In the early days, I mentioned that I had never hurt anyone before with one exception. I wasn’t trying to be mysterious and intriguing, I just wasn’t sure it was something I would talk about. But it’s time to talk about it. You can’t say you robbed banks and then just let that lay there. Ela is no tease, ya dig?
As you know, when I was a teenager I wandered away from my parents’ house for a summer that turned into two years. And when I came back, it was clear that no one was happy with me being there so I split again. I had this “kind of” boyfriend at the time that I was hanging around with. I spent a couple months driving cross country in his VW van going to concerts with a bunch of his pals. One night we’re sitting around the campfire and I asked how they live like this without jobs. And he tells me he does have a job, he tells me that he and his pals do stick ups. At the time I thought he was trying to impress me, but looking back on it now I think he was tired of me and thought that telling me that would scare me off. Which is kind of stupid because if it had worked, then what’s to stop me from going to the cops?
For a while, I traveled around with him and his buddies in the Denver area because it turns out that that little slip of Canada between Arkansas, Pecos, and Taiping is a where you want to be when you’re into armed robbery. Dip across the border, steal some shit, and then pop back to Canada and hide out in the hills. A lot of their jobs were in Taiping, partially because they were racist assholes and partially because there’s a lot of border towns there. I’m not sure why exactly. It’s probably because they want to keep the white people on this side of the Rockies.
The guy I was with, I’ll call him Chris, was technically the leader but there was this other guy I’ll call Ernie. Ernie was an ex-military guy and he was the one that did all the planning. He was pretty weird. I thought it was because he had been in the fighting in Africa, but Chris said he was always like that, even when they were kids. As long as they were flush with cash, everything was fine. When they weren’t, Ernie’s partner Bert was always stirring up shit about how Ernie should be the one calling the shots. Bert wasn’t pumped about me tagging along with them either. He thought I was too conspicuous.
I was young and stupid and thought it was cool to be hanging around with “outlaws”. In my defense, at that time the area around Denver was like the wild west – what we were doing didn’t even seem illegal, not really. No one seemed to care. They’d pull a job and we’d party our way from town to town. Lots of good music festivals out there. Things took a turn when one of the crew got drunk and fell off a bridge and broke his neck. They had a job coming up in a little town in Pecos and they were a man short. Chris said it would be fine without him, Ernie said they had to scrub the job. I did something really stupid and volunteered to take the place of the dead man. No one really liked that idea except Ernie, and no one was going to cross Ernie.
So I robbed a bank. By which I mean I sat in the back of a van with a gun and waited. Even though I didn’t really do anything, it was terrifying. I barely even knew how to shoot a gun. At that point I didn’t know if I could shoot someone. That question would be answered shortly. After that, Chris got distant and weird, but for some reason Ernie really had taken a shine to me, I guess because I had “proven” myself. In whatever case, Bert did not care for it.
After the second job I did, I decided I should pursue a career in music instead of armed robbery, but I wasn’t sure how to go about making that jump. A third job came and went while I was still trying to figure it out. Bert was getting more vocal about his displeasure in me being there. That last time, I went into the bank with them and his opinion was that having a woman would make them too easy to identify. Which is probably a fair point. Bunch of dudes wearing masks? Could be anybody. Get a woman in the mix and things get easier to iron out for anyone looking into it.
At this point I was spending more time with another guy in the crew than Chris, and one night we’re laying in our sleeping bag and Bert rolls up on us. He’s got a gun. There’s a lot of shouting and cursing and Not Chris slinks away into the night, but Chris turns up. Not sure what sense of loyalty he still had to me. Things escalate and Bert shoots Chris like in the hip or upper thigh on the side. I had this little revolver that I had started carrying and I shot Bert. He had his arm bent and the bullet went through his forearm and into his bicep. Ernie shows up and grabs my gun and takes off in the car with both Chris and Bert bleeding all over the place. He said he was taking them to a doctor, but I wonder now if he killed them.
At this point, I’m there at the campsite with the only guy left and his lady of the night. He grabs up all the cash the crew had, gives us each a hundred-dollar bill and says “see you in the funny papers” and splits. A few hours later, I’m sitting in a diner with Roci, the aforementioned prostitute, and her pimp Ringo. He was such a stoner doofus I didn’t even realize he was trying to turn me out. He had to be the worst pimp in the world. But he did introduce me to the booker at a club that got me my first gig as a singer.
Sometimes when I think about that time of my life, it doesn’t seem real. How could I have robbed a bank? Seems impossible. I wonder sometimes if it was all a dream. But it happened. I was drunk or high a lot of the time, so I may have some details mixed up but it happened. Looking back on it, it’s a miracle that I came out of that situation alive. A nineteen-year-old girl mixed up with armed robbers? That’s not a story that’s going to have a happy ending most of the time.
So anyway, that’s the story. I robbed banks. And I shot a guy once. And that’s the time that I hurt someone. You know, before. When things were “normal”. If I hadn’t been punch drunk at the time, I wouldn’t have said anything about it to Martialla. But since I did, I figure it deserved an explanation.