Duncan fumbled in his jeans for his empty wallet as he walked down the sidewalk along Strand. The circular spires of the Royal Courts of Justice rose majestically on the opposite side of the street. He must have walked this way a thousand times before without ever really appreciating their grandeur. In his contemplative mood, Duncan glanced up into the glaring expressions of the two white sculpted men scowling down on him from a balcony above. Their condemnation was strikingly similar to that of his ex-wife when she reminded him of Phoebe’s birthday party later that day. How had he managed to forget his own daughter’s birthday again?
Glaring back at the sculptures in misguided frustration, Duncan blundered straight into a big man standing against the exterior of Lloyd’s Bank. Duncan dropped his wallet as he jumped back, his heart skipping from the unexpected collision. ‘Oh, jeez, I’m so sorry!’ Duncan hurriedly apologized.
The man stooped down and picked up Duncan’s wallet, handing it to him with a scowl. ‘No problem,’ he murmured. Duncan took his wallet with an awkward nod of thanks, cursing himself for being so foolish.
Only a few steps further he turned into the entrance of the bank. The finely sculptured foyer greeted him as always, but today the large circular windows looked down on Duncan like the eyes of a mocking god. Quickly moving through the set of heavy wooden doors into the lobby of the bank, he began to worry because he was not quite sure how much money he had in his account. Even fifty quid or so should be enough to get Phoebe something nice for her birthday. He swore this would be the last time he blew all his money gambling on football, if he just had enough in the bank for that.
Duncan queued up in line. Two people were being helped at the counter, one of which was a very pregnant woman. She looked like she might pop any second. He shifted uneasily while he waited, anxious to see how much money he could get.
‘Next, please,’ one of the tellers called, as she finished up with a woman who had stepped aside to sort something out in her purse. Duncan stepped up to the counter and handed the teller his credentials. ‘I’d like to withdraw everything that’s in my account, please,’ he said.
The teller punched his account information into her computer and an irritated look passed over her features. ‘I’m sorry sir, but you don’t have a balance. Your account is actually overdrafted by £43.56. Will you be able to make a deposit today to satisfy the negative amount?’ she asked curtly.
Duncan rubbed his face. That was not the news he wanted to hear. ‘Uh, no, sorry,’ he said lamely, grabbing his stuff. He stepped back and bumped into the other woman who had just finished her business and was walking behind him. She dropped her small purse and coins and bills spilled out everywhere. Everyone in the bank turned to see what the commotion was about. Duncan scrambled to help the woman gather her money, when he heard the doors slam open behind him.
Two men in masks stormed into the building. The one in front swung a pistol around, screaming ‘Get down! Now!’ Duncan was already on the floor, but he cowered a little lower. The second robber seemed to be pulled behind the first as though connected by an invisible string. His clothes looked familiar, and Duncan realized with a start that he was the man he’d bumped into outside.
The lead man started yelling at the tellers, demanding cash. While they scrambled in their cash drawers, the gunman turned his attention to the elderly security guard who seemed frozen at the end of the counter.
‘I know you are old, but are you deaf too? Get down! I said get down!’ the robber screamed.
The bang from the gunshot was excruciatingly loud in the confines of the bank, and Duncan’s ears rang painfully. The shot was followed immediately by shrieks and cries from everyone in the bank. Duncan watched as blood streamed from the wound in the security guard’s gut, and the old man crumpled to the floor.
‘Holy fuck, we agreed no blood,’ the other robber shouted, clearly alarmed. The man surged forward toward the counter. Duncan cowered as he approached, but he passed by and leaped over the counter. He quickly flew back over and fled, holding wads of cash in his hands. Several notes fluttered out behind him, scattering across the floor. Duncan saw a £100 note land nearby, and without thinking, he reached out to grab it.
As the gunman turned to leave as well, he saw Duncan reaching for the note. His face darkened even further and he kicked Duncan savagely. The blow caught Duncan in the temple, snapping his head into a decorative wooden column beside him. Duncan’s vision cascaded with bright spots of light before blurring badly. The gunman paused for a second, seemingly considering whether or not to lay into Duncan further, but then sprinted out the exit after his accomplice.
Duncan tried to clear his head, but he realized something was very wrong with him. He could not really see, and there was a sharp and insistent pain shooting through the side of his head. All he could think about was Phoebe and how he would never be able to get her a present if he died. He knew her mother would never forgive him for ruining her birthday by being stupid enough to be killed by bank robbers. The absurdity of these fears being his last thoughts before death was lost on Duncan’s damaged mind.
Duncan felt the the £100 note crumpled in his balled fist. He stuffed it into his pocket as his vision grew completely dark. If he lived, he would make good with the money he swore to himself. As he slipped into unconsciousness, the blood rushing through his head sounded just like the pounding of horse hooves at the racetrack.