Franklyn Kirk brooded in the vinyl waiting chair. He glanced at his watch and sighed, crossing his legs then uncrossing them again. A small fan blew stale air out from behind the bank teller's counter. The third florescent light from the right was having a seizure, blinking out Morse code to the ceiling. Across the room, a tall woman in a smart business suit was exchanging words with the teller, a short balding man with a turtle lip. In the chair next to Frank sat a mouse of a woman, who kept her head down while she fussed with the hem of her shirt.
With a rumble, the ancient air-conditioning unit came to life, spitting vapor ice cubes into the atmosphere. The teller reached backwards and flicked off the small fan with the ease of familiarity. That's when she walked into the room. You could tell something was wrong by the way she was walking, all stiff and awkward. She was average height with reddish hair that looked purple in the flickering florescent light.
Frank stared at her as she hesitated by the door, flipping the dead bolt before striding up to the teller. A whispered conversation was held. Frank gradually began to lose interest. That is, until there was suddenly an Inox 9mm beretta handgun being waved in the air.
"Ok, nobody move!" the woman shouted. "I want everyone over here now!"
There was a moment of stunned silence. The woman next to Frank had started shaking. Frank frowned. The tone of voice was dead on, but her wording was just horrible. "How exactly do you expect us to get over there if we aren't supposed to move?"
The thief shot him the glare of death. "Just get over here. Now!" The woman next to Frank jumped to her feet and ran to the other side of the room. Frank followed with more hesitant steps.
"Ok, you take us into the vault," the robber woman said to the teller. The man gurgled something before slinking off to the back room with the rest of the hostages following suit. The woman with the gun brought up the rear. Franks dress shoes clicked on the overly waxed floor. Someone's high heels made a pocking noise ahead of him.
The teller came to a stop next to the vault door, a massive, impressing looking thing with all sorts of gold overlaid bars and complicated locking mechanisms. The main door was propped open with a heavy leather chair. The strange arrangement off-set the initial impression of luxury and power and everything that comes with money.
"Get inside," the robber commanded. Frank ushered the other two ladies into the smallish space. The teller moved to follow, but the robber suddenly leveled her gun and squeezed the trigger. In an explosion of sound, the teller crumpled backwards into the leather chair, the momentum pushing it to the side. One of the women screamed. The teller's head lolled against the expensive looking piece of furniture.
The robber strode forward, into the belly of the vault. Frank remained frozen near its entrance. He didn't even realize that the vault door had started to swing close until the robber screeched something unintelligible and lunged for the door. She whirled around and stared hard at the woman standing closest to the door. "What did you do?!"
"I…I didn't… I didn't do anything!"
"It's locked now, do you realize this?" the robber yelled. "We are stuck in here!"
"I didn't do it," the other woman protested. The robber's nostrils flared as she turned to Frank.
"Open it," she snapped.
Frank arched an eyebrow. "What makes you think I can?"
"I don't know, maybe it's that smart looking suit," she hissed. "I'm sure you can figure it out."
"Fine, I might be able to jury-rig something. Anyone got a paperclip? Or maybe a hairpin?" Frank looked around with a deadpan expression. The two female hostages stared at him with wide eyes. "Seriously," he added, "that could help." Well, it worked for MacGyver anyway and Frank had always prided himself on his jury-rigging skills.
The robber yanked a bobby pin from her hair and threw it at him. "Here! Just get it open!"
"I'm working on it!" Frank snapped. He shed his coat and rolled up his sleeves before sitting down in front of the door. No one talked for a moment or two. There were sounds of the others settling in the small square room. The robber just paced.
"We're going to die, aren't we?" the smallish woman peeped from where she'd settled in an unhappy lump as far away from the vault door as she could get. The professional woman, who was talking to the teller earlier, shushed her.
"No no, we're going to be fine."
"We're locked in a vault with the bank robber, don't tell me we're going to be fine!"
"Hey," the thief growled, "relax, it's not like I'm going to shoot you or anything." She stared pointedly at Frank. "Unless someone needs some encouragement."
Frank felt his eye twitch. "I have a desire not to die of asphyxiation, just like you do. Look, this is a bank vault lock. It's not designed to open easily."
"Whatever, just get it open."
Silence. Frank pulled a piece of gum from his pocket and pulled the foil off of it. He stared at the foil for a moment. What could I use this for?
