“Wrong Crowd” by Ethan Sheehan (2009)

Bradley had never wanted to get mixed in with that crowd. But it seemed beyond his control. His best friend, Alex, had started hanging out with them, so Bradley went along with it.

It wasn’t that bad at first. Drinking or smoking; it didn’t hurt anybody. But then the crimes started.

Bradley could still remember the first time he committed a crime, in fifth grade. He was hanging out at 7-11 with Alex when he was going to buy a chocolate bar, only to learn he was out of money. So instead of putting it back like he told the guy at the counter he was going to do, he jammed it in his pocket and walked out the door. He felt like crap for days after that, until he ran up and paid the 99 cents, and then ran away.

The first major crime he committed with the gang, however, was seven years later- a robbery. It wasn’t stealing a chocolate bar, oh no. It was robbing. Money.

It was Bradley and two other kids, Micah and Bryan. They were all wearing sunglasses and hats. Bradley’s job was to distract the clerk.

“Hey, can I get some gum?” he asked the man behind the register. He turned around to get a pack, and turned back to find two kids holding guns, pointed straight at his head.

“Give us the money,” Micah said. The man slowly reached for the register.

“And if you hit that alarm button,” Bryan started, “we’ll shoot.” He nudged Bradley.

Bradley pulled out a bag and said, “Put it in here.” The man emptied the cash register into the bag. Micah, Bryan, and Bradley slowly backed out. They noticed some other guy running out of the parking lot, probably to call the police. The three ran as fast as they could.

From then on, they had done several robberies, with Bradley always the “distracter.” And that’s exactly the way he wanted it.

Then one day, they were going to rob a different convenient mart, Quick Stop. But this time, Micah tossed Bradley a gun.

“Here you go,” he said. “I think you’re ready.”

“Alright, Bradley!” cheered Alex.

“Yeah…” said Bradley, forcing a smile, staring at the pistol that was resting in his hands.

It was the same usual routine, but this time with many more people, about ten. This was going to be huge.

Micah asked for a packet of M&Ms. The clerk saw us with our guns and quickly hit the alarm. Everybody pulled out their guns as the police arrived.

There was mayhem, shooting between the gang and the police. Bradley saw Micah go down. He wanted to run over, he wanted to see him. But he couldn’t. He had somebody cornered, one of the customers who was in the store at the time. He was sitting on the floor, begging for his life, begging for mercy, begging for Bradley to set him free. Bradley lied and said he didn’t care.

He pulled the trigger.

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