A vulture floated high in the desert sky, circling around itself. It looked like an insect struggling in the spiderweb of my broken windshield. The taste of iron was heavy in my mouth as the blood began to drip to the back of my throat. The steering wheel of my Chevy was slick from my poorly bandaged hand. The shotgun was still wet with blood in the seat next to me. The shadows from the setting sun behind me pointed the way down the highway. My phone rang.
Don’t do this. I listened, but there was nothing she could say. They’re your family. He’s your brother.
Not any more.
I pushed open the side door of the bank and hurried to my truck parked in the alley. I opened the door and the glove box and I traded the velvet pouch in my hand for some of the gauze inside. I rolled two strips and put them up my broken nose. I went around to the driver’s side and got in. I reached for the shotgun in the back and put it in the seat next to me. I started the engine and pulled onto the street in front of the bank. As I turned, Dale came stumbling, bleeding, down the steps of the bank. He ran into the middle of the street and held his hands up in front of me. I didn’t stop.
He tried to jump when he realized it was too late. He rolled up onto the hood; his head shattered my windshield before he rolled off onto the street. Then I stopped. I grabbed my shotgun and got out. I slowly walked over to Dale writhing on the black pavement. Some people ran on the sidewalk. Some watched, stunned. There were sirens in the distance.
Where are you going? He knew the answer, but I guess he saw a little hope while looking at that light at the end of the tunnel. He spat the words out of his blood-filled mouth again. Where are you going!
I didn’t answer. I stood with the shotgun, him under me laying on the blackness. I got down on one knee to look into Dale’s eyes one last time. He didn’t want me to see. He grabbed his knife and slashed. He opened up my hand. That was my fault. I underestimated the desperation of a man who no longer had anything and was about to lose everything. I wiped my hand on my suit and stood back up. I aimed my shotgun at Dale, my right hand bleeding on the trigger. The anger was gone from his eyes and he was crying now. He muttered one last pitiful time.
Where are you going…
I pulled the trigger.
My brother, Eduardo, Oliver, and I walked into the bank clean-cut and in our nicest suits. I fired my revolver into the air and they pulled their knives and ran towards the patrons.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry for the inconvenience, but we are here to make a withdrawal. Please follow my associates into the meeting room to your right so I can have some privacy with our bank. This will all be over in a minute.
My brother and Eddie herded the 9 patrons present in the bank into the small side room and collected their wallets and valuables. Oliver and the security guard locked the front door. I hopped the front desk to speak to the tellers.
You, take me to the safe-deposit boxes. You, money better be in the bag by the time I get back.
I left a duffle bag with the young women at the front desk and the young man took me back to the deposit boxes. I holstered my revolver. He took me to the room. I told him thank you and went in.
I felt my brother come up quick behind me. He had left his job of hero control in the side room. He grabbed my revolver from my side as he jumped in front of me and pointed it at my face.
You think you can sneak off like this?
What are you talking about?
I know why we are here. And I want it. Give me the key.
He drove the butt of the revolver into my nose as hard as he could. I fell to a knee.
I’m not stupid. You thought I was your whole life. Look where we are now.
He kicked me in the chest. I fell onto my back. He stepped up and pointed the revolver down between my eyes.
We aren’t just here to take this bank. This is your stash. He laughed and shook his head. Give me the key or I can just take it.
You know I won’t do that.
You know I will.
So do it.
You have three seconds. If you don’t give me the key, it’s over for you.
I didn’t say anything.
I smiled at my brother standing above me, pointing my revolver between my eyes a few feet away. I slowly slid back another foot. He tracked my forehead with the gun, smiling at my cowardice.
He pulled the trigger. The bang was deafening. The flash burned. I kicked out his feet. He was too stunned to counter and he fell to the ground. I got up and gave him another kick in the face. Dale never retaliated. He couldn’t understand what he had just seen. I beat him senseless in that room.
Dale, you fucking scavenger.
I cleared the chambers of my revolver and slid a bullet in and spun the cylinder shut. I looked at Dale, slumped in the corner of the room bleeding on his suit.
That a chance you want to take?
I opened my deposit box and grabbed the velvet pouch and left Dale in the room. I walked out to the lobby with the pouch in my pocket and gave the entire duffle bag the young lady had filled to Eddie and Oliver and went to the side door.
The four of us were sitting around Eddie’s table discussing the plan of action for tomorrow. This was a small bank in a small town east of Tucson. Another day at the office for us.
Sounds good boys.
So you are really going to be done after this?
Yes sir. Hanging up the spikes and leaving Tucson for good tomorrow.
Who’s gonna get the gun?
My brother laughed. We all get guns after this. No more knife bullshit. I trust you guys. He shot a sly smile at me.
Eddie gets the gun.
My brother looked at me. What about your stash?
Don’t worry about my stash.
Well how much you still got left? How are you gonna get it?
I looked at my brother. What’s it to you?
He smiled. Just looking out for my older bro. Loosen up. He changed the subject. Mine’s in gold. 1.2 mil right under my house.
Eddie shook his head and took a drag from his cigarette. Why the fuck do you keep 1.2 million in gold in your house when your wife is there all day?
Under the house. She don’t know about it. She’s too worried about the baby all day to ever figure anything out. She don’t know that right under her feet there is 1.2 mil in gold.
Christ, baby brother, we know about the 1,196,000 in gold bars you have. Stop flaunting it. You should have more.
Says the guy with the brand new 1995 Chevrolet Silverado. He smiled. Seriously man, how much you got left.
This meeting is adjourned. See you tomorrow, fellas. It’s a big day. Look sharp.
I walked out and got in my truck. I thought about how my brother was acting. He seemed off. It didn’t feel right. There was a hint of greed in his smile. If it had been Eddie or Oliver, they would have been out of the job. But he’s my own brother. I couldn’t just trust my gut. I needed to see him stab me in the back. Before I went home I drove to Ernie’s gun shop and bought some blanks.
My brother walked through Eddie’s door for the meeting. He had left his wife and kid in El Paso to help us pull one last job.
next: Reservoirs – Part Two
more by KRAMER LINDELL
photograph by Vladislav333222