It was a proud day for me this morning. My husband John was starting a new job managing First National. He insisted that I visit him to see his new office. John gave me a tour and introduced me to everyone. The employees seemed a little bit amused by his excitement. He has some really nice co-workers – or did till the men with masks and guns showed up.
The tellers were giving them money. People were cowering on the floor. It looked like they might get what they wanted and leave. That’s when a guy sporting a dirty flannel shirt, ragged jeans, and the biggest beard of stark white hair I’ve ever seen flung a handful of deposit tickets at a robber’s face and tried to tackle him.
Everything went downhill from there. One of the robbers shot Mr. Flannel Shirt. I don’t have words for the mess that made. It wasn’t like in the movies. If I hadn’t seen him get shot I would have sworn someone threw a bucket of red paint at the wall behind him.
John grabbed me and herded me toward the vault. Guns were going off all over the place. John suddenly stumbled against me and it was wet and red between us. He started to crumple but kept shoving me toward that huge door and then through it. He was bleeding a lot, on his knees, getting weaker by the second. When I was over the threshold John leaned on the door. It took everything he had to get it moving.
It was slow. Every endless second I expected a crazed robber with a machine gun to stop him, to stop the door. The last sliver of light started to fade and I could see a cart loaded with cash and deposit bags in the middle of the vault floor just before it went dark. I heard the wheel on the vault door spinning.
Now I’m stuck in here. I can feel my way around if I’m careful not to trip on the cart. I bumped it with my hip earlier and must have left a hell of a bruise. The walls are metal. I can feel the hinges, the keyholes, numbers etched into tiny doors. There are rows and rows of them, varying sizes, on three of the walls.
Exploring by touch took some time. I have no idea how much. I can’t see in here. It’s dark enough to develop film in here. I wave my hand in front of my eyes. All I sense is the air shifting in its wake.
The air is starting to feel hot and damp. It’s like a swamp, a pitch black swamp inside a steel box. The heat and dampness is from my breath. There’s only a little air in here and I’m using it up and expelling hot, moist breath, more carbon dioxide than oxygen. I don’t know how long I have.
I imagine John on the floor outside the vault door. If he was alive when he shut me in I can’t imagine the robbers let him live long afterwards. After all, he locked me in with all this money. The cart must be piled three or four feet high with bills and bags and who-knows-what else. God knows how much jewelry and such are in all these safe-deposit boxes. Now they can’t get it, separated from their prize by a foot-thick armored door and a lock they can’t open.
I feel tired. The floor feels good as I lay down. I know the air in here will only last a little while. Maybe I’ll make it. When John showed me around he told me about the lock before the robbers came in. It’s a time lock. It will open all by itself at seven tomorrow morning.
It’s dark in here and I feel sleepy. I fumble in my purse and get out my lipstick. The cover feels like it weighs a hundred pounds. I twist the bottom use it to scrawl wake me at seven on the floor in Bing Cherry Red.
I can do this. I can. Make it. Until sev…
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