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Aaron Rowley
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bonnieclyde.jpg
Art by Lonni Lees 2010

 

Bonnie & Clyde

 

Aaron Rowley

 

 

          Growing up, my favorite movies were the ones where they pull some sort of heist.  I didn’t care if they got away with it or if the guy got gunned down. It wasn’t about the money. Yeah, it would be nice to live in Rio on a huge pile of cash, but that wasn’t the point.

 

          When I was little, I had an answer ready when people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always knew the answer. I wanted to become a bank robber. I wanted to be John Dillinger.

 

          When I was in high school, my older brother Chris joined the police department.  He took me on a ride-along every month. I was so excited to get inside the minds of cops, to figure out what I was up against.

 

          Then reality set in. Cops weren’t geniuses hunting crafty serial killers. The truth was more mundane. Chris was the same idiot he’d always been. The detectives were nice enough guys but they weren’t Columbo. The guys they were after were just the same jackasses I’d known my whole life. The cops would pick up a guy down the street for getting in a fight with some other fat guy at a bar. They weren’t scary sociopaths, they were just people.

 

          Reality was more like Cops than The Thomas Crown Affair. It was just a bunch of high school dropouts chasing each other around.

 

          After about four or five months, I got to see my first murder. That was the worst, not the body, just the senselessness of it all. There was no super criminal leaving cryptic messages for the cops to chase. It was just a guy who got drunk and shot his brother. He didn’t even try to run.  He was there waiting for us in the living room crying. He was in his underwear and a white undershirt. Snot was pouring out of his nose. He’d thrown up.  Some of it had dribbled down on his chin.

 

          I stopped riding with Chris after that. There wasn’t any point to it, anymore. I figured I’d just go to college like everyone else. Maybe I’d get arrested for trespassing or something stupid like that.

 

          But still, I couldn’t stop my daydreams about pulling off the greatest heist. I knew it was stupid but I couldn’t stop myself. I figure I wasn’t the only one. I couldn’t be. I wasn’t the only one who bought a ticket to see Bandits.

 

          I grew up in Vegas, the city built around the idea that you could get rich in one night. I knew that I wasn’t the only one dreaming about the perfect heist.

 

          The summer before I was supposed to start at UNLV, I worked at one of those stupid chain coffee shops. I wasn't sure who they thought would want a boiling hot cup of coffee on a day when the high was above 105 but I didn’t care. They paid me just the same.

 

          The shop was across the street from a bank. I spent about half of my day staring out the window dreaming up different ways to break in.

 

          “Hey!”

 

          I’d been daydreaming again. I was thinking about sticking up the armored truck idling out front of the bank.

 

          I came back to myself with a start. “Huh?”

 

          “Hey! Yeah, hi. Could I get an iced mocha?” The girl was standing in front of the register waving at me. I wondered how long she’d been waiting.

 

          “Oh, uh, yeah, sure.” I hit the button on the register. I hoped that she’d take her receipt and leave me alone. I was embarrassed that she’d caught me daydreaming like that. I wouldn’t be able to get over it until she left.

 

          “So . . . what were you doin’?”

 

          “Huh?” I said. I tried to pretend I didn’t know what she was talking about. I kept my head down and got to work on her shake. I hoped that she’d lose interest.

 

          “Y’ know, just a minute ago. What were you doin’? Meditating? I’m kinda into that stuff. Like Buddhism and like Eastern stuff, you know?”

 

          “Nah. It was . . . it was nothin’. Just you know, daydreaming.”

 

          “Oh.  Yeah? I bet it was dirty. You know what they say about the minds of teenage boys. I bet it was about your girlfriend. Am I right? I’m usually pretty good at this.”

 

          I hazarded a glance up. She was grinning at me. She had a great smile. Her eyes were dark. I felt like they were pulling me in. I just wanted to keep looking into them.  There was something in there.

 

          “I don’t have a girlfriend,” I said. I couldn’t believe myself. Normally, I didn’t say more than three words to any customer. And I would definitely never say anything about my personal life. And I would never, never, never tell them that I couldn’t get a date.

