The summer I turned 15, I was a skinny kid with a flip attitude. I hung out most of that summer at either the bowling alley, Friday night dances at the Unified Hall, or the 7-11 a couple blocks from my house. Loy Diehl was the evening manager there most days. He was a short, thin, guy with a mustache and a friendly manner. He'd pay me to stock the window shelves in the cooler; usually in sodas or cigarettes. I was cheap help. 7-11's at that time had no store windows, the whole front of the store was open to the outside. No surveillance cameras, either.
He also had an interest in guns and encouraged me to learn about them. He was mostly braggart and what we called a "BS artist." But he got me interested in guns. There was no way I would be able to own one, my father was not one to have them in the house. Even BB guns were forbidden (though I had owned a couple of those). I bought and read a lot of gun magazines that summer and fall.
Loy kept a .45 revolver under the counter. Small markets like the 7-11's were easy targets for hold up men and that summer there had been a number of robberies in in or near our town. It was a regular topic of conversation when I was hanging out.
One night, about 9, Loy, me, and a regular customer were talking when another guy walked in and headed for the aisles. This guy eventually made his way to the counter and stood just to the left of me. He placed a brown paper bag on the counter and, in a calm voice, told Loy, "Put all the cash in the bag."
Loy laughed and looked at him, saying something like "Yeah, right." He thought it was some kind of joke. It wasn't. While Loy was filling the bag with bills from the register, the crook turned toward me and the other customer. He was a stocky guy, blond hair, late 20s or early 30s, fair skin with the scars of a teenage period of heavy acne. He wore a blue sport coat, a blue and yellow plaid shirt, and carried a gun. It was pointed at my stomach. I tended to concentrate on that.
He told us, me and the customer, to go to the back of the store and lie down. Eager to please, we complied. Though I circled like a dog looking for the right spot for a bit until he repeated the order more forcefully. By then Loy was done with the bag and had emptied his wallet into the bag. He was told to hit the floor too. He told us to stay down for 5 minutes and then he dashed out the front of the store.
Loy leaped to his feet and reached under the counter. Then, with a "Damn!", he slammed his hand against the counter, and ran out the front around the corner of the store. Within seconds, he came back and grabbed a dime out of the still open cash register drawer then ran for the phone booths at the front to call the police. The one night in months when Loy didn't have that .45 under the counter was the night he was robbed.
I was never scared at any time during the robbery. It was more like something I was just watching take place. I felt calm the entire time. It was only after it was over, after the police had arrived and were having us describe what happened and the perpetrator. That's when the shaking began. It still wasn't fear but the shaking wouldn't stop. Adrenaline, I suppose.
They caught the guy a month or so later. He tried to rob a small market in North Miami but a manager came out of the back with a gun and started firing. He chased the guy out of the store, around the corner and fired a couple of shots into the trunk of the guy's car as he sped away. He also got the plate number. The police were waiting for him when he arrived home.
I got a subpoena to appear as a witness. But it never went to trial, he copped a plea and got a few years of room and board at taxpayers' expense.
I learned a few things that night.
Loy was not as brave as he pretended to be. There would not have been a shootout even if he had brought his .45. Loy maintained the .32 revolver the robber carried was unloaded, I couldn't be sure, but he still cooperated until the guy left before checking for that .45.
Fear didn't register with me. I was not paralyzed by it nor was I full of bravado.
I could register details and relate them accurately later. I could be a good witness.
Robbers are not very bright people.
Cops are never around when you need them
A Night Unremembered
10 years ago