THE NIGHT CLERK by Mo Walsh

“Let ’em take the money,” said the trainer guy, like he was saying, “Give ’em their change.”

What does it say about a job when the first thing they teach you is how to handle a robbery? And this is not some cozy bank with alarm buttons and dye packs and maybe an armed guard. The Zip Mart has convex mirrors that mostly show harried customers trying to find the baking soda or pet food and snackers deciding between the Ho-Hos and the jumbo Snickers. And the security camera?–just a requirement of the insurance company. You could run a movie marathon of stick-ups at Zip Marts–saw about 100 in 30 minutes during employee training–and how many creeps could you identify? Yeah, zip.

But when the trainer says, “Let ’em take the money,” he means it. That guy who wrestled the robber to the floor and kept him there ‘til the cops arrived? The hero clerk? Got fired. Think about it: Zip Mart loses maybe a couple hundred dollars every few weeks–about the same they lose in shoplifted Playboys–or they pay millions in workers’ comp for a healthy 20-year-old killed on the job.

“Let ’em take the money,” says the guy. “It’s not worth your life.” Zip Mart has a heart.

So, a month later I’m looking at a sweaty kid with a ball cap pulled low to hide his face from the camera. He’s pointing a gun bigger than his hand, which, by the way, is shaking so hard he might hit the wall of lottery tickets behind me, but nothing he actually aimed at. It’s 10:45 on a freezing Tuesday night and I’ve just sold a gazillion tickets for the $250 million GonzoCash game.

“Gimme the money. All of it!” he says, like armed robbers usually settle for whatever you can spare. His voice breaks like a twelve-year-old’s. “Give it to me or I’ll shoot! I will. I swear!”

The really deadly guys don’t go on and on about it. They let the gun make the point for them. And they’d tell me to put the cash in a bag or something so they could keep that second hand on the gun. Did you ever try to grab 200 crumpled grimy bills with one hand while aiming a gun with the other?

Did I mention I’m ex-military? I did two tours dodging street fire in Fallujah and picking up the pieces after IED explosions. I’ve taken down kids a lot tougher than this one. Killed some, too.

“The money! Gimme the money!” His voice breaks another octave higher.

I open the register real slow, scoop out the cash. I put it in a bag so he doesn’t drop it all over the floor and panic, pass it over the counter, practically tuck it in his jacket for him. He almost trips turning for the door.

I’m over the counter five seconds after. He’s two feet outside the door when I shoulder it open. My fist closes on his collar and twists. I reach around him with my other hand and grab his wrist. He struggles and the money bag hits the ground.

I pick it up, stuff it in his jacket, give him a push. He disappears into the dark. “Have a nice day,” I call after him.

Yeah, I let him have the money. But I took away his gun.


Mo Walsh has published stories in Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine, Woman’s World, and five editions of Best New England Crime Stories. Winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Short Story Contest and a Derringer finalist, Mo also coauthored the trivia book A Miscellany of Murder. She lives south of Boston.


Copyright © 2016 Mo Walsh. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.

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