engagement ring in his pocket. In the distance, thunder rumbled.

He returned to reality and saw the bank teller staring at him. "Excuse me?" he asked.

"I said, now what?"

"I'm sorry to put you through this. I'm not a bad guy."

"Take your damn money and go!" Rick shouted at the ground. At this point, Rick the manager, the first customer, and three other customers, one of them a child, laid face-down on the floor with their hands over their heads, but that didn't stop the loudmouth of the group. "Leave her alone and go away! She never did anything to you!"

Outside, the police arrived. Jon didn't hear them. A customer had seen what was going down and called 911. The cops drew their guns, trying to hold back their emotions beneath an air of professionalism. A TV news crew would be here any moment and then all hell would break loose. They would make certain this show was over in the next minute.

Meanwhile, Jon winced as he looked at the girl. He thought about the hurt, the murderous rage that was so unlike him. He saw the suppressed judgment in her eyes, so quiet, and he wanted to erase it forever with his gun. He remembered Rebecca on their wedding day. He remembered her on the day she asked him for a divorce, Jon standing in his bedroom, as vulnerable as a child who's being screamed at by a parent. Most of all, he remembered coming home from work that dreadful day and finding the police cars at his apartment, finding the cops in his home. The officer had pulled him aside so he could brace Jon for the bad news: his ex-wife had committed suicide in his bedroom and left him a note. After he spent a good ten minutes composing himself in the bathroom, the only thing stopping him from following in her footsteps was his curiosity about what the note said. And so he got the letter from the officer, and Jon read the following:


I held on long enough so you could have at least one of the children I promised you. Please take good care of him. I hope you someday buy that home in the suburbs of Connecticut, and I hope it's everything you've dreamed of. I'm sorry I can't be there with you to enjoy it, but you're a good man, and you'll make friends fast. Please tell the kid how sorry I am when he's old enough to understand. Love Rebecca.

Ps. I'm sorry I made such a mess.

He pulled the hammer back with a soft click-click. "Run," he told the bank teller. "Now. While you have the chance."

Outside, a SWAT team member said into his phone, "I've got a clear shot. Should I take it?" The phone babbled back an order.

Inside, Julie stared at him with a dumbfound expression, not realizing how close she was to joining Becky Thomson on the other side of the darkness. In the corner of the room, a TV with the volume off reported that heart disease was the top killer of men in their thirties. If Jon had looked at the TV, he might have seen the SWAT team member known as "Eddie the Bounty Hunter" standing at the bank's glass door in the screen's tiny reflection. But, unfortunately for everyone, he saw no such thing, or else the situation might have played out differently.

Edward fired the first shot that deafened the bank's awkward silence, shattering the windowpane into a million little pieces.

Across the street, the old lady Jon had scared while she walked down 5th Avenue heard the bang loud and clear, and she called the police on the cell phone her grandchild had given her for her fortieth wedding anniversary, and when the receptionist came on, she told her about the gunfire she'd just heard. The receptionist tried to calm her down, but Gertrude began rambling about an infamous motorcycle gang that came to this town in the 1950s, when this town was barely a dot on a map. Her own grandpa had witnessed the whole thing, the legendary bloodshed that resulted at the Smoking Ox Tavern where the new LCNB bank was located, and how the Flaming Skull gang had gotten away and were never caught, and did the receptionist think the descendants of this gang of killers were back in town to finish the job? The receptionist assured her this was hardly possible, but then the following gunshots rang out like dinner bells. Gertrude screamed.

Inside the bank, the bullet struck Jon's arm, the one holding the gun, and pain shot through his body like lightning. Outside, the wind tried desperately to talk. Julie screamed at the blood. Jon screamed too, but his was the scream of a madman, stunning even the sniper. He turned around and fired randomly into the room. The hostages jumped to their feet as if to say screw this, then they ran for the door, blocking the sniper's view. Jon shot at them. He blew the cowboy's hat off like Clint Eastwood in an old western, but his second bullet hit Rick in the spine. Rick fell to his knees with his hands in the air as if to say Halleluiah!, and suddenly Julie was beside Jon, screaming Stop it as she wrestled for his gun.

"Let go of me, Rebecca!" he yelled back, then cracked up at his own joke. The plaque on the counter with Julie's character description slid off onto the floor and broke in half. During the struggle, Jon fired the gun at the crowd outside, and someone cried in pain. The TV news crew pulled into the parking lot just then, taking the curve so hard the van was up on two wheels, and above his head Jon heard a helicopter swooping down: But was it real or imagined?

"HA HA HA HA!" Jon laughed as they danced together. Julie flushed with rage, crying at the same time. "Get outta the damn way!" someone shouted from outside. Jon began to push Rebecca against the nearest wall as she screamed No I won't let you hurt anyone else and Jon knew she would never escape him. He pinned her against the wall as a nearby painting—a prize winning piece of local art—fell off its hook and scraped the side of her shoulder. He laughed in her face again, this time without smiling. She kneed him in the crotch several times, but it wasn't enough to stop him.

"I said get out of the way," said the voice, then Jon turned and saw the cowboy standing in the entrance again. He had a .44 Magnum. Someone said No you'll hit the girl and Jon had time to say Oomph then he took two bullets to the stomach and another to the chest as he fell to the floor, grabbing the woman's ankle as she tried to run. He said: "You can't get away, Rebecca."

"Let go, you monster!" she said, then the sharpshooter fired another shot. This time he didn't miss.

Julie stumbled away, sobbing, then fell to the floor and wailed like a child throwing a tantrum. The news crew caught the whole thing on video, but they didn't play the clip on the evening news.

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