I had never been so nervous in my life. My hand wouldn't stop trembling. The sobs and cries below only made it more difficult. Tightening my grip on the handle, I managed to keep my expression still. Beads of sweat ran down his forehead and into his eyes. Every few seconds, they looked from the weapon in my hand to the dead stare I gave back.

"Please," he said, tears covering his face. I only closed my eyes and prepared myself for pulling the trigger. For a moment, I was reminded of my conversation with Seth at the vault. Things couldn't have taken a bigger turn.

The sudden sound of a gunshot stopped my heart for a moment. The cries became screams. My hand had not stopped shaking. I could feel my heart in the middle of my throat. "Oh God…"

All four windows had been rolled down. Every store on the street was open for business that afternoon. As the eleven-year-old car turned a corner, its contents tipped to the left. A hand reached from between the two front seats and slapped the side of the driver's head.

"You're driving like a maniac," Trent complained, pulling back his arm. The last thing he wanted to see from any of us was nervousness. For the past two months, Trent had been the one keeping us all focused. He believed the only way we would pull anything off was if he was the "leader". His favorite saying was, "The only was you're ready for anything is if you've already done it."

The car made another turn. "I can drive," Doyle protested, gripping the wheel ten-and-two. He always insisted on driving, though he had just recently adjusted to staying on the right side of the street. Honestly, Doyle was the best driver of us all.

I could tell how nervous he was. Doyle had been nervous since the beginning. I don't think Trent ever actually believed him when he said, "I can do this." Doyle didn't have much motivation to begin with. His goals in life didn't really require much of anything he didn't already have. He could have simply walked away and never looked at any of us again. Something was keeping him in the group.

The car came to a stop in front of the "Mitchell Memorial Bank" office building. The twenty-seven-story building had been all I could think about. A map of it, inside and out, was planted in each of our minds. I could make my way through that building wearing a blindfold. I considered myself to be more than ready.

All four doors opened almost simultaneously. The five of us stepped out and met at the sidewalk. All eyes turned to Trent. "Fifteen," he said, taking a note of our expressions. "No more, no less." I guess Trent expected synchronized watches to be on our wrists. The only way he would be satisfied was if it took fifteen minutes. Everything had to be perfect for him. Trent's gaze stopped on Doyle.

"I can do this," he assured Trent. Those four words had quickly become Doyle's motto. With a nod from Trent, the group separated.

Dressed in the best suit he could afford, Seth entered the building. If someone were to enter Seth's mind that very moment, he would be repeating what he was supposed to say about a dozen times before even opening the glass door. Once inside, he made his way to the front desk. Just as expected, Linda Hamilton sat at the main desk. Light reflected off her red and gold nametag, nearly blinding visitors. Plus, she never stopped smiling. One wonders why anyone would smile so much. Must have been in the contract.

"Good afternoon, sir. May I help you?" Her smile never changed a bit. Seth removed his sunglasses and gave his friendliest tone.

"I'm here to speak with Michael Gregory," he answered. "Is he in today?"

"Your name, sir?" It had taken him two days to decide on a reply he liked.

"Butler," he said. "Brett Butler." A lover of the classics. Much better than "Louise Thelman".

"Just a moment, please. I'll have to check."

Nothing had changed. It took a little time but everything had been carefully planned out. It was a fact that every Thursday Michael Gregory was in a meeting between 1:00 and 1:20 p.m. It would take Linda about six minutes to find this out. Within those minutes, Ethan was given his much needed time.

Ethan didn't just walk into the building. He glided in on roller blades. It was also a fact that there were always two security guards in the main lobby.
Yelling and laughing as loud as possible, he rolled through the lobby, making sure his presence was known. With Linda away, there was no one at the front desk to call for assistance, leaving the two guards already on the floor to deal with him. Both guards rushed after Ethan with seriously irritated expressions.

"Stop!" they both yelled as Ethan moved faster and faster. Everyone nearby had either stopped to see what was happening, or left to avoid being knocked over by one of the three.

Meanwhile, Seth inconspicuously made his way to the guards' post. With one swift jester, he grabbed a set of keys hanging on the side of a desk. The guards still hadn't caught up to Ethan. He was the master of chaos and roller blades. Within seconds, Seth was inside the small room for guards only. A few dozen security cameras the size of CD cases filled most of the room. Seth went straight for the computer off to the side.

"Come on," Ethan teased. "You can do better than that." This only angered the middle-aged guards more. They were both winded with red, sweaty faces. Obviously, neither one of them was ready to do any running on the job that day. Every dodging move Ethan knew came in handy as he waited for his signal to leave.

Not much time had passed, so Linda was still away. Every computer skill Seth had came in handy as he gained control of the building security cameras between floors twenty-three and eighteenth.

