Beer Run: A Robbery Gone Wrong
By: Wayne Brown
“Well a bless my soul what’s wrong with me? I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree” Elvis sang from the radio. The oldies station was celebrating yet another passing of the King of Rock n’ Roll’s birthday. Frank reached over and turned up the volume and sang along in his mock-Elvis style. He looked over at Tommy sitting on the passenger side, winked and asked, “What the hell is a fuzzy tree, Tommy, you ever see one?” Tommy glanced back at him and shook his head to indicate that he had no idea. Frank laughed and kept singing along until the song ended.
“Come on, Frank, how long are we going to keep sitting out here watching this damn store? This is the third night. I’m getting’ tired of it.” Tommy whined as Frank turned down the radio disappointed that Elvis had finished much too soon.
“Tonight is the night, Tommy boy” said Frank “I’m convinced that this place is Deadville after midnight. There’s hardly anyone comes in there. I don’t know why they stay open. Hell, the owner ought to be hangin’ with us. He could learn something about his business. Anyway, Tommy, here’s the plan. We both walk into the convenience store, you head straight to the cooler and find the case of cold beer. I will go to the counter and distract the clerk. You just get the beer and turn around and walk straight for the door and go out for the car. If he tries to follow, I will slow him up. But believe me, these folks don’t do nothin’ bout anybody stealin’ beer. They just let it go. It’s too dangerous nowadays. This is gonna be sweet. Man, there ain’t nothin’ better than cold beer when it’s stolen” Frank grinned.
Tommy wasn’t so sure. He had never stolen anything. He’d never even thought about it until he hooked up with Frank. Frank was all about excitement and doing things on the edge. Tommy had always played it safe but liked the adrenalin rush he got when he and Frank pulled off an escapade. So far, it had all been fun, nothing illegal. Tonight, things were changing. If this did not go like Frank said it would, he was not so sure that he wanted to be a part of it.
“Look, Frank, maybe we ought to rethink this. Somebody could get hurt. We could land in jail” Tommy said.
“Aw, come on Tommy, nobody’s gonna get hurt. Hell, we’re just gonna steal a case of beer. The damn clerk could care less. It’s gonna be fun. Now get your mind right, and let’s get some cold beer!” Frank laughed.
Chicken salad sandwiches were going to be the sandwich of the day for tomorrow’s lunch crowd thought the store clerk as he sliced through each sandwich to half it out for wrapping. “Mmmm good! Made ‘em myself” He laughed as he finished cutting the last sandwich. This was his second week on the graveyard shift in the store. He had worked it before. Sandwich-making was a welcome diversion as the business was terribly slow in these early morning hours. Now, as soon as he could wrap and mark these sandwiches, he could get on to the smut rack and peruse some of the girly magazines that had come in today’s shipment. That was always a treat!
The door chimes sang out as one of the double glass doors at the front of the store swung wide and two guys entered the store. One of them, wearing a football jersey and a backward twisted baseball cap headed for the beer cooler. He looked young and the clerk made a mental note to check his ID before making the sale. The other guy had a “do-rag” on his head and sported a white t-shirt with a black leather vest. Obviously, he was the “cool-cat” in this pair. He headed toward the counter and approached the clerk.
“Hey, buddy, we’s just passing through this berg on our way to Austin. Is there some place around town here where we can get some eggs. You know, a real good breakfast place?” Frank asked as he walked up to the counter.
“Let me think” the clerk responded “I don’t get out much this time of night so I really am not sure what is open. Uh, there’s a Denny’s down by the on-ramp for Interstate 35. That would probably be your best bet” the clerk added.
“Great” says Frank “Now, I need a pack of those Marlboro reds, hell, make it two, I got a lot of drivin’ ahead of me and I like to smoke when I drive.”
The clerk turned away from his sandwich wrapping to get the cigarettes. Tommy now had the case of beer and started moving toward the front door. He felt like running as he hurried for the door. As the clerk turned around with the cigarettes for Frank, he spotted Tommy headed for the door with the beer. “Hey! Hey! You can’t do that. Come back here” he shouted as he turned to run from behind the counter to pursue Tommy.
Frank reached across the counter and grabbed hold of the clerk’s apron halting his movement. “Just hang on friend. You don’t want to do that” Frank says as he pulls back on the apron. The clerk grabbed the knife off of the sandwich bar and slashed it at Frank’s arm opening up a large gash in the forearm muscle. Frank screamed out in agony as the blood gushed forth. He quickly climbed over the counter to go after the clerk.
