In It by
Competition: Flash Fiction Challenge 2013, Final Round
Genre: Open Location: A
lake Object: A safe
Original Illustration by
stops running in the middle of the lake, fifty feet ahead of me.
She slips, almost falls on the ice, but catches herself. The sled,
made heavy by the safe, slides behind her for a few feet before it
stops short of her boots. I keep going.
I have her, I think.
I was right to stake out tonight.
The trees rustle in the wind. The grey sky
is getting darker. I draw my Maglite and project a cold beam on her
“Stop right there,” I say.
She turns to face me. “I just did, you moron.” Her voice is shaking, but
strong. It echoes over the frozen water. A couple of lights come on in
the surrounding cottages, but too far away to change anything. At my
back, the burglar alarm from the estate still rings, its electronic wail
out of place in the wild.
“You're under arrest,” I say, and take a step towards her, gun raised.
“I wouldn't come any nearer if I were you,” she says. There might be
fear in her voice now, but I'm not sure. It might be something else.
“Don't threaten me, ma'm,” I say. “I don't like thieves.”
At this she gives a bitter smile and looks down at the ice.
Instinctively, I point the beam of my Maglite down as well. And see the
cracks. They're spreading outward from her feet, like an ominous star. A
dog starts barking somewhere on shore.
“Shit,” I say. “The ice is too thin out here.”
“You have a talent for stating the obvious, officer,” she says. She's in
her thirties, with thick-rimmed glasses fogged by her breath. A few
strands of black hair escape from her fur bonnet.
“It's sergeant,” I say, and know I sound like an idiot.
She doesn't answer that.
“Listen,” I say, “You can't stay there. You have to lie down on the ice
and roll towards me.”
She shakes her head. “That's not what I have to do,” she says. Another
dog has joined in the barking, now. More lights come on.
“Give up that goddamn safe,” I say. “It's not worth it.”
“You don't even know what's in it, do you?” she says.
“I don't know and I don't care. You stole it, it's my job to stop you.”
“Yeah, that's it.”
She nods as if this confirms something important. “Then I guess you
could say it's my job to steal it.”
She takes a step towards the other side of the lake, still pulling the
sled with the safe on it. The ice cracks further, but holds. I remove
the safety on my gun. “It's nobody's job to steal,” I say, and I know
She laughs. “What about the banker who stole my home?” she says. “What
about the stockbroker who stole my savings? What's their job if it isn't
“Don't go any further,” I say. “I will stop you.”
“I need what's in that safe,” she says. “I need it more than you need to
“It's not a question of need,” I say, but wonder about that. “Just get
down and roll towards me. The ice isn't going to...”
“Of course it's a question of need,” she says, still edging away from
me. “You need order, I need money.”
Great, a thief who speaks like a philosophy major. Not that surprising,
I guess. Goddamn anarchists, the lot of them. “Stop, or I will discharge
She shoves the sled towards me. I try to move away but slip off my feet
and crash on the ice. Pain shoots through my shoulder. My gun flies from
my hands and slides almost fifty feet, like a misshapen curling stone.
The star branches grow around us. Freezing water sloshes through the
cracks and soaks my coat.
Forgetting my own advice about rolling, I get back up with a curse. She
is pulling the sled away again, still trying to cross the lake.
I can't let her get away.
I start running. The sled and safe slow her down, so I catch up. There
are voices on the shore now. People are screaming, calling. Something
about stopping, getting down, rolling. I don't really hear them. I grab
the sled and pull. She yanks on the rope. We both fall, and crawl
towards the safe. We reach it together and start wrestling for it. Its
polished steel shines like crude oil in the dark. For an instant, I find
it beautiful before it tips on its side, slowly, slowly.
I try to catch it. She tries to catch it. We both fail.
The safe pierces the ice like it would paper. With a deafening rending
sound, the branches of the star shoot out, become crevices. The ice
shatters into hundreds of fragments, leaving nothing under us.
The water hits me like a gunshot. I hear her scream. For a moment, the
safe floats between us, refusing to go down. As I feel my mind going
numb with the unimaginable cold, I look at the thief the philosopher the
goddamn anarchist and I need to know I need to know it's worth it all
that pain and cold.
“What's... in it?” I ask.
Her lips are blue her whole face is blue then white then I can't see
anymore. “I don't... know either,” she says.
The dogs on the shore bark one last time, and the three of us go down.