"So, what are everyone's names?" The pseudo cheerful voice came from the tall woman who had found the only seat in the room. She stared at Frank with unnaturally blue eyes as if she expected him to blurt out his life story.
"Franklyn Kirk. No, you cannot call me captain."
"O-oh, ok. How about you dear?" she looked at the smallish woman.
"Orpah," came the meek voice from the tiny woman who looked to be just out of college. She seemed to want to melt into the carpet.
"That's a pretty name."
More silence. It was getting warm in the vault. Frank unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt and pulled off his tie. He carefully positioned himself so that he was blocking the majority of the door.
"So what," snapped the robber, "no one is going to ask my name?"
"I'm sorry that we don't like to talk to people who rob banks and take people hostage," Frank snapped back. The woman took a threatening step towards him. Bring it, sister.
"What's your name?" asked the tall woman. Frank had to admit, she had good timing.
"Matilda Anderton. You can call me Milly if you want."
The grating voice of Matilda was getting on his nerves and he wasn't afraid to let her know it. "Will you just shut up?"
Matilda raised the gun over his head. "There is way too much estrogen in this room for you to tell me to shut up."
"I'm Janice." Again, the woman came through with the perfect distraction.
Matilda's head whipped back to the tall woman.
"As in the wrinkly old model?" Orpah asked.
"She's definitely not a model," Frank muttered to himself. He hoped, belatedly, that she didn't hear the comment. The woman was trying to make this situation better.
"I'm running for office, you may have heard of me," Janice insisted. A nervous smile painted her features.
"What, trying to get Blagojevich's job?" Frank joked.
"Inspector General for the Federal Maritime Commission."
Orpah suddenly moaned from her position in the corner. "This is it. I'm dead. I am going to die locked in a room with Bonnie Parker, MacGyver, and Sarah Palin!"
Frank smirked but said nothing. He found Orpah's purse and pulled out a lighter and a rolled up sock. Interesting combination. He cast the blond woman a sideways glance.
"How much money do you think is in here?" Matilda paced with a vacant expression on her tanned face. Back and forth, back and forth.
"Does it matter? You're going to take it either way," Frank insisted. Matilda just nodded.
She continued to pace. Orpah, suddenly depressed, curled into the fetal position and cried softly. Janice just kept on smiling her nervous smile. There was something feral behind the icy blue contacts that altered her eye color, Frank thought.
"So, what drives a robber to steal other people's money?" Frank asked. Not that he really cared, but the question would distract the others.
Matilda smirked. "Gotta eat to live, gotta steal to eat," she said in a singsong voice.
"Tell you all about it when I got the time," Orpah said quietly. Matilda fixed the woman with a curious expression.
"Aladdin. It was my favorite movie as a kid," she said. "Heck, that was my favorite song."
"My sister watched it every single day when we were kids," Orpah mused. Her small face scrunched up. "I hated that movie."
"Oh." Matilda averted her brown eyes and continued her impossible task of wearing a trench into the floor, her attempt at pop culture thoroughly squashed.
Frank pulled a pair of earbuds out of his pocket and taped them to the door with duct tape that he found. If no one looked too closely, it might appear as though he was doing something technical. "So, what do you plan to do with us after I get us out of here?" Frank asked Matilda. The woman was easily distracted, he decided.
"Easy," Matilda snarked, "I'm going to force you to carry the money to an unmarked parked van then shoot you all execution style." She had a cruel smile on her face as she stalked like a caged tiger past the rows of locked deposit boxes. A choked sob slipped past Orpah's tightly pursed lips, and Janice put a soothing hand on her shoulder straining to sit in the chair and offer comfort at the same time. Frank just rolled his eyes.
"Very funny," he snapped.
Matilda shrugged. "You asked. Did you get the door open yet?"
"If I had gotten it open, you would have known," he growled.
Matilda brandished her weapon. "Lose the attitude."
That was it, the last straw. "Look, I'm stuck in this godforsaken room with a bank robber. Either let me have an attitude—"
"Or what? You're going to shank me with a paperclip?" Matilda took a threatening step towards him. "While you're at it, why don't you open the door?!" She shoved the barrel of the gun into his neck. Frank stared at her. What were the chances that she's actually pull the trigger? He pulled Janice's purse closer to him and refocused on the door.
