Trusted worldwide, banks serve as the financial institution guarding people's deposits while simultaneously granting loans. It is about that lending ability a bank possesses that on the morning of December 23rd, armed with only a small USB flash drive, Sentou Robinson would inquire. The frost that Saturday morning in Cincinnati, Ohio, kept most citizens quietly tucked away in bed; and far from the bank that was located close to the river-facing neighboring Kentucky. But today's momentous event would prove far from quiet. Tall, dark, and well equipped with the perfect combination of intelligence and technical ability, Sentou Robinson, 26 now, was anything but a typical borrower. He was more so looking to make a permanent withdrawal. Unlike the past's violent capers, this modern-day robbery would go completely unnoticed by patrons of the bank that cold winter morning.
"Good morning! How are ya?"
greeted Trent Hernandez, one of the three tellers that Saturday morning at the bank. They were set up and ready to handle the mid-morning rush. The three security guards arrived with their usual coffee and doughnuts, a tradition on most Saturdays.
"Did you remember my Boston Crème this time, Rene?"
was always the gripe from Bob Lomax, a longstanding security guard at the bank now for 18 years. Finally, loan specialists and the bank officer arrived that chilly morning.
Entering the Bank of Losantiville at that same time was another perpetrator with a similar plan; as the sun illuminated the marble floors of the bank through large pane windows lining walls of white. He had reached the end of his wits with an ongoing healthcare battle involving his wife, which had, in turn, consumed his life. Jeffrey Selms walked in, carrying a small black bag and a sense of purpose. Desperate, paranoid, and impatient, Jeffrey was not an experienced bank robber. He was someone who had a problem. A problem which offered only one solution, money. Money which could save his wife from a rare infection in the brain. This ongoing dilemma resulted in tired, middle-aged, and mild-mannered Jeffrey Selms taking matters into his own hands and securing the funds to ensure his wife's survival.
Two men with identical objectives stood plotting in Cincinnati's Mt. Adams posh neighborhood setting. They both wanted the same thing, but robbing a bank for the first time would prove far more complicated than previously thought. Sentou was a cybercriminal, an internet-based modern-day thief, committing crimes under cover of the dark web. Unforgiving to who's hard-earned money he took and transferred account to account, he never saw the faces of his victims. But that was not the case on this Saturday morning, as Sentou was required to access the bank's computer in-person to carry out his master plan. There was a specific layer of encryption he had to access and decipher in person. That is why he had to use this small USB flash drive in the computer and get the sensitive data necessary to complete his transmission of funds before being detected. He was nervous but hid his lack of real-world experience well. Never did he have to face those he robbed blindly online. Robbing a bank would be a whole new experience. As a hacker on the internet, he rarely left his home or communicated with the outside world, much less made any small talk.
"What a great view, huh? I've been coming here for years and never get tired of seeing it,"
sighed Gus Reynolds, a longstanding loyal patron of the Bank of Losantiville. He stood in line behind Sentou, who waited on the next available teller. Gus was a regular at the bank. He loved talking to people. The heavyset retired Cincinnati native was pleasant and always happy to make new acquaintances. He continued talking to Sentou, reluctant about engaging in any conversation that morning as the present situation didn't allow for it. "Yeah," he agreed while looking away, trying not to entice Gus any further.
"You can't beat Saturday mornings at this bank. Shorter lines and almost no traffic getting up here,"
continued Gus, smiling. Sentou stepped out of the line and headed for the restroom, hoping to escape any more social interaction.
Jeffrey had entered the bank of Losantiville that morning with hope and a well-constructed plan. He was not a violent man. Jeffrey had never fired a weapon in his life but was desperate and willing to risk his entire life for Hannah. He might lose it if the security guards or police officers shoot him dead trying to rob the bank and put their citizen's lives in danger. Either way, it was not a simple decision that led up to this moment. He brooded over this for days. He had no other choice. Hannah clung to her life in a hospital bed riddled with IVs and needing a highly specialized procedure the minimal health insurance coverage Jeffrey had as a public school teacher would not cover. The cost of being able to afford the healthcare Hannah so desperately needed is what led him to stand in the bank, waiting to rob it. Breaking the law was the only way.
