The Shifting Steal

A thousand-foot-tall edifice lay before me. The day was bright, and the air was stifling. Below the marble-based behemoth, pedestrians moved along like ants under a human. Three hundred employees, eight thousand square feet, six hundred ATMs, and the ire of most citizens, this bank has stood the test of time since 1931. Banks weren’t my specialty. I usually robbed small jewelry shops or businesses, but even I couldn’t refuse the ludicrous payout.

Ken Arisaka set up a team of eight. Through his meth empire, he’d worked his way up to a souped-up penthouse in New York. Recently, his efforts shifted to the robbery business. He was six feet three inches tall, burly, balding, and ruthless.

I was used to working with a partner or by myself, so this was quite different. Ken pulled strings, which I thought was bullshit, but what do I know? None of us knew each other’s names. That way, if any of us got caught, we couldn’t turn in anyone else even if we tried. We wore balaclavas at all meetings and refrained from personal talk. I was responsible for reconnaissance. The building was straightforward: Vault attached separately to the building, ATMs near the entrance, and silent alarm control near the back.

It was strange not knowing my crewmembers’ names, so I devised several nicknames for them: Shotgun was, well, like a shotgun. He was brash, in your face, and he let you know what he thought. From what I gleaned, he was small fry like me, only robbing minor areas and stores. Bandit was a thin guy, about five feet tall. He seemed to pride himself on being a demolitions expert. Chameleon had the most blank-looking face I’d ever seen. If he put on a hat, he could look like anyone. He was devoid of emotion and was an armed robber, so we didn’t get along. The other crewmembers seemed to take the no personal take rule more seriously, so I deemed them the ‘dummies’.

I, like the others, heard anecdotes about this particular bank. People have gone into the bank multiple times and gotten lost on each subsequent visit. The employee offices never seemed to be in the same spot. I didn’t give the rumors any credence.

I always liked computers. For the heist, I have the task of disabling the silent alarm. If I fail, everything goes kaput. Ken’s crew and I started collecting weapons for the job. All of us have permission for a concealed carry if shit hits the fan.

Yesterday, we set the plan in motion. I staged a ransomware attack using an RAS (Remote Access Service). I didn’t steal any information to avoid instigating a large-scale investigation.

Today, the bank was busy checking for lost information-- no visitors or witnesses outside of a handful of employees. I brought a hammer drill to get past the concrete.

I showed up at the pick-up site, waiting for Ken to drive by. A few minutes later, I saw a black Chevy Tahoe pull up beside me. I entered the car and sat next to Bandit. Everyone in the crew was wearing black Kevlar vests with balaclavas, myself included.

“We go in and do things as we planned.” Ken pointed at me, “You disable the silent alarm. Everything is dependent on you. If you fuck up, we’ll be in deep shit.”

I breathed deeply. I’d done the same for jewelry stores dozens of times. Today was no different. Nothing would go wrong.

Ken drove the crew up to the bank. As soon as we arrived, I went to the back of the building, where the silent alarm was. I placed the hammer drill against the wall and began breaking through the concrete.

Suddenly I heard shouting. I looked through the hole I just created. All the employees were running and screaming at the security guards. I could’ve sworn I had the right location for the silent alarm. It was too late. Everyone else was already entering the building. I slipped in through the side door of the building just in time to see everything devolve into chaos.

The guards seemed to have some sixth sense. One of Ken’s guys caught a bullet square in the forehead, blood splattering the glass behind him.

All the employees had already left. I felt the floor shift below my feet. The rest of the team wasn’t there. Desks and chairs moved around seemingly on their own. Walls rose from the ground; doors appeared out of nowhere.

I looked to my right and jumped, “Jesus!”

Shotgun was sitting beside me.

“Calm down, whatever the hell your name is. What did we walk into?”

“I don’t have a fucking clue,” I admitted.

“Did you see the shifting floor? What kind of eldritch horror bank is this? And how are we supposed to steal from a vault if it keeps moving around?”

“Do I look like I can answer either of those questions? Why are we still focused on the job anyway? The police are on their way. I never disabled the silent alarm. We have to go,” I say urgently.

Shotgun sighs as if he’s speaking to a toddler, “If we don’t know where the vault is, then neither do the police. We can still make a clean getaway; we need to focus, Lamb.”

I gasped, “That’s a shitty nickname. I gave you the coolest nickname ever. You gave me that. Frankly? I’m hurt.”

“Screw you! You know what? None of this would’ve happened if you did your damn job. I’m going to ignore that in the hopes of getting both of us out of here alive. What’s your name?”

“I’m Aidan,” you reply.

“Nice to meet you, Aidan. My name is Ben. Now shut up and let me think.”

