You can read this chapter below, or at the following places online:
RONNIE KNEW THE RISKS. He’d heard the stories. But desperate times called for Ronnie to try something stupid.
Besides, the planning had been meticulous. He’d thought of everything, every conceivable issue that might arise, and he had an answer for them all. It was one of Ronnie’s greatest strengths: identifying problems and coming up with solutions. He’d never failed. Unless gambling was involved. He’d never been able to crack that code.
For example, he was so deep into debt with the casinos he concluded that the only viable option available to him was to rob the First National Bank of Garrison. If he could pull it off, not only would he keep himself in relative good health—he’d heard more than one nightmare inducing tale regarding what happened to people who owed the casinos money—he’d be the hero of every thief in the country.
The First National Bank of Garrison had the distinct honor of holding the world record for being robbed more times than any single bank in history. With such a renowned statistic, one would think the bank would find difficulty staying in business, what with the high cost of insurance that would come with such a staggering statistic.
Yet, the bank thrives.
The First National Bank of Garrison had the distinct honor of holding another world record. That of being the only bank to have been robbed more than any other, and having never lost a single dollar.
The reason for this startling fact is simple.
But Ronnie had prepared for her as well. No pumped up costumed tramp would keep him from his goal. The guys that worked for the casinos were known to pull the innards out of fellas who wouldn’t pay up, and Ronnie wanted what was inside him to stay right where it was, thank you very much.
The plan had been simple, because more often than not, simple was the best option. Ronnie and four others walked into the bank, staggered thirty seconds apart, starting two minutes after the bank had opened that morning. Everything had been going just fine, Gabe and Dick took out the two guards, Lyle went to the vault, and Ronnie emptied the teller’s drawers while Gabe and Dick worked crowd control.
Three minutes later they were out on the sidewalk, each with his own duffel full of banded and bricked one hundred dollar bills. They made for the van they had left parked and running just across the street. There was not another car or pedestrian within view. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
But then, when all looked like sunshine and patty cakes, the van imploded as if a massive weight had been dropped on top of it.
Ronnie had just reached out to take hold of the driver’s side door handle when it happened and he fell onto his back, glass raining down on him. He threw an arm up over his face to protect it from the glass, and when he took it away, there she was, standing among the twisted metal that was once a van he’d stolen just that morning.
She was a hard looking woman with the body of a wrestler and eyes that where so dark they were almost black. They were emotionless, those eyes, just blackness and void. She wore what looked like a one piece swim suit which left only her arms and legs bare. The suit was blue with a red and white striped V on the chest, the stripes continuing down to cover her trunks.
Ronnie had seen news footage of the Mighty, and he had to admit that real life didn’t improve the view much. He thought she might be considered a handsome woman, but the word ‘beautiful’ was not one that crawled into his mind upon seeing her, what with her blunt features and the tight black bun on the top her head.
“I told you, man,” Gabe said, backing away slowly. “I told you this wouldn’t work. I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. Well I’m out.” That last he said more to Lady V than Ronnie. “I’m out, you hear me? Out!”
Ronnie stood and smiled, shaking his head as Gabe dropped his bag and ran. Dick and Lyle followed suit.
Lady V watched the three men go before turning back to Ronnie.
“I am not above compassion, criminal,” she said, her face like a stone wall. “So I will give you this one chance to do as your companions. Leave behind the spoils of your foolish venture and run, criminal. Run while you still have the ability.”
Ronnie didn’t respond. He dropped the duffel like the other three, but instead of running, he pulled a small, blue orb, about the size of a marble, from his pocket. His smile grew to Cheshire proportions.
“I have another idea,” he said. “How about I keep all four of these bags here, and you drop dead.”
With that, he threw the orb. She made no move to block or catch it, or even to step out of its path. Instead, she followed the orb with her dead, black eyes. The orb struck her in the stomach and shattered. She didn’t so much as flinch.
Then, almost instantly, the moisture in the air for up to twelve feet around the orb froze as the chemicals within came into contact with the open air, encasing the do-gooder and the ruined van in a tomb of ice.
Ronnie laughed and retrieved his duffel. He realized that he wouldn’t be able to carry all four after all, but he was okay with that. He’d leave with two, and two shares were better than one.
He whistled a jaunty tune as he walked away, a bag in each hand. He made it just three steps before he heard a great cracking sound from behind as if someone was pulling apart a walnut shell the size of a Buick. Ronnie turned in time to see the ice around Lady V explode outward, throwing deadly shards all around. Ronnie had to drop to his stomach on the pavement to avoid becoming a pin cushion.
