The story starts with an act of stunning violence.
Or . . . well . . . maybe not exactly.
Maybe, exactly, the story starts when Zoe walks into the
bank--except she doesn't recognize it as a story yet. She just knows the sky has opened up in a late-autumn downpour so that she feels as though she's standing under the shower at the campground--the one that's strong and steady but has only two temperatures: cold and very cold. Zoe has never understood the point of camping. Haven't people evolved for thousands of years precisely so that they do not have to sleep on the ground, or pee and crap outdoors, or have to eat half-raw food that's been charred over a fire? But the people who run group homes for teens nobody wants to foster always seem to feel that "roughing it" is a way to Build Community Spirit. And to Bond with the Disadvantaged Youth of Our City. As though they weren't in a group home exactly because they'd had a rough time already. Zoe feels that an overnight at a Holiday Inn, hanging out in the hot tub, ordering room service, and watching on-demand movies, would make much more satisfying building and bonding experiences. Not that anybody has ever asked Zoe. So the rain starts fast and hard and just a degree or two warmer than sleet, and Zoe dashes through the first door she comes to and finds herself in a bank.
That's more a prelude than a beginning to the story: the foreword, the set-up.
Then there are the supporting characters: the snotty bank teller and the full-of-himself bank guard. As well as the one bank customer, the one who stands out from the fewer-than-a-dozen other customers--the young guy Zoe immediately pegs as an up-and-coming business exec or a junior lawyer at a prestigious law firm (the kind that does not advertise on TV). Zoe prides herself on being able to evaluate people quickly. It's been a necessity for survival. But this guy has an engaging smile and takes the time to speak kindly to her, even after she walks into him, steps on his foot, and drips rainwater on him and his expensive shoes. Lastly, and of course, there's the bank robber--although Zoe doesn't know yet that he is a bank robber.
Not much here to say story.
It doesn't really pick up speed until the robbery starts to go awry, until they're all within twenty feet of each other--even closer if you're willing to discount that one bank teller. Without her, they're really in a tight cluster: Zoe on her knees on the floor, the guard with his gun drawn and aimed at the head of the would-be robber, the would-be robber with his gun drawn and aimed at the head of the guy who was nice to Zoe.
Should I say it now? she wonders, several times, until finally, after all the shouting and gun-waving and threatening to shoot anyone and everyone, the robber's attention is firmly on someone else besides Zoe. Finally, she sees she might actually have a moment or two in which to use her special ability and get away. If only that opportunity weren't a result of the young CEO (or whatever he is) intentionally stepping between her and the robber.
Is he stupid or suicidal? Zoe asks herself.
But this is unfairly diminishing him. His eyes are blue and wide and have enough fear in them to say he knows exactly what he's done, enough defiance to declare he'd make the same choice again.
And that holds Zoe where she is.
The situation gets even worse, with more shouting, more threatening--and then there are two simultaneous shots. Or too close to simultaneous to make a difference.
Leaving Zoe spattered in the blood of both the thief and the customer she'd almost had time to grow to like. Not to mention bits of bone. And what she very fervently tries to convince herself could not possibly really be pieces of brain matter.
That's how the story starts.