Okay, I went to a Guy Forsyth concert recently at McGonigel's Mucky Duck in Houston. When I heard one of his songs, I immediately thought of Dean. Dean would love this guy. Anyway, that led to the following little story, which takes place in Houston at a fictional stop-n-rob near the Mucky Duck.
Struggling college students get the worst jobs on the planet. I am attempting to work my way through grad school. The biggest crap job I ever had I quit. Last night.
It was just after midnight and I was studying for mid-term exams when these two guys walked in. They were both tall, but one was tall enough to make the other seem short. The tall guy had shaggy brown hair with matching brown eyes. The normal size one had short, dark blonde hair and green eyes. I remember stuff like that because I work, excuse me – worked, in a convenience store and cops expect you to tell them stuff like that when things happen. Let's face it, the midnight shift in a convenience store lets you see more stuff than you ever wanted. But it gave me time to study, so I stuck with it. Until last night.
I digress. Anyway, those two guys came in and it sounded like they just came from listening to a band or something. The shorter one was humming happily while the tall one kept rolling his eyes.
"Dude," the shorter one came up to me and slapped a twenty down on the counter, "cut me off at twenty dollars. Pump, uh," he leaned back to see, "three?"
"No problem," I told him, punching in the code to release the pump until it hit twenty dollars. I watched him go back outside and start filling his tank. He must have set the thingy on the pump handle so it would keep filling because the guy came back inside and the pump was still ticking away.
"You got a bathroom?" he asked me, glancing around.
"In the back," I jerked my head in the right direction.
"Thanks." He turned around to holler at the tall guy. "Sammy, I gotta take a leak. Don't forget the jerky this time." He sauntered toward the bathroom singing, "You gotta, gotta move in a circular motion." His laughter echoed from the small unisex bathroom until the door clicked shut.
The tall guy was looking at me. "Got a brother?" he asked, intense eyes boring right into me.
"Older?" he asked.
I shook my head. "Younger."
He scoffed and looked at me as though I were annoying him, too. "Then you definitely wouldn't understand." His eyes dropped to survey our shelves.
I recognized that song from a concert I saw at the Rhythm Room. "You guys see Guy Forsyth recently?" I asked.
The tall guy, Sammy, looked right at me then. "Yeah, at some place called the Mucky Duck. You've heard of him?" Surprise was written all over his face.
"Sure," I shrugged. "I love concerts at the Duck. My little brother drags me out all the time. Says I need to loosen up more." It was partially true, anyway. I was the one trying to get my kid brother to loosen up, since he turned into a real pain in the ass after he moved out on his own. I swear, that kid would starve half to death before admitting he needed help. Concerts at some places around downtown could be really reasonable. Okay, most were in bars, but the kid turned twenty-one on his last birthday and that had been the open window I needed.
Sammy let a little grin loose. "My brother says the same thing." He nodded toward the bathroom.
Another guy came in, squat, dark headed, dark eyes. He wore dark clothes too, which made me suspicious. The new guy seemed to realize he walked into the middle of a conversation because he held back, kind of hovering near my counter. I figured he might want to fill up, even though I didn't spot another car by the pumps.
"Can I help you?" I asked. It was turning into a busy night for me. Typically at most I got about two customers at this time of night and now I had three all at the same time.
"Open the register," he said, glaring at me.
I glanced over at Sammy, to see if he heard the same thing I did. His eyes were pretty wide, so I figured he must have.
"Excuse me?" I asked, feeling for that magic button under my counter.
Next thing I knew a gun was pointed in my face. Now, when you see it on TV, intellectually you know that a gun can kill somebody but it always looks like a metal thing in someone's hand. When it's pointed in your face, though, it's different. It's the biggest damn thing in the world. Nothing outside of that barrel exists for you. My eyes were riveted to the end of it, a hole that looked bigger than the Grand Canyon, something else I've never seen in my life. As a list of the things I would never get to do with my life compiled, the guy with the gun motioned to the register.
"Open it," he ordered.
Not taking my eyes off that gun, I felt around for my register and popped the drawer open. I could have done it blindfolded, but my hands were shaking so bad some of the change dropped on the floor. His gun hand jumped at the noise and I cringed.
