Julie was working in a clothing store at the mall and ringing up Mrs. Johnson on the front register. “How are you today, Mrs. Johnson?”, Julie asked (with that fake smile she had become accustomed to using). “Oh, I guess things could be worse, I just can’t keep up with the fashions these days,” the old lady responded. “Of course not, when you’re in your eighties and trying to look sixteen again,” Julie thought to herself. Julie bit down what she was thinking and replied, “I couldn’t agree with you more, ma’am.” Mrs. Johnson gathered her bags and headed to the door. About this time, Julie caught a glimpse of her new boyfriend, Rick, coming across the mall to meet her for their afternoon lunch. She hoped so much that this boyfriend would be better than the last. So far things had been going along really well.
Her last boyfriend was very controlling and treated her more like a dog, than a girlfriend. Jim never allowed her to have a thought of her own. Every time she tried to voice her opinion about anything, he would tell her how wrong she was, and she would be better off letting him do the thinking. This went on for about six months, and she started feeling lower and lower every time she seen him. She finally had enough of the verbal abuse and broke it off with Jim, last month. Jim didn’t seem to take it well, but Julie just stayed clear of him, and it seemed to have blown over. Julie had met Rick about two weeks after the breakup, while getting a soda at the restaurant that Rick worked in, across the mall. Jim had made Julie nervous about boys, but Rick seemed to be a gentleman and besides, he was so darn cute! She had decided to throw her heart out there one more time, with hopes that it wouldn’t be stomped on again. So far it has been great with Rick. He treats her like a princess, unlike the dog, Jim had tried to create. It is so different to have someone hold a door for you instead of letting it swing back in your face, she thought. When Julie has something to say, Rick clams up and allows her to speak her mind.
Julie held down a little squeal of joy as she turned to her co-worker. “Beth, I’m going to take my lunch break now.” Beth glanced back over her shoulder and saw Rick heading into the store. “Of course, you are! I see your knight in shining armor heading this way,” Beth said with a chuckle. Rick came in with a big smile on his face, carrying a box with burgers, fries and two large sodas. “Are you ready for our mall picnic, my queen?” Rick asked Julie. “Oh, I guess so,” she responded, without looking up from her cash register. Rick’s heart sank a little, “is this how she thinks of me?” he wondered. Beth spoke up with a laugh, “stop torturing the boy, Julie!” As Julie looked up, the young man saw in her eyes, how excited she really was to see him. She ran to him and planted a kiss on his cheek, grabbed his hand and led him to the break room in the back. Beth yelled after them, “Don’t worry about me, my prince will show up some day.”
The young couple went into the break room, Rick held the door for Julie, showing the gentleman he was. She thanked him, and they sat down at the table. Rick sat the box of food and sodas down, offering Julie hers first. They talked about what their plans were for the weekend while enjoying their lunch. “How about we go to the movies?” Julie asked. “I’m sure you’d like that new thriller that just came out. It’s about a guy going after a girl that dumped him!” She spoke. Rick laughed and answered, “So you like thrillers then?” Julia thought for a moment. “I like to be surprised and not know, what’s going to happen next,” she said. Little did they both know how they would be part of a thriller, and not just watch it on the big screen.
Halfway through lunch, while talking about their weekend plans, a loud popping noise rang out and the couple looked at each other with amazement. “What the hell? That sounded like a gunshot,” Rick gasped, as he jumped to his feet. Julie answered, with a shaking voice, “I’m scared Rick, what’s going on?” Rick went to peer out of the break room door. He saw a person wearing black clothing, holding a shotgun. Rick slowly closed the door, but before he could latch it, Julie pushed the door open a little to look for herself. A small gulp came from Julie as she saw what was going on in the store. Another shot rang out, and Julie stifled a scream by quickly putting her hands over her mouth. There were people being killed, and blood was splattered everywhere. “Oh, my God!” Julie cried with alarm, as another person was shot and dropped to the floor.
