Authors: Carrie Aarons
© 2016 by Carrie Aarons
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Cover created by Shanoff Formats.
Editing done by Proofing Style.
or my family
. Thank you for accepting every part of me.
hen you're staring
down the barrel of a gun, in hindsight, you should have listened to the feeling in your gut that told you to go back to bed this morning.
o one ever listens to
their gut when they need to most.
God or science or whoever put us on this planet instilled this intangible feeling, this all-knowing sense inside of our bodies to alert us to danger or heartbreak or misery. And we choose to ignore it, almost every single time.
Take the time I got detention after Jillian Roberts cheated off of me in algebra sophomore year of high school. I knew she was copying my answers, that she was using me to pass a subject that should have been so easy if she wasn’t trying to snag the boy who sat next to her. I knew it was wrong. Deep down in the pit of my stomach I felt that tiny kernel of shame and fear wrapped together.
But I ignored it. I chose to believe that the most popular girl at Conestoga High School really
want to be my friend. Until two weeks later, when our teacher caught us both and I ended up with my first and only trip to detention.
And then there was this morning. As I opened my eyes, I felt the watermelon-sized instinct lodged in my torso, telling me to stay in bed.
But I didn’t listen. Instead I got up, turned on the coffee pot to brew as I took my typical four-minute shower. Brushed my shoulder length chestnut hair and swiped mascara over my lashes. I swallowed the nausea in my gut as I toed into my conservative tan heels and buttoned the maroon blazer that matched the skirt flirting with my kneecaps.
And then I left, driving my boring Toyota Camry to my average bank job in a subpar city. If Lancaster, Pennsylvania could even be considered a city.
This Monday morning started off like any other. I was the first one in at seven a.m., an hour and a half before the bank even opened. Even before the tellers.
Yes, I am the person all of my coworkers whisper about, the do-gooder they talk about over lunches I am never invited to. I know what they call me.
Maybe I am those things. But you don’t forget what was drilled into you from a young age. My body and mind won’t allow for anything besides one hundred percent. So that is what I give. All of the time. Even when I feel like breaking down or giving up.
I’m the one who opens the doors, turns on the lights, boots everything up. I make sure nothing is out of place, that when those first customers walk through our doors, they are met by a friendly, professional atmosphere. Even if they aren’t greeted by me specifically.
As a credit analyst, I am hidden on the second floor. Away from any regular customers or personal interactions. I sit in my cubicle, cozy with my numbers and figures and spreadsheets. I crunch calculations, manage risk. I decide whether the person asking our bank for money deserves it, or if they won’t get the help they need.
I’m not the person who gets distracted. I don’t daydream or fantasize.
So it makes no sense why I paused
morning. Why I left the front doors unlocked, when I usually secure them behind me, closed until the tellers use their keys in an hour. It doesn’t explain why I wandered over to one of the leather chairs lined up for waiting customers. There is no reason I should be sitting in the vestibule of the bank for who-knows-how-long when a hooded figure crashes through its doors.
The only thing I can blame is my gut. And myself. For totally and completely not listening to it.
“Give me the money …” The gravely voice interrupts my out-of-character daze.
I glance over at the figure, still not all there in my brain. One second, two seconds. Time feels slow, like I’m trying to blink through molasses. And then the world rushes up at me, the fear I should have felt more than a beat ago flooding my chest, making my heart slam into my ribcage.
I’m alone in here. Completely alone. The streets outside are desolate; no one starts work in this sleepy downtown until around nine a.m. I stand up, my legs feeling more steady than the rest of my body. The man, or the figure I assume is a man, is only about twenty feet from me. He’s tall, his structure hidden beneath the baggy black clothing he wears. His face is hidden from the hood pulled over to disguise his features. And he’s swaying as if the floor is tilting beneath him.
If I can just get around the corner to the elevator bank … or the stairwell. My heel scuffs on the floor as I move an inch, the sound reverberating through the empty building.
“Don’t fucking move!” That voice again, louder and clearer this time. Something familiar … “Get behind that counter and give me the money!”
I haven’t directly looked at him yet; the fear of seeing him just out of the corner of my eye was too big. But now I give him my full stare. And it’s as if all of the oxygen goes out of the room. Like my lungs and all of my organs are shutting down, internal alarm bells whirring louder than the sound of an ambulance cutting through the night.
Because it’s not the man that causes me to choke out a sob and move behind the tellers counter. It’s the glint of the silver handgun he’s shakily pointing in my direction, his finger floating dangerously close to the trigger.
“Okay! Okay … I’ll give you whatever you want, just please …” I can feel the tears in my throat as I try to collect myself.
