Julia Kyle sits in the compact car with stolen plates and feels the wedding ring under her black gloves, even though it's back at home in a small box on her dresser. She closes her arms slightly, hugging the bulky comfort of the rough army jacket and the Christmas tree array of flash-bang grenades, empty bags, and a single semi-automatic 9 mm handgun close to her body. She feels whole and complete for just a second. And then sudden as an attack of nausea the whiteout is coming. It doesn't happen as often, but when it does, it freezes her up as her feelings and memories just slip away from her, and she's sure if she waits long enough eventually she won't know where she is or what she's doing, or even her own name. To fight the whiteout Julia lists everything she's thinking right now, a neat and orderly log of her interior life.
1. What is that bitch wearing? (A 20ish bleached woman walks across the parking lot dressed like a Girls Gone Wild video. To do her banking. To do her banking. It's too much, and it makes her want to kidnap the girl at gunpoint -- which is actually quite possible given the situation -- and stuff her into the car and not stop driving until they reach the Williamsburg outlet shops, and by then she'll convince her she needs to start getting serious about college, and that this slut-positive feminism is garbage created by the kind of people who don't have daughters, and all this makes her think of Dorothy, and that's what she's really thinking and anyway, the girl is gone, the smoked glass of the bank door swallowing her whole.)
2. Dorothy Kyle.
3. "I love you" never just means "I love you." (Dot said it often, but it was only when she was 17 and the two of them had just had one of those free-ranging fights that was about everything and nothing -- a guy with a van named Kevin, and piercings, and whether Julia's marriage was "authentic," because Dot didn't always fight fair, and they were walking out across the boardwalk near the downtown area in Norfolk. It was zombie-film-empty, and it had gotten a little rundown in the past few years, and Dot mentioned that it made her nervous, but it didn't make Julia Kyle nervous at all. And that's the first time her daughter really told her. She looked at her when she said it. She saw Julia, and she didn't always like her, but she really did love her after all.)
4. The federal statute of limitations for bank robbery is five years.
5. A 41 year-old woman is invisible. (Now that Daddy-Issues is in the bank, the tellers are probably looking at her and so is the manager, and if Julia walked in no one would be looking at Julia, and it's not something you dwell on, but it's there. There was a moment some time in the past she realized that Dot had become more beautiful than her mother, it was on the night of some school dance, and Julia felt choked up and couldn't sort her feelings, but she knows now she felt good and proud and nothing else, and it is so wonderful to feel that way but for the fact that she will never see her daughter again.)
6. Most bank robbers get caught because they're stupid. Because they rob banks in the same area over and over, repeating the same methods, and they don't throw dye packs into the parking lot when they leave.
7. "I love how" doesn't mean "I love you," not ever. And John Kyle said "I love how" so often even he didn't know the difference. "I love how you make me feel." "I love how you keep everything together." "I love how you know exactly what I'm thinking." And all of that means that you are a perfect little piece that completes the puzzle of someone's life. But all puzzles fall apart eventually. Vacuums suck away corners of pristine sky, and bright green edges go missing beneath the couch. These things happen all the time.
8. When FBI agents finally catch a prolific bank robber, the federal prosecutor will often bundle the suspected robberies into a single plea agreement. The criminal signs his confession to a long list of cases, and his lawyer negotiates the settlement, and the authorities might close a dozen cases without bringing each one to trial. There's no reason to fight it out if the deal is a good one, if they've got you for everything else. If you're going to prison anyway.
9. Being a missing person is not a crime. When you disappear the authorities might look for you, but they won't assemble a massive task force like you see on TV. There's no obvious crime, and there's nothing they can reasonably do. Not unless you are a child or a very rich and important person. Like the president of the nation's largest bank, who was kidnapped right after Dot disappeared. More than 200 state and federal authorities sprang into action, and within three weeks he was found, shaken and dehydrated, but alive in a warehouse in Alexandria. Two detectives interviewed Julia and John, and one of them asked her several questions about the last fight she'd had with her daughter. The next time Julia saw those detectives was in the dramatic footage of the bank president's rescue, over and over and over and over. They made a TV movie about it.
10. There is a bank robber in Maryland who wears an army jacket and black gloves and he uses flash-bang grenades. He is very loud and he swears a lot. He's very aggressive. Many bank robbers have a signature style like this. Many. More than you can even count. The manager and the tellers are staring distractedly at the woman who looks a lot, let's face it, like Dot, and Julia's ex-husband is now nothing more than a message machine and a series of trite, useless excuses and a few Facebook pictures on some restaurant balcony, and whatshername from the missing person's support group is with him, and Dorothy Kyle stepped on a nail when she was three and the line up her leg was scarlet, and she fell out of a tree when she was five and threw up through the night and doctors said to monitor her for signs of a concussion, and there were all those boys who drove too fast, and she survived all of that, all of that, and Julia and Dot could have missed each other or hated each other through those years, but they didn't at all, not at all, and people say angels look out for children, but she was no longer a child, not for a whole five minutes, because the last they saw her it was 12:05 am on her 18th birthday, and of course she wasn't drinking, because she was underage and she was in college for goshsakes, but she wasn't underage enough for cops to do their job and find her, and all these near-misses could have been part of the story her mom told at her daughter's wedding, but they were not at all, not at all, no, not at all.
11. John Kyle's mother gave Dorothy her nickname, but it might have been God Himself. Dot. HAH. Dot. Like a point, like a speck, like something that disappears. All along Julia worried and worried, and each time Dot was fine. But God knew better, and wanted to let Julia in on His little joke. And Julia wishes she believed again. Because she very much would like to tell God to go fuck His Holy Self. Instead she thinks the one last thing that gives her solace now that the whiteout is gone and she can go into the bank, toss a flash-bang into the air and make the manager wet himself with a gun in his face, and that is this:
12. With enough stupid useless men and enough unloved girls dressed as hookers, an invisible 41 year-old woman could rob every bank in the country.
(Image of bank robbery in Rowland Heights, CA from this blog.)