"So, Franklyn," Janice started, "how did you get to be good at this sort of stuff?"
"I'm smart. I always have been," he snapped. No, he did not want to dig into his past.
"What do you do? You know, for a job?" Orpah had uncurled from the fetal position and was staring at him. It was creepy. Frank refused to look at her.
"What, are you a spy or something?"
"Whatever. Listen, just shut up and let me work, ok? We only have so much air left, so I suggest you stop talking."
Frank could feel that all eyes were now on him. Just great.
"You are," Orpah pressed, "That's why you want to get out so bad! Are you on a mission or something?"
Frank just picked up a tire gage and blew on one end. He let the silence stretch out until someone felt awkward enough to break it. Janice didn't let him down.
"So, Orpah," Janice finally says, "that's a pretty name. Where did you get it?"
Orpah answered without looking at the other woman. "My mom had a thing for odd Bible names."
"Oh, that's neat."
"No, I was the lucky one. My brother's name is Igal."
"Yeah, he was ridiculed a lot in school."
The conversation fizzled out and Janice coughed uneasily. Orpah started humming a doleful tune that seemed to bring everyone down a few notches.
"Well, this could be worse," Janice insisted.
Orpah frowned at her. "How?"
"You could be that bank teller," Frank offered without thinking. It was a fair statement. Orpah's eyes grew round in shock.
"Oh stop, we'll be fine. Right, Franklyn?" Janice smiled at him. The gesture was slightly manic.
"Yeah, we'll be fine," Matilda hissed, "because Frankie here is gonna get the door open."
"See, no problem," Janice said to Orpah. Matilda's pacing grew more hostile. Frank wasn't entirely sure such a thing was possible, but Matilda managed it anyway.
"Come on, James Bond. If you were on a mission, you'd be done already," the thief taunted.
Frank cocked an eyebrow. "If I were on a mission, I'd have high tech gadgets to work with instead of this crap!" He held up a tube of lipstick and resisted the urge to chuck it at her.
"So, how about them Bears?" Janice chuckled. The sound was hollow.
"The Bears suck," Matilda retorted, glowering at the other woman. Janice shrank back a bit and her smile seemed to get bigger, as if the enlarged gesture would ward off any ill feelings.
"I-I really don't know. I don't follow sports."
"Then, why'd you bring it up?"
"I thought it might be a fun topic. Most people like sports." Her voice trailed off into a whimper. Orpah sniffed. Frank just shook his head.
"So, what was your plan? I mean, after you got us in here, what did you intend to do?" Frank asked, craning his head to get a good look at Matilda.
"Can we not talk about this?" Orpah peeped. Frank ignored her.
"Did you have a partner or something? Someone who has your back?" Frank's eye twitched again. "Someone you can trust?" It was Matilda's turn to arch an eyebrow.
"I do these things alone."
"So, what was the plan?" Frank pressed.
"Does it matter?"
He stared hard at her. She returned the stare with enough venom for the both of them.
"So, are you all registered to vote?" Janice was smiling again.
Matilda gave her a crazy look. "No, bank robbers and the government don't exactly get along."
Janice nodded. "Of course. How about you, Orpah?"
"We won't vote again until next year."
"It's never too early to start thinking about it," Janice insisted.
"Do we even vote on generals for the federal department of high seas pirating?" Frank asked.
"Inspector General for the Federal Maritime Commission."
Orpah glared at him. "Why, do you have something against pirates? Is it a spy thing? Are they like your mortal enemies or something?"
Frank did his best not to throw the lighter at her.
"We should do something," Janice insisted. Frank literally growled.
"What does it look like I'm doing!?"
"No no, to pass the time,"
"And use up air," he muttered to himself.
"Like what?" Matilda asked.
"Well, do you have any hobbies?" Janice waited for a moment. No one said anything. "Ok, I'll start. I like to go boating."
"I rob banks in my spare time. If I'm really feeling bored, I'll knock off a few convenience stores and gas stations. On the weekends, I like to clean my collection of shotguns and grappling hooks," Matilda snarked.
Orpah raised her hand. "Knitting."
Frank said nothing. Matilda glared at him.
"How's that door coming, Frankie boy?"
"I'm making good progress."
"That's good. I'd hate to die in here, you know."
"Yeah, me to."
