A Taste – Part Two
The man who came around the corner had a face both angry and confused. Kevin wondered if the man had been surprised by his own actions. Sometimes when you do a thing, it’s different to how you imagine…
His reverie was cut short as the man grabbed a handful of his shirt and pulled him around the corner, towards the restaurant. He had dark eyes, messy hair, and a long, angular nose. To Kevin he looked Indian, but he wasn’t sure. He was wearing a green, military style jacket, and camouflage pants.
What the hell is the point of just camouflaging your pants? Kevin found himself thinking, as he was dragged down the corridor, and thrown to the ground near a group of people. The man pointed a gun at him and the others there, long barrel, black, a mean-looking thing. He looked as if he were deciding whether to fire. A voice called to him, and the man walked away, over to the other side of the IHOP.
Kevin took the chance to look around. There were six others with him, three women, two men, and one small girl whose mother was rocking her back and forth to keep her from crying. They all looked bewildered and sacred.
Why am I not scared? In shock? I guess I will be soon enough.
This part of the restaurant looked fairly normal, apart from a few overturned chairs, and the huddle of people. What Kevin could see of the other side was different. He shifted, trying to see around the tables.
A body lay in the middle of the floor; male or female, he couldn’t tell. Next to it, a large patch of blood. The body was horribly still. Beyond it, Kevin thought he could make out more details.
Is that a hand? Jesus. How many people did they shoot?
‘Hey,’ he whispered to the group. ‘How many of them are there? How many people did they shoot?’
The first man he looked at refused to meet his gaze, staring at the carpet and shaking his head. A woman jerked her head, and he crawled closer to her, one eye on the far side of the room.
‘There are only two, I think,’ she said. ‘They shot at least four people, including two of the staff. Then they pulled you out from the bathroom. I don’t know about the kitchen staff.’
One of the men wandered over, glaring at the group. They all froze in place. This man was different to the first, taller, with darker skin and curly hair. His face was calm, calculating. Kevin found he couldn’t return the man’s stare.
This is what you get for wanting adventure, old boy.
This isn’t adventure, he argued with himself. This is danger.
Well, what’s the difference?
At least Tim got out. Shit, did Tim get out? Hell, he must have. Shit.
The men spoke again in the language Kevin thought was Arabic. The one who’d grabbed Kevin disappeared, and came back with a takeaway bag. He threw it to the floor in front of them.
‘Phones.’ The man hefted his gun. ‘Now.’
The group pulled out their phones and placed them in the bag. Realising he was still in-call, Kevin pulled his out placed it in the bag, keeping the screen towards the floor.
You know, that’s odd that they didn’t ask for money.
It means this is no robbery. It means they’re doing this to make a statement. That they’re prepared to kill us all, and themselves.
Well, don’t jump to conclusions, Kevin told himself, all the while feeling the heavy sensation in his gut which told him he was right. He looked around, scanning for a weapon, an escape route, anything.
The men were talking loudly, almost yelling. One of them gestured towards the group. Outside, the sound of sirens approached, and Kevin saw streaks of red and blue flash from a mirror on the far wall.
The taller man barked an instruction, and they moved to the windows, pulling down blinds. Kevin thought he could see movement outside. When they were done, one of them snatched up the bag of phones, and threw it into the kitchen.
Is that a drone hovering?
Listen, Kevin, old friend. Pay attention. If you were reading this story, what do you think would happen next?
I guess that depends if I’m a main character or not.
Very true, Kevin, very true.
Time passed. Kevin was glad he’d been to the bathroom.
It seems like hours. Has it been hours? I’d like to text Paula, tell her I’m ok. Jesus, will I be ok? Jesus…
The men didn’t do much, just spoke in their language and kept looking out the window. Kevin entertained ideas of heroism for about ten seconds, and then settled in to wait. After the initial fear and shock wore off, he found himself getting nervous.
