If you have never put a pistol up the head of an armed robber, don’t.
It’s one of those things that people aren’t supposed to do for several reasons. First, if you just want to scare the guy in the mask, he’ll probably kill or maim you before you can work up the guts to pull the trigger. Second, if you actually manage to put the gun up against the robber’s head and threaten to do what you have to, there’s no rulebook that says he has to drop his gun and surrender. Third, if this robber is the coked-out serial criminal Byrant McCall and he’s robbing a convenience store near the Ross Island Bridge where you’re trying to buy an ice cream cone, there’s nothing that says he’s got to stay down after you’ve shot him in the head.
My gun barked out a single shot that spattered me with blood, and the man in the mask with the long dreadlocks collapsed onto the shelf of single-dose drugs. My hand was shaking when I sheathed my .38 Detective Special.
“Who the hell are you?” the Pakistani man behind the counter barked at me. “What the fuck happened?”
“Call the fucking cops,” I stumbled back to the counter, breathing hard. “Tell them Detective Sam Argyle is at the scene, and the perp is DOA.”
I grabbed a bunch of napkins from the hot bar and wiped off my forehead. I knew the perp from the moment he drew his gun. I recognized the braids under the mask as he waived his automatic over the counter. He had done the same thing to more liquor stores and private homes than I could care to count, and when he fired shots he pissed bullets. I knew his mug from a thousand spools of surveillance tape.
My ice cream cone sat on the counter, melting in the heat. I sat down on the floor across from the body of the dead perp and I watched the criminal’s blood soak into the linoleum, and the customers who had hidden for cover started standing up. I slowly unwrapped the melting ice cream in the blistering summer heat.
“It’s alright, you can come out.” I beckoned to a Korean woman in the bakery aisle. “I’m a cop. He’s dead.”
I listened to the Pakistani guy huddled behind the counter on the phone with emergency response. He was probably angry at me. He didn’t have an idea of how close to death he could have been. I exhaled hard. The ice cream was melted. I tossed on the ground next to me.
A young black man in a leather jacket with a camera turned out from behind the cold drinks. He reached for his camera, but I told him to stop. “You’re from the fucking newspaper, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” the young man nodded.
“Just stick around for some questioning.”
“God, he’s bleeding a lot, isn’t he?” the young man said.
“Who is?” I asked.
It felt like someone had just put cold water on my face. In ten years on the force I had seen men jump onto moving cars and leap off bridges onto trains fifty feet below. I have seen methheads on benders shot six times by good men on foot. I have seen bullets turn corners and bombs extinguished with a lucky rainstorm, but I have never seen a dead man bleed. I reached for my gun.
The body of Bryant McCall reached out under the shelf to where his submachine gun had fallen. The body stood up and his line of bullets ripped holes through the counter just above my head.
I scrambled out of the way as Bryant McCall roared back to life. His gun sprayed bullets through the glass case and shattered the windows. A bullet hit my shoulder and my gun clattered across the ground.
The dead man was firing blind because the blood had leaked into his eyes. His bullets ran through the Korean woman and the Pakistani man behind the counter, and the reporter went splat against the slush machine. Beer from the fridges leaked out onto the floor and bullet casings fell into fresh pools of blood. With my left hand I scrambled for my pistol and I fired four shots through a shelf of breakfast cereal. The boxes flew open and shredded wheat flew through the air. The florescent lights fell from the ceiling and shattered. The perpetrator fell to one knee and his gun clicked as he ran out of ammunition. I watched his face through the blood-soaked mask.
I listened to him breathe hard. One of my bullets had hit him in the leg, so he couldn’t walk. I took careful aim with my left hand and squeezed the trigger. When his body hit the ground, I could hear the sirens off in the distance.
Roger Hobbs is a writer in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in The New York Times, A Twist of Noir, Yellow Mama, and Hit-and-Run. Follow him online at http://twitter.com/rogerhobbs.