"Will you quit doing that?" Trent had a bit of a short temper. Especially when he was around Doyle. Trent and Doyle were practically complete opposites. The two made their usual trip around the building nonchalantly. At least, that was the idea. Doyle nervously kept his wide eyes on the street as though police officers would rush toward them at any moment. He was way too paranoid for his own good.

"I'm sorry," Doyle said, his eyes falling to the ground. Trent looked over every inch of the building from the outside. The fire escape, which went from the ninth floor to the first, was straight above them. Despite his second, third, fourth and fifth thoughts about the plan, Doyle knew his job. He jumped up as high as he could and grabbed the bar at the end of the metal ladder. It fell with a short but loud clank and Doyle landed on the ground with a thump. "Ouch."

"The ladder's down," Trent spoke into the radio in his hand.

"Right," I answered from my spot beside the car. After turning off the radio, I tossed it through the car window so it landed on the driver's seat. It was time to get Seth and Ethan out before they got into any real trouble. Entering the building, I was almost run over by one of the guards. They were right behind Ethan, but still not close enough to grab him. I turned my head and looked at the security room door. Seth was walking out. He hung the keys back on the side of the desk. With a tilt of my head, I motioned for him to leave. Seth quickly exited, noticed by no one.

Once Ethan saw me, he made an abrupt turn and started in my direction. Seeing he was coming towards me, I looked away. Ethan brushed by me without even slowly down. I purposely lost my balance. Once the two guards reached me, I fell over. They both stopped with apologetic expression. "I'm terribly sorry, ma'am," one guard said as they helped me stand.

"What kind of place is this?" I asked, making my irritation clear.

"We're-." Before the second guard could finish, I walked away. Ethan was out, and in seconds, so was I. I met with Seth, Ethan, Trent and Doyle at the car outside. They were all inside it and the engine was on. I practically squeezed into the back with Seth and Doyle. Once my door was closed, Trent drove off.

It all started as a joke. We were once again at "Jack's" trying to cheer Trent up. He had just lost his job as a refrigerator repairman and Ethan and I were joining him for a drink to show our sympathy. "What do I do now?" Trent said, lowering the glass from his face.

"Get a new job," I said plainly, the more obvious solution. Trent shook his head.

"I mean, with the rest of my life. I've wasted it," he said. "No family, no home, and now, no job." The glass hit the table with a thud.

"You have a home," said Ethan, barely able to claim himself as sober. "And just because your family's in Tampa doesn't mean you-."

"No, I mean, like a wife, kids. That kind of stuff."

"It's not too late, Trent," I said optimistically. "You aren't old yet. You've still got time."

"I don't need time," Trent said. "What I need is money."

Ethan raised his glass, "Same here."

"That's why we are going to help you find another job," I informed him.

"I can't keep doing that," he said. "I'm not skilled enough for a well paying job."

" 'A well paying job'? Like what?" Ethan asked before taking another sip of his drink.

"I don't know," Trent shrugged. "If I had enough money I could move. I'd move somewhere nice like…Hawaii. Or somewhere in Europe."

"How are you going to do that?" I asked. "You just said it yourself. You aren't skilled enough to get a job that pays that kind of money."

"I'll find a way to get enough money," he said.

"Yeah," Ethan said. "By robbing a bank."

"The perfect answer to all your problems," I laughed.

As Ethan joined my laughing, Trent only took another drink. I thought nothing of it at the time. There was no reason for me to really think about it.

Trent parked the car outside of the five-story apartment building. The five of us exited the car and started into it. We shared a two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor. Originally, only my brother Ethan and I lived there. After Trent lost one of his best jobs and was dumped by his fiancé and kicked out, he moved in with us.

"The only way you're staying here is if you get a job," I told Trent firmly. He agreed to our terms and found a job at a local bar two weeks later. He was fired three days later for starting numerous bar brawls. He had already moved in before he was fired, so we couldn't exactly kick him out.

Ethan generously found a job for Trent where he was working at the time, a car dealership. Trent became very proud of that job. While Ethan made beat-up Volkswagens sound like BMWs, Trent's job was to take care of them. It was better than one of his previous jobs; daycare worker. He didn't just lock them up every night. He also washed them at the car wash a block away. Trent lost that job when he attempted to sell one of the cars for himself to a friend. I couldn't yell at him enough for that one.

Tired of redoing Trent's five-page resume, we gave up and just let him stay. Though our place wasn't big or neat, it was enough for Ethan and me. When Trent moved in, he gave off the impression that he'd be a real pal for us and take care of the apartment when we were at work.

