My story last week was chosen as Pick Of The Week . If you didn't get a chance to read it , you can do so by clicking on the following : http://writer-in-transit.co.za/chrysalis-experiment-prompt-16/ This is my contribution for prompt no. # 17 …
THIS MIGHT NOT BE THE BEST TIME FOR GETTING PHILOSOPHICAL
It was Friday afternoon . Last-minute clients stood patiently , awaiting their turn which seemed like it would never come . Some stood like statues frozen in time , lost in their own thoughts and oblivious to the surrounding hustle and bustle, moving along automatically as a teller called to the next client . Others shifted restlessly , complained in muted tones , wondering what the hold-up at the front of the line was all about . The busy atmosphere mixed with the sense of urgency and impatience increased with every passing minute . There were only 2 hours left . The banks would be closed for the next four days which included a long-weekend and public holidays .
The steady hum of business was interspersed with the shuffle of feet as the line shortened little by little . Music played softly in the background in an attempt to balance the tension . Drawers opened and shut , fingers tapped out figures on the keyboard , the incessant clackety-clack an indication that the tellers were working non-stop . A man coughed , an elderly woman zipped her purse . Somewhere in the distance , the whirr of a fax machine could be heard , spitting out reams of paper . Heels clicked across the pine-scented floor as a banker hurried in the direction of the manager’s office . The air-conditioning vents purred , a steady soothing stream of cool air quite at odds with the tired , edgy clients .
At the far end of the line , a well-dressed man in a business suit exchanged a few words with the person behind him . Three places behind , a holidaymaker kitted out in floral baggy trunks and beach slops frowned at the man in the suit . He was annoyed about something . An elderly woman with purple-tinted hair turned to the suit with her hands on her hips . A security guard on the main floor made his way slowly in the direction of the group . Eyes turned to the man in the floral trunks .
The next 3 minutes passed in a blur . A scuffle brewed . Somebody lunged forward . The purple-tinted head muttered an expletive . The security reached the hot spot in seconds . Somebody screamed . Heads turned to the source of the commotion . A single shot rang out . Panic erupted . People ran towards the exit . An elderly man crumpled and slid to the floor . Two youngsters propped him up against a recliner . A woman bent over and proceeded to fan his face with a delicate hand-made fan . A young woman consoled a distraught woman while the husband sheltered their two toddlers .
The baggy pants hooked a young man under the chin . A gun was pointed to his head . He dragged him to the nearby stairwell which led to the basement floor . Another man kept his gun trained on the purple-tinted head , the young girl who accompanied her and the businessman in the suit . He moved the gun from one to the other in quick succession and nodded in the same direction as the other gunman .The chaos subsided slightly . Everybody looked around . In a flash ,the gunmen and their captives disappeared around the corner .The onlookers were baffled .The two gun-wielding men had ignored the tellers .This was not a normal bank hold-up . As soon as they were out of sight , everybody tried to talk at the same time . Security ushered people quickly in the direction of the main exit . And within 5 minutes , the banking floor had been cleared …
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The day had started out bad . Everything that could possibly go wrong , had gone wrong . He had woken up late . His girl-friend had come in from an all-night party just as he rubbed the last remnants of sleep from his burning eyes . A throbbing head-ache was the result of over-indulging with some friends the previous evening . He couldn’t find his good , old faithful sneakers that came to the rescue whenever he needed them . Hot coffee scalded his wrist as he knocked the mug while reaching for his cell phone on the table . The call was the cherry on top of the cake . He had been fired . His boss had informed him , via a phone call , that he did not need to report for duty after the long weekend . The Jack Russell chose that precise moment to trot in with the missing shoe in his mouth . It was covered in mud and dirt . Max hurled the phone at the wall . It missed his girlfriend , Rita , who had just come out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her , bounced against the wall and fell on to the couch . He was frustrated and annoyed . The long weekend stretched ahead , the banks would be full and he wondered if he would get there in time …
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The gunmen forced their captives down the stairwell , along a corridor and into the vault .
“Easy mister , I don’t think I’m going anywhere else …” Mavis Cornwall was agitated as the gunman ushered her roughly into the room . She plonked down in the furthermost corner . A purple strand fell across her flushed cheek . “I think you got it all wrong . What on earth are WE doing here ? Aren’t you guys supposed to hold up the tellers ? You know the people I’m talking about ? The ones who sit behind the counter-tops and issue the money to bank clients ?”
