"Can I help you?" Patel asked.
"Carton of Marlboro's," the first man said.
The second man pulled up his t-shirt to reveal a gun wedged between his bell and blue jeans and added, "And all of the money you got in the cash register."
"T-There isn't much money in there," Patel said, trying to stay calm. "Fifty dollars, not more. It's been a slow night."
"You're lying, Bro. We seen people coming in and out all night."
Patel gave a timid shrug. "It ain't my money and I am not going to get shot over it but it's been nickel and dime all night. I just don't want you to be disappointed. It ain't worth an armed robbery charge."
The man pulled the gun out of his pants and waved it vaguely in front of Patel as if clearing the air in front of them, "Why don't you let us worry about that?"
Patel nodded and hit the release button on the cash register just as the bell at the front of the door jingled again. Patel, Stocking Cap, and Do Rag all turned to stare at the other two men walking into the convenience store.
Stocking Cap glared at Do Rag and whispered, "I told you the lock the damn door after we came in."
"You didn't tell me a fucking thing," Do Rag whispered back.
Patel raised his hands from the cash register and was barely able to squeak out, "W-What do you want me to do?"
"We're gonna step over there, behind that aisle and wait. You take their money and get them the hell out of here. And remember, we got guns."
"Like I would forget."
"Don't be a smart ass, boy!"
Patel quietly closed the cash register. Stocking Cap and Do Rag stepped around the aisle as the other two men came up to the counter.
Patel managed to control his voice, "M-May I help you?"
"A carton of Marlboro's."
"And all of the money you got in the cash register."
"I, uh, I think you might want to talk to those two guys."
"Talk to who?"
"To us, asshole."
"Who the hell..." but the man stopped when he saw two guns coming around the aisle. But his friend was quicker and pulled out a gun that was stuffed between his jeans and the small of his back, yelling, "I will cap your ass, you motherfuckers!"
Patel ducked under the counter as the guns went off. The sound was stunning and the acrid smell of cordite instantly filled the small store but apparently no one was hurt as no one yelled or screamed or fell down and there was the sound of multiple feet scrambling away in different directions to hide behind different aisles.
"We were here first, Motherfuckers."
"Big fucking deal."
Someone fired again and there was a crash of glass in the frozen food section. Someone shot back, causing a crash of glass at the front door.
"The man says there ain't but fifty dollars in the till," Stocking Cap yelled.
"Well, It's our fifty dollars, asshole."
"Then step right up and get it, dumb shit. It will the last fifty dollars you will ever see."
"We got all night and probably a lot more ammunition than you got."
There was a long silence as both sides glanced at their watches and counted their bullets.
"Fifty dollars? We could split it four ways. Twenty-five dollars each!"
"What are you? One of them dumb fucks that got left behind?"
That merited another shot, which splattered a five pound sack of Gold Medal flour. One of men near the front door yelled, "Don't try to outflank us, you stupid mofos, 'cause we watching for it."
"Keep watching, asshole."
There were now car sirens off in the distance but it was difficult to tell if they coming to the store or not.
"You had better not called the cops, boy, or all four of us will cap your ass."
"You hear me, boy?"
"Asshole probably fainted."
The sirens were coming closer.
"Somebody's gotta make a move here!"
More silence, then the men at the front door shouted, "OK, don't shoot. We're gonna back out. You can have the money and the fucking cops, too."
"I'll shoot you if I wanna shoot you," Stocking Cap yelled but he couldn't see the two behind the outside aisles. The entry bell jingled again to tell everyone that they were out the door and gone. Do Rag started after them but Stocking Cap grabbed his arm, "They may be out there, waiting for us, Bro. We grab the money and go out the back door."
They crept around the counter, expecting to see Patel huddle on the floor but he was not there. And the cash register was empty. And the back door was open. Stocking Cap and Do Rag stared at each other, realizing what had happened, and starting to get pissed about it just as the cops came through the front and back doors yelling, "DROP YOUR GUNS AND GET DOWN, GET DOWN."
The newspaper reported the next morning that two men had been arrested in the hold up attempt and another two were still being sought. It also reported that nearly two hundred dollars was taken from the cash register. Amin Patel, the store clerk, was quoted in the article as saying he had no idea which pair took it.
Jerome McFadden lives just outside of Philadelphia and has an extensive background as a free-lance journalist but is just now turing to fiction. This is one of his first efforts.