One Friday, after Ethan picked me up from work in the one car we shared, we reached the apartment building and saw about a dozen more cars parked outside than usual. When we reached the fourth floor, music was blasting from one of the apartment. I guessed it was a TV turned up too loud. Then the front door of our apartment opened and two people stumbled out, clearly intoxicated.

The apartment was full of people I'd never seen before in all my life. Everything was one big mess. Ethan and I shoved our way through the crowd. And there he was, surrounded by people. "Trent, who are all these people?" Ethan asked, trying to raise his voice over the music.

"Friends," he replied. After that, it was back to the resumes for Trent.

Time was winding down. Never in my life had I wanted so much for time to move slower. Ethan unlocked the front door and the five of us entered. With us all living there none of us really claimed the apartment. Instead of referring to it as something like Ethan's place or Reese's place, it was only known to us as "The Place". Sounds a lot better than "HQ".

We planned on spending our last day in The Place celebrating. Trent pulled off his jacket, tossed it on the couch and started toward the bathroom. Ethan picked up the telephone and started making a few last calls. The Place was almost empty. Everything important had already been taken out. The couch, refrigerator, a few old books and magazines, and the TV. Actually, those were the only important things in The Place. The things that were taken were just everything we all owned that proved who we were. All that was sent to our parents and relatives.

It was almost time to start over. Not exactly voluntarily but nevertheless necessary. As I sat on the couch beside Doyle, I began to feel pre-homesickness. I didn't really want to leave. I had to remind myself of why I was leaving and what was supposed to happen. I could hear Ethan talking to our mother in the kitchen. From his replies I could tell she was far from happy with us.

Doyle didn't take his eyes off of the television screen. It was as if he was watching his last football game. At the time, he was just watching a golf tournament. He had a lot on his mind. I doubt he heard a word anyone on the television said. This strategy was a lot better than pacing.

Seth soon joined us, sitting on the chair beside the couch. "Who's playing?" Seth asked, looking over at Doyle. He didn't respond for a moment. "Anyone playing?"

"Doyle," I said, nudging him. He snapped out of his daze and looked at Seth.


"You were right." Trent sat on the coffee table between the couch and television, in front of Ethan and me. He had a look of excitement on his face. Neither of us had any idea what he was talking about.

"I'm right about a lot of things," Ethan joked.

"I mean, you were right about the only way I can get the money I need," Trent said.

"What way would that be?" I asked.

"By taking it," Trent replied. He suddenly jumped up from the table and started to walk around the couch.

"'By taking it'," Ethan repeated. "What do you mean by that?"

"Stealing it," Trent answered, returning to his seat on the table.

"Too much TV," I laughed, shaking my head.

"I'm serious about this," said Trent. I stopped laughing. Looking at his expression I knew he really was serious.

"Steal money," I said. "What are you gonna do, rob a bank?"

"Exactly," Trent replied.

"Are you insane?" Ethan said. "You can't rob a bank."

"Why not?" he said.

"Because it…it just isn't right," Ethan explained.

"It's not like I'm hurting anyone," Trent said as if that would make it sound like a good idea.

"How exactly do you plan on robbing a bank, Trent? Walk in wearing a ski mask and demand money from a teller? There's no way."

"No. I've got a better idea," he replied and stood up again. He went back around the couch and entered the kitchen. I looked over at Ethan. His expression matched mine. Trent returned to his seat on the table with a notebook in his hand. He quickly opened it to a certain page and held it up toward us. "We take money from the bank's main vault."

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," I interrupted. "Who said anything about 'we'?"

"You guys want in on this, right?" Trent said.

"No," Ethan quickly responded. "Of course not."

"Why not?"

"I'm not seeing prison in my future, Trent. I'm afraid you're on your own."

"Fine," he said and stood. "More for me."

It was fifteen 'til four and we were all growing more and more nervous by the second. I could even see a bit of uneasiness in Trent. That didn't help any of us at all. I still couldn't believe we were finally going through with it. It seemed as if it was still one of Trent's many unsuccessful schemes that we'd end up paying for in the end.

Trent exited the bathroom in a different outfit. "How's everybody feel?" he asked, sitting on the left arm of the couch.

"Cloud two," Seth said. Trent looked at Doyle.

"What about you?" he said.

"Ill," Doyle answered before standing. "I'm gonna get some air." With that, he left the apartment. Trent turned and looked down at me.

"And you, Reese?" he said. Basically, I was Trent's back up. If all else failed, I could be behind him, nodding, sometimes even if I disagreed.

"Ready as I'll ever be, chief," I said, giving a reassuring grin.

