The police want to take some details so they shepherd Richard into a restaurant across the street. Meanwhile, paramedics, police and press work through dusty survivors, all against a backdrop of a hole in a wall where the Sauchiehall Street branch of the Clydesdale Bank used to be.
A sweaty, overweight PC sits at Richard's table and consults a clipboard. "Your name, sir?"
"How are you?"
A simple question but he can only be sure of one thing. "Alive."
The policeman contemplates this and swaps clipboard for notepad. "Why don't you start at the beginning?"
Richard explains how he was in the bank to get change bags. A lunchtime queue made him consider coming back another day but Debbie, his girlfriend, had been going mental about his towers of change that clutter the flat so he stayed put. He'd moved forward a few places when four men with balaclavas and automatic rifles burst in. Everyone did as they were told and lay on the floor with their hands on their heads. Two robbers blocked the exit while the other two did whatever it is bank robbers do on the other side of the counter. At some point an alarm went off and then the police arrived. The robbers were panicking and then the entire front wall of the bank collapsed. That was when the shooting started. That was when people got hurt.
"And this wall caving in," the policeman says, "that was Ultraman arriving?"
"Caused a bit of damage, I suppose?"
Richard cocks his head towards what's left of the bank. The PC scribbles in his pad.
"Please, sir. Continue."
"So at that point, all the customers were still on the ground. Some were bleeding from the flying bricks and glass. The robbers didn't seem to care where they fired but mostly they were shooting at Ultraman. Of course, he just did that thing where he stands in his yellow suit, hands on his hips, laughing that laugh of his. You know the one. The incredulous one."
The policeman smiles. “Indeed I do, sir.”
“So then Ultraman used his plasma bubble to hold the robbers in place, said something smart about freezing their accounts and then finished them off with one of his gamma shocks.”
“Textbook takedown. Absolute textbook. Anything else, sir?"
What Richard chooses not to mention is that during the violence he kept his eyes clamped shut and prayed. When the noise settled and he opened them again, a dotted line of bullets stretched to a point less than a foot away from his face, suspended by the gravitational pull of the same plasma bubble that held a snarling, firing armed robber.
“The end,” Richard says.
She's on all fours and bored so while the thrusts nudge her towards the head of the bed, Debbie's attention wanders to a voice in the living room. She knows it's not Richard. Richard's at work. Because she's bored, she starts picking out the odd word until she realises she's listening to the afternoon news. She hears the words "Clydesdale Bank". Her curiosity bristles into a shiver and she quickly replays the argument she had with Richard before he left this morning, the one about the change.
The words "Sauchiehall Street" and "Ultraman" upgrade the shiver into a chill and she remembers Richard's promise. It's a promise he's given countless times and always broken, but what if today was the day he was finally good to his word?
He's panting behind her -- the guy she meets at the deli on Tuesdays -- and it urges her to pretend to be an interested participant. When she moans in reply, it doesn't come out right but he must read it that he's hitting the right spot and finds another gear.
"Armed robbery," she picks up next. Something else. Then, "Office workers on their lunch."
Pebbles tumble in her gut. A rock forms in her throat. She tells herself he'll have forgotten, like he always forgets. He'll claim he had a meeting and he'll go tomorrow instead. But he plays five-a-side with the boys on Wednesday lunchtimes. It'll have to be Thursday,. Although, wait a minute -- doesn't the bank close early on a Thursday? In-house training or something? It'll keep to Friday. Or next week. There's no rush.
And in the meantime, the problem that's masking the other problems stares her in the face. With her cheek on the pillow, she watches a towers of coins on his bedside table, a metallic termite nest, rocking with the thrusts that knock the headboard onto the bedroom wall.
"Initial reports suggest," is what she hears beneath the noisy ecstasy crashing into her. She clenches her eyes, focuses on the living room, on the TV, on the man with the fancy suit, garish tie and fake tan who always seems a little cockeyed. She pictures him so clearly, sees his lips form the words and suddenly everything else is background. It's only on a very subtle level that she hears the deli guy explode and a key scratch at the front door and the tower of coins clatter to the floor because all of that is buried below the booming words from the newsreader as he tells her no members of the public were seriously injured.
As soon as Ultraman's yellow streak flashes across the sky and a sonic boom shakes the clouds, the office drones abandon their workstations to press themselves against the window where they watch in awe.
Libby sneaks back to her desk, the one beside Richard's, and checks the Scotland section of the BBC News site, keen to be the one to feed the others with the next packet of data. Minutes pass before a breaking story appears. Ultraman foils armed robbery in Glasgow bank, the ticker says. When she shouts this across the office, the others coo and jostle for a better view.
It's a pleasant change to see people excited, Libby thinks. Since she overheard Mr Sunderland chat with his fellow directors about unfulfilled backorders and letting some people go, and since she related this to a few select colleagues, the office has been on eggshells, waiting on redundancy notices to work through the internal mail. So it's nice, she thinks, that people can put that to the back of their minds.
The BBC site refreshes with an image to accompany the ticker. It takes her a while to recognise Sauchiehall Street amongst the rubble and then she spots the Clydesdale Bank logo lying at an odd angle in the road. She can't make out faces but there are lots of open-necked shirts and loose ties -- office types -- pictured emerging from a building that's lost a wall.
She knew Richard was going to a bank at lunchtime. She even knew why. He's what Libby calls a collector. He keeps a stack of empty plastic coffee cups, a six foot string of paperclips, a clutch of pens without their tops, all across his desk. Unopened Christmas cards from last year -- cards he couldn't be bothered to return -- lean against his base unit. The idea that he's incapable of putting his change in a piggy bank isn't an alien notion.
The more she looks at the image, the more convinced she becomes that she sees him. She flicks onto the company intranet page and checks the directory for his mobile number. Typically, he's been too lazy to fill out that field. She considers asking one of his football buddies but that would give the game away and she wants the scoop.
Would anyone care if she took a look in his drawers? And if they did, doesn't she have best intentions in the vicinity of her heart? After all, she might find a wallet with some contact details. Or something else to gossip about.
The drawers slide open with a dull toast of glass clinking together. Buried beneath scrap paper, she finds another collection; three empty vodka bottles, a soon to be empty fourth. Her mouth drops in a gasp just as she gets a sense of someone standing over her. When she sees strip lights reflected in the shine of expensive shoes and recognises the luxurious fabric in the trousers, she knows she won't be looking up at Richard. She wonders what Mr Sunderland is going to say about all this.
For Ultraman, there is black and white. The city is grey enough without him adding any unnecessary complications in between. Life is best when it’s kept simple. Consequences and chains are for other people. When he leaves the bank and takes to the skies, he recalls the mantra that reminds him to put on that yellow suit and do the job the city needs him to do, each and every day: The little guy stands tall. The good guy always wins.
Gavin Broom used to live and write in Stirling, Scotland. He now lives and writes in Michigan, USA. His poetry and fiction has appeared over fifty times online and in print. He edits fiction for The Waterhouse Review.