Mel heard the sound of the motor before he saw the boat. He stayed hidden around the corner of the building and peered out. The entire area had been submerged like the work of a vengeful God of the Old Testament or a futuristic SciFi film after global warming had run unchecked for too long. The rain had let up a little, but it was still coming down. Mel waited.
The boat appeared and slowly cruised down the street. Two men wore bright orange hunting jackets; one was by the wheel. The other stood on the prow surveying the scene like he was the boat’s figurehead. Odds were they were looking for people to help. Still, Mel couldn’t shake the feeling they had bad intentions. He imagined they had bolt-action rifles laying by their feet.
The men in the boat stopped every so often as they passed abandoned cars like bees pollinating flowers. Mel watched them continue to move until they were out of sight, but he waited until he couldn’t hear the motor anymore before he emerged from his hiding spot.
Ray’s Pawnshop’s neon sign had shorted out during the storm and now hung at an odd angle as if it were pointing to the sky. Mel looked through the window, through the now burned-out letters, and watched pawned items float around and smash into each other like bumper boats. He wasn’t worried, though. His trumpet was with the other brass instruments on one of the top shelves.
He waded to the front door and placed the pry bar into the seam where the door met the jamb. It didn’t take much, and the water had shorted out the alarm. The door opened outward, and Mel caught the strong smell of mildew.
The shop looked like all of the others: a giant mesh cage that housed the valuables and one long countertop with shelved items behind it. Of course, now the entire place was flooded, and miscellaneous debris floated around. Mel found the familiar-looking cases for brass instruments and scanned them for his trumpet. Something made a splash in a back room. Possibly, an animal had gotten inside and knocked something over.
“Jesus, watch it.” Came from the back.
Or, maybe not.
Mel had continued to look on the shelves, found his trumpet, made a mental note of its location, and slowly made his way toward the voice. The backroom was a stockroom with a doorway but no door. Enough light came in through a window, Mel could see two men rifling through boxes that were still on the shelves. Both looked to be middle-aged, though it was difficult to tell. They had been prematurely aged from hardship. Besides being soaked, their clothes were soiled and torn. One of them turned slightly to get a better vantage point of his box’s contents and saw Mel standing in the doorway. The man didn’t say anything, just tapped his friend on the shoulder, and pointed with his chin. The other man looked up quickly and did a doubletake. Before anything could get crazy, Mel dropped the pry bar into the water and put up his hands as if to suggest he was harmless.
“No worries,” Mel said. “I don’t work here.”
Both men paused for a moment as if to consider the validity of his statement then went back to opening the contents of boxes. Mel turned around to get the trumpet and stopped. He faced the men again.
“Oh, be careful out there,” Mel said “There are some guys in a boat.”
He left it at that. He could be wrong, but he figured why not give them a warning just in case.
The second man lifted the front of his shirt to reveal the handle of a firearm tucked into his waistband. He held his eye contact with Mel for longer than Mel thought necessary, and the man smiled. His two top front teeth were missing and the rest of them might very well disappear soon.
The man returned to his box. Mel took the opportunity to return to the main room, walked to the case with his horn, lifted his foot out of the water, and tested the sturdiness of the bottom shelf. It could hold him, and he stretched to reach the top. Multiple black and brown cases contained all sorts of brass instruments. Some cases were worn and bore stickers of international airlines. Others looked brand new off the assembly line.
The two men appeared from the back room just as Mel was climbing down into the water. Both of them carried full shopping bags as they glided through the water toward the front door. The unarmed man seemed more focused on making it outside and didn’t take any notice of Mel. The man with the weapon gave Mel a nod on the way out. Soon they were gone. Mel waited a moment before he left. He was probably overthinking it; if those guys wanted to rob him, they would have done so already. Still, he wanted to give them a wide berth. When he thought enough time had passed, Mel went outside. The rain still fell, and Mel realized he might not be able to leave town right away. There were a few high schools in the area, and he remembered the emergency service suggesting some of the gyms would be opened as shelters. He didn’t have a plan for what he would do next, but he could figure that out later.
He made his way to the corner when he heard the sound of a gunshot. It may have been a motor backfiring, but it sounded more like a gunshot, though he couldn’t tell whether it had been a bolt action rifle or a pistol.
Andrew Davie has worked in theater, finance, and education. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant and has survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He is currently pursuing a clinical mental health counseling degree. He has published short stories at various places, a memoir, crime fiction books with All Due Respect, Close to the Bone, Alien Buddha Press, and Next Chapter. His work can be found in links on his website https://andrew-davie.