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The Sphinx: A Re-Imagining of an Edgar Allan Poe Classic

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Garcia and I shouldn't have been so naive. A small town bank seemed to be such an easy hit. We would put on our masks, draw our pistols, and rush the tellers at the bank. It would be an easy score. A small town bank in butt-fuck rural Missouri would be nothing. The only police enforcement was twenty miles away, and their part in the methamphetamine trade was more corrupt than the low lives that you saw picking scabs off their arms and foreheads, while they tried to wash your windows at every stop light.

I will admit that I organized the entire heist. Look at these people! How could this not go down as a simple bank robbery? The only security was an old woman who had obviously been working for the bank for decades. She didn't even carry a gun! The tellers working that day where under paid and were not about to give up their lives to make sure that the quota was made for the third quarter. Of all things, the manager of the bank had no idea what was going on outside of her office anyway.

I only watched this bank for a week. It was easy to scout out the procedures of the men in their armored trucks as they serviced the ATM. Every Wednesday was the same situation. Approximately, at four-thirty the truck would pull up in front of the main entrance of the bank. An argument would always ensue as to which of the old timers would have to leave the comfort of the air-conditioned truck to balance the ATM and extract the largest of bills from the meager branch of the bank. Every week the argument would resolve its self between the driver of the truck and the security officer. Every week it was the same fucking thing.

I am not an idiot. Robbing a bank has to be the dumbest thing that a criminal can do. The amount of security surrounding a federal institution is astounding, but every year I get a few requests from has-been-robbers, small time thugs, or the occasional group of transients that want to knock over a bank.

These groups of people pay me to watch every worker coming in and out of the bank as well as every delivery truck, armored guard, and law enforcement that might be within the vicinity of the area. I pay attention to the bank for six months and give them my report. They pay me my money up front before they try their hand at robbing a federal business, and I go home happy. Easy money.

The problem started when I got greedy. Isn't that how most problems start? I don't care if you own a goat farm that is making millions of dollars a year, or if you run a small bird watching business out of your home, greed can ruin the best of men. Temptation is a bitch.

I got a call from some potheads in northern Missouri. The dazed couple was watching a bank for a few weeks, and decided that my expertise was in order. I agreed to meet them at an undisclosed location. I gave them advise on the potential outcomes of robbing a bank and they assured me that their plan was fool proof. I agreed to watch the bank for a couple weeks and give them my findings. The couple paid me my fee in a combination of cash, weed, and a fast food coupon for a free frozen treat. This was a little puzzling to me. I have been paid in drugs, sexual favors, and two party checks before, hell, I even take credit cards, but a fucking coupon for a soft serve ice cream treat? I will admit this intrigued me. I have a reputation as being a no-nonsense type of person and if you fuck with me, my family, or my money, you will end up dead. When these two potheads offered me a goddamn coupon, I had to laugh.

My first few hours of casing the bank (and enjoying my ice cream treat) I noticed that the burnouts where correct. This bank was a joke. No security, everyone that worked there must have been at least seventy years of age, and the vault was wide open. I have heard that the mid-west is trusting, but holy shit. This is ridiculous!

The next few days I spent graphing out simple charts as to the whereabouts and patterns of the staff, as well as the coming and goings of armored trucks. Such a simple bank to rob. The top cash payout might be only a hundred thousand dollars, but that isn't too shabby for such a low risk job.

Against all of my better judgment, I decided to keep this particular bank job for my team and myself. This wasn't the first time I double-crossed a client, but I knew the two potheads couldn't do anything about it. Besides, I am an honorable man; I would pay them back every penny they paid me, including the coupon.

Everything went smooth the morning of the robbery. The tellers opened the bank at the normal time as the ancient security officer made her rounds. Garcia was behind the wheel as usual while Jenny and I sat in the back seat going over the plan once more.

Jenny had a bad habit of smoking meth before a big job. She said it cleared her mind and steadied her nerves. On this particular occasion, Garcia decided to smoke a little too. Personally, I never touched the stuff. I have seen it ruin the lives of the most intelligent person. Don't get me wrong, I like to drink and smoke a little pot occasionally, but I like to have a clear head when performing an important task.

