Madness at the Stop and Go

Bess glanced at her watch impatiently as she waited for Jessica, the cashier, to ring up the man's gas. Bess was desperately longing for a long, hot bath, her day had been terrible, one bad thing happening after another. Ignoring the man's obvious flirting with the cashier she looked around impatiently, folding her arms across her chest.

Bess looked down in obvious shock as something bumped into her leg. She saw a little boy staring back up at her, immediately focusing in on his dirt smudged chin.

"Sorry," he said not looking contrite in the least.

"Tony!" his mother snapped grabbing his arm and pulling him over to her roughly. "You know what I told you about running around! You need to calm down mister."

"Sorry Mama. Can I get candy, please Mama!" Erica resisted the urge to rub her temple to ease the headache. She loved all of her kids dearly but sometimes they got on her nerves. She wanted nothing more at that moment than to get home and eat dinner.

"No Tony, you wont eat your dinner if you eat now. Maybe you can get something at the airport when we pick up your sister." Her oldest, Maggie, was coming home for a short visit, one the entire family was looking forward to.

"Mama!" Tony whined as she grabbed his chin and licked her thumb, rubbing the smudge off it.

"That'll be $18.92," Jessica said accepting Michael's money and flirtatious manner with an easy smile. Jessica was exhausted, her feet hurt and she couldn't wait to get home, but she still managed a smile as easily as she had done for her first customer that morning, all the while wondering if the mother would give into her kid's plea for a candy bar. It was a small game she had taken to doing to pass the time.

"Everybody down! This is a stick up!" Carl bellowed as he and Howie pushed through the door, almost unable to shove their bodies through at the same time. The customers and cashier all looked at him, and he noticed a little kid looking at him with obvious excitement. Not one of them made a move to hit the deck as ordered. He never noticed Jessica's discreet movement as she hit the silent alarm button.

"Come on now boy, put that thing away, that's not the kind of thing you want to be wavin' around. Somebody might get hurt," Michael, the man at the counter said soothingly.

"They'll only get hurt if they don't do as I say, and I said get down, so do it!" He fired a shot at the ceiling and hit one of the fluorescent lights, which sprayed sparks and glass, flickering once before going out.

There was a short staccato scream from Tony and Erica drew him to her, partially covering him with her own body as they dropped to the floor. Bess slowly got down muttering to herself.

"Oh for God's sake, I can not believe this is happening."

"You shut up," Carl snapped, the scream having shaken him a little. He really hadn't expected a kid to be there. It was only beginning to dawn on him how serious things were. He reminded himself that he why he was doing it and pushed away his doubts. Carl would do anything for Tina, the love of his life.

"Yeah, all of you shut up. We don't want to have to listen to your whining," Howie added waving both his hands around wildly, the gun in his left.

"Howie," Carl warned, his voice just loud enough for his friend to hear. Howie forced his arms to quit moving and closed his jaw with a snap.

"You, cashier, up. Give us the money. And no funny business. If we get this done quickly we'll be on our way and no one gets hurt, see."

Jessica stood up and opened the cash register with shaking hands, swearing to herself that she was going to quit. This was the second hold up she'd been through. The last time there hadn't been anyone in the store except for her and it had ended in less then five minutes.

"Jessica, huh, that's a nice name. You sure are pretty," Howie said reading her name-tag as he walked over to lean against the counter and reached across to stroke her cheek. Jessica lent back from his hand; unable to believe the cretin was flirting with her, of all the nerve.

"Howie, knock it off and get the cash. Hurry it up Jessica." Jessica shuddered and piled the cash onto the counter, shoving it towards Howie, trying not to get too close.

"Mama," Tony whispered, trying to put on a brave front. "Are we going to be late now? I don't want to miss Maggie."

"Shh," Erica chided, giving him a reassuring squeeze. As far as she was concerned that was the least of their problems, but they had a few hours until they were supposed to be in the airport in any case. She wondered if her husband was starting to worry, they'd already been late when she'd realized she needed to stop for gas.

