Short Story: The Over the Shoulder Shot

(Read Time: Fewer than 10 Minutes)

by Chris McGinty

   This was some bullshit right out of a movie. Timothy stood there, his gun aimed at an alleged criminal he couldn’t kill, while a large crane hook swung wildly back and forth across the construction site. The villain also held a gun, pointing it at the hostage/human shield who was Timothy’s partner. Robert was a good partner, but one who didn’t think through potential consequences. Robert actually opened his mouth and said, “Take the shot, Timothy.”

   Timothy knew he wasn’t that good of a shot. There was no reason for him to be. His pay grade and job description didn’t require it. Maybe the folks at the FBI dealt with this kind of shit on a regular basis – he doubted it – but he and Robert never did.

   The villain, in this case, they only knew as Sadler. He was like an urban legend; albeit, a real urban legend with a real gun pointed at a real Robert. The villain/urban legend, Sadler, was a real estate developer who kept a low profile. One could imagine that his mantra was, “All publicity is bad publicity.” The unsubstantiated story was that in addition to tax evasion, his organization may have been involved in the disappearance of a journalist who was prying into Sadler’s business affairs. Timothy and Robert didn’t work white collar investigations, so Sadler wasn’t someone they would ever have to deal with, until today when suddenly he was. Pointing his gun at Sadler in this moment, Timothy couldn’t have told you the last time he had thought of Sadler; but after today, and months of therapy trying to get his speech back, Timothy would think of Sadler daily.

   It started with some idiot taking a shot during what was supposed to be a routine roundup of undocumented workers at a construction site for a high rise building. Timothy and Robert were along for the ride at the request of “officials” although there was no real need for them. It was probably a political decision by an up and comer seeking reelection for some low level position who wanted “local law enforcement” as part of the operation.

   Timothy didn’t want to be here. He had chicken shit traffic tickets to write. There were parks to be built and the city had employees to pay. Timothy needed to pull over someone going 22 MPH in a school zone, not aiming his .22 at a suspect while his dumbass partner suggested it was a good idea to shoot his captor. The crane hook swung between them, swinging nearer to Timothy, and emphasizing why Timothy would not play action movie hero and would wait for backup. They were a good 70 feet apart, there was this stupid obstacle swinging back and forth, and he couldn’t be sure that everyone who was armed was actually dead; even if Timothy had a sickening feeling he knew the answer to that.

   There were dead bodies everywhere signaling the end to whatever reelection schemes had led Timothy and Robert to be here in the first place. There were dead henchmen, sure, but there were also dead workers. Timothy suspected that most of the dead workers were legal. Timothy also suspected that this was the result of someone’s palm not being properly greased. Timothy and Robert shouldn’t know the name Sadler, much less be part of a raid on one of his construction sites. This was between the white collar business criminals and the white collar municipal criminals. Maybe Timothy could get Robert out of this by showing Sadler that they shouldn’t even be here.

   “You’re Sadler, right?”

   The villain didn’t reply. He scanned the construction site for hostile cops.

   “My partner and I weren’t even investigating you,” Timothy continued, “we were just along for the ride, probably for the local newspapers.”

   “Just shoot him,” Robert said, startling Timothy who was trying hard to make eye contact with Sadler. “He’s taller than me. Aim over my shoulder and take him down.”

   Sadler spoke for the first time, “Shut up.”

   Clearly, a man of many words.

   Timothy had to agree with him though, “Shut up, Robert. I’m more likely to hit you than him.”

   “Aim over my shoulder…”

   “Shut up, Robert!”

   The hook swung by again. It was closer to Sadler and Robert this time.

   “Listen, Sadler, we both know this won’t end well.”

   “This was your people’s fault,” Sadler said.

   Sadler’s voice was low and hostile. It wasn’t an attempt at menacing; the way a drunk at a traffic stop might try to be intimidating. Sadler sounded desperate, which likely meant dangerous.

   “We tried slipping out the back. They could have stopped us to check our ID, but they had no arrest warrant on me or any of my men.”

   “Then why leave?” Robert said, struggling ineffectively against Sadler’s grip.

   This time, both Timothy and Sadler told Robert to shut up. Timothy knew it was best to keep Sadler talking though.

   In a gentler tone than Robert’s, Timothy asked the question again, “Why didn’t you just stay, Mr. Sadler? If they had no cause to arrest you, why not just stay?”

   Sadler made eye contact with Timothy for the first time. He also relaxed his grip on Robert a little. Timothy hoped this was a good thing and ignored that this made the shot over Robert’s shoulder an easier proposition. Timothy was an ok shot at the range, but his training with a gun was for defense.

   “This wasn’t about undocumented workers,” Sadler said, “I have none. But they could make due with traffic warrants, or a misdemeanor charge or two on a few of the workers, and report to the newspapers that arrests were made during a raid for undocumented workers. They wanted me photographed for this political hit, so we tried to leave before it could happen. My lawyer was with me. He knew they had no cause to detain us after we were identified.”

   “So why did one of your guys open fire?” Robert asked.

