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Jeffrey Scott Hunter Headshot

My First Bank Robbery

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The night before the score I and my crime partner Dave have seven dollars between us and have been sleeping in our friend's driveway in my van. With the seven bucks we decide to go to a pizza parlor and get a pitcher of beer while we discuss our future.

At this time I'm still on state probation for an assault, an ounce of coke, and a pound of pot. Dave is out on bond under a different name from another state.

A month earlier, I'm still in the good graces of my girlfriend and staying at her place. Then I get a collect call from Dave telling me that he's just been picked up in Florida under another name and needs to get bonded out before they find out who he really is. It's winter, this is the Northeast, and I, being a roofer, am skating by on fumes. Every now and then I pull a rabbit out of my hat betting on a football game, but nothing over a hundred bucks. Lucky for Dave the Super Bowl is the next day.

So I tell him, "Yeah, I got you. Don't worry." He's happy when we hang up, but I'm like,"What the fuck! How am I going to get the cash to bail him out?" Then it hits me: I'll call my bookie and make a Super Bowl bet. I think I've got all the answers. So I make the call and tell him that I want to lay two grand, and he's like, "Are you fucking nuts? How are you going to pay if you lose?"

See, he knows me. I drink in his bar, and he also knows that I'm a roofer. Without hesitation I answer, "I have some new construction coming up, and they have to have a roof on so they can sheet-rock it."

Finally he gives in and lets the bet ride. Long story short, I win the bet by one point. My girlfriend's so happy; she hugs me and says, "Now we can take care of some of these bills." Then she sees that I'm not celebrating her wonderful idea. She pulls back and squints.

"Who do you owe?"

I say, "Nobody. I don't owe anyone."

She says, "So what's the fucking problem, Jeff? We need to take care of those bills."

"I know," I say, "but Dave needs fifteen hundred to bail out of jail."

That's pretty much the last straw, and she storms off to the bedroom.

The next day I collect my winnings and send Dave a money order for fifteen hundred, and he jumps on the first thing smoking and heads back home.

Now, a month later, we find ourselves flat broke, sleeping in my van and planning to hit a bank. One good thing in all this is that we're still free. We leave the pizza parlor confident about tomorrow's score. We've already cased the bank, and were we're going to get a hot box -- a stolen car. So we drive back to our friend's driveway. But I forgot to tell you that I have a 9 a.m. court date for the next day. As if I don't already have enough to worry about, I've got to be in court, too.

Later that night, we go and steal the hot box, change the plates, and park it behind our buddy's place in an empty lot.

Nine a.m. rolls around pretty fast, and I'm being awakened by Dave, who's saying, "Hey, Jeff, don't you have to be in court at 9?"

My eyes pop open and I spring up off the van floor, grab a gallon of water, splash my face, then brush my teeth.

Outside the van the morning is dark and gloomy, with a raw nip in the air like snow. I make it to the courthouse by 9:20, seeing as it's only a short drive across town.

Inside, court is already congested. People are huddled up in small groups all over the lobby. I hang around a while until they call my name. The judge starts talking to me like we're old pals about all my fines, but I can't hear a word he's saying, because I've got too much other shit running through my head.

Anyway, when I finally do come back to reality, I hear him say, "That will be 200 dollars. When will you be able to pay? And it has to be today because theses fines are already overdue."

I answer, "In a couple of hours," then turn and bolt out of the courtroom.

I still have to drive 20 minutes in the opposite direction of the bank to borrow my brother's car. See, we can't take a chance in driving away from the hot box in my van after the score, because it's way too noticeable. My van looks more like a death mobile. When people see it, they always give it a second look, and we can't have that. That's why I need my brother's car: it's plain and blends in nicely with the other cars.

