Victoria and the Birthday Gift
A Short Story
Emergency lights came on, the clerk looked confused in the semidarkness and a little nervous. She apologized to Victoria then picked up the phone, pressed a few buttons and looked even more confused.
The store manager came out and speaking quietly, instructed everyone to remain calm while they sorted out the situation. Not to be deterred, Victoria thanked the clerk and took the proffered bag with the gift.
The distinct sound of gunshots echoed throughout the store shattering the quiet. In the distance came screams and raised voices.
She shoved the gift into her shirt and ducked down in a crouch. A scene of chaos awaited her as armed men forced shoppers towards the center of the store. It was clear whoever they were, were taking hostages.
The dim lighting allowed her to sneak deeper into the store without being noticed. Thinking quickly, she decided to find an exit. She hoped someone had the sense of mind to call the police and reinforcements were on their way. Staying low, she moved through the shadows and behind displays, anywhere that afforded her cover. She found the exit but the men had blocked it off and it would be too risky to clear the door. She turned towards the rear of the main floor looking for an employee only door.
One man’s voice rose above the others.
“No one play hero and everyone goes home,” he said. The accent was English but that’s all she could tell. She chanced a look back in their direction just as one of them spotted her.
“Hey, there’s one,” he yelled. A shot rang out and the sound of a bullet whizzed by her.
She scrambled towards the rear of the store and found the employee-only door. It was locked. The thug had lost sight of her as she watched him come within 20 meters of her location. He moved slowly in her direction.
Victoria picked up a perfume bottle from the counter and hurled it in the opposite direction. The sudden sound of breaking glass split the silence. The man took the bait and ran towards the sound. Victoria searched for a place to hide but found none. To her left about halfway between, her and the direction the thug had run off were the elevators.
Knowing the escalators were near the center of the store and too risky, she decided to chance the elevator. She sneaked toward them. The doors were open and stuck that way when they lost power. If she could get away from them she could make a plan and maybe find a weapon.
The best option was to get to the kitchen and find a knife, but that was on the fifth floor and with the elevators off and the escalators watched it might as well be in the next building. . Women’s wear was on the floor above, and she wondered just how organized the guys were. She kept the man in her sights and picked up another object and threw it back towards the center of the store. He moved to investigate.
“Come out,” he demanded. “You won’t be hurt if you come out now.”
Inside the elevator, she found the service hatch leading into the shaft.. She checked for the thug but didn’t see him. Seeing the chance, she braced herself on the wall and used the railing to push herself and onto the roof. The hatch closed with a soft thump as the panel reseated into the ceiling.. It was pitch black and the only sound was her own breathing.. She felt around the wall until she found the service ladder and started her slow climb upwards.
Every few minutes she checked for the entrance to the next floor. Eventually she felt the lip of the door and engaged the release mechanism. Keeping both hands and a foot on the rung she managed after several tries to move the door slightly. She felt around until she found the edge of the door and used the leverage of the ladder to pull the door open.
Faint light entered the shaft from the store and she could see well enough to put her foot on the other side of the door. She forced it open even more. Holding on to the door mechanism Victoria stepped carefully onto the ledge.
Inside all was quiet from her vantage point and she listened for a few minutes before squeezing through the narrow opening. Once safely back on solid ground she looked around her surroundings. She found herself in the designer shoe section. A thought crossed her mind and she wondered if she should have gotten Samantha shoes.
The sound of a man swearing came to her. Crouching, she moved slowly towards the direction of the voice. She moved along the outside of the floor and crept into the clothing section. Several mannequins faced her and she got an idea.