The robbery was supposed to take place on the night before Christmas, planned to the smallest detail. Steve and Andrea were homeless, living under the bridge for the last couple of years. We were not exactly best friends, but we were close enough, considering the circumstances. I was the bank manager after all. How could we have anything in common? In fact, I had it all. They had nothing.
Truth be told, I should have been satisfied with what I had. But I wasn’t. You might know how it is, if you have ever been close to being in my shoes; money can never be enough. You always need more. You might call it greed, if it wasn’t acceptable. But it is. In fact, it is the standard way of life, where I come from.
I don’t actually make the rules, yet the rules are enforced by my signature, sometimes. So, it was my signature that forced the two of them out of their home and into the streets. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been some one else. I don’t feel guilty or anything.
I saw them dancing around a bonfire.
“What kind of celebration is this?”
“What do you mean?” asked Steve.
“You have nothing to celebrate.”
“We could use a Christmas tree,” he said, absentminded, looking around to find what’s missing.
As if the only thing missing was a Christmas tree.
“Let’s do business,” I suggested.
“Thank you for thinking of us. It’s such an honor,” mumbled Andrea.
“I meant that ironically,” she added, as she stood there, watching my ego inflate like a balloon. I instinctively stooped, in an attempt to present a less intimidating side of myself, a side they would feel comfortable around. It took me many years of practice, which resulted in almost perfect social skills, yet sometimes, the discreet charm of elitism gets the best of me. The day was saved. It didn’t take me long to convince them.
We shook hands in agreement. We danced and laughed for a few hours. I still cannot see how, yet those two people seemed the happiest in the world.
“You’re one of the gang, now,” said Steve smiling, before I left. I never wanted to be part of any gang, yet his words ignited a long forgotten sense of belonging in my heart, a warmness I had not felt for a long time.
I instantly had a glimpse at truth, an epiphany or something. That awkward realization that I had just experienced the best night of my life without even acknowledging it. That it would be all downhill from then on. A frightening glimpse at happiness. I couldn’t share the feeling with my new friends though. They had already boarded the ship that drove them downwards. I was nauseous at the sight of the downward spiral. I threw up. At the moment, I only blamed the cheap wine.
The plan was to give them the keys a few hours before the burglary took place. This would definitely save them time, yet they had to make sure the lock would look damaged, as to not arouse any suspicions. I made sure they knew how to turn off and back on the alarm, to gain a few more minutes. They wouldn’t have to look for cash. They would go directly to it. We even spent time plotting their moves to the last detail. I only had to find myself a safe alibi for the night of the robbery.
I showed up at their usual hang-out under the bridge. I saw them sitting in silence, embraced by the bonfire.
“Did you do it?”
“Of course we did. It was fun.”
I sat down, facing them, helping myself to the open bottle of wine.
“We will remember it as the night we stole a piece of Christmas joy,” said Andrea.
“Let’s drink to that,” I agreed.
We spent some more time, laughing and chatting before I concentrated on the task again.
“Let’s split the money!” I said.
I kind of expected this, so I wasn’t unprepared. You cannot trust this kind of people, even if you consider them your friends. I took the gun out of my pocket and pointed their direction.“Hey! Are you crazy? We didn’t take any money. We only took that!”
I turned around for a second to the direction Andrea showed me, only to discover the Christmas tree we had at the bank.
“I told you we could use a Christmas tree,” said Steve in excitement.
I was beginning to lose my temper.
“We took some money too, but we ran out of paper and wood for the fire, so they are… kind of… burnt,” he added giggling.
“Burnt?” I was infuriated at that point.
“Burnt,” he mumbled and those were his last words, before I shot him, while making my best to save as many banknotes as I could. Andrea fell on him, crying and yelling:
“It was money that made us miserable in the first place. Is it so difficult for you to understand that?” she asked, before lifting a stick, aiming at my shoulder in rage.
I had to shoot her too. In panic, I pushed the bodies towards the fire. I checked their belongings in case they had hidden some more money, but I left as soon as the smell of burnt skin filled the air.
Robbing a bank is like sacrilege. Whether it’s about stealing a Christmas tree or a large amount of money, it only shows disrespect. Investigation went deep but never pointed my way. On the other hand, the disappearance of Andrea and Steve did not even make it to the news.
Every year, on Christmas Eve, I remember them. As I sit by the fire in my luxurious living room, I open a bottle of the finest wine and drink to the night we stole a piece of Christmas joy.