Tommy was headed to the car with the beer when he heard the screams. He turned and saw Frank and the clerk entangled behind the counter in a wrestling match. He sat the beer down on the hood of the car and headed back into the store to get Frank. As Tommy approached the counter he could see that Frank had the clerk pinned in a corner of the counter area. Blood was everywhere and gushing forth from Frank’s left arm.
“Tommy, grab some paper towels, find some gauze and tape. Shit! This bastard cut me with a knife! I am bleeding like a stuck-ass hog. You got to help me!”
Tommy grabbed a roll of paper towels from the shelf. Frank motioned for him to come behind the counter. Tommy walked around.
“Take this knife and hold it to this sons-a-bitch’s throat for a minute while I work on this cut.” Frank said to Tommy as he pointed the knife at the clerk’s chest. Tommy took the knife and moved it closer to the clerk’s throat.
“Please, please, please don’t kill me” the clerk pleaded, “it was an accident, I swear it was. I won’t tell. Keep the beer. I won’t tell! Just don’t kill me, please” the clerk continued his face showing his fright as he trembled against the counter.
Frank had his arm wrapped with reams of the paper towels that were now stained with blood. He rummaged around under the counter and came up with a towel. He tore it in pieces and began to construct a makeshift bandage for the arm. He motioned for Tommy to let the clerk up.
“Take these rags you shithead. You’re going to bandage my arm. Don’t try anything or I’ll have Tommy here cut your damn throat, comprende?” Frank snarled. The clerk nodded agreement and began to work the strips of towel into a bandage on Frank’s arm.
“Frank, what are we doin’, man? I thought you said it was going to go alright?” Tommy moaned as the clerk finished with the last wrap of the bandage.
“Shut the hell up, Tommy” Frank snapped “How was I to know they had a dumb-ass like this working here.” Frank stepped back and survey the bandage. He could already see some blood making its way through the cloth. Frank reach to his back underneath his leather vest and pulled a Lugar pistol out and placed near the face of the clerk.
“You bastard, you are gonna pay for this big time” Frank warned as he motioned toward the bandaged arm. “Tommy get your ass over there under the counter and get that roll of duct tape. I want you to take it and tape this asshole’s arms behind his back. When you finish that, tape up his damn mouth and run a turn around his eyes. We’re takin’ this son-of-a-bitch with us. When you finish taping him, get a bag and load up the money from the register, then get another bag and fill it with tape and gauze. Hurry your ass up too, somebody may show up here!” Frank ordered. Tommy went to work with the duct tape. He noticed that his hands were trembling as he worked. Shit, he was scared.
Frank had Tommy lead the taped and blindfolded clerk out to the car while he kept the pistol aimed and nursed his arm.
“Throw his ass in the trunk, Tommy, and tape his legs too!” Frank snapped as they reached the rear of the car. Tommy helped the clerk into the trunk and taped his ankles together. He slammed the trunk lid shut. Tommy saw that Frank had already gotten in on the passenger side so he headed to the driver’s seat.
“Get the beer off the hood, dumb-ass” Frank snarled obviously bothered by the pain of the cut in his arm. “Remember, that’s what we came here for!” He added.
Tommy grabbed the beer and tossed it into the backseat, climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine on the old Chevrolet.
“Where’d that gun come from? Where we goin’? Where we takin’ this guy, Frank? We can’t take him home with us!” Tommy blurted.
“Shut up Tommy and let me think. Just put the damn car in gear and go, damn it! Uh, head for the train yards, yeah, yeah, head down there!” Frank replied.
Tommy put the car in drive and headed out of the parking lot just as another car was pulling up in front of the store. He pulled into the street and gunned the engine spinning the tires as he hurried into the night.
The man watched from his car as the old Chevrolet sped away wondering why they were in such a hurry. He shut down the engine and climbed out. He needed a cup of black coffee to wake up. He whistled as he made his way into the front door at the store. His whistling quickly stopped as he spied the blood that appeared to cover a good portion of the area behind the counter. “Good God!” He thought “I hope there’s not a dead clerk back there on the floor!” He ran from the store back into the parking lot pulling out his cell phone to dial the 911 code. Now he understood the reason that Chevy was in a hurry.
