At 9:30 the enormous antique four-faced Seth Thomas clock that was a mainstay in the lobby of the bank chimes its greeting on the half hour.
The sound happens so frequently that Tracy, as well as the other employees, have learned to tune the ringing out after a short while. Otherwise, hearing a dinging ringing every fifteen minutes would drive someone mad.
For some reason that Tracy would later wonder about, she heard it this time, and glanced at the clock on her computer, as if she needed to double check. She would later report that she had made a mental note that her break was in fifteen minutes, as she completed a row of five bananas. It was a mundane detail that would add to the suspicion they would paint her with.
At some point after the 9:30 chime, but before the 9:45 chime, they entered the bank.
Out of the corner of her eye she noticed the man with a pale grey face, a hook nose and black and white harlequin pants. It didn’t register at first that this was a mask and costume.
Then she notices someone else that seemed female, do a series of cartwheels. She lands in a round-off with a tight bounce and a giggle. It reminds Tracy of the chime on the clock in a way.
"Columbine!" she heard someone say forcefully, and it is the first indication that something is wrong. Something was actually happening and it is very wrong.
She watches the group of strangely dressed clowns... actors... mimes? Walk around the floor, positioning themselves carefully. Their harlequin masks and colorful satin pants with sequins catch the light, bouncing the rays around the stoic building in a friendly manner.
But this ain’t no disco.
Tracy's first thought is that this must be some kind of entertainment or street show. She'd seen performances like this before on a trip to Atlanta. But Augusta wasn't known for street art, or any eclectic performance art at all, and them coming into a bank, a place of business seems wrong and out of place.
But not alarming. Their presence was anything but alarming. Puzzling. That's what she would say later, "It was just puzzling why they were there."
There aren’t many people in the bank, just a few customers and a handful of tellers. Mr. Tangent is snugged away in his office. Melissa isn’t at the teller's desks, so she was probably in there with him. They always had things to discuss.
The few people present all seem drawn to the spectacular, like everyone is waiting for something to happen, waiting for the show.

And then it all happens at once.

A man is suddenly in front of Tracy's desk, and she could make out a smile with dingy teeth below his ornate mask.
"I think you know where we're going," he says.
"My purse? I don't have any money," Tracy replies, not fully grasping the situation
"The vault, you fool." The man's voice is harsh, rasping.
Tracy fumbles with the keys and notices out of the corner of her eye the door to Mr. Tangent's office slowly opening. She feels herself turn to go to the vault, and even though she is trying to hurry, her body moves like cold syrup. Everything was happening in slow motion.
There were loud voices, some shouts, then scuffling and a bang. Tracy felt a thud on her shoulder, and had time to glance down at her shirt, knowing whatever it was this red stain would never come out.
Then she feels like she is in a tunnel, and everyone else is far away. She sees Tangent, his clammy face white and cold... her last thought as the fuzzy tunnel closes around her is that she wishes he would actually piss his pants. Wouldn't that just be the best.

No comments: