The harsh glare of the sun assaulted me as I teleported from my apartment in Portland, Oregon, and onto a sunny Los Angeles sidewalk. I grimaced and tried to shield my eyes as I glanced around the sprawling street.
Just a block away was my target. The People’s Bank of the Republic. I began walking toward it, trying my best to look as innocuous as possible even though adrenaline was already starting to pump through my veins. Why? Because I was going to rob that fucker blind.
I took a deep breath in an effort to calm myself, and then shut my eyes as I counted backward from ten. With each number, I felt my racing heart slow and the nervous energy leave me. I could do this. It was no different than any other job.
It was time to put my game face on. So, trying to look as nonchalant as possible, I smoothed my black skirt with one hand, pushed the glass doors open with my other hand, and marched my ass inside the building. This is where you’re asking yourself, “Mallory, if you can teleport, why not just teleport into the vault and be done with it?”
Well, here’s the answer. I’d never seen the inside of this particular bank vault, and while I’d teleported places from pictures on occasion, I also knew a guy who had gotten stuck in a table because someone had redecorated the room, so it didn’t match said picture.
Because of that, I always found it better to walk in, use my magic to slow time, and go from there as I planned to do now. Besides, it was both early and a weekday so there were only a couple people inside. A token overweight rent-a-cop drinking coffee, one old lady waiting in line, and a cashier. And wow. What a cashier.
My breath caught in my throat as I caught sight of her crystal blue eyes and nearly fell into them. A blush crept across my cheeks as I turned my gaze away from her and tried to focus on the task at hand. I was here to do a job, and do it fast.
Besides, the last time I’d fallen for a pretty face, there hadn’t been a lot of substance behind it. Actually, that wasn’t true. There had been a snarling black hole of death and destruction. Nope, no more love at first sight for me.
Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
Thankfully, the cashier was too busy shuffling her papers and ignoring the only customer in the place to give me more than a cursory glance. Good. That meant she wouldn’t remember me enough to give a description, and thanks to my magic, the cameras wouldn’t see me either.
Not that I was giving her much to work with. I was wearing a plain black skirt, a Def Leppard T-shirt I’d stolen from my ex, and didn’t have any visible tattoos or piercings. Hell, even my makeup was mostly there to hide my features, rather than accentuate them. To top it off, my raven hair had been hastily thrown into one of those pineapple updos that either meant shit was about to go down or Zumba. Actually, it usually meant Zumba.
A smile crossed my lips as I glanced at the three of them once more. None of them were paying me any attention. Good. Now, it was time to do my thing and rob this bank.
I concentrated on calling upon my magic. As the first spark of power flitted up from the earth and through my shoes, I felt myself come alive. Every smell, every sight, everything all around me snapped into focus. As the symphony of magic swirled around me, I pulled on the thread of power that hummed like a metaphysical harmonica.
I reached out toward that power and grabbed hold of it. Time started to slow down all around me just as the girl behind the counter looked up and screamed. The cry shattered my concentration, causing my spell to slip away into the ether.
Panic and confusion spilled over me. Had she somehow felt my magic? I wasn’t sure, but either way, I was done. Time to make a getaway before something worse happened.
I started to turn so I could race back outside and teleport to safety, and as I did, the sound of a shotgun going off obliterated my hearing.
Time seemed to slow for a completely different reason as I struggled to orient myself to what was going on. A gun had gone off. Right behind me. How could…?
My heart hammered in my chest. Someone was here with a gun. Fuck.
I instinctively grabbed hold of my magic, reaching out with my mind toward the ebb and flow of the universe. It was weird because while it wasn’t music or anything, the best way I could explain the flow of magic was to imagine myself standing in the middle of the symphony where each kind of magic was a different instrument. Teleportation always sounded like a big bass drum, while death magic sounded like a trombone going full tilt.
That’s not what I needed now. No, what I needed to be was bigger and stronger, so I grabbed hold of the metaphysical equivalent of a wicked guitar solo and slammed that energy inside myself. It ran roughshod through my body, causing my veins to stand out against my flesh. Still, that was a small price to pay to become both stronger and faster even if it tended to make me a little crazy and not in that cute, endearing way.
“This is a robbery. Everyone go ahead and kiss the ground. Don’t be a hero, and you might just make it home tonight,” cried a gruff, angry voice behind me, and while I’d like to say the sound of it made me scared, it more made me angry.
This was my bank to rob. Who the fuck did these ass clowns think they were? I’d cased this place for weeks. Worse, the way he spoke made me think I was in the middle of amateur hour. I mean, there was way too much fear in that voice.
I spun on my heel and glared at the robber. He was a big dude and had probably played sports in high school before a few too many trips to the bar caused him to fill out his black long sleeve and cargo pants in all the wrong places. That, combined with the Richard Nixon mask he and his two friends wore like this was some kind of movie, almost made me want to laugh.
Hell, I probably would have if they weren’t all rocking twelve gauge Mossberg 500s, one of which was pointed at the guard, who was so shocked, his mouth was caught frozen in mid-chew. I was guessing he hadn’t experienced this sort of thing before, which was probably good because the twelve to fifteen bucks an hour he probably made was definitely not worth getting shot over. His deal had been simple, sit there and look menacing, and he’d mostly done his job. It was these clowns that were fucking up his, and my, well-laid plans. For that, they’d pay.
“Seriously? What the fuck do you people think you’re doing?” I snarled, taking a step forward as the leader pointed his shotgun at me. His eyes narrowed behind the mask as he made like he was going to shove me with the business end of it. That was silly. I mean, he had a gun, he might as well use it.
