The room span, and Charlie lurched dizzily from side to side, trying desperately to maintain his grip on reality. He dimly felt a warm trickle of blood slide down behind his ear and onto his collar, as the room gradually came into focus,
He was staring at the muzzle of Steve's gun, trained squarely on Charlie's forehead.
Steve was livid with rage, the veins in his neck bulging. He knelt and grabbed the phone, simultaneously bellowing "MITCH! Get in here NOW!"
Mitch came running in from the office. He seemed pale and stressed, but these human characteristics were overshadowed by the coldness of his expression. He had the look of a man slightly deranged.
"This shit" Steve spat "was talking to someone on this." Steve shoved the phone at Mitch without looking, keeping his gun trained on Charlie. Charlie could tell he was itching to pull the trigger, but he felt no fear, only the blankness he expected preceded absolute terror. His hands scrabbled underneath Don's jacket, he knew he had hidden it there…
Don's gun. Don's gun, which Charlie had absently picked up when no-one was looking – it had been lying where Don dropped it, forgotten by all but Charlie. He hated guns, but something had told him that it might come in handy.
There! He felt his hand close over cool metal.
Mitch raised the phone to his ear. "Hello?"
"Mitch? This is Agent Roddick."
Mitch nodded, then turned to Steve. "Shoot him" he said, pointing at Charlie.
Steve smiled. "Gladly." He cocked his weapon, and Charlie felt his stomach lurch.
He heard a loud bang, shouts of "Go, go, go!" as the SWAT team bashed down the doors. But Charlie only had eyes for Steve. In the second before Steve pulled the trigger, Charlie swung his arm up and fired.
One round from Don's service revolver.
It struck Steve in the leg, and he bellowed in pain, falling to the floor and clutching at his shins. Mitch raised his weapon as if to fire, but a second later a bullet from the SWAT guns caught him full in the chest and he fell crashing to the floor.
In seconds there seemed to be hundreds of police in the bank, running in and placing cuffs on Steve, who was still yelling in agony. Charlie felt no pity for him at all. He turned back to Don, and gasped.
Don's skin was turning faintly blue. As Charlie watched, he saw Don's chest rise… fall… rise… fall… fall…
Charlie crawled to Don's side. The veins on Don's neck were sticking out, looking like thick, knotted cords, and he was gasping and choking, trying desperately to draw a breath. When he looked at Charlie, there was panic in his eyes, and his hands were clenching and unclenching.
Don couldn't breathe.
"HELP!" Charlie screamed, turning to the paramedics who were now swarming into the bank.
In seconds they had descended in Don, and Charlie was unceremoniously shoved aside. He crawled to his feet, watching, horrified, as tube were shoved down Don's throat, as he was injected and his shirt ripped open to expose the angry wound that had almost destroyed one side of his chest. For Charlie time seemed to slow down, and all sound faded away, as he tried to deal with this.
Don's dying, right in front of me
He couldn't believe, wouldn't believe it – at that moment his most fervent desire was to wake up from this nightmare…
Don was on a stretcher now, and the medics began to rush him out of the room, still yelling things to each other that were meaningless to Charlie. He tried to follow, asked if he could go in the ambulance, but received only a terse reply of "no room" before Don was loaded into the back. The doors banged shut in his face, and he watched the ambulance containing his brother speed away, sirens wailing.
He felt lost.
I gentle touch on the arm made him jump, and a kind voice said, "you're bleeding. Let me take a look at that". It was another young medic, and her gloved fingers gently probed the side of his head. He tried to wave her away, "I have to get to the hospital" he said pleadingly, "my brother…" She looked at him, and then glanced down the road in the direction the ambulance had left. She placed a hand on his "let me check you out, and then I'll drive you straight there. Okay?"