I checked my gun again and pushed open the door that had its own unique bell attached to it. It rang innocently. I made my way to the magazines, whilst checking every aisle of the little shop for this person who had left their engine running. I couldn’t see them. I could only see the shopkeeper standing behind the counter. A small man, he looked like an old Thai boxer. He looked a bit odd, just standing there, still, looking straight ahead. I thought he might have been half-asleep seeing as it was so late, but as I focused in on his face, his eyes were looking directly into mine. And they were wide. Wider than they should have been. His mouth looked tense, like he was under some sort of threat and hoping I could be his salvation. He had the familiar look of fear that I had seen in shopkeepers’ faces over recent weeks.
Did he know me? Had he seen me on the news? But how could he recognise me? My facial coverings would surely be concealing me well enough from this distance, and the car outside – I had never used before.
I bent down to pick up a magazine, whilst touching my back with my other hand, just as if I had an itch. I flicked through the pages, shifting my eyes over to this shopkeeper, who seemed to have his own eyes even wider now.
“Hello, sir,” he said, with an alarming shudder that he seemed to have been holding in. “Would you like any assistance this evening?”
“Just come in for a drink, thank you,” I said, realising I was flicking through magazines, “…and perhaps something to read.”
He may have had me now. If he knew it was me, then he may have already hit his security switch, if he had one. He probably did. I heard shopkeepers had recently had them fitted to their uniforms, on their belts or something, so the call to the police would go even more unnoticed. I wasn’t sure if that was just propaganda to keep us robbers at bay.
I kept the magazine I’d been flicking through and touched my lower back again. I moved across to the fridge, and felt so nervous I thought I might bolt.
“No one else in, then?” I asked, needing to know about the other car. “What about the other car over there – that yours?”
The shopkeeper winced as I approached. He didn’t answer, he just sort of grimaced like he was anticipating something unpleasant. I was sure then the game was up. I dropped my two items and turned to bolt for the door.
“Freeze!” came a roar from behind me, as I turned back to see two masked men, each with guns, standing either side of the shopkeeper.
“Shit,” I thought, as I realised the predicament I was in.
One – the bigger one – had his gun pointing to the shopkeeper’s head, holding it with two hands, with the gun a few fingers from the quivering man’s temple. The shopkeeper had his hands up and eyes closed, with his back up against the rows of cigarettes behind him.
The other, the shorter, skinnier one, was pointing his gun right at my eyes, glaring at me from just behind it.
“Get on the ground,” said the skinny one.
“Get on that ground!” he yelled. I slowly got to my knees, reached down to the floor, and crawled with my hands until I was flat.
“Hands on head!” he called. My hands slipped into my hair.
The police would be here soon, if this shop did have a silent alarm. The police would probably take ten minutes to reach this place, and I had been in there now for about three and a half.
“Face right down to the floor!”
He walked over with menacing footsteps, and kicked where my face had been looking forward, so that it now looked down to kiss the cold, hard, sterilised floor.
“Right, now don’t move!” came the next call.
A strange feeling came over me at that moment. I was off the hook. I had no robbing to do that night. My job had been stolen from me! My biggest fear was incarceration, and I knew that tonight it could be safely avoided.
Then I began to think of the police. If they arrived while I were still here, if they looked close enough at my face that had been caught on camera once before, if they happened to search me thereafter and discover me carrying a weapon, and notice the strange way my car had been parked…oh god! Perhaps tonight I would meet my incarceration!
I had to do something. My jittery nerves were now replaced by a desperate and absolute need to escape quickly. I chanced that they were not still looking at me, since I could hear them behind the counter. I moved my face just enough to see them with my eyes strained forwards, looking almost out of my forehead. These two were real amateurs. They couldn’t even get the till open, and were trying to get the man to open it. The shopkeeper looked terrified, and was playing the fool, sometimes speaking some foreign language as if he could not quite understand what these two buffoons were trying to tell him. But he was buying his time. He knew every second counted. If he could save or delay them by just one extra second, that could be the difference between an escape and an arrest.
“Let’s just tear it out!” cried the big one, who wrapped his massive arms around the till, and was trying to yank it out from the counter. But it was bolted down. I suspected this man had been robbed before, and was perhaps not as innocent as he looked.
I slowly began to worm myself backwards towards the other end of the shop, each tiny wiggle taking me closer towards the door.
The two idiots began to argue. They hadn’t a clue what to do. The shopkeeper was crying after just being hit round the head with a handle of one of their guns.
Then the skinny robber did something stupid. As he was trying to type in the code on the till, he put down his gun, just next to it. Then he was using both hands, all fingers free to dance on the keypad at random. As he became frustrated and hit the till with the meat of his clenched fist, and while the bigger one became distracted by the numbers, the little shopkeeper darted his hand next to the till, and snatched the gun away.
“Click Click” went the sound as the shopkeeper, who seemed used to handling a firearm, pulled the trigger twice, once at each of the robbers’ chests. The chambers were empty. The smaller robber swung a fist at him but the shopkeeper countered and struck back. The other robber, the big one, charged at them both, throwing his gun off to the side. I sprang up and grabbed the weapon landing near me. It was empty as well.
I ran outside to check for police sirens, or the sight of any lights on the road nearby. There was silence, all but for the furora now taking place by the counter. I began to make my way back to my car, not taking any more chances tonight.
Whilst walking quickly, I turned around briefly to see what was happening inside the shop. The skinny one was nowhere to be seen, until I noticed him laid out on the floor next to the glass wall, with blood coming out of his eye. The big one was moving in to grab hold of the shopkeeper, who suddenly threw out a punch so fast I only saw the big one’s head snap back, and his body freeze as he keeled over to hit the ground. I was near my car, about to get in, when I heard the shop door ring open behind me, and as I opened my door and went to get in the seat, I turned my head to see the shopkeeper sprinting towards me. I shut my door and turned on my engine. I placed my hand on the gearstick and at that moment, the shopkeeper opened my door and dragged me out by the scruff of my neck, and threw me to the ground. He got on top of me, trapping my arms underneath his legs.