A Different Christmas Story (Chapter 3)
Danny heard himself tell Ernie he would be back to pick up the prescriptions in 15 minutes. He felt oddly removed and didn’t recognize the sound of his own voice. The emotions of the day had taken their toll and and he was no longer thinking logically.
At the prescription counter, Ernie calculated how much it would cost for the cocktail of pills needed to stabilize Georgia while Danny made his way down the aisle closest to the exit. It was almost Halloween and the aisle was filled with cases of soda pop, bright Halloween candy and costumes.
Danny stopped short of the exit, turned around and grabbed one of the masks from a bin at the end of the Halloween aisle. If Danny had paused to look he would have seen the mask had the face of a monster, a perfect metaphor for what was about to take place. But he didn't look. He didn’t care. He just had to keep moving forward. He walked out the Save Rite exit and straight for the car.
Danny made the short drive to Cattleman's First Bank and made a quick pass around it. He wasn't sure why but he had seen it once in a old gangster movie. He parked in the empty front lot in a spot just down from the entrance.
He opened the glove box, found a scrap of paper then grabbed the pen clipped to the sun visor. Quickly Danny scribbled out his demand note. He sat quietly in thought for a moment and took a deep breath. He placed the Halloween mask on his head as if it was a hat, grabbed an old soiled cloth bag from under the driver’s seat and exited the vehicle. He briskly walked through the front doors.
Danny avoided eye contact as he strode into the bank. As he approached the teller’s window he dropped his mask into position. Wearing the face of a monster Danny, handed the teller the note and then the bag. The note was short and to the point.
I AM DESPERATE HUNDREDS ONLY
The teller reacted quickly. She packed the bag as fast as she could and pushed it back to the monster facing her. Danny turned quickly on his heels and with his back to the teller he pushed the mask back up on his head and walked as fast as he could to his waiting car, the engine still running.
Danny’s mind was working hard to assure him that everything would work out just fine. He would stroll right back into the Save Rite and find his mother, still shopping. They would pick up her prescriptions and she would never know he had been gone. She would be his alibi if he was ever questioned.
He was surprised at how calm he felt as he pulled back into the same Save Rite parking space he had left just ten minutes prior. He took a deep breath and opened the bag to grab the money he needed to pay for his mother’s medication. As he peered inside, he heard a loud pop. A dye pack exploded, spraying a red ink-like substance which covered not only the money but the inside of the car and Danny's face and upper body.
Seconds later, red and blue lights surrounded the car. All Danny could hear were sirens then a loud voice was broadcasted from one of the vehicles, “You are surrounded. Step out of the vehicle with your hands on your head.” Danny’s heart sank and the hollow aching feeling in his stomach that was hunger just a few hours prior now spread throughout his body making him numb from head to toe. He looked up and saw everyone in the Save Rite looking at him through the front windows. He quickly looked away -- afraid to see his mother’s face.
Danny had failed. He was now a bank robber and not even a successful one at that. His single bank robbery had earned him a dubious honor usually reserved for successful robber with repeated approaches -- a title from the FBI. That day, in just one afternoon, Danny became "The Dye Pack Bandit." The media ate it up and the next morning’s headline read:
DYE PACK BANDIT CAUGHT RED HANDED
The local police held Danny in custody until the FBI took over and presented him before a federal judge. Despite his momentary lapse of judgement and ensuing misfortune, Danny Petros had some luck coming his way. He drew The Honorable George Wu, who, as the facts unfolded showed leniency toward Danny and sentenced him to just five years. The Judge also requested the Bureau of Prisons place Danny in the federal prison just twenty miles from home so he could remain close to his mother in her final days.
This would be where his mother would be making a courageous last stand.
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