Deanna had a heavy feeling as she headed to work. Maybe it was just those extra bills that had come due. She had been sending a large portion of her paycheck back home to her folks ever since she came to the city. There really wasn’t that much paycheck to go around. She hadn’t been prepared for that assessment the landlord passed on to his tenants for the boiler repair. There just wasn’t any place else where she could cut spending. She already walked to and from work, never went out and spent money with her friends, and she even bought day old breads and produce rather than fresh. She counted her blessings on a daily basis that she had a job and a roof over her head, no matter how meager, but she found herself bordering on frustration every time she balanced her checkbook.
She made up her mind, today she was going to ask Rob if there was any way he could raise her salary a bit. She was willing to take on extra work; she just needed to be able to keep sending money home. The hurricanes had pretty much devastated parts of Louisiana over the last few years. The resulting tornadoes hit surrounding areas and wiped her folks out. There was no way they were able to rebuild their home and the business. She graduated high school out of a makeshift building before the last round of storms hit. Her original plans were to remain at home for a while and maybe find a job down there. Her parents had always figured she could come into the shop with them but there was no more shop to generate money. Deanna decided to go someplace where she could earn some money to send home to them.
Deanna made the move to New York City and had been trying to build a life for nearly a year. A trailer sat on the site near where Deanna remembered her favorite tire swing ever since Katrina and Rita ravaged the area. Her parents didn’t complain. There was no way she wanted to let them know how tight things were for her. She let them believe that money was rolling in or they never would have accepted the money she sent back home.
Clutching her purse tightly to her side, Deanna entered the bank. She was supposed to get some smaller bills for the register this morning on her way into work. She didn’t like walking around with so much money, but Rob insisted that he trusted her to take care of things. Deanna wasn’t naïve; she knew that her neighborhood wasn’t exactly the most crime free in the city. She worried about the responsibility of carrying that much money. If she lost it, there was no way at all that she’d be able to replace it. There never had been any temptation to take what didn’t belong to her but she did allow herself a brief fantasy during the night that the wad of bills in her purse was really hers.
She stepped in line with about half a dozen other customers. She stood behind a very broad shouldered man in a suit and she had to stand on tip-toe to try to look around him to see how fast the line wasn’t moving. He turned towards her and smiled as he adjusted his glasses. His brown wavy hair and bronze complexion stood out against his light brown suit. The ends of his hair brushed his collar. Deanna smiled back politely while hoping she wouldn’t encourage him into a conversation. He was very attractive and she kept looking towards him when he wasn’t looking at her. Under other circumstances, she wouldn’t have minded trying to engage him in a conversation. But as it was, she needed to be at work soon and she couldn’t forget the money she was carrying. He kept checking his watch and she wondered if he was late for some important business meeting. Deanna checked her own watch and hoped she could make it to the store in time to open the doors on schedule.
Finally the gentleman in front of her was the next in line. Suddenly there was a shout and a scream. Deanna turned and saw two men –and there a third–with stocking-covered faces waving very large and frightening handguns.
“Everybody get down! And keep your faces to the floor.”
All of the bank’s customers obeyed immediately. When Deanna raised her head to watch what was happening, the man who had been standing in front of her gently pushed her back down.
“Do as they say,” he cautiously whispered to her from his own position on the floor.
She could see the feet of the frightened tellers as they were ushered toward the front of the counter to join the rest of the customers. One poor young man was stopped and dragged back behind the counter to empty the cash drawers into a sack. Deanna heard muffled sobbing around her.
One of the masked robbers was moving through the mass of people on the floor demanding wallets, purses and jewelry. Perhaps foolishly, Deanna decided she wasn’t going to give up the store money without some kind of protest. She also slid her grandmother’s birthstone ruby ring off of her hand and slipped it down her bra front for protection.
“Open your purse.”
“No.” He grabbed for it and she wouldn’t let it go.
“Damn it, it’s not worth dying for.” The man spoke to her again in a harsh whisper. She saw that he was eagerly handing over his own wallet.
The purse was wrested from her hand. “No. Give it back!”
He heard the gentle twang in her voice and was intrigued by it.
“Don’t be an idiot!” he grumbled under his breath.
Deanna raised her head and her voice in anger. “Will you just be quiet! Ow!” She felt her head being yanked backwards by the hair and she found herself staring at the stocking face of one of the robbers.
“Stand up!” She was forced to her feet. “You want to fight?” A gun was pressed against her ribcage. “I’ll give you something to fight about.” He started to push her towards one of the office doors.
“Where are you taking me?” Sudden terror seized her. She tried to break away but found his grip on her was too strong. “Please. I’m sorry...” Her imagination ran wild with horrible possibilities. Tears began to sting her cheeks.
“Well gee, I got me Scarlett O’Hara, boys.” The bank robber laughed as he announced his find to his cohorts.
“Let her go.” The man from the front of the line made a meek plea for her safety.
“Mind your frigging business!”
Deanna continued to struggle and finally broke free. The robber lunged for her. Faster than she was aware, the suited customer was standing and pushed her protectively behind him. He blocked the robber and they scuffled. She stepped backward and was terrified to see the robber gain the advantage and hold the gun to the man’s temple. One arm wound its way around the would-be rescuer’s neck and he was quickly subdued.
She stood trembling. “Oh Gosh, I’m sorry...”
No one else wanted to take a risk. Everyone obeyed the robbers’ demands. The young teller finished filling the bag, customer pockets were emptied of valuables. The gun was still being held on the attractive stranger.
“Get back down on the floor!” The robber commanded Deanna to lie down on the floor.
She was shaking with fear and with guilt. “Please let him go.”
She hesitated briefly and then did as she was told.
“Now everyone just remain where you are. Count slowly to three-hundred. If I hear any police sirens or see any cop cars, I will kill this man.” The robbers began to back out of the bank with one of them dragging the struggling man with him.
Deanna couldn’t let them just take the man with them, not after he had risked himself to save her. She looked up and saw a large ceramic demonstration piggy bank on the counter; as soon as she saw the robber look away, she jumped to her feet and grabbed it. She ran after the robber holding the hostage and struck him in the back of the head.
The robber stumbled. “Run!” She screamed at the stranger. He stared at her in disbelief. “Run!” Finally he made a hasty retreat to the street.
Before Deanna could get safely back into the bank, she found herself being grabbed again and this time the gun was held to her head.
“You little bitch.” The robber’s voice was raspy. “You’re coming with us instead, then.” He dragged her pleading out the doors and threw her into a van just outside on the street.
Another one of the assailants grabbed her to tie and gag her as the vehicle made a hasty retreat. About a block later, the van made a quick stop and Deanna was surprised to see the suited customer step into the van.
He looked at her in anger. “You couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?”
Life was hard after the hurricanes swept through, destroying her parents’ home and livelihood…Deanna did the only thing she could do. She moved to New York City, found a job, worked hard, scrimped and saved to send what little she could manage back home to Louisiana to her parents. An errand for her boss – a chance encounter with a crew of bank robbers – a kind man who tried to help her and deserved her courageous help in return… But he wasn’t the man she thought he was… no, he was so very much more!