I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand; the slick patch it created was indistinguishable from the rest of my skin. The fear I had earlier about sweltering temperatures was far from unfounded, damn near prophetic actually. The assorted garbage from McDicks sat at my feet; wrappers, packets and napkins shoved into the large brown bag.
The twenty-minute time frame I’d given central had stretched into forty-five minutes; the traffic into Springfield had set my blood boiling and ruined any chance of us keeping our schedule.
“Goddammit!” I snarled as I pounded the armrest in frustration. “Why the hell is everyone and their dog out at eleven-thirty on a Tuesday?”
“Uh, lunch maybe?” Mitch’s sarcasm was biting.
“Bullshit,” I exclaimed. “We’ve always been at the Woodbridge on time, it’s after that that we hit delays!”
“Jesus I don’t know Jack,” Mitch threw his hands up in exasperation. “Maybe everyone decided that they wanted to take a nice Sunday drive.”
“On a Tuesday?”
“I never said anything people do had to make sense Jack.” Mitch accompanied it with one of his trademark shit-eating grins.
“Fine make shitty one liners,” I groused as I sat back in my seat. “It’s not like we’re paid to be at these places on time or anything.”
Mitch didn’t have anything to say about that; the pay with Talon was pretty damn good, even if you were a bottom of the barrel armored truck guard. The light ahead of us changed from red to green and I let out an audible sigh as the lines of vehicles started to roll forward.
“Finally, its about goddamn-“ my relief abruptly changed to anger as a little blue Prius cut in front of us. “What the fuck, you goddamn shitsack!”
Mitch hit the brakes and jammed the horn; a sharp blast from the top of the truck sent the offender back into their own lane. “Shitsack,” Mitch muttered as he turned the truck to the left. “My my, we are in a rotten mood today aren’t we?”
“It’s the heat man,” I said as I adjusted my hat. “I’m not cut out for bullshit on days like this.”
“I’m not cut out for bullshit at any temperature,” Terry growled. “Now shut up and sit back, you’re giving me a headache!”
Mitch chuckled as I sat back.
“You too Sperazzo,” Mitch’s mouth clamped shut at his bark.
The rest of the drive to Woodbridge bank was quiet in the truck, nothing but the growl of the engine and the muted sounds of horns to remind us of noise. When we finally pulled into the bank, I knew something was up. Cars covered the small lot and spilled out onto the adjacent street and the line of people stretched out of the doors; I had never seen the tiny bank so crowded before.
“What the fuck?” Mitch breathed; evidentially I wasn’t the only one astonished by all this.
“Well don’t just sit here in traffic,” Terry rumbled. “Pull us in there, doesn’t matter if there’s ten people or a hundred, we’ve got a job to do.”
Terry spoke with his same old bluster but I could hear something else in his voice, a glimmer of genuine concern; if the guy on our truck who had seen it all was concerned, I figured I wasn’t wrong to be very concerned. After a few minutes of Mitch’s grunts and curses from trying to maneuver the large rig in the tight confines of the parking lot, he finally had us stopped in front of the bank doors.
The air from outside slapped me like a wet, heavy glove as I popped my door. Why the hell did it have to even be this hot in September? Fucking heat wave. My boots clomped on the asphalt as I made my way to the back of the rig, the back door was already open and Terry had already clambered out.
“Bum knee giving you trouble again,” I asked with a smirk. “Want your cane?”
I just managed to catch the tote bag before it nailed me in the face; I lowered it and grinned but said nothing. I followed Terry around the truck and towards the entrance; my only pause was to give a backward wave to Mitch in the truck.
The line stretched right out the door; I had glimpsed as much from the truck as we pulled in, what I hadn’t sensed were the feelings of dread and anxiety. The way people moved, fidgeted, whispered, and stood a little hunched over as if waiting for a blow.
Inside the bank was no better than outside, people crowded around the teller windows, yelled into their cellphones or both. I could make out scattered bits of conversations: people telling others to buy, to sell, to get home, get to the store, buy batteries, buy food; it reminded me of the big snowstorm we had last winter, when everybody was scrambling to prepare. The snowstorm had turned out to be a bullshit smattering of flurries, something told me this would be anything but.
The inside of the bank felt like a hundred degrees; sweat instantly prickled around my collar and pits.
“Great the fucking AC’s out,” I muttered as Terry and I approached the employee door. “Not to mention it smells like the inside of my gym bag in here!”
“That’s what you get when you shove fifty people in a building, with no AC, on an eighty-six degree day.” Terry muttered as he rapped on the door, a firm one-two-three-four-five knock.
Stressed would have been a charitable description of the branch manager who opened the door that separated the tellers from the bank floor; she looked more at her wits end. The askew nametag on her white blouse read Kathy.
“Oh thank God you two are here,” Kathy shouted over the din as she ushered Terry and I through. “I wasn’t sure what we’d do without this delivery!”
My gut clenched and I could see Terry’s expression darken; central hadn’t told us anything about a delivery, just a pickup.
We must have looked surprised as Kathy’s face fell. “You’re not here with money are you?”
“No ma’am,” Terry replied. “We’re here to pick up the bills, not drop them off.”
“Shit,” Kathy muttered under her breath. “What am I supposed to do? I’ve got two dozen angry people out there who all want their money but I don’t have enough to give them!”
“What’s going on here?” I blurted out the question that had been on my mind since we pulled in.
“You haven’t heard?” She sounded genuinely shocked. “The markets all plunged after trading opened today: New York, Tokyo, London, Berlin and even Toronto; all of them crashing, they’re saying it’s the worst loss in a day since 2008!”
“Oh my God,” I muttered. “Oh shit!”
“I don’t think many places are gonna be wanting a pickup today.” Terry muttered.
“We have to call central,” I struggled to keep my voice level. “See what they want us to do.”
“I agree,” Terry turned to Kathy. “I’m sorry ma’am but if you don’t have a pickup then we have to leave.”
“Leave,” she spluttered. “What am I supposed to tell all these people?”
“I don’t know ma’am and I’m really sorry.” Terry replied as he shoved me out the door. Another push through the crowd and we were out the doors, the heat outside was actually a welcome change for once.
Sirens; I could hear them from almost every direction, some deeper into the city and some further out into the country. Fire, police, ambulance; something was definitely very wrong. A shout from inside brought my attention back, a man looked like he was trying to force his way through the door and into the teller’s cage.
Terry caught me by the shoulder as I stepped towards the doors, “Not our problem, not today.”
I was about to chew him out for holding me back until I saw the look in his eye, a look that said something was very wrong with the world. “What the fuck’s going on?” I said instead.
“I don’t know Jack,” Terry hooked a thumb back towards the rig. “But I do know we won’t figure it out here, let’s get back in the rig.”
I swallowed hard and nodded, my feet followed his as we made our way back to the rig. We’d be able to listen to the radio inside the rig and besides, we still had our job to do until told otherwise.