From Robbed Blind by Gerry Boyle
Lights shone over the parking lot, at 4:45 a.m., the brightest thing or a mile in the darkened downtown, probably visible from space. A single car in the lot, an old Nissan covered with a shift’s worth of snow.
I parked, grabbed my notebook and phone off the truck seat. Research questions running through my head, anticipating what Carlisle at the Times would want to see in this story I’d been working on. What’s it like to be a store clerk on the overnight shift with Zombie out there? Every time the door opens, do you think it’s him? Have you thought about what you’d do? Are you afraid? Have you thought of getting a different job? Is your husband/wife/partner worried about you when you’re at work? Do you have a gun?
Across the lot and under the gas pumps, past the display of windshield washer fluid, the propane locker. I opened the door, stepped in, and looked left. Nobody at the counter. Looked around for a moment, two. Nothing. Where were the workers? Then a guy coming from out
in the back, red QuikStop shirt, moving fast, looking concerned.
“You here?” he called.
He passed me, went around the corner of the counter, said “Oh, my God.”
A woman on her back on the floor. Blood on her face, a dark stain on the neck of her red uniform shirt. The guy had his phone out, said, “We need an ambulance. QuikStop, Porto Street. She’s hurt, her face all blood.”
The woman groaned and he handed me the phone, and bent to hold her head. The victim was young, blue-streaked hair. Black bloody blotches. I grabbed napkins from the dispenser on the counter, handed the guy a bunch. The woman put a hand up—blue fingerless gloves— and touched her forehead just into her hairline. She winced, the guy
kneeling beside her. He dabbed at her face where blood had run into her eyebrows, all around a black stud.
“He hit me,” she said. Angry, not afraid.
“You don’t talk,” the guy said. He took her hand. “Help is coming.”
“With his gun,” she said. “Asshole. He has the money.”
“Just lie back,” the guy said.
“He got the safe, too,” she said.
“Who?” I said.
“Zombie,” she said.
A little before six, still dark. I waited on a bench outside the emergency entrance, an eye on both possible exits. A spitty snow fell as people came and went; a young couple with a crying baby, a guy in a mechanic’s jacket, his hand wrapped in a towel. An older woman sobbing as she came out of the ER doors, a young guy holding her up, saying as they passed, “I know, Mom, but he had a good life.”
Nobody who looked like they’d been pistol-whipped.
A Clarkston police SUV was parked in the circle, a detective’s Malibu close behind it. Another police SUV pulled in, a young cop at the wheel, an older one riding. They slowed, looked at the ER door, and continued along the circle and out. An ambulance rolled up—lights, no siren—and backed up to the ER.
I got up and walked around the corner toward the outpatient entrance, turned back to my bench—and there she was.
The young woman from the store, head bandaged now, uniformed police on both sides of her, a detective just behind. The woman scanned the drive as a white van drove in, eased up to the curb in front of me and stopped. It was a beat-up Dodge Caravan, white with blacked-out windows and rust at the edges of the doors and fenders, as if someone had squeezed it and brown stuff had run out. Music coming from inside, a droning sort of chant. The driver was an older guy wearing a red plaid winter hat, the kind with the flaps that cover your ears.
I glanced back, saw the woman talking to the police. I moved closer, heard her say “No, really—I’ll be fine.”
The police started for their cars, and the woman came toward me, standing between her and the white van. I waited, smiled as she approached...
This excerpt serves as the first chapter in the thirteenth and penultimate novel in the Jack McMorrow Mystery series. In Robbed Blind, Jack’s world is turned upside down with cops protecting weed shops, militias on the march, podcasting replacing newspapers, and his pre-teen daughter dancing on Tik Tok. Do the old ways still make sense? Jack struggles with his present and works to bring his battle-honed reporting skills to bear for a final story he knows may never be written—risking his life to ensure that in this case of good vs. evil, good won’t go down without a fight.