Playing Target – short story. By Omilla Mungroo. “Time to close up, Cherise. What’s the keep-back?” Andy was counting the last bit of the cash from the day’s sales and sorting out the float for the next day, when he noticed Cherise standing idly by the gate.
She turned sharply to Andy and he thought he heard fear in her voice.
“I think we are being watched.” She said in a low tone, and without moving an inch from where she stood.
“Watched?” Andy raised his head and looked outside the door. “I don’t see any-”
“Hush!” Cherise tried to look calm and she even smiled while she spoke.
“Don’t come to the gate. Look normal.” With that said, Cherise busied herself with the regular duties. While she dusted and pretended to pack papers and stationery, she continued talking in a low tone, with her head bent, while Andy continued to re-count the money, listening to her all the while without once raising his head.
From outside anyone would think they were laughing, chatting, but really busy and carrying out their regular closing up routines.
“There’s a man by the corner in a dark jacket, and another standing opposite us on the other side of the street. He is wearing a hat and a gray scarf, a cigar in his hand. But he is looking straight here even as I speak.” Cherise was smiling as she spoke, yet only Andy could hear her voice tremble.
Are they going to target us?
“Do you know any of them?” Andy asked.
“No. I don’t. But they have been there for the past half-hour that I noticed them. They look like they’re waiting for somebody, or others. Don’t know.”
“You don’t suppose they are there for some other reason? You jump to conclusions all the time Cherise. Sometimes I wonder-” Andy didn’t get to finish.
“I’m telling you, there’s something fishy in the way these men look. And it’s Carnival Friday night. I think we are about to get robbed!”
Andy steupsed, got up and went to the back room to put away the money in the safe. Cherise checked the time, went to the gate to turn the sign saying they were now closed.
As she got to the gate, a shadow blocked the light from the street lamp outside their store. Then she heard a familiar voice.
“Can I have a pack of Du Maurier please?”
She could not see the man’s face but the voice sounded very familiar.
“I’m sorry, we are already closed. But hold on. I think I can get you that.” She got the cigarettes and as she handed it to him the man had shifted away from blocking the street lamp. She saw a gun tucked in the front of his belt and his left hand was just resting gently on the top of it. The light shone across Cherise’s face as she raised her head to look at the man.
“Aye, it’s you working here?” He sounded surprised. “I didn’t know you work here.” He mellowed his voice down a bit and turned to his right slowly and waved his right hand as if chasing away a mosquito.
Cherise looked up and saw the man who all or most of the people in her village knew as the “gun king” – a man feared, yet loved by the many people he helped out financially.
Cherise almost gasped but remained cool. The great Vincent Murray! She thought of her dad and brothers who were always talking about this man’s reputation for being the “baddest of the bad” in the whole of the north of the island. He was the one known to make and supply guns for criminals.
Cherise managed a smile and was a bit surprised she didn’t panic. Instead she breathed a sigh of relief.
No longer a target
He paid for the pack of cigarettes, opened the pack right there whilst chatting and lit up one, whilst turning to signal to the other two men in their positions that their mission was aborted.
All this Cherise noticed while Andy stood dumbfounded to the back of the small room with some float money on the table. Cherise pretended not to notice, gave him his change and told him, “We are closing up now,” to which he asked, “You want a lift home?”
“Oh! No thanks. My co-worker usually drops me home.”
Vincent Murray smiled, “Does Daddy know him?”
“Yes, he does.” Cherise replied, turning to look at Andy who seemed very worried and irritated at the man.
Mr Murray looked over at Andy, waved at him and smiled. “Well in that case, get home safely then.” He tipped his hat and left, a dark, tall, looming figure of a man gliding gracefully across the compound, calm and inconspicuous, the wind flapping his long jacket as he walked.
Cherise looked to where the two men were standing. They were gone.
April 2016 – Issue 21 www.sweettntmagazine.com