I looked down at Antoine. He was writhing on his back, reaching up to me, his mouth was moving but he wasn’t saying anything. Blood was spurting from his neck where he had been shot. Apparently the police sniper’s bullet had severed his carotid artery. His eyes were scared. I pointed the 9mm semi automatic and pulled the trigger twice. The blood kept spurting but he was still and his eyes closed.
The scriptures tell us that St Paul was on the road to Damascus when he was struck blind by the Lord and learned how the rest of his life was going to play out. I was in a Starbucks, in Seattle, I didn’t go blind and the lord was not involved. Ivan was.
My life had settled into a comfortable routine. Hang drywall all day and sit in waterfront bars all night flirting with the women who worked those kinds of places, occasionally getting lucky. I didn’t see it as luck though, I saw it as inevitable. I knew they could not resist my charm or my money, when I had some.
This particular morning I was in a Starbucks, downtown. I don’t remember which one. I had just gotten my coffee in a to-go cup. None of those fancy lattes or mochas for me, just black, no sugar. As I eased through the door back onto the street, Ivan approached me. I didn’t know his name at the time. I just knew I had been accosted by a tall thin man with long stringy black hair and a wild look in his eyes. He was wearing all black but surprisingly he spoke softly, “You know brotha, when the revolution comes, conspicuous consumers like you will be the first to go.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m sayin’ that what you just paid for that nonfat, double white mocha could feed a family of six for a day in some parts of the world.”
“This is black coffee, brewed, no sugar, no milk, and no chocolate.” I said. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“OK,” he conceded, “Maybe not a family of six. Just a couple ‘a orphans then. Your standin’ has been increased but you are not completely absolved yet. My name is Ivan and I think we can help one another. The revolution is nigh you know, and we will need good men such as yourself.” I found out later that his unidentifiable accent was an affectation and his name was not really Ivan. It was Danny. Well technically it was Daniel, Daniel Garrison from Overland Park, Kansas. But, Ivan was his Nom du Guerre.
“I’m going to be late to work,” I said as I tried to step around him. “Nice talking to you.”
“Come down to the Waterfront Park tonight at 6. We’ll tell you more about the revolution.”
“Right,” I said, “I’ll try to make it” and I walked quickly away. I didn’t give Ivan another thought.
At lunch, I had a little too much Bambalacha and made a lot of mistakes that afternoon. The boss noticed. “Derek, I told you not to come to work stoned anymore,” he said. “Leave, go home, don’t come back. I don’t care what you do on your own time but damn if you can do that on my time.” We’ll mail you what we owe you in a week or so.”
That kinda ruined my day. I threw my tools in the back of the truck and headed straight to Popeye’s, my favorite dive. Not too far from the ferry landing. I sat in a booth, in a corner, in the back and started drinking.
I was way beyond the comfortable glow that most people drink for and I had lost count of how many shots of tequila and beers I had consumed, when I noticed someone sitting in the booth with me, on the other side of the table. “Who th’fuck’re you?” I slurred and tried to focus.
“Relax brotha, it’s me, Ivan. We met this morning. Remember?”
“Ivan.” He grinned. He had nasty looking teeth. “You still comin’ to the meetin’? Learn about the revolution?”
I had just gotten fired, I was drunk as a skunk, and more than a little bit stoned. Why not? What else did I have to do? “Sure Ivan, let’s go.” I stood up to leave and sat right back down again, my head spinning.
“Easy brotha,” Ivan said as he helped me up and to the door. He insisted we walk to the waterfront park. Said it would help me get my legs back. He was right. I was still buzzed when we got to the meeting but I was no longer in danger of falling down or throwing up.
We sat at a bench with three other people. Two of them looked like clones of Ivan, young guys, thin, dressed all in black, with long dark oily hair and bad teeth. I could tell them apart though because one of them was trying to grow a beard and had scattered clumps of hair growing out of his face. The other had some pretty severe acne scarring. Ivan, well you already know what he looked like. The third person was a chick. She was drop dead gorgeous. Her blonde hair mostly tucked up into a black beret she wore with a stylish tilt and, blue eyes that were deeper than Puget Sound, which I could see over her shoulder. She was a vision, time slowed down and there was nothing else, nothing but the girl. A slight breeze blew a wisp of her hair into her eyes and in slow motion she reached up and tucked it back behind her ear.
“…your name, brother?” I heard, “What’s your name?”
“What’s your name?” The acne scarred one asked again. I had no idea how many times he had asked.
“Derek” I told him, and I looked back at the girl, the corners of her mouth were turning down slowly. She was beautiful even when she frowned.
Ivan was talking again now, “Derek is not a fittin’ name for a revolutionary.” He said. “We’re goin’ to have to give you a more suitable handle.”