“You had your warning,” the woman said, stepping down from what was left of the van.
Ronnie scurried away as best he could while still on his belly. It wasn’t easy, but he was going for something new from his pocket. He had been sure that the ice would stop her, it should’ve stopped anything with a heartbeat, maybe even Captain Might—were he still around—but she didn’t seem any worse for wear.
He found what he was looking for in his pocket, but he couldn’t pull it free, trapped as it was between himself and the asphalt of the road. She was almost on top of him.
“For as long as I’ve been stopping your kind from hurting others, I’ve never been able to understand your temerity,” she said.
Ronnie could think of nothing to say.
“Stand, criminal. You will meet your fate on your feet; I can give you that much dignity at least.”
Ronnie’s heart raced, this was his chance. He stood, his hand in his pocket, noticing for the first time the crowd that had now gathered across the street. A mob of looky loos wanting to see one of their great Mighties beat up on just another criminal.
Well, Ronnie didn’t consider himself just another criminal, not with his brain and what he’d cooked up in his garage. He flashed the crowd a defiant look, and then turned to Lady V.
“What confidence you have,” she said. “You are so bold that I could almost admire it. You still think you are going to win, don’t you? Why?”
“Because it’s what I do,” he said. She didn’t have to know about his gambling issues.
“What is that? Fail?”
“Nope.” He pulled his hand from his pocket, his prize clutched tightly in his fist. “If there’s one thing I do better than most people, it’s walking away unscathed.”
He threw the object he’d been holding, a gun metal gray cube, the size of a die from a board game. He threw it into the air as high as he could. The cube reached the apex of its arc a few feet into the air and froze, humming and vibrating and it floated above them.
“Okay then,” Ronnie said, bending to pick up two of the bags of cash. “I’ll leave you with that.”
The cube began to spin.
“If you survive this,” Ronnie said. “Try to think fondly of me when you remember today.”
“What is this?” she asked, watching the cube rotate. She seemed more curious than afraid. Of course, it was almost impossible for him to tell what she was feeling, if she was feeling anything at all. Her face was like that of a robot, emotionless and cold.
“This,” Ronnie said, nodding to the cube, “is what we call a distraction.”
The crushed van behind her suddenly leaped into the air and slammed into the cube, melding with it. After that came a blue mailbox. More metal from all around them sailed through the air to join with the cube, adding to its mass, the shape changing with each addition. Cars, street signs, manhole covers; all joined together with the cube, forming something that pulsed and writhed.
Screams erupted from the crowd of onlookers and they scattered like cockroaches in the light. They’d wanted to see a bit of fun, but not at the expense of their own safety.
The process took less than a minute, and by the time it was done, what was once just a small, gun metal gray cube, was now a humanoid shape, a metal monstrosity that towered above them.
The automaton turned and directed what would have been a face—the headlights and grill of a Nineteen Seventy Oldsmobile Delta 88 became its eyes and mouth—and directed its gaze at Ronnie.
“Kill her,” Ronnie said, and pointed at Lady V.
The thing turned, but before it could complete its circuit, the woman had leaped into the air and slammed a fist into the side of its head. The robot’s head caved in on itself and it fell, crashing to the ground in a heap.
Lady V jumped over Ronnie’s robot and scowled at the bank robber, showing emotion for the first time: Anger.
“An interesting diversion,” she said, “but futile nonetheless.”
“Not really,” Ronnie smiled and backed away as the robot pulled itself to its feet. “See, my robot is like one of them watches. You know, it takes a licking but keeps on getting back up to kick your butt.”
She turned from him to face the scrap metal giant, and Ronnie ran. He knew that eventually she’d take his creation down, after all the power supply would only last an hour, but by then he’d be long gone.
So, as the sounds of battle waged behind him, Ronnie sprinted his way toward becoming the only person alive to successfully rob the First National Bank of Garrison. As he ran, he thought about the two little surprises he’d built in his garage.
He’d knocked over a couple of liquor stores to come up with the necessary funds to create both the orb and the cube. Both just a means to an end, a way of distracting or stopping Lady V so that he could escape with the ultimate prize; enough money to pay off the casinos and start his life over again.
Maybe he’d invest in a hidden workspace and materials to create more of his little toys. Maybe then he’d be able to sell them to other enterprising criminals looking to step up in the world. A new life was opening up for Ronnie B. Riddle. He’d just have to keep himself out of the casinos if he wanted to enjoy it.
Support me on Patreon for as little as $1.00 a month. Just click the logo below: