This story is by Tom Housden and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Mickey had a decision to make – he had to escape or face the wrath of his boss.
A shot rang out in the dead of night, piercing the deathly silence that enveloped this place. The Somehow he was hoping no one would have heard it. He was instantly angry at himself for two reasons: for messing this one job up, the job that could have made him millions once he had managed to sell what he had taken; and for thinking that no one would have heard a loud gunshot. He was normally so careful about his robberies, although he was usually had three others to work with. Tonight he was asked to work on his own. He was a professional career criminal, he shouldn’t have made a rookie mistake like this! Also, he didn’t case the joint before! What would his monster of a boss, Mr Stein, say about his mistakes? He certainly did not have a good reputation, and an even worse temper!
Everything had gone well up to that point. He had picked a midwinter’s evening, when it got dark early. He also figured that, because it got dark early, he would attract less attention. There was the added bonus that it was Saturday evening, so his targets may be out enjoying themselves at a bar or a swanky restaurant. Another reason, and this was the one with the most risk of him getting caught, was that they could be in, upstairs in bed. However, he told himself he’d cross that bridge if it came to it. He hadn’t thought about what may happen if he was disturbed. – He didn’t believe in God, but he did say a little prayer before every job that he did, that the house he was going to burgle was empty. That was his one ritual before the evening began; he knew that any God would not condone what he was doing, but it felt quite comforting to him somehow.
That night he was rewarded, not only because the house was empty and had no lights on, there were no dogs to try and stop him – he called them ‘a burglar’s worst enemy.’ Little dogs he could sometimes carefully coax, but big ones were a no-no. He tended to avoid those houses altogether. There was also no security light or even an alarm – his victims were making it so easy for him.
The first thing to do was to figure out how he would get in. He surveyed the exterior, to see if there were any open doors or windows. He tried every one of them once, and then again to make doubly sure that he hadn’t missed one first time. He was surprised to find the sliding door to the conservatory unlocked. Why hadn’t he noticed it the first time he checked?
Every time he burgled someone he got nervous, but especially this time, as he was flying solo, and to that end, he wanted to prove to his boss that he could pull this off without a hitch.
He winced a bit as it squeaked on the slider when it opened, but it wasn’t enough to cause alarm. Out of the all the doors and windows around the house, why leave this one open? These people are making it so easy.
Stage 1 over, he thought. Next, he silently opened the door to the kitchen. So far so good. This almost seems a little too easy! Trying to tread as silently as possible, he stepped over the step into the dark, shadowy kitchen. There was a partial moon in the sky, radiating light through the shutters. The moonlight made fuzzy shapes on the furniture. It was quite bright but not bright enough to attract attention, he hoped.
Just then he heard a sound, but at first he did not know where it was coming from. It didn’t sound like it was coming from upstairs, it was too near. All kinds of questions went through his head. Had they come back from their evening out? Had they been here all the time, playing some sort of Hide and Seek in the dark? He paused, straining to hear amongst the darkness.
The sound he could hear was one of faint footsteps and muffled breathing, which seemed like they were coming from nearer than he had originally thought. He wondered if there was someone in the back room, which was next to the kitchen. He froze, gripped with fear, as if he had just seen a ghost. Get a hold of yourself, Mickey. Burglars don’t get scared. He tried to steel himself. This was unexpected. With someone else in the house, it was going to be a lot harder to get his hands on the valuables and make a swift exit undetected.
Mickey walked past the far kitchen door, which led to the hallway, to check who was making the sound. A dark shadowy figure in the shape of a man was coming towards him. He panicked, trying to think, but there was no time. Who was this man? Was he a family member? Was he a neighbour? Or had another burglar beaten him to it? Within the next few seconds, he found out.
Before he could do anything else, he hit the kitchen door and then found himself gradually falling to the floor. He suddenly heard a loud bang. He had been shot, the bullet tearing his flesh. Despite this, he tried, and failed several times, to get up on his feet the best he could. He was staggering back through the hall, then through the kitchen, stumbling with every step, trying to stay upright but finding it extremely difficult. He wondered who had shot him, was it the person he had heard in the house? He told himself that it must have been, but why? Had someone rung the police? All of these questions went through Mickey’s head, but he didn’t have time for contemplation, he had to make a decision.
Even though he was drifting in and out of consciousness, he had to get out of there. He crawled along the kitchen floor, down the step to the conservatory, and inched slowly along the tarmac of the drive. Even though he was in a lot of pain, he had to do everything he could to get as far away from this mess as possible. If someone had called the police, then he would be put away for goodness knows how long, or maybe, because he didn’t actually do the burglary, he would be let off with a slapped wrist and a stern verbal warning.
He was still confused as to what exactly happened. Then it suddenly dawned on him – maybe that was why his boss had asked him to work solo tonight, because another member of their burglary squad wanted to get there first! But why?
Eventually, he blacked out.
When he finally regained consciousness, the police were there; he figured one of the neighbours must have called them after they heard the gunshot. He thought he had escaped them! Almost, he said to himself, with a bit of a chuckle.
He was taken to hospital to be checked out, after which he was taken to the police station. After what seemed like an eternity of answering various questions, he was charged with breaking and entering and summoned to appear in court the following week; he pondered over how long his sentence would be, that is, if he was to be sentenced. The best outcome was community service, the worst was prison, which was unthinkable to him.
In the meantime, he had one very important action to take, a meeting that he definitely wasn’t relishing and was extremely nervous about. He kept on trying to justify to himself that he had the made the best of two bad choices – these being the possibility of facing a few years in prison or facing his boss’ wrath. Maybe facing the boss was the wrong thing to do. It would have been to most people, but it was too late now.
He didn’t know how to explain this big failure to Mr Stein. He was a nasty piece of work; Mickey told himself that Stein was the devil’s representative on earth, he had such a short fuse! He even looked like the devil, God forbid anyone who crossed his path when he got angry or things didn’t go his way. Mickey had seen him seething with rage once. He hoped never again. He did contemplate not telling Stein, but word will get back to him somehow and Mickey thought he should be the one to tell him.
He rubbed his sweaty palms together as he anxiously waited for the meeting. His heart hammered, making the gunshot would hurt like hell. Not long now. He wiped the sweat off his top lip.
Mickey was still in the office when Stein slammed the door…
This was a decision he would regret.