Life or Death by Terri Simpson

Sam was walking down her street when she noticed a suspicious looking Transit van parked in front of the street sign. Moments later, the van sped off at a ridiculous speed, leaving the smell of burning rubber in its place. Sam she noticed a blue duffel bag that looked like it had been thrown out of the vehicle as it drove off.

Sam recognised the bag; it was her friend Maria's. She checked the name tag and confirmed that it was. Sam picked it up and noticed that it was unusually heavy. She unzipped the bag to inspect the contents.

There were lots of stacks of £10 notes, neatly assembled in layers. Sam zipped the bag back up and took it back to her house, planning to confront Maria the next day.

The next morning, Sam phoned Maria but it went straight to voicemail. "Hey Maria, we need to talk. Phone me back." She said. There was a monotonous beep as the recording time ran out.

A few hours later, Maria appeared at Sam's door. "Hey, I left my phone here. Can I get it?" she asked. Sam stepped aside to let Maria in. As Maria walked past, Sam noticed deep purple marks all down her face and arms that she had tried to cover up with makeup. Maria saw Sam's look and quickly brushed off her question by saying that she "fell down the stairs" which Sam knew was obviously a lie.

Maria got her phone and left without another word, which was unusual for her because she normally couldn't stop talking. Sam decided that if Maria wasn't going to tell her what was going on, she would have to find out herself. Sam left her house and started to follow Maria, carefully avoiding being seen.

Maria walked to the other end of town with Sam trailing behind. She came to an abrupt stop in front of a warehouse. Sam hid behind an old construction container and watched as Maria knocked sharply on the sliding door of the garage part. A young man slid open the door: and yanked Maria by the arm so that she was standing next to him and slammed the door down.

Sam hid behind the container for three hours before Maria finally came out. She had tear stained cheeks and looked even more beaten than before. She had a large gash above her right eye that was making a trail of blood run down and stain her shirt. Sam ran out from behind the container, forgetting that Maria wasn't supposed to know that she was there. A startled expression crossed Maria's face when she saw Sam but she threw herself onto Sam's shoulder and continued to cry. They stayed like that for twenty minutes before Sam managed to get Maria to come home with her.

After they had got back, Sam made Maria tell her what had been going on. Maria told Sam that her brother, Declan owed a gang some money and that they had told her that if she didn't pay her brother's debt, they would kill him. Maria also told Sam about the bank that she helped the gang rob in order to free her brother; but that she had accidentally left the duffel bag of money on the kerb and left it behind.

Sam realised that she never knew about Maria's brother and she wondered how long he had been imprisoned. Sam thought about the bag hidden underneath all of the clothes at the bottom of her wardrobe. Sam told Maria about the bag and Maria wanted to know why it had taken Sam four days to tell her about it.

Maria demanded that Sam give her the bag and Sam reluctantly gave it to her, wanting to protect her but also not wanting Declan to be killed. Maria wanted to take the money back to the warehouse on her own but Sam demanded that she went with her. As they were walking down to the warehouse, Sam got a notification on her phone from the News app the title of the article that had been posted was;

GANG RELATED VIOLENCE ON THE STREETS OF OUR TOWN: No Leads

Sam decided that as soon as she knew that Maria and Declan were safe, she would report the the gang to the police.

When they got to the warehouse, Maria made Sam wait outside and hide because the gang would kill the three of them if they knew that Maria had told someone where the gang's hideout was. Sam waited anxiously as she watched Maria knock three times on the garage door, just like before and head inside.

As it was getting dark, Maria stumbled out with Declan. Sam couldn't see his features because his nose and head were bleeding so much and his clothes were ripped to shreds. As soon as she caught sight of them, Sam pressed the dial button on her phone and told the Police that she knew where the gang's hideout was.

A few minutes later, the warehouse was swarming with Police cars and reporters. Sam watched as the gang members were loaded into the back of marked Police vans, Sam struggled to find Maria and Declan amongst all the wailing sirens and cars. Then she saw Maria, sitting in the back of an ambulance. She rushed over to her and threw her arms around her neck. Maria winced but returned the hug. Declan was being lifted into the back of the ambulance and Maria and Sam went to the hospital in the ambulance with him.

Three Weeks Later...

Maria and Sam were walking home together and when they got to Sam's house, they saw that she had got a Subpoena to come and testify at the trial of the gang members. They went to Maria's and she had got one too. They both decided that they were going to testify and could only hope that the gang got put in jail for as long as possible.