“You! Don’t make a move. Stand over there by the till. Next to him.”
He was looking at me when he said this. Well, I was the only one in the shop, apart from the shopkeeper - and the hostage.
I didn’t move.
“Did you hear what I said?” he asked me.
“Well,” I said. “You told me not to make a move.”
“Don’t be a smart-arse! Get over there by the till. Now! Or else she gets hurt.”
He gestured towards the girl he held as he said this. He had his left arm around her throat, and with his right hand he held a knife to her back.
“And don’t you do anything stupid either, matey,” he said to the shopkeeper. “Just do what I say, and nobody gets hurt.”
I walked round the counter, and stood by the shopkeeper. He didn’t look like he was going to do anything stupid. He didn’t look like he was going to do anything at all. He looked a little stunned.
“What’s this all about?” I asked the guy.
“It’s pretty simple, really. I take the money from the till, and then I get out of here. Either of you two do anything stupid, and she gets it.”
“Oh,” I said. “Right.”
“Right. Now you know what this is you can shut up with the questions. I’ll do the talking. Got it?”
He stared at me while he waited for my answer. The girl stared at me, too. She seemed quite tense. She also looked a little impatient; like this was all a great inconvenience to her. They say people respond differently in crisis situations.
“Got it,” I said. “Understood. Affirmative.”
The girl rolled her eyes. She’s pretty cool about this, I thought. She’s got a knife to her back, and she’s more concerned about my flippant attitude!
“Come on, mister. Just do what he says. Please!”
“Shut up, you, as well,” he told her. Then he looked at the shopkeeper. “You! Granddad! I want you to take the money from the till, and place it on the counter in front of you. Just the notes. No coins. Nice and slow. Got it?”
The shopkeeper didn’t respond, so I nudged him with my elbow.
“Erm … yes, OK,” he said. “But there’s not much money inside.”
“Never mind that,” the guy said. “Just open that till, nice and slow. And take the money out.”
A little bell rang when the till drawer sprang open; it sounded very loud in that small shop. The shopkeeper started to sweep banknotes from the drawer to his open hand, but I wouldn’t describe it as a fluid motion. Both his hands were shaking.
I bet this doesn’t happen to him every day, I thought.
The shopkeeper held the cash out, towards the guy. “Here. That’s all of it.”
“Stop waving it around, and put it down on the counter,” the guy said.
The shopkeeper placed the money on the counter. It didn’t look like much; maybe two hundred pounds. Maybe he left some in the drawer, I thought.
“Now your turn,” he said to the girl. “Reach out with your right hand, and pick up the cash from the counter. Slowly.”
The girl gave a little nod of her head, and then with a steady hand she picked up the cash from the counter.
“Keep tight hold of that cash, girl. And come with me. We’re gonna slowly back up to the door. Let’s go.”
They started slowly backing towards the door. They watched us both intently as they moved away. The guy kept looking back over his shoulder to make sure they didn’t fall.
I heard a sigh of relief from the shopkeeper next to me. I guess he just wanted it to be over.
When they got to the door, the guy let go of the girl. She didn’t run away. She stood beside him, and started to laugh. He said to the girl: “Let’s go!”
The girl just shook her head, incredulously. “Idiots,” she said.
Then they both ran out the door.
I am English. I worked in casinos for 20 years, 15 of those years spent working on various cruise ships. I enjoy reading and writing.
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