It’s funny how people react when there’s a gun pointed at your face. Most are paralyzed by fear. Frozen stiff as they stare down the nose of barking death. Some get weirdly calm, like a Buddhist monk contemplating his belly button. As if focusing on breathing, on being in the moment will somehow mitigate the terror of it. Some will beg, some will bargain, some will shit their pants. Of course, the reaction will depend a lot on the circumstance. On who’s holding the gun and what you believe their intentions are.

Carl was pointing a gun at my face because he was going to kill me.

Two hours earlier, he and I had robbed our 2nd bank in 3 weeks. It was a bank in a small Ohio town. The town had a minimal police presence and plenty of thickly wooded countryside to disappear in.

I met Carl while sharing a cell in Lucasville. He’s not much for thinking (or bathing for that matter) but he wasn’t squeamish when it came to rough stuff. I never considered him as partner material until Carl let me know about an old cabin his family owned way off the beaten track close to the planned scores. This cabin sounded like a perfect place to use as a base for my scheme to hit small banks around that part of the state. I just needed Carl for crowd control during the jobs. I thought he could handle that. When we were released a couple of days apart, we threw in together.

I was able to get a couple of guns from an old connection of mine. I cleaned and checked them. I handed him his and said “Listen, Carl. These are for show only. Tools of last resort. You understand? The plan will only work if we keep to it. The devil, my friend, is in the details. Stay cool, ok?”

“Don’t be a goddamn pussy, Duke. Somebody jumps up, that frog gets gigged.”

As I outlined the plan to him, Carl didn’t pay much attention. I guess he wasn’t much on details.

Our first job went according to plan. In and out in 3 minutes, $30,000 in cash. No muss, no fuss, no heroes and nobody hurt.

The last job, not so much. Carl used his Glock to smack a guard for not obeying orders fast enough. It looked like the guy’s brains were starting to leak out his ears. Now the stakes were likely raised to a murder charge in commission of a felony.

That was the first surprise of the day. The second was that for some reason, the vault was open and there was what looked like a hundred grand or so in cash. Carl’s beady eyes lit up when he saw that. We grabbed it and lit out.

Back at the cabin, Carl was silent as I counted the cash. I could feel his eyes burning a hole in the back of my head.

“Carl, you’re awful quiet considering you probably just killed a guy.” I said.

Not a peep. Then the sound of a round chambered into his Glock. I stood up and turned to face my partner. Sure enough, Carl was feeling a little selfish today. He had no intention of me walking out of this cabin with any money, or a heartbeat.

“Told you to stop being a goddamn pussy.” Carl said as he grinned and showed his yellowed teeth. “Not so smart now, are you?

I meditated a bit as Carl brought pressure to the trigger of his gun. Then, a small click. Carl looked confused and tried again. Another click.

“Well, Carl. Not to brag or anything”, I said. “But thinking is a kind of a hobby of mine. And thinking about how fucking stupid you are, led me to remove the firing pin from that gun before I gave it to you. This one, on the other hand . . .” I raised my Colt Python to bear on his face. “Works just fine.”

A loud sound. An acrid smell. Not a gunshot. Just Carl shitting himself.

I pulled the trigger.

~ fin ~


Dale Sandlin is an author, playwright and actor residing in Los Angeles specializing in crime fiction. He has had works published in Thuglit (Issue 21) and QPB Presents the World’s Best Shortest Stories among others. He is a produced playwright and a professional actor. Dale attended Ohio University where he earned an MFA in Theater.