Jeremy said he knew for a fact they kept cash in the back, and there was no pickup Tuesday night because of the holiday. I told him bullshit but he said his cousin used to work there before his mother died.
So Tuesday night we killed time at Murphy’s, drinking and playing Big Buck Hunter. I’m sixteen but Laurel works there and she was in my sister’s class and she doesn’t check my ID. It was pretty empty anyway, just some college guys with their backwards hats.
After that Jeremy said we needed somewhere to put the cash, and a way to cover our faces. I said I didn’t think a bagel place would have that kind of security, and Jeremy called me a dumbass, everyone has cameras.
I had a paper grocery bag in the back of the car, the kind with handles. For our faces we decided to just pull our shirts up over them, since everything was closed for buying something, and anyway I’d just watched one of those stupid criminals shows where the guy couldn’t get his pantyhose on and the cashier just knocked him out.
We pulled up in front and turned the music off. Jeremy got out first and left the keys in. I got the bag and got out and almost-closed the door so it wouldn’t make noise. Jeremy grabbed the tire iron out of the trunk and walked to the front door. He covered the glass with his sweatshirt right where the hours were listed (M-F 6:30-8, Sat-Sun 6-7), and whacked it with the bar.
Nothing. It just bounced off, and he lost his grip on it and it flew off under the car. Jeremy said “Jesus.” and went over to get it, and I looked around to see if anyone noticed. The light at the intersection turned green and two cars went through, but that was it.
He came back with the tire iron and this time I held my shirt against the glass and he swung at it like a baseball swing, and the iron punched through and left a hole the size of an orange. My right hand was cut up and the thumb was throbbing but I was pretty jacked up and didn’t really notice. A car came down headed our way and for a second we were lit up by headlights, but then they just drove off.
Jeremy knocked some more glass loose and then reached in and unlocked it and pushed the door open, all at once, saying “Come on.”
Before my mom got sick we used to come here on Saturdays before Ella’s swimming lessons and have breakfast in one of the booths. She’s five, so her feet don’t reach the floor, and I’d stretch my legs across and let her rest them on my shins. Mom always said she wasn’t hungry and just got a cup of coffee so Ella could get a bagel with cream cheese and bacon strips in it.
When I looked over at that booth I saw a little box on the wall underneath the table with a little red light on it blinking like crazy. Jeremy walked behind the counter and started trying to smash the register open, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the traffic lights suddenly change and the bright white light on top start flashing.
Jeremy gave up on the register and pushed through the swinging doors into the back. On one side was a big metal tub filled with water where they boiled the bread. I’d seen them do it through the big plate-glass window; boiling the little round Os and then pulling them out with a huge slotted spoon and putting them in the oven. On the other side was a little office space with a computer and a printer and, below the counter, a safe.
At Murphy’s we’d tried to figure out how much money would be in there. A weekend’s worth, at least; maybe a whole week. Thirty grand, easy, and probably a ton of credit card numbers we could sell too.
The day before, sitting at the kitchen table, I memorized the insurance bill; it said $27,143.08. Each line had an amount and things like “Bone marrow aspiration” or “Intrathecal something” next to it. Her insurance ran out a couple of months after she got laid off, and then these things started piling up.
For two weeks she’d been at HCMC, shuffling between the emergency room and the ICU and wherever they could find an empty bed. I visited a bunch of times. I even brought Ella once. I don’t know if mom knew what was happening. She had tubes sticking out of her and a bunch of things beeping all the time. All the machines had lights on them that kept blinking on and off. I hated it. I don’t know how she could sleep. I wanted to rip them all out of the wall and bring her home.
“Give me a hand,” Jeremy said.
“How’re you going to open it?”
“Just fucking pick it up.”
So I bent my knees. It wasn’t even bolted down, and on three we jerked it up. It weighed like a hundred pounds and I lost my balance for a second.
“Alright,” Jeremy said, “let’s go.”
And then I saw flashing lights coming down the parking lot. Jeremy saw them, and dropped his end of the safe. It fell and rolled off my foot, and I heard my bones cracking like bubble wrap. I yelled and fell down screaming and grabbing my leg.
Suddenly the lights went on and there was a weird quiet alarm going off. I looked back and saw Jeremy slamming his shoulder into the back door, which flew open. He screamed “Come on!” and held the door for a second but with my foot crushed when I tried standing I just collapsed. So he ran off, and I heard the tire iron tinkling on the concrete where he dropped it.
Then two cops came in with their guns out and one of them pinned me on my stomach. His knee felt like a dump truck on my spine. My head was turned so far to one side the back of my skull was on the tile, and I looked down and saw my shoe bleeding and turned out the wrong way, like a cat run over by a car.
“Other one went out the back,” the one cop said. “Just two of you?” she asked.
“Got a gun on you?” I tried to shake my head.
“Ok, I’m going to call a bus; his foot’s broken,” she said.
The other cop lifted his knee off my back and jerked me up to sitting. He didn’t bother with cuffs.
He crossed his arms over his chest and looked at me. The lady cop talked into the radio clipped to her left shoulder, and then stood next to her partner. She crossed her arms too.
“How old are you?” she said.
“You’re big for sixteen,” she said. Her eyebrows went up.
“The ambulance’ll be here in a minute,” they guy said. “Don’t worry about your foot. Looks worse’n it is, I bet. They’ll fix it up.”
The lady looked at me. She crouched down and smiled.
“You got someone we can call? Parents? Your mom?”
I didn’t say anything. She stood up. Her shoes were black and shiny.
“Will they take me to the hospital?” I asked her.
“Hennepin County, downtown. The ER. Why?”
I didn’t say anything for a while. When I looked up at her, she was writing something in a notebook.
Over her shoulder I saw the flat black lens of a security camera staring at me. It had a red light on the casing that wouldn’t stop blinking.
On and off, on and off.