The computer I wake up glows red in my face, prompting me to sign in. My mind blanks, seeing nothing but that trembling gun pointed at my face.
What is my username?
I type the letters in, C-M-O-R-S-E-Y. My first initial and last name. Okay good. Now my password—
“Hurry the fuck up …” The man growls, and my eyes shoot up to see him slam the gun down twice on the counter before bringing it back up to my eye level.
I can’t die today. I haven’t even lived.
The thought is the only thing at the forefront of my brain as I try to remember my password. I just changed it. Damn it, but what is it?
My hands start to sweat as I type something out, hit backspace once, and then twice. I remember the panic button underneath the desk, but forget where it is. He will see me, I’ll fumble it. My mind is going a thousand miles a minute, I—
“Jesus Christ! Give me the money or I’ll fucking shoot you!”
Everything freezes. My hands, my body, my mind. The only thing that moves is my neck, bringing my head up to look at him. Really look. Past the gun pointed between my eyes. Through the shadows of his black hooded sweatshirt.
And that’s when I see them. The chocolate brown curls poking up past the brim of the hood. Deep within the folds of the clothes I see the long, faded silver scar running across the left side of his jaw. I hear the words again, roll them over in my brain. The phrase, the tone. The way he snarled as he said “Jesus Christ.” The same way he used to say it every day after CCD when we were nine-years-old.
“Tucker?” The word comes out of my mouth without my permission, a half-gasp, half-question.
The man staggers backwards, as if I’ve struck him. Like the name I spat out was venomous. “What the fuck?! Don’t … don’t talk to me!”
I ignore him, the fear that had capsized my heart suddenly disappearing. It’s probably foolish, but I’m not afraid.
“Tucker, it’s me, Charlotte. Charlotte Morsey.”
And now that he has backed up under a beam of light, I can see him better. Tall. Tucker Lynch had always been tall to me. The same mocha-colored curls, always a little too long. Even his hands, still wrapped around the weapon that could put a bullet in my head in a second. Everything about him is so familiar to me. I’d spent years memorizing it all.
I lean over the counter, cocky in my confidence that he won’t hurt me now that I’d said my name. I stare into the darkness under the hood until I can make out his eyes. Those dark, dark eyes. Almost black in their color. Eyes that used to melt me, that used to be the windows to all of his feelings. I could see every emotion through Tucker’s eyes, even when he’d put up a wall to everyone else.
But now I can’t see a thing. Those beautiful eyes, the ones I’d once considered mine, are glassy. Bloodshot. He looks crazed under the shadow of his clothing. Unhinged. Unsafe.
“God fucking dammit!” Tucker waves the gun around wildly as he runs his right hand over his face. “Of all the banks in the fucking world … FUCK!”
“It’s okay … please, Tucker. You can just leave now, I won’t do anything …”
I need to calm him down, or get help, or
. He isn’t acting normally; he isn’t in the right state of mind. I remember my mother mentioning something about him to me a few months back. Only now was I wishing I had actually listened to something she said.
“Oh I can just walk out, huh? You won’t go blabbing to anyone? From what I remember about you, Char, you always were a little goody-two-shoes!”
He waves the gun in my direction again, and still the fear doesn’t come. I should be afraid; I should be calling for help. But I just don’t. Can’t.
Suddenly he straightens, gripping the gun in both of his shaky hands. “Get me all of the fucking money in this bank, right now. Or I promise Char, I’ll blow your brains out.”
. Bright light.
Rolling nausea. Need a fix. Need one now.
Is that whimpering?
Clarity comes back and I grip onto it for dear life. I know consciously that I’m going through withdrawal, but my body refuses to accept it. If I could concentrate for just one second …
“… Will be here soon. I’m trying, please can you just put the gun down? I can’t … I can’t concentrate …”
The woman in front of me has tears staining her pale cheeks, the tremor in her voice letting on just how scared she is. That’s when I register the gun I’m aiming at her face. Jesus Christ. What the fuck?
I stumbled into this bank because the lights were on, and it looked empty. What bank would be fucking stupid enough to leave the door open? I didn’t know, but I wasn’t going to press my luck by refusing the gift the world had just given me.
I was fucking hungry and cold after sleeping on a park bench. Who knows how I got there, though. All I knew was that I needed heroin. And to get heroin, I needed money. Which I was all but out of. So imagine my surprise when little baby Jesus himself put a free and clear bank right in my path.
Free and clear my ass.
Of course someone had been here. And that someone was a girl, well … a woman now, I hadn’t seen in … fuck. Five years? Maybe longer?
“Ughhh …” I don’t notice that the guttural yelp comes from my own lips until I look up and Char Morsey is staring at me.
