By A. Williams
Jason ran his hand through his dark curly hair as he stood in line at the bank. His boss hadn’t even wanted to let him off early even though he knew the bank closed at 5 p.m. He hated his job.
“Put your cell phones away! Don’t want you calling the cops and pretending you’re just talking to a friend!” a voice commanded.
The customers looked up from their cell phones, saw the masked robber pointing a gun their way and did as he asked. Jason hadn’t been on his phone anyway; it was still in his pocket.
“You!” The man in a ski mask pointed to a teller. “Round up all the employees and bring them to the lobby after you lock that outside door! Quickly! Don’t any of you think about pressing that button to summon the cops!”
The employees moved into the lobby from behind the counter and their offices.
“Which one of you is the manager?”
A man stepped forward and glared at the bank robber.
The robber pointed his gun at him. “Fill this bag up with money! Now!”
“You won’t get away with this. The cameras are taking your picture. Surrender now and you won’t face much prison time,” the manager said.
“Nice try. I was in here earlier, casing the joint, and I overheard you say the cameras were on the fritz this morning.”
The manager scowled as he took the bag. While he filled the bag with money, the robber looked around at everyone, as if to make sure no one was trying to call the cops. Jason’s heart pounded as the masked man moved nearer to him.
The manager approached them with the bag. “Just set it down, here,” said the masked man. The manager obeyed. “Now back up to the counter.”
The robber was so close to Jason now; he could tell what shade of brown his eyes were. He pointed to Jason. “Pick up the bag. You’re carrying it out for me.”
“M-Me?” Jason stammered.
“Yes.” The robber pointed at the manager. “This man is carrying out the bag. No one leaves the bank or calls the cops for five minutes unless you want him shot. Understand?”
Jason picked up the bag, his hands shaking.
The manager nodded. “Yes. Please don’t shoot anybody. We’ll do as you say.” He unlocked the door.
“You first,” the robber said, as he followed Jason out of the bank, and around the side of the building. “That one.” The man pointed at a white car. “It’s unlocked. Put the bag in the back and get in the driver’s seat.”
“I need a hostage. Get in now!”
Jason threw the bag in the back seat and got behind the wheel of the car. The keys were in the ignition. He shut the door, fastened his seat belt, and started the car.
“Drive normal,” the robber said, after he’d settled into the passenger seat.
“Turn left, take a left on Sandown, and drive to the public library. Do you know where it is?”
“Yes.” Jason followed the directions and pulled into the lot which was deserted except for a blue car. The library was closed for renovation which hadn’t yet begun.
“That’s my car,” the robber said. “Park beside it.” Jason obeyed. The robber grabbed the money bag. “Now, we’ll both get out at the same time. Don’t want you locking the doors and phoning the cops.”
Jason hadn’t even considered that option.
The robber set the money bag into the back seat of his car after he’d unlocked it. Then he pointed at Jason. “Come on.”
Jason stood there, trying to think calmly. He knew the odds on his survival dropped if he went with the robber. “No. You don’t need a hostage anymore, you’re home free. I don’t hear any sirens and the police don’t know about this car. I won’t tell them anything. Please don’t make me come with you. I haven’t even seen your face.”
A siren wailed in the distance. “I don’t have time to argue with you.” The robber tucked the gun into the waistband of his jeans. He forced Jason inside, buckling the passenger seat belt over the struggling man, then quickly locked both doors from his side and started the car. He had pulled out of the parking slot before Jason could undo his seat belt.
“What do you want me for, anyway?” Jason asked.
“You’re attractive and I thought we could have some fun.” The robber peeled off his ski mask and tossed it behind him into the back seat.
Jason gulped. This situation just kept getting worse and worse. “I’m not gay,” he lied.
Jason trembled and gazed at the robber’s profile.
“Don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you.”
The man laughed, and after a few minutes said, “I bet you have no idea where we are.”
“No, I don’t.”
“It’s the poor side of town.”
The robber pulled into the parking lot of a shabby motel. “I don’t have to remind you that I have a gun, do I?”
Jason didn’t say anything. He undid his seatbelt and got out of the car. The other man grabbed the bag and mask from the back seat.
The motel room had a double bed, chest of drawers with mirror and TV, a table with two chairs, a bathroom, and a tiny alcove for a closet.
Jason didn’t comment on the overall shabbiness of the furniture and the well-worn bedspread.
The robber set his bag down and stared at Jason. “Take your clothes off.”
Jason smirked. “Strip me yourself, Xavier.”
“How long have you known who I am?”
“I thought your voice was familiar, but I couldn’t place it, cause it’s deeper now. When you removed your mask, I studied your face and noticed the small mole you have beside your right ear. I remembered that. The mustache threw me off though, but it suits you.”
Xavier smiled and withdrew the gun from his waistband. He set it down on the table. “I recognized you as soon as I saw you in line, and I wanted to talk with you. When I realized I might never see you again, I decided to take you hostage. I would never shoot you or anyone else, Jason, the gun isn’t even loaded. You look about the same as you did when we were sixteen, except you’re not wearing glasses.”
“I’ve got contacts now.”
“Why didn’t you write me?” they both asked at the same time.
“I’ll go first,” Xavier said. “My parents took away my cell phone and said they couldn’t afford for me to have one. They said they decided to sell the house and move into a cheaper one for financial reasons. I knew they were lying and the real reason for the move was to separate us. I wrote you several letters and you never answered. I got in trouble by hanging around with the wrong crowd and ended up in juvenile hall. And instead of rehabilitating, I learned the ways of criminals.”
“My turn,” said Jason. “First of all, I’m sorry to hear about all that. My parents took my phone away too. They told me straight out they were glad you moved from next door, that our relationship was unnatural. The next time I was at the mall alone, I bought a no-contract cell phone with a 90 day plan and activated it in secret when I got home. Your phone number was out of service, so I figured your parents had taken your phone away like mine had. When you didn’t write to give me your new address, I finally realized that the mail was delivered to our house before I got home from school, and that my mother must have trashed your letters.”
Xavier smiled. “I’ve missed you so much. Are you involved with someone now?”
“No. And I’ve never loved anyone but you.”
“Same here.” Xavier moved closer and kissed Jason, who returned the kiss eagerly. Then he backed Jason toward the bed and started unbuttoning his shirt. He stopped. “What are we doing? Everyone probably thinks I’ve killed you by now. I’ll drop you off at the bus station and you need to call the cops.”
“Oh, that’s right. I was so happy to see you, I forgot about everything else. I’ll tell them you never removed your mask, so I don’t know what you look like. Then I’ll tell them you changed cars and where the stolen car is. I don’t have to lie about the car models because I don’t know anything about cars. Or the plate numbers because I honestly didn’t notice. But should I tell them your car is blue, or should I lie?”
“Don’t lie about the color. The more truth in your lies, the easier it will be for you. They’ll keep asking you about the events and you have to say the same thing every time. Let’s go.”
Jason kept rehearsing what he would tell the cops while Xavier listened, stopping him occasionally with suggestions as he drove to the bus station.
Xavier parked a block away. “Surveillance cameras might tape us if I get much closer.” They each entered the other’s name and number on their phone’s contacts app.
Jason kissed him before he got out of the car. “I’ll call you as soon as the cops finish with me and tell you how it went.”
“Please do that.”
Jason shut the door and watched his former lover drive off. He couldn’t wait to see him again and wondered if Xavier might like a business partner.