Schmidthaus Writing

Project 4

Stick Up

It's hard to tell a story and make it believable yet still make it true. The more eyes you have on a situation, the more versions you get and the more likely you will hear the truth, but the harder it will be to sort it out from all the lies, errors, and noise.

The people living in the apartment building at 4 Maple Street did their best to blend in, pay their bills, and avoid attention. Most people would not understand their issues, so they kept to themselves. Only the building owner was aware of these issues and none of them knew why he helped them the way he did. Most of them knew that the others in the building had issues like theirs, but keeping their own secrets made it easy to ignore anything others didn't want known.

Walter owned the building and lived in the top floor apartment. He never allowed guests, doing the building business in a small office on the ground floor. He monitored security cameras from his work station while keeping an eye on the markets. He owned the building outright and had bought it cash. Part of this was an insurance settlement, part of this was an innate sense of the financial markets. He invested carefully for long term growth and never took risks.

The ground floor had a small grocery/convenience store run by the fellow that lived on the front second-floor apartment. Walter always thought of him as Luigi, after the forgotten plumber in the video game, because he was tall, thin, and wore a big bushy mustache. Walter was pretty sure he was from the Black Sea area, not Italy, but the image stuck in his mind.

A young couple, not yet married, shared the smaller back apartment on the second floor. Walter just thought of them as "The Kids": two youngsters that he was pretty sure were on the run from something, but they paid their rent so he left them be.

The third floor back apartment was vacant, but the larger front apartment was leased by a woman he thought of as the "Cat Lady". He knew her name, but "Cat lady" was always at the front of his mind. One day he would screw up and call her that to her face. She had been in the apartment when he bought the building and had an iron-clad lease, so he knew less about her than the others. She had the requisite dozens of cats, but took care of them. They were all well fed, there was no smell from the apartment, and they were very friendly cats for the most part. He was pretty sure one or more was always around when he left his apartment.

He wasn't actively looking for someone for the spare apartment, but had a feeling it wouldn't stay empty long.

A glance at the security monitors showed Luigi wasn't behind the register, which wasn't that odd, but enough to warrant a check of the other monitors. Walter saw nothing unusual except a quiet store with no customers . . . and no Luigi. That was odd but could just mean he went to the basement for product, but Walter decided to go for a look. On a whim, he checked the monitor for his office and saw Luigi there. He looked concerned and there was someone there with him. Someone he didn't know, waving a gun.

Walter walked quickly out of the apartment without worrying about locking it. Dodging a cat, he made for the back stairs and took them at a quick stutter-step, clearing them all and reaching the ground floor in under a minute. Listening at the back door to his office, he heard a set of footsteps pacing from the center of the office to the door leading into the store. Pausing a moment to come up with a plan, he gently tried the knob to see if the door was still unlocked. It was. The cat at the back door to the building blinked at him and seemed to nod, but he ignored this. Taking a deep breath, he swung the door open and walked in briskly, attempting to command the room.

The stranger swung around and leveled the gun at him. Walter looked him in the eyes and ask, "Robbery? ...or did you have something else in mind?" He spared a glance at "Luigi", who seemed scared but unharmed. "Well?"

The stranger looked confused, likely very afraid, and his hand shook. Walter stood calmly, very still, and breathed evenly. He gave the young man time to order his thoughts. "I'm going to assume you meant to rob the store but something went wrong. Correct?" and the man nodded. "How much do you need? Were you expecting a hundred maybe? ..two hundred? Tell you what. I have cash here, in that drawer. $400 I can give you right now if you will leave peacably. This never happened, but I expect to see you in here tomorrow, without a gun, and I want your entire story. I expect to see you at 9 AM, cleaned up, and dressed for an interview. Do you find these terms acceptable?"

The man looked very confused now.

Walter continued, "I'm going to reach into my pocket for keys to the drawer. Is that okay?"


"Okay, doing that now." Walter took a step toward the desk and the man didn't flinch, just watched him warily then interrupting,

"Wait, unlock it then step away."

Walter nodded and unlocked the drawer, before stepping back toward the door.

The man went to the desk and opened the drawer.

"The blue envelope has $400 in it. Just take the whole thing."

The man looked at Walter with an odd combination of emotions. Confusion was there, as was relief. He also looked a little sad. Walter had some hope this would work. The gunman took the envelope and tucked it into his pocket. He stepped backward to the door leading into the store and left.

Both men caught their breath and looked at each other. "Do you think he'll be back?" asked the shopkeeper.

"If he does, we'll talk. If he doesn't and he's back in here with that gun, I'll be very disappointed. You okay?"

"Yeah, a bit unsettled. It's always weird to see you face up to guns like that. It's worse how often I've seen you shot. I just can't get used to the idea it's not a problem for you." He appeared to be recovering from the adrenalin burst. He was going to need a nap to completely recover.

Walter looked around, "Any harm done? Nothing looks out of place here."

"Luigi" shook his head. "Nah, I think some product got bumped around out there. Oh! He flipped to sign to "Closed!" I need to get back out there and open up the store!" leaping up and running into the store. As he petted the large long-haired cat that had been in the inbox the entire time, Walter overheard the door opening and closing followed by, "Sorry, Mrs. Markovic, I needed to do some clean-up in the back and didn't want to miss any customers. How can I help you today."

Things were back to normal, so Walter headed back upstairs to his apartment, a look of hope on his face. "Maybe he'll come in tomorrow. I hope so," he said, to no one in particular, though one of the omnipresent cats overheard it.

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