Café Chocolaté: Chapter VIII

Chapter VIII – Timothy Teller

Timothy didn’t sit down with everyone else at first. He absently rubbed his stomach where Ginger had elbowed him in her attempt to keep attacking Mary Dill.

He watched Anna sitting alone, still keeping her arm held close to her side. She shifted in her seat and a spasm of pain contorted her face.

She’s hurt more than she let on. She must have landed harder than I thought. I hope it’s nothing serious.

He vaguely heard Ginger and answered in the negative. Then, he wondered what he answered in the negative about. Still he watched Anna.

If she’s hurt badly, she needs to tell someone. I don’t know what we’ll do about it, but she shouldn’t just hide it.

He watched her another moment, then decided to take the seat across from her. Anna masked the pain on her face with a somewhat grim smile.

“Are you doing all right?”

Anna started, her large eyes growing wider. “As well as anyone here, I imagine.”

Not sure how to respond, Timothy grew quiet.

Eventually, Anna nodded toward the pregnant woman across the room. “She looks close to her due date. I’d be concerned in her shoes.”

“I imagine that she might be.” Timothy looked back for a moment at the tall woman, seated in a café chair, who gently rubbed her rounded stomach.

Anna tried to shrug, but the act made her wince.

“Do you know her?” He pointed over his shoulder to indicate the expectant woman again.

“Know her? No. I know that her name is Renee, because I’ve heard the waitress call her, but that’s all.” Anna looked at him and cocked her head. “I just realized that we haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Anna Carpentier. You are?”

“Timothy. Timothy Teller.” He glanced around the room in search of the gray-haired woman. He spotted her, still in the same seat she had taken before, her arms crossed. He couldn’t see her face. “You’re here with… Kimberly?”

“Kimberly Liath. I suppose I’m sort of with her, in a manner of speaking.”

Timothy raised an eyebrow at this explanation, but she didn’t volunteer more. He watched her move in her seat and wince again.

Ginger bustled over, placing a coffee in front of Anna rather abruptly. It splashed onto the table, reminding Timothy of his computer for the first time since the explosion.

Anna smiled a tiny bit and thanked her.

“Are you sure that you don’t want anything, Timothy?” Ginger cocked her head and smiled.

Timothy didn’t like the way she spoke to him anymore than he liked the way she smiled at him. He didn’t smile in return, but kept his voice pleasant. “No, thank you. I don’t want anything.”

Ginger pouted and Timothy sighed in relief when she walked away.

“Do you know her well?” Anna asked.

“No!” Timothy hadn’t meant to answer so forcefully. He scratched his head. “I don’t know her at all. My acquaintance with her goes no farther than that of customer to waitress.”

Timothy thought he detected a smile in Anna’s eyes. “I see. I think she would like it to be rather more than that.”

“And I would like it to be rather less. Except, I like this place too much to stay away because of a waitress, who I can mostly avoid.”

“Except when you’re locked in the café with her after an explosion?” Anna smiled a bit.

Timothy shook his head. “Thankfully, we’re not the only two in here and I can still avoid her the best I can.”

“If she lets you.” The young woman’s smile faded into another wince of pain.

Timothy sighed. “Hey, I can tell that you’re hurt. Anyone with eyes can see that you’re hurt.”

Anna looked away.

“It’s no use to try to convince anyone that you’re fine, when you’re obviously not and in a lot of pain. If you don’t tell anyone what’s wrong, no one can help you. Is there anything that I can do?”

“I don’t need help.” She still didn’t look back at him.

Timothy leaned against the table in front of him. “Are you saying that because you really don’t need help or because you’re trying to get me to be quiet?”

Anna slowly raised her eyes. Her voice had gone cold and her bright green eyes, already dull from pain, had lost the rest of their sparkle. “If you insist, I will be fine. I’m not newly injured. It’s an old one causing me pain.”

“Do you mind if I ask what the original injury is?” Timothy wished he could help her, whether she’d talk to him or not.

This time, Anna’s face hardened, as well as her voice. “I do mind and do not wish to discuss it. It is my business and I will survive.”

“And you’re sure that there’s nothing that I can do to help?” He may have been walking on thin ice by asking, but he did it anyway.

The growing steel in Anna’s face softened. “No. Thank you for your concern. No one can help me. I need to be on my own.”

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter VII

Chapter VII – Ginger Thomas

Ginger stood beside Eddie, arms akimbo while she glared at Mary Dill and her would-be comforters. Would-be, as Mary didn’t seem to pay attention to a single word either of them said.

Renee should stop wasting her time. She probably ought to be resting. Probably at home. She’s huge.

For no visible reason beyond that of hysterics, Mary let out a shriek loud above her mumbling wails. Ginger clenched her fists.

She needs a good punch in that oversized nose.

