Claire held her palms out in front of her and stared down at her nails. The cheesecake yellow paint was already beginning to peel off around her cuticles, despite having been applied no more than 24 hours before. She sighed and began idly picking at the polish, tiny chips flaking off and falling onto the paper beneath her hand.
“Mam?” said a familiar voice. Claire glanced up. The elderly woman she had just been talking to stood directly across from her, just behind the bulletproof glass separating the staff from the rest of the bank. She had curly blonde hair much like her own, yet the grayed roots made it clear it had been dyed that color. Her wrinkled skin was caked in makeup and concealer, like an ashamed tattooed man on a professional job interview. Her eyes danced impatiently from Claire to the paper beneath her nails. Two men stood behind the woman, eyes locked on ceiling, feet tapping erratically.
“Yes?” Claire asked.
“Can I have my check back?” Claire glanced down at the rectangular piece of paper by her palm. She brushed her hand over the top, wiping away several flakes from her nail polish, and picked it up.
“Isn’t this a receipt?” Claire studied the supposed check. Strange, swirled characters had been drawn all over it—above the “signature” line, before the “dollars” line, and anywhere else with a line available. She’d seen this style of writing before, yet couldn’t remember where—perhaps it was during the museum tour on Ancient Egypt, or, she thought, it may have been similar to the style of writing on the signature line of her GED. She had just earned that diploma two weeks prior, merely three days before her 27th birthday. Just as her parents had promised, she received a brand new BMW the day the scores came in. Unfortunately, the car wasn’t quite the right color and she demanded it be replaced with a hot pink version. Claire was still waiting for it to be delivered.
“No, that’s my check. I just handed it to you a minute ago.”
Claire nodded. She did receive something, and if memory served correctly, it was a rectangular piece of paper. She glanced over at her manager’s desk, hoping for him to confirm that the customer wasn’t trying to steal her receipts. Empty. Lunch, most likely.
“Okay,” Claire said, “I guess.” She slid the check through the small slot below the window into the woman’s hand.
“Thank you,” said the woman, head tilted slightly to the side as if studying Claire. She turned and began walking toward the door. The two men standing behind the woman stepped up to the window.
“Hi,” Claire said. She glanced back down at her nails. The paint was now almost entirely gone from her pointer finger, thanks to the picking she had done. She sighed and looked back up. The two men were still there to her surprise. The one on the left nodded at her. They were rather tall, Claire guessed somewhere around six feet each, and were quite handsome. Not necessarily in the traditional sense, but more so in the rugged sense. Both had thick beards, although the one on the right had ginger hair. The left sported a mixture of graying hair on his head and a thick black beard on his chin. They were each dressed similarly – black leather jackets, black pants, and black undershirts. Not the most creative outfit, per se.
“Can I help you?” she asked. The two men nodded again. The ginger one slipped a piece of paper through the rectangular slot. Claire picked it up and unfolded it. More ancient Egyptian lettering. She flattened the paper and stared at the text. She was pretty sure they called it Hieroglyphics during the museum tour. Regardless, she had still not mastered the language despite spending the entire afternoon looking at mummies and artifacts from Egypt. Why did everyone seem to be writing in Hieroglyphics abruptly, especially these beautiful men? Claire decided she didn’t want to look like an idiot. She glanced up from the paper and nodded at the men knowingly.
The two men stared at Claire as if waiting for something to happen. Claire knew she was about to be discovered, she felt their eyes staring straight through her clever façade of intelligence. They’d forever think her a fool for her distinct lack of knowledge on ancient Egyptian texts. She took the paper and folded it back up, then handed it over to the men, just as she had done with the elderly woman’s check.
The men glanced at the paper, then at each other. Claire nodded again.
“Would you like your receipt?” she asked. They stared at her, mouths slightly agape. Flawless. Her ruse seemed to be working.
“Are you serious, bitch?” said the man with gray hair. He reached into his coat pocket. The ginger put his hand out to stop him.
“You sure you want to do that?” said the ginger.
Claire stared at the men. She didn’t usually like being called a bitch, but it felt right coming from them. Hot, in its own unique way. She occasionally referred to her girlfriends as “bitch,” yet this felt somehow more erotic. Claire was almost positive it was said with a hint of flirtation.
“Look at her, she wants to die for this place,” said Gray.
Claire smiled. They clearly didn’t know she could hear them, but it was loud and clear on her end. They couldn’t take their eyes off her—such a smart girl reading their Hieroglyphics they probably thought. She winked.