Sentou made it to the restroom without further engagement. He needed to speak with a bank representative and somehow get them to leave him in the presence of their computer terminal. Long enough for him to insert the USB flash drive without detection, letting the automatic set of applications already in place work their magic. A feat that would prove difficult, as there were many complications. What if they returned before he could finish hijacking their system? What if they spotted the device before he could complete his transaction and, worse, implicate him as the culprit? No one had ever seen his face. The only piece of evidence possibly linking him to any crime was his handle or username. His name was "KaØ$." This one score could ultimately change his life forever. Although cybercriminals were not violent, their punishment was just as severe as regular criminals, and our dear KaØ$ had no intention of being trapped inside a prison cell. That morning Sentou had taken a tremendous step considering all those possibilities. Was it worth it? Did the gains justify the means? With a considerably hefty bank account, untraceable and securely in the small Central American country of Costa Rica, KaØ$ could easily walk away from this situation and live happily ever after. There had to be something substantial to gain and driving him to make this drastic decision. Either way, it would be tremendously beneficial to carry out such a sophisticated bank heist.
"Did you sign up already?"
asked the security guard on duty, also serving as host at the front of the bank. He looked Jeffrey over, who seemed reluctant to proceed as planned.
"Sign the list so they can call you,"
insisted the former City of Cincinnati police officer, now turned security guard. A particular hunch led Rene Jenkins, principal branch security officer, to doubt the out-of-place Jeffrey Selms. He'd seen lots over the years as a crime fighter on the force, thus learning a lot about people and their body language. This moment was one of those times when his experience would prove invaluable as Rene felt it was essential to monitor this guy as he walked away.
Sentou returned from the restroom, now calm and refocused, crossing the long, bright corridor leading from the bathrooms to the bank's main layout, accented by high ceilings and local Ohio artwork. It had that gothic look to it but with a modern feel, well designed to achieve the perfect balance between the old and the new. Just like this crime about to take place, we had "the new," with Sentou, our cybercriminal stealing everyone's digital dollars through a small electronic device. And "the old," represented by Jeffrey, our desperate husband turned bank robber presently walking down that same hallway towards the restrooms for the next phase of his plan.
It was at that exact moment in time the two men crossed paths. Jeffrey and Sentou immediately felt something odd. A strange and inexplicable feeling had come over them. They both knew something was afoot. This guy lacked the look of a typical patron at the bank, thought Jeffrey, looking Sentou square in the face as they approached each other along that same bright corridor that led to the bathrooms. Exchanging glances, Sentou could not help but notice the small black bag Jeffrey carried and thus suspected him. It was a crossfire of suspicions. Our two characters acknowledged each other along the narrow hallway connecting the bank's principal part to the only other exit to the building in its rear. Both would remember this specific moment in time as their plans unfolded.
Sentou Robinson, aka KaØ$, carefully approached the security guard at the front. He didn't want to bring any unnecessary attention to himself but felt it beneficial to speak with the guard as it could downgrade any suspicion later in the plot.
"Sir, can you tell me how I can speak with someone about taking out a home loan?"
inquired Sentou as the guard looked at his clipboard and reviewed the names on the list.
"What's your name, sir?"
asked Rene as he carefully studied the list, trying to guess when a bank representative would be available to speak with him.
It was not the most imaginative name, but it was the name our cyber genius had created along with all the matching paperwork and identification required to apply for a "loan."
"Your name isn't on the list, sir,"
replied Rene as he skimmed through the list once again, making sure he didn't possibly miss his name.
"No, I didn't sign it, sorry,"
said Sentou as he picked up a pen to add his name to the list.
"Well, it looks like you got a couple of people before you, but it shouldn't be too long before they get to you. Feel free to help yourself to some coffee, and someone will call your name as soon as they can."
