Albert Hampton drummed his fingers on the countertop idly and yawned. He looked at the clock for what must have been the hundredth time - 9:30 P.M. Just half an hour left before he could leave. Groaning, he rested his elbows on the table and began twirling a pen.
He had just moved in town last week, having long ago decided that life in a big city was not at all appealing. Now, he was starting to wonder if it was the right choice; customers in the store after 9:00 P.M. were rare, making the last hour of his shift incredibly boring.
Just when he was considering rearranging all the milk cartons again just for something to do, there was a light tapping sound on the counter directly in front of him. "... SHIT!" he cursed, and promptly fell from his seat. Pain shot through his shoulder as he landed on it awkwardly and he gave a girlish yelp as he attempted to back away from the black masked figure standing at the counter. "Wha-who... where did you come from?!" His shaking fingers reached for the silent alarm button, but was stopped gently by a gloved hand.
The man held out a piece of paper. At first, Albert had difficulty reading, thinking that it was a ploy to take his attention off of the man long enough for him to draw a gun or something, but when nothing happened, he took a closer look. "... M-milk... yogurt-covered pretzels... c-coffee... is this your shopping list?"
A nod from the man.
"... Oh." He laughed nervously. "Y-you're here to buy these things?" As soon as those words left his mouth, he realized that the question could have potentially agitated the man, but such worries seemed to resolve themselves when the man nodded and pulled a few bills out of his pocket - an indicator that he had money and was willing to pay.
"O-okay. The milk is in the back and the coffee is on aisle two. L-let me know if you need anything else." Goddammit, he couldn't stop his voice from wavering. He stared at the bell hanging above the entrance. How had the man managed to slip in without ringing it? The back door was the only other entrance, but it was locked - he knew because he'd checked it several times out of boredom - so that possibility was ruled out. Maybe the bell was broken. Albert made a mental note to replace it.
He took a deep breath, then another. His heart was no longer pounding as hard, now that he knew that the masked man wasn't intending to rob the store. Or... was he? Straining, Albert looked around the store, his brows furrowing in confusion. Where was the man? He could've sworn he was in the back just a few seconds ago...
The door swung open violently, making the bell jangle loudly. Albert screamed and backed into the wall as another masked man entered the store. Not again! he thought as the intruder pointed something at him. His blood ran cold; that was definitely not a shopping list.
"Give the money," the man sneered. "Or you die."
Trembling, Albert stared down the barrel of the gun held directly at him and slowly raised his hands in a silent plea not to be shot. This man looked quite different from the previous one. For a start, he wasn't as tall as the other one, nor were his shoulders as broad. And lastly, the friendlier masked man had a visor completely covering his eyes while this one had eyeholes cut in his mask.
He licked his lips and opened his mouth. "Al-alright," he managed in a whisper as he slowly made his way to the cash register. "L-look. I'm g-getting the money. No need for the g-gun." With shaky fingers, he pulled the cash drawer open and slowly began pulling out the bills.
His head jerked, and pain spread from his left temple. "Too slow!" the robber growled as he pressed the muzzle of the gun directly on Albert's skull. "Fine! I'll just do it myself! Don't you dare move." He made a wild grab for the money in the register as Albert panicked and dropped the money already in his hand. "God dammit, you sonuvabitch," the man cursed. "Pick those up!"
If it weren't for the gun to his head, Albert would be thankful for the opportunity to be closer to the ground. His knees felt like they were going to give away any second. As he kneeled, he began muttering prayers under his breath - apologies to God, asking for forgiveness for sins, and begging for salvation. With a bit of disappointment, he realized that if his life was to end that day, it would be one hell of a short and uninteresting story. When he lifted his head a bit to start standing up with the money in hand, his eyes caught the silent alarm button. His heart leapt with newfound hope. If he could just get close enough...
"Don't even think about it." The robber prodded him not-too-gently. "You press that alarm, you die, and I'll be out of here. It'll be a lose-lose situation for us both, and you know it."
So much for that idea. Slowly, he stood up and held out the money, which was instantly snatched up. "Thanks, kid." And with that, the gun went down and the man took off at a dead run for the door.
He didn't get far.
