Children's Crusade
Chapter 18

Copyright© 2011 by carioca

Alex hadn't seen the store from outside, but now he understood why Jeremy had thought it would be overlooked. It wasn't actually a gun store, it wasn't even a sporting goods store. The signs on the inside of the shuttered windows told the story. 'Loans', 'We buy Gold', and others similar. It was a pawnshop. The shelves in front of them were full of high end DVD players, some still in boxes with price tags from other stores still on them. Above and behind him he heard Chuck complain, "Okay, fine, just point that somewhere else." That was followed by sharp curses as he half climbed, half fell into the shop.

Alex concentrated on the back two aisles, wrecking tool ready. Jeremy watched the other two, crowbar in both hands. It was too dark to see it, but he knew from the way the younger boy stood that his knuckles where white from holding it too hard. They'd planned on keeping quiet, but anyone waiting for them had to know they were there, if the pounding and falling plaster hadn't given it away, Chuck's entrance had. He glanced over to his friend. "Jer, relax, you can do this." He thought about saying something to Chuck, but knew he'd take it the wrong way. Nothing he said would help. He waited for Larry, but to his surprise Jenny came down next. "You're supposed to be upstairs, watching the door."

She pulled Miss Simpkins' .38 out of her jacket pocket. "You need me here."

Behind them Larry climbed down and Alex pointed him to an aisle. He looked again at Jenny. "Okay, fine. Cover me." He looked at the other boys, making eye contact with each of them in turn. "I'll go check it out, then call you down. Check your aisles, make absolutely sure there isn't one of them hiding somewhere." He waited for them to respond, then crept down past a case full of MP3 players and racks of used CDs, DVDs and video games. The front of the store was empty, no one under the bargain bin, no one visible behind the counter. It was brighter here, instead of full shutters, like over the big windows, there was an arrangement of horizontal round bars outside the glass door. He waved to Jenny. "Come on up you guys."

He turned back to the counter. Right in front of him was an arrangement of jewelry, but the sections closer to the door held knives and an assortment of pistols. On the wall behind the counter was a rack holding rifles and shotguns. Next to that was a wire mesh reinforced glass cabinet. Boxes of ammo lined the shelves. The others came up to the ends of the aisle and looked around. Moving cautiously, he went to the waist high door and pushed. It was latched. He leaned over the counter and peered into the gloom before swinging over into the empty space. He stooped quickly and checked all the low spaces behind the counter before flipping back part of the counter top and unlatching the swinging door.

The door to the back room had only a simple latch keeping it shut, the kind that could be worked from either side. Alex flipped the light switch then blinked in the glare of the harsh florescent lights. The long arms were secured by a chain through their trigger guards, even if he pried it loose from the rack, the mounting bracket would stop him from pulling the chain through. "We need to find the keys or some bolt cutters."

Behind him, Jeremy grunted and there was a popping sound followed by the clatter of the lock from the counter on the tile floor. "I think the keys are in the register, but get the ammo first." He was half inside the glass case with the crowbar, working on the cables that secured the pistols. Wood cracked and splintered. "Got it, Here take these."

Larry grabbed the first one he handed out and laid it on the counter. Chuck got the next, a long barreled heavy revolver. He held it up to look at it. "Sweet!" He stuck it in his belt, then put the other pistols Jeremy handed to him on the counter. Jenny stood on the other side, and arranged them in two rows as they came out.

Alex checked the glass fronted cabinet. It was locked, but it took him only seconds to pop it open, the wood around the lock gave way easily. There was more ammo than he'd originally thought, but most of it was .22 LR. He didn't really take time to look at it, just scooped it up and deposited all of it on the counter. Stacks of plastic boxes holding .22 LR rounds, cardboard ones for 12 and 20 gage shotgun shells, assorted rifle and pistol ammunition, some of it in loose in ziplock bags labeled with magic marker. Jeremy knelt on the floor and pulled boxes and loose magazines from underneath the display area. "I thought he had more." He said and pulled out some long cardboard boxes. "Just like the one dad got for Lorelei's birthday."

The four boxes held rifles, but tiny ones, made for children. The box in Jeremy's hand had a picture of a pink one. Jenny took it from him and set it on the counter. "We'll give it to Becky, she was the best of the Beehives at girls camp. Pass me those .45 boxes."

Jeremy handed them over, and fished a pair of speed loaders out of the mess. He checked them against a small revolver and loaded one with .22 rounds. Chuck had the revolver he'd chosen open and swore as he checked various ammo boxes. Jeremy sighed and held out his hand. "Let me see it." Chuck just looked at him. "Come on, I'll give it back." He handed it over reluctantly. "Three-Fifty-Seven, yeah, I saw a box." He loaded the pistol and handed it to Chuck along with a partial box of ammo. "This here," he said, holding up another revolver and two cardboard boxes, "is a Thirty-Eight, like Miss Simpkins'. Give it to Bobbi-Jo. You can use her ammo, but she can't use yours." He handed two more boxes to his sister. She pocketed them, pointed a .45 at the door and dry fired it before sliding a magazine in. Her nimble fingers filled another magazine in seconds.

He turned his attention to the register. It looked old, the sides were dirty and the keys worn and stained from years of use. He checked the drawers underneath first, hoping to find either keys to the cabinet and gun rack, or keys to the register. Finding neither, he forced the tip of the pry bar into the crack around the register drawer and twisted. The drawer didn't open, not even a little, but the faceplate popped off. Without it in the way, he managed to get most of the end of the crowbar into the drawer. It took only seconds to open it and find the keys in the space behind the cash drawer.

He opened the padlock and pulled the chain free, then moved the rifles and shotguns to the counter, two at a time. Larry tucked the 9mm he'd chosen into the back of his pants and grabbed a pump shotgun. He opened a box of twelve-gage shells, loaded it, then racked the slide and put in another shell. He filled his pockets with shells and went to look out the door. Jeremy fitted a curved magazine to a rifle, then laid it down and looked through the pile of ammunition.

Chuck reached for it. "Dibs on the AK."

Alex put the double barred twenty gage in his hand across it. "Have you ever even fired one?" Chuck hesitated, then shook his head.

 
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