June, Into the Light

june into the light

Here is a free sample of June, Into the Light for your reading pleasure!

Link to details and buy links

chapter-1

drop-cap-june focused on trying to keep her gun hand from shaking, supporting it with her other hand. She stared at the clerk of the convenience store, doing her best to exude confidence and danger, to show him that he needed to do what she said if he didn’t want to get shot. Gone were the days when she could lift cash or keys from right under the owner’s nose. The man looked frightened. He was there by himself; he was always by himself that time of day, she had been in the neighborhood long enough to know that.

“Just do what I tell you to!” June ordered. Her mouth was dry. She should have had something to drink before she started. She should have had more to drink. If she’d had more, maybe then she wouldn’t have been so wound up. “Put everything in the till into the bag.”

He was moving too slowly. She didn’t like it. He hadn’t argued with her and hadn’t tried to talk her out of the hold-up, but he was moving way too slowly. She wanted to reach across the counter and start grabbing hands full of cash herself, but she had seen enough blooper videos on TV to know how that would go. She wouldn’t be able to keep control of the gun and grab the money, her arm stretched out over the counter. The cashier would be able to catch her gun arm and maybe get her under his control.

“Hurry up!” she screamed, tearing her throat raw. Why wouldn’t he hurry up? Was he moving that slowly, or was it just her perception because she was so hyped up?

He didn’t say a word to her. That wasn’t right. He should have been answering her. Either arguing or trying to assure her that he was going to do everything she said to. But he wasn’t. Pale as a ghost, he just kept pinching bills between his fingers and putting them into the gym bag, his own hands shaking so that he kept fumbling with them, dropping them, not scooping the money efficiently like she would if she were in his position. How hard was it to grab the stack of cash from each slot?

It was taking too long. There had to be a few hundred in the bag, and that was all she needed. She could get some more cash from another store, maybe one farther away from her home, once she was feeling better.

She reached across the counter and grabbed the bag. The cashier held on to it for a moment, startled, but then he let go and put his hands up, letting her know he wasn’t going to fight her for it. June waved the gun at him one more time and hurried out of the store. All she had to do was get her hands on the drugs she needed, and then she’d be fine. Then she could stop and think over her next step.

June hadn’t been able to find Jason, so she had ended up having to pay top dollar to a dealer that she didn’t usually buy from. Her money had disappeared into his pockets, and the heroin he had provided had been cut. It was barely enough to calm her shakes and, within a few hours, they were back again, worse than ever.

Jason would have the good stuff. She couldn’t trust anyone else. She needed to find him and get some good product. Enough for a few days. It had been a while since she had seen Michelle. The girl was bound to come home soon, and she would have money for June to get groceries and to pay Jason what she owed. She just needed to convince him to extend her a little more credit. Only June wasn’t sure how she was going to do that.

The gun was heavy, weighing on her like a sack of rocks instead of the sleek little handgun it was. She took it out of her hoodie pocket and again checked to make sure it was fully loaded.

The volume of a child’s voice in the hallway made her turn her head and realize that she had left the apartment door open. She was going to walk over and close it, but then realized she still had the gun in her hand and someone could see it and report her. Or worse yet, feel threatened and blow her away.

She turned her back to the door to shield the gun from view and checked it one more time.

She wondered what would happen if she held Jason up for his product. How much did he carry on him? How long would it last? If she did something like that, he would never sell to her again, and he’d see to it she was blacklisted by all of the local dealers.

Not a good idea.

June let out her breath. She would talk to Jason. She would explain to him that she was going to be getting money soon. He would give her enough to tide her over until she could get her hands on some more cash. Everything would be fine.

“Freeze, police!”

June startled and whirled around, the gun finding its place in her hand and her finger sliding onto the trigger by the time she faced the door, drawing a bead on the cops before the words even registered.

Her heart pounded so hard she thought it was going to explode. She pointed the gun at one black-uniformed cop and then the other, trying to figure out an escape route. She had faced danger before. She had faced arrest before. But it had been a long time since she had been in a gang and trouble like that had been expected.

Why were they there? Because someone had seen her gun? Because they knew about the robbery? Had the dealer she’d bought from been a narc?

If she went down for armed robbery, it was bad, but if she shot up the cops, it would be much worse. She would never get out. That was if she even made it to jail. If she shot one of them, or if they thought she was going to shoot one of them, they were going to open fire. It was two against one, and even if she managed to kill one of them, and maybe wing the other one, she wasn’t going to get out of there. If she managed to get both of them—and her skills with a firearm were not that great—she wouldn’t get far. The whole police force would be out looking for her in seconds, and she had nowhere to run. People in the neighborhood knew her. If the cashier had been able to describe her to a sketch artist, people would recognize her and know where she lived. That was why they always said never to pull a job in your own back yard. Don’t piss in your own drinking water.

