Ryan sat in the parking lot of the Pizza Hut, staring at the blue-green light of his iPhone. All he had to do call the police was press the little button on the screen; just press it and they’d be on their way.
They were already on their way, though; weren’t they?
He felt certain that Rose would have noticed the man lying on the floor of her store, even though Ryan acknowledged, he had not.
That wasn’t true, he thought. He’d seen him clear enough when he’d come stomping through the front door, yelling and screaming.
At a 10-year-old boy.
That didn’t look good.
He’d driven like a bat out of hell to get across the bridge, to the only place he could possibly be within walking distance with this weather. He’d been enraged, furious.
Had he said anything in the Pizza Hut that might have been overheard by either one of the employees or by a customer?
Ryan didn’t think so. He hadn’t threatened the kid, hadn’t said that he wanted to wring his neck or pop him. No, he’d just run out of the restaurant like a crazy man to catch an elementary school-aged vandal.
“Can you prove he did it,” Ryan asked himself, and the truth was “no, he could not.” There was plenty of circumstantial “evidence.” He’d been in the employee bathroom. He’d been near the jukebox, but nobody had actually seen him do anything.
The local police weren’t going to do anything, if he called them, except ask him what he knew and whether there was any video tape. There wasn’t. So, if he brought them in, they were just going to shrug and tell him, “Gee, wiz, we’d love to do something, but we have much bigger things to do than chase idiot kids playing idiot pranks.”
They wouldn’t even dust for fingerprints.
If Ryan filed a complaint, the police might go and talk to Drew, but he’d deny any kind of responsibility.
Even if by some impossible chance, Drew did acknowledge the crime, did Ryan really want anyone to hear why the boy might have a grudge to pick with him? Did he want that to go in public record if he ended up before a judge?
No, he did not.
It was unlikely, though. More than likely, the kid would clam up, say he had nothing to do with it. He just came in, got a pizza and remembered to leave a nice tip.
The most that would come of that is the police might warn Drew not to go back in that particular Pizza Hut and then Ryan would be obligated to file a report with the owner of the restaurant and franchise headquarters. Neither of them would think too highly of a store manager leaving the store to chase after a kid in the rain.
Store policy was to not even follow trouble customers into the parking lot. Call the police if there was trouble. Otherwise, just deal with it or get over it.
“But that guy shot at me,” he muttered. “You can’t do that.”
Ryan had been railing at a boy in front of his grandmother and a pregnant woman, neither of whom were capable of offering much protection. He’d been shouting and moving in a threatening manner, while an injured man laid at Ryan’s feet.
He’d done nothing to help the man. The man, it could be argued, had acted to protect the boy. He might be considered lucky that the man didn’t put a bullet in his leg or anywhere else.
Angry, but clear-headed, Ryan pressed the “home” button to his phone. He wasn’t calling anyone.
Defeated, and also realizing that whatever momentum he’d built with Rose was now lost, Ryan put his phone away and walked back through the rain into the pizza parlor to finish his shift. Hootie and the Blowfish was still playing throughout the dining hall. He wished he could figure a way to turn it off.
Rose watched the police and the rescue squad pick the man who called himself Skip up off her filthy floor and cart him away in an ambulance.
Nobody had mentioned the gun, or the shot fired. The single bullet had gone into the wall under the cooler, but hadn’t hit anything vital, apparently. Nothing was leaking. Nothing was burning. There was only a neat, little hole punched in the wall about two inches from the floor.
“Pretty darned amazing, if you ask me,” she said to no one in particular.
The old woman, Megan, and her grandson, Andy or Dre (she called him Andy. He said his name was Dre) were still standing around, even after the police showed up.
They’d kept the story pretty straight, said they’d heard a noise, and then this man in the nice suit had come staggering through the front door. They didn’t know him. He didn’t look like he was from around here and when he hit the floor, they called 9-1-1 and attempted to provide some aid.
They said that Dre, brave boy he was, went out to where the man had come from, which explained why he was soaked to the bone when the cruiser pulled up, followed by the ambulance.
Dre said, “I thought maybe there’d been other people with him, you know?”
The officer who took his statement smiled and nodded but told him that could have been a dangerous thing he did.
The boy shrugged, which passed for modesty.
“There wasn’t nobody out there,” he said.
Rose then added that when he came to, he said he’d been alone and that he thought it was either his heart or his arm.
The cop nodded and said, “I’m going to say heart, but I wouldn’t say that he didn’t get something else from that tumble he took down that hill. It’s a wonder he got here in one piece.”
The officer didn’t ask many questions after that but took down their contact information and said he might be in contact, if something came up.
Megan said, “If you don’t mind officer, let us know how he turns out. I wouldn’t want my grandson to worry.”
The cop promised he’d give them a call as soon as he heard anything, then he wished them all a good night and went on his merry way.
As soon as he was gone and out of sight, Rose locked the door and killed the lights to the sign and the island. She’d told Matt she planned to close early –and had actually kept the place open ten minutes later than she promised.
Then they all hovered around the counter and looked inside the briefcase.
“Holy Moly,” Dre/Andy said. “How much?”
“I don’t think we should touch that,” Megan said. “Normal people don’t carry around cash in briefcases.”
Rose looked at the money –all in neat stacks and bound with rubber bands, just like they did in the movies.
“It has to be a million dollars,” she said. “It has to be.”
“A million dollars. Wow,” Andy/Dre said. “What do we do with it?”
Rose looked at the boy sharply.
“We’re not doing anything with it,” she said and nodded toward the box on the shelf behind her, the box that had the man’s shoulder holster and gun. “He’s going to come looking for his money eventually.”
Andy/Dre looked at the money.
“He was in a pretty bad way,” he said. “What happens if he doesn’t get better?”
Rose looked up at the ceiling, which was just about as filthy as the Shopaminit’s floor. She’d been thinking the same thing. If the man with the gun died in the hospital, that created a whole different set of problems.
She could use the money, obviously. She was seven and a half months pregnant. The baby’s father was useless and would probably continue to be useless for the larger part of its life.
With that kind of cash, she could quit this garbage job, maybe not work for a good long while. When she was ready to rejoin the working world, she could get some schooling -or they could just move somewhere where they had a decent hope of making a living.
Maybe Myrtle Beach. Rose loved the beach. If she lived down there, she might never have to wear pants again.
She shook off the thoughts.
“We don’t know anything about this money or that guy,” she said. “We don’t know if he robbed a bank or if he’s running drugs. Can we agree that a smartly dressed fella with a briefcase full of cash and an expensive-looking pistol would probably be very mad if we ran off with his money?
“Yeah, but what if he, you know, died?” Andy/Dre said.
“Well, then we’d have to think about it,” Rose said. “If we think this is his money, free and clear, I guess finders-keepers, but if it belongs to some whacko cult or the mob or a drug cartel, then maybe we shouldn’t be in a hurry to start looking at new cars and stuff.”
The boy’s grandmother nodded in agreement. That was good enough.
“So, we just sit tight.”
Kelly couldn’t exactly make out what his former supervisor and her two friends were saying, but thanks to the mirror on the wall behind them, which was supposed to help the clerks keep an eye on the store when they turned around, he got a good look at what they talking about.
“Holy,” he said and covered his mouth.
Kelly felt the gun in his belt. He could… but no, he could see the door was locked.
“Play it smart,” he whispered. “See what they do with it.”