Rene was always cheerful. He had those warm people skills that his co-workers at the bank admired. Upon leaving the City, Rene went to work for the Bank of Losantiville. He figured this would be a good fit for him as he wanted to slow things down. The bank was conveniently in a sleepy part of town marked by steep hills and lavishly expensive residences, all overlooking the contrasting sights of Covington, Kentucky, seen across the river. Local small businesses in this neighborhood thrived as business owners all sought to claim their part of the up-and-coming Mt. Adams community. He was right where he wanted to be, feeling the peace and calm of being out of uniform and out of the downtown Cincinnati OTR beat he served for so many years. The actions about to occur would soon interrupt this tranquility, as our two nefarious characters were already in place for phase one of their master plans.
Jeffrey Selms entered the men's room, making sure there was no one there. The restroom had several stalls and urinals for the convenience of its bank customers. Lucky for him, he was all alone. Jeffrey expelled a quick sigh of relief as he hastily threw his bag on the elongated sink area and opened it to remove an "Out of Order" sign he brought as part of his plan. He placed it on the door before locking himself in there. He had to rush. Jeffrey stripped down to his underwear, put away all his clothes in the bag, and went over to the men's room's leftmost stall. He entered the booth and climbed on top of the toilet, placing his feet on either side of the seat as he reached up to remove a specific ceiling tile. He stretched up high, leaning over to get his left arm deep into the opening, and retrieved a large plastic bag hidden inside the ceiling tiles. Something left for him to recover this very morning. He replaced the tile and dismounted the toilet with the bag hoisted overhead, proceeding to open it and remove its contents. Inside the bag was a long black jumpsuit complete with a full-faced black ski mask, which extended down past his neck, two fully loaded, .45 caliber handguns, two sizeable black canvas bags, and what appeared to be a homemade explosive device. His plot was not as sophisticated a plan as Sentou, obviously, but it made no difference because Jeffrey Selms was about to rob a bank.
announced Lisa Frein, one of the loan specialists at the bank, as she called upon Sentou, who stood by the entrance, dreaming of his escape. Lisa led him to a small cubicle coincidentally nestled right by the bank's vintage revolving doors. Sentou had a seat and proceeded to ask about applying for a loan while Lisa looked over her computer screen for the specific file containing the paperwork necessary.
"It's been a crazy morning. Did you have some coffee? I'm just waiting for this file to open up, and we can begin. Why don't I go ahead and get your name and information in the meantime,"
said Lisa smiling as she too dreamed of her escape in a few hours when the bank would finally close its doors.
"Did you need my identification? I brought my passport, driver's license and some other documents,"
offered Sentou to Lisa kindly as she gazed at the screen, waiting for that file to open.
"Well, this is taking forever as usual. Lemme make a copy of your driver's license, and I'll be right back."
As Lisa stepped away to photocopy the identification, Sentou didn't hesitate. It was perfect how she had left him alone. He snuck underneath the desk, looking for an empty USB input socket in the back of her desktop computer. He inserted the flash drive and waited, counting the seconds before he expected Lisa to return. It would feel like an eternity but wouldn't be that long before she came back. The drive's blinking light indicated it needed more time to complete its task. It would be a few more seconds until he pulled it out and returned to his seat, careful not to leave any evidence showing he had tampered with her computer. She then returned with Sentou's identification and handing it back to him; he said,
"I'm so sorry about this, but I just got an urgent message back at the hospital where I'm a doctor and need to leave immediately, but thank you for your time."
Sentou got up, expeditiously heading for the exit when Jeffrey suddenly ran to the main floor of the bank, guns a blazing, mask drawn, shouting,
"Everybody get on the ground! This is a robbery! No heroes today. You. Security guard. Hands where I can see them! Don't even think about it!"
Rene panicked. He knew it. It was time to think of a plan of his own before this madman further jeopardized innocent lives. Helpless, his face lined the floor that day, ashamed because he could not save them.
