“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way: Still working on the start

I have reworked the first part of the story with a few new elements about the characters and changed a few of the details of how the characters finish up in the shop before the policewoman makes her entrance.

This is part of the new first section that involves Jack:

Jack was staring down the barrel of a gun.

He had gone down to the corner shop to get a pack of cigarettes.

He had to hustle because he knew the shopkeeper, Alphonse, liked to close at 11:00 pm sharp.  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 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, 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 steady as a rock.  Only telltale sign of stress, the bead of perspiration on her brow.  It was 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the shop.

Jack shivered and then did as he was told. 

A few seconds more for him to decide she was in an unpredictable category.

“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 her to get some money.”

A simple hold up that had gone 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, Jack had noticed a look pass between the shopkeeper and the girl.

 “All you had to go was give us the money, and we wouldn’t be here, now.”  She was glaring back at Alphonse.  “You can still make this right.”

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.”

The girl looked like she was thinking.  The gun, though, still moved between him and the shopkeeper.

Another assessment of the girl; this was not her real home.  She was from a better class of people, a different part of town.  Caught up in a downward spiral because of her friend on the floor.

Caught in a situation she was not equipped to deal with.

That didn’t bode well for his, or anyone else in that shop right then, health.

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

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