As soon as Ben finished talking, I heard several gunshots. Ben and I pressed up against a large stone pillar. I peeked my head out. Ten armed guards carrying Colt M4 Carbines stood around the body of one of the dummies. A quick glimpse of their uniforms told me they weren’t a SWAT team.

I felt the pillar sinking. I quickly dove behind a mahogany office desk, and Ben followed suit. A few minutes later, they left.

I peeked behind me and screamed, “What the hell!”

One of the dummies was sitting lackadaisically a few feet away.

“I could say the same to you. What’s your name, Lamb?”

I bit my tongue before answering, “I’m Aidan. The guy sitting next to me is Ben. We’re planning on finding the vault,”

“How are you going to do that? This place keeps-” his statement was cut short by a bullet through the neck. Blood soaked the marble floor.

“Run!” Ben yelled.

We bolted in two separate directions. I hid behind a couch while Ben ducked under a barstool a few feet away.

“Give up,” a voice called out. “We know you’re here. We know how this building moves. We won’t call the cops about this embarrassment of a heist,”

“If you know how the building moves, then why haven’t you teleported behind us? It seems like that would be your best course of action,” I replied, calling the man’s bluff.

I looked beside myself and saw a security guard’s body. Rummaging through the guard’s uniform, I found a small tablet in the breast pocket. I switched it on and saw options for the building. The shifting wasn’t random. It was controlled entirely by the bank staff and based on coordinates.

“You guys aren’t around this bank normally, are you? The bank called you guys in when they realized we were trying to rob it?” I asked, stalling for time.

The man was 77 degrees south of the equator. Pillars were my preferred weapon.

“We-” much to his chagrin, his response was cut short by a pillar emerging below him.

The pillar carried him fifty feet into the air. A few seconds later, the man lost his balance and fell headfirst into an office desk.

His neck snapped with an appalling crunch, and the other armed guards shifted uncomfortably. The tables had turned. Guards started running in all different directions. There was one poor soul that ran straight into a steel door. It was armed guards against inanimate objects, and the former was losing. Chairs were flying everywhere, pillars rising and falling like the tides, bodies dropping like flies.

When the dust settled, I was standing in a room with more corpses than living things. I heard a loud crack and the sound of glass shattering as a SWAT team entered the building. Twenty-four men decked in Kevlar held us at gunpoint.

I slowly reached for the tablet lying on the ground.

The SWAT captain warned me, “Don’t move.”

I quickly picked up the tablet and promptly dropped it after the captain fired a deterrent shot. The tablet was gone. So much for my subtle plan. Suddenly, the captain lurched to the right and attempted to steady himself using a desk, which soon moved away, leaving the captain flailing on the ground. Everyone in the building was prone.

I had a good view outside one of the windows from where I was. I saw the USS Slater followed by the Statue of Liberty, a Ferris Wheel on Coney Island, and the Staten Island Zoo. The building was moving to random places in New York.

I glanced to my left and saw a wooden office desk sliding across the floor towards me. I rolled out of the way just in time, but a sharp edge cut my thigh. The desk kept gaining speed until it hit a concrete wall, taking an unsuspecting SWAT officer with it. I looked at the wall covered in fresh blood. Dead SWAT officers lay all around me except for the captain.

The captain tried to stand up and failed twice before finally supporting himself against a pillar. He growled loudly and scowled at me.

“You! You are a lowly, pathetic worm who has to use a building to elude me!”

I sighed heavily, “To be honest? I’m just as confused as you are.”

It seemed like he’d reached his breaking point. He let out a deranged laugh. Then he kept chortling, wheezing, and losing his balance.

“You’ve been here for ten minutes, and you’ve already lost your mind. Can’t say I blame you,” I told him.

At that moment, the captain seemingly forgot his motor skills, though he was still laughing. Annoyingly.

The building shifted again. Ken and I fell down to the ground and the captain still wouldn’t shut up.

“You’ve got to do something about this maniacal piece of work, Aidan. I can’t think straight,” Ben conceded.

“Don’t worry about it,” I told him.

I pulled out my handgun and shot a round into the captain’s leg. As soon as I pulled the trigger, I regretted my decision. His laughs turned into perpetual shrieking.

“Oh god. I just made it worse,”

Ben threw his arms up in the air, “No shit, Sherlock! Did you expect him to shut up after you put a bullet in his leg?!”

“I’ll gag him,” I said quickly. I saw a tape dispenser lying on the ground near a table.

I picked the tape up and groaned, “It’s empty.”

Out of nowhere, a round was fired, and the captain was silenced forever. My ears rung as I turned to where the bullet was fired. Bandit was standing next to Chameleon, who was holding a stolen Glock G17.

