"There he is," John Little points out. "What do you think, Robin?" I tuck my loose, black hair behind my ears and lean against the outside of the City Gate East, its glass windows rising above me. People have been coming and going all morning, so nobody has noticed us. Thankfully. Across the street, a few people filter into the Royal Bank of Scotland, a brick building with decorative gold medallions at the top. We staked out a few banks before this one. At last. The right one.
Councillor John Lackland struts out of the bank across the street; he smooths his expensive-looking suit. Him. We're here to take back the money that he's stolen from innocent children. And, speaking of which… A smiling little girl passes by him, clutching at her mum's hand and holding on to a coin. Too cute.
She stumbles on a crack and drops the money. I hope she isn't hurt. No, she's getting up. Though she reaches for the coin, Lackland snatches it first. "Thank you very much." How unfair. The poor girl sobs, and her mum hugs her.
I start to cross the street to confront Lackland, but Little John's huge arms yank me back. "He'll see who you are," he hisses.
"What do I care!" That coward can't just walk away.
Little John whispers, "We'll pay him back in full for this later."
"He looks like the kind of guy who'd filch from a children's hospital. Whatever it takes to buy his luxury swimming pools and personal cricket fields." I break loose. That's the word on the street, but nobody in the city government has done anything, so it's our turn.
"Give that money back right now." The mother points her finger at Lackland's chest.
"I'm sorry." At this, he swaggers down the street. I hope he loses that money.
"He's gone now. Let's go," I tell Little John, and he follows me across the street.
When we reach the little girl, she clutches at her mum's shirt. "Hello," Little John says to the mother.
"What is it?" she replies, frowning.
"We saw what happened and wanted to know if we could help." He shifts his feet.
"There's nothing you can do." The mother steps back.
Bending towards the girl, I sneak a ten pence piece from my pocket and pretend to pull it out from behind her ear. "Look what I found."
Her eyes alight with a smile, and she snatches the coin from my hand. I smile back. "What do you say?" the mother reminds her daughter. She refuses to say anything.
"It's all right." Standing, I wave my hand. "I'd do it anytime."
After coming back from the bank, we clomp up the stairs to my flat and enter the kitchen. Pots and pans hang on the textured walls, and spindly chairs surround the plain table. "Search for any important information," I tell him. "You know what to look for."
"I'm on it," he nods.
"And I'll track down his credit card info." Starting with Facebook, I look up John Lackland's profile. Pictures of his wife, posts about politics… Perfect. A trip to a Pride of Britain hotel in Kent. He knows how to pick a hotel, that's for certain. After going to the contact us page, I call them on my iPhone. The phone rings once, twice… "Please pick up," I mutter.
"Hello?" the receptionist says. "This is Pride of Britain Hotels. How may I help you?"
"I'm a representative of the Royal Bank of Scotland," I say. "There's been a problem with John Lackland's credit card. Could you verify his card number and PIN number, please?"
"Yes. One moment, please." This won't be too hard.
After a long day of information gathering, my head jerks against my computer screen. I struggle to hold my eyes open…
"Robin," my father calls from outside my childhood home. "Come here. I have something for you."
"Is it a story?" I cry, running to clamber into his lap. He sits in a rusted lawn chair, looking out at the identical houses in our neighborhood, the Meadows, their façades a mixture of wood paneling, brick, and plaster. They look proud but tired.
"Sure is," he laughs. Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. The dog-eared cover features a cheerful-looking man in Lincoln green firing an arrow. My hero. "I named you after him so you'd help people like he did."
Seven years later, when I'm twelve, his words take on more meaning. That summer, my best friend has some awful news. "Robin!" she cries, running to our front yard. "Robin!"
"What's wrong, Marian?" I toss my garden hoe and the weeds aside. Her blue eyes widen like she'd just seen her dog hit by a car.
"I just found out we have to leave because the bank evicted us, and we can't make payments," she says in a rush.
"What?" I steady her, placing my hands on her shoulders. "They can't do that to you. They can't!" Lots of people in our neighborhood have a hard time getting by. But now I'm going to lose Marian. This won't keep happening. I won't let it.
"Hello. Robin? Anybody here?" Something raps on my head; I jerk upright, knocking Little John's hand away.
"Whatswrong?" I mutter, rubbing my eyes. Marian's face fades away. I haven't seen her in over ten years.
"I think it's time we stopped for the night," he says, pushing in his chair.
We spend weeks gathering the data the bank wants. Date of birth, email, anything that might be useful. Then we head to the login website for digital banking and credit card services. Gordon Bennett—they use tracking cookies. I'll have to remember to delete them. I click "Forgotten any of your login details," and a new screen pops up.
"They have a few questions," Little John notes.
"Then I hope we've got the answers," I reply, leaning forward. What type of customer are you? Personal customer. Enter your personal details: name—check, date of birth—check, gender—check, postcode—check, email—check, sort code and account number—need to find, debit card—check.
"Now what do we do?" Little John chews the inside of his lip.
"We need to find the rest of the data. Either we could continue sleuthing around online, or I could go to the source." Stretching, I sit up straight.
