Chapter no 17

Anxious People

The truth? The truth is that the bank robber was an adult. There’s nothing more revealing about a bank robber’s personality than that. Because the terrible thing about becoming an adult is being forced to realize that absolutely nobody cares about us, we have to deal with everything ourselves now, 1nd out how the whole world works. Work and pay bills, use dental Aoss and get to meetings on time, stand in line and 1ll out forms, come to grips with cables and put furniture together, change tires on the car and charge the phone and switch the coPee machine oP and not forget to sign the kids up for swimming lessons. We open our eyes in the morning and life is just waiting to tip a fresh avalanche of “Don’t Forget!”s and “Remember!”s over us. We don’t have time to think or breathe, we just wake up and start digging through the heap, because there will be another one dumped on us tomorrow. We look around occasionally, at our place of work or at parents’ meetings or out in the street, and realize with horror that everyone else seems to know exactly what they’re doing. We’re the only ones who have to pretend. Everyone else can aPord stuP and has a handle on other stuP and enough energy to deal with even more stuP. And everyone else’s children can swim.

But we weren’t ready to become adults. Someone should have stopped us.

The truth? The truth is that just as the bank robber ran out into the street, a police officer happened to be walking past. It would later become apparent that no police officers were yet looking for the bank robber, seeing as the alarm hadn’t been raised over the radio, seeing as twenty-year-old London and the staP in the emergency call center took plenty of time to become mutually oPended by one another 1rst. (London reported a bank robbery, which led the call operator to ask “Where?” which led London to give them the address of the bank, which led

the call operator to ask “Aren’t you a cashless bank? Why would anyone want to rob that?” which led London to say “Exactly,” which led the call operator to ask “Exactly what?” which led London to snap “What do you mean ‘Exactly what’?” which led to the call operator hitting back with “You were the one who started it!” which led London to yell “No, you were the one who…,” after which the conversation quickly deteriorated.) Later it turned out that the police officer the bank robber saw in the street wasn’t actually a police officer but a traffic warden, and if the bank robber hadn’t been so stressed and had been paying attention, that would have been obvious and a diPerent escape strategy might have been possible. Which would have made this a much shorter story.

But instead the bank robber rushed through the 1rst available open door, which led to a stairwell, and then there weren’t exactly many options except to go up the stairs. On the top Aoor one of the apartment doors was wide open, so that’s where the bank robber went, out of breath and sweating, with the traditional bank robber’s ski mask askew so that only one eye could see anything. Only then did the bank robber notice that the hall was full of shoes, and that the apartment was full of people with no shoes on. One of the women in the apartment caught sight of the pistol and started to cry, “Oh, dear Lord, we’re being robbed!” and at the same time the bank robber heard rapid footsteps out in the stairwell and assumed it was a police officer (it wasn’t, it was the postman), so in the absence of other alternatives the bank robber shut the door and aimed the pistol in various diPerent directions at random, initially shouting, “Ro… ! Ro, this isn’t a vobbevy… I just…,” before quickly thinking better of it and panting, “Well, maybe it is a vobbevy! But you’ve not the uictims! It’s maybe move libe a hostage situation nom! Rnd I’m uevy sovvy about that! I’m hauing quite a com9licated day heve!”

The bank robber undeniably had a point. Not that this is in any way a defense of bank robbers, but they can have bad days at work, too. Hand on heart, which of us hasn’t wanted to pull a gun after talking to a twenty-year-old? A few minutes later, the street in front of the building was crawling with journalists and cameras, and after they came the police arrived. The fact that most of the journalists arrived before the police should in no way be interpreted as evidence of their respective professions’ competence, but in this instance more

as proof that the police had more important things to be getting on with, and that the journalists had more time to read social media, and the unpleasant young woman in the bank that wasn’t a bank was evidently able to express herself better on Twitter than over the phone. On social media she announced that she had watched through the large front window of the bank as the robber ran into the building on the other side of the street, whereas the police didn’t receive the call until the postman who had seen the bank robber in the stairwell called his wife, who happened to work in a café opposite the police station. She rushed across the road, and only then was the alarm sounded, to the ePect that what appeared to be a man armed with what appeared to be a pistol, wearing what appeared to be a ski mask, had rushed into a viewing in one of the apartments and had locked the real estate agent and prospective buyers inside. This was how a bank robber failed to rob a bank but instead managed to spark a hostage drama. Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect.

Just as the bank robber closed the door to the apartment, a piece of paper dislodged from a coat pocket Auttered out into the stairwell. It was a child’s drawing of a monkey, a frog, and an elk.

Not a horse, and de1nitely not a giraPe. That was important.

Because even if twenty-year-olds can be wrong about a lot of things in life (and those of us who aren’t twenty can probably agree that most twenty-year-olds are wrong so often that most of them would have just a one in four chance of answering a yes or no question correctly), this particular twenty-year-old was actually right about one thing: normal bank robbers ask for large amounts and round 1gures. Anyone can go into a bank and yell: “Give me ten million or I’ll shoot!” But if a person walks in armed and nervous and very speci1cally asks for exactly six thousand 1ve hundred kronor, there’s probably a reason.

Or two.

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