“Was that necessary? You couldn’t announce your presence, you damn scourge? And why’d you have to kill him? Dramatic fucking effect? Just knock him out, stupid.”

Chameleon chuckled, “I did knock him out. Forever.”

I sighed heavily, “It doesn’t matter. We have to find another one of those tablets before this building shifts its location again. Split up. Let’s search the bodies.”

The uniform seals were burned off, making it difficult to distinguish between the bank guards and the SWAT team. After a few minutes of searching, I found a female guard with a tablet under her. The screen was cracked but otherwise it worked fine. I felt the ground rumble beneath me and quickly turned the tablet on. The building stopped shaking.

“Oh, thank god!” I exclaimed.

I heard a loud whirring of a helicopter above me. It seemed another SWAT team had arrived as backup.

“Guys, the second SWAT team is checking casualties. We’ve got about fifteen minutes to find the vault.”

“Can’t you just make the vault appear in front of us using your magical iPad?” Bandit whined.

“No, I can’t. That’s the only thing that is immovable in this bank. Looks like we’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way. Split up. We’ll find it,” I told the crew.

I searched all four floors, top to bottom, searched the bodies for keys, looked at all the other tablets for info, reconvened with the crew three times and all for naught.

I finally sat down on the ground, defeated. I have five minutes before the cavalry arrive.

“Fuck!” I roared, kicking a body in front of me.

And there it was. The goddamn lever. The crew and I ogled it for a second before pulling it, revealing a short flight of stairs and a vault at the bottom. I looked through one of the bank guards’ pockets and found a tattered piece of paper with a four-digit PIN. We quickly descended the staircase and unlocked the vault. I jumped with excitement before I heard the cocking of a gun behind me. I turned around and saw Chameleon holding a gun to my head.

“Come on, man. Don’t be moronic. There’s enough money to go around,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Well,” Chameleon chuckled, “you can never say no to more.”

I closed my eyes and waited for the loud crack of a bullet. When the ringing in my ears stopped, I stood with blood soaking through my clothes. But it wasn’t my own. Shotgun was holding a gun in the air as Chameleon collapsed, his head, or what remained of it, was a gooey, red mess.

"He wasn't very polite, was he? We'll just split the money," Shotgun ruminated.

"No, he wasn't," I agreed.

Above me, I heard the SWAT officers talking: “There’s a staircase. We should check it out.”

Shotgun, Bandit, and I collected as much money as we could before we turned around to leave. It was a great haul of 1.5 million dollars. Unfortunately, the SWAT officers held us at gunpoint.

“Let me see your hands!” they told us.

I brought out the tablet and dropped it on the ground with my hands held high. I quickly stomped on the tablet and the building immediately changed locations. The jolt of the impact knocked the officers off their feet, giving us enough time to run out the front door of the bank into the Bluestone Wild Forest. The SWAT team was a few hundred feet behind us.

Bandit got clipped in the leg and fell down on the ground. Shotgun and I paid him no attention as we were preoccupied. Soon after, we split up and ran in opposite directions. I could hear the squad of officers moving past where I was with the chopper whirring above me. I just had to get Shotgun and myself back into the bank. It was gone. The bank had shifted its location, just like I planned.

Shotgun sighed, "We're screwed, man. We're in a forest, our one exit disappeared, and a squad of trained officers are looking for us."

"Come on, we can do this. We've got the haul. We just have to make it to the Route 28 Car Wash," I told him, determined.

"That's an hour and a half walk away! My arms are already sagging from carrying this money," Shotgun told me.

I rolled my eyes, "I'll carry it, then. I'm not going down like this. The squad looking for us most likely split up. Half of them are coming our way, so we have to go."

The walk was exhausting. An hour of slowly traipsing through turbid terrain. Eventually, my trudging turned into crawling. Just another half hour left. I heard a few distant shouts behind me and heard a bullet whizz past, hitting Shotgun square in the chest. After he passed out, I opened the bag and dumped out two-thirds of the cash before continuing my slow march towards the car wash. I had to alter my course slightly as the squad was moving in my direction.

They stopped at Shotgun's body.

"Looks like we got one of 'em! If I was the other guy, I'd be going to opposite direction. Let's head back to see if we missed something,"

I exhaled heavily as the squad moved away. Once they were far enough away, I continued walking. The car wash was in sight. A hundred feet away was a couple filling up gas. I was so elated I didn't look both ways. The driver ran over me, breaking both my legs and spilling the cash over the asphalt. Then the car just continued as if nothing had happened. New York was still New York. I wish I could say I'd see them at court, but I was in excruciating pain. A few pedestrians came by to see what the fuss was about, and one of them picked up a bill to examine it. Of course, they were marked. Look both ways, kids.


The End