How far would you go for love? Which path would you take?
| Sally licked her lips with a nervous flick of the tongue. The revolver shook in her sweat-slicked hand. She couldn't figure out how she ended up here.
“Shoot, damn you!” Johnny screamed from the service station door, his gun waving wildly, panic causing his voice to rise an octave. Patrol cars clustered outside, looking for all the world like metal bugs, their ominous black-and-white carapaces strobed with flares from the revolving red lights.
“You stupid cow, you should've shot him. We might have had a chance!”
Sally whimpered, echoing the whimpers of the gas station attendant at whom she was pointing the gun. Johnny's anger ate at her like acid. Johnny, he of the crooked grin and the impish green eyes; Johnny, the only boy she'd ever loved, the only boy she'd ever kissed. Johnny, who tempted her to come out with him tonight with the promise of "something fun in store for her."
Sally reveled in the sensation of the wind rushing through her auburn curls as she rode in Johnny's convertible. She loved watching him steer the massive car through traffic with the ease of a hot knife through cold butter. She always felt happy just being in his company. Her happiness faded when Johnny headed into the south side of town to pick up his friend, a local delinquent known as Two-Blade Thompkins. In contrast to Johnny's white-blonde crew cut and crisp Oxford shirt, Two-Blade's greasy hair and vulgar tattoos made him stand out like a sore thumb.
As Two-Blade neared the car, Sally leaned into Johnny. “Why is he here?” she whispered into his ear, fearful of Two-Blade overhearing her.
“Shh, babe,” Johnny replied, winking at her. “You'll find out soon.”
With Two-Blade ensconced in the backseat of Johnny's convertible, they crossed the state line just as a few stars began to poke their heads out of the velvety evening sky. Soon, Johnny pulled into a Pure Oil station; the service bell ding-dinged inside the garage as the car glided to a stop next to the pumps, followed closely by the appearance of a jump-suited youth with a perky grin and fiery hair.
“You alone?” Johnny asked as the young attendant swept his glance admiringly over the shining car.
“Sure 'nough. First time Pops has let me do the night shift by myself!”
“Wow, that's a big responsibility.”
“Don't I know it!” The boy, the name Ollie embroidered across the patch on his dun-brown chest, pulled out the gas hose. “So, fill 'er up?”
“D'you want the works? I'm fully qualified. Got my training certificate just last week!”
“No, thanks,” Johnny replied, getting out of the car and coming around to open Sally's door. “I think me and my friends here will just pop inside for a soda, maybe a snack.”
Sally looked back at the boy, who was whistling a jaunty little tune as he pumped the gas, then turned a questioning glance to Johnny. “Where are we going, Johnny?”
“Well, Sally, if you'd shut up and stop asking stupid questions, you might actually find out.” He snorted a laugh, his voice cruel and mocking, as Two-Blade snickered behind her.
Sally lingered by the door while Johnny and Two-Blade wandered the small store. Discovering a display of tacky straw bags, they took the lot and began ransacking the store, cramming them with food, booze, cigarettes, and magazines, piling each stuffed bag in front of the cash register counter.
“What are you doing? Do you have enough money for all that?” Sally was completely disoriented by Johnny's bizarre behavior; panic bloomed, tightening her chest and flooding her ears with the sound of rushing blood.
Two-Blade's deep growl startled her. “Yeah, we got enough. Ain't that right, Johnny?”
Johnny's crooked grin quirked, his only reply.
A bell over the door jingled as the attendant entered. “All done. She didn't need more than a couple of gallons.” He stopped, startled by the bags of merchandise in front of him. “Wow! You guys stocking a bomb shelter or something?”
“Or something.” Johnny reached behind his back and took out a revolver. Two-Blade pulled from under his trench coat a shotgun, its end bluntly sawed off. Johnny pulled another revolver from the waistband of his jeans. "Here," he said, shaking the gun slightly to get Sally's attention, "take this."
Sally stood frozen in shock. "No," she said, her voice made small by the fear that trembled in her chest.
“Dammit, Sally.” Johnny sidled over to her, keeping the barrel of his gun trained on Ollie's shaking form. He rammed the gun into her stiff grasp. "Now, point it at the boy." When Sally didn't move, Johnny roughly jerked her quivering arm up; she was startled to see tears pouring down Ollie's face. "Good. Now, just keep the gun pointed at the kid, okay? And kid? No funny moves. We're just going to take what we came for, and then we'll leave, okay? No harm, no foul.”
Ollie, with panicked eyes, nodded jerkily. Those same terrified eyes then turned on Sally; she couldn't tell which of them was shaking the most.
All the while, Two-Blade had been making trips out to the car, loading it down with their illicit goods. Suddenly, he dashed back into the store. “Johnny! The cops!”
The two men went to the window, watching as a lone patrol car pulled into the station. Deputy Wims was making his regular pit stop on his rounds; not only was the station the source of the best coffee for miles around, Wims enjoyed watching Ollie blush as he gently teased the boy about his new girlfriend.
Alarmed, Johnny opened the door and fired at the deputy. The bullet caught Wims in the arm; stunned, he rushed back to his car and grabbed the radio. Soon, the crackling echoes of his call for back-up bounced around the store.
“Dammit!” Johnny cried. “Quick, Sally, shoot the boy. We can still get out of here.”
“Shoot. The. Boy.” Johnny stalked over to her and painfully grabbed her chin. “We don't need him, he'll only make trouble. If we move fast, we can still get to the car and get outta here!” Johnny snapped his chin at Two-Blade. “Get the cash, then get ready!”
As Two-Blade walked over to the register, Ollie whimpered and the front of his jumpsuit slowly darkened. Two-Blade, taking out one of his eponymous knives, rested it under the youth's chin. “Did baby wet his pants?” he leered, scraping the blade along Ollie's skin.
“Two-Blade, get the cash!” The blade snicked back into its sheath. Suddenly, two more patrol cars roared into the station, sirens blazing. Two-Blade snarled in frustration. "To hell with this." He thrust several wads of cash down the front of his pants and ran to the door. Pushing Johnny roughly to the side, Two-Blade flung himself out the door, his shotgun firing away. Two shots from the police and Two-Blade lay, oozing blood, next to the pumps, his fingers twitching as his heart stopped.
“No, no, no, No, NO!” Johnny wailed. He fired his gun out the door two more times, shouting over his shoulder to Sally. “Shoot,”--BANG, BANG-- “shoot, damn you!”
Her mouth a desert, Sally looked to Johnny, her gun following her gaze. "You stupid cow, quit pointing the gun at me!" She turned back to Ollie, the gun again mirroring her movement, as though it were physically attached to her eyes.
“Shoot!” screamed Johnny. Sally knew Johnny was wrong, she knew she could never murder anyone. She loved Johnny, though, with a passion that almost physically hurt her, and the fact that he seemed to hate her, the fact that he now looked at her with disgust, flayed her soul. Terror and confusion made her heart beat so fast, she thought it would fly out her throat. The gun swung back and forth with Sally's terror.
“SHOOT!” screamed Johnny. Sally closed her eyes. She squeezed the trigger. And silence fell.