She looked at Eddie, but he didn’t seem to care about Mary Dill at all. He kept casting surreptitious glances toward the dead man in the corner. Once or twice, he yanked at the spikes of his carrot hair as he glanced.

Poor stupid fellow. He can only pay attention to one thing at a time. It’s not his fault.

Renee pressed a hand against her lower back and sighed wearily. The man on the other side of Mary saw her and moved a chair for Renee to sit down.

Fabian Smith. I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him, but at least he’s smart enough to see the woman needs to sit down.

She looked back at Mary and ground her teeth, before clenching her fists again.

Renee sighed once more and rubbed her rounded stomach. After a moment or two, she looked up at Fabian. “I wonder when we’ll get out of here?”

Mary seemed to catch on. “Get out of here? Didn’t you see them pushing on the door?” She spoke in a rough and strangled voice with an undertone of wailing.

Eddie finally seemed to take notice of something besides the dead man. “So, what? Stuck doors get unstuck.”

“Not always!” Mary wrung her hands.

“Of course they do!” Ginger nearly lost all patience. “Whatever is the matter with you?”

“Doors get stuck and buried. No one can unbury them – and they never open again!” Mary’s voice grew louder.

“Look at the door!” Ginger stamped her foot and pointed to the etched glass window. “Does the door look dark enough to be completely buried?”

“There’s no bright sunshine coming through!” Mary’s voice grew closer to a full wail.

“It’s raining!” Ginger stamped her foot again. “Of course the light is gray! Does it look black to you?”

“We’re all going to die!” Mary threw back her head and arms, raising her voice to a clear wail. “We’ve already begun!” She gestured wildly to the man in the corner. “He’s gone already! Who’s next?”

Ginger leapt across the space between them. “You will be next, if I have any say about it!”

She pushed Mary to the ground before she felt arms grab her and begin dragging her back. Mary couldn’t have wailed and screamed more if Ginger literally stuck a knife in her, instead of grabbing at her neck with her hands. Ginger fought back the men pulling her, but Fabian and Timothy worked together, proving much stronger. She had no hope of winning.

“She tried – She tried to kill me!” Mary clung to Eddie’s arm so hard that he could barely pull her to her feet.

“Kill you?” Ginger lunged forward again, but the men wouldn’t let her get far. “The most you got was a bit of a knock on the head! And not enough to give you any sense, apparently!”

“I’ll have you fired!” Mary’s voice reached an ear-splitting screech. “Your job will be gone! You’ll be out of work!”

“Two minutes ago, you said that we would die before we got out of here – so what? They’ll be firing my corpse because of a message you sent by ghostly telepathy?”

Mary still clung to Eddie with a foolishly quivering lip. Ginger wanted to slap the quiver off of her face, but Fabian and Timothy still stood nearby. They would stop me, no doubt.

She contented herself with laughing instead, taking note that her laugh echoed through the café.

Mary started to wail.

“Enough!”

Ginger’s laugh died in her throat as she turned toward the speaker; a tall man with dark hair and blue eyes standing across the room, near another man seated beside a little girl. Adrian Terrence. The author. I don’t know who his relative is.

The little girl shrank against the other man, clinging to a rag of a stuffed animal. The man beside her stared, slack jawed, at Adrian.

Adrian Terrence spoke again, but his voice softened. “What purpose do you suppose you’ll accomplish by squabbling? As far as I can see, you’re not improving anything whatsoever and you’re terrifying the child!”

“She’s terrified? I’m terrified!” Mary held a hand to her throat.

“She looks like she’s about nine-years-old.” Eddie looked down on Mary with a quirked eyebrow.

“And you’re pushing fifty!” Ginger had expected the look of shock following her jab, and smiled gleefully.

“Why, I’m not-”

“Please!” Adrian raised his voice again along with one hand. “This is not helpful!”

Nothing is helpful!” Mary sobbed loudly into Eddie’s sleeve, while he stood stiff as a board.

From behind Ginger, Timothy coughed. She wondered if he wanted to laugh at the woman’s absurdities. I wish I wanted to laugh. Instead I still want to knock her down.

“We haven’t assessed our situation or even decided what could be helpful.” Adrian gave Mary a pointed look that she seemed to feel, as she raised her head. “If we consider for a very little time, whether fighting within ourselves would be helpful – we would all reach the same conclusion fairly swiftly.”

No one answered, but Mary didn’t wail either.

“Now, then.” Adrian clasped his hands behind his back. “Why don’t we all find a seat and take a breath.”

“The electricity is out.” Eddie pulled his arm away from Mary. “I’m sure the coffee is still warm though; those things stay hot forever. And we should have iced tea and hot water for hot chocolate.” He looked at Ginger.

She nodded. “I’ll take down orders. You go see how warm things are. We have food too, if anyone needs it.”

