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Christmas Crime Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

{Content Warning : Violence, Language}


“Thanks man.” Gabe reached up for a fist bump.


“No problem. Remember what I said though, not a word.” The rakish man of twenty five put his index finger up to his lips with a devilish wink.


Gabe knelt down and pulled his tattered khaki back pack off. He placed the loaded sack into the main compartment, marveling at the heft of the package. Darting a nervous glance, he headed out of the park toward his mom's apartment. Dodging cars in the busy streets he had to make a detour to the Quick Stop. Mom asked him to get a carton of smokes for her. Not being of age there was only one way to fulfill her request.


The convenience store was bustling. Perfect.


“Hey kid, leave your pack on the counter.” The bearded man pointed and Gabe complied. Walking around the narrow aisles he slipped a few candy bars into his pocket. The shopkeeper had left an open cardboard box of cigarette cartons behind the register near the rear exit of the counter. With a practiced move of a magician Gabe grabbed a carton of smokes out of the box and slid it through the cuff and up the sleeve of his long oversized drab green parka. Easy money. Gabe grabbed his bag and headed through the double glass doors into the frigid afternoon towards home.



“Menthol?” The wrinkles around her mouth curled into a sneer.


“Sorry mom, it was all I could get.” Gabe looked down at his sneakers, a bit of his dirty sock poking out of the side of one shoe.


“God damn Newports.” A tired woman at thirty, she peeled the plastic wrap off the top of the fresh box of cigarettes and fired a red butane lighter at the end. The cherry lit up the dark circles around her eyes.


“Your counselor called me again Gabriel. You been cutting classes?”


“I can't help it mom. The assholes won't leave me alone. I'm pretty sure the teacher saw me get shoved the other day and just looked the other way.”


“What am I supposed to tell the compliance officer when he comes for a wellness check, that my son is a fucking wimp.” The drag off the smoke flowed out of her nostrils as she sighed and tapped the lighter on a cheap kitchen table littered with unopened bills and dirty dishes. “Where you been then? At the park hanging out with those drug dealers aren't you. Damn it Gabe, I wish your father was here so he could beat your ass!”


“He would be here if you weren't such a bitch.” He flinched anticipating a slap that didn't come.


“Don't you dare talk to me that way!” His mom jumped up from her chair to confront him.


Gabe grabbed his pack and dove into his room locking the door behind him. Piles of unwashed clothes littered the floor of his cramped bedroom. Sitting up on his bed, he clutched the pack to his chest and tried to calm himself. Looking at the closet door, he knew what he wanted to do, but it would have to wait.


There was a knock on his door. “I'm working late tonight Gabe. I think I'll go stay with Everett tonight. I'll be back tomorrow, there's baloney in the fridge.”


He waited patiently until he heard the heavy main door on the apartment shut. He unzipped his pack and pulled out the last puzzle piece. Unwrapping the plastic bag he popped the staples on the paper bag inside. Five boxes of NATO 5.56 ammunition. Since his mom was gone, Gabe opened his closet and fished out the old shoe box where he hid the empty twenty round military surplus magazines. One box for each clip, he slowly fed the rounds into the follower.


After loading the mags he reached into the closet and pulled loose the paneling to his stash spot. There resting comfortably between the wall studs was his AR 15 rifle. The guy at the park had sold it to him one piece at a time. Fencing stolen electronics to a college student downstairs had netted him enough untraceable cash to buy it. It was now fully assembled in all its glory. He had taken an old belt and fashioned a leather sling for it. Pulling it up to his shoulder he aimed it at himself in the mirror.


“BANG!”


* * *


“How long are you going to be gone?”


“I should be back in a couple hours.” Casey, lean for forty years hugged his wife, the mother of his two children and a perennial matriarch with talents that made grown men jealous. She reached down and felt the bulk under his heavy flannel. Smiling at him she knew her husband was a natural protector. He tried to reassure her, “I just have a few stops.”


Casey was headed to the North Park Mall, the jewelry store specifically. He had an anniversary ring on layaway. A knock out full carat blue diamond set surrounded with one small diamond star for each year they had been married. He and Theresa's twenty year anniversary was this Christmas.


He hopped in his Jeep Grand Cherokee, just recently paid off and headed into the chill of the December air. The radio was set to the grandpa rock station as his son would often call it. Classic rock never gets old, it just ages like good bourbon. Humming to Kansas belting out 'Carry on my wayward son...' in their perfect vocal harmony Casey glanced at the interface on his dash. The simultaneous vibration of his cellphone meant a call.


“Hello.”


“When are you ever gonna listen to new music dad?” His eldest ribbed him right off.


“When they make new music as good as the old music. Are you guys coming home for Christmas? Your mom has a cabin rented for our anniversary party. It would be nice to see you and whats her name.” A sheepish grin formed.


“For your information Samantha and I have been together for a whole year since this past summer.”


“A year is that a new record for you?”


“Ha Ha old man. We are getting along great. I think she's the one, but I don't know if she feels the same.”


