Authors: Gene Doucette
It was on a pleasant, cool Wednesday in April at just after two in the afternoon that Dickie entered a downtown bank on State Street dragging a large suitcase on wheels, with a snub-nosed pistol in the pocket of his windbreaker. He was there to “case the joint,” which was one of the many terms he learned the night before when he and Mikey and Rob stayed up all night watching movies with bank robberies in them, hoping to pick up last-minute tips.
In casing, Dickie concluded that he had picked a pretty good branch to rob. There were no guards, only three tellers, and one dude in a suit at a desk on a little platform. Behind his desk was the vault, and not only was the door to it wide open, but the only thing keeping somebody from walking right in there was a velvet rope. He could scarcely believe his luck.
Dickie didn’t bother to count the customers—more than ten, less than twenty—but he did get a good long look at a redheaded cutie waiting for a teller. He wondered, as he pretended to fill out a deposit slip, if she would put out for a bank robber like him. But the thought reminded him of the unfortunate incident with Trina Mahoney, so he put it aside.
He positioned himself as close as he could to the vault door without looking too suspicious, and waited. A couple of minutes later, Mikey and Rob walked in. Rob got in line, while Mikey stood by the door and glanced over at Dickie. Dickie nodded. Just giving the signal made him semi-hard. He would later wonder if this meant there was something wrong with him.
Mikey pulled a shotgun from under his coat and shouted, “Nobody move! This is a robbery!” Dickie smiled inwardly; Mike had spent two hours practicing that. For emphasis, he fired the gun once into the ceiling, which had two immediate effects. One, everyone in the line dropped to the ground, a few of them screaming. Two, Mikey got showered with plaster from the drop ceiling. Which was sort of funny.
Rob got right to work, jumping over the counter and demanding that all the tellers back away from their stations. Rob was just the right man for this because he once spent two months working in a bank before being let go when it was discovered that his drawer was short fifty dollars nearly every day. He left with a basic knowledge of things such as bait money, silent alarms, and the like and immediately put that knowledge to good use.
Dickie stepped up onto the desk platform and pulled out the snub-nose. The guy behind the desk—who was a Pakistani or Indian or Arab or something, but whose name placard inexplicably identified him as “Assistant Manager Ben Franklin”—froze in his chair when confronted by the gun, which was pretty much the reaction Dickie was hoping for. Dickie turned his attention to Ben Franklin’s customer.
Even sitting down, he could tell the guy was pretty big. He was dressed in a baggy suit and had on a tie that looked like maybe it was a clip-on. And sneakers. Probably not a businessman.
“You,” Dickie said, pointing the gun at the customer. “Get on the floor.”
“I’d really rather not,” the big guy said. He had a low, rumbling voice that reminded Dickie of the cement mixer at Uncle Ray’s construction site.
“Excuse me?” he asked, his voice cracking ever so slightly.
“It’s just that the suit is new. I bought it yesterday. Off the rack, but still.”
“You want to get shot?” Dickie shouted.
“No, of course I don’t.”
The guy paused where he was. It was a weird pause, because he stared at Dickie’s face the whole time, like he was reading small print on Dickie’s forehead. Finally, he said, “How about if I just sit here? I’ll be good.”
Dickie didn’t remember this happening in any of the movies he watched during his research and was unsure how to proceed. He ultimately decided to let it go because time was his enemy. That came from a movie, but he couldn’t remember which one—their research had prominently involved a 24-pack of Buds, and things got a little fuzzy toward the end.
He turned his focus back on Ben Franklin.
“Which vault in there has the money?” he asked.
“It’s . . . it’s the large one straight in back. But I can’t open it for you.”
“It’s on a time delay,” he explained. “I and the lead teller have the combinations, but even if we were to apply them, it would not open for fifteen minutes.”
Somewhere in the back of Dickie’s mind was information that confirmed this basic fact; he was pretty sure Rob had said something similar. But that was okay. He planned to blow the door open anyway.
“Hey, big dude,” Dickie said. “Make yourself useful; pick up the suitcase and take it over to the vault.”
