In It  by Vincent Dumont-Mackay

Competition: Flash Fiction Challenge 2013, Final Round

Genre: Open  Location: A lake  Object: A safe

Original Illustration by Yevgenia Nayberg

She 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 bundled-up shape.

            “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.”

            “That's it?”

            “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 I'm right.

            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 stealing?”

            “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 arrest me.”

            “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 my weapon.”

            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.

 

---

 

 

Vincent Dumont Mackay - I tried to be only a doctor. It didn't work. I tried to be only a writer. It didn't work. Then I became a dad, and realized I could do everything at once.





 


 

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