 

          “Oh . . .” She looked like she was going to shut up and sit down. I didn’t want her to stop. I wanted her to keep talking. I wanted to keep looking at her eyes. I wanted her to laugh. I didn’t care if she was laughing at me.

 

          “Yeah, you know, our relationship is pretty open. We don’t like to put names on things. . . . Yeah, she’ll be in here in a little bit. I don't know if she’ll like the way you’re flirting with me.”

 

          “Whatever. You’re so full of it.” She laughed. It was perfect, musical, engrossing.

 

          I shrugged and handed her the shake.

 

          She took a long pull on the straw. I got lost in her eyes again.

 

          “So when’s she goin’ to be here?” she said. “I wanna see if I can take that bitch.”

 

          I laughed.

 

          “What?  Don’t think I can? My last fight was in 3rd grade. Against Billy Jackson.  Kicked his ass.”

 

          “Oh, I don’t doubt it.”

 

          “Hell, yeah.  I'm a scrapper.”

 

          “Maybe I should text her and tell her not to show up. You know, don’t need all these nice people getting blood in their coffee.”

 

          She hung out with me for the rest of my shift. I talked about anything she wanted.  I worried that if she got bored she’d just leave and that’d be it.

 

          “So what were you daydreaming about?” she asked.

 

          “Robbing that bank.” I nodded out the window.

 

          “Yeah?  How you gonna do it?”

 

          I shrugged. “Got a couple ideas. The best one so far is cut power to the block and go in through the back door and empty out the vault.”

 

          “How’re you gonna get in the vault?”

 

          “Yeah, that’s the little problem with the plan.”

 

          “Hell of a little problem.”

 

          Angela waited for me to get off work. We went out and got dinner at a Mexican place two blocks over.

 

          She didn’t bring the bank up until I walked her back to her car.

 

          “You know, I think I might have an idea for how to get around your little problem,” she said.

 

          “What problem?”

 

          Angela nodded at the bank.

 

          “Oh, okay, what's your idea,” I said.

 

          “I know someone who works there, might be able to get us into the vault.”  She grabbed my hand and wrote her number on it. “Gimme a call after you get off tomorrow and we'll see.”

 

          She unlocked her car door and stood outside it for a minute.

 

          I went to give her a hug.  She kissed me.

 

          She jumped in the car and drove off.

 

          I met up with Brian, Angela's friend who worked at the bank, later that week. We met up at Angela's house. We talked about the plan for hours. Brian said that my idea was good, basically. He said I had some mistakes in there and there were a lot of little details I’d overlooked. We hammered the plan out. We figured we’d give ourselves some time to think about it from every angle and we’d come back to talk it through again in a week.

 

          I hung around after Brian left. I wasn’t sure if Angela wanted me to stay or to go.

 

          She turned off the lights and kissed me, her warm body pressed against me. She wanted me to stay. I breathed her in, I never wanted to leave.

 

          Angela and I got together every chance we could for the next month. Twice a week we’d meet up with Brian. But apart from out planning sessions, Angela and I never talked about the bank. We didn’t even talk about what we’d do with the money. We’d just hang out; we’d go to the Strip and laugh at the tourists, the poor middle-aged couples who wore matching outfits. We’d watch bad movies and laugh when the heroine got splashed with a bucket of cheap, fake blood. I didn’t care what we were doing, as long as I got to be with her.

 

          She was smart, funny, sarcastic, and tough. She didn’t take shit from anyone.  Like one night, we were walking out on the street and some dude started hollering at me about a floor show at some strip club.

 

          I ignored him.

 

          Angela gave him the finger.

 

          “Bitch,” the guy said with a dismissive snort.

 

          Angela froze. “What’d you say?”

 

          “Look, lady, I’m just doin’ my job, okay?”

 

          “No, call me bitch again!”

 

          The guy turned to me. “Your girl on the rag, man?”

 

          “Don’t look at him! Call me bitch again! Do it and I will cut your balls off!”

 

          The guy put his hands up and took a step back. A crowd stopped to watch us. I grabbed Angela's arm and whispered, “Let’s go . . . c’mon, let’s just go.”

