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long enough to know if I didn't get the business over and done with I might as well make a run for it after all. I could taste the fear growing with every breath.

I forced myself out of the car, unloaded the case, and with one hand holding the gun in my pocket barged through the swing doors of reception and banged the case on the counter. I stood there for what seemed forever waiting for the other case to be put down next to mine, but nothing happened. The cold feeling that had been plaguing my guts all day turned to a block of ice. Something was very wrong. Reluctantly I raised my head to face the drug dealer and looked into the watery eyes of a scared old man. An equally scared old woman who looked like she was his wife stared fixedly at me from the office desk behind him.

No harm had been done. If I could only stop my heart jumping around like a demented frog and say something casual to ease the tension in the air, I could still walk out and no one would be any the wiser. That was when the old woman made a funny noise in her throat and dived for the desk drawer. She thrust her hand inside and pulled out something black that looked like a gun. Then everything turned into a slow motion dream sequence in which time played no part.

I raised the gun and fired at the desk. A small hole appeared above the old woman's eyes and the back of her head exploded in a mist of blood and brains. For a second she remained sitting bolt upright with a look of great surprise on her face. Then,as though dissolving from within, she slipped into a shapeless bundle on the floor, the dark bottle of pills still grasped in her hand.

Stunned by the sudden turn of events I only became aware of the old man's attack at the last moment. It must have been the shadow of his hand as he raised the paper knife across the wall light that broke the spell. I turned my head to find his hate filled eyes mere inches from my own. He was so close the white hairs of an early beard stood out in sharp relief on his chin while his breath blew flecks of spittle in my face. Sweeping the gun up to his throat I fired again as the paper knife began a lethal downward stroke. The old man sank slowly to his knees, bright arterial blood spewed from his throat, hosing my face and clothes in a hot familiar steaming soup. Then suddenly the room was bathed in a blinding white light and a distorted voice yelled instructions through a bullhorn.

"This is the police. We have you in vision through the window. Stay exactly where you are. Do not move. Put your hands on your head and wait for the arresting officer. Any move will be taken as a direct threat and we will shoot to kill without further warning".

I followed their instructions to the letter, freezing like a statue. Whoever had tipped off the law I neither knew nor cared. At least I was safe from the hoods for a while, the rest could be sorted out later. I could still feel the old man's blood dripping down my face and the sensation stirred a distant memory that stayed tauntingly out of reach. Outside gravel crunched under booted feet and I heard the swing door creak as it opened behind me.

"OK fellah. Take your gun hand from your head and slowly put the weapon on the counter. Do it slowly now, then put your hand back on your head and turn around. Take it very easy pal, one sudden move and you're a dead man."

Fedora hat was back, but this time he seemed more resigned than scared. He must have been standing behind me when I shot the old man for he was covered in blood like me. I did exactly as I was told, making no protest when they cuffed me and put me in the back of the car, and sat quietly, the sirens wailing away as we fought our way back through the storm.

"Don't say I didn't warn you pal," Fedora hat looked at me sadly out of the back of the driving seat, " this time you'll get the chair."

"Why don't you shut up and go away, no one asked you to ride along," I snapped, " and while you're at it, go clean yourself up, rinse all that blood off your suit."

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