Beth, the cashier at the register, had been hit at point-blank range. Her stomach exploded when the blast found her midsection. As she fell to the floor, Beth was sure she would not live to see the end of her shift. Two elderly patrons clothes shopping for their granddaughter were the next to fall. The man’s head disappeared from his shoulders in front of his wife. The wife didn’t have time to think of her husband, as her chest cavity imploded within seconds. Both would not make it home from this shopping trip. Mall security heard the shots and called the local police station, before checking on the scene. This short time-lapse was probably the only thing that saved the security guard, who was first to arrive, as he looked around the corner into the shop. The blast rocked the door frame beside his head and shattered glass, which showered down on his face. If he had been five seconds earlier, the gunman would’ve been in direct line with the guard, a center shot lined up. As the SWAT team showed up, the gunman was making his way down the aisles of the store. He was looking for Julie. Julie didn’t know it, but if the gunman’s plan was successful, today, she would die, and he would kill himself, so they would always be together. “I will have her, and anyone who gets in the way shall also follow us to the great beyond!”, he spoke out loud to himself. The man in the dark clothing was searching for his next victim in the clothing store. He loaded more shells into his pump shotgun with the ease of someone who knew how to use this particular weapon. The reason behind his rage, was still a mystery to everyone unfortunate enough to be in the store.
“What are we going to do?” Julie asked. “We can’t stay here, there’s no way out except that door, and he will be here soon!” Rick replied. Once again, Rick cracked the door open and peered out. Looking from one side of the store to the other. Rick observed, just to the right of the break room door, a big display with all kinds of long dresses on it. Underneath and to the left would be the only place to hide. The darkness, created by the long dresses, would give them their best chance.
“You must be quiet, Julie,” Rick whispered. “I’m so scared! He just killed them! I don’t see Beth!”, she said sobbing and in near panic. Rick put an arm around her and touched her lips with the other hand. “I will protect you, but you must be quiet, do you understand?” Rick whispered in her ear. Julie nodded her head in agreement. “Good. We are hidden and the cops are coming. I hear them yelling at this psycho case,” He whispered, “That nutcase seems to be slightly distracted. This is our chance. Do you see the display of dresses to the right?” Julie nodded, as she seen where he was pointing. “When I say go,” Rick said, “we are going to stay low and get there as fast as we can. “Ready….GO!!”
Rick and Julie made their way quickly out of the break room, over to the display, and slid to a stop under the dresses. They were hiding and waiting as the gunman worked his way to the back of the store, shooting anything that moved. They could hear the captain of the swat team yelling for the man to stop and asking what he wanted. The gunman finally responded, “She broke my heart and I have nothing left to live for! She must pay!” Julie recognized the voice and couldn’t stop herself from yelling out, “Jim, is that you?” The gunman swung to the left towards the voice. He fired his weapon in the area the voice came from. The shot clipped off the top half of the big display, they were hiding under. He was only a few feet from them. As he got closer, ready to shoot, again Rick’s own killer instinct kicked in! He grabbed a pole, used for hanging clothes, and thrust it into the stomach of the attacker, dropping him to his knees. A shot fired into the ceiling and debris showered down as the attacker jerked the gun up in pain. The gunman, Jim, fell to the side, dropping the weapon and grasping for the pole, protruding from his gut. Rick and Julie leaped from their hiding space. Rick kicked the gun away, out of the reach of the attacker. Julie knelt beside Jim. “Why, Jim, why?” She screamed and sobbed at the same time. “You were in my dreams, tormenting me, Julie!” Jim gasped, “I can’t live without you! You broke my heart.” As the officers surround him, with a deep guttural, blood bubbling gurgle, he breathed his last.
“Are you alright, miss?” an officer asked Julie. “I may never be alright again.” Julie responded. Rick rushed to her, and they embraced. He noticed she flinched. Rick wondered if she could ever hold him again, or if this tragedy would destroy their relationship as well. Will she wonder if I might have a killer instinct towards her someday? After all, I was the one who killed Jim, Rick thought. Just then, Julie looked into Rick’s eyes and said, “I don’t think I want to go to that thriller movie anymore. Is it okay if we have a picnic instead?” Rick saw in her eyes the love she had for him had just grown stronger. “I think I’m done with thrillers myself; I’ve had all the shooting I can stand for a lifetime,” Rick answered, “Let’s get out of here, I believe I’m getting off work early today, besides my lunch break was over half an hour ago.” Rick smirked. Julie hugged him tight, knowing this man would always take care of her.
The couple walked out of the store, hand in hand. As they passed the restaurant, that Rick worked at, he yelled inside, “Send me my check, I quit!”
Two weeks later, a reporter saw the young couple crossing the road. He stopped them on the other side and asked Rick and Julie if they would tell their story about the incident at the mall. They both looked at one another, then back to the man and answered in unison, “What story?” and walked away. Rick and Julie were married six months after the incident, and never went into or talked about the mall again. They made a pact to never watch any kind of thriller movie again, besides, they had lived the real-life version of one and had no interest in reliving it. Hollywood could never come up with ideas that would out do what they had lived through already.
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