I’ve been looking at the start again, and something about it is nagging at me.
The main character needs a little work, and the start doesn’t exactly grab by the lapels of your coat.
The fact that smoking might kill him yet was, at that moment, an understatement. If he was honest, when he told Maisie he had given them up, it should have been the truth.
And if it had been, he would not be in the situation he was. A lame excuse to go down to the corner shop, had him panicking about getting there before the shop closed at 11 p.m.
His momentum propelled him through the door, causing the customer warning bell to ring loudly as the door bashed into it, and before the sound had died away, he knew he was in trouble.
It took a second, perhaps three, to sum up the situation.
A young girl, about 16 or 17, scared, looking sideways at a man on the ground, then Alphonse, and then Jack. He recognized the gun, a Luger, German, relic of WW2, perhaps the boy or her father’s souvenir, or more likely a stolen weapon, now pointing at him then Alphonse, then back to him.
Jack took another second or two to consider if he could disarm her. No, the distance was too great. He put his hands out where she could see them. No sudden movements, try to remain calm, but his heart rate up to the point of cardiac arrest. No point making a bad situation worse.
Pointing with the gun, she said, “Move closer to the counter where I can see you better.”
Everything but her hand was steady as a rock. The only telltale signs of stress, the beads of perspiration on her brow and the slight tremor of her gun hand.
It was 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the shop; almost mind-numbing.
Jack shivered and then did as he was told.
A few seconds more for him to decide she was going to be unpredictable.
“What’s wrong with your friend?” Jack tried the friendly approach after he’d taken the three steps sideways necessary to reach the counter.
The shopkeeper, Alphonse, who, Jack noted seemed to have aged another ten years in the last few months, spoke instead; “I suspect he’s an addict, looking for a score. At the end of his tether, my guess, and here to get some money for a fix.”
A simple hold up that had gone very wrong.
Wrong time, wrong place, in more ways than one Jack thought, now realizing he had walked into a very dangerous situation. She didn’t look like a user. The boy on the ground; he did, and he looked like he was going through the beginnings of withdrawal.
Oddly, though, when he first came in Jack had noticed a look pass between the shopkeeper and the girl.
Then, as the tense silence reached an almost unbearable level, she said, “All you had to do was give us the stuff, and we wouldn’t be here, now.” She was glaring back at Alphonse. “You can still make this right.”
She used the word ‘stuff’ not money. A flicker of memory jumped out of the depths on Jack’s mind, something discussed at the dinner table with their neighbors, something about the shop as a pick-up point for drugs.
The boy on the floor, he was not here for the money.
Jack thought he’d try another approach. “Look, I don’t want trouble, and you don’t want trouble. I’ll go, forget this ever happened. You might want to do the same. There’s nothing you can do for him now.”
The boy was intermittently writhing and moaning. It looked to Jack like it might be more than just withdrawal.
The girl looked at the man on the ground, at the door, and back again, like she was thinking. The gun, though, still moved between him and the shopkeeper.
Another assessment of the girl; she was completely out of place here, now. It was evident she was from a better class of people, a different part of town. Caught up in a downward spiral because of her acquaintance on the floor.
Caught in a situation she was not equipped to deal with.
© Charles Heath 2018-2020