My ears were ringing from the sound of the gunshots, the noise had been so loud it was painful. That wasn't something you saw the movies.
I shook it off and ran forward, keeping the gun pointed at the kneeling brute. I was hesitant to approach him but knew I had to.
Zeke was still alive, and despite how many shots I'd fired it seemed I'd only hit him once. On the shelves to either side of him, bullets had bored holes through boxes, buckets and shrink-wrapped bottled drinks. Torrents of liquid ran down onto the floor.
The lucky bullet had entered Zeke's back around his right shoulder and exited through his chest. A pool of blood was slowly growing underneath him, mixing with the oil and multi-colored sodas in a strange display. Zeke was swaying on his knees and having trouble breathing. When he exhaled, I could hear a wet, sucking sound.
Despite his condition I was wary of him and kept my weapon pointed at his head while I squatted down and snatched his gun off the floor nearby. Once I had it in my hands, I shuffled back a step.
"You shot me. I can't believe you shot me," Zeke muttered.
The reality of the situation slammed home and without any warning my stomach rushed up into my throat. I turned away from Zeke and stumbled backward as I vomited up everything I had eaten over the last few hours on the floor between us.
"First time, huh?" Zeke said, and chuckled. I looked him in the eye and saw his teeth were stained red with his own blood.
I wiped my mouth with my left hand. My right hand was still shaking, but I kept the gun on him. I knew that I didn't have long before we were disturbed. I had just fired a gun in a movie theater with its own security force, after all. I could only assume someone would have heard the shots.
"Sure, and I'll finish the job unless you tell me what I want to know, Zeke. How did you know I was here?" I asked.
I had visions in my mind of how this scene usually went in the movies. I really didn't have the stomach to do something like pressing my thumb into the bullet hole, to torture the information out of him. Even if I did, Zeke could snap me like a twig. It wasn't like I had him tied to a chair.
"Some little rat dropped a dime on you," Zeke said, and then coughed up some more blood.
"He told us you were here, watching movies. He even told me which one you went into. That will keep happening. It's just a matter of time before we get you, Mack."
"So far I'm the only one on the scoreboard, Zeke," I replied.
Witty banter aside, as soon as he'd mentioned someone dropping a dime I knew who he was talking about. That rat-faced little shit I'd seen in the lobby, Rozzo. Staying in the shadows had a price to it, it seemed. I'd have to be smarter about that in the future.
"Call an ambulance, Mack, please? I don't want to bleed out here," Zeke said, his confidence leaking away with his blood.
"Security will be here soon. They'll get you a paramedic or whatever. The next time I see you, Zeke, I'm just going to shoot you in the face, you understand?"
I'd been intending that as a bluff. My stomach was still jittery with adrenaline, and the thought of actually murdering someone set off all sorts of deep-seated alarm bells. But an even deeper, harder part of me meant it.
"If you were going to kill me, you would have done it already. You're soft. We'll see each other again, Mack. Count on it."
Now that just annoyed me. I pointed the gun between his eyes and stiffened up my posture, my finger tightening slightly on the trigger. I gritted my teeth, trying to control my anger. Zeke tensed up, waiting for my decision. He relaxed when I lowered my gun and stepped back.
I stashed his pistol in one of my big pockets, holstered my own and ran for the exit.
Despite what I'd been expecting, there wasn't a whole platoon of security guards there waiting for me. I could hear commotion somewhere nearby, echoing down the halls. I immediately took that opportunity to reenter the light, leaving Mack behind to become Frank once again.
I chose a direction and started trotting, looking for the exit. I met the responding security team seconds later. They rushed around the corner and stopped when they saw me. Carl was the one in the lead, and he dismissed me after quickly reading my identification.
"Sir, please exit the building immediately," Carl ordered. "The exit is behind me."
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. It was still so strange to me how the mirror protected my identity. The security detail pushed past me, not concerning themselves with me any further.
I found the exit Carl had mentioned and took it, emerging into the open air. Zeke's gun felt hot and heavy in my front pocket, but I didn't dare move it to my backpack out in the middle of a crowded mall parking lot.
I slowly made my way back to where I'd left my bicycle. By the time I got there, four police cruisers and an ambulance were parked out front with their cherries lit up.
I unlocked the bike and sat on it, ready to ride away. It didn't feel like much of a getaway vehicle, but it made me feel better. While I sat there, I watched the paramedics emerge five minutes later pushing a gurney. Zeke was on it, wearing an oxygen mask. They loaded him into the back of the ambulance, and it roared off, sirens blaring and lights flashing.
Our confrontation had disrupted the normal operation of the theater, as crowds of people were filing out. In that crowd I spotted the three girls, talking animatedly. Lyra was like a pale, beautiful flower next to the two blondes and really wished I could just go over and talk to her. That we could continue where we'd left off. There was just no way that was going to happen. It couldn't, not any more.
Not wanting to torture myself any longer, I stomped on my pedal and rode off, leaving the chaos behind.
I'm a tech consultant and a part time author (full time during this plague).
I have five books currently on Amazon, my Land of Dreams series and my new sci-fi series The Last Enclave. They're both gamelit/litrpg.
Capo is an experiment to see if I can make gangster a legit subgenre of Gamelit/LitRPG. I hope I can pull it off.