At 8:30 a.m, Garcia pulled the car around to the front of the bank. Jenny and I put on our Minnie and Mickey Mouse masks (ironically, I wore Minnie) and loaded our guns. We entered the bank through the double glass doors and both shouted for the tellers to get on the floor. Jenny grabbed the bank manager out of her office as I knocked the elderly security guard out with the butt of my gun. Jenny led the manager into the vault while I went behind the counter to collect the money out of the tills. Everything was going smoothly until Garcia sent me a text message. The message on my disposable phone stated that the two potheads that were originally meant to rob this bank were armed and on their way in. I called out to Jenny that trouble was on the way. Jenny forced the tellers into the vault with their manager and closed the massive door. As soon as the vault slammed shut the two pot heads broke through the front doors of the bank and started shouting. To their surprise, the bank was empty. Jenny and I were hiding behind the counter as the befuddled crooks argued amongst themselves.

Our plan was to stand up at the same time and open fire. I was going to shoot the taller man while Jenny shot the little one. Bang, bang dead. As we stood up Jenny's shot was right on the mark. Her bullet struck the short man above his right eye, dropping him instantly. My shot, however, caught the taller pothead in the shoulder. The impact spun him around and he dropped to one knee. He raised his sawed-off shotgun and fired. The spray of buckshot caught my left arm. Jenny didn't fare so well. She took the majority of the shot in her throat. Her eyes met mine in disbelief. She grabbed her neck as she fell backwards, staring at me the whole way down. I fired off three quick rounds at the murderer, two of which struck him in the forehead, and the other in the mouth, painting the wall behind him in blood and brains. The tall man was taken care of but the damage was done.

I knelt down next to Jenny as she tried to talk. All I could hear was and unintelligible gargle and the screams coming from the employees locked in the vault. I knew her time had come. I kissed her cheek and raised my gun to her temple. In the split second of the flash from my handgun, I remembered Jenny's first job with me. She was an awkward teenager trying to get out of prostitution and wouldn't take no for an answer. I finally caved and set her up as a look out for an Armenian drug deal I expected to go wrong. She reported back to me like a seasoned professional. She will be missed, but in this line of work you have to have a short memory.

As I left the bank with my duffel bag full of money, I could hear sirens in the distance. I threw the money in the back seat of Garcia's car and took one last look at the bank, the final resting spot of our friend Jenny.

On the way to the cabin that overlooked the Ozark Mountains, I explained to Garcia what had happened. He was understandable upset and took a few more hits of meth in her memory. I lit a joint and stared out the car window, taking long slow hits of the primo weed.

After four hours of driving, we finally made it to the cabin that overlooked a tributary of Table Rock Lake. It truly was a beautiful place. The cabin consisted of two small bedrooms, a medium sized kitchen, and a grand living room. The décor was typical country rustic with a stuffed elk head over the fireplace. The south wall of the living room was made up of a pair of floor to ceiling windows that gave way to a great view of the rolling mountains.

I threw the duffel bag of money on the couch and went into the kitchen to preheat the oven so I could make a frozen pizza. Normally we cook an Italian feast after a job, but with Garcia high on meth, I knew I would be eating alone.

Garcia sat in the living room staring out of the double windows. The few times he got high on meth he didn't want to be sociable. He would just sit there and stare out of the window, rocking back and forth. This time was no different.

While the pizza was cooking, I sat down in the living room and turned on the TV to see if there was anything on the news about us. Of course, there was. A mousy looking Asian woman was reporting in front of our bank. The police said that the murders were most likely caused by a conflict between the suspects. They also stated that only one surveillance camera worked. It caught the top right corner of what appeared to be a Minnie Mouse mask. I smiled and looked over to Garcia. He was still in a meth-induced trance staring out the window.

When the pizza was done, I put four pieces on a plate and brought it into the living room. I asked Garcia if he wanted any. He shook his head in silence and continued looking off into nowhere. I shrugged and opened a beer.

After the tasteless pizza, I must have fallen asleep in front of the TV. I was awoken by a deep gasp that came from Garcia. I looked at him, his complexion was pale, and he stopped rocking in his seat.

“Are you alright over there little Buddy?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Garcia said like he was out of breath, “This meth has me all fucked up. I think I am seeing shit.”

“What do you think you saw?”

“Don't worry about it,” Garcia snapped.

