The balaclava’ed man, holding a clipboard in one hand and a small, black gun in the other, shouted again.
“I said, everybody get down! Now!” But as he looked round the café, it dawned on him. The customers were trying to get down. All being over seventy, it was just taking a very long time.
“Iris, my hip, my hip, I can’t bend my leg! I can’t move! My tea, my tea! I’ve still got tea left!”
“Tea? TEA?! Grace, the man has got a gun for Christ’s sake and you’re worried about your tea?!”
“We don’t all have a BP pension to fall back on Iris. I only get £95 a week. There’s about seventy pence worth of tea left there!”
“We don’t have time to talk pensions woman! Hold my arm and get on the bloody floor would you. I might be pushing sixty eight …”
“… you’re seventy three.”
“Either way, you’re not going to get me killed. Not today. Not here. This isn’t the way I’m meant to go!”
“Wingéd angels don’t fly down and take you away to the Pearly Gates you know! Bob’s brother was in agony when the cancer got him. Six stones he weighed, lost all his hair, barely had any teeth anyway but what he did have left, went …”
“OK, OK Grace, I get it, but now is not the time. OK!”
As the two elderly ladies finally dropped to the floor with a fragile thud, the gunman looked at them. “Thank you ladies. About bloody time,” and made his way over to the pink and grey haired waitress.
The café was silent, bar the gentle hum of the fridges. Even the instrumental CD of Dean Martin’s number one hits had stopped. The customers looked to the waitresses for comfort and direction. The waitresses looked to the exits for a way out. The gunman looked at the till and then at the waitress who he had chosen would help him on his little heist today.
“OK love. What’s your name?”
The pause that followed didn’t improve the gunman’s mood.
“I know you’re old, but you can’t all be deaf! I said, what’s your name?!”
“We’re not allowed to talk to the customers.”
“Well I ain’t exactly a customer, am I love?”
“Ruth. My name’s Ruth.”
“OK, Ruth. Now this is what’s going to happen. You’re going to open the till for me and, oh shit ….”
It can’t be. Can it? I recognise that man’s voice. I’m sure I do. Oh. My. God. You have got to be kidding me.
“Chris?” This can’t be right. It can’t be him.
“Chris?” A little louder. No reply. Good. Maybe I’m wrong. No, hang on, I’m never wrong.
“CHRIS?????!” I finally screamed at the gunman and as the balaclavaed face turned towards me I knew it was him. I could see the cluster of blackheads on the side of his left nostril followed by consecutive looks of disbelief, horror then shame. It was definitely him.
“What the hell are you playing at?” The little shit.
“Erm, do you think we could have this conversation another time? I’m a little busy right now.”
“A little busy are you? Oh I’m sorry. How rude of me to interrupt your hold-up!” I started to feel faint. “Have you lost what little sense you did have?”
“Breathe woman. You’ll pass out. OK everybody, if I could just have your attention for a moment?” he politely asked his hostages. How kind.
“I have a little, erm, situation I need to deal with. If you could all just sit tight and I’ll be with you shortly.”
He turned to me and kissed my cheek. “I can explain?”
“I hope for your sake you can.”
“Sit tight? Sit tight?! Don’t exactly have much choice do we?”
“Iris, would you just stop moaning for one minute. Please!”
“And what exactly do you suggest I do? Get the cards out and have a quick game of whist?”
“No, I don’t have any cards Grace. I was being sarcastic.”
“Hmm, well it doesn’t suit you. I was just saying … that’s all.”
“Well, don’t. Don’t say another word. The quicker this man sorts out his, for want of a better word, ‘situation,’ the quicker I can get home, and if I’m lucky, I’ll be home in time for Cash in the Attic.”
“You know, he’s got one of those goblin type faces.”
“Stop staring woman!”
“You know, like that girl, Thingymajig, you know, the one with the boobs. And the goblin face. Jordan! That’s it! Jordan someone. You know, the one with the boobs.”
“Yes, yes, I get the point. Iris, might I suggest that you don’t stare at the man. If he sees, he’ll have to get rid of us. Finish us off. Kaput. Finito. And I don’t want to end up cut into small pieces stuffed inside half a dozen Lidl bags, dumped at the back of Chatham Mecca Bingo Hall, thank you very much.”
“Point taken. Besides, it looks like he might be a little pre-occupied.”