“All right,” he said, agreeably enough. He leaned over and grabbed the case handle while Dickie took a second to see how things were going behind him. It looked as if Rob was nearly done cleaning out the teller stations, and Mikey at the door seemed to have all the customers under control. Truthfully, he was a little worried about Mikey, who liked his shotgun much too much. In the rational part of his brain a little voice pointed out that accessory to murder was a whole shitload worse than armed robbery. He told the little voice to shut up.
“Heavy,” the dude with the suit and sneakers commented. “What do you have in here, bricks?”
Ignoring the comment, Dickie led him over to the vault door. “Go ahead and open it.”
The big guy got down on one knee and unzipped the case. Without prompting, he reached inside and pulled out a stick of the dynamite. Dickie smiled at his own brilliance.
“You’re gonna use this?” the guy asked.
“All of it, man. That’s a steel vault. I don’t have fifteen minutes to wait for Mr. Franklin here to open it.”
Still holding the stick of dynamite, the guy looked around the bank with a calculating sort of expression that did not at all convey the gravity of the situation. Dickie wondered if he forgot he was being held at gunpoint.
Finally, he said, “You’ll kill everybody in here.”
Louder, he repeated himself. “You’ll kill everybody.”
The gaggle of customers on the floor murmured unhappily at this announcement. The girl with the red hair, Dickie noted, took special interest, even going so far as to sit up.
“The hell do you know?” Dickie asked at approximately the same volume. “I deal with this shit all the time. I’m a goddamn explosives expert. Now, unload the bag and set it up in there before I plug you.”
The big guy wasn’t having any of it. “Look at the vault, friend. It’s like a funnel. You’ll end up directing the blast right out into the lobby. A bigger stack of dynamite will just mean the explosion reaches the street.”
“Then I’ll close the vault door, asshole,” Dickie said defensively. He wondered, even as he said it, why he needed to justify himself to this guy. He wasn’t a criminal mastermind, was he? No, there was only one criminal mastermind in this bank.
“Um, excuse me?” Ben Franklin interrupted meekly.
“Now you? What?” Dickie snapped.
“Close the door. It cannot be closed before 5 p.m.”
Now Dickie was getting seriously pissed. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“It’s a safety precaution,” the assistant manager explained. “So that . . . so that the staff can’t be locked in the vault . . . during a robbery.”
Mikey at the door shouted, “What’s the delay up there? Let’s go!”
“We’re going!” Dickie shouted. He saw Rob jump back over the counter, holding the trash bag, which looked awfully light. They couldn’t walk out on an armed robbery with that little fucking bag. It was the vault or nothing.
“Set it up,” he repeated to the big man.
“No,” he said.
Dickie held the barrel up to the man’s forehead. “Do it,” he insisted, “or I’ll kill you.”
The man looked around the room. Dickie could see out of the corner of his eye that Rob had stepped to the bottom of the platform and Mikey was still at the door, looking just as much the badass as ever with the shotgun. And still the guy with the dynamite didn’t even look like he was sweating. He had the same look on his face Uncle Ray always had when he was figuring angles on the pool table at Hanratty’s. Dickie suddenly wished he were at Hanratty’s, instead of about to blow a man’s head off. What the hell made him think he could rob a bank, anyway?
Apparently satisfied, the man looked Dickie in the eye. “Go ahead,” he said quietly.
There are a lot of ways to kill a guy. Dickie knew from firsthand experience that most of those ways were really and truly awful and did not in any sense represent something he was capable of doing. Like a shiv. He saw a serious hard-ass named Leonard jab a five-inch shiv into the ribcage of another con on an otherwise pleasant July afternoon in the yard. It was the most brutal fucking thing he ever saw. And the con ended up living through it, which, given the degree of violence involved, was something Dickie found pretty amazing. Another time, he saw one of Ray’s men fall twenty-five feet onto a pile of bricks, landing with a sound that was somewhere between a snapping twig and a bowl of oatmeal getting dumped on the floor. He lived, too. Seriously messed up, but alive.
But a bullet to the head? Dickie was pretty positive that’d do the trick. And it was a damn sight easier than trying to gut somebody with a bent-up mattress spring wire. Didn’t seem all that fair how easy it was when he thought about it.