So here I am tearing through the crowded courthouse lobby when I see the scumbag that ripped off my now-old girlfriend's CD player. And the dirtbag is with his mother, and she looks half in the bag. I stop inches from him, death in my eyes. See, for the past two weeks I've been hunting him, ever since Pam asked me if I had her CD player. I even beat the shit out of his brother in hopes of him coming after me, which never happened. So for the past two weeks we've been playing cat and mouse. I knew that it was only a matter of time before I caught him in the right spot, and on any other day this would have been it. Seeing me, he thinks he's safe, but from the look in his eye he's not so sure. Who in their right mind would assault someone in the middle of a crowded courthouse? Little does he know that I'm pressed for time or I would stomp him right there, but today I have a bank to rob. I don't need the cops following me to the bank, know what I mean? So he gets to live to get his ass kicked another day.

Still, I say, "You're a piece of shit for stealing Pam's CD player after she let you and your sleazebag girlfriend stay at her place."

He answers back, "It wasn't me; it was Kathy. She stole it."

I move closer to him, and the bank starts to disappear from my mind. All I want to do is tear him to pieces when I hear his mother say, "Not here, boys." I give him one last nasty look and burn off.

When I hop back into the van, Dave notices my change of attitude and asks, "You look a little wired up."

"Yeah, yeah," I say, "I just ran into Bobby in the courthouse. His day will come."

Forty minutes later we park the van back in our friend's driveway, Dave hops behind the wheel of my brother's car, and I get the hot box. Now we drive the 30 minutes to our prearranged switch spot, park the clean car, and make a pass by the bank in the hot box.

For weapons, we managed to scrape up an old .38 and a 30-30 lever-action rifle, with no extra ammo.

On the second pass we decide that it's go time. We pull into the bank's parking lot and pull down our ski masks. I'm so jacked up that I go blasting into the bank before Dave can even get out of the hot box. Inside I start screaming and yelling for everyone to get down on the floor. They're bewildered and do as I say. Dave comes in and handles everyone in the lobby while I vault the counter, push the tellers to the floor, and clean out every drawer within 60 seconds, stuffing all the money into a laundry bag. There's no slow motion on this one. I'm so pumped up things are moving at a thousand miles an hour. The slow motion would come later, as I matured as a bank robber.

In time I'll learn to slow everything down instead of flying around a bank like a nut. I'll learn to take my time but also hurry up. I'll also learn the number-one lesson: Never use out-of-state plates. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

But for now the only thing pumping through my veins is pure adrenaline.

Back in the hot box, as we're leaving the bank's parking lot, Dave says, "How much money did you get?" I answer, "I don't know, maybe five grand."

A short distance away, we pull off our masks, park the hot box, and change vehicles. I tell Dave to lie down on the floor in the back seat, because the cops will be looking for two guys. We make the 30-minute ride back to my van without seeing one cop. At the van we hop into the back and dump out the cash to count our winnings.

Dave and I both freak at the huge pile of money, and Dave says in a dazed voice, "Hey, man, that looks like a lot more than five grand."

The final count is a shade over twenty-nine thousand dollars -- that's fourteen-five a piece. Dave gives me back the fifteen hundred that I sent him to bond out with -- so my take is sixteen thousand dollars, when just earilier I couldn't even rub two nickels together.

I count out two hundred dollars for my court fines and put away the rest. I still have to go back to court, then drop off my brother's car.

When I get up to the court clerk's window, she tells me, "Mr. Hunter, you ran out of the courtroom so fast you didn't hear what the judge said. He dropped one of your fines. You only owe one hundred and fifty dollars."

Is this turning out to be a great day or what?

By the time Dave and I drop off my brother's car, it's pushing 3 p.m. and we haven't eaten since 6 p.m. the night before. So we go straight to a steak house and chow down.

Being an adrenaline junkie, I'm soon hooked on doing banks. Dave, being a gambling degenerate, has to do banks. So we keep on robbing them until 1992, when we become suspects in a bank robbery. And then the chase is on. But that's a whole other story.

This post originally appeared on Tell Your True Tale, a storytelling webpage edited by journalist Sam Quinones at his website, samquinones.com.