Holding a gun at a girl who looked like my sister
This is an edited extract from the book by “Dumb and Dumber” bank robber Anthony Prince: Bank Robbery for Beginners – a story of criminal stupidity and its very serious consequences.
I entered the bank first. The two tellers were behind the counter chatting. The anticipated fear and adrenaline was vague – all I recall is wanting to get it over with as quickly as possible. I opened my mouth and out fell the words, ‘This is a robbery!’
I held up my pistol. I remember the two girls turning and looking at me, like they knew me. The older girl, Kim, stared at me with a peculiar smile on her face, like she understood this was a joke and she wanted me to stop mucking around.
Suddenly, Luke came storming in from behind me, doing the whole madman-robbing-a-bank thing – ‘Shut the fuck up and give us all the money!’ – and then the girls’ faces changed.
The change was so dramatic I’ll never forget it. Kim’s mouth fell open like a drawbridge and her eyes seemed to double in size. And Jessica – poor Jessica – began to shake and spontaneously burst into tears, her hand going up to her mouth as a look of total horror swept across her face. She looked into the barrel of my gun as if it were her last moment on earth.
This troubled me. I hadn’t expected it, crazily enough.
In my mind, I knew it was only a BB gun, so I hadn’t really expected anyone else to be shitting themselves about it. It was only when I saw her cry that I realised she had no way of knowing that this wasn’t a real gun and I wasn’t a real arsehole. I actually had to stop myself from telling her it was only a BB gun, and that I was a friendly hippie from Byron Bay who’d never hurt anyone in his life. In a way I wish I had – it would have probably earned me a lighter sentence, and it would have been pretty funny.
Unfortunately, what was happening wasn’t funny at all. I had snapped out of my fucked-up stupor the second I’d lifted my gun. It was as if the very act of entering the bank had burst a bubble – this was no longer a joke, it was happening, in real time. People were really being robbed at gunpoint, and I was the one doing it. I felt sick and frightened by my own shadow, suddenly and terribly. My legs went weak and I had a brick in my guts.
I wanted to walk straight out of there immediately, back into the world that had treated me so well all my life.
Evidently, Luke wasn’t feeling so bashful. He was staunch behind the counter, shouting in an accent so undisguised he sounded like a Tourism Australia advertisement.
In one stupid moment, I opened my mouth to shout out to him: ‘Luke! Lose the Australian accent!’, but stopped myself just in time.
Luke screamed at Kim to get on the floor and lie down. She was standing in a little gap in the counter that tellers could walk through and, as Luke shouted his directions, he pushed her through it and towards the floor – not hard, but with what I’d call a forceful guiding motion.
She had come to work with her backpack on, and with all the shouting and terror Kim must have been pretty weak in the legs. As Luke pushed her, she fell forward, onto her knees and hands on the floor.
These girls had probably thought about this possibility every day: When am I going to be held up? How will I react? Kim was doing well. I don’t know whether it was because she was older and had probably been working there longer, but she was handling it. I remember seeing her just lying on the floor, her mind ticking over. She didn’t look scared. It was almost as if she was listening, taking it all in, trying to work out who we were.
I remember being troubled by her calmness.
Luke then turned to Jessica, who was wet with hysteria.
‘Where’s the fucking money?’ he shouted.
I don’t know what Jessica’s answer was – she was so fucked up she could barely speak, and her words were coming out as gibberish. There was something about a key.
Then Kim raised her head from the floor and translated what she knew Jessica was trying to say; that she needed a key to the safe and didn’t have one. Kim said there were keys in her bag, which was on the bench next to the teller’s register.
I don’t recall either Luke or I ever talking about vaults or safes when we were planning the robbery. We’d only been thinking of the tills. When Luke shouted out asking where the money was, we got a shock when they said it was in a safe, and that she’d need to open it with her key.
It was not something we had expected. In our minds, the most successful scenario was us making off with about ten grand,scooped from the registers in a matter of seconds.
Nevertheless, Luke ordered Jessica to get the keys from Kim’s bag, which she proceeded to do.
At this point I noticed Jessica was so hysterical she was almost incapable of doing anything – her hands were shaking and she was blinded by her own tears. I had to say something.
‘We don’t want to hurt you, lady,’ I said, in my best American accent. ‘We just want the money. If you stay calm and give us the money, we won’t hurt you and we’ll go.’
It didn’t seem to work. She fumbled in the bag until she found the keys and made her way to the vault at the back of the bank. There, on her knees at the safe, she was having trouble with the lock, and then when she got the outside door of the safe open she couldn’t remember the combination.
She was sobbing the whole time, and Luke was behind her with the barrel of his gun against the back of her neck. That was not necessary. But I guess that was Luke keeping his mettle up.
And that’s probably how you get the job done in that game. If you’re going to rob a bank, I suppose you’re better off doing it like a bank robber, and not like the friendly family dentist, which is what I was being, or at least what I wished I was. I could see that these girls didn’t need any more fear and terror – that was sorted. This was real enough.
What they needed was someone who was going to convince them they were going to get out of this alive.
One of the many thoughts that were messing with my head at this moment was the memory of my sisters. Jessica, the younger teller, reminded me so much of my own sister, who happens to be called Jessie as well. She was about the same age, and even looked a little similar. This thought had first occurred to me when I’d had my gun in Jessica’s face, and had kept re-entering my consciousness throughout the robbery, like some mosquito that won’t go away. It is unusual in the history of bank robbery, I’m sure, for the bandit to start thinking tender thoughts about his own sister as he’s taking down the joint. But there was a lot about this heist that was unusual.
It was too surreal even for the perpetrator. I turned my back towards the action and began to walk towards the door, in part because, subconsciously, I wanted to put some distance between what was happening and me.
As I did so, I noticed this guy peering through the window, his face up to the glass as if he were window-shopping. This was a new complication. I walked up to the door just as he arrived at it. I opened the door slightly, and told him he couldn’t come in, that there were electrical problems and we were fixing them. I said this from behind a ski mask and with a gun in my hand. He just got this look on his face that said: ‘Yeah, right!’ and missioned off around the corner.
This guy was going to be trouble.
I stood at the door for a moment, looking out into the streets of the village, which were covered in holiday snow.
People were beginning to go about their business, as if nothing was happening. I so much wanted to be one of them, with a boring nine-to-five job, and the promise of a little bit of joy at the end of the day with a few drinks and a safe night’s sleep. I knew these few minutes inside this bank had cut us off from that world for the foreseeable future.
It was a very depressing thought to have poking through the raw panic I was feeling. I wasn’t just a naughty boy anymore, or a young larrikin who needed a stern talking-to. I was a crook, a bad dude. I was going down.
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