By Shawn Schenck
Sweat gathered and rolled down Frank Olson’s pallid face. His ice-blue iris’ had shrunk to the size of pins, exaggerating his yellowing white eyes. The meth had come in full swing, driving his hunger away and his heart into double time. He hadn’t felt more awake in the last thirty-six hours, hadn’t felt more focused. Sucking the plaque through his thinning teeth, Frank rubbed his mouth with his flannel sleeve. The thought occurred to light a cigarette before he realized he only had three left and needed to make them last. A comedic gesture, he realized, grinning, upon remembering where he was, what he was about to
No more stealing from my mama, he thought. No more selling oxy to morons.
Steve turned back from the driver’s seat of the white panel van, a hyena of a man. “You bout ready to git goin?”
Frank squeezed his latex Richard Simmons mask with its knotted brown hair. “S’pose so.”
The men pulled their masks over their heads, Steve revealing his Gene Simmons mask with its long, pink tongue. Frank climbed into the cab before both of them exited. Frank squeezed the pistol grip of his shotgun, a twenty-gauge Remington that Steve “bought from a friend.” Steve turned back to Frank, revealing his Beretta, and pointed to the black door on the back of the Grand Oak Community Credit building; the words Employees Only printed boldly in white.
“This’s it,” Steve said, voice muffled by his mask.
“Stick to the plan,” Frank answered. “I don’t wanna nothin’ stupid.”
Steve laughed, “who’s stupid?” He shook out his body before grabbing the handle of the door.
The door gave without resistance. Steve had paid Merle, the building’s security guard, to tape the latch on the side of the door so it couldn’t lock. He’d made good on his promise and both men knew not to mention his name if something should go down. The door opened to a hallway leading toward the teller’s station. The men passed a rec room and a small cabinet of lockers for the institute’s handful of employees.
Steve pushed the door to the main floor and it swung on loose hinges. The men entered the protected section. Three tellers faced customers from behind the counter, each of them in their 50s and 60s. Two wore pantsuits and one in a floral print moo moo, the latter being the first to notice the men.
“Good Lord,” she squeaked.
Frank passed through a second door that lead to the general public and pointed his shotgun toward the customers, three middle-aged women and a man in a bright orange t-shirt. The door stopped itself from closing on Frank’s heel.
“Get down,” Frank shouted. “Everyone down and no one gets hurt!”
Sweeping the barrel of the shotgun from side to side, Frank did his best not to aim directly at anyone. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, and hadn’t wanted to be there in the first place. This wasn’t where he thought he’d be at twenty-four. The women hid their faces in their arms, quivering and holding back tears. Frank noticed the man, his shirt now brighter against the floor, eyeballing him and smiling. For a moment, Frank had forgotten about his mask and thought the man was laughing at him. It made his blood boil. He clenched his jaw.
“What?!” Frank shouted, pointing the barrel at the man on the floor. “What’s funny?”
The man on the floor tried his best to stop, to ignore the comedic notion of being robbed by Richard and Gene Simmons. “It’s the masks, man.”
Frank remembered the eccentric nature of his current visage, rolled his eyes, and turned to Steve. The man’s demonic face shook, tongue swinging limply, as he screamed at the tellers. Steve jabbed the barrel of his pistol into the woman with the moo moo. Frank couldn’t help but resent the aggression, Steve’s faux-macho facade. He felt his heart pounding and rode the adrenaline-laced amphetamines into his blinding-white future.
Watching the woman in front of him move stacks of money into his faded-navy gym bag, Steve jolted his head back and forth, trying to watch the women beside him. This is payday, baby, Steve thought. These old bags aren’t getting between me and this money. I might have to ditch Frankie, keep it all. He smiled beneath his mask. Steve knew Frankie would throw him and Merle under the bus, they’d both work him over in jail and he’d be out of the money he’d been planning on.