Her captor and baggy pants had retreated to the opposite end of the room . They spoke in low , urgent tones .
“What are you looking at ?” She glared at the businessman . “Somebody’s got to say or do something . We need to know what’s the deal , why they’ve captured us .”
“Keep it zipped lady.” Her captor waved the gun in her direction .”You’ll find out soon enough !”
She glared at him .
“I’m s-s-s-scared ,” whispered her niece . She huddled closer to Mavis who placed a protective arm around her shoulder .
“There dear , you just relax and let Aunt Mavis take care of the bad guys ,” she coaxed and patted her shoulder .
“Are you going to ignore us forever ?” Silence had never been one of Mavis’ stronger qualities .
“Shut it lady !” The baggy pants shoved the gun towards her face , his bulging forearm muscles tense and strained . With a clenched jaw , his eyes burned through her …
“Whoa ! Easy , easy there cowboy .”
“ So the suit found his tongue , brilliant .” Mavis leaned back . She glared at the gun . It took more than a gun to intimidate her .
“What do you do anyway ?”
“I’m in the movie business . It’s Charles Minter . And could you please just keep it down for a minute …”
The baggy pants paced , up and down , up and down … He seemed unsettled . He rubbed his gun-wielding upper arm in a brisk , jerky manner . From time to time , he stopped and pointed the weapon at his captives …
“Now Charles – may I call you Charles ? “ She leaned forward in a conspiratorial manner . “ Isn’t this the perfect setting for one of your movies ? It doesn’t get any better , does it ? By the way , you can call me Mavis .”
“Mavis , I’m really glad to meet you . I wonder if you could do me a favour ,” he had a thoughtful gleam in his eye ,” keep this information to yourself . And yes , you may call me Charles .”
She sat back , deep in thought . The niece lay at an awkward angle , neck stretched and cheek up against her aunt’s shoulder.
They had forgotten about the other young man . He sat in a foetal position , rubbing his bruised chin .
“Are you okay ?” She turned to him , a look of concern on her face . “I’m Mavis and this is Charles , he’s in the movie business .” She leaned over the young man .
“Move away from him ! And quit the constant jabbering !” the menacing tone came from the baggy pants . His eyes glazed over . He held the palms of his hands to his temple . “I need to think ! Think ! Think ! Dammit !” He hit his flat open palms against his head .She exchanged a few quick words with the youngster .
“Did somebody mention movie business ?” Her captor sauntered over and crouched in front of Charles . “You got any money Mr. Movie Man ?"
At the other end of the room , baggy pants muttered to himself , wringing his hands , shaking his head and gritting his teeth .
“What’s wrong with him ?” She was curious .
“Well , amongst other things , Max just lost his job and his girlfriend walked out on him .”
“Charles here is in the movies . Maybe he could organise something . Actually , I just mentioned to him that we are the perfect setting for one of his movies . Don’t you agree ? Imagine , the story of a bank robbery minus the tellers being held up for money ! That one hasn’t been done before , has it Charles ? We’re definitely onto something here .”
Max stood in front of a metal cabinet . He rested his forehead against the door . His heart thumped loudly in his chest …
Mavis was all business . “What do you say Charles ? Think you could come up with something ? You could get Max and Trent involved ,” she motioned to the youngster who ignored them ,” maybe as extras … or something … gophers … you know the guys who run around ? They go for this and go for that …” she ended lamely .
“I think that Charles and I should have a little chat – a private one-on-one …” the gunman pushed him roughly and motioned towards a spot in the opposite corner .
Max knocked his head against the cabinet door . One , two , three … He was a ticking time bomb …
Trent began to moan . Tiny sobs escaped his compressed lips .
Max ceased his head banging . After about ten seconds it continued …
“I need the toilet ,” her niece whispered in a panicky voice .
“Sshh dear , not now , not now , later … just give us a little time . We’re sorting out some important business details .”
“Everybody SHUT UP !” Max was clearly at his wits end . He swung around and aimed the gun at the group , waved it from side to side , unfocused and erratic .
The tension was palpable . Max lunged at Trent and hit the butt of the gun hard on his head .
Mavis started . Her niece whimpered softly and began to rock herself in a steady rhythm , back and forth , back and forth …
“Don't worry dear ," Mavis re-assured the unresponsive Trent , " Charles will sort out the finer details of the deal and we’ll all get a part in the upcoming movie .”
A knowing smile spread across her lips .