But in late '87, Mr. Springer began moving from job to job, first going to work for another congressman, New Jersey Republican Matthew J. Rinaldo, then working briefly for a Republican congressional challenger in North Carolina. He ended up back with Mr. Roth, helping with the closing weeks of the 1988 campaign, only to walk off the job five days before the election.
After that he mostly kept to himself, living off his savings and ignoring job offers while drinking beer. He was also taking Ativan, a prescription tranquilizer for anxiety. It also magnifies the impact of alcohol.
The only stabilizing influence left in his life was his girlfriend, but even that relationship was falling apart.
Two weeks after he turned 40, an April 13 news account caught his eye. It was about the approaching 20th anniversary of the first manned flight to the moon, and it took him back to 1969. "I was in college then, and I remembered reading in the paper that this guy had robbed a bank. He had said that when he saw man step on the moon, he realized that we're just a little speck in a huge world, and it made that bank seem very, very small."
That set wheels turning in his mind. In a sense, he'd always felt like he operated on a level of infallibility, separate from others. "Then I found that wasn't happening for the last few months," he said.
He suddenly decided that a bank robbery would "rekindle that feeling of being all-powerful. At the time it seemed so simple. It was the excitement. 'This is the best. This is the biggest.' It was perceived to be a tough target, and yet I felt like I could just go in there with a note and carry it off easily."
So, he made his plans for the robbery the next morning and went to bed. By the time he awakened, his mind had registered the plan as an imperative. "It was like an out-of-body experience. . . . I felt like I was under orders to do this. I had made a commitment to myself, so I kind of carried it out without any conscience."
When he returned home, he tossed the cash into a file drawer and fell into a stuporous, beery sleep. He awakened in early afternoon.
"I was stunned, and I thought, 'Oh my God, did I?' I was trying to think, 'was I dreaming or did I really do it?'. . . So I left my bedroom and went into the room where I have my filing cabinet, and opened that up, and looked in there and saw all this cash. And I shut the drawer immediately and said 'Oh my God.' And I walked into the living room and just kind of sat there, thinking. I expected a knock at the door at any moment."
The knock never came, neither then nor after the second robbery a month later of a Crestar Bank a few blocks from the Maryland National. He told no one of the robberies and tried to put the event out of his mind. But there were reminders.
One day with his girlfriend, he said, "We were in the car, and I went around the corner, and I had all this stuff on the --board. All these papers fell off and I had a lot of cash underneath. And the cash came off and fell in her lap and went down on the floor, and she said, 'My God, what did you do, rob a bank?' I just told her to pick the stuff up."
On July 19, his girlfriend broke off their relationship. "It was the absolute bottom," he said. "It was like hell had a trap door. And I went home about 11 that night. . . . I was kind of mad and wanted to strike back at something." He struck back at the Maryland National branch.
This time his preparations had a new twist. He began tidying a few loose ends of his life, writing long-overdue letters and finishing chores around the house. He feels now that he sensed the end of the line. The next morning, he drank his first swallow of beer and vomited.
"I stopped and I thought, 'I've got to call auntie,' " he said of Mrs. Ossofsky, who had become his family lifeline in times of trouble. "I was thinking, 'I give. World, you've got me.' " But he didn't call. "I just summoned up some more of whatever it is you need to bull ahead."
Although he remembers few details from inside the bank during the first two robberies, the third is still vivid. After handing the note to the teller, he said, "I can remember standing there, and I was overcome with 'I don't want to be here. I want to get out of here. Forget all this.' And I remember leaving the bank." He walked across the parking lot and into a grove of bushes and trees, then sat down.
"I was thinking, 'No more. No more.' I was going to sit there and let the whole world go by. After a few minutes I started hearing police sirens coming from everywhere."
The sirens closed in. He heard people speaking, coming nearer.
"Then I heard something maybe 10 or 25 feet away, and somebody went, 'There he is!' So I was sitting there with worried fascination and heard a voice say, 'Go get 'em.' And I looked up and there was this dog in midair, coming right at me. I put my left arm up over my face, and the next thing I remember was I woke up in the hospital."