No Way Out – Short Story

11 Nov

Dressed in black jeans and a navy hooded sweatshirt, Steve walked towards the bank. The smell of fried onions and hot dogs filled the air mingling with the smell of his sweat. He really didn’t want to do this but his hands were being forced.  Like a bomb ticking, he could hear the town clock, pushing him forward.  The once cold loaded gun was now warm and clammy tucked down the back of his trousers. Steve could feel his pace slowing. Conscious that he couldn’t afford to lose time; he forced himself forward, pushing the door to the bank open.

As Steve stepped in, he pulled the hood up and over his head. The scent of polish and perfumed air freshener, familiar to Steve from previous visits to the bank, was trapped inside the fabric of his hood; the smell so overpowering his head began to spin. The clock said 16:09. Steve approached the counter.

She was young, maybe 19. Her skin was creamy, and Steve was instantly drawn to her. Her hair was mahogany and framed her face. It emphasised the deep brown of her eyes that pulled Steve in. Smiling, she asked,

‘Can I help you sir?’ She seemed genuine, shame really, they could do with more people like that in banks. Normally they were so stand offish.

Almost in a whisper, Steve lent forward and pushed his blue bag towards the cashier. ‘Fill it up’ Looking confused, the cashier smiled again, ‘Sorry sir, can you repeat that?’

She really wasn’t getting this. ‘I said fill it up, NOW’

Hands shaking she began to fill up the bag, none of the other cashiers appeared to be paying attention, which was lucky as he really shouldn’t have raised his voice. Steve noticed her name badge, Becky. It suited her, another day, another time he may have thought to ask her out for a drink. Grabbing the bag, he turned to run. The bank was now empty. He could hear sirens in the distance. Running to the door he realised she had fooled him, they all had, but that Becky, she was going to get it. The doors were locked. Reaching for his gun he turned back towards the cashiers. Becky was just staring at him, noting every detail (he thought). Holding his aim he pointed the gun at her, just one pull of the trigger is all it would take. From the corner of his eye he could see movement, he was trapped, and there was no way out. He saw the policeman’s gun, he saw the trigger pulled, he heard no sound, he just saw darkness.

***

Looking at his watch, Steve climbed into his blue Audi estate. They had bought the car just last year when Poppy, his wife, had fallen pregnant again. What was he going to do, it was only 2.30pm, if he turned up at home now, Poppy would guess there was something wrong, and she had suffered enough stress recently, she, well both of them, could really do without this.

Driving away from the office, Steve headed towards the town centre. He could park there and work out what he was going to do. The last thing he had considered was that he would get made redundant. There was no escaping it, of course. Every time you turned the news on, or read a newspaper, the figures for unemployment were on the rise. But this was Steve, winner of top salesman last year.  Although they didn’t actually say it, Steve knew he was out because of the amount of time he had taken off recently; consequently, his sales had suffered. Sure they understood at the time, Poppy had miscarried, and then suffered with severe depression. She couldn’t look after Michael, their three year old son, so it had only been right for Steve to take compassionate leave. Strange how quickly things change when financial times get hard.

At 5pm, Steve headed for home. He’d be there just in time to make Michael’s tea. Earlier than usual, but not so early to be obvious. That afternoon, he had visited the job centre, and signed up to the recruitment agencies, but the signs were not looking good, not at all. He had been told in the job centre, he wouldn’t be able to sign on, too much in savings, what they didn’t understand though, was those savings wouldn’t be there in a couple of months without any income.

Approaching the house, all was quiet. Normally he could hear Poppy shouting at Michael for something or another, poor kid, it wasn’t his fault.

Pushing the door open, Michael ran out into the hall, dressed in blue jeans and a red t shirt, he looked more like thirteen than three. His brown curly hair bounced up and down, just like Poppy’s did when she wore her hair loose. ‘Daddy’ he shouted as he ran at Steve to be picked up.

‘Where’s Mummy?’ Steve said, almost to himself.

Putting Michael down, Steve started to look around the house, his heart beating frantically. Last time he had got home and Poppy wasn’t waiting, she had overdosed in the bath, leaving Michael to watch the television downstairs. If Steve had been just five minutes later, the chances are she wouldn’t be with them now. Heading up the stairs, he could hear moaning; not again thought Steve, after all they had been through, he thought they were passed this. Pushing open the bedroom doors, Steve’s legs froze. Ice cold, but clammy, Steve felt like his insides were going to explode. There on the bed was Poppy, with another man.

***

Clambering out of his bed to the sound of the post, Steve felt rotten, the culprit, the empty bottle of whisky by the bed. Looking around the room, Steve felt the contents of his stomach rise to his throat. The yellowing wallpaper, from the previous tenant who was a heavy smoker, was now peeling away from the walls. The ceiling was speckled with damp which left a heavy dank smell in the room no matter if the windows had been opened. All of this was made worse by the sparseness of the furnishings, a bed, a hob, and a single cupboard. Other than his clothes strewn across the floor, that was all there was. Touching his head, in the hope it would stop it spinning, Steve wandered across his bedsit to the door, where a single letter lay. Turning the envelope over, Steve was dismayed, of all the things; it was from the CSA, demanding more money.

That day he hadn’t just lost his job, but his wife, his home, and in a sense his son too. Steve got to see Michael every other weekend now. Each of those visits was like torture, as Steve could not buy for Michael the things he needed, let alone wanted. Steve wouldn’t even consider bringing Michael to the bedsit, as a result, if the weather was bad, Steve would end up dropping Michael home early. It just didn’t seem fair, he had been everything a good husband and father should be, and yet he was being hounded like the guilty party.

The worst part though was the shame that now filled Steve’s every waking moment. Prepared to forgive Poppy for her lapse in judgement, Steve had worked hard to reconcile their differences, and tried to take responsibility for Poppy’s action. What he hadn’t known at the time was Poppy had been having an affair for the past two years, and it was quite possible that the child she had miscarried hadn’t been Steve’s at all. As a result of her own guilt, she had tried to take her own life; for fear that the truth would come out. The truth was she just didn’t love Steve any more.

Steve had moved from the family home when Poppy had finally told the full story. What with the mortgage still to pay, not to mention all the bills, Steve found himself with limited funds. Unable to keep up the repayments on the car, it had been taken away by the debt collectors, and it wasn’t just that. Practically anything he had had been able to claim as his own had been taken. Now, Steve was working in a fast food restaurant, barely making ends meet. With this latest letter from the CSA, Steve now had no choice, find money somewhere, or find himself in prison.

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