Joe stood frozen in his place, staring at the man with the gun. He had now concluded that his day had just gotten worse, much worse. The gunman was standing in front of the door and was now walking slowly across the store, his eyes flitting this way and that.
"I said open the register," the robber repeated, gesturing with his gun. The cashier fearfully pressed a button on the register and it opened halfway, breathing nervously the whole time. The register got stuck but he pulled it open quickly.
Max just stood there next to Joe, completely unaffected. He gazed at the gunman with interest, wondering what in the world was taking place. He noticed the strange device in his hand, and wanted to know what it was.
The burglar then turned to Joe.
"You and the kid go against the wall over there and stay put," he said angrily, "that is, if you don't want a bullet through your skull."
Joe nodded feverishly and grabbed Max, walking over to the wall.
"Why are you listening to him?" questioned Max.
Joe just shook his head.
"Just stay quiet," Joe whispered.
The cashier then pulled all the money from the register and put it on the counter. He then backed away, whimpering.
"Please, just don't hurt me," he pleaded.
"Quiet down!" the gunman ordered. The asian man shut his mouth.
The gunman walked over to the counter and spread out the money. He then got angry.
"21 dollars?" he said, "are you kidding me with this?" He pointed the gun at the asian man again.
"You must have more money, right?" he said, glaring.
The cashier shook his head.
"I have no more," he whimpered.
The robber cocked his gun.
"Are you sure about that?" he asked, with a menacing look in his eyes, "I'm not sure you're telling the truth."
"I have no more," he repeated, trembling.
"Are you SURE?" he asked the asian man again.
Joe stood against the wall and wathched the scene in horror. But it was nothing compared to what happened next.
Max stepped forward.
"Max, stay here!" Joe whispered fiercely. But Max did not listen.
"The man said he has no more money," Max told the gunman.
Joe held his breath.
The burglar turned to Max.
"What did you say, kid?" he said angrily.
"I said the man doesn't have anymore money," repeated Max, "But Joe does," he said, pointing to Joe.
Joe just shook his head again.
What are you doing, Max! he thought.
"Oh, really?" said the gunman.
He bent down and snatched Max from the floor.
"NO!" cried Joe.
"SHUT UP!" yelled the gunman, turning his gun on him.
Joe gulped, and stayed quiet. His mind was racing, his adrenaline surging.
How am I gonna get Max outta this?
The gunman then spotted the ATM machine near Joe.
"Open that," he commanded the cashier.
"I can't open it," he said.
"I said OPEN IT!" the gunman had lost it.
Max was held by the gunman's arm, and did not know what he had done.
He then felt the icy cold end of the man's gun being pressed against the side of his head.
"OPEN IT OR THE KID DIES!" the gunman screamed.
Joe was sure this guy had gotten out of control. He needed to do something quick. Max's life was hanging in the balance.
"I told you I cannot open it!" the cashier cried, "Only the bank has the key!"
"Liar!" the gunman yelled, and pressed the gun harder into Max's head.
A new sensation now surged through Max's body. It was pain.
He watched the expressions of Joe and the asian man, not understanding that they were experiencing fear.
"What is happening, Joe?" he asked.
"Shut up!" he screamed at Max and pressed the gun harder still.
Joe could not take it anymore. The asian man wasn't going to do anything. He had to act.
"Wait," he stammered, "I ca-can open it!"
The gunman turned to Joe once more, and started to walk over to him, his grip on Max never loosening.
Joe tried to take slow, deep breaths as the gunman came nearer and nearer to him, until he was almost nose to nose.
Joe looked down at Max's confused expression, being relieved that if anything, Max wouldn't feel the horror of what was taking place. He had no idea these could be his last moments on earth. And Joe couldn't help feeling it was somehow his own fault.
"For the sake of your brother here, you better open that thing," the gunman said, his rancid breath filling Joe's nostrils, "Or I'm gonna have to say goodbye to all three of you."