"What about him?" he said, nodding toward Ethan in the kitchen doorway. He was still on the telephone. I only shrugged. I honestly didn't know how Ethan felt. Throughout the whole seven months he had been, to say the least, agreeable. He could have been as nervous as Doyle, or as anticipatory as Trent. I couldn't tell.

"I'm gonna get some air, too." I stood up and exited the apartment. I was in serious need of a sidekick break. I started jogging, trying to catch up to Doyle. I knew the "get some air" route for him. "Wait up," I called after him, a little out of breath. Doyle stopped and turned around.

"What are you doing out here?" he asked, his hand stuffed into his jacket pockets. I reached him and wrapped my arm around his.

"Is it a crime to walk with you?" I joked as we started to walk.

"No, but I know a few things that are illegal," he said. His gaze was on the ground. His head lowered more than usual.

"Dumb question alert," I said. "Are you OK?" He looked at me.

"Do I look that bad?" he asked.

"Well, you always look bad. Today you're just a bit more obvious than usual," I said. I had to nudge his side slightly to get a small laugh from him. "Nervous, too?"

"'Too'?" he said. "You're not nervous."

"Why do you think that?" I asked, looking over at him. His gaze returned to the sidewalk.

"The four of you are so certain about all this. Especially, you and Trent. I'm the
only one with doubts," he explained. "What is it, an American thing?"

"I'm not certain about anything," I assured him. "I'm probably as doubtful as you." I leaned my head on his shoulder. "We shouldn't worry so much. What's the worst thing that could happen? Besides the whole prison thing."

"We could actually pull it off, that's what."

I couldn't help but think about what Trent had said. Robbing a bank vault. Sounds a lot better than just robbing a bank. I needed the money. I refused to spend the rest of my life selling ugly clothes to even uglier people. It was so incredibly boring to me. I wasn't into clothes, shopping, or telling people they looked "great" in clothes that they could barely put on. After working there for two years, I still wasn't given a promotion. It was exhausting.

The more thought I put into it, the more Trent's idea started to seem feasible. I began elaborating on the idea. I even looked up information on several local banks. "What are you doing?" Ethan asked me one day. I was sitting at the kitchen table going over the list of banks I was "interested" in. I looked up at Ethan, covering the list with my arm.

"Research," I replied. Ethan squinted at me.

"Research on what?" he asked, looking over the almost completely covered table. I was quite busy that day.

"Stuff," I answered.

"I can't believe you're actually putting thought into Trent's crazy ideas. I must say, Reese, you of all people should know better," Ethan scolded.

"Thanks for the lecture, Ethan," I said. "I'm not putting thought into it. I'm…finding examples of why his idea is so insane to…stop him from going forward with it. That's what I'm doing."

"You're horrible at lying," he said and walked out of the kitchen.

"Well, this horrible liar's about to get rich," I said to myself and continued my "research".

Doyle looked at his watch and turned pale. "Three hours and fourteen minutes," he announced. "I don't think I've ever been so nervous in my life."

"It'll all be over soon," I assured him as we reached the apartment.

As we entered The Place, Trent was giving Seth and Ethan his favorite lecture on the three Cs: courage, confidence and cash. Seth and Ethan didn't seem to really be paying attention. We had all heard the famous speech of his a thousand times. Doyle and I entered quietly. Trent didn't skip a beat. He continued as we found seats in the living room. I could tell he was really eager. "If no one gets paranoid and screws up, we can do this," Trent said. "Everyone knows what they have to do, right?"

He looked around the room. Doyle had managed to maintain a less nervous expression as he nodded. Seth was busy trying to fix one of the four radios. Ethan muttered, "Yeah."

"And everyone knows what everyone else is supposed to do, too, right?" Trent asked.

"Trent, we got it," I said. The lecture was getting a bit old.

"This is serious. The littlest mistake from any of us could cost us our lives," he said. I wish he hadn't pointed that out. Doyle went back to his ghostly paleness as the speech ended. There was no doubt in my mind that Trent had dedicated that last remark to Doyle. It didn't take much to discourage Doyle. Not that he was a coward or anything. He was just…careful.

"We need more," Trent said. I had become completely serious and interested in the idea. Trent and I were going over the three banks we had agreed on. It was time to pick one.

"More what?" I asked.

"More people," he replied. I looked at him with a raised eyebrow and shook my head.

"No, Trent," I said. "We can't have any other people involved, except for Ethan. Besides, more for us."

"All right," Trent agreed reluctantly. I took a moment to think.

"Why would we need more people?"

"To actually get into the bank vault," he said. "We're amateurs, Reese. Sure, we can get in passed security. We can do that much. But neither of us knows anything about breaking into vaults."

He had a point. Neither of us were thieves. Well…Trent had stolen two cars before, but that was different. "I hate to admit this," I started, "but you're right."


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