Authors: Lesley Choyce
Copyright Â© 2009 Lesley Choyce
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Choyce, Lesley, 1951-
Running the risk / written by Lesley Choyce.
ISBN 978-1-55469-026-8 (bound).--ISBN 978-1-55469-025-1 (pbk.)
I. Title. II. Series: Orca soundings
PS8555.H668 R84 2009Â Â Â Â jC813'.54 Â Â Â Â C2009-900273-6
After being the victim of an armed robbery, Sean goes in
search of more danger.
First published in the United States, 2009
Library of Congress Control Number:
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing
programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada
through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada
Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC
Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design by Teresa Bubela
Cover photography by Getty Images
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Printed and bound in Canada.
Printed on 100% PCW recycled paper.
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The gunmen arrived at Burger Heaven shortly after midnight on Friday. I was on the frontline, taking orders along with Lacey and Cam. It was like a dream at first. The place had been quiet except for some workmen laughing over their French fries, and a couple of slightly drunk kids from school goofing around at a table by the windows.
And then the door opened and two guys with ski masks on walked in nervously. One walked straight to me. The other went to
Lacey. As they approached, the guns came up. Lacey, Cam and I froze. The room suddenly went dead quiet except for the sound of hamburgers sizzling in the back and the buzz of the overhead fluorescent lights. I'd never even noticed the hum of the fluorescent lights before.
The guy with the gun pointed at Lacey spoke first. “Open it, girl.”
“I said open it.”
The guy with the gun on me said nothing. I was looking at Lacey. And then at Cam. There was a panic button on the floor beneath each register. A silent alarm. You triggered it and the cops would know we were in trouble. I saw Cam looking down at the floor.
But something told me that right here, right now, hitting that button would be the wrong thing to do. These two guys were nervous. I was looking my gunman right in the eyes. I knew there was something there. These guys were whacked on something. Anything could make them freak. The guns were real. Everything was real.
And that's when it kicked in.
This feeling of calm.
“Be cool,” I said to the guy pointing the gun at Lacey. Then I looked at the guy with the gun on me. I stared straight into his eyes, and then I looked at the barrel of the gun like it was no big deal.
“I'm going to push this key and the drawer will open,” I said. “Okay?”
My gunman nodded. I pushed the key, and the drawer opened. I saw one of the workmen get up. At first I thought he was going to try to do something. And I didn't want that.
But I was wrong. First he and then his buddy got up and slipped out the front door. Lacey's gunman turned and aimed in their direction. He pulled the trigger and the shot was deafening. “Shit,” was all he said. The bullet must have hit the ceiling because no glass shattered. He turned back quickly and pushed the gun into Lacey's face.
“Here,” I said, cleaning all the bills out of my register and handing them across the counter. “Now I'll get you the rest,” I said.
“Yeah,” my gunman said.
I walked to Lacey and made sure it was obvious what I was doing. I hit the key, the drawer opened and I offered over more bills.
Then I walked over to Cam's station and did the same. It was only money. Nothing to die for, that's for sure. It was all clear as day in my head.
The two gunmen stuffed the money into their coat pockets, turned and ran. As soon as they were out the door and away from the parking lot, I hit the silent alarm.
Lacey began to cry and Cam said the stupidest thing in the world. “Why'd you give them the money?”
“You all right, Lacey?” I asked.
“No, Sean,” she said, “I'm not all right.”
“What were you thinking?” Cam asked. Somehow he wasn't getting it.
The kids at the table were standing up now. “I don't freaking believe it,” one of them said and then puked on the floor.
Riley and Jeanette, who'd been listening
from the food-prep area, came up to the counter now.
“Is everyone all right?” Riley asked.
“Yeah, we're all alive anyway,” I said.
“Did you see what this jerk did?” Cam said, pointing at me.
“Yeah,” Jeanette said. “I saw what he did. He saved you from getting killed.”
Cam looked mad. He looked at me like it was all my fault.
The kids at the table out front were helping their buddy who had just barfed on the floor get himself together. Then they headed for the door. I probably should have asked them to stay until the cops came, but I didn't. I understood they wanted to get the hell out of here. I knew who they were, so I didn't bother to ask them to stay. The police could find them for information if they needed to.
Jeanette was holding Lacey.
Cam was blathering. “This isn't worth it,” he said. “I'm quitting this stupid job. Now.” He walked around the counter and kicked over a chair. Then he left. I didn't ask him to stay either.
