How many times have I rewritten this sucker now? Too many. But I have a plan for this novel now, and I’m confident I can really make it sing. Just gotta find the time in between revising Century of Sand 2…
It’ll happen. I promise.
A YOUNG ADULT HEIST CAPER
I kept the pedal to the floor until the sirens had faded into the distance.
My brother William was in the back of the van, trembling, swearing every time we hit a pothole. I watched him in the rear view mirror. Sweat shone on his brow. His hands trembled in his lap. “They’re not gonna catch us, right? Right?”
Dad was sitting beside me, in the passenger seat. He couldn’t sit still. Looking left, looking right, twisting to look back behind us through the window, to see if the cops were closing.
His pupils were huge. I hear adrenaline does that to your eyes. Adrenaline, or fear.
“I think we left them behind,” he said, finally. His voice shook just like William’s hands. On his lap, zip bulging, was a duffel bag. Whenever the van bounced he clutched it tight, like the whole thing would fly away if he didn’t keep it hugged close. “Slow down a little, or you’ll get pulled over for speeding.”
“Yeah!” William called from the back. “Wouldn’t want to lose your learner license!”
My mouth was dry and my heart was smashing against my ribs so hard I thought it’d pop, but my hands were steady on the wheel. I’d been the getaway driver long enough to know how to keep the car moving in a straight line. “What do we do now?”
See, this wasn’t the plan. You have to have a plan if you’re going to rob a bank, and we’d come up with a pretty good one. But not all plans work out.
This job – our last job, we hoped – was one of those times.
A guard at the bank had spooked at the last moment. We’d gotten the cash but barely slipped the police net. The place we’d intended on hiding the car was about fifty miles behind us now, and there were probably twenty cop cars between us and home. Maybe more.
Worse, everything west of San Antonio was flat and bare. Nowhere private to ditch the car and change outfits..
“There.” Dad pointed left, off road. “That gully!”
The van almost went airborne a couple times as I pulled off-road, and my knuckles were white by the time we stopped in a gravel pit with tall, sloping walls. Just steep enough to hide us from the road, I guessed.
Dad was already unbuckling his seatbelt. “We have to burn the evidence. Move!”
We’d brought a spare can of gas, enough for a small fire. Dad and William’s orange hi-vis vests became plastic puddles and the paper masks we’d all worn as disguises turned to ash. Our wigs burst into blue flame and the BB gun slumped like a marshmallow, hissing in the heat.
“Clothes too,” Dad said.
William and I looked at each other uncomfortably, but we knew he was right. We took turns, changing in the back of the van and tossing everything we’d worn during the robbery into the fire. My old hoodie, the cap I’d used to hide my long hair, my purple summer top and my jeans turned into one big pile of nylon sludge. The sequins across the butt of those jeans made satisfying popping noises as they melted and turned black.
I don’t know why it felt to good to watch them burn. Old life gone, new life beginning, I guess.
Dad shoveled pebbles and dirt across the whole mess before we left. The sun was setting above the ridges to the west, thin dusk light shining on the buckshot wounds peppered across Dad’s shoulders.
He caught me staring. “Not a word to your mother,” he said. “You know what it’d do to her if she found out.”
I mimed zipping my lips. It helped disguise how sick I felt, looking at his wounds.
Dad nodded. “You’re a good girl, Caecey. Best a father could ask for.”
William and I hid in the back of the van as Dad took the long way back to town, winding south through dusty side-roads before joining Highway 37. Two patrol cars passed us on the way, but their sirens were off and we’d already swapped the plates. Just another boring unmarked van returning to the city after a long day’s work in the country.
At least, that’s what I hoped they’d think.
I tried to stretch out but my heels kept bumping the duffel bag of crinkling, bank-fresh hundreds. Will met my eyes from across the van. Young, bright eyes – he was two years my junior – but right then it felt like I was looking at someone totally new. Someone who’d grown up an awful lot in the past few months.
“That was the last one,” he whispered.
“No more banks.”
“That’s what Dad says.”
“Feels weird, doesn’t it?” He nodded at the bag. “It’s like our golden ticket.”
But it didn’t feel like a golden ticket. It felt like I was sitting next to something huge, something ticking. A nuke about to erupt and swallow the van in a blaze of pure white light.
Dad didn’t say a word to us, not until we hit the city outskirts. He dropped us near a bus stop about ten minutes from home. “You two get back safe. Hide the money in the usual place while I dump the van.”
“You sure you’ll be okay?”
Dad grinned, one arm slung over the back of his seat, all cocky like we hadn’t just robbed a bank, hadn’t just been shot at by security, hadn’t just incinerated our disguises and pellet-gun like wannabe Mafiosi. “Why wouldn’t I be okay? We’re set, kids. No more debts. No more being afraid. We pulled it off. All of us, we did it. Together.” He reached out, patted us each on the shoulder in turn. “I’m so proud of you both. This family gets things done. Right?”
“Right,” I said, but there wasn’t any feeling in it. I knew I was supposed to be happy. This was what I’d fought for, after all.
Safety. Success. Dad’s pride.
Even so, something was wrong. A twisting deep in my gut, like a premonition of bad times coming.
Dad drove away, tail-lights vanishing around the corner. The bus was already approaching. William brushed his long dark hair back from his face and slung the bag over his shoulder. “Times are good, Case. Smile, why don’t you?”
But all my attention was on the city below us, pearls of orange streetlights stitching the skyline. Thousands of grunting car horns. The whoop and whine of cop cars.
One and a half million people, and all it’d take was one who’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Who could connect Dad to the bank, the bank to the van.
I wanted everything to be perfect. I really did.
But life doesn’t work out that way. Because I’d messed up that day. Messed up real bad.
I just didn’t know it yet.