Steve walked into the market. The shelves were crammed so close together that Steve had to wait for other customers to leave the aisle before he entered because there was not enough room to pass without knocking the items off the shelves that were crammed full with various items. He walked down one aisle than another before the man behind the counter, Mr. Juang, walked up behind him.
Mr. Juang said, “Can I help you find?”
Just then, two guys in ski masks bust through the door. “Oh shit, where’s the cashier?” He motions with his gun. “Get back there see if you can open the register.”
The other robber goes around the counter and tries a few buttons and things begin to ring up on the register tape. “I don’t know these old style registers.”
Steve put a finger up to his mouth miming a shush, and he grabbed Mr. Jaung by the shoulder and walked to the back of the aisle where they couldn’t be seen. He checked around his waist then took a silent breath. He had forgotten to take his gun with him when he left the office. He said, “I guess I am stuck with you.”
An elderly man came from the refrigerated section in the back. He walked quietly to the door trying not to get the attention of the robbers. But the bells on the door jingled as he tried to open it. The first robber turns and points his gun. “Get the fuck on the ground.” The old man swung open the door and ran, but the robber fired two shots.
The robber behind the counter said, “Why did you shoot?”
“Ain’t nobody getting out of here until we get out money. Check in the back. Check in the cooler. Find the attendant and shoot his ass if he doesn’t give us the money.”
Steve said, “Mr. Juang, do you have a gun in this store.”
Mr. Juang nodded his head. “Under the register.”
Steve said, “I need you to get them out of the front of the store so I can get the gun. Tell them that you have a safe in the office. Lead them into the back. Back to the storage room, whatever. But take your time fumble with the keys, whatever. I need to get to that gun.”
Mr. Juang put his hands up and started walking to the front of the store, and Steve snuck around to another aisle where he wouldn’t be seen. Mr. Juang said, “You don’t shoot.” He nearly froze in place having given up his hiding spot.
The robber by the door stepped back a step and pointed his gun down one aisle then the next. He saw Mr. Juang. “I’ll blow your brains all over this store.” The other robber came out from around the counter with his gun at the ready.
Mr. Juang said, “This my store. You don’t shoot. I give you money. You leave.”
The second robber said, “How do you open this register?”
The first robber said, “No, no, no. The safe.” He motioned Mr. Juang to him with a sweep of his gun. “You are coming out here. You are opening the safe.”
Mr. Juang came walking slowly down the aisle to meet the men. When he came into the front of the store the first robber shoved the gun in his face. “You gonna be the next person to die? I’m itching to kill some more.”
Straining to face the man who was holding the gun under his chin, Mr. Juang said, “You don’t shoot. You follow. You get money. You leave.”
The robber lowered the gun and let Mr. Juang lead them toward the hallway to the bathroom. The robber said, “You get us that money. Then we will decide when we want to leave.”
Steve walked backward slowly watching their reflections blur off the refrigerated case, and he bumped into the last bag of pork skins clipped to a plastic strip hanging from the top shelf of the aisle.
The first robber said, “Who was that? Is there someone else in here?” He hit Mr. Juang with his gun and knocked him to the floor. He turned to the second robber. “Check the aisles. Get that motherfucker. If he don’t come with you, shoot his ass.”
The second robber checked down one aisle then the next. Steve made it down to the front of the aisle and peeked hid head out to look down the next aisle. He saw the robber’s shoe come into view and Steve broke into a sprint knocking cans of tuna off the shelf. The robber launched
himself into the aisle and squeezed off a shot. The robber smashed against the shelf knocking the shelves off the rack and their contents onto the floor.
Steve stumbled and smashed against the display case beside the register shattering the glass all over the reels of lottery scratchers. He propped his hands against the counter and used both his arms and legs to get back to his feet, but he tumbled back to the floor from the pain in his right thigh. He had felt the impact in his leg but the pain didn’t come until he fully understood that he had been shot. There was blood on his leg and pooling below him on the floor. He felt woozy and could see the gray on the outsides of his vision. He scrambled along the ground, grabbed the corner of the counter and pulled, pushed along the ground with his left leg and dragged a streak of blood along with his throbbing right leg. He looked down the aisle in time to see the robber in the back of the store.
Mr. Juang was trying to get to his feet. The robber put the gun to his head and fired a shot spattering blood and bits of bone on the dingy white of the wall. Steve grabbed the far side of Mr. Juangs counter and pulled. The other robber ran out of the aisle where Steve had been shot. He fired a shot through the popcorn maker atop the counter and popcorn spilled out over steve as he pulled himself around the counter. The robber’s foot slipped in the blood on the floor. He stumbled a couple of steps and tripped over the body of the old man that had tried to run out the door. He fired another shot as he fell and smashed his head on the newspaper rack by the door.
Steve pulled himself halfway to his knees and jammed his hand into the slot under the counter. He felt around until he pulled out an old .38 revolver. He popped open the cylinder praying that Mr. Juang had actually thought to load it. Another shot rang out and wood splinters broke out of the counter under the register. Steve dropped to the floor and the bullets bounced out of the cylinder and scattered onto the floor. He could see the room darkening again. He hoped that if he had been shot again he could still function well enough to save his life.
The robber had gotten up. A big gash showed through the eyehole of his mask blood was pouring into his eye and wicking into the cotton knit of the mask. He staggered two steps forward and reached out his hand to stabilize himself against the counter. His hand slipped and his arm draped over the counter just above Steve’s head.
He scooped two of the bullets off the ground and got one into the cylinder. He could see the man’s eyes through the cracked glass of the display case. The blood smearing off the mask and the steam of breath on the glass from the black cotton knit rise over his nose. The man was dazed but still moved his other arm over the counter doing his best to aim it at Steve.
Steve slammed the cylinder shut before he could load the next bulled. He heard the spinning of the chamber. His hand must have slipped. He aimed up through the glass case, thumbed back the hammer, and pulled the trigger. The hammer slammed down on an empty chamber. He thumbed the hammer back again. The cylinder advanced one chamber. He didn’t know how many times he could pull the trigger before the robber was able to finish him off.
Two more shots rang out from the back of the store. The robber looked toward the shots. Steve pulled the trigger again on another empty chamber. He thumbed the hammer back again. The room continued to darken.