This week's [fiction friday] prompt is: A signal is misinterpreted . . . "
Phil may have been the leader, but Samuel had the brains. It was Samuel who cased the place, came up with the game plan, and gave out the orders before a new job. Jason was the muscle, and somehow Mike was the one who always ended up with the list of supplies. This new venture was the big time. None of the guys had ever pulled off something like this before.
Mike chuckled at the freshly-painted logo on the side of the van. "Cosmic Cleaners" it read, and underneath the writing there was an airbrushed astronaut/Mr. Clean figure taking a vacuum to the planet Earth. He ran through the list one more time as he loaded the van. He counted four plastic masks from the local dollar store: a Wonder Woman, a run-of-the-mill clown, a haggard witch, and a disturbing rabbit face. Mike threw in two worn duffle bags, three rolls of duct tape, and his cigar box holding the last of his Cubans. He'd been saving these babies for a celebration. Finishing this new job would be just the time, and, with the dough he hoped to bring in, he could buy a whole smokeshop of Cubans if he wanted.
Phil came busting into the garage just as Mike finished loading the van. He pulled his Colt .45 out, flipped the safety, and cocked it.
"Let's do this, guys," Phil said.
"Oh, it's on," Jason said. He ground his right fist into the palm of his left hand. The muscles in his biceps flexed, bursting out of his sleeveless t-shirt. As the veins popped out, you could practically see the adrenaline rushing through them.
Samuel cocked his head and opened the driver's door. As he climbed into the van, Mike could see the wheels turning in Sam's head.
"Here we go, bro," Mike said as he handed Samuel the Wonder Woman mask.
"Sheesh, Mikey, are you serious?" Samuel said.
"Just take it, man, you aren't even leaving the van."
Samuel shoved the mask on the dashboard and turned the key. The van roared to life inside the garage, the engine echoing off the tight walls. Mike pressed the garage opener and the early sun spilled into the dark space. Samuel and Mike squinted. Mike turned in the passenger seat to hand Phil the clown mask. Phil grabbed it, wrapped the elastic string around his head, pulled the mask down, and let out a devious chuckle. Everyone laughed, maybe a little too hard, Mike thought. Mike held up the last two masks and Jason snatched the witch out of Mike's hand.
The van pulled out into the sleeping suburban street. There was a twenty minute drive into the city, and Samuel took this chance to line out the plan one more time.
"Alright, guys," Samuel said, "It's just like any other job. Phil goes in first and takes out the guard. There's only one at opening, he'll be to your right as you go through the main doors. Mike and Jason, you guys follow Phil, handle the duffles, and take care of crowd control. I'll circle the block. That gives you eight minutes, ten tops. Got it?"
The guys nodded. The rest of the short trip into town was quiet. Mike was in his own head. He had a strange feeling he'd been trying to shake all week. Now he wrote it off as just nerves.
Samuel pulled up in front of Weston Bank and Trust. It was a small bank, nestled on the ground floor of the TCBY tower. Easy access from the street and at 9:00 am pretty much dead. There was a couple entering the revolving door at the center of the tower, but not a soul near the south side, where the bank was situated.
"Time starts now," Samuel said.
Phil swung open the double doors on the passenger side of the van, jumped out, and made a bee line to the bank entrance. Mike and Jason were right behind him. The guard wasn't a problem. He was an old-timer, too busy blowing on his morning coffee to put up much of a fight. Phil disarmed him and had him stammering for mercy in a matter of seconds. Mike grabbed the duct tape and went to work on the guard's hands and mouth. Phil was already shoving his gun into the single teller's face by the time Mike had shoved the tape back in his pocket and pulled his own .45 from the back of his jeans. Jason had the few customers cowering under his shotgun in the far corner of the lobby and was starting to tape their hands and feet. Mike went to work herding the handful of employees across the lobby to join the others. When the two had everyone taped and face down, Jason tossed his duffle bag at Mike. Mike caught the bag and backed over to the counter, keeping his gun aimed at the group in the corner. Mike could hear Phil's shouts as they echoed across the marble floor and bounced off the high ceiling.
Phil had rounded the counter and was standing right behind the petite teller. He was holding his gun to the back of her head, making a dent in her blonde hair. Tears were streaking down her young face, leaving gashes in her make-up. Mike came up to the teller's window and slammed the bag on the counter.
"Empty it!" Phil shouted. The teller, hands shaking, emptied her till into the bag. He shoved her to the next window and watched as she emptied it as well. They repeated this for all six windows. Just as they were dumping the last till, they heard a noise coming from the other side of the lobby.
"Mike, check it out," Phil ordered.
"Oh, I'll check it out," Mike said. He walked across the lobby, his boots clicking on the hard floor. He gave the room a sweep, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw a chair move. Under the desk, he thought. He rounded the oak desk and kicked the black office chair. It spun across the slick floor.
"Out, now!" Mike shouted.
A middle-aged man crawled out into the room. Mike kept his gun trained on the man's forehead. The man was sniveling. He had thinning dark hair, thick plastic glasses, and a sleazy, untrimmed mustache. The man couldn't have weighed more than 130 lbs. His left knee popped as he pulled himself to his feet, catching his balance on the large, old desk. Mike was disgusted.
"Time's up," Phil's voice rang out across the silence. Mike glanced over at Phil, shrugged his shoulders, and gestured toward the little man at the end of his gun. Phil pointed at his watch, grabbed the two duffles, one heavy bag on each shoulder, and made a slicing motion with his right hand across his neck.
Mike didn't even think. He just pulled the trigger. The sound of the blast rang in his ears and blood sprayed back across the oak desk. The sniveling man dropped to the ground without a sound. Phil ran for the door. Jason and Mike were right behind him. Like clockwork, Samuel pulled up to the curb and the men jumped in. Before Mike could catch his breath, they were on the interstate, and headed back to the suburbs.
"What the hell, Mike?" Phil finally said.
"What?" Mike said, "That's what I was about to ask you."
"Ask me? I'm not the one that shot someone. I'm not the one that upped this job to capital murder."
"I was just following orders, Phil."
"You gave the signal to pull the trigger." Mike copied Phil's motion, sliding his hand across his neck.
"Are you kidding me? Man, I made the cut sign. You know? End of the job? Let's get the hell out? Time's up, you sicko?" Phil said.
Samuel drove on in silence and Jason kept his eyes on the witch mask as he pressed in on the plastic nose and watched it pop back out again.
"My bad," Mike conceded. "Jason, grab those Cubans, and let's celebrate a hard day's work.”