When the police arrived, two officers in bulletproof vests pushed open the glass door and walked in, guns raised. I watched their eyes as they looked at us and then scanned Burger Heaven. I noticed the buzz of the lights again.
“They're gone,” I said.
The guns came down and the cops moved forward.
“Anyone hurt?” one of them asked. Two more policemen came in the door.
“No,” I said. “I think we're okay.”
“Do you know which way they went?”
I shook my head no.
One of the policemen saw the bullet hole in the ceiling. “You guys had a close call,” he said. “That wasn't a cap gun.”
It was about then that I noticed something about the way I was feeling. My heart was still pumping so loud I could hear it in my ears, and my breathing was a bit ragged.
But the weird part was that I was feeling great. And I'd been feeling this way from the moment the robber put the gun up to my face.
We told the story to the police and I got a ride home in a police car and went to bed. I didn't bother to wake my parents. They would get the news from the paper in the morning.
I didn't sleep much. Adrenaline, I guess. I kept wondering why I had kept my cool. And why I had been absolutely certain there was only one thing to do. I knew that if Cam had tried to hit that alarm while the robbers
were there, somebody would have been killed. At the time I was operating on pure instinctâand adrenaline, of course.
Afterward, lying in bed, the rational part of my brain was thinking,
Yeah, those guys could have fired their guns at any moment
. Anything could have happened.
I was fuzzy-headed in the morning and tired. All the adrenaline had worn off, I suppose.
My father woke me up. He was dressed for work at the casino. The newspaper was in his hand. “Why didn't you wake us?”
“Nobody got hurt. It turned out fine.”
My mother was in my bedroom now too. “Sean, you could have...” She couldn't finish the sentence.
“I could have but I wasn't,” I said. “What time is it?”
My parents looked puzzled. “I think you need to stay home today,” my father said. “You need to rest.”
“I don't feel like resting.”
“We tried to tell you that job could be dangerous,” my mother said.
“It wasn't like I was looking for trouble.”
But I had asked for the late shift, for both Friday and Saturday night. I could have worked during the day on Sunday or even from four to ten in the evening. But I had convinced my parents everything would be okay. And I loved the fact that all kinds of weird crap happened late at night. I even liked the walk home on the dark streets. Had I been secretly hoping for something like this to happen?
“Well, you're not going back there to work,” my father said.
“I don't want to quit.”
“We'll find you another job.”
“Yeah, right. Like at the casino, I suppose.” This was a sore spot. My father had lost his job with the insurance company and had taken on an administration job at the casino. He'd always told me he didn't approve of gambling, and then he hired on to a place that was solely dependent on taking suckers'
money when the odds were stacked way too high against them.
“You know you're too young. They can't hire you.”
“Be reasonable,” my mother said. “Besides, you don't need to work.”
“I need to do something,” I said. Because of last night, because of the way I felt, I'd had my first taste of some other world. It was almost like I'd been sleeping most of my life. Whatever I'd felt last night, I wanted to feel again.
“I'll fix you some breakfast,” my mother said.
“And then I'll take you down to the police station,” my father said. “They called. They want to ask some more questions.”
“Don't you have to work today?” I asked. “You always work on Saturday.”
“After I read the paper, I decided to take the day off.”
My father drove me to the police station. We passed by Burger Heaven. It was closed, with
yellow police tape around it. There were a few police cars in the lot, and I figured an investigation of some sort was underway.
I sat in a room with a man who introduced himself as Detective Solway. He insisted my father wait outside.
Solway said, “The officer on the scene said you were remarkably calm about the whole thing.”
“Not really,” I said. “It scared the crap out of me.”
“But the other workers said you kept your cool. One even said that you acted like you knew this was going to happen.”
“That idiot, Cam. If he had moved to push the silent alarm, he would have been dead.”
“How do you know that?”
“Those guys were antsy.”
“So you just opened all three drawers and gave them what they wanted.”
“Because it was the rational thing to do.”
Detective Solway just stared at me.
“Do you think I actually had something to do with the robbery?” I was surprised, of course. But in an odd way I was almost flattered. No one had ever accused me of anything seriously bad. Because I'd never really done anything seriously bad. Because I didn't take chances.
Solway shook his head. “No. I don't think so. We already did a background check. Your high school principal said you must be a good kid because he had never even heard of you, couldn't put a face to the name.”