 

          She turned to face me. Her face softened. She glanced around at the crowd gawking at us. Her face went red and she looked down. We walked off in a hurry. About a block later, when she didn’t think I was looking, she started to cry.

 

          I didn’t sleep the night before we made our move on the bank. I couldn’t focus on anything. Every sound made me jump. The whole day I expected a fleet of police cars to pull up in front of me. The result was that, by the time we met up, I was a nervous wreck.

 

          We sat in the car, watching the bank, waiting for the clock to hit 2 AM.

 

          I was sweating. I tried my best but I was sure that everyone else knew how nervous I was. They all seemed perfectly calm. Well, Angela did seem a little keyed up, like she’d had too much coffee. But she didn’t seem like she was just seconds away from peeing herself and running away screaming the way I did.

 

          Then the clock hit 2. Once I got out of the car, the fear left me. It was like I was watching someone else. Someone else popped the lock on the back of the building.  Someone else crept through the dark building. Someone else loaded the bags down with cash. There was no thrill, no fear, nothing. Just a cold checklist of what I needed to do.

 

          Everything went according to the plan. We got in. We got into the vault. We filled up our sacks of cash and moved back to the door.

 

          We were all out the door before we saw the police cruiser parked back there. We all froze. The fear came back with a vengeance. My heart jumped up into my throat.  My knees went weak. I was terrified because we didn’t see the cop.

 

          “Freeze!” A voice came from our right. He’d been checking the building out. We probably would have been okay if we’d taken a little longer inside. The cop wouldn’t have noticed anything. I wanted to laugh when I realized that. We’d been so worried about getting in and out fast. It was all rush, rush, rush, and, in the end, that’s what screwed us over.

 

          The cop reached for his walkie-talkie to call for back up. He turned his head a little to speak into the radio.

 

          Angela reached down and pulled a pistol out of the waistband of her pants and shot.

 

          The gunshot sounded like a firecracker or a broken down car backfiring. It wasn’t as deep as on TV. It was louder and more hollow-sounding.

 

          The cop didn’t fall dramatically; it wasn’t some beautifully-choreographed death.  He crumpled, flopped over, and that was it. Somehow it seemed more final, more sure, more deadly than anything I’d seen before.

 

          The cop’s hand and foot twitched. He gurgled as he tried to breathe through the hole Angela's gun punched in his neck. He closed his eyes and his breathing slowed. I couldn’t do anything. I just watched.

 

          “Put him in the car,” Angela said. She was scared. She sounded like she was about to cry.

 

          “What?”

 

          “Put him in his car.”

 

          “We can't . . . We can't leave his car here. . . .”

 

          “Yeah . . . take his car. . . take it somewhere else.  Far away.  Other side of town or something.  Far away.”

 

          “Okay . . .”

 

          I put the cop in the back of his car. I pulled his shirt off and put it on. It was wet from the cop's blood. I hoped that it was dark enough out that no one would notice.

 

          I was about to get into the cop car. I stopped and turned to Angela. “How am I supposed to get home?”

 

          She shrugged. “Take the bus. But you know, clean up first.”

 

          I nodded. I got in the car.

 

          Angela knocked on the window. “Don't call me,” she said. “For like a couple days. You know.”

 

          I nodded and started the car up.

 

          I drove the cruiser for the longest half hour of my life. I knew that at any minute the police would come swarming up. I was driving a stolen police car with a dead cop in the back seat. There’d be no way around it if someone saw me now. I even had the dead man’s shirt on.

 

          I kept thinking about Chris. It could have just as easily been him checking the bank out tonight. I wondered if I knew this guy, if I’d met him when I went out on those ride-alongs with Chris. I fought back the urge to look back at his face to see if I could recognize him.

 

          Finally, I got to an empty field. I waited ten minutes to make sure that no one was watching. I peeled the dead cop’s uniform off and I ran.

 

          After a mile or so, I thought of what Angela had said about cleaning up. I looked down at my shirt. Some of the cop’s blood had soaked through. I found a dumpster behind an apartment complex. I took my shirt off and threw it in along with the gloves I’d been wearing.

 

          I thought about taking a bus like Angela had suggested but I worried that the driver might remember me and somehow connect me back to the dead cop.

