Universe W-1234: Muddy Creek 5
A Bank Robbery
Officer Nick Patrolman
The cacophonous screams of fire engines, police cars, and an entire fleet of ambulances with paramedics spilling out the backs dominate a once peaceful suburban street. Pristine white clouds are met by a rising plume of black smoke. Scarlet embers rain on the bystanders as every public servant on standby rushes to the scene.
A woman, glowing orange hair messily draped over an angelic face, tries to keep herself together as tears spill down her cheeks and onto her dress, leaving spots quite unlike the polka-dots already present. She and her sundress sit alone on the opened tailgate of a now stray pickup truck, shivering, clutching her purse close as the survivor’s guilt slowly clutches her like insanity does a hiker who accidentally wandered off the trail a few sunsets back. Movement flickers in the corner of her eye; the approaching police officer pulls her from her trance.
“Good evening miss, I’m Officer Nick Patrolman. I’m sorry to do this, but I need to bring you down to the police station for a round of questioning.”
He gazes over to the smoldering pile of ash and brick juxtaposed betwixt two old-timey general stores that have been rivals ever since the second one opened, the splintery wooden walls unscathed from the blaze. He turns back to the sole survivor, meeting her frightened expression with a confused look of his own.
“A few passersby told me that you’re probably the only one who can help us figure out what happened here. I’ll walk you to your car so you don’t have to haul that handbag all the way downtown, but we really should get going.”
She nods, sliding down off her bench until her bare feet hit the cold, wet asphalt. She shoulders her purse and grabs her flip-flops from the tailgate, equipping them as the officer tries to hurry her along. When she was younger, her father, an employee at a flip-flop factory, would always tell her, “Unless you like the taste of dust, girl, you must go tough when the tough gets going.” Thinking about it now with a faceful of arsonic debris, she couldn’t agree more.
The rubber strand running from beneath her ankle, between her toes, and through the foamy sole of her flip-flop grabs at a piece of exposed rebar sticking out of the weathered sidewalk, giving this trip to her car a rather literal twist. Her knees hit the ground first but it doesn’t hurt, it’s just a little scratch, her kneecaps didn’t spew their innards all over the road unlike her pocketbook, the damned thing. Patrolman goes to lend the woman a helping hand, but then he spots the revolver laying amidst the woman’s belongings and he decides to turn his head and watch the firemen struggle to put out the last flame instead. The lady quickly snatches up the weapon, stashing it at the bottom of her bag beneath her wallet, makeup bag, scarf with two eye holes cut into it and a whole mess of paperwork, some pages from her school, some from her job.
Once composed, she goes to her car and slings the purse into the passenger seat, grabbing her keys out of the cup holder and locking the door behind her. The officer leads her to his cruiser and locks her in the back, giving her already spastic nervous system even more uncertainty to deal with. As they pull away, she watches all the men and women outside doing their best to fix what happened, eagerly lending their hands to whatever cause appears in front of them first. The calamity is over, but she still cries for them, for the poor souls caught up in the blaze and for the ones who showed up after, both appearing equally helpless in her sapphire blue eyes. It’s a quiet ride to the station.
She’s stationed at a desk in a small, windowless room, left alone for some time so her mind could stop spinning and recollect what had happened. Eventually a man clad in a gray suit comes into the room with none other than Officer Nick, who offers the woman an obligatorily supportive smile before he locks them inside. The man in the suit, a stern and forthright air about him, sits and shuffles his papers before laying the folder flat on the table alongside an audio recorder set to listen.
“Okay, start from the beginning,” says the man with no time to waste.
“What exactly happened in there?” offers Patrolman, gently.
“Well,” she sniffles, reaching to her side for the tissues she keeps in the outside pocket of her purse, which is in her car, which is still back by the wreckage. “I was waiting on line at the new bank that just opened up in town. There were three others in front of me – a burly lumberjack type guy with a flannel shirt and a magnificent beard, an office type guy with tape-repaired glasses, and an Indian woman who was arguing with the teller, barriers of both language and plexiglass between them.”
The eyebrows on both mens’ faces make for their hairlines.
“Then I hear a voice behind me commenting on the complexity of human interaction. So I turn around and there’s this man in line behind me, which was really strange because the bells on the door didn’t ring when he walked in, or at least I didn’t notice them, I… but, he was probably about six feet tall, he was draped in purple and black cloaks with long, black hair. I think he was wearing a top hat.”
The man with no time to waste, presumably the town’s detective, jots some notes on his paper, diverting his attention back to her when he’s ready to continue.
“He starts talking to me about the chaosity of life, about how we can spend all our time doing our very best only to get kicked and spat on for fun by someone unable to define the concept of goodness. He spoke about power, how it’s misunderstood and so often misused and how the good and innocent can be pushed to do crazy, terrible things…”
She pauses, a bit choked up.
“How the good and innocent can be pushed to do terrible things, things they would never have conceived of otherwise, just because of money or something else equally as valueless, or for no reason at all. Like magic, I think he said. I looked into his eyes and he looked through mine, as if he knew me better than he knew himself. He told me that I have some of the most beautifully azure eyes he had ever seen, and that I should leave, get outside and walk as far from the building as possible. He spoke with a careless urgency, I don’t know how else to describe it.”
“Okay, okay.” A series of lines chickenscratched into the paper. “Then what?”
“Then I feel a tap on my shoulder, so I turn around and see the lumberjack fellow looking at me funny.”
The detective looks to Patrolman, but he’s captured by the story.
