Chapter Twelve

Rounding the corner, a sudden rasp of the shutters pulled my chest tight, the rattle so much louder from this vantage. There stood a silhouette dressed in the bulk of a dark woollen coat, head hidden, face wrapped with a scarf. The figure held itself upright, leant into the metal, waiting, listening with intent, my breath unwilling to come. Moments later, the figure slumped to the floor and for the first time I could see a larger bundle of blankets at his feet. My heart had settled, the figure looked more like an unlucky vagrant who’d missed the evacuation, the superstore his normal nighttime hangout.

With my stance relaxing, I turned, a smile blooming, a vent of the tension spreading to theirs. Andrew was the first to creep past to my shoulder, Matt followed as I turned back. There we stood in a line, out in the open, taking a long look into the night.

Andrew coughed, I started in his direction, eyes wide staring as he stifled the clouds of white air spluttering from his chest. Spinning back I saw the figure’s head twitch, he was up on his feet, jumping with a vigour not matching his broken down appearance. Like the crazed individual I feared, the figure’s arms were out, muffled calls howled from behind numerous scarfs. My friends left my sight, but I would not turn, couldn’t turn, would not take my attention from the monster racing towards me. The monster who didn’t care for the gun pointed at its chest.

The distance swallowed up too soon. Still, I wanted to see Andrew’s reaction, wanted to know if I should blast away. Was I right to use lethal force to stop what was happening to Chloe from happening again? But I had to make the choice alone.

“Stop or I’ll shoot,” were the words from my mouth. To my surprise their speed slowed, steps became shallow.

Emboldened by their reaction, I took a step forward, alarming myself as I did, setting a stance I didn’t even know I’d taken notice of from the movies. The figure had stopped, started backwards, but soon fell over his own feet, stumbling, crashing to the ground with a great huff from his lungs.

He was a vagrant once more, a poor man with nowhere to call home. Lowering the gun, I heard an animal scream from where the tramp had left his belongings. The blankets had risen, but only to half the height, to become another figure, their scream high, child-like, their face not covered, their golden blonde hair not under a hat, their cries not muffled. My head reacted, as did my fear, but in opposite directions as I pulled the trigger.


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