Flash Bang


I was fired after I robbed Metro Computer Company but the cops busted me for the wrong crime. I stole electronics from the warehouse, not the contents of the boss’s safe.

Fortunately, the evidence was weak, so I copped a plea and hit the streets in time served plus twenty days. The jails are crowded around here.

Anyway, that’s how I ended up working in this crumby Kwik & E-Z convenience store, which is way beneath my intelligence and qualifications. The owner banned guns from the store based on his theory that “robbed is cheaper than sued.” But he never said anything about flash bangs, and I had one that was state of the art, compliments of a law enforcement research technician I’d helped out with his computer desperation moments. I loved the irony of a crook using the cop’s technology to commit a crime.

Unlike the ordinary stun grenade with a five-second delay, the new model has a dial that allows from five seconds to thirty minutes lead time. My research buddy claims this technology is classified, and says most cops don’t know it exists.

My plan was solid. Most nights, business at Kwik & E-Z fell from brisk to nonexistent by the end of my shift. A half hour before quitting time, I’d hide the cash in a fake soup can on the back of a top shelf, to retrieve later. I’d clock the flash bang for five minutes and drop it to the floor while I straightened up messy display items. To prove it wasn’t me who set it off, I’d stand behind the counter with my hands in sight of the security camera for the last couple of minutes before it exploded.

Then I’d stagger around acting disoriented for a while and dial 911. My story was perfect. I’d say I saw a blur at the front door; then a loud noise and flash of light startled me so much I didn’t see what happened. I wouldn’t mention knocking the camera sideways with a broomstick held close to the wall, out of view.

My lucky night. I’d barely finished hiding the cash when a punk crashed in waving a pistol and shouting for everybody to freeze. Everybody was me so I raised my hands and posed for the security camera. I couldn’t have planned a better alibi.

The guy was so dumb he believed me when I said the manager had already picked up the day’s receipts. I offered him what I had in my wallet and stood in front of the cash register while I put my money in a sack, so for the camera I appeared to be emptying the cash drawer. The crazy punk tossed a bunch of handfuls of candy on the counter for me to stuff in the sack with the money. He was so preoccupied with the sweets I could have drawn down on him if I’d had a gun.

Maybe it was the stupid way the punk talked to me. Maybe it was his incompetence. Or it could be what my parole officer calls my “impulse control problem.” Whatever, while he shoveled candy at me I grabbed the flash bang, dialed it to go off in thirty minutes, and dropped it in the sack. I pictured him reaching for a chocolate in a dark alley and blowing off a finger.

But he peered in the sack and looked up at me with recognition spreading over his face. Not so stupid after all.

He raised his gun so fast I’m not even sure if I said, “Wait” before the flash and bang and the fade to black.

~ fin ~

Award-winning author Paul Lees-Haley has previously written for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Flash Fiction Offensive, The Higgs Weldon, Fifty Word Stories, The Alabama Writers Conclave’s Alalitcom, Voices, G/C/T, Hypertrophic Literary, CoEvolution Quarterly, Trial, Spectrum, and many dozens of psychological and legal journals and magazines.