Jake Morel couldn’t figure out precisely when it had all gone to shit. The shooting had only started a minute or two ago, but he had the sneaking suspicion it had really started when he allowed his son’s idiot friend along on the job. What the hell kind of a name was Stang, anyway?
But now if the asshole around the corner was to be believed, both Matt and Stang were dead, and Morel didn’t even have time to grieve his son because they were cornered in the vault and Lee was bleeding all over the money and the cops were surely on the way by now. They should have been done and gone already, but instead Morel was listening to this nutjob talk about being a superhero. With the power of math, yet. Jesus wept.
Soames stood on the other side of the doorway, rubbing at the sore spot on his chest where he’d taken a couple of rounds. Morel snapped his fingers to get his attention, then mimed the two of them going out simultaneously while Lee provided covering fire from behind the steel cart they’d turned on its side. Soames nodded and gripped his shotgun; Lee nodded as well, though he was looking decidedly pale. Morel held up five fingers and barked a harsh laugh. “What the hell kind of superpower is math?”
Morel tucked in his thumb to make four. He’d get the asshole talking and hit him while he was distracted. Three. Soames leaned forward, ready to go. T...
A shot rang out from the hallway, ricochets zinged off the wall, and Soames clapped a hand to his throat.
“Well, there’s geometry, for starters,” said the voice.
Soames coughed, and blood spurted from between his fingers. He wheezed and stumbled back against the wall. Lee looked panicked. Morel was mad. “What kind of asshole shoots a guy in the throat?”
“I was aiming for his head,” said the voice. “You try double-bouncing a head shot around a corner based on a shadow on the floor. Not as easy as it sounds. But if geometry’s too fancy for you, what about simple addition and subtraction? For instance, every bullet I add…”
Morel flinched as a flurry of shots clanged against the steel cart Lee huddled behind. The racket was incredible, though ultimately pointless. It would take armor-piercing rounds to get through metal that thick. Then just as suddenly, the shots stopped. Soames was still wheezing, though the sounds were getting weak.
“Subtracts from your defense,” the voice finished, followed by one more shot.
Lee grunted and pitched forward. Morel couldn’t believe his eyes. Something had apparently burst through the cart, the metal bent aside in little flaps like the petals of a tiny steel flower.
Lee sat back up, turned around and goggled at the hole in the cart. He tilted his head to look through the hole. “My God, Jake, he shot right through the…”
Another shot took part of Lee’s face off.
Morel suddenly found it hard to breathe. Light glinted off tiny striations in those metal petals where the bullet had burst through the cart. Whoever this guy was, he had shot through the cart by shooting it in exactly the same spot over and over. And then shot through the hole he’d made, like it was nothing! Who was this guy?
“Okay, you win!” Morel said, a little ashamed at the way his voice cracked. “You don’t have to show off any more. I give up.”
“I haven’t even started to show off yet,” the voice said, “and surrender is not an option.”
“But you said…”
“I lied,” the voice interrupted. “I have a daughter, works at this bank. She doesn’t like me much. Never calls me, can barely stand to be in the same room with me. Right before you came in, she told me she wishes she had someone else for a father. It hurts, to know your child hates you like that. But even then, nobody puts a gun to my little girl’s head and lives. You understand?”
Morel leaned forward. “Are you crazy? You can’t just…”
“I can do whatever I want,” the voice said. “Hey look! It’s Groundhog Day!”
Morel saw something move out of the corner of his eye. He had leaned forward far enough that the flourescents in the ceiling were casting his shadow onto the floor. He flinched back just as the shot sounded, zing-zing! and something tore into the wall mere inches from his face, flinging debris into his eye. He stumbled back into the corner, trying not to rub his eye too hard and scratch the cornea.
“Missed me, you son of a bitch!” Morel screamed. He cast frantic glances at Lee, at Soames, neither of whom were moving. He squatted down on his haunches, leaning back against the wall to avoid another lucky bounce shot. “You lose! Sooner or later the cops will come and take me into custody and you can’t do a damn thing about it. You can’t bounce me without a shadow, and if you try to come in here after me, I’ll kill you, I swear to God!”
“God is gone,” the voice said. “Banished. And I haven’t lost anything.”
“Well, you can’t kill me from out there!” Morel said, hating how desperate he sounded. “And you sure as hell can’t math your way in here!”
“I didn’t say my power was math,” the voice said. “I said, I speak the language of God, by which the universe was made, and by which it can be unmade. You want to see showing off?”
The voice stopped speaking and started muttering. Morel couldn’t make anything intelligible out of it over the ringing in his ears, although to be truthful, the few syllables he did hear clearly, he couldn’t understand. His mind seemed to slide right off them, like greased glass.
And then suddenly, there was no wall behind him. He pitched over backward, landed on his back in the hallway looking up at an expanding hole in the wall, as if the steel of the vault were simply unraveling. He looked up and saw a grim-faced man standing over him. Morel’s pistol was still in his hand, but everything was moving so slowly. Looking into the barrel of the grim-faced man’s pistol, Morel knew he wouldn’t get his own brought to bear in time. The world disappeared in the light of the big bang.