The banking hall was Wednesday-morning quiet – minimal queuing, a couple of bored customers sitting on the faux-expensive sofas at one edge of the room, waiting for some appointment or another. Frankie picked up a leaflet on savings and investments and pretended to look interested in it as he sat down alongside them. He glanced up as Tom sauntered in and went over to the automated tellers, waiting behind another customer even though an adjacent machine was free. Stewart was nearly at the counter; one person ahead of him at the desk, putting away their money. Frankie dropped the leaflet again and slid his hand into the holdall in his lap. Tom was bending down on one knee to look in his bag. Now Stewart was smiling warmly at the young girl behind the plastic screen, hand inside his jacket. “Let me get my wallet. How are you today?” Frankie watched her face freeze mid-response. Here we go. Four minutes, counting.
“Well, hello there, sexy ladies and handsome guys!” Tom was suddenly standing up again and greeting the people around him with the sight of his assault rifle. “I’m sorry for any inconvenience, but I’m going to have to ask you to lie on the floor and keep your hands where I can see them.” He circled around, efficiently collecting up all the customers in his area and motioning them onto the ground with his gun.
Frankie stood and withdrew his own rifle from the holdall, to the visible dismay of the couple beside him on the sofas. “Don’t panic,” he told them, “just do what he said. Over to where he is, go on.” They obeyed. They always did. He followed them until they were safely over in the small group of customers now splayed out around Tom, then caught his eye to let him know he had everyone from this side.
“Don’t be shy, you two, plenty of room on the floor,” Tom welcomed the stragglers, casually aiming at each one of them in turn before handing Frankie his bag. “A few minutes, and we’ll be gone. Just hold it together and don’t do any of that shit you crazy Libertonians are famous for.”
“…so if you could just buzz my colleague past the security door for me, beautiful, you’d be making this old rogue very happy. I hate shooting people, don’t you?” Heading forward towards the desk doors, Frankie could hear Stewart’s patter as he moved closer. He was still smiling charmingly; the teller’s face was still frozen. Maybe it was actually botox?
Frankie reckoned she’d gone for the panic button as soon as Stewart reached into his jacket. Banks got turned over so often here that everyone had learned their cues. Handy, really – it just made everything faster. When the security door opened, he hurried through and headed straight down the stairs to the vault. The manager and the security guards on the vault level pretty much looked the other way when he arrived, and Frankie would’ve bet money that they’d already cut the camera feed down there; it was too easy to tell the insurers that the crooks must have done it, and avoid anyone looking closely at how the staff actually handled their ‘responsibilities’ during a robbery. Hell, the manager was probably expecting him to pass over a fat slice of cash for that on his way out… Maybe he would. Frankie liked to play the nice guy on these kinds of jobs. After all, everybody here was just trying to make a living; bank employees and rent-a-guards were a lot different to cops, and as long as they weren’t getting in his way, they could take advantage of the vault getting opened however they liked.
He could hear Stewart joining Tom in entertaining the masses up above him now, their voices carrying down the stairs as they joked their way through crowd control duties. They had a script, and they had it down – years of doing this had honed their double-act until it did exactly what it was supposed to do. Tom would cover the lobby customers and watch the doors, Stewart the area at the desk and the employees, and unless Frankie heard gunfire, he wouldn’t have anything more to do with what went on up in the banking hall. He concentrated on the business end, unpacking the plastic explosives out of his holdall into the hinges and locks of the vault, and rigging the remote detonator.
“Up to the other end now, please, people,” he ordered, motioning the handful of workers well away from the primed door. “Ten seconds ‘til the fireworks. And I’d advise covering your ears unless you’re really looking for an excuse to claim some money from your piss-poor health insurance system.” They went scurrying. Again, they always did.
