It’s true – I was just caught up in the middle of an armed hold-up! Half an hour ago! I finished the US copyedit of LIBERATOR ahead of time, and went to a local post office to send it off. A tiny, quiet little post office in a tiny, quiet shopping area. I went to the counter and was given the international form thingy that has to be stuck on the front – and I’d just started filling it out. The only other people in the shop – it’s so small, it could hardly hold a dozen customers at once – were an old couple.
So suddenly these two guys burst in, wearing hoodies, face masks and gloves, and one of them toting a sawn-off double-barreled shotgun. About 20-25 years old, I’d have guess from their voices, though one of them, who stood guard over me and the old couple, hardly spoke. The one with the shotgun jumped up on the counter, shouting like a character in a gangster movie – threatening, cursing and trying to sound as violent as possible.
The ugliest moment was when shotgun guy accused the post office guy of pressing the alarm button – which he had. The elderly lady was breathing and gasping and shaking, on the verge of a panic attack. I put my arm round her and said we’d be OK. It turned out she had a heart condition – luckily she had an inhaler spray with her that she used the moment they were gone.
They made the post office guy open the till, and shotgun jumped down and scooped up what was there. Then back on the counter, ordering the post office guy to lie on the ground (not us). There was something more they wanted, maybe access to a safe, but they decided not to hang around any longer. The post office guy told the cops afterwards that they’d got away with $1000-2000.
Anyway, they rushed out and took off in an off-white car that had been parked in the drive next to the post office. We got the number plate, for what that’ll be worth. The post office guy rang the cops who turned up pretty smartly, viewd the CCTV footage and took down our details.
Funny thing was, it didn’t seem particularly scary at the time – maybe because the shotgun was almost always trained on the post office guy, with just a flourish or two towards us. And the elderly lady did enough panicking for us all – I was more worried about her state than anything.
And now the key question you must be wondering – did they get away with the copyedited MS of LIBERATOR? No, they didn’t even realise the treasure right under their noses! They just rushed out with the money – and I had to go to a different post office to send off my parcel.