A Taste – Part Three
One of the men, Grabby, was sitting on the floor, his back to the wall. He was running his hands through his hair, which looked greasy to Kevin, and his gun was on the floor beside him. Tall Man put down the phone and yelled at him.
Grabby started and snatched up his gun, running tired eyes across the group of people in the corner. They cowered away from his stare.
‘Food’s here,’ Tall Man said. ‘Unlock the door. Take a hostage with you.’
Grabby looked like he wanted to argue, but didn’t. He hauled Mira to her feet again, and frogmarched her to the door, where a policeman was handing through paper bags and water bottles.
Grabby gestured for the policeman to place them on the floor, inside the door, and he did so. The door was slammed and locked, and Tall Man picked up the bags while Grabby ushered Mira back to her place.
A pity they didn’t keep some of the staff around. We could all have had more pancakes. I don’t know if any of these people are too scared to eat, but a waffle would go down a treat right now.
Kevin rubbed his face. He was worried about dozing off, since he had a terrible snore. The child was asleep now, and her mother’s head had been nodding before the food arrived. The men sat down at a booth to eat.
Jesus, no food for us, aye? Just great. For some reason it seems better to me to die on a full stomach, although it is probably extra work for those coroner guys. Still, maybe in a case like this —open and shut —they just go through the motions. Cause of death: bullet wounds. Yada, yada.
What does it matter to you how much work the coroner has to do?
I never really liked to be an inconvenience.
If you can’t be one when you’re dead, when can you be?
Tall Man and Grabby ate like animals, grabbing up wads of fries and stuffing them into their mouths. Burgers followed.
If the police are going to rush this place, now would be the perfect time. Look at them, all distracted. They should have taken turns.
Maybe they’ll wait until one of these men falls asleep. They have to eventually.
You know, they don’t seem to have a problem eating our filthy Western food. Maybe they’re not extremists after all. Maybe this is all for money.
Do you think I’ll get my phone back? I mean, it’s there in the bag. But what if they save us, hand around the bag, and someone else claims it. It’s a really good one, got to be better than the ones most of these mooks have.
‘I don’t believe what I’m hearing.’
Kevin looked up, realised he’d spoken aloud. The other hostages looked at him, staring, deer-in-the-headlights kind of looks on their faces. Grabby stood up.
‘I said no fucking talking! What were you saying?’
He scooped up his gun and stalked over, facing the group. Kevin found he couldn’t help noticing a blob of mayonnaise on the trigger guard. It began to transfix him.
‘Who fucking spoke?!’
Jolted out of his stare, and aware that the others were waiting for him to speak, Kevin did so.
‘I was just wondering if you were planning on letting us have any of that food,’ he began. ‘I mean, we haven’t eaten for hours and—’
With an oddly high-pitched yell, Grabby stepped forward and hit Kevin in the face. Never having really been in a fight before, or taken a punch, Kevin wasn’t sure what to do. His body seemed to know, because before he realised it, he found himself lying on his side, drooling into the carpet. His jaw began to ache.
Grabby was lifting him up again, and now Kevin was on his feet, swaying slightly. His vision kept blacking in and out, and he could hear noise coming at him like waves. The men were yelling at each other, but the sound was off; it kept changing, louder and quieter, as if someone were playing with the volume on a TV.
Kevin was being pulled, towards the door, he realised. Suddenly, a spotlight was in his face, so that he had to squint to try and make out what was going on.
Well, this is fucking great. You couldn’t keep your mouth shut, and now we’re going to die.
‘To die would be an awfully big adventure…’
Shut up. Let’s think about this.
Kevin blinked, trying to focus. He felt as if the next few moments were crucial, but he had no way of deciding what to do. He needed information.
What’s to think about? In a few seconds this crazy fucker is going to splatter our brains all over the place.
Should I run? Try and fight?
No. Just… wait. If the police see him at the door they may be able to get a shot off.
Run and you’re dead. Fight and you’re dead. Just, wait.
Kevin waited. He couldn’t tell how much time was passing. Peering out, he could see figures moving outside the restaurant. Grabby was yelling, right in his ear, but Tall Man was nowhere to be seen, now. Perhaps he was with the others.
There was a sound, louder than anything he’d ever heard, and a brilliant flash. Kevin felt, for a moment, like he was weightless. Then he hit the floor, so hard it felt like he’d been thrown into it. He groaned, rolled over, and passed out.