“I’m serious, lady. I don’t want to kill anyone, but I will.” He cocked the shotgun, eliciting one of the scariest sounds in the world, and as his spent shell ejected from the gun, I called upon my power.
Magic swarmed all around me like a billion flickering purple and pink gnats. As my power pulsed, the overhead lights flickered before shattering in a spray of debris that rained down around us.
I reached out in a burst of magic-fueled strength, grabbed the barrel of the gun with one hand, and tore it from his grip. Purple sparks danced along my hand before leaping across the weapon to snap crackle and pop like the gun had turned into a giant sparkler.
“What the fuck?” the guy cried, stumbling backward in shock as more energy danced through my hair and clothing.
His two buddies turned their own shotguns on me, and as they did, I almost smiled. Good. This was exactly what I needed to blow off some steam.
“It’s like you guys knew I’d had a fight with my now ex-girlfriend and needed to punch someone in the face,” I snarled, closing my fist around the barrel of the shotgun I’d stolen, pancaking the metal.
More magic whipped around me, sending glittering contrails into the air as I dropped the broken weapon to the ground. As it hit the cheap tile with a clang, I flicked my wrist, causing an invisible tendril of power to whip through the air and wrap around the left thug.
“What’s going on?” he cried right before I flung him sideways into his buddy. The other guy’s gun went off as his friend slammed into him. It was a little weird because, from the flash of panic in his eyes, I was willing to bet he’d never actually fired a shotgun before. Jesus, this really was amateur hour.
Fortunately, the magic swirling around me kept him from graduating to murder. As his buckshot bounced harmlessly off of the energy whipping around me and clattered emptily to the floor at my feet, I started to laugh.
“Seriously? You were going to shoot me?” I shook my head and took a menacing step toward the two guys who had wanted to perforate me with buckshot. “Do you have any idea how much I hate getting shot?” I jerked my hand to the left, flinging the two thugs sideways into one of those cubicles reserved for suckers trying to get a credit card. “I mean, I’m having a really bad day, and then you actually went and shot at me!” I snarled as they hit the cheap fiberboard, shattering it upon impact. “That’s not fucking cool. I mean how would you like it if I shot you?”
“Wh-what are you?” the leader mumbled, eyes wide behind his mask as I pointed my fingers at him like they were a gun.
“I’m a witch,” I said and fired. “Duh.”
A bolt of blue lightning shot from my fingers like I was Emperor Palpatine and struck him in the chest. A cry of agony exploded from his throat, and the smell of singed hair and flesh hit my nose as he flew backward and crashed into the glass doors.
As he slumped slowly to the ground, blackened tendrils of smoke rose from the singed spot on his torso, and the telltale sounds of sirens filled my ears. Damn. That was no good. It would be way harder to rob the place if the cops came, even if I could teleport back to my apartment easily enough. After all, I knew what that place looked like.
“Are you okay, dear?” the old lady asked, giving me a knowing look as she stared at me, and there was something deeply disconcerting about it, almost like she was pleased with what I’d done. It was a bit weird, but I brushed it off as my mind reading too much into it—what with the adrenaline and what not.
“Thank you so much!” the cashier cried as I spun on my heel and made my way toward her as quickly as possible.
“Not a problem,” I said, wondering why she hadn’t commented on my magic. Honestly, it was a tossup whether or not she’d actually seen me do it. Half the time people just seemed to ignore when I did magic right in front of them. Usually, they acted like I’d just done some sweet jujitsu or something as though that could cause me to shoot lightning from my fingertips. Whatever, if she was going to call me a hero, I wasn’t going to stop her.
“You saved us,” she added as though I wasn’t aware of that. Outside cars were skidding to a halt, and the sounds of jackboots on asphalt started to fill my straining ears. That was fine, though, I was nearly ready to fly out of here.
“So what’s my reward?” I asked, batting my eyes at her as I put one arm on the counter and leaned forward toward her. She blinked dumbly at me and then began to fidget.
“Um… we don’t have a policy for…” she trailed off as I reached across the counter and picked up a business card and flipped it over.
“How’s about you just give me your number, and we’ll call it even?” I asked, and as her eyes widened and her cheeks flushed, I immediately realized she was trying to find a nice way to turn me down.
“You know what, never mind. I don’t think it’s gonna work out,” I said right before I phased through the counter, reached into her register, and pulled out one of those bags that contains all the hundreds. It wasn’t as heavy as I’d have liked, but I was, as they say, about to blow this pop stand. I didn’t have time to rummage around like I normally would. Besides, this would be able to buy more than enough whiskey to help me forget Jen.
“You can’t just take that,” the girl cried in shock, reaching toward me as I snatched my hand back.
“It’s okay. It’s insured,” I said, smiling brightly at her before turning and making my way back toward the entrance. With any luck, maybe I’d get out of here before anyone was the wiser. I mean, I was a witch, if anyone said anything, I’d just bippity-boppity-boo my way out of here.
Yes, in retrospect, I suppose walking back out the front door was a stupid thing to do, but in my defense, I’d just broken up with my girlfriend and had gotten all hopped up on magic fighting the thugs. I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly.
Still, when I pushed open the doors and found myself face to face with what looked like a billion armed SWAT guys my mouth went completely dry. I was a total dumbass. Worse, I was literally holding a stolen money bag in my left hand.
Damn. Those robbers had really screwed up my already fucked up day.