I laughed to myself and put my feet on the coffee table.

I started to doze off again when Garcia made another gasp. That meth must have been damn good, I thought.

“I am seeing some disturbing shit over here man.” Garcia started to chew on his thumbnail. “There is something climbing down that mountain. Something fucking huge.”

I stood up and looked out of the window. I saw nothing but mountains and a beautiful sunset.

“John, I swear to god there is something climbing down the side of that mountain. I know it isn't the meth fucking with me. I haven't taken a hit in hours.” Garcia's thumb started to bleed from the constant chewing. He didn't notice. “It must have a dozen eyes as big as a T.V. satellite dish. Its legs are taller than the pine trees on the mountainside, but as thick as a telephone pole. I'm starting to freak out. Do you see this shit?”

I didn't respond. I got off the couch and walked over to him. I looked out the window and saw nothing but the mountains and the setting sun. I noticed that Garcia's thumb was bleeding even more. I put my right hand on his shoulder to try to calm him down. I used my left hand to remove his thumb away from his face before he gnawed it off. His demeanor was like a stone. He hadn't budged in ten minutes.

“I don't see anything,” I said to Garcia, “We should go outside and smoke a cigarette. Maybe head down to the lake and get some fresh air.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? I'm not going out there with that monster coming down the mountain. Fuck you, man! Fuck you! I think that weed you smoked must have made you blind!”

Garcia never turned his head away from the window. Beads of sweat began to run down his forehead and his complexion seemed to get even paler.

“Its body, it’s huge and hairy. It looks almost as if it is out of focus. I guess that could be the sweat running into my eyes though. Man, it has pincers the size of swords. This thing is fucking viscous man. What the fuck are we going to do?”

Garcia started to shake.

“Hey buddy,” I said, “Do you want another hit off of your pipe? Maybe it’ll get your blood flowing to your head again?”

“I don't want any of your pot man.”

“I was talking about Jenny's pipe. It's still in the car. A little meth to the brain might help.”

“Yeah, yeah that sounds good.” Garcia still refused to move a millimeter. “Dude, seriously, be careful out there. If that thing sees you, this whole area will be a disaster zone.”

I made another quick look out of the window to see if I could see the elusive monster. Still nothing.

I lit the other half of my joint as I walked to the car. I grabbed the crack pipe out of the front seat and put it in my pocket. I sat down on the hood of Garcia's car and admired the scenery. I had a clear view of the mountainside and still saw nothing out of the ordinary. I don't know if he needs anymore methamphetamine. I rubbed my eyes and thought about the day. A bank robbery, three murders, and one of those was little Jenny. The blood was flowing out of her throat like an open spigot. I could still see her eyes looking into mine, wanting an explanation or directions on what to do. Now I have a tweaked-out driver that thinks there is a giant monster making its way down the mountain. Fuck me.

I went back inside to find Garcia sweating profusely and shaking uncontrollably. His jet-black hair was matted down to his scalp.

“Hey, Garcia. You want to hit this pipe?”

“Nom I nok. Nom eh nok,” Garcia slurred, “Piz motte at ill?”

As I got closer to him, I saw that he had started drooling from the left side of his face, and his left arm was slack. His eyes rolled back in their sockets and he fell out of his chair. He stared shaking like a salmon that jumped out of the water and on to the shore. He made a fist out of his right hand and furiously beat his chest. I watched with great regret as my long time getaway driver and good friend died of a heart attack on the floor of my cabin. What was I supposed to do? Call the police? Call an ambulance? I don't think so. I know we are four hours away from the location of our hold up, but fuck that!

I knelt down next to him, just like I did with Jenny earlier in the day, and kissed his cheek. His dead eyes and dilated pupils seemed to stare through me before I closed them. I put a blanket over his corpse while I thought of a place to bury him.

I stepped over his body and sat down in the chair he previously occupied. I leaned back and looked out the window. What the fuck was he seeing? I sat for a moment before I leaned forward and put my elbows on my thighs. Finally, I saw something out of the infamous window! It was blurry but something was definitely there. I leaned back a little. My eyes almost crossed trying to focus on the monster. A spider, no bigger than a pencil eraser, was hanging on his thin strand of silk directly in my line of sight.



Written by J.A. Homer 
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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