The worst thing about this isn’t really the violence, or the possibility of death. I mean, in a way it is. But in another way, the worst thing about this is the waiting. I don’t even mean the not knowing what’s going to happen waiting. I mean just the waiting. I’m so bored. I can’t even play Tetris because those assholes took my phone.
At least you’re alive, asshole. He glanced over at the bodies on the far side of the room. Found himself wondering how long before they because unhygienic.
Yeah, I’m alive, all right.
Their captors let them use the bathroom after the kid couldn’t hold it anymore. Her mother took her to get cleaned up, and they took turns. Kevin went when the man waved at the gun at him, for two reasons. The first was that it is hard to say no to someone waving a gun at you. The second is that, up until having the gun waved at him, he hadn’t needed to go, but the effect of seeing the stick of death aimed his way was profound.
He washed his hands and drank a little from the tap, something he would never have even considered before. Paula insisted they buy bottled water, and they always bought it in restaurants, too. Nothing from the tap.
Perhaps that’s why other countries hate us. We do stupid things like paying for water. Water’s supposed to be free. I’m sure that’s some kind of human right. Maybe that article only covers the dirty tap water.
Do you know how many people would kill just to have access to the tap water you have?
I know, I know. I’ve seen the ads, he told himself. The ones with the little starving kids. Hell, I hope that’s not the motive of these guys. Hell, if they want to make a statement about water, why not take over an Evian factory?
The man yelled at him, and he rushed back out of the bathroom and found his place on the floor. It was getting dark outside, police lights and, further back, journalists’ cameras clearly visible through cracks in the blinds. Kevin thought he could see movement.
The taller man was talking on the phone, which had been ringing for a while. They’d waited a few hours to answer it.
I guess to show they weren’t desperate. It’s not such an annoying sound, anyway. Some phones have that awful, annoying ring. So shrill, so loud.
The man was talking in English, now. Demanding something. Kevin tried to concentrate on the sound, but the phone was near the lobby, on the other side of the room, and he couldn’t make out what was being said.
Well, there are only two possibilities, aren’t there? Either they plan to kill us, or they don’t. If they do, we’re toast, unless the police storm this place and save (some of) us. If they don’t, we just have to wait for the police to storm this place and save (some of) us.
Kevin looked around at his fellow hostages, wondering how many of them had come to the same conclusion. He had assigned them names, based on what they looked like. No one had uttered a word for hours now.
There’s pudgy-face, and accountant, the two men. Then there’s Mommy and the kid. Not very imaginative those ones, I know, but I’m stressed right now. Finally, the other women, Black Canary and Mira the Housewife.
Well, which of us are going to die? Kevin scanned their faces, all tired, many eyes red and puffy. I wonder how it’ll go down. Should I dive in front of them, go out like a hero. Certainly I should dive in front of the kid.
You’re no hero, he said to himself. You’re just a god damn copy editor.
True enough. And I have no desire to die. But if I can save that kid, and her mother, I’m doing it. How could I live with myself otherwise?
Well, let me know how it turns out.
At that moment the man wasn’t on the phone, the one who’d grabbed Kevin earlier, and thus earned the nickname Grabby, lived up to his name. Tall Man was barking commands, while Grabby stalked over, pulled up Mira by the scruff of the neck. She screamed and struggled until Grabby gave her a vicious backhand. Kevin winced at the cracking sound.
Mira slumped, whimpered quietly as she was led over by the phone. Kevin risked craning his neck to see what was happening. Grabby moved Mira into the lobby, closer to the front door, which was clear glass; showed the world his hostage with a machine gun to her head. After a few seconds they moved back inside the restaurant, and Kevin let out a breath.
Tall Man yelled something into the phone, while Mira seemed to pass out and fall to the floor.
NEXT CHAPTER: A Taste – Part Three (Final)
PREVIOUS CHAPTER: A Taste – Part One
more by RICHARD SHURY
Richard is a big fan of science fiction, but dabbles in other genres. For more short stories and longer self-pulished works by him visit Richard Shury.
For his articles on the issues of our time, or just day-to-day musings visit his blog rashury.co.uk.
photograph by andriuXphoto