Just before the end of business on a sweltering summer day, two clerks and a manager inside the Queen Street branch of the Appalachia National Bank froze in their places as a wanted criminal stepped through the revolving door.
Her appearance was practically unmistakable. The middle-aged woman wore a white sweater with matching gloves and a wool tuque.
The sweater had a noticeable red splotch on the right sleeve. At first glance, one could easily mistake blood to be the source of the stain. However, to the experienced eyes of the bank employees, this marking was obviously the result of a bursting dye pack bursting from an earlier robbery.
Large sunglasses dominated a face otherwise painted – almost comically – in blue and white stripes. Tattered khakis covered the criminal’s lower half. A rusting revolver was in one hand. A tote from a local grocery store was in the other.
The local media had taken to referring to this woman as the “Icewoman“.
The Icewoman strode to the nearest clerk, a young woman, and tossed the tote onto the counter.
“Put all of your rolled quarters into that,” she demanded flatly.
The clerk nodded and opened a large drawer behind the counter.
The Icewoman raised the antiquated revolver and pointed the weapon in the direction of the other clerk.
“I want rolled quarters.”
The other clerk, a rotund man, acquiesced but moved slowly. He was keenly aware that the Icewoman had successfully robbed two other New Belfast banks already this month, having closely followed the story in the local newspaper. The Icewoman had not harmed anyone during her earlier heists, but the thief proved very capable of eluding the police.
As the male clerk leisurely followed the order, attempting to stall for time, the Icewoman turned her gun to the branch manager.
“Don’t move,” the robber said coolly.
The manager absentmindedly took one backward step away from the counter.
The Icewoman kept the revolver pointed squarely at the manager.
Taking advantage of the distraction, the male teller slipped a hand under the counter and pressed a small button before lifting a box of rolled quarters and walking to a position next to the female teller.
“This is heavy,” the male teller explained as he handed the box to his coworker.
The young woman looked up at the Icewoman with a puzzled expression.
“Do you want this in the tote? I’ve already got several rolls in there.”
The Icewoman nodded.
Staring for a moment, the teller noticed two characteristics of the Icewoman that she hadn’t before. The bandit’s discolored lips were contorted in a seemingly permanent snarl. The face paint failed to fully conceal the blackened appearance around and inside the mouth.
Secondly, the Icewoman was sweating profusely. The female teller nearly offered a brief statement of sympathy for the thief.
“Hurry!” the Icewoman suddenly barked.
The female clerk forced her eyes off the Icewoman, swallowed hard, and became momentarily paralyzed.
Moving quickly, the overweight clerk pretended to bump into the open drawer while moving to help with the tote. He quickly slipped a hand inside the drawer and removed one bundled stack of bills from near a magnetic plate.
“Let me take that,” the male clerk said. He pulled the tote behind a nearby computer monitor, intending to hide his clever maneuvering, and slipped the stack of cash inside while simultaneously opening wide the bag.
Regaining her senses, the female teller fumbled with the box.
“Just give me the bag!” the Icewoman shouted.
Without hesitation, the male teller pushed the tote across the counter to the Icewoman and dutifully raised his hands above his head.
The Icewoman remained motionless for a moment while the younger teller awkwardly placed the box of quarters on the counter.
With calculated accuracy, the Icewoman stepped forward, seized the tote with her free hand, whipped the heavy bag into the air, and forcefully brought the multiple rolls of quarters within down onto the head of the female teller.
The woman collapsed with a whimper. As the manager rushed forward to come to her employee’s aid, the Icewoman barreled through the swinging door at the end of the counter.
Flipping the the revolver to the hand clutching the straps of the tote, the Icewoman charged forward.
As the manager pushed passed the remaining teller, she stepped directly into the grasp of the Icewoman, who seized the older woman by the neck and twisted her to the ground.
Despite her glove, steel grip of the Icewoman was impossibly cold. The sudden chill took the manager’s breath away as she was forced downward.
While scooping up the box of rolled quarters, the Icewoman pushed her aged revolver into the chest of the male teller.
“Come with me,” the Icewoman whispered with a sinister inflection. She motioned toward the front of the bank.
Both thief and teller stepped around the manager, who had collected herself enough to wrap both arms around the female teller. The younger girl was coming to her senses just as the Icewoman followed the other clerk through the swinging door at the end of the counter.
Once reaching the revolving door at the front of the bank, the Icewoman stopped.
“Reach inside my bag and take that stack of cash out.”
The male clerk gingerly complied, reaching into the tote that dangled from the Icewoman’s extended right forearm. The clerk sheepishly held the bundle of cash close to his chest.
“Walk outside,” the Icewoman ordered.
“Walk outside. I’ll follow you.”
The Icewoman pointed her revolver toward the ceiling and pulled the trigger. The weapon fired, surprising each of the bank employees.
The clerk pushed his way through the revolving door, with the Icewoman emerging just behind him on the sidewalk under a blistering afternoon sun. Police sirens blared in the distance. Vehicles rushed along Queen Street just a few feet from the infamous Icewoman.
“Keep walking,” the Icewoman said.
As the teller turned, the dye pack inside the bundle of cash exploded. The red liquid burned through the bundle. The scalding chemical reaction burned the clerk’s hands. Dropping the cash, the man collapsed awkwardly to his knees while desperately trying to wipe his burning palms on his pants.
As a police cruiser turned onto Queen Street, the clerk looked up at the Icewoman.
“I know how badly that burns,” the Icewoman said before offering a gnarled smile and disappearing into a nearby alley.
To be continued.
This is the second entry in the Ice Gods series. Ice Gods is a nonlinear narrative about a disastrous mission to Ceres and the seemingly supernatural events on Earth that follow.
Read the previous installment in this series – “The Ice Gods”