Kevin looked at his watch. It was 7:30. Timing was everything and he pulled his wool Navy ski mask above his ears so it looked like a watch cap. It was black with enhanced black borders around the eye and mouth holes when he pulled it over his face. Most would remember only the ski mask and the clear threat about lack of compliance to his demands. He took a deep breath in and watched his white vapor breath as he exhaled an anticipatory sigh. It was unusually cold for this early in October–even for Connecticut. The only car in front of the liquor store pulled away. Now was the time to make his move and he walked in and went directly to the imported wine aisle. He found what he was looking for immediately–a bottle of Retsina Greek wine. The clerk would remember the wine, the gun and the ski mask when it was pulled down. He approached the counter looking away from the recording TV monitor. So far he had not presented a facial profile to any camera. He placed the bottle of Retsina on the counter looking down as he was about to pull the ski mask from its previous function as a hat. He reached in his inside coat pocket as if for his wallet and felt the warm handle of the .38 Colt Detective Special. Suddenly he was jolted aside by a large man with a gray ski mask.
The masked man pointed a 9mm automatic at him and the clerk at the cash register. “I want all the cash. You make one move to activate an alarm and you’re dead. Understand?” His mask had only one cutout for his eyes and nose. The wool material covered the rest of his head and face. The eyes and bridge of the nose were unremarkable.
The clerk’s eyes bulged and he looked from the customer to the gunman. His telegraphic rapid Indian-accented words were high-pitched and tremulous. “I understand, yes. I understand very much. Yes.”
“You too. Stand at the end of the counter and take two steps back so you’re lined up with the swami here.”
“Of course.” Kevin still had his hand on his .38.
“Take your hand out of your coat.” The 6-foot gunman delivered the raspy message accentuated with the motion of the 9mm automatic.
“Certainly. I was just getting my wallet to pay for my wine.”
During the verbal exchange the clerk reached under the counter to press the silent alarm which would alert both the ADT surveillance workers and the police. The clerk’s action was noticed by the ski mask and he swung the 9mm away from the customer.
“I told you what I’d do if you hit the alarm switch. Get me the money now.”
“Yes, certainly. Yes, absolutely. Yes I will do this.” The clerk opened the register and pulled out all the paper money and placed it on the counter.
“Put the money in a narrow booze bag. Now.” The ski mask waved his gun like a fan between the two men.
The clerk complied. As he bent down after getting the paper bag he pressed the alarm button. His action was reflected in the fish-eye mirror behind the counter and was easily seen by the customer and the gunman.
“Put the money in the bag right now.”
The clerk complied with shaking hands.
The gunman grabbed the bag and pointed his 9mm at the clerk. “I saw what you did. I have ten-minutes before the police get here.”
“No, no, please. I have family. I have five children–no six. I have six children.” The clerk had his hands extended out at arm’s length with his palms pushing at the air and he turned to run.
The single 9mm round was deafening. A small cloud of cordite smoke stayed where the clerk once stood.
With ringing in his ears, Kevin reached in his coat, drew his .38 Colt and fired two shots into the masked gunman. He checked on the clerk who was shot in the left shoulder but was unconscious and still breathing. He went to the dead gunman and took the bag of money. Next was the surveillance tape.
He ran out the back reassuring himself of his positioning in the liquor store. He had stayed away from facial recording by the surveillance camera. The other hold-up man had created the perfect set-up. Too bad the clerk got shot and who cares about the dead crook as long as I made a clean break. He looked at this watch. It was 7:45. He would be on time. His car was in the alley-way behind the liquor store and he casually got in looking around and saw no one. There would be no witnesses.
St. Raphael’s church was five-minutes away and Kevin parked amidst the many cars in the rear lot. The meetings were always in church basements and the basements were almost always at the rear of a church like this one. He never went to meetings other than at St. Raphael’s after a heist. Several people saw him as he approached the smokers who were puffing away until the last second before the meeting would begin. They produced glowing red embers at the end of their cigarettes.
“Hello Kevin, good to see you again.” An elderly bald man extended his hand in greeting.
Several other regulars waved an acknowledgement to him as they entered the rear church entrance.
He sat two rows in back of the speaker’s table. This meeting, like most he went to, had a large folding table in front of many rows of folding chairs. The long sign resting in front of the chairperson had the standard declaration, “You Are Not Alone”. The 30-something pleasant woman began the meeting and before the topic for discussion was announced she asked if there were any announcements.
Without hesitation he raised his hand. He had to be noticed and remembered as being here. The chairwoman acknowledged him.
“Yes. Thank you for calling on me. My name is Kevin and I’m an alcoholic. I would like to announce that today marks two-years and six-months that I have been clean and sober.” He looked around the room giving the attendees full view of his now hatless appearance. Everyone applauded.
“You’re going to be okay, sir.” The EMT attendant closed his cell phone. “I have the okay to give you something for your pain.”
“Just a minute. I have to finish my questions before you snocker him.” The police detective repositioned her dangling scarf over her shoulder to drape down the back of her winter coat. “I know your shoulder hurts like hell but you said there was someone else in the store besides the dead holdup man.”
“Yes. Yes. Yes it was the customer. Was he shot too?”
“No sir. There was no one else in the store. Did you see who shot the holdup man?”
“Yes. Yes. There was one customer with a bottle of wine. My shoulder…the pain… It is terrible, terrible. It is terrible.”
“We’ve got to get moving and get him to the hospital.” The EMT urged and poised his syringe of morphine at the fallen liquor store clerk’s intact shoulder.
“Hold your horses.” Detective Sgt. Doreen Pousant held up her hand. “Can you tell me what the man looked like? Was he tall, short, young, old, white or black?”
“I only remember a dark hat. Yes, yes, yes he wore a dark wrinkled hat. Oh, please… it is hurting so much.” The clerk moved his head rapidly from side-to-side on the ambulance gurney.
“Can you remember anything else about the man? What kind of hat?” Pousant scribbled some notes on her small 3 x 5 notepad.
“It was winter hat–dark winter hat. A dark hat for skiing. Please… I cannot stand the hurting.”
Pousant stood up and gave the EMT a nod to administer the morphine. “I'll talk to you some more at the hospital.” Her cell phone rang. “No Lieutenant I didn't get much. The clerk was in too much pain. I'll get more at the hospital. Forensics is sealing the crime scene now.” She paused. “Apparently there was someone else in the store, a customer, who may have been the one who shot and killed the holdup man and ran away from the scene.” She paused again to listen to the words of her superior officer. “No… So far the clerk only remembers a hat.” Another short pause. “Yes. We only got a hat.”
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