This story is by Tim Grahl and won an Honorable Mention in our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Tim Grahl is the author of Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book and runs booklaunch.com. He works with many of the top authors in the world, including Hugh Howey, Daniel Pink, Dan and Chip Heath, Barbara Corcoran, and many more. He has launched multiple New York Times and Wall Street Journal best selling books. He also is the host of the Story Grid Podcast where he is a struggling fiction writer learning from the teaching of Shawn Coyne, an editor with over 25 years of experience.
Marcus closed the door to the small brown Mazda and pressed the button on the keychain to lock it. He moved to the other side of the car next to the boy and they began walking across the dark parking lot.
“What are you gonna get?”
The boy’s face grew serious.
“Well you better make up your mind. We need to get home.”
“Probably some Mike and Ikes.”
“I just think there’s way better choices.”
“Reese’s Pieces were always my favorite.”
The boy shrugged.
The door slid open as they entered and Marcus glanced down at his watch.
“Ok, Danny, you have two minutes to make a decision.”
“Got it, Dad.”
The boy ran passed the front counter and disappeared down the candy aisle.
Marcus pulled out his phone and continued scanning an article where he had left off. He idly began walking down the aisles.
After a few seconds he looked around. The phone dropped a few inches in front of him as he turned a full circle. He put the phone back in his pocket and quickly walked the length of the front of the store, glancing down each aisle.
He started to call out, but something made him catch himself and he shut his mouth.
He crouched down a bit and began moving to the back of the store past the crackers and cookies and was soon among the bandaids and antiseptic.
He peeked around the edge of the aisle towards the pharmacy.
This was empty too.
He took a step out from behind the aisle and froze when he heard a muffled cry come from behind the pharmacy counter.
Marcus dropped to a full crouch, staying as low as he could as he approached the counter.
“Get it all!”
The yell came from just a few feet away on the other side of the counter.
“I’m sorry,” another voice said pushing past sobs, “I’m going as fast as a I can.”
Marcus slowly lifted his head to look through the window.
A man was pacing in quick short steps. His long greasy hair appeared from beneath a ragged baseball cap. His heavy coat had a tear right at the elbow and stains all over. His pants were just as tattered.
He reached up to scratch his head with a shaky hand that held his gun.
Marcus dropped down behind the counter and fought to keep his breath calm. He crawled a few feet further down the length of the counter to where it ended. He peeked around the corner and had to clamp his hand over his mouth to keep from gasping.
The eyes of the woman on the floor stared unblinkingly at him. Blood had stained her white shirt and blue vest. It was smeared across her name tag.
“Hurry up! What is taking so long?” the man with the gun screamed.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Here—here’s what we’ve got,” a woman’s voice stammered.
Marcus looked around the counter again. The man with the gun stalked over to the woman who cowered on the floor. He ripped the pill bottles out of her hand and looked down at them.
He pointed the gun down at her.
“This is bullshit!” he screamed at her. She cowered underneath him, tears rolling down her face. Blood had stained her white coat too.
“I know you have more, I want it all!”
“That’s—that’s all we have.”
The man reached out the gun and put it against her skull. His hand was shaking violently.
“I know you’re lying to me!” he screamed.
The woman looked away from the man with the gun directly into the eyes of Marcus.
Her eyes grew huge and her mouth dropped open. The man with the gun turned to look just as Marcus launched out from behind the counter. The gun swung towards him but Marcus ducked and launched at his legs.
A deafening bang came from the gun as both men slammed into the wall. Marcus wrapped his arms around the man’s legs and drove his shoulder into him until they both hit the ground.
The gun dropped to the floor and the man lunged for it. Marcus ignored the gun and instead, sat up quickly and slammed his fist into the side of the man’s head. A cut split across the man’s face but he kept reaching for the gun.
His hand finally closed around the gun, he lifted it toward Marcus, but before he could move it a few inches, Marcus put his hands together and slammed his fists down into the man’s nose.
A loud crunch came from his face and blood poured from his nose. The man’s eyes rolled up into his head and he stopped moving.
Marcus sat straddling the man breathing hard.
Voices and shouts came from the front of the store. Marcus got unsteadily to his feet.
“You ok?” he asked the woman.
She nodded silently and he turned to look towards the front of the store. He saw a half dozen police hats bobbing down the aisles. Several were moving in his direction, but three of them were crowded towards the front of the store.
They were in the candy aisle.
Marcus leapt over the counter and ran down the aisles. He got close to the crowd of cops and saw two of them knelt down on the ground. There were Reese’s Pieces strewn across the floor. Several of them smashed under the cop’s feet.
Marcus pushed one of the cops out of the way and lunged towards the small boy lying still on the ground.
He pulled the body to his chest, sat back against the shelves, and sobbed.
I love your story, it kept me on the edge of my seat and wanting more the whole time. I see a lot of potential for a full novel if not series here!!! Good luck and happy writing!!!
Melany Franklin says
Hi Tim, well done on entering another contest. I really enjoyed this. Happy writing!
Joslyn Chase says
Hi Tim! Very engaging story. The detail with the crushed Reese’s Pieces is a shot to the heart. Great job.
Well done, Tim, for your quick-paced, gripping story. A dramatic, unexpected ending gives it a special twist.
Wow! I was not expecting the twist it took at the end. Very moving and well written, kept me on the edge of my seat. Nearly made me cry at the end. Good job!
David M. Dresser Sr. says
“Marcus reached out the gun and put it against her skull. His hand was shaking violently.”
It’s an interesting story. BUT THE LINE ABOVE from the story confused me. Marcus is the father who fought with the gunman. Is it the author’s clue that the gunman was also named Marcus? If so, a clue should have been given. I’ve read a lot of books and short stories and except for that sentence, I would give this one an “A”, but because of that sentence I give it a “D-“.
David of Dogpatch
Alice Sudlow says
Good catch—that was a confusing typo, and we’ve fixed it. Sorry about that! Thanks for letting us know.
Victor Phillips says
Great tension-packed murder scene. Marcus goes from being a hero saving the life of the pharmacist to a heartbroken father grieving the death of his innocent son killed by the drug-crazed gunman’s stray bullet down the candy aisle.
Virginia Reynolds aka Dorothy Justin says
A GOOD story, that’s why a lot of people do not get involved for fear of the unknown. Keep them coming.
Phyllis Brandano says
I loved your story. It was tense and sad but I gave a question. Did you plan on having the reader think if the boy had chosen to be near the Mike and Ikes candy that he originally wanted, would he have survived? Just wondering…. thanks for sharing.