“I think he looks like a Chekov” the girl said.
“That’s good, you can call me Chekov.” No way was I going to argue with this vision of loveliness. If she thought I was Chekov. I would be Chekov. Anything for her, I wanted to see her smile. I wanted to see her naked. I wanted to dive into her deep blue eyes and swim forever.
“OK, Chekov” Ivan slapped me on the back. “This is Dmitry.” The bearded one nodded his head. “And, this is Antoine.” The scarred guy put out his fist and I bumped it with mine.
“What’s your name?” I asked my one true love.
“Sasha, my name is Sasha” she said matter of factly. I thought I could detect a hint of honeysuckle in her accent. “And, you’re drunk. Drunks disgust me. Ivan, what the hell are you doing bringing him here?”
“I had a really bad day,” I said, “I normally don’t touch alcohol or drugs but, I got fired and…”
“Relax Sasha,” Ivan said calmly, “He’s cool. I have a good feelin’ about him.”
“That’s what you said about the big guy you brought last month. We’re lucky he didn’t go to the police. We’re lucky we’re not all in jail.”
“You’re not going to turn us in are you Chekov?” Dmitri asked through tight lips.
“No way man” I said, staring at Sasha.
I remember nothing that I learned about the revolution that night. I remember nothing I learned about Dmitri, Antoine or Ivan that night. I remember only that I fell in love with Sasha and that nothing else mattered.
Over the course of the next few months I learned that my new band of brothers, along with Sasha, had plans to change the world. I learned that Ivan was a high school dropout from Kansas, named Danny. I learned that Dmitri and Antoine were brothers from Seattle, real names Mark and Wayne Simons. Dmitri and Antoine still lived at home with their widowed mother in the suburbs. Dmitri worked at the paper mill in Tacoma and Antoine worked at a gas station just off the interstate on the south side of Seattle. Sasha’s real name was actually Sasha. She was the only child of Norwegian immigrants who had been killed in a car accident in Georgia, when she was 10 years old. She had been raised in the foster system, too old when she was orphaned to be easily adopted but, too young to be on her own. She was beautiful but she was angry. She worked at the 1st National Bank downtown. I thought about her constantly.
I also learned that a revolution designed to empower the proletariat and topple the plutocracy in America needs to be well funded. This was the initial problem then. How do we finance the revolution? The others were sure that once we had the funds and stirred up some highly visible civil disobedience we could easily sway the masses to our point of view and take over. None of us was in it for the glory or the power that could rightfully be ours for founding this soon to be popular movement. We were in it for the good of society, for the good of the people. Well, everyone but me was in it for the good of society. I was in to be near Sasha.
One night in late autumn we were sitting by the water watching the running lights of the pleasure craft cruising up and down the waterfront. Discussing the teachings of Marx and Lenin, I don’t remember who mentioned it first but soon Ivan was talking about funding and how readily available funding for the revolution could easily be obtained by crime, specifically by robbing a bank, even more specifically by robbing the 1st National Bank downtown. He pointed out that Sasha was familiar with that bank. She was familiar with the security at that bank. She was familiar with the routines at that bank. This, he announced was a slam dunk – the answer to our problems; and anyone having second thoughts should remember that the end justified the means. We were not doing this for personal gain. Antoine was initially skeptical but Sasha and Dmitri were on board, even enthusiastic. I too, was all for the plan. I was for it because Sasha was for it and I could demonstrate my devotion to her by helping to pull this off.
Loosely, the plan was to hit the bank on a Monday afternoon, right after the cash delivery from Brinks. We would bust in, pretend to take Sasha hostage and she would help us into the vault where we could scoop up the cash. We could then exit the building, split up, melt into the crowds outside and disappear in different directions with the money. Later we would rendezvous, at my apartment, to reunite the money we had each been carrying. I was not sure what would happen then but felt pretty sure it would involve telling each other how cool we were and puffing out our chests. Secretly, I hoped that the danger involved would excite Sasha and cause her to puff out her chest, maybe to let down her guard, a situation that I was prepared to exploit to my advantage when, and if, it happened. I was stupid in love.
We bought weapons from some gangbangers Dmitri knew. A couple of 9mm’s, a breech loading 12 gauge side by side shotgun that Dmitri modified by sawing the barrel shorter (leaving less than 10 inches length beyond the trigger guard), and an Uzi. There were four full clips for each 9mm, two dozen shells for the shotgun, four magazines and a couple hundred rounds for the Uzi. Ivan thought he was the leader so he took the Uzi. Dmitri kept the shotgun he had modified so that left the 9mm’s for Antoine and me. Sasha did not need a piece; she was the inside key to the success of the whole job.
But it all went wrong.