 

          I just walked.

 

          I got home at around sunrise.

 

          Turns out that moving the cop’s body didn't do much good at all. He’d checked in before getting out of his patrol car. Chris told me all about it. Not that he had to. It was all over the news.

 

          They figured it was an inside job since we were able to get into the vault without drilling or any of that. They were putting the bank staff under a microscope.

 

          About a week later, Brian stopped coming to work. They found him out in the desert. It said it was suicide. I wasn’t so sure.

 

          The cops started looking at the people close to Brian.

 

          And then there were the footprints. Chris told me that they found a few good shoe prints out by the abandoned police cruiser. I threw my sneakers out that afternoon.

 

          Angela called me. She said I should come over. 

 

Chris was off that day. He was asleep on the couch; the TV was left on. Jerry Springer grinned while a pair of fat women slapped each other. I crept into Chris’s room and stole his pistol. I slipped it into my jacket.

 

          Angela was nervous. She’d been crying. She told me that the cops had been there.  They’d been looking at Brian's phone records. She was the only one he’d called in the last couple of months.

 

          “Y’ know . . . I thought he had more friends. . . .” she said.

 

          “Maybe that's why he killed himself,” I said.

 

          Angela scowled at me.

 

          “I think we need to get out of here, you know? They know it was me. They left ’cause they couldn’t prove it. They’re gonna find something. Or they’re gonna make something up. They’re not going to let me go. They know I killed that cop. They know I did it.”

 

          “Where we gonna go?”

 

          “I dunno. . . . Canada? We just gotta go.”

 

          “Won’t . . . won’t we just look more guilty if we run? I mean, they don’t know we did it. They don’t know anything. As long as we don’t say anything, they won’t be able to prove anything.”

 

          Angela got quiet again.

 

          She spoke quietly and almost mumbled, “What’re we supposed to do with the money if we stay? Can’t spend it. They already think we did it. If we start spending this cash, they’re gonna know it was us.”

 

          I shrugged. “Guess we should go. Where’s the money?”

 

          “Why do you wanna know?”

 

          “Is it here? Or are we going to have to go out to get it?”

 

          “Don’t worry about it. Go pack your stuff up and meet me here.”

 

          “Nah, I’m ready to go now. I can buy anything I need. Just, you know, get the money and we can go.”

 

          “No,” she said, staring coldly at me.

 

          “What?”

 

          Angela reached under her couch cushion and pulled her gun out. The same one she’d used to kill the cop.

 

          “What the hell? You still got that? You gotta get rid of it.”

 

          “The hell I will.”

 

          “What’re you talkin’ about?”

 

          “I’m not getting rid of my gun and I’m not telling you where I put the money.”  Angela was pointing the gun at me.

 

          “Put the gun down and we can—”

 

          Angela shot the wall about five feet to my right.

 

          I pulled Chris’s gun out of the back of my pants.

 

          “What the hell were you thinking?” I shouted. “The neighbors are going to call the cops now.”

 

          “Guess you’re just gonna have to kill me . . . but you were gonna anyway, right?”

 

          “What?”

 

          She nodded at Chris’s gun. “Saw you bring it in.”

 

          “I—I . . .” I wasn't sure what to say. I didn’t end up saying anything. I looked at Angela. I got lost in her eyes again. They were filling up with tears. I felt like I was drowning.

 

          My elbows got weak. My hands fell down to my sides. The gun got heavy and I let it slip out and fall to the floor.

 

          “I'm sorry,” I said. “I love you.”

 

          She smiled. I was crying. So was she. She got up from the couch. She kissed me.  I held her tight. She didn’t hug me back.

 

          She pulled back. She stepped back and shot me in the chest.

 

          I never heard the shot. The pain that was followed by a terrifying numbness. My knees buckled and I fell onto the floor.

 

          Angela looked down at me. It was getting hard to see. “I’m sorry,” she said.  “I love you. Why’d you do that to Brian?”

 

          I wished I could’ve told her that I didn’t do it. I wished that she would have believed me. I wished that I had believed her.

 

 

 

Aaron Rowley lives in Mississippi with his wife.

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