It was a well-lighted gas station, with a bright overhang protecting pumps and patrons from rare rainstorms and the burning desert sun. Large glass picture windows and a pair of glass doors enclosed the small convenience store. The blue and red strobes on top of the police vehicle added garish graffiti-like war paint to otherwise calm, clean surfaces.
Drake parked his cop car behind the old Chevy that stood, naked and open as a whore, near the store’s entrance. Noise from the approaching ambulance overwhelmed the chirps of cicadas and crickets in the empty lots around the little plaza.
Knowing only that the robbery involved weapons, Drake drew his sidearm and slowly made his way toward the doors, catching glimpses into the interior as he passed window-sized posters of soft drinks and snack foods, rental DVDs and cigarettes. Finally, he was able to see through the doors and he spotted a woman with a gun pointed away from her, toward the floor some distance away.
Drake spared a glance toward her target and saw a body splayed out on the floor, unmoving. He watched the woman with the gun again. Her skin was pale and gray, her eyes open wide and staring at the person on the floor. There was a little runnel of blood marking her lip and chin. He recognized her as a woman he’d met at the welcome potluck the town had held for him when he first started as Police Chief of Fire Gorge a week ago. Mae. Mae Weston. She’d seemed like a nice person, but then even homicidal maniacs had good days.
Drake took a deep breath and then flung open the store’s front doors. “Police! Put the gun down and step away from the counter.”
Her eyes—light violet eyes—flicked to him, back to the person on the floor, and then back to him.
He spoke more gently. “Put it down on the counter, Ms. Weston. Then step back.”
Her look went back to the floor. “He might not be dead.”
“I’ll check once you put the gun down. Do it. Do it now.”
She remained completely focused on her target. “You’ll shoot him if he tries anything?”
He kept his voice calm, soothing. “I’ll keep you safe. I don’t want to tell you again.”
Her nod was nearly imperceptible, but she followed his orders. The gun made a light thud on the cheap countertop, and she shuffled back until her butt hit the cigarette display racks behind the counter. The gun was now out of reach.
Shoulders sagging, Mae took a ragged breath.
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