Sentou, frozen at the moment, inches from the spinning doorway, had cursed his luck. What would he do now? Jeffrey quickly signaled the tellers to fill the bags, careful not to trigger any silent alarms or tipoff the authorities, or they'd be dead. Fortunately for him, this was Mt. Adams, and the police would take a while before reaching the small branch. There had been some prior preparations and calculations made contributing to this smooth takeover that frosty December morning. Previously disguised as a construction worker weeks earlier, Jeffrey had snuck in that plastic bag that contained all his much-needed items and kept them hidden in those ceiling tiles. He was well aware of the consequences of any violence, but there had been no hostility so far. The tellers cooperated, and as they diligently filled the large black canvas bags, he gazed in awe at how well his plan was working. In about 2 minutes, Jeffrey Selms, desperate husband, would leave Cincinnati's Bank of Losantiville with over $500,000 of its citizen's hard-earned money. His heartbeat raced as the bags filled to the brim. He quickly zipped up the morning's large withdrawal and, with guns in hand, strapped the large canvas bags to his body. Now came the finale. Looking at every person there, he'd make sure nobody would compromise his escape as he planted his explosive device before exiting.
Jeffrey made his way to the front entrance and walked past Sentou Robinson. He paused after hearing,
"wait!" yelled Sentou.
Jeffrey immediately pointed his guns at the cybercriminal's head as he replied,
"Look, you don't know me, but I just transferred over 7 million dollars from this bank's network into my overseas account. If you let me go, I'll split it, 50/50, you have my word."
Sentou pleaded with Jeffrey, who stood shocked and speechless. Was this kid for real? What were the chances two men would rob the same bank, the same day at the same time? His seeing him earlier that morning was now beginning to make sense. Fate had stepped in and made this possible. Could Jeffrey now walk away from this robbery richer than he ever imagined? Would it be sensible to trust a stranger? If he were lying, Jeffrey wouldn't hesitate to kill him. He had come too far in getting the money to save Hannah's life.
"Let's go!" "Now!"
Jeffrey yelled as time was of the essence. Police would soon have the entire neighborhood closed off and surrounded while waiting for the FBI. Sentou followed Jeffrey out of the bank and into a large black SUV, parked nearby, fueled and ready for an unforgettable getaway. Screeching tires marked the two assailants' escape. They had eluded the authorities, which were still on the way. Speeding down I-71, both were in shock and unable to believe it as they thought, Never in a million…
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Hey there! You sound like a super cool guy from your bio, I'll be back to read your story!
Thank you Rhondalise! I loved your story. I am going to leave my positive feedback. Cheers!
I really liked your opening. No description, we are telling a story about robbing banks so let's get straight to it. The premise and ideas about the story is really strong and original. Accidental allies. In the story you do a lot of explaining. You need to break this information down during the scene. It will improve the flow. An example would be when he gets the tellers to fill a bag of cash. That can be done swiftly using dialogue. The format and grammar needs a little work, but I wreck my head getting that right on my own stuff. There ...
Loved your critique...
Hi! Loved this take on the prompt and it was really well done, too, the only notable thing I'd change is some of the dialogue mechanics. There were some parts where I couldn't tell who was talking because there were several people going in the same paragraph, but other than that, it was an enjoyable and action packed story. Thanks for writing, Damian!
Thank you so much Rhondalise, I will make a note of that and make it clearer.
I thought your story was great...From the moment the guys met eyes in the hallway, I thought they were in on it together, even up to almost the end, I was seeing them cheering as they were driving away! Definitely kept me rooted! Well Done and Congrats on your first short, Alex PS: After reading your bio, I am in awe!
you are too kind. I have greatly thought about it and I think I am going to gently bow out on writing. I do not think I am as good as I thought, particularly after reading your stories, the world does not need as many writers as long as you guys are around. Excellent stories I enjoy reading them. Wow!
You did way better than me at tackling this theme. The details really brought the whole thing to life, and despite the length, I couldn't stop reading. I thought the paragraph about the parallels between old and new in the structure of the bank itself and between the methods Jeffrey and Sentou used to carry out their plans was genius. All I would suggest for this story is that the parts where there is dialogue be made into stand-alone paragraphs. "Jeffrey immediately pointed his guns at the cybercriminal's head. 'Look, you don't know me, ...
Thank you Gip! It's a work in progress, but if I can get something to work into here, I would definitely be happy. It's my first piece on reedsy. I have grown in the last 72 hours lol. Thanks a million!