"Right here," he ordered, slapping his free hand on the counter. I set it where he told me. He pulled out all the bills. "What? There's only about thirty dollars here."
I backed up. This was it, I knew it. The bastard was going to shoot me because there wasn't enough cash in the drawer. Nevermind the fact it was plastered all over the front doors that cashiers did not keep more than forty dollars on hand, or that it was the middle of the night which meant there would not be much money anyway. I was going to die because the guy holding a gun was a moron.
"Now hang on," Sammy moved slowly around the aisle, his hands in the air. "I don't think you want to do anything you will regret. Now, do you?" His voice was smooth, soothing as the guy swung the gun around. Oh, man, I hoped this Sammy guy knew what he was doing or we were both gonna die.
"When ya move in a circular motion," the other guy was out of the bathroom heading our way, dancing a little as he sang, "Baby makes her own…" he stopped, stock still.
"Sammy?" Older brother's eyes were glued to the gun currently trained on Sammy. I was wondering if the guy would notice if I lowered my hands a little. If I could just press that magic little button under the counter, I knew HPD would be here in less than ten minutes. Maybe faster if it was a slow night.
"I'm fine, Dean," Sammy replied. His voice was way too calm. I wondered if he did something like this for a living. Maybe I already had two cops in my store.
When I looked over at the shorter guy, who had a good couple of inches on me, he did not look fine. I still can't decide if he looked scared or pissed. Maybe he was both. Sure wouldn't blame him, I'd be hard pressed to choose between the two if some guy were holding a gun on my brother.
The guy's gun hand was shaking and he looked between Sammy and Dean, like he didn't know what to do now.
"So this is a hold-up?" Dean asked, his voice just as calm as his brother's.
"Yes!" The guy snapped, shifting the gun between the two brothers. I tried lowering my hands, going for the button, but he spun around on me. "Keep 'em up!"
I understood the term 'reach for the skies.' If it had been overcast that night, I'm sure I would have snagged a cloud or two. The guy shot me a look that could sour milk, which made me wonder about the expiration dates on the milk. I hadn't checked the cartons yet.
"Look, I'm sure you don't want to do anything you're going to regret," Dean said in a smooth as honey voice, using almost the exact same words Sammy did. "Just let me reach in my jacket here," he pointed to an inside pocket, "so I can give you all my money. Okay?"
Dean nodded at the guy with an encouraging smile. The guy motioned to Dean with his gun. I felt a small surge of relief. If Dean had enough cash on him, maybe the guy would be satisfied and leave.
Dean plucked a small wad of cash out of his pocket and tossed it to the gun-wielding moron. The guy caught it and held it up. "How much?" he demanded.
Dean shrugged. "Around three or four hundred. Why don't you just point that gun somewhere other than my brother now?"
He shoved the cash in his pocket and pointed the gun straight at Sammy then. Moron. "How much you got?" he demanded, stepping forward.
I saw Dean tensing up, looking like he was ready to spring into action. He and Sammy exchanged a look and Sammy dug into his jeans pocket. He took out a money clip full of cash.
Pulling the money clip off, he handed over the cash. "I only have about two hundred," he said.
"Money clip, too," the guy insisted.
Sammy slipped it into his pocket. "No."
I thought my eyes might pop out of their sockets at that. Who the hell tells someone holding a gun no? I mentioned the huge barrel, didn't I? Grand Canyon.
"Sam," Dean growled from his position just to the side. "Give it to him."
Sammy glared at his brother. "Jess gave it to me." That seemed to say it all, because he crossed his arms over his chest as if he were daring the idiot holding the gun to make him give it up.
The guy with the gun, it was a revolver I realized, pulled the hammer back. "Now."
"Dude," Dean's face had gone cold, like stone. "Don't."
The guy glanced over at Dean. "Yeah? What'll you do?"
Dean's eyes narrowed. "You do anything, anything to my brother, and I'll kill you."
The way he said it, I believed it. At that moment I figured, gun or no gun, Dean could kill our robber with his bare hands.
"Dean!" Sammy hissed, motioning his older brother back. He dug back into his pocket to retrieve the money clip. Then I saw a little smile flash over his face. It was quick, but it was there.
