The Bank Robber
My short story contribution to the Unexpected Uncovering Challenge.
If you’ve never had someone destroy your entire world in less than 60 seconds, you can’t know how I feel right now. I’m sitting across from an FBI Agent who just said “On April 3rd, 2011, a man named Mark Hollins and an accomplice walked into the First Federal Reserve Bank in Princeton, New Jersey, and killed two people while robbing the bank. We have evidence that indicates that Mark Hollins, the man we’re searching for, is your husband.”
I met Dale when I was working at a coffee shop while working toward my law degree in night school. I had no time for men, no time for a relationship, but I’d never been so thoroughly disarmed by another person. I can’t quite put it to words, some people just speak your language. He came to the coffee shop everyday, he was shy and sweet, and effortlessly funny. He has this half smile thing he does, it breaks me.
I moved my entire life plan around to make room for him. Changed my schedule at school and the coffee shop. He could not have been more loving and supportive. Within six months of meeting we’d each made sacrifices to make time for each other. We became one of those couples I hated, but secretly envied, that overly affectionate, public displays of affection, couple. I always claimed to hate those couples and now I was one of them. Ewww.
He was cagey about his past. He told me it was traumatic and that in college he’d suffered through an abusive relationship that he wasn’t quite ready to deal with, even with me. I encouraged him to go to therapy and I didn’t think anymore about his past. His parents had passed away years earlier, he had a brother but the brother was tied to that traumatic relationship so I had no reason to push the issue or want to meet that man.
We got married in November of 2013, after just 8 months together. It wasn’t the life I had planned for but it became everything I ever wanted. I finished school and got my degree and became a public defender. He was working in construction and eventually, he started his own construction company. Our daughter, Jane, was born in 2015, our son Adam in 2018. Life was just life. We settled into the kind of suburban, middle class comfort that would be at home on your average sitcom.
That’s when Agent Marcus Blanks approached me. I was finishing a long day in court when Blanks introduced himself. I assumed it had something to do with a case I was working on and I agreed to sit down with him in my office. You can never know when a moment is going to change your life. You can’t prepare for it. It’s like an explosion, a massive shock and then chaos that slowly settles into a smoking, smoldering disaster.
“How long have you known your husband, Mrs. Bannister?” “Oh, we’ve been married for 10 years, why?” “Take a look at this photo, does this man look familiar?” It was a mugshot and while he looks quite young and shaggy, I can see Dale’s face behind the scraggly beard and long hair. The pit in my stomach was only beginning to open when Agent Blanks told me why he was in my office on this day.
Fight or flight instincts are just that, instincts. When they kick in, in full gear, they take over. The instinct to protect yourself from pain is part of what makes you human. Even if the pain is emotional. My fight or flight kicked in and I asked Agent Blanks to leave with a force that could fairly be called hysterical. Trained for this kind of response, he remained calm. He explained that he needed me to hear the story, how he got here and, most importantly, what was going to happen next.
The man I married, the father of my children, the love of my life, that I had always known as Dale Bannister was, in reality, Mark Joseph Hollins of Princeton, New Jersey. Alongside his brother, Frank Hollins, he was part of a bank robbery that ended with two people dead. He’d been arrested but made a daring escape and disappeared. He turned up in Nevada not long after and created a new identity. Via that identity, he’d become my husband and partner.
In a few hours, he was to be arrested and taken into custody, charged with two counts of homicide and other charges related to a series of bank robberies in New Jersey. There was nothing that I could do to change this fact. The courtesy of telling me ahead of time was only extended so that I could be employed to help Dale come quietly. I needed to pick up our children from school and take them someplace safe. They knew that Dale owned several weapons, he was a collector as he explained it to me, and they wanted me nearby if they had to talk him out of shooting his way out of this.
I’ve heard people talk about out-of-body experiences but this was the first time I had experienced one. I was watching this absurd scene play out as if I were floating above it. My shock became a sort of crazed amusement, as if I were watching some movie or TV show that I also happened to be the star of. My eyes kept falling on that mugshot, the eyes of the man I have loved for a decade staring back at me, angry, defiant, absent of the kindness I’ve always seen in them.
I only returned to my body when Agent Blanks took a phone call and said, "We have to move now, your husband is home.” It’s 3:30 in the afternoon, he’s rarely home before six. Agent Blanks addressed my confused reaction with another bombshell, Dale had come home early to pack and make a run for it. His brother, now in custody, unbeknownst to Dale, had contacted him to tip him off that the heat was coming for him and that he needed to run now.
That’s when my phone buzzed. It was Dale.
About the Creator
Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast. I am a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.
I enjoyed this! Well done ☺️