We Could Be Heroes - Mike Chen


THE WAY THE BANK teller shrunk back in fear captured everything.

After all, Jamie Sorenson was a villain.

Not just a villain. He was the Mind Robber. And he terrified the people of San Delgado. The mere whisper of his name summoned panic, and when he incapacitated security guards with a brain-stun (his own term, which he thought was quite cool), that panic made robbing a bank as easy as handing over a bag—or in this case, planting a backpack on the counter.

“Tell me, who do you love in your life? Husband? Boyfriend?” Jamie reminded himself to not assume. “Girlfriend? Child? Parents? Who are they?” he asked. He put a hand up, then dramatically turned one finger toward the bank teller. Her eyes widened, clearly aware of the modus operandi documented last year in the San Delgado Times: a front-page feature breaking down his robberies and “extraordinary ability to stun people into a frozen stupor or worse, blank the memories of witnesses.” They’d even given him the name Mind Robber, though he’d added the eye mask and hoodie himself.

From the corner of his eye, he made sure the remaining bystanders hung on his every word.

“My...my...wife,” the woman said with barely a whisper.

“Do you want to lose her?” He stepped forward, and as he waved his finger, she winced. “Erased forever? Your whole relationship lifted from your brain? Your mind—” Jamie took a deep breath “—robbed of the very things you love?”

“No, please, don’t.” The teller’s lips trembled, and her eyes welled up. “We’re in the middle of the in vitro process. We’re going to have a family. Please, don’t.” With each word, her hands shook.

Focus, he told himself. To get out of here clean, he needed to keep everyone else quiet and scared.

Only one way to accomplish that: threaten the things that people held most dear. With the slightest flick of a finger, he peeked into the teller’s memories. He needed a name as the coup de grâce. Images flew by, but about half of them had a woman—a woman with dark brown skin, black curly hair and a gracious smile. Probably her wife, but what was her name? Voices came through as he focused, and during a conversation about in vitro costs, he heard it.


“Then get the cash. Every register. And the safe. And no silent alarms. Remember, I can track what you’re seeing. I know what you’re thinking. The police can’t help. She can’t help you.” Jamie hesitated, wondering if he should clarify that he referred to the Throwing Star. Given the context of things, it seemed unnecessary. Besides, better to keep with the personal stakes. “One wrong move and...” Jamie went with the educated guess. “Victoria is removed from your memory. Forever.”

The woman’s sudden sobbing confirmed his hunch.

He unzipped his backpack’s main compartment, only for a library book to almost slip out, a memoir from an ex-soldier who moved to Alaska to race sled dogs. That certainly wasn’t threatening, and while maintaining eye contact with the bank teller, his hand pushed the book down to the bottom as discreetly as possible. He slid the backpack several inches toward her, and she complied, stuffing it with cash before taking it to the adjacent register. Across the room, the two bystanders—a woman who had been working at a nearby desk and a customer in a polo shirt—continued watching, silent with their hands up.

The second hand of the bank’s large wall clock inched forward.

Jamie scanned the room, scowling to appear extra threatening, but really just a cover as he gauged the level of trust in the room. Everyone had a role to play: he was the villain, the aggressor, and they were the passive victims. If everyone stayed in those roles, his escape would be swift.

Jamie took a second, making sure he’d accounted for every step in his list. Couldn’t be too careful these days, not with the police on his tail. Or the Throwing Star, San Delgado’s resident vigilante, for that matter. He’d seen enough videos of her extraordinary beatdowns of common street muggers, and that didn’t fit into his plans. Not one bit.

The money flowed in, clean and quick—in fact, it might have been the smoothest of his nine bank robberies so far. Though the bank teller was out of sight, he heard the distinct thump of bundled cash being tossed into the backpack. Seconds on the wall clock ticked by, a click click click that made each moment seem like hours.

Her footsteps returned to a normal pace as she approached