Becky came out of the small kitchen at the back of the bank. Where was everyone?
“Hey!” she called, “I’m off now. Your sandwiches are in the kitchen. Have a nice weekend!”
But she could tell something wasn’t quite right. She noticed a pair of legs sticking out from behind the door. She paused for a moment and frowned as she tried to process she was seeing. The conservative black shoes, the swell of the calves, the dowdy woollen tights...
“Mrs Carson? Are you ok?”
No reply. In fact, it was just all too quiet, apart from a static sound, like a walky talky, or maybe it was a police radio? Then she saw what she thought was Mr Cooper, also on the floor on the other side of the desk. She frowned. He looked at her anxiously.
Finally, the penny dropped. Of course she was in a bank, this was a robbery, that kind of thing happened in banks. She took a tentative step back, unsure of what her next move should be. Suddenly she felt an arm snake around her waist and before she could react, a hand covered her mouth, muffling the cry of shock that was about to emerge. She felt a body press up against hers and then he spoke.
“Well, where did you spring from?”
His voice was rich and smooth and deep. It reminded her of the dark dangerous places, forbidden things. He had an accent. Was it Irish? Scottish?
Fear trickled down her back like icy rain and she felt her knees almost buckle with terror. She couldn’t answer the question, of course, with his hand clamped securely over her mouth, but he didn’t seem to expect an answer.
“Now listen carefully angel, I want you to do exactly as I tell you and I promise if you do I won’t hurt you. Okay?”
Desperately trying to block out the panic that gripped her, she forced herself to nod in response.
“Good girl,” he said soothingly. “Now I have a gun here, its loaded...”
At the mention of the gun, she shook uncontrollably. What was she even doing here? Why did she have to be in the bank during a holdup? Why didn’t she just leave when she had the chance? She could feel her legs give way from beneath her, but her captor seemed to expect her reaction and before she slid to the ground. He pulled her towards him, bracing her against himself, holding her upright.
He was speaking again in that hypnotic voice of his. She desperately tried to control the panic that was sweeping over her again and focus on what he was saying. She realised he was trying to calm her down.
“Easy, easy. I’m going to take my hand off of your mouth in a second. Don’t make a sound, just breath. That’s it baby deep breaths, good girl.”
Her trembling slowed, but it didn’t stop. She heard the crackly radio again; it was attached to him. She realised it was tuned into the police and they were talking about the bank; she wasn’t able to decipher exactly what they were saying with all the interference and the technical language but it seemed to spur her captor into action.
“Now we need to get out of here fast. The bank is going to be surrounded by police very soon and you’re going to be my hostage.”
Another wave of panic washed over her.
“You’re going to be ok if you do exactly as a I tell you and nothing else. I promise I won’t hurt you ”
He spoke to her slowly and clearly, like a teacher trying to explain something to a frightened child. “Ignore everything I say when we go out there. Just remember, I will not hurt you if you do exactly as I tell you. Do you understand?”
She nodded, squeezing her eyes shut, trying to dislodge the brimming tears, blurring her vision, and suddenly they were moving, his arm around her neck, the gun at her head they walked forward into the cashier's area.
It appeared as though everyone who was in the bank was lying face down on the floor with their hands behind their heads. She might have laughed at the absurdity of the scene if it wasn’t so frightening. Two men weren’t lying face down. They were dressed in motorcycle gear, and wearing crash helmets with tinted visors. They were both frantically loading wads of banknotes from the cash desks into black holdalls, pausing only briefly to glance up at the new arrivals.
He spoke again. “We need to get moving, they’re nearly here. Grab the money and let's go.”
The men did as they were told; they grabbed their holdalls and headed for the door. Rebecca was pushed out first and they emerged from the building into the bright midafternoon sun. A police car screeched to a halt in front of the bank and two police officers jumped out, both armed, both pointing guns at her and her captor. They seemed very young and a bit scared.
The one on the left spoke slowly in short authoritative sentences. “Don’t move or we’ll shoot! Let go of the girl. Throw the gun down and put your hands where I can see them.”
He laughed derisively from behind her, as if the officer had just cracked a particularly funny joke. “Oh Fuck off, you know the score, either of you move a muscle and I’ll blow her fucking brains out.”
Oh god, he was going to kill her. He was going to die. She tried desperately to reassure herself. He said he wouldn’t hurt her if she did as she was told. He’d promised. The cops simply stood and watched helplessly as they took off round the corner. He ran, dragging her along with him, she somehow made it to a van without falling and they piled into the back.