Chapter 6

Written by: Linda Alley
“Rain doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of stopping,” Miss Day said glancing thoughtfully at Powell’s jacket.
To the casual observer, she might having been assessing how waterproof it was. But Powell never had been a casual observer.  
His fingers closed self-consciously over his bulky pocket. The lights flickered, and suddenly went out. The café was cast in a strange gloom, its patrons frozen like actors in a black and white picture. 
Then the screaming started.
“Nobody move!”
For a second, Powell thought his voice had got ahead of his actions.
The blotchy faced youth was standing behind the counter, in shadow, the barrel of a Desert Eagle .50 caliber pressed to Miss Pamela’s head. 
“Phones here, everyone.” 
The youth marched out with the waitress in a headlock. Her fringe was plastered to her forehead, wide eyes peeping out between the damp strands. As they circled the café, he was careful not to turn his back.
He’s done this before, Powell realised with a jolt, as he added his own phone to the tray. 
“She’s 91!” Miss Day protested as the gunman reached the geriatric. “Do you really think she carries a mobile?”
The kid lifted his weapon and fired at the basket under the table. There was an agonised yelp. The pug streaked across the café leaving a trail of bloody paw prints on the vinyl.
“I said everyone!” The kid aimed his gun at the old woman.
Her hands were trembling so much that Miss Day had to help her take out her battered Nokia.
“Everyone in here!”
Powell’s mind was turning faster than a hamster on a wheel. 'Who the hell was this kid? Had the Boss got tired of waiting? Or was this something else entirely?'
And then suddenly they were all in the storeroom. Powell stared around the airless pantry, lit by a long narrow window. There were eight of them, nine if you counted the pug. It had knocked over several jars and the air was stale with sweat, old olives and a faint tang of urine. 
“What shall we do?” One of the mums-to-be whispered. Everyone turned to the man in the fluorescent vest.
But he’d sunk down into a corner, knees drawn inwards, head hidden in his hands.
“He was in Afghanistan,” Miss Day said defensively, glaring at them. 
As people always did, the mums-to-be dropped their gaze to the floor. Mr Continental Slice studied his hands. Miss Pamela glanced at the door.
Only Powell looked straight at the shuddering form in the corner, one corner of his lip tightening upwards. He’d seen this sort of thing in Africa. Every man had an abyss inside him. Joseph Conrad had recognised it more than a century ago. The only way to keep yourself from falling in was to treat the darkness with the contempt it deserved.
“What we need,” Miss Day said coldly, “is something to get us out of here.”
She folded her arms and stared directly at Powell’s jacket.

Comments

This chapter took a sharp, unexpected turn which gave it a frisson of surprise. It would have been easy to have fallen into the trap of having Powell start the siege as the story line seemed to be leading toward but in a way that would have been disappointing in terms of the reader experience. What you have done Linda is sharpened the experience by adding a twist and made it much more interesting.
Thanks, Suraya