"You two be quiet!" Carl demanded as he tried to think. He felt like he was forgetting something.

"Come on now, he's just a little boy, you should let them go. They ain't never done you no harm," Michael said, feeling angry. One of the few rules he felt everybody should live by was to never threaten or hurt women and children. The two idiot boys were making his blood boil with their disregard for everyone's safety.

"I said shut up!" Carl screamed, his voice squeaking with anger, and he pointed his gun directly at Michael. "Shut up or I'll shoot you!" The way Carl's hand was shaking Michael doubted he could hit anything intentionally, but he didn't want to risk anyone getting hurt with a wild shot.

"Christ!" Bess swore as Howie stepped on her hand. "Get off me!" she demanded.

"Sorry," Howie muttered sullenly as he moved.

"Put the money in a bag," Carl ordered Jessica, striding over to her, purposely kicking Michael when he got close enough.

"Sure," Jessica said. "Whatever you want." She bent down but jumped back up immediately, startled by Carl's feral yell.

"Keep your hands where I can see them!" Carl yelled. "I don't want you trippin' no alarm."

"I wasn't going to, I was getting you a bag," Jessica protested.

"Find a different bag, I don't want you duckin' under that counter," Carl ordered.

"There aren't anymore bags. They're all under the counter," Jessica squeaked out, her gaze cemented on the barrel of Carl's gun.

"Jesus Christ you moron, just find a box of some sort, dump it out, put the money in there, or fill your pockets you idiot, and leave already," Bess ordered him from the floor. Carl looked down at her in obvious surprise, and was about to tell her to shut her trap when he realized that her idea made sense.

"Howie, watch them while I find something for the money."

"Can we take the girl with us Carl?" Howie asked as Carl hurried through the aisles, knowing things were taking way too long, and found a box of crackers.

"No, we aren't taking her with us. We're leaving as soon as we have the money." He tore the top off and dumped it on the floor before tossing it to Howie. Howie barely caught the box, managing to drop his gun in the process. Michael and Howie dove for the gun struggling with it, ignoring Carl's shouts. The gun fired and Howie abandoned the struggle with a scream clamping his hands on his rear.

"You shot me in the ass!" he yelled the accusation as if he were unable to believe it. "That hurt!"

"Carl, you put that gun down right now before I get mad," Michael said sounding extremely dangerous as he stood up, ignoring Howie's whimpering. Carl stood there looking stunned for a second as his mind sorted out what had just happened.

"Maybe you oughta put your gun down cowboy," Carl said pointing his gun at Erica and Tony.

"If you shoot the kid or his mother, I'll kill you," Michael said coldly, anger glinting in his eyes.

"Christ, Carl, it's the cops, the cops are here!" Howie yelled as tears ran down his face. "What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do" The red and blue lights filled the store windows and the cops slowly approached the building with immense caution.

"Shut UP Howie," Carl ordered, trying not to panic himself. Things were bad, oh God were they ever. What was he going to say to Tina? He had done this for her, but he had messed things up. He had messed things up real bad. What was he going to do?

Michael saw Bess sit up out of the corner of his eye as she scooted away from Howie and his bleeding rear. He redirected all of his attention to Carl and saw he was starting to waiver between his choices, but he couldn't figure out between what.

There was the obvious solution of giving up and putting down his gun, but the opposite end of the spectrum was full of choices. Carl could choose to shoot any one of them, including Michael, or try and run for it, abandoning Howie to the cops, pretty much anything.

Michael watched as Carl's hand tightened and he started to pull back on the trigger, but Michael fired first, the bullet slamming home into Carl's chest. Carl's shot went wild, piercing the glass door to a refrigerated section and soda spurted out everywhere. Carl staggered backwards a few steps before collapsing on the floor.

"Police!" Everyone froze and there was silence except for Tony's whimpers as he stared at Carl's dead form.