I haven’t been able to work since that night under the bridge with Domina Death and the weird device that stole 60 years or more from me. Thanks to Vlad teaching me hand-to-hand and sword fighting skills, I’m starting to get used to being a couple inches taller and having my center of gravity suddenly moved on me. I can walk across a smooth floor and not trip over my own scaly feet, anyway. I’m beginning to get to where I don’t accidentally crush things with my far stronger left hand, too. I wear gloves all the time to hide the weirdness, but gloves in Austin in July look damn near as out of place as scales.
Vlad sent a sample of the venom that my claws create into a lab to get tested, but the weird organic chemical breaks down so fast, no one can tell what it actually does. I suppose it’s one of those dragon things I’ll have to learn the hard way. Vlad said that he’s never seen a dragon with claws that injected venom like fangs, so looks like I’m a freak even among dragons. That’s not reassuring. Not even a little.
TakeDown, who also has trouble with bright light, hooked me up with special extra-dark wraparound glasses, so sunlight doesn’t blind me. Vlad said he went through a phase where he couldn’t handle daylight, but he outgrew it. When I asked him how long that took, he said, “Just a century or two.” Peachy.
Flying is the only cool part of this whole situation. My muscles are building up to the point where I can fly higher and longer. My arms and chest constantly feel like they’ve been beaten with hammers, though, and I’ve nearly died 5 or 6 times since that first lesson. I’d hate to think how learning to fly would have gone without help from another dragon.
In any case, with no ability to work for weeks, Ma and I are starting to have some trouble paying bills. I deliberately stashed some money away in a separate account a few years back, where it’s harder to get to, so that I wouldn’t spend it except when we really needed it. I shredded the card for it, and didn’t get any checks. In order to get the money, I’ve got to physically go there and sign something. Ma said she’d take care of it, but I didn’t think ahead enough to put the money in her name, too. So, it had to be me.
I threw on some jeans and a big t-shirt, tucked my messy hair back in a ponytail and drove across town. I’ve been getting pretty lazy about my appearance lately, except at night when I practice with Vlad. When I got to the bank, the door was locked. I checked the hours posted outside the door, and I should have been right in the middle of the normal bank work day, even with their short hours. I tried to look in through the tinted glass, but just saw my own reflection. I did the only thing I could think of, I knocked. After knocking fruitlessly a few times, I knocked harder.
The glass door shattered rather spectacularly.
A slender middle-aged lady in a tailored business suit with a tiger-striped neck scarf stood blocking my path.
“Sorry about the door, maam,” I said. “Look, I’ll pay for a replacement, um, eventually. How much does a door like that cost anyway?”
She pointed at a sign that said something about removing glasses, hats and such, before entering.
There were big windows everywhere, though. Even inside, the sun was more than enough to blind me. “I’ve got a … a medical problem with my eyes.” I adjusted the glasses self-consciously.
The woman’s lips pursed into a tight little wrinkled raspberry. “I suppose you have a medical problem with your hands, as well.”
“Actually, yes, I do.”
The woman rolled her eyes, in a ‘yeah, right’ kind of way. “You might as well go rob a different bank. We’ve already called the police. They’ll be here any minute.”
I rubbed the bridge of my nose. Even with the glasses on, being out in daylight was giving me one heck of a pain, but I needed the money in my account here to pay rent. “Look, lady. I don’t care if you called the national guard. Get out of my way.”
There were only a few people in this tiny bank branch, one guy working the outside drive-through lanes in the back who had stopped talking into the little microphone and stared at me. One person stood behind the counter, a teller, no doubt, and the tiger-striped scarf lady, probably some sort of manager, stood aside with her arms crossed and every inch of her screaming, “You’re going to get it later,” as she let me in.
I walked up to the girl behind the counter, whose eyes showed white all around like a spooked horse. She didn’t look any older than I did. She had her brown hair up in a bun to try to look older. “Hello, miss. I’d like to make a withdrawal,” I said politely, with a friendly smile to reassure her.