Tommy pulled the car into the train yard. This was an old switch siding used mostly to store idle train cars of various design. The empty cars sat motionless on the track sidings covered at their bases with graffiti art so generously applied by the various ghetto kids who frequented the area. Some of them were damn good artist Tommy thought as he drove between the cars distributed about the various tracks.
“Where we goin’ here, Frank?” Tommy asked glancing over at Frank. Frank lay back against the seat holding pressure on his arm, his face contorted in pain.
“Up there, Tommy, let’s take that yellow box car up there a ways. That looks pretty good. Frank replied. “Oh shit! I am feeling sick, Tommy. You’re gonna have to help me when we get up here. I’m weak, man.” Frank added.
The police cruisers rolled into the store parking lot with lights and sirens engaged. The man stood by his car and waited as the officer from the first car approached him.
“What seems to be the problem here, sir?” the officer asked.
“Somebody’s been in a struggle inside the store. There may be someone dead behind the counter. There’s all kinds of blood on things. I stopped at the door so I can’t tell you for sure. I did see an old green Chevy go running out of the parking lot as I pulled in to get my coffee.” The man responded.
“Okay, you hang loose for a bit right here at your car while we look around. One of the officers will take your statement while you wait. You may have to go downtown if this works out to be anything. Once I check it out, we’ll see who we need to get out here for the investigation. If this turns out to be a crime scene, we will need to check you out, you understand that, right” stated the officer.
“Yes, I fully understand officer” replied the man sorry that he had stopped for coffee now.
Tommy got out of the car and went around to the passenger side to help Frank. Frank was getting worse and starting to talk out of his head. It must be the loss of blood thought Tommy as he started to help Frank toward the box car.
“No, no Tommy, take me back to the trunk and open it” Frank instructed.
Tommy led him to the rear of the car and opened the trunk as the clerk kicked at the lid.
“Take the tape off his feet and hands, Tommy, and get him out of there” Frank ordered leaning against one corner of the car for support.
Tommy freed the clerk and pulled him over the lip of the trunk on to the gravel.
“Pull that tape off his eyes, Tommy, I want him to see me” Frank said as he pointed to the clerk’s face.
Tommy ripped the tape away as the clerk moaned from his taped mouth. Seeing Frank reeling against the fender of the car, the clerk lurched forward shoving Frank to the ground. In the process he grabbed the Lugar from Frank’s belt shoving it straight into Frank’s belly and pulling the trigger. The pistol’s report was muffled as it fired point blank into Frank’s mid-section.
Tommy spun around and dived on to the back of the clerk shoving him over Frank’s head and into the gravel. The Lugar went flying to the side and landed near one of the track railings. Both the clerk and Tommy had the same thought as the pistol landed and both lunged in that direction attempting to retrieve it. Tommy got there first and grabbed the pistol. The clerk landed across Tommy’s back and struggled to turn him over. Tommy rolled and fired the Lugar at the same time. The clerk fell back as the tape muffled the death scream from his mouth. The bullet had opened a large wound in his gut and blood was spewing forth soaking Tommy as he crawled through the gravel to escape.
“Jesus, what to do now?” thought Tommy as he sat against the rear wheel of the Chevy and stared at the two bloody dead bodies lying in the gravel of the train yard. Both of them had been killed with the same gun that he was now holding in his hands. He had their blood all over him. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that he was in deep trouble. He had no witnesses, no one to tell the police that this was all an accident. He didn’t plan to kill anybody. Frank said they was just havin’ fun mixed with a little mischief. They were just gonna steal some beer. No, there was no explaining this and the thought of jail, maybe even execution quickly rushed into his mental images. He had to go.
Sirens wailed in the distance as the old green Chevrolet pulled up to the traffic signal adjacent to the Denny’s. It paused momentarily at the light and then made a right turn to follow the ramp on to the highway southbound. Tommy sat behind the wheel, the Lugar lay on the seat beside him. As he entered the highway traffic, he glanced into the backseat and saw the case of beer still sitting where he had left it. He reached over the seat and pulled one of the long-neck bottles from the case, shoved it between his legs and twisted off the lid. He tossed the cap out the window, light one of the Marlboros from the package lying on the dash, and took a sip of warm beer. “Where to now?” He thought as he drove off into the night with Elvis once again blaring from the radio.