Easy. “Three, two, one…”
He watched everyone stagger comically like it was the bridge in Star Trek as the explosion hit, then crouch in a stunned silence as their ears rang and the room filled with dust and ricocheting bits and pieces. Then he checked his watch: two minutes left to pack up the money and get out. Probably one minute until heavy-duty cops showed up to fuck about with teargas and helicopters.
In the vault, Frankie worked his way systematically through the shelves and boxes, getting bundles of cash into the holdalls and cherry-picking a few of the strongboxes that looked the least dusty and most used; that usually meant they were juicy with something. Crooks cycled the contents of their boxes faster than civvies, and money, guns, gems, or some sort of sickening blackmail imagery would be up for grabs if you were lucky. He never understood why any bad guy would want to use the bank’s facilities for their shit; you may as well expect your stuff to end up in the hands of whoever busted the place next! He relieved a few cases of their contents and checked his watch again – time to trot.
Sure enough, Tom appeared at the door right on time. “Bags?”
“Here, nothing too heavy. Okay?”
“Smooth. 5-0 around the entrance, NOOSE guys and donut boys, but nowhere near the numbers they need. Those emergency service cuts are really showing!”
They split the bags between them and hurried to get upstairs.
“Knock yourselves out,” Frankie told the staff as he left. “Watch for your own dye packs.”
In the banking hall, Stewart was taking a final bow to the prostrate audience of elderly folk, men in suits, and waxen-faced tourists. “I’m not here all week, so catch me again over in Las Venturas in the summer months. Thank you very much!”
“Good morning, folks. I had fun!” Tom added. Then, voice lower, “Okay, let’s be gone. Still no whirly-birds, so every second is a bonus if it means we get out of here before they get a fix on us.”
No sooner had they regrouped at the doorway for the bust-out to the getaway car, the street cops were up behind their cars, shouting all their ‘guns-on-the-ground’ threats. Threats that were roundly ignored. Frankie re-slung the bag on his shoulder and double-checked his assault rifle before heading out. “See you on the other side, boys,” he told Stewart and Tom on the way past. “Remember, if they take you, the bribe comes out of your share!”
“Incentive indeed,” Stewart grinned. “Race you.”
As long as they made it to the car, they’d all be winners. It would be thirty seconds until they were well out of there, Johnny vanishing them into the obscurity of the city’s backstreets and hidden underpasses.
Within seconds of getting outside the bank, rain was soaking the shoulders of Frankie’s suit and sticking the back of the jacket and his shirt uncomfortably to his skin. Perfect weather! Made their getaway that little bit more dangerous, but if Johnny could handle a motorbike going a hundred in storms like this, then he could definitely do it in a four-door. Let’s see the cops keep up!
Cover, shoot, move. Cover, shoot, move. He could see Tom doing the same thing over to his left, making his way forward between cars and street furniture, methodically picking off the cops blocking him. The Schafter was in the alley opposite the bank, shielded by a dog-leg around the buildings. He couldn’t see Stewart, but he could hear another set of call-and-answer gunfire, so he knew he was out in the street and moving fine.
Lightning suddenly flashed through the sheeting rain like a strobe in smoke, and a huge roll of thunder sounded right overhead. It did wonders for Frankie’s already-spiking adrenaline, and he was almost hoping the choppers were going to show up and give them a run for their money – you couldn’t get this kind of high anywhere else, even onstage.
He made it to the corner of the alley and heard the Schafter start up immediately. Either Johnny was psychic, or he could see through walls. Whatever. He was a welcome sight, and the cheeky wink he gave as he pulled up and let Frankie take the front seat was an added perk of the job.
Doors slamming behind them signalled the safe arrival of the other two, and Johnny accelerated away through the rain with a roar. “Well, fancy runnin’ into you boys! Word is someone just robbed that bank – what do you think about that?”
“What is the world coming to?” Stewart exclaimed.
“Moral degenerates,” added Tom.
“Yeah, right. You get much?”
“Apart from soaking wet, Jonathan,” Frankie replied, “we just got shit fucking rich again!”