Orpah sniffed again. Janice made some soothing noises. "So, Orpah, what do you do for a living?"
"I'm an operator on a 24 hour suicide helpline."
"That's interesting. How much does that pay?"
"Talk to any interesting people?" Janice leaned forward in her chair, her eyes sparkling.
"Interesting?! These people are about to off themselves and you think it's interesting?" Orpah shot her a disgusted look.
"That's not what I—"
"Do you realize how depressing my job is?" Orpah stood in a huff and crossed to the other side of the room.
Frank frowned. "How many people have died on you?" Orpah's eyes went wide. Her mouth opened and closed a couple of times. Matilda snapped her fingers.
"Focus, Frank. Door. Open. Now."
"Who are you? The Queen of England?" Frank groused.
"Bloody Mary the First. You may kiss the royal hand after you open the freakin' door."
"Bloody Mary killed religious dissenters not—"
"What? Spies?" Matilda interrupted.
Frank snapped his mouth shut. His eye twitched.
"How long do you think it'll take for us to die?" Orpah suddenly asked.
Matilda shrugged. "Based on the size of the room and the amount of people in it? Maybe four or five hours." Orpah moaned. Frank frowned. Honestly, how much could a person cry?
Frank tapped the massive steel door with a pair of nail clippers. He pretended to study the sounds that were made before taking a nail file to the screws near the locking mechanism. Matilda had taken to tapping her fingernails against the gun barrel, click click click.
"What would you do if there were police waiting outside?" he suddenly asked. As hoped, the clicking stopped.
"Easy, I'd use you as a human shield," Matilda said after a moment of thought. Frank narrowed his eyes at her. Maybe it would be prudent to open the door now.
Janice cleared her throat, ever the icebreaker. "Who wants to play I-spy?"
Matilda growled. "I spy an idiot who isn't opening the door." Orpah's hand snuck upwards.
"I know, it's Frank," she mumbled then sniffed. "I win."
Frank's eye twitched. "Do you want to do this?"
"NO! So, shut up!" He turned his back to the others, trying to keep from trembling with anger.
"So, Milly, what do you intend to do with the money?" Janice asked. Matilda stared at her for a moment then shrugged.
"Buy an old beat up Ford Mustang that I saw for sale," she started. "My dad used to have one that we worked on together when I was a kid. He died five years ago." Matilda suddenly sniffed, dragging a hand across her eyes. The action drew the attention from the other two occupants. Full on sympathy was plastered onto Janice's face as Franklyn frowned. Matilda continued. "Got shot in a drive-by. Tore me up. I blamed everyone, of course. Turned to a life of crime after the original car was impounded. Killed the man who towed it."
Horror replaced sympathy as the blood drained from Janice's face. "…really?"
Matilda snorted, snapping out of her emotional state with ease. "Of course not! Did you honestly believe that?"
Orpah frowned. "So, why are you doing this?"
Frank smirked. "For the thrill of the hunt," he explained. Matilda nodded once.
Janice was no longer smiling. She gazed at the floor, her eyes glazing over a bit. Frank almost felt like he should give her a hug. Almost. Instead, he wedged a paperclip into the crack where the door met the floor.
"I feel light-headed," Orpah whimpered. "Are we running out of air?"
"We haven't been in here that long," Matilda insisted. "Just calm down, Oprah."
"Whatever." Matilda nudged Frank with her foot. "But seriously, Frankie, we need that door open. I don't think your little lighter and sock combo is doing anything."
Frank scowled. "You know what? I'm trying to get us out. You yelling at me every five seconds isn't helping!" He jumped to his feet, using every inch of his six-foot frame to stare down the shorter woman. "You want us out so bad, do it yourself!"
"Excuse me?" Matilda shoved the gun into his stomach.
"What's that?" Janice was suddenly standing and pointing. All eyes followed her pointing finger.
"It's a telephone," Orpah said.
"I can see that," Matilda snapped. "What's it for?"
Frank crossed his arms in front of his chest and gave her a condescending look. "Calling people. Cell phones are generally used for texting and—"
"Why didn't you say anything about it earlier?" Janice suddenly wasn't so cheerful anymore.
"I was using it," he insisted, fidgeting with a paperclip.
"To get the door open?"
"Yes." Frank said, deadpan.
