All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller

Dilemma – An Experiment by Hugh Cron



The woman cuddled the sleeping child who was oblivious to the man pointing the gun. The father stared and reasoned and wondered if he could. The other man also sat looking for an opportunity. The gunman stepped back and sat down in the armchair.

“Don’t even think about it folks. I know how to use this. I don’t panic and please forgive my arrogance but I am a damn good shot. I won’t miss.”

“What do you want?”

The father tried to keep his voice steady.

“I will get to that but let me first say, you are simply unlucky. I have nothing against any of you. But having just finished your barbecue, sitting having a drink and me seeing you is all that it has taken.”

She pulled the kiddie closer.

The gunman pointed at the child’s crib. Put him in that. He will be much more comfortable. No offence to you but you are shaking. The kid will sense your anxiety and will get upset. The crib is next to you and I am over here.”

She shook her head.

He sighed, “I was trying to be nice. Make it like you had a choice. I am a man of my word, I’ll not move. But you will put the kid in the crib!”

Her husband nodded at her. Tears fell as she lay the boy down.

“Good. Now, please tell me if I am wrong. With what I heard, you two are married and you ‘Mr Sit On The Chair By Himself’ is a friend. You seem to be comfortable together so I take it that you have known each other for quite a while? The friend can answer.”

He tried to steady himself before speaking.

“I am David and I was best man to John and Fiona. The kiddie is Robin.”

“Ah friend David, you have been watching too many cop films. But fair play to you for trying to get me to give a fuck. That was very interesting. Now I take it you are all wondering why I am here? If you do as I ask, I will be out of here within the next five minutes. If you don’t do what I ask, none of you will be left alive. You Mr Friend David, please tell me when you are ready.”

“…Ready for what?”

“One question. But when I ask it you will have ten seconds to answer, if you don’t you all die. Don’t doubt me. I know how quick I can shoot and you four will all fall before anyone gets near me.”

The tears began, “Four?”

He smiled at her, his dark eyes twinkled.

“I ask the questions. Well friend David, are you clear on what is going to happen. You can save lives here. Hesitate and I will be on The Police’s most wanted list for multiple murders.”

David looked at the other two for help; all John could do was shrug. He had looked at the distance between him and the gunman. He also had to manoeuvre over or around a coffee table. Even if David went with him, he knew that there was no way that either of them could get near him.

“I’m waiting and getting slightly agitated about it.”

David nodded slowly.

“Good. Now I will ask you a question and you have to the count of ten to answer. If not you all die. If anyone moves. You all die. And don’t anyone beg. If you do, guess what? You all die!”

He stood slowly and adjusted his grip on the gun.

“Ok David, a simple question. Without choosing me or yourself, who do I kill?”

David stopped himself from saying anything.


He felt his bowels move.


He looked around the room.


He saw the terror in their eyes.


He looked at the gun.


He stared at the gunman.


He began to weep.


He felt as if he was going to black out.


He had to answer before he did.


“Robin! God help…”

Two shots rang out. The crib lurched forward. The gunman ran out the door. They all dived to the child. David saw the blood and then blackness.


The gunman was driving very calmly heading south. He began to consider what had happened. He decided that he agreed with the choice. David had known the mother and father longer than the kid so it was an easy decision to make.

“They can always have another child.”

Although he did doubt the friendship lasting.

He began to think about his next experiment.



Hugh Cron

15 thoughts on “Dilemma – An Experiment by Hugh Cron”

  1. Very interesting. I would love to see this psychotic character in other experiments. I’m still, even though I have read it several times, contemplating what I would do in the same spot. No answer has come yet. Thanks for writing such a thought-provoking piece.


    1. Hi Hugh,
      So this is where you lot are. Your trademark tale, kinda like a car crash awful to see pitiful and adrenalin fuelled but can’t take your eyes off it. Another of your well worded, well told tales. Well done.
      All the best, yours Sandy W.


      1. Sandy! You old Ayrshire bloodhound!! So good to hear from you and I hope that you will be tempted. Thanks for your kind words!!
        All the very best my friend.


    2. Hi Tobias, so nice to talk (?) on here. I have also been thinking what I could do with him. Maybe something unpleasant will evolve one of these days.
      All the very best my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Hugh my friend, a terrifically powerful story. The psychological tension was nearly palpable, the choice being somewhat predictable, though. I think if it had been John to choose he would have taken the risk to attack the intruder no matter what the chances actually were. Wondering what I’d do being in his shoes. Shuddering. Very well done, indeed! Best wishes. Victor


  3. Hi Victor, good to hear from you. I am so glad that I left you thinking. Although this would be a choice no-one would ever want to have to make.
    Thank you for this.
    All the very best my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Not a happy story – but well written. I like the way that the gunman’s control over the situation was laid out. It reminded me then of William Styron’s story, Sophie’s Choice.


  5. I was wondering what I’d do in David’s shoes, and I think David made the best choice, unless David interpreted “apart from you and I, who do I kill?” as being someone outside the folks at the barbecue. However, that nuance may have been lost on the gunman, or maybe not, he’d have thought it witty. He seemed to have a rather dry wit. People like the gunman do exist, but fortunately are few and far between, except perhaps in wartime… especially in civil wars…. when more of our inner instincts come out because we can indulge them without consequence. This story will make me a tad more aware of the unfortunate possibilities. Good psychological tension buildup and dialogue.


    1. Hi Harrison,
      Thanks so much for the comments – Much appreciated.
      I enjoy thinking on a scenario which is ‘unwinnable’. I think life in general throws these up to us every now and again. Hopefully not as nasty as this one! But if you can’t even play the percentages, I suppose that all you’re left with is what you are prepared to live with no matter how unhappy you are about it.
      All the very best my friend.


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