She opened the cash drawer and started laying bundles of money on the counter.
“Um, hang on a second. I didn’t even tell you how much I need. And shouldn’t I have to fill out a form or something?”
“Please, just take it and go. I don’t want any trouble.”
The money, all laid out on the counter like that, looked really tempting. I’ve never seen that much money in one place in my life. Sure wouldn’t have to worry about the rent for a while with that kind of cash. But I’ve never stolen anything in my life; well, not since that candy bar when I was seven that made me so sick I thought I was going to puke up my toenails. My dad was furious. Kept going on about family honor and such.
I, very gently, put my left hand on the teller’s wrist to stop her. “Maam, I think you’re misunderstanding me. I have an account. I don’t remember the account number but, the name is um …” What the heck name did I put it under? I created this account like 20 years ago. “Diane Drake, I think. Or, maybe Damson Endriago.” I’d grabbed all my old ID’s before I left the apartment. I lifted my long t-shirt and stuck my right hand in the pocket of my jeans to find the right one, but the minute I stuck my hand in a pocket, everyone went nuts.
The teller squeaked like a stepped on mouse, yanked her wrist loose of my light grip, and ducked behind the counter. The guy working the drive-through lanes was just gone. Don’t know where the heck he went.
Miss tiger-striped scarf jumped on me, like she thought she was doing a flying tackle. Now that my center of balance isn’t so wonky, I’m not all that easy to knock over. I just stood there while she tried. After a few seconds she gave up.
“Are you finished?” I asked.
She looked up at me from the less than lofty height of her sensible heels, and I thought she might bite me.
About that time, 3 guys wearing dark wraparound sunglasses, ball caps, and gloves walked in through the broken glass door.
They walked right under the “Take off your hat and glasses” sign and drew pistols from their waistbands, under their long t-shirts.
I began to see the light. Figuratively speaking anyway.
I picked up the tiger-striped scarf manager lady bodily and dropped her behind the counter next to the trembling teller. “Stay down,” I told them.
There we go. All non-bullet-resistant folks out of harm’s way.
I turned to face the bank robbers and smiled.
“Hey!” the biggest guy said. “We’re robbing this bank!”
“I don’t think so,” I said.
He pointed his gun at me. His two buddies followed suit.
I raised my left arm to protect my head and charged into them. I’d love to say I used all that great martial arts stuff that Vlad taught me, but pretty much I used the subtlety of a bowling ball hitting pins. Some gunshots went off, but ricocheted off my scales. One of the robbers yelped as a ricochet got him in the thigh.
I inelegantly, but gently, punched the other two. They went down after one careful punch each.
I was feeling pretty good about myself as the three police cars pulled up, lights flashing, but sirens silent.
Cops poured out and pointed guns at me through the broken doorway.
I raised my hands and smiled. “Hi, guys. Good timing. These boys are ready to go to jail.”
Miss tiger-striped scarf came up from behind the counter spitting venom. “Put those scum away. That woman assaulted me. She’s the leader of this gang and this is the third branch of our bank they’ve robbed this year.”
“Hey, wait a minute. I didn’t assault or rob anyone.” I looked at the two unconscious guys at my feet, and one guy bleeding from a bullet wound in his thigh. “Well, not anyone who wasn’t shooting at me anyway.”
The cops decided to believe the bank manager in the tailored suit, rather than the scruffy-looking woman in dark glasses and gloves. Go figure.
No one much wanted to hear anything I had to say after that. I went to jail in handcuffs I had to be careful not to accidentally break.
On the way over, I asked the cops if they could contact Officer Flynn or TakeDown, that they knew me, but the cops acted like they’d been struck deaf.
They took away my glasses, so I was blind for a fair amount of the process. They weren’t very happy about the lack of fingerprints on my scaly left hand either. I got locked in a special cell for supes that I doubt even Fafnir could have gotten out of. And left there, for a long time. At least they were nice enough to turn the light off for me.
Jails suck, by the way. Just in case you were lucky enough not to know that.