That wasnt the plan.
Ah, fuck the plan. Itll take two minutes. Help me out, check those cabinets over there. Evan squatted, facing the counter, and started feeling around beneath. From his belt the gun handle gleamed like a lethal comma.
Danny felt a trickle of sweat run down his side, the drop cold against his muscles. Half the cons he knewthe smart ones, evenhad landed inside because they got reckless, decided to push their luck. Anything could give you up. A stray flashlight beam. A pedestrian who heard voices. A beat cop on a random patrol.
Still, he knew Evan well enough to know hed have to drag the guy out of here. Itd be faster to just try and find the dope. All right, damn you. Two minutes. He moved to the far side of the pawnshop and opened the first cabinet, his flashlight playing across stacks of neatly bundled cables, a box of computer paper. He tapped the inside, wondering if hed be able to hear a false bottom. Wondering how a false bottom sounded different from a regular one.
As Danny moved to the second cabinet, he heard Evan stand up. Nothing here. Ill check the office. Danny nodded, sorting through a selection of cheap porcelain figurines. A crystal unicorn winked in the flashlight. His mind drifted as he worked, thinking of Karens apartment. Candles on the nightstand, traffic noises through the open window. Waiting in the sleigh bed for her to get home after her shift. Her soft smile to find him awake. He saw it all, and wondered why he was here instead of there.
And then he heard the sound.
A metal rattle, like
a security gate. The front door swung open, the night street glowing outside. A silhouette, big, stepped in, saying, Come on, little darlin, a couple puffs before we do it wont make you lose control. I wont do nothing you dont want me to. The lights flickered on as Danny scrambled to his feet, recognizing the owner theyd watched earlier. A bearded guy in an orange hunting vest, leading a skinny chick with bad skin. Everything went slow motion as the guy spotted him, a hand already sliding inside his vest, a practiced move that produced a shiny automatic. The man racking the gun as he raised it, the snap echoing. Spreading his legs for better footing. Danny thinking this was it, the owner was going to shoot his ass. Mind telling body to leap aside, but his muscles not moving. The man with both eyes open and the gun in both hands, a target shooters stance that put the barrel square at Dannys chest.
An explosion. Somehow the owners stomach bloomed red. He collapsed like hed been dropped from a great height. His gun clattered on the floor beside him. In the doorway to the office, Evan stood with one arm extended, the pistol in his hand.
The hum of fluorescent lights and the wet sounds of breathing. Dannys head throbbed, but in his chest, deep, he felt a cold sensation. Cold and deep and knotted. He knew that no matter how hard he squinted, he wouldnt be able to see Karens bedroom now.
Then adrenaline hit, and he lunged. The girl was frozen, eyes and mouth wide, and he shoved her aside to slam the door. He jumped back to avoid the slow spread of something red, Jesus, blood, a crimson pool of it, creeping from where the owner moved in a sort of crab-writhing, fingers clutched over his stomach.
No. The word slipped feathery soft from his mouth.
He alive? Evan asked, voice distant after the roar of the gun.
The man rocked back and forth. His hands were scarlet. A stain crept up his chest. There was a lot of blood. A kid from the South Side grew up knowing what blood looked like, broken noses and teeth knocked out, but to see it pouring from someones stomach . . .
Copyright © 2007 by Marcus Sakey. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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