Janice stepped forward. "It's an emergency phone, isn't it Frank?"
Frank frowned and licked his lips. "Ok, look—"
"You dirty little—"
"Stop! Everyone just stop!" Orpah was on her feet and waving her arms.
"This isn't the time, Orpah," Janice growled.
"Just, listen for a second. I had this guy call in once. He was all depressed because of… I dunno, something to do with goat wrestling. Whatever. The point is he got stuck in a bank vault two years ago."
Matilda rolled her eyes. "Because that's such a common occurrence these days."
"I dunno, it could have been on TV or something—"
Orpah ignored the sarcasm. "My point is that there're always two things on the inside of a vault. A telephone and an emergency release lever."
As one organism, all three women glared at Franklyn. He shifted nervously. "There's also an emergency ventilation system, in case anyone cares."
Matilda's eye twitched. "I'm going to shoot you. You are going to open that door and then I will shoot you." Frank shrugged and stepped to the side.
"Open it yourself. Lever is right there. Better hurry, I don't know when the cops are gonna get here."
Matilda stomped to the door and yanked it open. She stopped at the opening and glared at the hostages inside. Frank stood to the side and returned the cold gaze. She cocked her head and raised an eyebrow, a small smirk tugging up the corner of her mouth. Frank barely had time to curse before the echoing report of a gun blasted in his ears.
Frank gasped, pain blossoming through his chest as he sank to his knees. Janice was instantly at his side. Orpah screamed. Hands were clutching at him, bodies pressed close. "Oh no. Oh no no no. Frank, you're going to be ok. Do you hear me Frank? You're going to be fine."
Frank closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. Anger welled up within him. The anger wasn't good for his health. He had enough blood pressure issues already. Frank puffed up his cheeks. Count to five, take a breath.
"Don't give up, Frank! Stay strong, we're going to get some help!"
"Shut up!" Frank snapped. His eyes opened to slits to see both women pressed close to him. Frank shoved them both backwards. He rubbed his chest, wincing. Oh there would be a bruise in the morning, he thought.
"What?" Orpah stared at him in that creepy way of hers. "Didn't you get shot? Where's the blood?"
"Frank?" Janice clearly had no idea what was happening. Frank just smirked in a way that wasn't entirely amused. He unbuttoned his shirt and knocked on the hard shell of a vest that was hidden underneath.
"Bullet proof vest," he explained. Frank snagged his coat from the floor and stood with a groan.
"What's going on?" Janice demanded. She finally caught on to the fact that something was amiss. Too bad it was too late.
"You'll understand in a second," Frank insisted. This wasn't the original plan. Not by a long shot. But things had just gone too wrong by this point to worry about the original plan. He dug around in his jacket pocket, fingers curling around the familiar handle of his favorite pistol. "Ladies, it's been a nightmare spending this time with you." Franklyn prided himself on his marksmanship abilities. He could put a bullet through a donut at twenty yards without touching the cake. But few people truly appreciated his abilities. Mainly because they were often dead before appreciation could fully register. So this time, he at least gave them the chance to completely realize that they were about to die. It was the least he could do. His finger hesitated for a full minute on the trigger as he took his time to choose the target. Orpah's eyes were impossibly wide. Janice was horrified. That feral something he saw earlier was no longer hidden behind a pushy smile and a fake laugh. He shot her first. Orpah didn't have time to scream before he ended her life, too. It was the one mercy he'd give her.
Matilda cleared her throat from the doorway. Frank looked over at her. Both eyebrows were raised high on her bemused face. "Happy?"
"Yes." He frowned. "Why'd you shoot me?" Frank brushed past her, not being to gentle about it.
"Why'd you take so long to open the door?"
"Why'd you have to be so snarky and rude this morning?" Frank turned in time to see a bag of money being thrown in his direction. He caught it and slung it over his shoulder.
"Whatever," Matilda muttered. "Let's get out of here before the cops come."
"Let's," Frank agreed. Together, they walked through the empty bank. This was not a job well done. He wanted to slug the woman walking next to him. But somehow, it all worked out. Their coffers were overflowing and the streets outside were siren-less. Frank just shook his head. "Tell ya all about it when I got the time"
As the door closed behind them, the third florescent light winked on and the ancient air-conditioning unit clicked off. And small fan did not blow stale air into the room.