“Drop the weapon and put up your hands!” one of the cops shouted.

June tried to decide. Her body had seized up, and the shaking was worse than ever. She could drop the gun, or she could end everything there. If she fired, even if she intentionally missed, they would take her out. They would put an end to her miserable existence there and then.

But was that really what she wanted? She had lost everything but her children, Michelle and Kenny. Did she want to lose them too? They didn’t have a good relationship, but at least Michelle still came by to check on June now and then. If June committed suicide by cop, what would that do to them?

She remembered a blaze of gunfire. She was thrown way back into the past—eight years old, sitting in her father’s lap when Justin filled him full of bullet holes—the end of life as they had known it. The smell of gun smoke and blood. The thunder of the gunshots filling her ears, along with her mother’s screams. Justin’s face, calm, pale, and pinched, as he lowered the gun, put it down, and calmly took the phone from their mother to dial in the three digits she couldn’t seem to manage with her shaking fingers.

June couldn’t shoot anyone. She remembered later when they were part of the Fourteenth Street Gang, and Justin had acquired his own gun for the first time, how devastating it had been for him. A tough hood, and he couldn’t look at or touch a gun without remembering how he had fired those shots way back when they were both eight, changing the courses of their lives forever. What kind of a hood was traumatized by holding a gun? She had assured him that it was okay; she didn’t care whether he could carry and fire a gun. Neither of them had to carry just because they were with the gang. They could use other things. They could use knives, fists, feet.

The shots echoed in her ears, so sharp and distinct that she looked from one cop to the other, sure that one of them had shot at her. Her body was clenched, waiting for the pain. But it didn’t come. The only pain she felt was the withdrawals that had been racking her body all day. The craving of her body that couldn’t be satisfied with anything else.

“Please help me!” she begged.

The cops looked surprised, exchanging looks with each other. “Help you? How can we help you, ma’am?”

When had she gone from being a kid to being ma’am? She had three children, but she didn’t feel any older than she had when she was fourteen. She was still waiting for that strong, confident, grown-up feeling that all adults had. She kept bluffing her way through it, pretending that she could be a good mother. Pretending that she could take care of herself and knew what she was doing, all the while so lost and alone, the same eight-year-old girl she had been when they put her in an ambulance and took her away from her family, from her brother, from everything she knew. She had thought that she would never see Justin again. She had cried and screamed when they were separated, sure that he was going to prison and that she would never be able to see him again. Maybe it would have been better for him if that had happened.

“Just tell us what we can do to help,” one of the cops said. “Why don’t you put the gun down, and we’ll see what we can do?”

“I gotta have a fix,” June said, admitting the ugly truth. As much as she wanted Justy back, as much as she wanted her children to live with her and love her again, as much as she wanted everything to be idyllic, her immediate need was for nothing more than the drugs her body craved.

“We can help you to detox,” the darker of the two cops said. “If you just surrender, we’ll take you into custody, and we’ll help you out.”

“I don’t want to detox.” She hated the way that it felt when they cleaned her up. She hated the empty feeling, the anxiety, the feeling of being lost in the universe. That wasn’t the feeling that she wanted. She wanted the drugs to numb the pain. To quiet the anxieties and help her to forget how miserable her life had become. She didn’t want to be clean. She just wanted the chemicals flowing through her veins, helping her to forget, for just a few minutes.

“Of course not. But you can’t keep going on like this. Can you lower the gun? You’re looking pretty shaky there, and no one wants to be shot by accident.”

June saw her father, the blood that had spattered over everything, the holes in his chest and blankness in his eyes. He’d looked so startled, so surprised at being dead. She allowed the weight of the gun to pull her arm down slowly so that it went from the cop’s center mass down to his legs, and finally down at the floor. She knew her finger was still through the trigger guard, and that they now had the drop on her. It would take little effort if she really wanted to die.

But the gun had become so heavy in her hand that she was no longer sure she would be able to raise it again. The aching in her chest grew. Maybe she’d have a heart attack right there, and they wouldn’t have to kill her. She would die right there, her heart unable to take the pressure anymore. She knew that some of the prescriptions she had taken over the years had side effects that could damage the heart. So could the street drugs. Maybe they had, and these were her last few seconds of life. Alone, no family, just the cops.

“That’s right,” the cop said reassuringly. “You’re making the right choice. We want to keep everyone safe here, don’t we? You don’t want to hurt anyone. You’re just jonesing. But everything is going to be alright.”

She couldn’t see how. She couldn’t see any possible positive outcome. They were going to put her away. Not just detox this time, not just the hospital, but in prison for armed robbery. She had blown it. She had been given one more chance to be a mother to her children, to get them back and show everyone that she could do it, and she had blown that all to hell. No matter what, she would never be getting her children back again. Not only that, but she had lost them long ago.

