“Nobody move!” I yell, holding the gun that shoots guinea-pigs up, stock to my shoulder. I can hear a faint squeaking from the breech.
“Please lie on the floor!” Lance screams. He is angry about my choice of words. “Your continued safety relies on adopting a supine position!”
The lunchtime bank patrons stare at us, slack-jawed. They didn’t come in here for this. Six of them came to pay in cheques. Two came in to amend standing orders. One came in to make a withdrawal. He’s cursing himself for forgetting his PIN. One came in for a meeting with the small business advisor – not because she’s thinking of opening a small business, but because she has a crush on him.
To underline our intentions, I fire my gun into the air. It makes a popping noise as it kicks into my hand, and a ginger-haired guinea-pig shoots from the left barrel, squealing as it arcs up into the air. It reaches the apex and curves back down until it lands in a giant pot-plant with a brutal squeak. Everyone gasps, but after a few seconds the guinea-pig falls gently out of the pot and scurries away along the wall. We all sigh with relief.
“Down!” I tell them.
The spell is broken and they do what I say. I am pleased to see that they are all relatively spritely – not a single one is pregnant or afflicted with a heart condition, which is good because Lance responds badly to cliches.
All is not well, though. The bank clerks seem cowed, but one of them – a middle-aged sikh with an impress
ively patrician grey streak in his beard – is staring at something past my right shoulder. I rush across to him, shoving the barrel of the gun that shoots guinea-pigs in his face.
“Hands in the air!” I cry. Behind me Lance moans, but do you know what? Fuck Lance. He may think these are cliched phrases, but I consider them more like professional jargon. In tense situations where quick and precise action is required, such canned phrasing facilitates accurate communication. The sikh bank teller lifts his hands in the air and laces his fingers behind the back of his turban, which just proves my point: I didn’t tell him to do that, but he knew what was expected of him.
I move sideways, sliding my arm along the counter so that plastic containers full of mortgage offers and pens on chains and chains that are attached to pens and metal base-units that are attached to pens by chains all clatter onto the fake marble floor. I stop at the next clerk, a young guy with spectacles that make his eyes look enormous, and hold the gun that shoots guinea-pigs up to his face.
“Open the door,” I tell the sikh. “Or specs here gets a guinea-pig in the mush.” I pull out a cartridge case from my backpack and rattle it menacingly, to show that there are plenty of guinea-pigs for everyone. He gets up slowly, but makes no move towards the door.
“I can’t,” he apologises.
“I can’t,” he repeats. He shrugs helplessly. “I pressed the silent alarm.”
Of course, I realise. No-one can operate the locks once the silent alarm has been pressed. A furious rage surges up through me and I turn on Lance.
“Supine position?” I scream at him. “Adopt a supine position?”
“What’s the problem?” He asks. I explain that a more succint “shock and awe” approach might have stunned the bank staff into submission before one of them could press the hidden button.
“Now we’re screwed,” I tell him. “There’s no way out, and any minute now the police are going to be outside that door with fifty guns that fire cats pointed our way.”
“Man, I told you we should have brought guns that fire dogs,” he moans. I tell him to shut up, because really – where does that lead? It just causes the whole thing to escalate, and before you know it you’re cowering in a safe while armed response units abseil down the outside of the building with rocket launchers that fire capybaras. “This isn’t helping,” he complains.
I point the gun that shoots guinea-pigs at him, and he points his gun that shoots guinea-pigs back at me. We stand there, tense. He groans.
“Now this?” He says. “This is the worst of them all! Frustrated, the two criminals turn against each other? This is bollocks, man!” He jerks, and too late I see that he isn’t firing at me, just lowering his gun. By the time I know that, though, my trigger finger is already clamped around the stock of the gun that shoots guinea-pigs, and the trigger is within it.
The guinea-pig, a tortoise-shell one with spiky hair on its head, hits Lance full in the chest. He jerks back with the impact, loses his balance, and falls to the floor. I fling the gun aside, and rush towards him. I slide to my knees, cradling his head in my lap. The guinea-pig squeals and leaps down onto the ground.
“That,” Lance wheezes with his dying breath, “was fucking adorable.”