NOTHING TO LOSE by Herschel Cozine

Hannah opened the door to look into the barrel of a pistol, held by a wild-eyed, nervous man. No more than twenty-two or three, dressed in prison garb, he waved the gun in her face and forced her inside.

Hannah nodded at the gun. “Either use that thing or put it away.”

“Listen, old lady, I’m not foolin’.”

“Neither am I,” Hannah said. “I’m old, have a weak heart, crippling arthritis. Go ahead. You’d be doing me a favor.”

“Where’s your money?” he said.

“I’m also deaf. Speak up.”

“Your money?” he shouted.

“What little I have is in the bank.”

Ez snorted

He snorted. “Car?”

“Broke down. I can’t afford the repairs.”

Another snort. “You live out here in the boonies without a car? I don’t believe it.”

“I don’t care what you believe.” She looked him over and shook her head. “When was the last time you had anything to eat?”

“I’m not hungry.”

She nodded toward the kitchen. “Thirsty?”

“A beer.”

 “Coke is the best I can do.”

Before he could say anything, Hannah disappeared into the kitchen.

“You’re a far way from civilization,” she called out.  “Where do you plan to go?”

“None of your business,” he answered.

“Do you have a name?”

“That’s none of your business either.”

“Well, Mister Business, you came to the wrong place. I can’t help you.”

“Listen, old lady, I swear to God I’ll….”

“Save your threats for someone who cares,” she said. Returning to the living room, a glass in each hand, she held one out to him.

He eyed it suspiciously. “How do I know you didn’t put something in it?”

She set the glass down and handed him the other one. He grunted, took the glass and drank.

“You gotta have a way of getting around,” he said. “How do you get to town?”

“My daughter. She’ll be here tomorrow morning.”

“Call her,” he said. “Tell her to get her ass over here tonight. I can’t wait until tomorrow.”


He put the gun to her ribs.  “Dammit! Call her.”

She pushed his hand aside. “Put that thing away.”

She picked up the phone, dialed a number and waited.

“No answer,” she said.

He wrenched the phone out of her hand and put it to his ear. Then, with an oath, he slammed it down.

“You have neighbors. Call them.”

“The nearest neighbor is a mile away. He’s a farmer and goes to bed with the chickens.”

“Wake him up. Get him over here.”

“I’ll do nothing of the sort.”

“Listen, dammit. I’m desperate. I ain’t playing games here.” He took the receiver from the cradle and thrust it in her face. “Call him!”

As she reached for the phone it slipped from his hand.

“What did you…?” he mumbled. Putting his hands to his face, he slumped to the floor.

With a satisfied grunt, Hannah picked up the phone and dialed.


“This guy escaped from Point Haven yesterday,” Sheriff Thompson said.

“What is he in for?” Hannah asked.

“Grand theft.”

Hannah smiled. “As I suspected. He wasn’t as tough as he pretended to be. In fact he was more frightened than I was.”

“You took quite a chance there, Hannah,” the sheriff said. “The gun wasn’t real, but you didn’t know that.”

“Of course I did,” she said. “My husband collected guns. I know a fake when I see one.” She smiled. “Besides, I meant what I said to him about using it.”

“Okay,” Thompson said. “But how did you know he would switch the glasses?”

“I didn’t have to know. They both had sedatives.”

“You mean…?”

“I didn’t drink mine. As I suspected, he never noticed.”

“And he bought your line about the car?”

She winked. “I have an honest face.”

“And daughter?”

“I even had a name picked out if he asked.” She said.

“The number you called?” Thompson said. “How did you know no one would answer?”

“Emma’s landline. She’s in New York this week.”

The sheriff sat back in his chair. “I have to hand it to you, Hannah. You’re a pretty cool cookie.”

“There is one advantage to being old,” she said. “We may get confused, but we never lie. And we have precious little to lose.”

She held out a glass. “Drink, Sheriff?

He started to reach for it, then hesitated.

For the first time that evening, Hannah laughed.

Herschel Cozine has published extensively in the children’s field. His stories and poems have appeared in many of the national children’s magazines. His mystery stories have appeared in print magazines AHMMEQMMGreat Mystery and Suspense and Woman’s World. Wolfmont Press has used his work for several of the Toys for Tots Christmas anthologies, as well as The Killer Wore Cranberry anthologies published by Untreed Reads. Other of his stories  appear in Orchard Press Mysteries, Page Of Stories, Mysterical E and others. His story, The Phone Call, was the winner of the 2017 Derringer Award.

Copyright © 2019 Herschel Cozine. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.