Audacity: A Novel
Audacity: A Novel
"Give me your money, or I'll put a bullet in your kid's brain!"
With every fiber of his being, Peter wanted to move. He longed to throw himself in front of his mother and fling the hateful attacker to the floor. To rebel against this false authority, this intruder who claimed power.
But underneath his desire to fight stood a mere boy of eleven years, robbed of all courage, strength, and resolve. Like a cornered animal, unable to flee, he gazed down the barrel of the gun and into the eyes of his predator.
The man's face drew nearer to his own. The wild, bloodshot eyes penetrated Peter's very being, piercing his heart and leaving a scar that would never fade.
Peter's grasp tightened on his mother's arm. Her skin felt cool and clammy.
"Did you hear me?" the robber hissed, flooding Peter's face with foul breath.
The handful of others in the bank remained frozen in place. To these country folks, living in a small town where nothing unpredictable ever happened, the world seemed to come to a stop. Stark terror hung in the air. The banker stood behind the counter like carved stone, his hands extended above his head.
Peter and his mother had come to the bank to cash a check. The local grocery store wouldn't accept anything but cash, so the bank was the first stop on their list of errands. With money in hand, she turned from the counter, taking a step toward the exit as she fumbled with her purse.
Peter and his mother never made it to the door. The stranger, who had walked in unnoticed, stunned the entire room by revealing his gun and shouting for everyone to stay put.
After ransacking the small building, the thief had a large bag full of money, and Peter's mother was his last victim before he took off with his booty.
Peter dared to glance at his mother, who had not yet said a word. It was pure shock and an awareness of the robber's unpredictable nature that kept her paralyzed.
The thief lunged forward and latched his hand onto the back of Peter's neck in a vise-like grip. He brought his weapon forward, pressing the cold muzzle against Peter's forehead. "Goodbye," he whispered to his prey.
Every muscle in Peter's body tightened as terror clawed at his heart. He could feel only one thing.
The icy metal against his skin.
And he could see only one thing.
The icy eyes of his soon-to-be murderer.
Time stopped. The world blackened. Peter's breathing slowed; his body went limp. His heart, which had been threatening to burst through his chest, now nearly stopped altogether.
The blackness disappeared in a rush, and the world-in all its color and terror-snapped back into place. Peter's vision was restored, and a sudden alertness hit him like a slap across the face. He craned his neck to see a trembling woman, holding out her hand in the madman's direction.
"Get your hands off my son!" his mother demanded. "You can take my money! Just get out of here!"
The man's grip loosened, but he didn't release Peter altogether. Leaning in the direction of the mother, he reached for the cash in her hand.
"No! Let go of my son first!" she exclaimed with surprising boldness.
The thief had lost enough precious time. He needed to make a run for it.
He released Peter so abruptly that the boy had no time to react. His weakened legs gave way beneath him, and he dropped to the floor like a sack of flour.
Finally satisfied, the robber took his leave. Peter watched him go, deaf to the wailing sobs of his mother as she knelt down beside him and clutched him to herself. His forehead tingled, still cold from the gun's touch.
The invisible wound across his heart burned within him. An iciness crept into his being as the fleeing man disappeared from his sight. Was the man a drug addict? A wanted criminal? Peter never knew who he was, nor would he