4am story

“Please don’t…”

Bodies littered the floor of the bank. Still pointing the gun at her, Jack glanced over his shoulder at the door. Matt, his partner, was already in the car. “Kill them all,” he’d said. But Jack couldn’t bring himself to shoot the bank clerk.

He fisted the bag of money, knowing he had to leave. He’d been here too long. Someone would have heard the other gunshots and called the police by now. He should shoot her, right now. His finger squeezed the trigger, his pulse pounded in his neck, and sweat dripped down his cheek. The woman sobbed, and her eyes were shut tight. Jack’s hand shook. He breathed deep to steady his heart beat; just pull it. He watched a tear escape the woman’s eye and run down the side of her face, making a track in her makeup.

Jack growled, frustrated. He couldn’t do it. He decocked the gun, jamming it into the waistband of his jeans. The cops were close enough that he could hear the sirens. The woman was looking at him through tear-stained eyes, her hands still up at the sides of her face. Jack silently berated himself before he reached forward and grabbed her hand. “Come with me!”

She yelped like a beaten dog, but obeyed, stumbling after him. Jack pulled them out the side door where Matt was waiting in the car. He forced the bag of money against the door, and as it swung open he came to a complete stop. Matt was gone, and so was the car. Jack stood dumbfounded, then turned to stare, menacingly, at his distraught hostage. She cowered from his glare, trying to slink away, but he held her hand.

The sirens were getting louder. The bank stood on a ridge over the water and Jack made a run for the edge. He had to drag her after him. When they reached the railing he chucked the bag of money into the river, then pulled her against him, “Jump.” His eardrums pulsed from the sirens; they were so close now. The woman shook her head vehemently, so he hoisted her over the railing and into the water, then jumped in after her. His heavy boots made him sink further into the water, but he was a good swimmer and soon broke the surface. He immediately located the bag of money and his hostage. He grabbed her by the hair, causing her to yell in pain. “This way!”

He pulled her after him and they swam up river, away from the sounds coming from the street above. There was a bend just up ahead. Once they passed it, he pulled her with him out of the water. She sunk to the ground as soon as he released her arm, and she lay there sobbing. He shook the water from his hair and took off his jacket and boots. Then he removed his shirt and rung it out before slipping it back on. He breathed a long sigh, before looking at the woman. Now what

Her slim, black dress was drenched and falling off her, her makeup was smeared, and she was missing a shoe. Why didn’t women wear sensible shoes? He looked at the trees around him. The place where he and Matt were supposed to meet wasn’t far from the bank. If he walked fast, he could be there in an hour, even through these back roads.

He turned to the woman still on the ground. She was staring at the place between her hands, sobbing, but quieter now. The gun, tucked safe in his belt, felt hot and his hand inched toward it. He knew he should kill her and move on. She would slow him down and he was not going back to prison. Not ever. His hand closed around the handle, but he couldn’t lift it. What was wrong with him? He’d had no problem killing the two men in the bank. One was the security guard and the other in a suit might have been a businessman. Matt had taken care of the other security guard and the male bank teller. But after he left, Jack heard crying and yelled for them to come out. She’d risen from behind a desk, her makeup already a mess but her large brown eyes pierced at him from beneath thick, dark lashes. It should have been easy, but it wasn’t. Now he had another problem.

He looked back towards the bank and knew they had to leave. He picked up his boots, shoving them on his feet, then grabbed his jacket. He looked over his shoulder, “Get up.” She didn’t move. He marched forward and grabbed her arm, pulling her to her feet, “Don’t make me ask twice. Walk.” He shoved her in front of him, “Now.” She wrapped her arms around herself and trudged forward. It was difficult with one heel on and she limped, but they slowly made their way through the trees.

When he heard the sound of cars, he knew they were close to the road. “I have my gun pointed at you. Don’t make a sound and follow the trail through the trees.” She didn’t respond, just kept walking. Jack’s gun was safe in the band of his jeans, but she didn’t need to know that. She’d caused enough trouble already. Why couldn’t he shoot her? He’d killed before, but one look into those eyes and he couldn’t pull the trigger. He stared at her back while she walked. She was thin, but strong, with a nice body. He blinked, shaking his head. Must be the years without a woman creeping up on him.

They walked for little more than an hour. Finally, he saw the familiar roof of the abandoned building he and Matt stored their “findings.”

“Stop,” he said. Now, he did pull out his gun.”Turn around.” She did. She turned slowly, looking half in shock and half exhausted. Even with her mascara and blush smeared all over her face, she was still a beautiful woman. “My partner is already in there. You will walk in behind me and not say a word, or I shoot. Do you understand?” She nodded, and he walked ahead of her. He didn’t turn to make sure she was following him, because he heard her footsteps and soft sniffles. He wanted to say something to calm her down, but he couldn’t worry about her now; he had a score to settle.