"Here," Sam held up the gold clip. I could not believe what happened next. He dropped it on the floor. "You want it? Pick it up." There was challenge in his voice. My eyes slid over to Dean. His face was still hard, but now his eyes resembled a hawk or wolf sizing up the competition. I wondered which would be worse, staring down the barrel of a gun the size of the Grand Canyon or Dean. I made a decision then and there not to ever put myself in that second situation if I could help it. The first one was bad enough.
Now, I know a setup when I see it. I went to public high school and apparently these two guys did, too. This was a classic no-brainer. The guy should have just walked out then and there; he already had more cash than he should have expected from a convenience store at this time of night. With his gun he motioned for Sam to back up. Sam did, about a step. But that guy's legs were so long I figured he could make the distance back up in an instant. With everyone distracted, I managed to reach under the counter to hit my little white button. Now I could pray that the cops were having a boring night and would arrive in time to take my pulse and rush me to the hospital, since it was obvious we were all going to die now. So much for my mid-terms tomorrow, or checking the expiration dates on the milk, or ever seeing the Grand Canyon. On second thought, I think I'd rather go to Hoover Dam, then I could also hit Vegas. Never been there, either.
As I expected, our moron robber bent over to reach for the money clip. Sam was fast, and almost fast enough. He rushed forward, delivering a vicious kick that sent the moron flying back against my counter, but the guy managed to keep a grip on his gun. As he lifted it up, presumably to shoot Sam, I heard another click.
My head turned so fast I might have whip-lash from it. Dean was holding a gun. I guessed the click I heard was the safety being taken off. "Don't." His voice was cold, completely devoid of emotion. One look at those hard green eyes and I knew he would do it, especially since the robber's gun was trained on his younger brother.
Sam was staring down at the guy, too. "You'd better put it down. That's the only way I'm going to be able to talk him out of shooting you." His voice was just as smooth as before, but now there was authority in it.
"Sammy, get over here!" Dean barked, moving around.
Sam shook his head, looking down at the robber. "Once I get behind him, you're history, dude."
"Shut up, Sam."
I was tapping out S.O.S. on my white button, wondering where the hell HPD was. It was a Thursday night, for crying out loud. The big club scenes didn't start up until Friday, at the earliest. Surely the cops weren't having a busy night? Oh, god, I was so gonna die. I just knew it. At the very least, I figured I'd be hit by a stray bullet. It would be just my luck. And people would buy sour milk tomorrow. Hell of a legacy to leave behind.
Sam moved to stand behind Dean, who was stepping steadily toward his brother.
"No!" Our robber seemed to come to his senses. "Don't move!"
Sam froze in his tracks, but Dean kept coming, determined to stand between the gun and his brother. "You got a death wish or something?" he hissed as he stepped in front of Sam.
I heard sirens in the distance. Sound travels far around here, it could even be from the freeway, but I just knew they were headed my way. Hopefully I would still have a pulse when they arrived.
"Do you?" Sam snapped back.
"Dude, if you had just handed over the damn money clip, this would have all been over. You know that?" Dean argued.
How the hell can two people argue in the middle of a standoff with loaded weapons? At least, I assumed both guns were loaded. That's what I've always been told: Treat every gun like it's loaded. Good advice. I promised myself if I got out of there alive, I was going to Vegas. Right after I flunked my midterms and got fired for not checking the milk.
"Oh, right, like this is all my fault," Sam huffed. "Figures."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Dean demanded, his eyes never leaving the robber.
"You're always blaming me for something," Sam replied.
Dean's eyes hardened, which I did not think was possible until then. They already looked chiseled from solid rock.
"I am not," Dean shot back. "You were the one who thought I stole your laptop even though I told you I didn't."
Sam's eyes rolled. "Just won't let go of that one, will you?"
"Hey!" The robber shouted, looking distressed at how much control he had lost. "Robbery in progress, remember?"
Dean growled deep in his throat. "I say we waste him," he said.
"No, Dean. We can't just kill a human being." Sam argued. Funny how it sounded like an old argument.
"You think he'd hesitate to kill us?" Dean argued back.
"Well, he hasn't, has he?" Sam asked.
