Lila screamed and jerked sideways, but she was too late. Blazing fire shot through her side and knocked her to the floor. The wind rushed out of her lungs as she impacted, and she felt the panic clawing its way through every cell in her body. The pain was so great, that at first it didn’t register. Then she noticed a red stain slowly spreading over the white tile beside her.
Lila had never been the screaming type. She had yet to make a noise since the stick up had occurred, but she screamed now. It was a terrible noise, one that she was positive she was incapable of making. In fact, it took her a moment to realize that she in fact was the culprit who was producing that hideous sound. That truth frightened her almost as much as the fact she had been shot.
This time, it took Brian a moment to realize that A.J. was not dead. When the shot sounded, he squeezed his eyes shut, praying he would not have to open them to the sight of his friend’s body. He knew if A.J. died in front of him it would mean his own demise as well. A.J. was like a brother to him, and Brian knew that losing him like this was not something he could live with. It wasn’t until the feminine scream ripped through his eardrums that he opened his eyes, and saw A.J. still standing in front of him, his eyes closed and his body shaking ever so slightly. Seeing A.J. so unnerved made the situation that much worse. A.J. never showed fear. He had probably also never come so close to losing his life.
Brian’s scanned the room frantically, looking for the recipient of the bullet originally intended for A.J. He spotted the young girl he’d noticed earlier down on the floor, trying to staunch the flow of blood from her side. Without thinking, Brian vaulted over the scattered cans and debris and flew to her side.
Brian, don’t be a fool! A.J. wanted to yell. He was petrified for the safety of his friend. This was not a situation that they could afford to toy with, one mistake and they would all end up dead. His heart is always bigger than his damn head. But his actions distracted the gunman, and A.J. seized his chance. He batted the barrel away from his head and bolted towards Brian. Chaos ensued.
“Everybody stop where you are!” the ringleader shouted hoarsely.
A.J. froze where he stood, glaring disgustedly at his assailant. Brian had already reached the girl’s side, and was trying to see how badly she was injured.
“Look, man,” A.J. spat coldly. “The police are gonna show up here in a matter of minutes. You have one body, and a wounded girl who’s going to die if she doesn’t get treated. Do you really think you are going to be able to walk away from here?”
The second man started to curse.
“If you run you won’t get far. Let us all go, and at least they can’t add ‘hostages’ to your list of offenses.”
“Oh, no,” the leader said in a voice that made A.J.’s skin crawl. “You got us into this mess. Now you have to live with the consequences.” He pointed to A.J., the cashier, and the middle-aged woman. “You, you, and you. Help me barricade these windows.”
“Shit,” A.J. muttered.
This was bad. Really bad. What would he do if he found out he was holding two famous people? He might kill the rest and just hold him and Brian for some kind of ransom to get himself and his co-conspirator to safety. A.J. prayed no one would realize who they were.
“You!” thief number one barked, pointing at Brian. “Make sure she stays alive.”
“I need a first aid kit,” Brian said, his features contorted with hatred for his captor. The crook turned his head toward the cashier, never lowering his gun.
“First aid kit,” he ordered.
Wordlessly, she reached under the counter and removed a small black box with a red cross painted across the top. He snatched it and threw it over to Brian.
“There’s band aids and some other stuff over there,” she said, almost inaudibly, pointing towards one of the aisles. Brian nodded at her, trying to look reassuring.
A.J. and the others went to work dragging the shelves over to the windows, listening all the while for the sirens that they desperately hoped would come.