And he had to do it. That was the bad part. The big dude had just about come right out and called him a pussy in front of his crew—in front of the whole bank!—and that had to be answered. It just did.
So Dickie screwed his courage and tapped the trigger. Problem was, when he did it, the guy’s head wasn’t there any more. He’d stepped to one side at just exactly the right moment for the bullet to totally miss him and lodge harmlessly in the wood-paneled wall.
“How the fuck—” That was all Dickie could manage before the dude clocked him right on the nose and popped the gun out of his hand.
Falling backward, Dickie got a spectator’s view of the next five seconds, which he would replay in slow motion in his head for another twenty-five years of hard time.
The guy who dislodged Dickie’s snub-nose from him stood under the gun and waited patiently for gravity to take effect and bring it back down again, which was bad news for him since Rob—who was standing at the base of the desk platform—was aiming to shoot him before that could happen. Except Rob didn’t get a chance. A gunshot rang out, but it came from behind Rob, much to the surprise of, well, Rob. He fell facedown next to the desk. It was the redhead on one knee and with a handgun who’d done Rob.
Mikey leveled his shotgun, intending to blast the redhead into pretty little chunks—along with more or less everyone else around her given the spread of that thing—but by then the big guy at the vault had caught Dickie’s gun. In one neat motion, he righted the revolver and shot Mikey in the right shoulder, which was exactly where he needed to shoot Mikey to knock his aim off. He still fired the shotgun, but it blew the hell out of the one part of the room where there were no people around. The wound and the kickback combined to jostle the gun from his hands.
By then Dickie had hit the floor. The redhead was on her feet and screaming at Mikey to leave his gun, and the big guy was standing over Dickie, pointing his own gun at him.
“I give,” Dickie said.
“Good,” he said. He reached a hand out, helped Dickie up, and then sat him down at Ben Franklin’s desk. Mr. Franklin had dived inside the vault when the shooting began and had yet to conclude that it was safe to come back out.
Dickie could hear sirens on the street.
“They’re here too soon,” he muttered sluggishly, what with the blow to the head and all.
“What’s that?” the big guy asked. He was leaning over a moaning Rob, just as calm at that moment as he had been for the entire robbery.
Something on the desk caught Dickie’s eye. It was the loan application Ben Franklin had been working on before the robbery had begun. There were only two things written on it. At the top was the name Corrigan Bain. And at the bottom, in big block letters, the message:
PUSH THE ALARM. YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE ROBBED.
If it weren’t for the Charles River, there would be no way to know when one passed out of the city of Boston and entered the city of Cambridge. Historically, this had been to the benefit of Boston, insofar as the river served as a moat to protect the settlers from the wilderness that lay beyond the outskirts of old Newtowne. But in modern times, the river’s boundary was a limiting factor, and surely Boston would have otherwise absorbed Cambridge long ago, as it had Brookline and Charlestown.
Still, there was one place where even a river didn’t make a difference, where the cities kissed one another over a bridge so small few were even aware there was a bridge at all. The Boston Museum of Science sat at that point, on top of the river, with half of its exhibits in Boston and half in Cambridge. Not far beyond the museum on the Cambridge side was a large shopping mall, and a few blocks further, down the side of the river, stood two decent-sized towers. Thirty years earlier, neither the towers nor the mall existed—except perhaps in the imagination of a few development entrepreneurs—because back then the entire area was just unpleasant enough for Cambridge visitors to the museum to seriously consider approaching it from the Boston side to avoid any trouble.
Corrigan Bain lived in a condo in the left tower, on the seventh floor. He had a view of the river, the cityscape, and in July, the fireworks show. He also had a maid service, a laundry service, and a condo staff that was so efficient they would probably help him hide a body if needed—not that he did. His neighbors included a Saudi prince and a power forward for the Boston Celtics. Adding the shut-ins and the occasional drug dealer and it was the kind of place where everybody minded everybody’s own business. Which was one of the things he liked about it.
“Ooh, furniture!” Maggie exclaimed when she walked into the living room. “Just for me?”