Dean appeared to consider that. "Guess not. Tell you what," Dean gestured with his gun at the robber. "You walk out that door now, and you get to live."
The robber stepped closer to them, snarling. "I want your wallets."
Dean sighed. "Now it's a mugging? What the hell?" He held up his gun. "You do understand this is real, right? Not a toy?"
Our robber took another step, close enough to shove his revolver right in Dean's face. "Now."
A nasty look came over Dean's face. "Now you're just pissing me off." His free hand whipped up, knocking the revolver away as his gun came down on the guy's head. The robber slumped to a heap at Dean's feet. He pointed his gun down at the guy's head.
"Don't, Dean," Sam said, with a restraining hand on Dean's arm. Dean allowed Sam to pull his hand away. Sam bent down, placed two fingers on the guy's neck. "He'll live."
"Goody." Dean glowered at the lump at his feet.
"Come on, let's go." Sam said.
"In a minute." Dean shoved his gun into his waistband, then searched through the guy's pockets. He retrieved two lumps of cash, holding the thinner one out to Sam. Sam took it. After finding his money clip on the floor, he slipped it over his cash.
The sirens were definitely close now. "That's the cops," I breathed.
The brothers turned to look at me, like they had forgotten I was there. Dean turned to face his brother. "Forget my jerky?"
Sam sighed, shaking his head as he returned to searching the shelves. I darted around my counter, finding several bags of jerky and adding them to their pile. "Anything else you want?" I asked.
Dean surveyed their goods on the counter. "I think that ought to do it. Or should we get more beer, Sam?"
I went to the back and pulled out two more six packs of cold beer, same brand they chose earlier. I added it to their stuff and started bagging everything. "There you go," I told them when I was finished.
Sam gave me a funny look. "What do you owe you?" he asked.
I laughed. "Nothing. I think breathing is enough."
"Cool." Dean picked up the beer.
"No. Not cool," Sam corrected. "We don't want you to get in trouble. What do we owe you?"
"Dude," I looked him straight in the eye, "I just quit. I don't care if you two clean out the entire store."
Dean's head snapped up at that. "In that case," he snagged several items hanging in front of my counter. Sam glared at him, but he did not offer to put anything back, just shrugged. When Sam looked back at me, I saw Dean take something else and shove it into his jacket.
"You're sure?" Sam demanded.
"Yep. And unless you want to explain why your brother is packing, you two better leave now. That's the cops." The sirens were really loud now.
Sam gathered the rest of the bags in his arms and they rushed out the door. Dean did not even bother to hang up the pump handle, just dropped it on the concrete before they peeled out of the parking lot. As their taillights winked out of sight, two HPD cars screamed up to my door. About flipping time!
The guy was arrested and the cops reviewed the surveillance tape. Afterwards they must have asked me a million questions about the brothers who saved my butt, but since I never saw them before last night there was only so much I could tell them. They took the robber and the tape away. I locked the store for the last time, the very last time. My letter of resignation was in the lock box, written on a paper towel from the restroom.
I stood outside, breathing deep. When I noticed how hard my hands were shaking, I pulled out my cell phone.
"Hello?" My brother's sleepy, irritated voice was the best damn sound in the world.
"Dan? I'm at work. Come pick me up."
"Huh?" I could imagine my little brother trying to rub the sleep from his eyes. "Whassamatter? Car won't start? You break down?"
"Held up," I answered, feeling the phone bump repeatedly against my ear when my hands refused to stop shaking.
"What held up your car?" he asked, sounding more confused.
The laugh that came out sounded weird, even to me. "Not the car. The store was held up tonight. I can't drive."
"You hurt?" The concern was unmistakable, and I was thankful for it.
"No. Just can't drive. My hands won't stop shaking." And apparently my voice wouldn't either, I noticed.
"I'm halfway out the door," he answered. "Keep your phone on, I'll call you from the road."
"Okay." I disconnected the call, sliding to sit on the cold concrete and wait for my brother to show up. Brothers were good things to have, even if they could be impossible, stubborn and annoying. Dan didn't know it yet, but we were going to Vegas. If I had to tie up my brother and drag him onto the plane, we were going to Vegas.