They hadn’t wanted to come back to her after being in foster care. Neither one of them had wanted anything to do with her. Instead of showing them she could be a good mom, she had just reinforced how inept at the role she was. How was she supposed to be a good mother when all she’d ever known was abuse and temporary foster care? How had that trained her to be the kind of parent that she’d always wished she had?

“It’s not going to be alright,” she objected.

“I know that’s how you feel,” he agreed. “I know you can’t see your way through to things being better now, but they can be. This is the best thing that could happen to you.”

“What?” June was baffled. How could he think that anything good could happen to her? She was going to prison. She was never going to see her children again. She was never going to see Justin again. Her whole life, all the things she had ever valued, were gone forever.

“It is,” the cop told her earnestly. “This is your opportunity to get cleaned up, to get your life turned around. You can get clear of the drugs, finish your education, maybe even learn a trade. You can get all of that crap straightened out and live the kind of life that you want to live.”

He was crazy. He had no idea what he was talking about. There was no way that her life was ever going to get any better. She had been spiraling down into the blackness for so long that she no longer remembered what it was like to walk in the light. There was no way out of the hole she had dug herself into.

“I’ve seen people a lot worse off than you turn their lives around.”

“No, you haven’t,” June challenged. Her whole body was shaking with fatigue, with her need for more drugs, with the loss of the adrenaline that had sustained her through the hold-up. “You don’t know what it’s like.”

“I’ve seen convicted murderers turn their lives around and become contributing members of society. People with purpose. Giving back to their communities. Helping other people who are in the same position to get a step up and avoid having to go through the same thing. I’ve seen complete turnarounds.”

June had a brief glimpse of what that would be like. How it would feel to be clear of drugs and addictions and be contributing something to society. To be able to help others who were on the street and in trouble. She could help the kids who were lost like she had been before they went so far that they thought they could never return.

“Really?”

“Really. Trust me. Now I want you to listen to me, and I’ll tell you what to do. We can get you out of here without anybody getting hurt, and we can help you out. We can put you onto that path.”

June swallowed hard. Her mouth was still as dry as cotton. She wished for a bottle. She didn’t care what kind of nasty rotgut it was; she just wanted to numb herself. She nodded, not trusting her voice.

“Good,” the cop approved. They were still holding their guns on her. She knew that outside, they were marshaling their forces, bringing in more and more cops, surrounding the building, bringing in a helicopter and a special response unit and starting to work through their strategies of how they would capture her—an armed gunman.

They didn’t know how harmless she was. That she was no longer the hardened street kid, but just a mom who had never figured out how to make it work, soft and beaten-down.

“I want you to put down the gun. Just let it go.”

She worked at loosening her grip and pulling her finger back out of the trigger guard. She opened her hand and let gravity pull the gun out. It finally hit the floor with a clatter. Both cops visibly relaxed. She waited for them to rush in and jump on her, throw her to the floor, and crank her arms back behind her back to cuff them. That was the way she had seen it done.

“Okay, hands on top of your head. Interlace your fingers.”

June wasn’t sure she could raise her arms again. They hung so heavy at her side. But she focused all of her flagging energy on them, and managed to bring them up over her head, and then to settle on the crown of her head, over the mouse-brown hair, settling there. She was so tired. She just wanted to drop.

“Good. Kick the gun toward me.”

It took a couple of tries, but she managed to send it skidding across the dirty tiles in his direction.

“Good. You’re doing fine. You’re doing the right thing. Turn around so that your back is to me.”

That was easier, in spite of her exhaustion. She didn’t have to look at him. She didn’t have to see their guns and face the reality of what was happening to her.

“I want you to kneel down, and then lay flat on your face. Can you do that for me?”

June obeyed numbly.

When she was lying down, she could hear their heavy shoes on the floor approaching her cautiously. But what was she going to do, unarmed, lying flat on the floor, her hands laced behind her head?

She remembered how they had tackled Justin that one day on the playground, beating him down and kneeling on his back, when he was still not fully recovered from his car accident, breaking bones kneeling on him. She could still hear her own yells and remember how she had tackled the cops, furious that they would hurt her twin, her other half.

But these cops didn’t do that to her. Their approach was slow, and though they went through the same motions of patting her down and cuffing her hands behind her back, they didn’t hurt her.

When she was back on her feet, the cop who had talked to her went methodically through her pockets. There was nothing to find. She didn’t have any drugs on her. Nothing that she could take to calm the demons. No more weapons. Not even a penny to her name. She was destitute, wrung out, and empty. She knew that her life was over.

I hope you enjoyed this sample of

June, Into the Light

By P.D. Workman

Buy Links

Tell me what you think!