Kids in the Store

“I’m sorry.” the cashier said when the two little kids ran in front of Eric as he approached the counter.  They scampered off to the back of the convenience store towards the freezers.  “They get a little stir crazy.”

“No problem.” Eric put the two coffees on the counter and ran his card through the reader.  “You always let kids run around like that in the store?”

“They’re my children.  My husband and I own the store.” The cashier shrugged, a short older blonde.   “He’s out of town and my sitter is sick.”

Eric gave her a curt nod and took his drinks.  He smiled to himself as the kids ran up and down the aisles before he stepped out into the early evening.  Out of habit, he checked out the angle of the security cameras in the parking lot.   And the three losers standing by an old Toyota outside their view.  Dirty, long greasy hair, unshaven.  Strung out junkie eyes glared back at him.  Trouble, Eric thought, but kept going to Ray’s old Buick parked on the street behind a wintergreen hedge. 

He handed Ray his coffee after he got in.  “Did you see those three junkies in the parking lot?  I think they plan to hit the store.”

Ray sipped the steaming, black liquid in his cup.  The big man glanced over to the store’s parking lot, though he couldn’t see around the hedge.  “Too bad.  Not our problem.”

“There are little kids in there.”

Ray shook his head.  “It’s a complication we need to avoid.  You gotta focus on the job.”

“That’s cold, man.”

“Cold as my dead grandmother’s nipples.” 

“But the kids…”

“Not now.” Ray cut him off, pointing across the street.  “There is the target, heading in.  Time to go to work and earn your keep.”

Eric turned to see two men, the courier and his bodyguard, entering the small office building across the street.  He sighed deeply.  “Okay.  Be right back.”

As Eric left the car, he gazed over the hedge to the three junkies in the lot.  His chest tightened as he watched them begin crossing the lot to the store entrance.  He took a step in their direction and stopped.  Focus on the job.  No time for this.  Eric turned away and headed across the street to the office building, pulling his ski mask over his face.

Inside, Eric’s eyes adjusted to the gloomily lit lobby.  A stairway leading to the second floor dominated the space.  Eric knew the courier made the pickup on the second floor.  He didn’t go upstairs but went around to stand under the stairway.  And waited.

Eric readied his sap when the footsteps of two men coming down the stairs echoed through the lobby.   He reached through the steps and pulled the bodyguard’s left foot.  The bodyguard fell and hit the floor hard.  Eric came around the stairs and brought his sap down on the back of the man’s head twice.  The courier, his pale face a mask of terror, hesitated a moment too long before trying to run.  Eric slammed him into the opposite wall.  He pulled the leather bag off the courier’s shoulder, then put him down with a blow from the sap across his nose.  

Eric peeked into the bag.  His heart raced when he saw the rolls of cash.  He strolled briskly out of the building and across the street to Ray’s Buick.  The car’s engine still purred, the driver’s seat empty.  Eric heard screams from the convenience store’s lot.  He tossed the money in the Buick and broke into a run.

As he cleared the hedge, he saw two figures prone on the pavement, one in a pool of blood.  The other crawled away from where Ray stood struggling with the third junkie.  Eric struck him with the sap and the junkie dropped to the asphalt.

No one inside the store seemed to notice what happened outside.

Back in the car, Eric tried not to smirk.  Ray wouldn’t meet his eyes.  He put the car in drive.  “What?  You said there were kids in the store.”

The tires squealed as the Buick sped off.