Doctor Who: A Simple Plan

by Mark Phippen

'It was Kara's idea to rob the shop. These things were always her idea. We'd be talking and she'd get this look in her eye, and when that happened I knew she'd found a new cause.

'It was a simple plan, for one of hers. Motorcycle helmets and sawn off shotguns. Burst in, intimidate the staff, and out through the delivery entrance. No need to even load the guns, the family who ran the shop had seen enough of 'em to do as they were told, no questions asked. At least, it sounded simple.

'The idea was to stake the place out for a day or so, note the patterns of the customers so that we could hit it with as few of them as possible. Staff are easy, they do as they're told, but with customers you never can tell. There's always the chance you'll get some hero nutter with a death wish.

'We decided an early morning strike would be best. Wait for the paperboys to leave and go for it. The only likely customer that time of day would be the doddery old geezer who always, without fail, got up at the crack of dawn to get his newspaper. He shouldn't be much trouble.

'So we pick our day; Thursday, takings day. Regular as clockwork is our Mr. Shopkeeper.

'We pull up in the van, taking a last look at the place before we do it. I'm shaking like a leaf, like I always do, but she's as cool as a cucumber. I suppose this job is small for her. Could do it in her sleep, probably.

'The last of the paperboys takes off on his bike, so we park the van round the back of the shop and put our helmets on. She throws me one of the guns, and I stash it in my jacket. She does the same, and I notice, not for the first time, how good she looks in her leathers. She must have seen me looking cause she tells me to concentrate. Business first.

'So we're out of the van and making our way around the front. The street's deserted, which is what we want, of course, but it still gives me the creeps. Like it's too quiet. Well, it wouldn't be for much longer.

'We push the door open and the chimes ring out, far too happily for my liking. The shopkeeper is behind the counter, pointing to a sign by the door. No helmets. Then he notices the gun that even I hadn't realised she'd drawn and he's frozen, eyes wide.

'The speed at which she's pulled out her gun takes me by surprise, and I'm still fumbling for mine. It's my job to cover the others while she deals with the shopkeeper, and the seconds I've lost could be disastrous. But somehow I manage to pull out the shotgun and bring it round to cover the shop, hoping the fact that my hands are shaking isn't too obvious. She, on the other hand, is solid as a rock.

'It's only as I bring the gun up that I realise there's a customer; a man. He's dressed in a long coat, dark green velvet, expensive looking. Long, dark hair framing a handsome face that's creased in a frown. He's one of those men who manages to look tall, when he's really quite short - towering above me, though he's looking up at me.

'We'd been watching the shop for an hour, and this man had definitely not walked in.

'But he was here, that was a fact, so I put my thoughts aside and yell at him to get down. Best not to think too much in these kinds of circumstances, you might realise just what you're doing.

'I scan the room. One more, a girl; the shop assistant, Emma. Nice girl, kind face. She's served me here a few times, always got a smile. It feels wrong to be waving a gun at her.

'She gets the message and joins the man on the floor.

'I notice Kara's having trouble with the shopkeeper. He's babbling that there's no money in the shop, he took it to the bank yesterday. Kara reminds him today is Thursday, and she knows damn well that he's lying.

'I realise I've taken my eyes from the others and I turn back to them. The man is now standing, and he's walking towards me, slowly, his hands in the air and his eyes fixed on me like I'm the dangerous one. Like I'm the one who would shoot.

'Big mistake.

'I never really registered the gunshot until after I saw him fly backwards. Not sure if that's normal, or whether I'm just remembering it wrong, but that's how it seemed. Anyway, he flies backwards, twisting as he goes, and he lands face down on the floor, spread-eagled, blood seeping from under him.

'And then the girl, the shop assistant, is running forward. I can see Kara's gun swinging round to cover her, and I'm shouting 'No!', but the helmet muffles my voice. She doesn't shoot anyway, because the girl stops at the man lying on the floor.

'Emma's yelling 'You've killed him!' and she's pulling the man over onto his back. The man is laying there, blood pumping from his stomach, eyes staring up at the ceiling. Kara's getting agitated, her attention, for now, back on the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper, having abandoned his pretence of poverty, is making his way to the back room, Kara in tow. And me? I'm standing there, gun in shaking hand, wanting to run, but my legs are like they're made of lead. I'm frozen to the spot, watching the blood ooze out onto the floor.

'The man coughs. I didn't expect that. His mouth is full of blood, but he's trying to say something, his arm weekly waving towards to back room. This man should be dead.