“What's that Bee lady say. Put a ring on it.”


“Her name is Beyonce you dinosaur and trust me I've been thinking about proposing. Just please tell mom not to make any grand baby insinuations, we might scare her off. You doing O.K. Dad?”


“Doing great son. Well....I need to focus on driving, the traffic is nuts; call your mom and tell her you're coming.”


“O.K. Dad, love you.”


“Love you too son.”


Thinking back he remembered a boy that could barely wipe his ass or spell his name. Now he was a university graduate with an internship at a major consulting firm, pulling down the bucks. He and his sister never quite got along, but she was just finishing her bachelor degree in nursing and at the top of her class. Thinking about them swelled his heart with pride. There was nothing on the earth that gave Casey as much satisfaction as doting on his children.


The holiday traffic was a nightmare. He figured the mall would be packed. Pulling off Interstate 95 Casey hit the off ramp and glanced over at the parking lot. “Good grief,” it was so full it looked like a car dealership.


Casey waded through the sea of shoppers. Old men with walkers just glad to be out of the house mingled with exuberant teens bouncing around giggling and laughing taking selfies and enjoying their youthful good looks.


The jewelry store was an independent shop. Casey's mom had all of her rings even the one for her and dad's golden 50 year anniversary designed and made there. The shop was now run by the daughter, a woman that Casey's wife Theresa absolutely adored. Their designs were imbued with the beauty the rings and necklaces represented. Personal touch had not been lost. He was led there as an engaged young man by his mother's knowing smile.


“I'm here to pick it up”


“Will that be cash or card?”


“I brought cash. Don't leave home without it.”


The cashier went to the vault to retrieve the ring. Bernadette the owner spotted Casey and walked over and extended her hand.


“Hi Casey. How are your mom and dad?” Her hand was soft with perfectly manicured nails. The delicate scent of expensive perfume greeted his nose. Her smile was anchored in good habits and solid upbringing. Casey always felt a little under dressed in the store, yet despite their wealth they seemed to treat everybody with respect.


“Mom and dad are doing great. A few minor medical issues, but I think that comes with the territory. How are your folks?”


“Dad is battling skin cancer, but he has mom to lean on. They don't work much anymore.”


“You tell them Casey and the gang wish them the best. He'll be O.K. He's always been a fighter.”


Bernadette took the ring from her cashier and pulled it from the box. “Hold it up to the light. The main stone has an emerald cut. The small diamonds around it have some of the best clarity.” The white gold glinted like falling water. It was a surprise and Theresa would love it.


“Chelsea give him twenty percent off whatever he owes on it.” With that she went on to help other customers.


“It's your lucky day mister.”


Casey handed her a stack of hard won bills and waved as he left. His smile felt infectious. Theresa loved jewelry. This ring felt special. There wouldn't be a dry eye in the room when he put it on her finger this Christmas.


Wading back into the crowd he just wanted to grab a coffee and head home. A very old woman glanced down at the sack he was holding and gave Casey a warm knowing look before turning to talk to a husband that looked older than the Titanic.


He ordered a Colombian Dark Roast with cream and sugar and turned to head back to the Jeep when a voice came over the intercom of the mall.


“Please be calm. We have an incident. We ask that our patrons shelter in place until the situation is resolved.” Scattered words ricocheted as the shoppers located their loved ones and wondered what to do. Many pulled out cell phones and held their children close. Store workers gathered together to discuss emergency protocol. The crowds of people had Casey and everyone not near an exit stuck in that moment unable to leave the mall.


* * *


Pop! Pop! Pop!


“Did someone just burst their balloons?” A wrinkle of concern creased the makeup of a forty year old mother of three as she turned to the nearest shopper in front of a packed Nordstrom. She was dragging her youngest on a busy weekend shopping trip. Casey knew it was no balloon. Going to the range every week and training with his Glock 21 the distinct sound of a 5.56mm projectile screaming out of a short barrel rifle was very familiar. Reaching down to his hip the handgun was safely holstered under his flannel. His brain reached back to his concealed carry training.


“He's got a gun! Run! Everybody Run!” A frantic juvenile was slamming into people knocking them down as he burst from the South end of the corridor.


The crush of humanity surged en masse as more shots rang out. Hysteria took hold and Casey was frantically pulling people up from the floor as the crowd stampeded for the exits. A portly security guard pushed his way into a position behind a steel column, drawing a .38cal revolver he wiped the sweat from his forehead and stared down to where the shots were echoing like a hammer of death.


BANG! BANG! BANG! The sound mixed with screams and desperate cries. Casey knew he needed to take cover. A .45cal was no match for an assault rifle built to kill over long distances.


Running into the closest clothing store his eyes searched to find anything that would stop the deadly penetrating power of the round preferred by the U.S. Military. Casey spotted a stainless steel folding table, the top was at least 1/8in thick of solid steel. Not enough to stop it but maybe enough to limit its lethality.


