Cliff Hanger

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  • Published: 13 May 2015
  • Updated: 18 May 2015
  • Status: Complete
6307200 crimes are recorded in the UK every year. This is one every five seconds. They happen all over the country. From London to Cardiff; from Cornwall to Glasgow. Most are never solved. But what if they were all connected - what if there was something, someone, tying them together?

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4. James

Christmas was a wonderful time of year. Bells rang, children sang, and thieves flourished. James had been shoplifting and pick-pocketing all his life. Every kid worth his salt in James’ neighbourhood did. Times were tough and you did anything you could to get a bit more cash so you could have nice things for your family; so you could keep the heating on in your house; so you could have a house. You did what you had to. James knew that, but this was something different. This was big. They were in a jewellery store.

                James had done houses and small time shops before but never something as grand as this. There was six staff on site: two in the back, three serving out front and a security guard by the door. Six against three. Why was he doing this? It had been his friend’s idea. James could see Him now, looking at engagement rings with his girlfriend. James himself was hovering by the necklace stand. 

            There was one other couple in the jewellery shop. They were young, probably just about to be married. James wished that they would hurry up and leave. That was the plan – hit the store near closing time so no one else would get hurt.

“What about the staff?” James had asked earlier.

“What about them?”

“Won’t they get hurt?”

“So what? It’s their fault for working in a rich-ass jewellery shop.” That had been His reaction. But He was James’ best friend and James trusted Him. He had been there for James when no one else was. James would follow Him anywhere. And then He pulled out the gun.

 

            Time froze. James saw everything in perfect clarity and perfect chaos. The ceiling spot-lights glinted off the barrel of the .44 Remington Magnum like the eighteen carrot gold rings sparkling in the easily broken glass cases. It was half way out the back of His jeans and no one had noticed. How had nobody noticed? There were the three store assistants in the front. A man helping the strange couple and another about to have His gun pointed in her face. Then there was the girl with the raven hair who wouldn’t stop smiling at him. The security guard stood by the door, completely oblivious to what was about to happen. James didn’t know what to do. The signal hadn’t been given. James had two choices; draw his own gun or run and leave Him to flounder. But there was no choice. James drew his gun.

 

            Time sped back up with a vengeance. James pointed the gun at the security guards head while He got everyone else on the floor. The security guard tried to fight. Fog poured from the ceiling as a hidden alarm was triggered. A gun shot echoed around the room, vibrating through James’ bones. James blacked out.

 

***

 

            When James came to, he was still on his feet. The fog had cleared and the doors were barred. The resounding thumping in his head that usually accompanied becoming unconscious was absent. So it had just been a mental blackout then, not a physical one. Good…. Okay…. This was fine.

            The heavy body of the security guard lay on the pristine marble floor, blood pooling around his chest. James felt the air catch in his throat. He looked down at the gun, which suddenly felt so heavy in his hand. What had he done? The pounding in his head began. The world hazed before him. Suddenly He was there.

“Get it together, James,” He said. “You didn’t do it, okay. I did.” James stared at his best friend and then at the rest of the shop. Seven people were knelt in the middle of the shop floor. The girl who had come with them to do…. this, lay next to the raven haired girl – unconscious. How had this gone so wrong so quickly? Sirens screamed in the distance. James knew they didn’t have much time. They had to get the girl and leave. Now. He didn’t share the same view.

 

            He had already started smashing the cases, glass falling alongside diamonds. James didn’t know what to do so he helped.  Gold chains and platinum rings pooled into the black duffle bag. Blue and red flashed outside the window.  James grabbed the duffle bag and spun around in time to see Him pointing a gun at the girl with the raven hair.

“What are you doing?” James yelled.

“What does it look like?” his best friend answered. “We need a way out and this is the only way we’re going to get it.”

“What? You fucked up and killed someone so now you’re going to kill someone else?”

“Only if they don’t let us out.”

James had never seen his friend like this. How had he ever trusted this man? James’ head was swimming with questions. But there was one certainty above all: more people would die before this was over. It was just a question of how many.

 

James raised his gun and aimed at his best friends head.

“What are you doing?” He snapped. James just looked at Him, tears pricking his eyes, breath ragged.

“You can’t do this. This wasn’t the deal. No one was meant to get hurt!” He looked at James with such betrayal in His eyes that James almost lowered the gun.

“So what are you going to do? Kill me?”

            James heard the sarcasm in His voice and felt his heart breaking. This man was like a brother to him and he was just going to shoot Him in the head. James couldn’t deal with this. This was not what he had signed up for! But James couldn’t let innocent people die. He stole to keep food on the table and his family off the streets. But he wasn’t a killer. And yet today he would have to kill. Someone was going to die.

 

It was just a question of who.

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