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The Scheming Bandits

The Scheming Bandits

by Kynan Patram

With his rusted out car idling in front of the bank, Ralph reached over Nathan’s lap and withdrew a handgun from the glove box. He weighed it in his hand, then aimed it at his feet and looked down the barrel with one eye closed. Nathan watched, but could picture nothing but himself sitting in a cramped jail cell wearing an orange jumpsuit.

“Are you sure about this?” he mumbled, cupping his hands together and wringing them as he glanced over his shoulder to see a car whiz by, before turning his gaze onto the passersby walking down the sidewalk leading up to the bank’s entrance.

“You want to get to France, don’t you?” Ralph said, confidently pulling a magazine clip from his jacket pocket and sliding it up the gun’s handle with a hoofed palm. It clicked into place.

Nathan grimaced, eyeing the gun, and noting his pulse quicken. “Well, yeah. Of course I do. You know that. But–”

“But what?” Ralph grunted through the side of his mouth, turning the gun over in his hand.

“Well, I was just wondering if maybe there wasn’t a better way, is all. You know, a safer one.”

“Look,” said Ralph, resting the gun in his lap and turning to face Nathan for the first time since they’d parked, “we have less than twenty-four hours to make the claim, right?” He held up a finger.

Nathan nodded.

“We’re broke,” said Ralph, holding up two fingers.

Nathan nodded again.

“We need to get to France and claim the money within twenty-four hours,” Ralph said, holding up three fingers. “How the hell else are we supposed to come up with the money to get there, huh?”

Nathan thought about this for several moments. Images of endless interviews and more dead-end jobs filled his mind. Finally, he clapped his hands together. “I know. What about Aunt Sue? She’s the only one we haven’t asked yet.”

Ralph cursed loudly. “Are you kidding me?” He glared at Nathan. “You think she could lend us a couple thousand, huh? She’s probably broker than we are, for Christ’s sake.” He relaxed his eyes and rolled his head back over his neck with a crack. “With our sh-tty credit, this is the only way, man. It’ll be a quick in and out. No problem. Think about it. Then all our troubles are over. We can make it to France in time to claim the money and it’ll be smooth sailing from there on out. No more worries, man.”

Nathan’s mind raced over the possible worst case scenarios: the cops showing up, a shoot-out, an arrest, a holding cell, court appearances, then prison – or perhaps even a slow, painful death. Who knew? He sighed. “But what about security?”

“What about it?” Ralph snapped, reaching into the backseat to retrieve two black ski masks.

“How long do you think it’ll take for the cops to show up?”

Ralph laughed as he straightened out the masks over his thighs. “You worry too much, you know that? We’ll have plenty of time. Trust me.” He handed Nathan a mask, before sliding the other one over his head and adjusting it around his eyes. He looked at Nathan through the eyeholes. “Well, aren’t you gonna put it on?”

Nathan shook his head. “I don’t know about this. It’s not worth it.”

“Scared of getting caught, huh?” Ralph spat through the mouth hole of his mask. “Armed robbery, sure. That’s a few years in jail.” He nodded. “I know that.” Looking in the windshield mirror, he tucked the edges of the mask into his collar. “And trust me. I don’t want to go back there either. But I’m willing to take the risk. When there’s this much to gain, you can be damn sure of it!” He paused, his eyes sliding over to meet Nathan’s. “Aren’t you?”

“Well, the thing is –”

“A couple years in jail compared to the millions that are waiting for us in Paris?” Ralph interrupted as he picked up his handgun and cocked it back. “That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

“Yeah, but –”

“Jasmine,” Ralph cut in, snapping his fingers together. “No, wait. Isabelle – right?”

Nathan felt his shoulders droop. “Samantha,” he said in a lowered, lifeless voice.

“Right. Samantha. Isn’t risking a couple years in jail worth buying her some nice things, taking her out to fancy dinners, maybe traveling the world together and staying at luxurious resorts? Don’t you think she’ll like that?” He shrugged. “Sh-t man, she’ll be so happy she’ll forgive you. For everything. The argument at the theater, that time you stood her up, even for that blonde chick, whatever her name was. Everything!”

Nathan raised an eyebrow as he threw Ralph a sideways glance. “You really think so?”

“Yeah, man. Absolutely! It’ll be water under the bridge. Trust me. Remember how things went with Stacey?”

Nathan nodded, biting his lip.

“And you saw her afterwards, right? I mean, after I was loaded with cash. Remember that? She was putty in my hands. All her grudges, they melted away, man. Vanished.” He formed the tips of his fingers into a teepee, touched them to his lips, and then pulled them away from his mouth, letting his fingers splay apart like an explosion. “Poof!”

Nathan buried himself in thought, staring at the mask clutched in his hands. He turned it over several times, recalling all the fond memories he’d had with Samantha. Could he really have them again?

“She’ll fall in love with you all over again,” Ralph added. “I can guarantee it. Chicks are like that. Just think about how Stacey was. It’ll be the same for Samantha, man! Trust me. I promise you.”

Nathan’s heart jumped. Suddenly, he believed it. He felt it in his gut. Ralph was speaking the truth. As if he’d been shocked, he almost automatically pulled the mask over his face and yanked out the pistol wedged in his belt.

“Atta boy!” said Ralph, slapping Nathan’s back with a firm hand. “You ready, buddy?”

Nathan turned to Ralph and nodded, his eyes narrowed.

“Alright then, let’s do this thing!” Ralph said as he opened the door and stepped out onto the curb.

All Nathan could think about was Samantha’s naked body spread out on a bed, tangled up in its silky sheets, a cool Caribbean breeze sweeping through his hair as he approached her with two martinis in his hand.


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