The stabbing pain in my temples and arms has radiated out, infecting every pore and follicle. It feels like my skin, organs, and blood are revolting against me. I need a fix, and fast.
“Hurry up!” I shout at Char.
She whimpers a bit, like an injured dog trying to escape. I don’t know what to fucking do. Anyone, out of anyone in this fucking world it had to be her sitting in this bank alone? Anyone else I would have stabbed, punched, shot … but not her. My traitorous hands won’t allow it.
“Tucker, please …” Her voice is thin as she begs. “The tellers will be in soon. I can’t, I can’t do this. You can go, you can get away. No one will know!”
Again, this pleading shit. I wasn’t leaving here until she gave me money. “Then I guess you better work fast.”
I can feel my clarity slipping, the defined view on the world cascading down. My feet slip again, like I’m standing on a seesaw. Char flips her head back down, a concerned expression marking her pale face. Her light brown hair, shorter than the last time I saw her, flips with the motion and I catch it. The scent I’ve always associated with Char. Daisies and fresh grass and my childhood.
My resolve wavers for a minute, just one second, and I’m about to turn and leave. But then there is a noise, the hinges of an opening door somewhere within the building.
“Shit!” I whisper to myself, my disintegrating brain trying to come up with a plan fast.
“I’m in,” Char talks to the computer screen, not me.
Footsteps somewhere above have me jumping towards the counter. “Good, give it to me. All of it.”
Char begins to throw piles of money at me. Neatly stacked, wrapped money. I’m practically drooling with hunger and the need to get high.
It’s only as I’m stuffing the money down my shirt, in my pockets—wherever I can store it—that I realize this is all on camera. That the minute I leave here, she’ll call the police, and they’ll track me down.
So I make a decision. My coordination is off, my functionality fading fast. I can’t make a clean getaway, not in this state. So if I have a driver, I’ll be much better off. And if that driver is the very person who could pin this robbery on me … even better.
“Put the rest in your purse.” I motion to the expensive looking bag lying next to her on the desk. I bet I could sell that for a piece.
“What?” Char looks at me, her odd eyes questioning the request. I could make out the ring of yellow between her pupil and dark brown iris.
My back and hands are dripping with sweat; the moment and the adrenaline filling my system are going to cause me to crash hard soon.
I hold the gun as steady as I can, lean over, and press it to the center of her forehead. “Put the rest of the fucking money in your purse. You try to run? I shoot you. You try to scream? I shoot you.”
She does as I say, her whole body shaking as she stuffs the bills into her purse. I don’t even think she’s breathing as I ram the cold metal against her skull. The footsteps sound from somewhere on the floor we’re on, the vibrations from the woman’s heels echoing through the hallway she’s walking down.
“Let’s go—now!” My voice is quiet but deadly. Char knows not to disobey. Especially when I hold her life in my hands.
She comes around the counter awkwardly, her posture stiff and on guard.
I wave to her to come here, and when she’s close enough I grab her arm. Hard. I feel her wince and spasm as the pain shoots up her arm. Good. She knows who is fucking in charge.
My vision blurs and it feels like my lungs are dryer than the fucking Sahara. I need to shoot up right now.
“Where is your car?” My lips are so close to her ear, the gun pressed hard against her tailbone as I push her forward.
I see the flash of light catch on the tears coming down her face as she walks quickly toward what looks like the back door. And then we’re out in the parking lot, the time of day still so early that we don’t come across another soul as we cross to a newer looking white Camry.
“Unlock it, Char,” I growl at her when she fumbles with the keys.
She takes a deep breath, steadying her hands and finally hitting the unlock button. I almost ask her to drive, what with my internal system crashing worse than an outdated hard drive. But I know better, even in this state. I need to drive over to TJ’s, get my fix. And then I need to get the fuck out of here. Miss Priss isn’t going to get in my way.
I walk her to the passenger side and force her in. Once she’s seated, I get down low, up in her face so she has to look at me.
“Give me your phone.
.” She immediately hands the iPhone over. I take no time tossing it to the ground and stomping it with the heel of my boot. “Good. Now I’m going to get in the driver’s side. If you lock the doors, scream, or try to run in the time it takes me to get over there, don’t worry, I’ll just put a bullet in you.”
She blinks once, the astonishment and sheer dread on her face tells me I should have nothing to worry about.
And I don’t. Char is a good girl, was always great at following directions. Which is why I get into the driver’s seat no problem, and in no time, I am on my way across town to TJ and an eight ball.
I smile, the expression feeling strange on my face. I just pulled off a robbery and a kidnapping, and no one is the wiser.