Before He Pulled The Trigger- Prologue
January 14, 2007.
Central Hill, North Carolina.
7:57 PM, Eastern Standard Time
* * *
The dark blue Pontiac pulled into the lot and screeched to a halt. The convenience store, which would be the strong man’s new target, was in view. The driver was young and tall with dirty-blond hair and a look of terror in his eye. In the back seat sat a greasy-haired man whose large biceps did not measure up to the strong man’s muscles. In the passenger seat was the strong man himself. When began to speak, both of his inferiors turned their heads almost reverently to face him.
“All right, boys, this is it. Today is the day I’ve been telling you about for so long. After we clear this up, I’m taking a break. You two can go on with your merry lives and forget this whole thing even happened. That is to say only if you follow my plan and do whatever I say.” The strong man paused and drew a breath. “But if either of you fail me, you can kiss tomorrow goodbye. No false moves, or else! Are we clear here?”
Both of the lackeys nodded. “Good,” growled the strong man. Suddenly, a voice came from the back. “He’s just a kid, man! He’s fresh out of high school! Don’t make him do this!” The strong man turned to the back. “And you’re just out of college. But age don’t matter to me. And this is his little ‘redemption.’ Care to complain some more?” The greasy-haired man stilled his tongue. Arguing with the strong man was a one-way ticket to death.
“So you two know what you’re purposes are? Kid, stay here and act innocent. Greaser, you’re coming in there with me. If all goes well, I’ll pay you the cash I promised and you two can go back to your lives and forget about me. But I swear if either of you screw up, you know what’ll happen! Okay? Okay. Now let’s go!”
The greasy-haired man hated the strong man with a passion. The strong man was a dark, evil man. The greasy-haired man did not know why. He had a gun on his belt. He could wait until the strong man was not looking and fire a bullet into his head, ending the evil completely. But he did not. He knew that the strong man could fire at least seven rounds into him before he even had the chance to place his finger on the trigger. I’ll go along with it, thought the greasy-haired man to himself, and then I’ll get him later. The two masked men headed in the direction of the convenience store.
When he arrived at the entrance, the strong man tilted his head to see his slave walking slowly a few feet behind. He grabbed the greaser by the collar. “Listen up,” he snarled, pointing a gloved finger at the greaser’s face, “if you want to do it right, you come at my pace, not yours! Tick me off again and it’ll be your friggin’ head! Now get in there and do it my way!” The greasy-haired man nodded. He wanted to cry now. The strong man had dragged him into this. It had never been his choice. He had to get the strong man arrested somehow. The next thing he knew, the strong man had pulverized the glass door with his monstrous boot. “Gun out,” he commanded the greaser who spontaneously obeyed. When the men had their guns pointed forward, the strong man bellowed “Everybody down! Now!” The terrified civilians descended to the floor. “Get their cell phones,” barked the strong man and the greaser reluctantly trudged, holding an open sack. “I mean now,” he shouted again, sounding as if he were a demanding child in the midst of a tantrum, “or you die! Now go!”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I really don’t want to do this! I’m just as scared as all of you,” apologized the greaser to the victims as he collected their cell phones in the cloth sack. A tear glistened in his eye. He walked to the door and stood. The strong man nodded in approval and approached the cashier menacingly.
* * *
The boy could see it all from where he sat. He could see the evil through the glass windows of the store. The cashier was behind the register with horror in his eyes. The strong man waved his pistol as a threat. Suddenly, he grasped the cashier’s skinny arm. The boy gawked as he witnessed the strong man bend the helpless cashier’s arm ninety degrees upward. Even from where he was, the boy heard a bone snap. Next, he heard the explosion of a bullet being expelled from the strong man’s gun, followed by a screech of pain. Upon his exit from the car, the boy crept to the side of the building and peered inside to see the outcome. A customer lay on his back clutching his bleeding knee and trembling in a pool of his own blood. The boy winced in sympathy for the horrified civilians. What had he gotten himself into?
It was then he focused his attention to the obliterated door. Behind the shattered glass was the trembling greaser holding a sack. But something was not right about him, the boy thought, something was missing. The boy focused on the greaser until he saw the flaw he had been looking for. The greaser’s hands were completely bare, whereas the strong man donned gloves. At last the boy understood; the strong man’s plan was to heist the shop, get out, and let the greaser take the fall. Putting innocent people in fear for their lives was horrible enough. “You monster,” uttered the boy as he quietly reentered the car, “Inhuman! That’s what you are!” He pulled out his cell phone in anger and dialed the emergency number. He knew he was risking his own life but innocent people’s lives were at stake. And he knew if he did it right, he might get out alive. The operator answered and the boy told her what was happening and where. When the boy finished the call, he bolted away from the car without looking back, making sure he exited at an angle where the strong man would not see him. About a half-mile later, the boy slowed down. He suddenly checked his pockets. Nothing was inside. A new terror ignited inside. He would surely die now. The boy began to cry. “I’m a martyr,” he said softly, “I’m a dead man. But he hasn’t won this yet.” The boy walked home slowly. A tragic hero was born today.
* * *
The greaser could not bear to see innocent people being hurt. He had to do something. The strong man was a demon, that’s all there was to it. Watching him kick people out of the way as he approached the cashier and crushing the man’s arm fueled the greaser’s anger, but when he finally shot the customer on the ground, the greaser snapped. He felt his fingers curl around the handle of the gun he was carrying. It was time to end this…
He suddenly jerked his hand back. Killing the strong man would make him just as bad. It was the strong man who allowed his guns to speak, not the greaser. He could not allow himself to-
The strong man was approaching the cashier again. “Leave that man alone,” the greaser yelled before thinking. But it was too late now; he could not take the words back.
The strong man turned slowly. “What,” he snarled, “What did you just say?”
“You heard me! You already snapped his arm! That’s enough!”
“Don’t you dare order me around,” roared the strong man, “Remember your place!”
The greaser began to tremble. “I can’t take it any longer! I won’t stand here and watch you treat these people like animals!” He began to say another word.
“If you say my name,” the strong man warned, “I will-” He was interrupted by a distant siren. The strong man froze for a moment. Then, he dashed to the car and sped away, leaving the greaser alone at the scene. With a sigh of relief, the greaser began returning cell phones. “They’re almost here,” he said, “You’ll all be okay!” Squad cars pulled in the lot and the greaser ran out the back, ripping his mask away as he dodged down the narrow alley. “He got away,” he heard somebody tell the police. The greaser hoped they were talking about the strong man, although he knew he was not totally innocent either.
Unknowingly to the greaser, the fat man behind the counter was watching the greaser as he dashed out and unmasked himself…
* * *
The strong man knew he had left the boy and the greaser behind, but he didn’t care. He was safe and that was all that mattered to him. The strong man peered down. A piece of black metal lay on the passenger seat. He flipped it open and checked the list of recently dialed numbers. “911” was at the very top. The strong man had been betrayed by the boy. In his anger, the strong man crushed the phone. Wherever that boy had gone to, he did not have much time left. The ugly blue car vanished into the night.