The woman to the left of Steve, in her mustard pantsuit, slipped her hand beneath the desk, reaching for the panic button. Steve jerked his head in time to notice and watched her retract herself. Her face had drained itself of color, any color that remained. She’d been sitting, breathing at the mercy of a demon. Steve lifted his pistol to the woman and squeezed the trigger. A loud POP filled the booth, echoing onto the customer floor. Frank’s head swiveled toward the teller booth. He could see Steve dragging his gun through the air, smoke trailing from the barrel, toward the older woman in the floral moo moo.
“NO!” Frank shouted.
He was too late.
Frank watched as the woman’s face fell blank, opening in the center of her forehead. Steve had put a bullet through the back of her head, killing her instantly. Frank hadn’t wasted his breath. He watched as Steve repeated the motion with the last remaining teller, this time painting the wall beside her in a fine crimson mist. The world around him began to spin before he realized what was happening.
The man in the orange shirt brought his fists down on Frank’s face, disfiguring Richard Simmons’ smile with each plunge. While Frank had been watching Steve, the man had taken his chances. Hands slapping the ground, searching for his shotgun, Frank grunted and gasped as the world violently strobed black. The grip, he thought. His hand had managed the find his weapon, he brought it toward the man on top of him. The shotgun’s barrel slapped the side of the man’s head, followed by another strobe of black. Frank wrenched the shotgun between himself and the man, and used it to push him away. The light of the world came back, out of focus and oversaturated.
Frank pushed the man away and found himself gaining control of the situation. Suddenly, another, much louder, POP filled the air.
The man atop Frank went limp and fell to his side. Frank looked up to see Steve, smoking gun in hand.
“What the hell, man?!” Frank shouted at Steve, using the shotgun to get to his feet.
“What the hell?” Steven fired back. “What kinda ‘thank you’ is that?!”
“You shot the tellers!”
“She hit the panic button.”
A loud BANG sounded from the back of the building. The cops, both men thought. Their car had been their only exit, parked at the rear of the building. Both men stood, staring at each other, deciding how to get out.
Steve broke toward the front door.
Frank waited and fought the urge to follow, knowing what to expect. Dammit, Steve. He followed the man in the Gene Simmons mask, closed in on the front door. Steve kicked it open before making a run for it. Frankie followed, denied his instinct, and denied the thought of surrendering. The men ran from the front door through the parking lot of the suite. Police cruisers had been parked at the entrance to the lot. The police flanked the men, pointing their guns and shouting out of sync.
“Drop the weapon!” The men heard one officer shout. “Drop your guns!” Neither of the men had been avid joggers, hadn’t built their stamina, and began to regret it immensely. The cigarettes and meth had done a number on their lungs. The police quickly approached their ineffective escape.
“We’re caught,” Frank shouted to Steve, still running away.
“No way,” Steve shouted back. His meth-fueled confidence had peaked somewhere between Arrogance and God-complex.
Steve turned back to the police and pointed his Beretta. Frank watched in terror, knew his grave had been dug beside his partner’s, he slowed to a stop and accepted his fate. A series of POPS and BANGS filled the air surrounding the building. Numerous dogs, being walked by their owners, began to howl and bark. A baby cried in the distance. Rubber-healed boots clapped and tapped against the concrete, slowing like the music of a suddenly powerless victrola.
The men lie on the concrete, Steve dead from numerous bullet impacts to the brain. Frank had been hit twice in the chest, once in the right forearm, and once in the left hip. His breathing had grown shallow and wet from the blood leaking into his lungs. The pain was equally immense and dull to the point of feeling numb. The world began to fade beneath a growing vignette. A small crowd of officers circled the men, smiling, proud of their accomplishment, and amused by the men’s masks. Frank watched as the men smiled and laughed, ridiculed in the remaining moments of his life. He could feel the shotgun’s pistol grip in his hand, squeezing it in his palm. He lifted the barrel toward the officers, only succeeding a few inches before an officer fired a final shot. The coldness of the world escaped him, removed by the heat of the bullet sleeping in his brain.
Bio: Shawn Schenck is an author and musician from Portland, OR. His writing includes elements of horror, the weird, and fabulism. His work has been featured in the Clackamas Literary Review. He enjoys reading and watching films with his family. His favorite color is yellow.
He can be found on Medium.
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