Mary opened her mouth, but looked at Adrian and thought better of it. She pursed her lips, then turned to Ginger. “I want coffee. Iced. Perfectly sweetened. A dash of cream.” She turned before Ginger could answer, fumbling her way toward a chair.

Dash of cream. I’ll dash you.

Adrian’s shoulders dropped and she saw him sink back into his booth. The man across from him spoke just as Ginger turned around to Timothy.

Timothy stood watching Anna from a distance and Ginger ground her teeth. She swallowed her annoyance and smiled. “Do you want anything to drink? Eat? Anything?”

Timothy turned toward her. Did he wince?

“No, thanks. I’m good.”

She nodded and turned away just in time to see a worried look cross Adrian’s face. He shook his head in protest.

Fabian waved her over to make an order. Ginger nodded with a last glance toward Adrian.

What was that about?

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter VI

Chapter VI – Monique Rodriguez

Monique curled up as far back as possible in her booth, stroking Mr. Pickles’ matted ear over and over. She didn’t want the cookie on the table in front of her. The people around her took no notice of the small child huddled into the smallest size that she could manage, as they went about their morning. Perhaps her chocolate colored shirt and black pants that matched her hair helped her to blend into her surroundings.

She watched everyone and everything around her, never loosening her grasp on Mr. Pickles, her nearly black eyes missing little that went on in the room.

The first explosion shook the child, but she stayed in her booth. She screamed, but from fright and not pain. She held onto the table and to Mr. Pickles for dear life, hoping that the noise and the movement would stop.

Even after everything ceased to move, no one seemed to notice her. One or two people looked at her, but that’s as far as it went and Monique didn’t know if she wanted more. The woman screaming and wailing in the middle of the room scared her.

We have to be brave, Mr. Pickles. Very brave.

She knew her bunny couldn’t hear her thoughts, but it comforted her to pretend otherwise. She didn’t want to speak aloud.

When the woman began yelling about a dead man, Monique quailed. She watched in horror as the two tall men went to go check the man in the corner.

I know what dead is. It’s what they called Mommy and Daddy. They couldn’t ever walk or move or anything again.

She brushed her cheek against Mr. Pickles head. We have to be very brave. She could feel her chin quivering and she pressed her back against the wall. Her eyes grew wider when one of the tall men took off his coat and covered the face of the man in the corner.

Is that how Daddy and Mommy looked when they died? Did they cover their faces?

The second explosion threw Monique from her seat. In her scramble to protect her head, she dropped Mr. Pickles as she screamed. She hit her ankle on the booth, but not too badly.

She found Mr. Pickles underneath the table, even before the noise of the explosion had fully died down. She scrambled back into her seat as quickly as she could.

The people scared her, even though being alone scared her too. She remembered being brought into the café and she shuddered.

I wish someone would take care of me. She buried her face against Mr. Pickles’ head. We have to be brave.

The woman’s howling frightened Monique more and she felt herself shaking. She sniffled, watching the other people over the top of her bunny’s head.

Eventually, she saw the two tall men coming toward her and she wished she could be invisible. She tried to still her shaking shoulders and keep her lip from quivering.

When the man who sat in front of her started speaking, his voice sounded gentler than she expected. She didn’t know if she should talk to him. If she should answer his questions.

She liked the man’s eyes. They were brown like Mommy’s had been. Mommy had pretty eyes.

She finally decided she could shake her head in answer to his questions. Tears kept splashing down her nose and she didn’t think that could be very brave, but she didn’t know how to stop them. When the man asked her name, she grew still.

He said that his name was Xavier and the other tall man nearby was Adrian. Adrian had blue eyes like… She sighed and the man smiled at her. He didn’t look very frightening either, except he was even taller than the man sitting in front of her.

She turned back and stared at him for a long time too. She didn’t even know what she looked for, but it felt like she found it.

“I’m Monique. This is Mr. Pickles.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Monique. And Mr. Pickles. He looks like a good friend.” He didn’t speak again at first. She watched him, to see what he would do next.

What do you think we should do, Mr. Pickles?

“Are you scared, Monique?”

The tears that she had wanted to hold back made her face wet and soaked Mr. Pickles’ head. We’re supposed to be brave. But I’m scared. I’m so scared.

She nodded.

“Would it help if you stayed with me?”

It would help. Then, she wouldn’t be alone. She nodded slowly.

A shriek, so loud Monique’s ears hurt, came from across the room. Monique jumped. She squeezed Mr. Pickles, his head getting wetter as she cried. She kept her throat closed, so she wouldn’t make a sound, even if she couldn’t stop her tears. We have to be brave, Mr. Pickles. It’s hard to be brave.

The man, Mr. Xavier she labeled him, moved from his chair to sit beside her on the booth. Monique sniffled, the lump growing in her throat.

He put an arm around her shoulders. Just like Daddy used to do. Another tear splashed down her nose.