They reached the building soon, and Jack opened the back door. He looked at her before entering, holding a finger to his lips. She looked at him with red-rimmed eyes and nodded. He walked in, listening for any movement. He heard voices coming from the front room, where they kept a couch and a small table. The voices he heard were from the radio, reporting that the prestigious bank had been robbed, and the robbers were at large. Jack forced the woman to stand in the back where he could see her. He glared at her, holding up his finger again to make sure she would be quiet, and then left her there.

Matt was sitting on the couch counting his money. He heard Jack come in, but he didn’t stop organizing the bills in neat piles on the table. “Where have you been?” he asked.

“Where have I been?” Jack hissed. “You left me.”

“You took too long.” Matt continued counting the money. Jack dropped his bag onto the cement floor and came to stand in front of him.

“Why did you leave me there?”

Matt’s hands deftly sorted out the bills. “You know the rules. We go in, we get the money, we kill everyone, and we leave.” His hands stopped moving. He looked up at Jack, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. “What was the hold up?”

Jack didn’t know how to respond. He swallowed, unsure. “I ran into a problem.”

“And that was?” Matt resumed counting.

“I took care of it.” Jack glanced toward the back.

“Good,” Matt nodded. “So you killed her.”

Jack hesitated, and Matt paused. He looked up, placing the money down and taking the cigarette out of his mouth. “You did kill her, didn’t you?” Jack stared at him with his jaw clenched tight. Matt narrowed his eyes. “Jack, what did you do?”

Jack glanced up to where the woman stood. She hadn’t made a sound, but his look gave her away. Matt followed his gaze and jumped to his feet. “You brought her here?”

Jack threw his hands out to his sides. “I couldn’t leave her there.”

“You were supposed to shoot her!” Matt bellowed. “That was the plan!” He ran his hands through his hair. “How could you do this?”

“I didn’t have much choice,” Jack said, wary. He spied the gun in Matt’s jeans.

“That’s right, you had a job, and you didn’t do it.” Matt reached for his gun.

“What are you doing?” Jack stepped after him.

“What you couldn’t.” Matt cocked the gun, turning towards the woman. She cowered against the door frame, holding onto it like a lifeline. She begged him not to kill her, but he just pointed the gun. As he was about to pull the trigger, a shot rang out and he fell to his knees. Blood spurted out of his mouth, and he dropped the gun before falling face first onto the dusty floor.

The woman screamed, her hands coming up to cover her mouth. Jack stood with the gun in his hand, watching the blood pool out from beneath his partner’s torso. “Damn it.” Jack grabbed his duffle, and found his spare pair of boots by the far corner. He handed them to her.

“Put these on. We have to go.” She was crying and wouldn’t take them. “DO IT,” He shouted. She jumped, but put the shoes on anyway. Jack took her heel, grabbed her arm, and made her follow him outside. They weren’t far from the water. “Let’s go.”

“What are you going to do with me?” she asked, looking down at the ground as she followed him.

“I don’t know.” They reached the water where he chucked the heel, watching it sail in a wide arch before plummeting into the river. He looked at her. “They’ll think you drowned in the river.”

“Am I going to die?” This time she did look at him. Her eyes were almost devoid of any life. He peered into her chocolate brown eyes and felt his heart skip. “Not today.” He shoved her towards the water, where a speed boat was tied to a tree. He made her climb in before he untied the rope, then climbed in himself and started the boat.

She sat in the corner, watching him as he pushed buttons, flipped switches, and pushed a lever-looking thing and the boat pushed forward onto the water. She watched him look down at the gun in his hands, then toss it over the side.

She hugged her knees close to her body. “Where are we going?” she asked.

He kept his back to her. “To find some place to set up for a while.”

“And then?” she prodded. He didn’t respond. So she stopped asking questions. She sat there quietly, swaying to the gentle rocking of the boat. Her eyes started to close.

“What’s your name?” Her eyes popped open. He wasn’t looking at her, but she knew he’d asked.

“Sarah. What’s yours?”

“Jack.”

“Jack,” she whispered to herself. Soon, she fell asleep, exhausted and terrified. He looked over his shoulder at her and felt his heart pulling towards her. She was so beautiful, even in sleep. He was nothing but a lowlife criminal, and he’d just ruined hers. He should have killed her, because she could ID him. By now, he knew he wouldn’t do that. He should have let her run, but he couldn’t let her go. And for the life of him, he couldn’t understand why.

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