Justin suddenly finds himself free from the usual constraints of society. How far will he go?
Justin looked up at the man in the white coat on the other side of the desk but didn’t reply. His eyes shifting to his right, he released a long breath, very slowly. He thought there should be at least a few tears, but his eyes were bone dry.
“I know an excellent counselor you could speak with,” the doctor continued after clearing his throat. “She’s had a lot of experience with… this sort of thing. I could call her right now if…”
The man trailed off into silence as Justin rose to his feet, the chair tipping over to land with a hushed thump on the plush carpet behind him. He left the office without another word, not bothering to close the door behind him.
At the elevators he found a husband and wife waiting with their young boy. Seeing the poorly disguised grief on the adult’s faces and the naïve smile affixed to the son’s lips, he chose to take the stairs.
Justin exited the building and paused, looking around as he realized that he had no destination. He supposed it didn’t really matter; anywhere would be better than there. So on a whim he turned to his left and began walking again.
It wasn’t until after he had traveled three blocks that he knew where he was going. Crossing the street without checking for traffic, he continued past three coffee shops, two bookstores, and one consignment store before reaching his bank. Going in, he moved to the front of the short line as he pulled his wallet from the back pocket of his jeans.
“Uh, excuse me?” the woman who was now second in line said, her eyebrows threatening to take up residence above her hairline.
“I’m in a bit of a hurry,” Justin said over his shoulder. The woman was unable to recover enough to reply before a teller became available.
“Good morning,” the teller greeted Justin brightly. He didn’t look old enough to use a razor, but that hadn’t stopped him from pouring on the aftershave.
“No, it’s not.”
“Oh… well, what can I do for you?” he asked, his smile fading just a little.
“I’d like to make a withdrawal from my account,” Justin said, pulling his debit card out of his wallet and sliding it across the counter.
“Sure, I can do that for you. How much would you like?”
“All of it.”
“I’m getting really tired of people saying that to me,” Justin said and sighed heavily. “Just get me my money, all right?”
“I’ll… I’ll need to see some ID.” Then, as an afterthought, “Please.”
Justin placed his driver’s license on the counter and looked away. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the money yet, but there was no point in keeping it locked away any longer.
“Um, Mr. Talbot?” the teller swallowed a nervous lump before continuing. “You have just over twelve thousand dollars in your account. Are you sure -”
“All. Of. It. And make it fast, I don’t have much time.” Justin ignored the sudden twisting in his guts and began tapping his fingers on the counter.
“I’ll need to speak to the manager,” the teller said. “I’ll be right back.”
While he was waiting, Justin felt his cell phone vibrate in his pocket. He fished it out, looked at the name on the display, and put it back. He would deal with that later.
“Good morning, Mr. Talbot,” the bank manager said. It appeared as though he had worked up quite a sweat on the short walk from his office. “You’re certain we can’t dissuade you -”
“Do I look like I can be dissuaded?”
“No, no of course not, sir. But I must admit that I’m not comfortable with you walking out of here with this amount of cash on your person. If you’ll give me a few minutes I can arrange a security guard to accompany -”
“It’s not like I’ll be carrying it around in my hands for everyone to see,” Justin said with a scowl. “Just stick it in a briefcase or something and let me get on with my life.”
“We don’t carry briefcases for our clients to use -”
“Do you have one?”
“Yes, of course I do!” The manager looked offended by the question.
“Fine, I’ll buy yours. How much?”
“This is highly unusual,” the manager said, taking a step back. “You’re not drunk or doped up, are you?”
It took a lot of convincing but Justin eventually walked out of the bank carrying a worn brown briefcase in his right hand. It wasn’t worth even close to the four hundred dollars he had paid for it, but he didn’t care.
He began walking again as he tried to focus long enough to decide on his next step but failed. Numb. From head to toe, inside and out, that’s what he was.
For no reason he was aware of, Justin went into a convenience store three doors down from the bank. He approached the cashier and placed his briefcase on the counter.
“Which brand do you recommend?” he asked after a brief survey of the cigarette cartons in the glass display.
“You don’t have one you prefer?” the cashier asked. She was in her late fifties or early sixties, her fingernails painted a garish pink. She had probably been pretty once, but life had stolen her looks away, year by year, lost dream by lost dream, cigarette by cigarette. “Most people I know only smoke one kind their whole damned lives.”
“I’ve never smoked before.”
“Well take it from me, kid - don’t even start. These things will kill ya.”
“No, they won’t.” Justin stared at her for a moment to make sure she understood he was serious. “Which brand?”
“I smoke Marlboro,” she said, her eyes narrowing slightly. “How many you want?”
“Give me one. If I like them I’ll be back for more. Or maybe I‘ll just try something different next time.”
“You’ll need a lighter to go with those,” she said after retrieving the pack from the locked display. She placed a black lighter beside it and rang them up. “That’ll be five dollars and thirty-three cents.”
Justin opened the briefcase, pulled out a twenty and placed it on the counter. The cashier eyed the neat rows of bills before looking up at him warily.
“Look, I don’t want to know where you got all that, but -”
“Keep the change,” Justin said, snapping the case closed and stuffing the pack and lighter into his pocket. He left the store without looking back and continued in the direction he had been going in.
He was dimly aware that the stores around him were growing steadily shabbier, with several of them lurking behind boards that had been nailed across their windows and doors. Stepping over the sprawled legs of a panhandler, his grip on the briefcase didn’t tighten and his stride didn’t falter.
A few minutes later he found himself standing outside Hank’s Guns & Ammo. He hadn’t known the store was there, but he was happy to have found it. Though perhaps happy wasn’t the correct word.
“Well,” Justin said as he reached for the door handle, “I always wanted to rob a bank.”