A milk carton flew out of nowhere and struck the burglar directly on the head, throwing him off balance. The man fell to the floor awkwardly; money scattered in all directions. Seizing the opportunity, Albert slammed his hand on the silent alarm button as a dark shadow materialized from between the aisles, a second carton of milk in hand. Albert almost cried with relief - it was the man from earlier. He'd been in the store the entire time.
"You... you..." the crook sputtered, pointing his gun at the masked man as he stumbled onto his feet. "Don't make me shoot you!"
The second milk carton hit him in the stomach, making him fall on his behind. A swift kick knocked the gun out of the downed man's hand and sent it skittering across the floor. Albert's savior pressed a point on the robber's arm; he immediately went limp, slumping to the floor with a quiet thump.
Albert watched, jaw hanging open and entire body quaking as the man calmly disappeared deeper into the store and returned with two more cartons of milk, a bag of yogurt-covered pretzels, a can of coffee, and various other items. He placed everything on the counter and starting counting the money he had. A little numbly, Albert typed the item prices into the register. "Th-that'll be twelve dollars and fifty cents, sir."
The man held out the money; Albert counted as carefully as he could. "Sir? You gave me five dollars too many." He held the extra money back out. "Here you go."
Instead of accepting, the man stepped back and shook his head before pointing at the two milk cartons he threw at the burglar. "... Oh. Um, I'll pay for those," Albert said. "I owe you."
With an audible sigh, the masked man retook his money and picked up his purchases. Chewing on his lower lip, Albert watched him walk towards the door before blurting out, "Wait! What if he wakes up?"
The black-clad man shook his head again, as if saying that the intruder won't be waking up anytime soon, then pointed to his bound hands. Somehow he had managed to tie the crook's hands together without Albert noticing.
"One more thing... what's your name?" The cashier really didn't want to irritate the man, but he also desperately wanted to know who he was.
There was a slight click of a pen before the man scribbled on a piece of paper and handed it to him. "You may call me Snake," it read. "Sorry about the milk cartons. I just so happened to be holding them. Have a nice day."
Unexpectedly, Albert started laughing, the kind of relieved laugh that could be mistaken for the first sign of madness. "You know, that part was funny, you throwing the cartons at th-" He trailed off.
Snake was gone.
"You're late," Scarlett said when she felt the cool draft of air caused by an opening cabin door.
[Sorry. A robber came into the store after me,] Snake signed before tossing her the bag of pretzels. [Here you go.]
"Sweet." Scarlett grinned as she opened it and popped a yogurt-covered pretzel in her mouth. "So. You stopped the robber?"
[Yes.] Snake disappeared momentarily to put the milk and coffee away.
"Let me guess - you kicked him in the face and knocked him out." More munching. "Ooh, these are good..."
[I threw milk cartons at him as soon as the cashier was out of danger.]
Scarlett stopped chewing, then swallowed before speaking. "You threw milk cartons." She stared at him.
Snake-Eyes nodded as he snagged a pretzel for himself.
"Oh... god." Scarlett started snickering. "Of all the things you could have thrown..."
[They were in my hands, and I didn't feel like spilling blood.] Snake looked indignant. [It seemed like a good idea at the time.]
"And you left immediately afterwards?" She hid her mouth in her hand in a futile attempt to stop laughing.
"... Nice going, Snake. You realize you're probably a suspect in this whole situation, right?" Scarlett sealed the bag and set it aside. "I mean, masked man enters store, followed by another masked man with the intent to rob, only for the first masked man to stop him with damn milk cartons. It sounds a bit fishy."
[There are four surveillance cameras in the store. That, and the cashier's story should be enough to prove that I had nothing to do with the robbery, other than stopping it.]
"You're a walking piece of evidence." She shook her head as she picked up the book lying open next to her. "Are we just going to lay low until the guy gets convicted or something?"
With a sigh, Scarlett patted the seat to her right. Snake-Eyes sat down and draped his arm across her shoulders as he peered curiously at the book. After a few minutes of silence, the redhead spoke again. "The milk cartons you brought back weren't the ones you threw at the man, right?"
[Correct. I bought not-thrown ones.]
Scarlett just chuckled.