“EVERYBODY get the fuck down!”
Marnie, bright orange freesias in her left hand and pruning scissors in her right, spun around to see who dared introduce himself like he was on the set of a gangsta flick.
“Oh, Lord,” she mumbled casually, nary a hint of fear in her voice. “Here we go.”
She always knew this day would happen because the road on which her flower shop sat had seen better, more prosperous, times. Aurora Avenue in Seattle, the stomping ground of druggies, pushers and emaciated hookers, was held in high esteem back in the days when the 1962 World’s Fair saw fit to plant the now famous Space Needle in Seattle Center. Unfortunately, with north-south traffic now dominated by I-5, all the classy restaurants and quality inns on the strip have been replaced by seedy casinos with ceilings so low you can polish the black orbs encasing the security cameras with your t-shirt still on your back. Amidst the car dealerships, Asian eateries, pawn shops and fast food joints there was still a glimmer of hope that, someday, Aurora would return to its glory days. Right now, though, the resurrection of the avenue was the furthest thing from the mind of the 45-year-old florist, especially now that some black-clad maniac with a black and white bandanna for a mask was standing in her shop with a shotgun pointed in her direction.
Glancing quickly around the scent-filled store, the intruder marched straight up to Marnie standing behind the cash register near a wall. From her relatively close distance she saw the man’s eyes. They’re brown like hers – two sepia-toned marbles sitting firmly in one face as soft as silk, the other hard as concrete.
“Who’s in the back?” the robber demanded to know, pointing his midnight black, 12 gauge semi-automatic Beretta at her chest.
“Nobody,” she responded.
“Well, I’m schizophrenic, so no.”
“Don’t be funny,” the armed man scolded her, leaping up over the counter across to the other side.
“You know,” Marnie suggested, pointing to the knee-high door at the edge of the glass counter, “you could’ve just used that.”
“Be quiet, woman,” he protested. “You got a death a wish?”
The clerk rolled up her sleeves and displayed all the recent cuts inside each forearm, some so fresh there were traces of blood in them. “You’d be doing me a favor.”
“You’re fucking crazy. Open that register.”
Marnie eyed the shotgun in the man’s slightly trembling hands, laid the flowers and shears down on the counter, and reluctantly opened the old-fashioned register, the big heavy metal kind that chimed when the cash drawer slid out.
“Out of the way,” the robber ordered her, shoving the punk-attired clerk to one side. Quickly rifling through the machine, he came up with $22.
“Is this it?” he screamed.
“Why is it so low?” he demanded, his eyes practically glowing like burnt embers.
“It’s only 10 in the morning.”
“I can’t believe this shit,” he shouted, slamming the counter.
“Who robs a flower shop?” Marnie asked rhetorically, suspecting the intruder may not shoot if she tried to get on his good side.
“Don’t get smart,” he warned her. “I’m not in the mood. You got a safe in the back?”
“Dammit,” he blurted. “All this shit for 22 bucks.”
“Hey,” Marnie suggested, “that’s two cheese-stuffed pizzas from Domino’s right there.”
“What you got in your pockets, woman?” he asked her.
“Nothing you’d be interested in.”
The robber increased the bass in his voice. “Let me see.”
Marnie reached into her ripped pants pocket slowly and carefully, just in case Superboy here with the gun was trigger happy, and brought out a clear plastic bag with a bloodied tampon inside.
“What the fuck?” the gunman growled.
“I was bleeding a lot,” she informed him. “I’m taking this to my gyno to make sure I’m okay.”
“Ugh,” the intruder moaned. “Put that thing away before you make me vomit.”
She complied as he trotted back out to the floor, studying the ceilings and corners while he winded his way around several display cases of flowers, gardening tools and orange terra-cotta planters.
“No cameras,” he mumbled, then went towards the front door, stopped, and turned to face the clerk still standing behind the register.
“You didn’t see nothing here,” he instructed her. “Got that?”
“Got it,” she saluted as the robber pulled open the front door and ran out to his rusty gray Fiat hatchback parked on the street in front of the shop. Quickly, he reached for the passenger side handle and tugged on it.
“Fuck!” he screamed as the old, rusty handle broke off in his hand.
He tried to jiggle it back in place but it didn’t latch. Frustrated, he ran over to the passenger side of his two door hooptie where, he just remembered, the handle had been gone for months. Cussing under his breath, he zipped over to the hatchback’s rear door, fumbled with the key in its lock till it finally opened, climbed over the backseat and squiggled into the driver seat. He tried to start the compact auto but, in his haste, forgot to yank the keys out of the back door.
“Dammit!” he extolled, kicking the driver side door open, racing to the back, removing the key, and running back towards the driver side just as the door locked itself shut.
Racing to the rear of his auto one more time, he jiggled the key in the lock, opened the door then pulled the keys out, climbed in, shut the hatchback behind him, climbed over the backseat once again, squeezed into the passenger seat, hurriedly started the ignition, and screeched southward down the street. Mere seconds later, the sound of a police siren started blaring hundreds of feet behind him. Looking in the rear-view mirror, he saw Seattle’s finest quickly approaching and immediately jammed on the accelerator pedal, pushing the engine so hard a passerby could practically hear it wheezing from the sidewalk. Gazing in the rear-view mirror intermittently, it’s obvious his old hooptie was no match for the light blue Ford Interceptor behind him so, flipping his wheel to the left, he flied over the raised median, into oncoming northbound traffic where he nearly crashed, and finally into the parking lot of a supermarket plaza. Frightened pedestrians quickly leaped out of his way as he caterwauled screaming through the half-filled lot, knocking over some shopping carts, side swiping a few cars, then speeding out the north exit where he made a quick right onto the recently paved road.
About three blocks ahead, he saw another lit-up squad car zooming towards him. Instinctively, he flipped the wheel to his left to access a new road.
The masked robber’s Fiat flied head on into, and flipped over, a late model, dark blue Ford Focus that was just about to exit the road. The powerful force of the collision thrust the crushed Focus diagonally backwards onto the sidewalk, crashing smack into the young man who was walking there with a tenor sax in a case in his hand and an old Beatles tune escaping from his pursed lips. Both cars exploded into flames just as the police approached.