Kevin awoke to a feeling of nausea. He tried to put a hand to his head, but found he couldn’t lift his arm. It was then that he realised he was lying on the floor, in some kind of liquid. He cracked an eyelid.
Jesus, Christ! Fuck!
Grabby was lying next to him, dead eyes staring, a hole in his guts spilling blood on to the floor. Kevin was soaked in it. He twisted around with some effort, freeing his arms; he tried again to lift a hand to his head, but his whole body was sluggish.
Jesus, fuck. What am I… fuck. I hope none of that blood is mine.
He looked past Grabby, noticed a man in dark gear, crouching. Two shots were fired, and a child began to cry in the distance. Voices, dimly-heard over radio waves, seemed to intrude upon the space. As soon as they disappeared, Kevin felt rough hands on him, blue-gloved hands. Pressure on his abdomen, and a jolt of pain. Kevin cried out.
Jesus, was I hit? What the fuck happened? Shit, that hurts, that HUUURTS! … Did I pass out just then?
The hands were under him now, lifting him on to a trolley in one swift movement. Kevin tried to look down, where the pain was, but he couldn’t lift his head. The ceiling began to move, became night time, a few stars here and there through the pollution. Bright lights flashed across his face, and there was a melee of noise and colour.
The ceiling changed again, a vehicle now, cupboards with medical supplies and odd machines. Kevin realised a voice had been speaking to him for a while now, humming in the background. He saw a face appear in the middle of the ceiling, tried to focus on it.
‘Sir. Do you understand?’
Let me nod. No, wait. Do I understand? What the hell is happening? I’d like to sleep now for a while…
‘He’s passed out,’ the paramedic said. ‘Unresponsive.’
‘How’s the wound?’ the driver asked, as the ambulance kicked into gear and moved off, sirens wailing.
‘It’s clean. I’ve used the XStat, so he’s stable. I’m not sure about blood loss, but he looks pale. Possible a pint, or two.’
‘Alright, calling dispatch now, letting them know we’re en route. ETA, seventeen minutes.’
The vehicle roared out of the parking lot, and away into the night.
‘So much for adventure, aye?’ Tim said.
Kevin chucked, then grimaced.
‘Sorry. Shouldn’t make you laugh.’
‘We’re all just glad you’re ok,’ Paula said, gripping his hand. It felt to Kevin like she hadn’t let go since he woke up, several hours ago. Standing around the bed were Tim and Tanya, his brother Aaron, and a few other people from the magazine.
I really want to scratch my balls. Shit, how can do that with everyone staring at me.
A nurse wandered in and ushered everyone except Paula out of the room. Kevin smiled as they left, catching a strange look from Tim.
‘Thanks for stopping by, guys.’
‘Ma’am, I’m afraid you’ll have to leave too,’ the nurse said to Paula. Then, seeing the look in her eyes, she went on. ‘But I’ll give you two a few minutes to say goodbye.’
‘Close call today,’ Paula said when the nurse retreated behind the curtain.
‘Yeah. It’s funny, you know. They say I was lucky. A bullet to the appendix. Hell, if there’s anywhere you want to get shot, that’s probably your best bet.’
Paula didn’t reply, just lowered her head. Kevin could see she was crying, silently.
‘Hey,’ he said, squeezing her hand. ‘It’s ok.’
‘I know, it’s just… when I saw the news… and you lying there, so pale…’
‘Give me a hug… not too hard now.’
Paula leaned over and hugged Kevin, and he hugged back, as best he could.
Shot, huh. Still hasn’t sunk in. The idea of it, not the actual bullet. The cops did a hell of a job on the raid, though. No one killed except Grabby and Tall Man. Grabby. Shot me in the back. Well, I’m sure I’ll have the energy to hate him later. Wonder what they wanted, anyway. Damn, that itch. This hug is nice, but all I really want is to scratch and go to sleep. I’m dead tired. Well, not dead tired…
Paula leaned back and looked at him. ‘What are you thinking?’
‘I… I was thinking we should have a baby. You know, in a few months when I’m back in working order. These near-death experiences have a way of making things clear, you know?’
Paula looked like she’d cry again, but instead, she smiled, and reached up a hand to touch Kevin’s face. She stood, kissed him on the forehead, and moved to put on her coat.
‘What do you think?’
‘I think that’s a really great idea. Now, you get some rest. I’ll bring you some breakfast tomorrow. Anything you want. What would you like?’
Kevin thought for a moment. ‘Anything but pancakes,’ he said.
PREVIOUS CHAPTER: A Taste – Part Two
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.