Flash Fiction: The Message

Courtesy Brand Properties

This week’s prompt from Terribleminds had me using this random plot generator. It coughed up the following:

The story starts when your protagonist tries to stop a robbery.

Another character is a messenger who wants your protagonist dead.

I hope you enjoy the result!

The gunshot cut through the muted conversations and soft rock in the bank lobby.

“Everybody on the ground! This is a robbery!”

Samantha hit the ground along with everybody else, quickly taking stock of the situation. There were three of them. All of them had pulled on balaclavas the moment the leader had pulled out his gun, a small automatic. The other two had carried shotguns into the bank under their jackets. The guard close to the door was already down, holding his bloody nose. She risked another glance up: the butt of the guard’s revolver jutted up out of the jeans of one of the guys with shotguns. Definitely amateurs. No pro stuffs a gun in the direction of their junk like that.

Putting her eyes back down as the leader gave a speil about individuals’ money being insured, she tried to remember what she had seen before the situation began. The robbers were wearing jeans and running shoes; from what she’d seen of their frames, they were in their late teens or early twenties. Some of Don Giorgio’s numbers runners were that young, but none of them would be dumb enough to undertake an unauthorized strong-arm robbery. The bank was on neutral turf between the Italians and the Chinese; either of them making a move like this would be suicidal.

It was difficult for her to keep her head down and thus limit her available information. She was next to the counter on the customer side; that meant she was about eight paces from the door. She didn’t know the actual distance to the vault or the offices from where the bank employees and homeowners looking for lower rates were getting dragged out. Samantha risked looking up a bit towards the fresh hostages: three employees, two housewives, one guy who had the look of an accountant, or perhaps an attorney. Either way, none of them were likely to be in a position or inclination to help her.

She heard a grunt from behind the counter, and it definitely sounded like it was above her, not on the same level. She tried not to tense up in anticipation.

“Hey, come here and give me a hand with this.”

So the kid in charge was at least smart enough not to say names. They could be difficult to identify if they got away. As one of the guys with shotguns headed for the vault, presumably to help get a door open or stuff more money into bags, Samantha gauged the position of the third robber. When he was close enough, she started faking a cough, rolling over onto her back. The robber came by to investigate, glaring down at her.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

Samantha didn’t respond, faking her cough, looking up at the ceiling. The robber stepped over her, one foot on either side of her, raising his shotgun. She could see the end of the barrel shaking. She would have to be very careful, and very fast, if she wanted to keep her head intact.

She sat up and grabbed the shotgun in one motion, pulling the barrel to the side of her shoulder and away from the others. Before he could react, she brought her knee up hard, slamming into his crotch. His eyes bulged out of his balaclava and he made a noise like a beached walrus. The shotgun game out of his hands, and as she stood, she reached down and pulled the revolver free of his jeans. Shaking her head at the kid, she smacked him between the eyes with the butt of the pistol. He collapsed at her feet.

The other two came out of the vault, but she was already taking aim. “Drop your weapons! Federal agent!”

The one with the shotgun complied immediately. The other one, his mouth a grimace of annoyance, had his semi-automatic pistol in the grip of a trained shooter.

“You useless shit.”

Before Samantha knew what was happening, he was turning his pistol to the back of his fellow robber’s head and pulling the trigger. The people on the floor started screaming as the dead kid fell to the tiled floor behind the counter. Samantha cocked her revolver.

“It doesn’t have to be this way.”

“Yes it does, Agent Barnum. I came here to deliver a message.”

She blinked. “What are you talking about?”

“We’re tired of those old farts taking out their old grudges in our neighborhoods. Other banks in both the Triad and Giorgio territories are going up today. We’re cleaning house, and you’re in our way.”

“Who is we?

“Die guessing.”

Sirens and screeching tires outside made him glance away. Samantha took her shot. Blood flew from the young man’s shoulder and he staggered, slipping in the blood spreading from his fallen friend. She moved around the counter to get close to him, but as she did, she saw him putting his dead compatriot’s shotgun under his chin.

“Drop it!”

“Have fun with my dental records.”

He pulled the trigger. Samantha winced, feeling warm ichor spatter her face. The security guard had gotten to his feet to let in the cops. Samantha wiped her face with a tissue with one hand, holding up her badge with the other.

“Samantha Barnum, FBI.”

The officer in front nodded to her as he holstered his sidearm. “What’s the situation, ma’am?”

“This was made to look like a robbery, but there’s something else going on. Get on the horn, find out if any other holdups are in progress.”

“We’re on it.”

She glanced towards the vault, then looked again. The robbers had brought in duffel bags, presumably to make their escape with their ill-gotten gains, but one of them was laying open. Samantha saw several grey blocks, a tangle of wires, and large LED numbers, counting down.

“Better get your bomb squad down here, too. Then I’ll need your help getting these people out of here.”

“What’s going on?”

“In a word? War’s been declared.”

1 Comment

  1. Fun story, and great way of working both elements together. I wouldn’t have minded reading more of this one.

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