Ten Seconds Too Late

October 24, 2008
By Kimberli Burgess, Smithfield, UT

The moonlit night held secrets of uncertainty. A second floor apartment porch light was the only light illuminating the murky alley. Midnight had come and gone but restless beings still wandered through the blackness. The soft pitter patter of uneasy footsteps echoed like a haunting in the alley. The boy stood cautiously, glancing around him. Every little movement, sound and whisper seemed to startle his incentive to run. Their voices were muffled, faded syllables that could not be understood. A shiver ran up his spine as he crouched behind a metal dumpster, clutching a red backpack at his side. It held something worth a worldly high price, but is worth nothing to those who appreciate life. A thick stack of one hundred dollar bills fell heavily onto the dusty pavement. The sound stiffened the boy’s nerves. “Sh**,” he muttered under his breath, stuffing the wad of cash back inside the backpack.
The aroma of exhaust and cigarette smoke filtered through the air like unwanted bacteria. The boy caught his breath in an intoxicating heave as he took a few steps backwards, trying desperately not to make himself known. A sweat caked hand seized the boy’s mouth; muting his screams. Cold steel pressed firmly against the back of his neck; sending chills to the tips of his toes. “Don’t make a sound or you’re dead,” a rough, familiar voice spoke sternly into the boy’s ear. The man removed the gun, shoving the boy into the grasp of another. The boy recognized all three men that now stood, surrounding his every move. EJ, the leader of gang zX9, had the criminal record of a murderous Gadianton. He had multiple tattoos and piercings; a lot more than the other two men. The second man, Vinny, had a prune-like appearance. He had been busted more than once for dealing drugs to Minnesota East’s junior high school students. As for the third man, Nick, he’s a few years younger than the other two; only eighteen or nineteen years old. Nick was always the one to wave his white and blue gang colors proudly. Not to mention, all three of them were lying, back stabbing crooks.

They thrust the boy against a brick wall and pinned his arms helplessly, knocking the wind right out of him. “What do you want, EJ?” The boy demanded, catching his breath. The man with the gun tilted his head back and chuckled to himself. His eyes glazed over into a determined glare. He cocked his gun, pointing it to the boy’s temple.
“You know what I want, Kid. Where’s my money?!” The boy’s heart skipped every other beat. His words came out shaky, “I-it’s in the bag, I swear.”
EJ glanced behind him. The red backpack lay against a metal dumpster. “Let go of the kid, but make sure he stays here,” muttered EJ. Vinny did as his boss commanded. EJ motioned to Nick, who rummaged through the backpack; placing each stack of cash onto the alley floor. Several moments past and Nick counted nervously faster. He stopped suddenly and looked up at his boss, angrily. “483 grand is missing.” EJ’s expression turned furious. He grappled the boy by the throat, cornering him between the dumpster and the brick wall.
“750 grand!!! There was 750 grand!! Where’s my half million?!” The boy gasped for air.
“I-I don’t know!!”
EJ pulled a 6mm hand gun from his leather jacket, forcing it into the boy’s abdomen. The boy’s thoughts stiffened and his body went clammy with petrified fear. He could feel the blood rush to his knees.
“I won’t hesitate to end your pathetic, wasted life. If I don’t see my money in one week, you’re dead. And tell Pete,” EJ paused, glancing around, “wherever he is, that I’ll do the same to him. Is that clear?” The boy nodded as the gun was removed.
A clattered metal banging sounded from several feet ahead in the narrow alley. EJ’s expression stiffened. Throwing the boy into the grasp of Vinny, he cautiously slid around to the other side of the dumpster; his hand gun cocked and ready to kill. A discrete shadow merged into focus. A young man of about seventeen years stood two feet in front of his persecutor. He raised his arms in a surrendering stance as EJ had the gun pointed right at him. “Whoa EJ, I’m just playin’.” The boy struggled as the voice sounded all too familiar; it was Pete. EJ laughed sarcastically and made a motion with his head for Pete to walk toward the others at gun point. Pete’s attire consisted of the usual back alley fad. Being the leader of gang Mainstream420, he always wore his red bandanna around his left arm. His rustic black hair hadn’t seen a comb in several weeks. A circle now formed, inclosing Pete as the center of attention. Vinny held the boy tighter, standing next to Nick and his boss.
“Where’s my money?” EJ asked roughly through his teeth. He didn’t wait for a response as he knocked Pete over the head with his gun and held it there, threatening his every move. Pete fell to his knees; his head bleeding.
“I-it’s in my shed on Edison Drive. I swear man, it’s all there.” His words were shaky. The boy tried to interrupt but was taken back by the fact that these men wouldn’t hesitate to kill them both if he spoke. EJ laughed once more as an eerie smile formed in his lips.
“Thank you, Pete…” He paused, his voice switching tones abruptly, “nice doing business with you, my friend.”
The trigger fired with a loud and echoing “Bang”. "No!!" The boy's plea rang in his own ears moments afterwards. Pete’s body fell limp on the asphalt pavement. He lay motionless in a pool of blood. Far off police sirens beckoned closer as the seconds dragged on. Vinny threw the boy to the ground; warning him, “You talk, Kid, and you’re dead. If we don’t find the money, then we’ll know right where to find you.” And with that Vinny, Nick, and EJ ran in a haste around the apartment building and out of sight. The boy leaned over his friend. His body felt cold and distant. “Damn it Pete, why did you tell them?” A tear trickled from the boy’s face. He wiped it away quickly as he darted out of the alley in the opposite direction, leaving a part of him in the silence.

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