“Fuck this, I want my money, bitch.” Gray put his hand back into his coat pocket and pulled a pistol and black ski mask out. He put the pistol on the counter and quickly slid the mask over his head. Ginger had followed suit, but wore an attractive orange ski-mask instead. Gray picked the gun back up and pointed it at Claire.
Claire stared down the barrel of the gun. She had only been working in the bank for about a week now – it was her first real job, save for a few stints as a babysitter. Unfortunately, that gig didn’t last – she was fired for losing the children both times she was hired. Regardless, this was also her first experience in dealing with pistols while at work; she did not know the conversion rate from Pistol to USD. She glanced at her manager’s desk: Still empty.
“Sorry, sir, could you come back in ten minutes? My manager isn’t here right now.”
A woman screamed from behind the two men. The entire bank froze as eyes turned toward them.
“Nobody move,” screamed Ginger. “We’re just here for money, we’ll be out in a god damn minute.”
Claire had seen a movie similar to this once while drunk. Keanu Reeves was in it. He wore a president mask in a bank; however, in the end of the movie it turned out that Keanu was the one. He then super-man flew toward the camera. Claire never really understood the movie, or why it was almost four hours long. She also wasn’t quite sure why they were announcing that they were at the bank for money. Did people go to banks for reasons other than money? They did have free lollipops and coffee by the door, but that was only for customers. Was there a way to enroll in a bank as a customer specifically of lollipops and coffee? How was that profitable? Maybe they paid a fee each month.
“Are you guys lollipop and coffee clients?” Claire asked.
“The fuck is that? Some sort of code?” asked Gray. “Is there a cop in here?” The ginger haired man pointed his own pistol at Claire.
“Go in the vault and get us a god damn sack of money right now. We’re not asking again. Do you want to die?”
Claire paused. Why would she want to die? Did she look depressed today? She didn’t think so – she was wearing a rather colorful outfit. People that wanted to die always dressed in black and wore very dark mascara. However, she had been sad the other day when she realized that Cee-Lo Green was not going to be on *The Voice* again this season. She’d since gotten over that. Regardless, she certainly didn’t want to die at that point. Yes, she was sad earlier in the week, but not to the point of suicide.
“No, I don’t want to die,” Claire decided.
“Then get us the money,” Ginger shouted.
“Can you swipe your bank card?”
“What the fuck do I need to swipe my card for?” Ginger said.
Claire stopped to think. No one had ever asked her that question, they always just placed the card in the machine when she asked and that was that. Her manager would do the rest. She glanced over at the manager’s desk: still empty.
“This is going to sound dumb, but I’m not really sure.” Claire giggled flirtatiously. She knew these guys could hardly keep their eyes off her. “I guess I need it to get your money out?”
“I want my money!” Gray smashed the gun into the bulletproof glass between them.
Claire jumped back. Was that normal? She’d never had a customer hit the glass before. She really needed her—oh, there he was. Her manager lay flat on the ground, eyes staring up at Claire hopelessly. She smiled and waved.
“Mr. McNeil! Can you help these gentlemen? I’m a bit confused.” Ginger and Gray turned toward the manager and pointed their guns at him.
“Who are you? Cop?”
Claire knew that answer. “That’s my manager – he’s very good with this. He’ll help you out.”
“Claire, the silent alarm!” Shouted Mr. McNeil.
Claire tilted her head and stared at him. Why would someone have a silent alarm? What good would that do? She used an alarm to wake up every morning, the sound it made was definitely the most helpful part. If she had an alarm that simply blinked at 7:00am, without making any sound, she certainly wouldn’t be able to get up as easily. Claire rolled her eyes. “That would be dumb, Mr. McNeil. No one would hear a silent alarm.”
Gray was now standing over Mr. McNeil, pistol pressed firmly against his temple. Ginger was staring away from Claire, watching as Mr. McNeil slowly rose to his feet. Claire glanced at her watch: 12:45pm. She hadn’t taken lunch yet, and since Mr. McNeil was back, he’d certainly be able to handle the two men’s questions. Plus, she didn’t want to make herself seem too easy—a little game of “hard to get” always worked with the guys in the club. She was sure she’d see them later, there was no way people that eager wouldn’t come back.
Claire smiled at Mr. McNeil and pointed to her watch, then pretended to take a bite of a sandwich, indicating it was time for lunch. She slid off her stool and walked into the backroom, then unlocked the rear emergency exit door and wandered toward town. Today felt like a salad kind of day.
Writing Prompt: An exciting bank robbery is in progress. Unfortunately, the only teller is making things a bit more difficult than anticipated