Flipping the table on its side and crouching behind it he could see into the open area in the middle of the stores lining the mall. The security guard was fumbling with his radio, distress painted his face. Looking over he saw a young woman quaking with fear huddled behind her station clutching a cell phone, mumbling into it. Casey put a finger to his lips and motioned for her to be quiet. An eerie silence descended on the mall. The only noise was the tacky elevator music drifting from the speakers in the store's ceiling.


BANG! BANG! BANG! The scythe of the grim reaper was banging metallic death on the concrete floor of the North Park Mall. A woman dragging a blood stained leg limped toward the security guard.


BANG! A spray of blood ripped from her chest as she sprawled like a rag doll in front of the guard. Raising his pistol, the old guard peeked around the column and let go two rounds. Looking around the column again to locate the shooter and BANG! A full metal jacket projectile peeled off the top of his skull. His big body bounced off the floor as blood poured out of his broken head like a spilled glass of wine.


Casey waited, seconds seemed to tick off as minutes. The shooter had yet to appear. He had long since drawn his .45cal Glock 21 and put his finger on the trigger. It could be over in less than a second. Don't draw your weapon unless you are ready to use it. Like an insect's antennae the barrel of the AR 15 eased into the window frame of the clothing store. Deadly, methodical, he was taking his time, wanting to inflict maximum casualties. A flash of green, the assailant ran by the window in a streak, turning right to left searching for more targets. Everyone who had not fled were hiding quiet, like the mouse being still to fool the cat.


Casey's heart lurched in his chest, the blood pounding in his ears. He needed to wait until the shooter was past the store to make his move. If he charged too soon he'd be gunned down. If he waited too long the shooter would be out of his solid twenty yard kill range. He knew at that distance he could hit a man's center of mass and turn him off like a light switch. God Damn what if he has on body armor. Casey's thought was the gamble between life and death. A head shot would be risky. If he missed he would be dead either way.


The time for wavering had passed. It was act now or live with the fact he had the means to stop an active shooter and didn't. Casey bolted upright and ran for the store's entrance, just down the hall the shooter was scanning for victims, his rifle standing off his shoulder, his head craned over the rifle stock locked into the open sights.


Raising his Glock 21 Casey didn't hesitate. Squeezing the trigger the first round tore through the back of the long green jacket, between the shoulder blades. An ugly red stain spilled onto the fabric as Gabe lurched and tried to spin around and shoot back. The next two rounds hit Gabe in the center of the breast bone. Spinning to his knees the rifle clattered away as he fell forward on his hands. Heaving and trying to breath as blood filled the giant holes in his heart and lungs, Gabe fell backwards, staring at the skylights in the roof of the mall. Turning his head he locked eyes with Casey.


The broken orange sunset sifted through the glass as Gabriel took his last breath. Casey had to see who it was before the authorities swept in to deal with the carnage. Walking up with his weapon still aimed he saw the face of a boy no more than fifteen years old. A streak of blood spilled down a cheek that had yet to grow hair. His eyes were blank. His green trench coat had opened up and the words FUCK THIS WORLD were scribbled in black marker on a stained white tee shirt. The blood had seeped into the words smudging the edges.


November 28, 2021 04:51

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12 comments

Kate Winchester
17:21 Dec 09, 2021

This was well written! I liked the different perspectives. Your story had me hooked and the mall scene had me on edge. Great job!

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Kevin Marlow
18:13 Dec 09, 2021

Thank you. I'm dabbling with third person POV and I appreciate the feedback.

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Kate Winchester
18:32 Dec 09, 2021

You’re welcome. ☺️ I tend to write in third person. I should try dabbling in the others. Lol

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Kevin Broccoli
22:22 Dec 04, 2021

This was a really gripping story. Good job.

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Kevin Marlow
22:35 Dec 04, 2021

Thanks.

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Bruce Friedman
14:29 Dec 01, 2021

Powerful story, Kevin. Well written and held my attention to the end. Also introduced me to a whole new vocabulary about guns. The earlier paragraphs did suggest that the protagonist would be seeking revenge against people who had insulted him rather than strangers in a mall.

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Kevin Marlow
14:42 Dec 01, 2021

Thanks Bruce. I will change that line.

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Robert Warner
16:10 Dec 07, 2021

Your story should be in the horror section. I love how you did this story with your character being stuck in a mall trying to find their way out.

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Yves. ♙
21:25 Dec 05, 2021

You fit so much into 3,000 words! I couldn't believe it; there's so much action and development here. On a micro level, too, the integration of body language and description was really beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

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Kevin Marlow
01:07 Dec 06, 2021

Such kind words. Thanks.

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02:21 Nov 29, 2021

Oh my goodness. You captivated me by setting 3 different scenes and then I was drawn in and feel fear, hope, sorrow and relief as the story progressed. And empathy for the boy was high even though he was hurting and killing others he was mainly lashing out from the pain and abuse he was suffering from. Thank you.

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Kevin Marlow
02:39 Nov 29, 2021

It brings up the debate whether monsters are born or made. Thanks for commenting!

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