   Robert started to struggle, trying his hand at heroic escape, but was subdued when Sadler pulled his arm tight against his neck. Sadler pushed the gun against Robert’s face. Robert relaxed, but the over the shoulder shot now became impossible – not that Timothy would take the shot, no hero complex here, just an observation; and while we’re on the subject of observation does it seem to you that Robert is trying to get himself killed? Later, he would find out that Robert’s wife of nine years left him earlier that week, but as he faced off with Sadler he didn’t understand Robert’s rash behaviour.

   “Mr. Sadler,” Timothy said, trying to keep the edge out of his voice.

   Sadler once more made eye contact with Timothy, relaxed his hold on Robert opening up the shot just a little, and the crane hook swung by again. God damn, this was stupid. The hook was close enough to Timothy this time that he wished he could have reached out and stopped it without potentially breaking his hand.

   Timothy looked over to the far wall. There was a man crumpled against the wall, his neck broken. That man, for whatever grandiose reason, had swung across the construction site in the middle of the shootout. At least twenty people died, but the hook swinger was probably the only one eligible for a Darwin award. He could have hidden high above the fray, but decided to be Errol Flynn and broke his neck. Timothy had watched Sadler running across the site, but Timothy’s eye was drawn to the horror of this man’s demise. During this brief distraction, Sadler grabbed Robert and told everyone to clear out. The other law enforcement participants backed out, and were watching from the metaphorical shadows. Timothy, probably making a bid for his own Darwin award, raised his gun against Sadler in that moment and was now in negotiations for his partner’s life. His partner, on the other hand, seemed to be in negotiations for his own death as Robert started to say something, probably something provoking. Luckily, Sadler spoke first.

   “One of the police outside shot my lawyer when we walked out,” Sadler said, his voice suddenly loud and cracking “they never asked us to stop to be identified. The officer just shot. None of us were armed, except my two bodyguards who are licensed to carry. Their guns were concealed. I need you to make sure they investigate this situation.”

   “Ok,” said Timothy. He was confused. He figured agreeing was the best thing to do, but decided to appeal to Sadler again. “Robert and I never drew our guns. That’s not what we were sent here to do, Mr. Sadler,”

   “Yeah, Mr. Sadler,” when Robert spoke Sadler’s name it was sarcastic,” you’re the one holding the gun to my head. What’s there to investigate? You’re going away for a long time.”

   Sadler looked to his left, and at first he thought his eyes were following the crane hook that had just swung ridiculously close to Robert and him. He was looking at something else though. If Timothy had never been tasked with public relations before, he might not have understood. Standing near the cops, marginally shielded behind a barrier, was at least one reporter Timothy recognized.

   “All of the shots fired today were fired by the cops,” Sadler said, sounding like a Shakespearian actor projecting his voice, “my bodyguards were the only two employees of my company who were armed,” Sadler briefly waved the gun in his hand, as though emphasizing it was one of those two guns, “and they were gunned down while their guns were still holstered.”

   Many things happened almost simultaneously in the next moment. As Sadler waved the gun and announced that the whole massacre was caused by the police unloading into an unarmed crowd, Robert took advantage of Sadler’s loosened grip to duck a little, and he yelled, “Take the shot, Timothy!”

   Timothy betrayed his own caution, taking a page from Robert’s book of ignoring potential consequences. He took the shot as Robert commanded. It went right over Robert’s shoulder as Robert hoped. It also went right over Sadler’s shoulder, completely missing him. Timothy felt sheer panic, because he knew that by missing the shot, it was possible Sadler would kill Robert and maybe Timothy as well.

   Many things happened almost simultaneously in the moment following Timothy’s missed shot. There was a shot fired from somewhere else in the building. Sadler raised the gun to shoot at someone on the sidelines. Robert pushed Sadler’s arm away and started to move forward.

   The last thing Timothy saw before being clocked in the head by the crane hook was Sadler’s shot destroying Robert’s jaw as Robert moved into the line of fire and part of Sadler’s neck imitating a special effects squib, like some bullshit right out of a movie…

   Timothy couldn’t have been out long. The hook was swinging back in the opposite direction of when it hit him. Both Robert and Sadler were still alive for the time being, and both on the ground. He could see officers moving in from the sidelines. It occurred to him that they didn’t know that Sadler was alive and conscious.

   Timothy tried to warn them, but his mouth wouldn’t form words as a result of his head injury. The second thing that Timothy tried to do was to wave his arms, but he needed to sit up first. By the time he started to sit up it was better to stay down.

   In the last moment, as the officers stepped over Timothy’s dying partner, Sadler raised his deceased bodyguard’s gun. Sadler had a smile on his face that had no joy, no malice. It was pain and hatred. It was a last minute bid for survival against odds. Timothy thought to count the shots to see if the gun was fully loaded, but when the shooting started he simply put his head down and tried to scream with a voice that wouldn’t work. Even with the precautions of bulletproof vests, Sadler slaughtered seven more people in this unnecessary massacre, before Sadler himself was finally shot and killed.

The End

Chris McGinty is a short story writer who continued his gene pool long before he had a chance to remove himself from it, and doesn’t have any aspirations to be Errol Flynn.

Crane Hook” is a picture by Peter Griffin at

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