On the chosen Monday afternoon at 5:15 it was almost dark when Antoine parked his 1972 Plymouth Barracuda in front of the bank. Ivan reached into his bag and handed masks to Dmitri, Antoine, and me. I looked at my mask, “What the fuck is this Ivan?” I asked.
“Marilyn Monroe,” he said. “You’re Marilyn, Dmitri is Fred Flintstone, Antoine is Madonna, an’ I’m Richard Nixon.”
“Jesus Christ,” Antoine muttered as he tugged the Madonna visage over his head. “Who let you get the masks?”
We crashed in through the front doors, yelling, screaming, waving our guns around and generally acting badass. Ivan even let lose a short spray from the Uzi into the ceiling. Plaster rained down as I headed for the counter, right to Sasha, and jumped over to her side. I grabbed her around the waist threateningly and began to fall in love all over again as I pulled her close. Focus Derek, focus, I thought, trying to push my fantasies aside. Ivan had begun yelling at the customers to get down. He and Dmitri were still yelling. Ivan waving his Uzi over their heads, as the customers all lay on the floor. Dmitri looking behind all the desks and in the offices to make sure no one had hidden. Antoine collared the rent-a-cop and took him to the entrance. His job was to get the front doors locked so no one could come in from the street and cause a problem.
“If you know what’s good for you, take me to the vault bitch.” I said to Sasha. It broke my heart to talk to her like that but it was only for show. I hoped she would understand and forgive me later. We headed to the back where the vault stood open.
Here is where it began to unravel. I heard shots from the lobby and at the same time a head popped up from behind a partition by the vault door. Reflexively, I fired at the partition and it was a lucky shot. Maybe it was an unlucky shot. I hit the guy and he broke the cubicle that he had been in when he fell forward. I urgently whispered to Sasha, “Who the fuck was that?”
“A customer in his safety deposit box,” she said, “shit, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Shit, shit, shit.”
I ran back to the counter. The glass in the entrance door was shattered. Ivan lay still and bleeding from his chest on the floor, his Uzi beside him. Half of Dmitri’s face was missing and he was slumped against the teller counter holding one of the bank pens. The ones that customers use to fill in deposit slips. The little chain hung from the end swinging back and forth. Antoine was running back to where I was standing. “That bastard rent-a-cop tripped the alarm” he said as he leapt over the counter. The front window exploded inward. Antoine did not land neatly behind the counter. He fell clumsily.
I looked down at Antoine. He was writhing on his back, reaching up to me and his mouth was moving but he wasn’t saying anything. Blood was spurting from his neck where he had been shot. Apparently the police sniper’s bullet had severed his carotid artery. His eyes were scared. I pointed the 9mm semi automatic and pulled the trigger twice. The blood kept spurting but he was still and his eyes closed.
I was pulled down from behind and when I spun, panicked, I saw Sasha. She took my mask and crawled to the dead bank customer I had shot. Unceremoniously she tugged the mask over the dead man’s head. She crawled back to me, took my 9mm and shot me in the leg. My mouth fell open in surprise and I stared at her. She thrust the gun back into my hand, crawled into the corner, curled into a fetal position, and began screaming. I lay still; I didn’t know what to do. What a fuckup. My leg hurt. My mind was a mess. Sasha just kept screaming.
Eventually the cops came in. I lay still. They disarmed me, rolled me over, and cuffed my hands behind my back. An EMT was examining my leg while another was working with the cop trying to calm Sasha. Eventually, she stopped screaming. The bank manager was kneeling next to her, telling her what a hero she was. Then she looked at me. “What about him?” she asked.
“It’s OK, he can’t hurt you now,” the cop said.
“He never wanted to hurt me; he saved me when he disarmed and shot that guy over there. You have to let him go. He’s a customer and he’s been wounded.”
The manager’s eyes got big and his expression got worried. You could see the thoughts of lawsuits going through his mind. “Yeah, let him go. He’s not part of this. Can’t you see?”
The cop looked at the manager who was looking at me. He looked at Sasha who was looking at me. He looked at me, I was looking at Sasha; I had never been more in love. He stumbled over to me and undid my cuffs. I brought my hands around and rubbed my wrists to get the circulation going again.
The EMT’s announced I had just been grazed. I refused further treatment. We had to stick around for a couple of hours to provide statements to the authorities. Lucky for us, Sasha and I were never separated while giving our statements so it was pretty easy to corroborate each other’s stories. Eventually they had to cut us loose. We picked our way through the Crime Scene guys to the front walk.
“Thanks” I said.
“I’m done being a revolutionary,” she announced.
“Want to get a cup of coffee?” I asked.
“No,” she shook her head.
My spirits sank. My life was over. I might as well go back in and tell the cops the truth.
“I’d rather get a nonfat, double white mocha.”