The Night Clerk by SeanMartin ()
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So I been workin' here for maybe five years, ever since they shut the plant down. Town this small, there aint many jobs available, so you take what you can get, right? Pretty much, it's a quiet shift from 8PM to 3AM. I close the place at 2, then spend the next hour cleanin' it up so it's ready when Paul comes in at six.
Yeah, I've been robbed, a couple of times. Paul says, "Let them take the cash; it's why we got insurance." But let me tell you, them bean counters are pretty damn slow to replace the money, and in a business like this, where we're skatin' on every dime we got, things get pretty hairy financially if we gotta sit around and wait for some suit to fork it over.
So I'm about to close down the store for the night when this guy in a ski mask and carrying a shotgun comes in, and I'm thinkin', "Oh great, just what we need right now." There aint been much business because of the virus lockdown, and the last thing this place can handle is some asshole walkin' off with what's part my salary. But I put on my best poker face as he struts up to the counter and slams a paper bag down. "Put the cash in there. Dont think about hittin' that police button underneath, not if you want your head still connected to your neck."
I start to open the till when I stop and look at him real close. "Mattie? Matt Potter, that you?"
Suddenly he looks all nervous around everywhere. "No. Just do it."
"Dude, it is you." I break into a big smile, which is kinda hard under the circumstances. "Andy Franklin."
He peers at me hard. "Andy? That you?"
"Hell, yeah, bud. What's goin' on?
"You know. Shitty times all around."
"Well, take a load off. I gotta lock the door so I dont get any more customers, then we'll catch up. Want some coffee?"
"Yeah, and thanks — damn near impossible to breathe under this thing."
Matt 'n' me, we go way back, like elementary school back. We played varsity football together, hunted and fished together, worked the line at the plant together. Then when they shut down, we kinda lost touch, and, despite the circumstances, it was nice seein' my old friend again. So we talked, maybe for an hour. Even after the plant closed, he'd gotten married to someone whose family had a bit of money, had a couple of kids, but when there wasnt any work, his old lady took the kids and left him, and things just swirled down from there: he started hittin' the bottle pretty hard and had taken to small-time robberies like this to pay for it. He was one of them sad, pathetic cases where everything he touched turned to shit. "So now I do this for a livin'", he grinned, and I could tell it was a grin without much joy behind it. "Not like I like doin' it, Andy, but I gotta do somethin' to make ends meet. I mean, that till: you got maybe, what, a couple of hundred in there?"
"Yeah, it all sucks all around. But at least insurance is gonna cover that."
We'd kinda talked it all down, and he got up from his stool. "Mind if I drop by again, like, not so late? It'd be nice to have a friend again."
"So dont take it personal, but if you can put that money in the bag, I'd be most appreciative."
"Yeah. Sure." I put the paper bills in the bag, closed it all neat and tight, and handed it over. He looked at it like it was the worst thing possible. "Really sorry about this, bud. Really."
He shuffled to the door and tried to open it. "Hey, Andy, can you unlock this thing? I — " He turned back to me just as I fired two shotgun shells into his brain. He dropped to the floor. I picked up the phone and called the police. Told them I'd stopped a robbery in progress. They said they'd be right over. Paul showed up right after the cops arrived: "I told you, just let them have it. We got insurance."
"... which would pay out in three months. This place got that kind of time?"
"... No. You probably did the right thing for everyone."
Yeah, I probably did.