“The money or your life,” he said. It was a foolproof sales pitch—especially with an M1911 in his hand.
The liquor store owner eyed the gun with the patience of a saint. There was a name tag on the collar of his navy cardigan—‘Frank’, it said. Frank raised his hands half-hearted and cocked his head to the side. “You got terrible timing,” he said.
“Shut up,” the robber said, “Empty the fucking register now.” He thrust the pistol forward. Frank didn’t flinch.
“Ain’t a dime in there,” Frank said, “My wife is out at the bank with all of it.”
The robber reached over the counter standing between Frank and his threats. He had a trouble aiming with one hand and slapping the buttons of the register blindly with the other, so Frank reached over to assist.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” he asked and backed away, steadying his aim.
“Showing you I ain’t a liar,” Frank said. The cash register let out a ‘ding’ and opened to reveal nothing.
The robber made a face like he was swallowing a softball. “Fine,” he said, “Then you take me to your old lady. We’ll catch her before the money’s deposited.”
“No need,” Frank said.
Frank pointed over the robber’s shoulder. “She’s already back,” he said.
“Bullshi…” Frank’s wife cut him off with the butt of a rifle to the back of his head—her way of saying ‘hello’.
It was hot—Africa hot—and the robber came to with what felt like knives in his head. The words he tried to say were muted by the gag in his mouth. He was seated, hunched over on a dirt floor with his hands bound behind him.
“Patrick J. Spillane,” Frank said, “Says on your license you live over by the train station. You keep company with all the junkies out there?”
Patrick couldn’t see the old man, but the old man’s wife was front and center. She was a stubby little troll with the kind of face that let you know Frank was in it for love. The name tag on her lapel said, ‘Jonnie’. Held in her hands and aimed right at his heart was an old army rifle with a rusted bayonet seated just beneath the gun barrel—begging to do its job.
Frank shuffled into view dragging a burlap sack behind him. Patrick knew there was someone in it before it even moved. “Would you believe this guy walked into my store not an hour before you and made the same demands of me?” he asked.
Jonnie muttered something that sounded English by way of Mars.
In Frank’s free hand was Patrick’s M1911. He jammed the business end of it against the bag as it began to thrash and let out a muffled string of gibberish. Frank pulled the trigger twice and the bag became dead weight.
Patrick felt his pulse quicken from gut to throat. He shook his head vigorously—a string of reasons to let him live only made his gag wet.
“Jonnie and I don’t appreciate trash like you,” Frank said, “There was a time people around town knew that.” He dragged the sack over to the edge of the room and lifted a leg towards a large, black door. It flung open and the source of the heat and the strange glow in the room was clear—this was a furnace. Frank flung the burlap sack corpse into the fire.
“We figure we get the word back out,” Frank said. He handed Jonnie the pistol, fished a pair of gloves from his back pocket, and picked up a metal poker leaned against the furnace. Frank slipped the business end of it in the furnace for a moment and pulled it out. “You let your junkie friends know,” he said, “Don’t fuck with the liquor store off Gleason and King Streets.”
Frank angled the poker towards Patrick’s right eye while holding his head still with surprising strength and slowly let that red edge sink into its target.
Patrick heard a hiss, saw white heat, and began to scream.
He got the message loud and clear.