"Let's keep look—Robin, what are you thinking?" He notes my sly expression. "Whatever it is, stop thinking it."
"I'm going to visit Lackland."
To get Lackland's password, user number, and username, I crack into Lackland's computer and download a virus to it; then, impersonating a worker from IT, I stroll into Lackland's government office. If everything turns out right, I'll use my iPhone's camera capture to snag the information. "I'm Gertrude Sax from IT," I say, extending my hand to him. He stands behind his overwrought Italianate desk. "I heard you have a computer problem. Let me take a look."
"Are you sure you can do this, Ms. Sax?" he asks, sitting and rubbing his hand over his face.
"Of course I can. It's my job," I say, waving my hand and bending over his fancy computer. Inside I'm seething. Why should he doubt me?
"It's unfortunate that your parents named you Gertrude," he continues.
I place my iPhone near him, trying not to slam it. "Do you know what I think is unfortunate?"
"What?" he asks, not looking up.
"Not sharing what you have with others. Of course," I laugh, "you're a generous person, so you know what I mean." Tapping my phone, I add, "I just need you to sign in to verify some information."
He starts to sign in, a frown deepening on his face. "Why do you need all this?"
"It's for payment purposes." Bending over his computer again, I add, "I don't work for free."
"You surely don't need direct access to my bank account, however. I can pay you myself." His frown furrows into a scowl. "Are you trying to trick me, Ms. Sax?"
"Of course not, sir." We both reach for the iPhone at the same time; starting to sweat, I wrangle it from it his grasp. Stashing it in my purse, I hurry to the door. "Have a good day, Mr. Lackland." I need to get out of here. Need to get back to the flat.
"Wait a bloody minute!" He almost overturns his desk in an effort to block the door. Elbowing him in the ribcage, I knock him to the floor. My heart in my mouth, I sprint down the hallway; he huffs as he gets up and scrambles after me. He winces. Guilt surges through me like ice. No, don't feel bad. There's no time for that. Remember what he's done.
Just a little farther to the stairwell… Running faster, I burst open the door and take the stairs two at a time. Lackland's shoes squeak behind me. His footsteps thunder down the stairs. Oh, no. He's starting to catch up. Keep moving.
"You'll face criminal charges for this!" he shouts. Of course I will. It's a professional risk. It's worth getting caught, but I won't, not this time. Almost there… Leaping over the last step, I reach for the exit door. I trip and collapse in a heap. Warm blood trickles down my lip. Ow.
He pulls me up by my shirt collar. "The police will be happy to see you, I'm sure." His lip curls in a smug expression, making my blood curdle.
"I won't give them the opportunity," I retort and stomp on his foot.
"Argh!" His face contorted, he recoils in pain.
Flinging open the door, I dash down the street. "After her!" Lackland shouts to a guard posted near the entrance. "She attempted to steal my bank account information."
"Yes, sir." The guard's footsteps pound behind me, too close. I need a way to lose him. Weaving in and out of the passersby, I run down King Street and then Queen Street to the bus stop. An idling bus opens its doors to let out passengers. A little farther. As I speed up to reach it, the guard grabs at my ankle. The bus doors close, and my chance at freedom begins to pull away from the curb. No.
"Let me go!" Kicking loose, I stumble to the door. "Wait!" I bang at the doors; the bus slows down.
"Get in," the bus driver says, his expression sour. Panting, I stumble up the stairs.
"Thank—thank you," I gasp, and fumble for the right change. He all but snatches it from me.
"Sit down." Grumbling, the driver steps on the accelerator. Smiling sheepishly, I settle in a seat. I made it.
After exiting the bus, I turn for the YMCA and pull on a ragged-looking coat. Maybe they'll get me what I need. Stopping at the brick, blue-trimmed building, I open the door and shuffle in. "May I help you?" the receptionist says.
"I managed to get a job recently," I begin, blinking back pretend tears, "for the first time in months. But I don't have a bank account for my paychecks."
"Don't worry about it," she replies, standing to pat me on the back. "I'll find someone who'll set you up with one."
"You would?" I straighten. "Thank you so much." Soon I'll have a non-traceable account to transfer Lackland's money to. Perfect.
Little John bends near me as I pick up my phone. "Hello?" the woman on the end of the line says. At last. Her voice is like water after being lost in the desert for months. It makes everything worth it. "This is the children's hospital. How may I help you?"
"Hi," I answer, leaning back in my chair. "I'm an anonymous donor, and I'm calling to bequeath 1,000,000 pounds to the hospital."
"Bloody Nora!" the woman cries. I love hearing people's reactions. "That's brilliant. You know what, this is such a large donation, will you please tell us who you are? We want to make sure we thank you properly."
I pause. If I tell her, I'd gain the recognition my father wanted me to have, helping others. Who knows? Marian might even hear about it. But… How could I? I didn't do this for myself.
"I'd really rather remain anonymous."
"Are you sure?" she offers again. If I don't take it, I won't have another chance. Then the girl on the street comes back to me. It was all for people like her.
"If you insist," she hesitates. "But how can we thank you?"
I just smile.