“Yes, funny, as if I had three heads, as if I was talking to myself. He asked if I was okay, to which I replied that I was chipper before turning back around. The man I was previously talking to though, the one with the cloaks, he was gone, traceless, as if he vanished into thin air. Then I hear a commotion behind me, the lumberjack was arguing with someone. Apparently the, the cloaked man whom I was speaking to, apparently he’d slipped around and cut in front of the office guy while the lumberjack was distracting me. Well, now said lumberjack was giving the cloaked man trouble, making all sorts of threats at him if he didn’t go back to the back of the line. The office worker, he was in front of the lumberjack, mind you, he didn’t seem to mind being cut at all, so I really don’t know what the lumberjack’s problem was. But, I’m getting off topic.
“Yes, you are.”
“Right…” She looks down at her twiddling thumbs resting upon the table. “So, so going on, it’s at this point that the man, the one in the cloaks, looks to me and says, Go.”
“Did you listen?” as he continues to scribble.
“Please, let me continue. At first, I didn’t move. But then, he… his hand, it… I don’t know how to explain this.”
The detective looks up from his notes, not attempting to hide an irritated look on his face. “Well, try your best anyway.”
“The lumberjack grabbed the man’s wrist, the man who cut the line. The man laughed, well really he cackled, and told him to let go, but the lumberjack only got angrier. The man said I’m sorry you’re about to see this, miss; I think he was talking to me for some reason, but then… okay, I’ll just say it. His hand turned into metal, like his skin turned into a flexible metal material and… and he gripped down on the lumberjack’s wrist so hard that… he just crushed it… blood spurted everywhere, and I’m… and… I’m more than pretty sure the lumberjack’s hand was detached from his arm.
“The cloaked man started taunting the lumberjack, he made a joke out of it, officer, detective, like it was all a huge prank, like severing another man’s hand was a cheeky nibble of sorts. He asked the lumberjack if he was done yet; the flannel-clad man replied with screams of shock and agony. The cloaked man’s hand, the, the metal one, it… then it changed again, turned translucent, like it was made of glass, detective, and he swung at the lumberjack’s face, open palm, and it just shattered, like it was hollow, like it was nothing at all… there were glass splinters sticking out of the poor lumberjack’s eyes and nose and his cheeks and his lips and mouth and… blood dripped all over the floor, he was losing so much blood… then he drew back, the, the cloaked one, and um, and he, he swung again. All I heard was another shatter and a body hitting the floor, because I had covered my eyes at that point. There was so much… blood… but… but um… but then I heard him, th-the cloaked man, not the lumberjack, yelling at the teller, so I uncovered my eyes to see what was going on and… it was like he knew I looked because he turned around at the second I lowered my hands and he said, to me, Why are you still in here, idiot?
“Then, and I swear to you, I’ve been telling the truth this entire time, then he snapped his fingers and I was outside, sitting on the tailgate of the lumberjack’s pickup tr–”
“How do you know the truck belonged to this, lumberjack?” said with verbal quotations around the word lumberjack.
“Oh, I, I don’t, I just assumed so because of the hatchets and the chainsaw sitting behind me in the bed. But, um, yes, I was suddenly sitting outside and then the bank burst into flames. I saw it with my own two eyes, detective, it just went up, no rhyme or reason, just… poof. Nobody got out except me, I don’t even know how I did it…”
“Did you call the police or the hospital, the firemen?”
“No, no sir, I was, um… I was trying to stop crying. I suppose a passerby made the call.”
“I see…” says Patrolman, who shares a look with the detective. The detective had stopped taking notes a little while ago.
“Well miss, you’ve been… you’ve been helpful. Thank you for your assistance. You can go now, I think you’ve told us just about everything you’re going to tell us.”
There are hints of impatience sprinkled in his voice, like it’s the woman’s fault her story is so unbelievable, like it’s her fault that nobody can explain why Muddy Creek’s new local bank decided to spontaneously combust on this otherwise bland day. Regardless, she thanks the detective and walks out of the room only to be grabbed by Officer Patrolman who, with haste in his pace, escorts the woman outside. When the cloudlight hits her face, she notices is her own car parked out in the parking lot.
“What do I owe for the tow truck, officer?” she asks, wishing to wash her hands of these events as thoroughly as possible.
“Tow truck? Your brother dropped it off for you when you were inside, told the front desk he had to run. You have a nice day, miss.”
The officer goes back to his station as the woman, an only child, contemplates the meaning of all this. She slowly approaches her car, finding it unlocked. She climbs in and reaches for her purse but finds only the plushy felt of an empty passenger seat. Nervous, she turns around to find her bag sat upright on the middle of the three seats in the back.
With a hasty quickness she grabs it and dumps the contents onto her passenger seat, her weapon and makeshift facemask spilling out atop the pile of paperwork, cushioned by her makeup bag and wallet. She exhales a sigh of relief, but maybe too soon; the bag still has some inexplicable weight to it. She hesitantly flips the satchel and peers into it, her eyes widening as she sees what lies inside: a rose, bright red petals sat atop a thick green stem. The flower feels heavy in her hand as she lifts it out, as if it was made of metal like the cloaked man’s hand, and she notices a small flap peeling off the base of the stem. She pulls at it, gently at first, then with more force, and it gives, unleashing a blizzard of hundred-dollar bills that explode from the flower to reveal an intricately rose-shaped vessel of solid gold. The woman, lap full of bills and her hand heavy with the shiny, metallic flower, thinks, ‘How can this be?’
She returns her attention to her purse where she finds a small square of paper with some writing on it, a note left by whoever drove her car to the station. It reads:
Sorry I had to interrupt your robbery. Cheers~