'Emma's shouting at me now, telling me to call an ambulance. This seems to agitate the man; he spits blood out of his mouth, and tries to talk. He can only manage a whisper, and I can't hear him through the helmet, but it looks like he's shaking his head, like he doesn't want the ambulance.

'Kara and the shopkeeper are coming from the back room. He's stuffing notes into the bag she's given him. Kara's eyes are steady on him, she doesn't even glance at the dying man on the floor. I suddenly realise just why she's so cool about this, this is nothing new. She's killed before.

'The shopkeeper's finished filling the bag, and Kara takes it from him and throws it at my feet. I do the donkeywork, see. She turns back to the shopkeeper and for one moment they are eye to eye. He's looking deep into her eyes, like he's searching for a sign of her humanity. He won't find any.

'I realise what this means. Kara's going to kill him, he's seen too much, even with the helmet on. She's bringing up the gun, aiming straight at his heart, her finger tightening on the trigger. He's incredibly calm, like he's resigned to his fate.

'And then she stops, and she cocks her head to one side, listening. I can't hear anything at first, but eventually I can make it out; sirens. The police.

'She throws the shopkeeper to the floor, and runs to the front of the shop. I can see from where I'm standing that the road outside is now full of police cars, crisscrossed across the road to block the other traffic. Policemen are of their cars and ducking down behind them. A van has arrived, and armed police are jumping out, join the others behind the cars. Someone must have told them we were armed.

'You're there, and you're shouting through a megaphone that you've got the place surrounded, but Kara's not listening; her eyes are everywhere, summing up the positions of the policemen and looking for a way out. She checks the back room, and returns swearing. She's getting rattled, for once.

'Then she seems to come to a decision. She walks over to the door, and wrenches it open. She's going to give herself up, I think. You're shouting at her to drop the gun, but she's still walking forward. I can see the armed policemen getting edgy, their eyes on Kara, their fingers hovering over their triggers. I'm thinking drop the gun, for God's sake, drop the gun.

'And then she stops, and everyone holds their breath.

'Then she's bringing up the gun, firing a shot at the nearest marksman who takes a hit in his shoulder, she's swinging round, firing at another, and another. She's gets out four shots before the police even react, but when they do, she doesn't stand a chance. Her body jerks again and again as the bullets slam into her from different directions, almost lifting her from the ground, before dropping her to the floor, like a puppet with its strings cut.

'She's lying there, and I can see her face. She's grinning.

'The police are running towards the shop now, obviously thinking they've taken out the threat. I suppose they're right. I've still got my gun though.

'I hear a noise; a wheezing, groaning sound, and I spin round. The shopkeeper is still on the floor, hands over his head, but the man Kara shot is on his feet, held up by Emma. This man who should be dead. His breathing is laboured, and his chest is wheezing, but he's very much alive, and taking faltering steps towards the back room.

'He turns and looks at me, with those deep, intelligent eyes. 'You're not going to shoot me,' his voice is cracked, but audible, 'You know it's over. Put the gun down.'

'So I do.

'And I stand and watch as Emma and the man make their way to the back room, closing the door behind them. I stand there and listen as a sound like a key scraping on piano wire fills the shop. And I'm still standing there when the police burst in and tell me to freeze. Like I could move if I wanted to.'

Detective Inspector Frank Warburn leaned over the table and turned off the tape recorder. The suspect looked a little startled at this, like he'd been lost in his own memories, oblivious to his surroundings.

The man looked at Warburn, a worried look on his face. 'You don't believe me, do you?' he said.

'I believe that Kara was the driving force in your little partnership.' Warburn replied.

'I mean about the man, the man she shot,' the man was getting agitated, Warburn realised. He should give him a break.

'There was nobody there, I've told you,' Warburn didn't want to get into that again. 'You need a break; I'll get you some coffee.'

Warburn got up from his chair, the scrape of the legs against the floor reverberating around the tiny room. He made his way to the door, pausing as his hand reached the handle. 'I'll tell you this much though,' he said, turning round, 'we did find blood on the floor of the shop.'

'Well there you go them, that proves...'

'It wasn't human blood.' Warburn watched his suspect for a reaction. He saw genuine surprise.

'You're kidding me.'

'I'm deadly serious. Plenty of blood, none of it human.'

'So what was it?'

'It's been hard to tell, but forensic say it's nearer to cat's blood than anything else.'

'That's the answer then, the reason he didn't die.' There was a crack in the suspect's voice, like he was only just managing to hang on.

'What's that?'

'He must have had nine lives.'

With a grin, Warburn turned and left the room, closing the door behind him. And behind the door, alone at last, the prisoner allowed the tears he'd been fighting flow freely.

© 2000 Mark Phippen