“Don’t be scared, sweetheart,” the man whispered. “It’s going to be all right. I’ll keep you and Mr. Pickles safe, and Adrian will help me, okay?”

She nodded. Then, buried her face into Mr. Pickles’ wet fur.

But they might not like it, if he takes care of me. I was supposed to be quiet and good.

More tears soaked into Mr. Pickles’ matted fur. Had she been wrong to talk to the man?

But I’m scared. And by myself. They didn’t say not to talk to anyone.

She peeked over Mr. Pickles’ head again, up toward the man beside her. His arm still around her shoulders, he frowned in the direction of a growing argument between several other people. Monique watched them, listening as before, but she couldn’t quite understand everything they said.

She thought they were afraid they couldn’t leave the café – but didn’t they try the door already? Or were they afraid of something else?

Monique jumped violently. Did that woman say we’re all going to die?

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter V

Chapter V – Adrian Terrence

Adrian jumped to his feet, pulling his cousin up with him. He looked around the room at the frightened people, feeling his own fear rising.

Lord, I don’t know what’s going on. Please be with us.

“That one felt closer.” Xavier spoke close to Adrian, so that he could be heard above the noise in the room.

Adrian nodded. It did feel closer. What it actually is though, I haven’t the faintest clue.

“How could it be closer, Adrian, without coming through the walls? The last one blocked the door.”

“You got me there.”

Xavier took a deep breath. Adrian sighed.

“Surely, they had the roads cleared of civilians before the second explosion, Cousin. We don’t even know whatever it is caused any casualties. Louise and Andy are likely just fine.”

“I pray that you’re right.” Xavier swept the room with his eyes.

Indeed. Please be with them and keep them safe, wherever they are, Lord.

His cousin touched his arm. “Adrian, have you noticed the little girl over there?”

Adrian turned in the direction of the small girl with her shiny black pigtails and battered stuffed bunny. She still huddled in the far booth, her eyes wide and dark. “I’ve seen her, yes.”

“Have you seen anyone with her?”

Adrian stopped to think a moment, then shook his head. “No, I can’t say that I have. I just assumed that she belonged to someone else here.”

Xavier looked around the room again and then back at the little girl. “I don’t think that she does have anyone. I think she’s alone.”

Who would leave their child alone in a café? She can’t be more than nine-years-old.

Before Adrian could come up with anything to say aloud, Xavier strode forward in the girl’s direction. He decided to follow.

The child looked up with wide, frightened eyes as Xavier approached her booth. She hugged her bunny closer and brushed away a tear.

She does look like a child who has been left alone.

His cousin pulled a chair from a nearby table and sat across from the girl. Clasping his hands together, he smiled a bit. “Are you all right, sweetheart?”

The girl continued to look at him, her eyes glistening with more tears, but showed no signs of an answer.

Xavier tried again. “Are your daddy or mommy here in this room?”

This time the child shook her head, a tear splashing down her cheek.

“Are you with anyone in this room?”

The child seemed to hesitate again, but shook her head again.

“Did your daddy or your mommy leave you here for some reason?”

Two more tears splashed against her nose, as she shook her head and held the bunny, if possible, tighter than before.

“Can you tell me who brought you here and why?”

The child only stared at him. She pushed away a few strands of hair that clung to her wet face. Another tear raced down her nose.

Xavier waited a moment, his face furroughed in thought. When the child continued silent, he tried again. “Can you tell me your name, sweetheart?”

The child continued to gaze long and hard at him. Xavier smiled again.

“My name is Xavier, if that helps. This,” he gestured to one side, “is my cousin, Adrian.”

The girl looked up and Adrian smiled. She only looked at him a moment, before turning back to Xavier. After another long stare, she said in a very small voice, “I’m Monique. This is Mr. Pickles.” She poked her chin into the head of the bunny by way of introduction. Her eyes never lost their wide-eyed look of fear.

“It’s nice to meet you, Monique. And Mr. Pickles. He looks like a good friend.” Xavier leaned forward slightly and spoke very gently. “Are you scared, Monique?”

She didn’t blink, tears slipping down her cheeks unheeded. She sniffed and then nodded.

“Would it help if you stayed with me?”

Monique hesitated less this time, before she nodded once more. A tiny, but very decided nod.

Adrian glanced around the café, but no one seemed to be giving them any heed. Certainly no one else jumped to show concern for the child or seemed to even notice her existence.

Who leaves a child alone in a café? Why would anyone do such a thing? She’s terrified. Either just because of the explosions or also because of whoever left her here.

Mary Dill shrieked and the child jumped, tears falling at a much swifter rate. Xavier glanced up at Adrian, then moved from his chair to the booth where Monique huddled. Gently, he put an arm around the girl.

Adrian couldn’t hear what his cousin said, but Monique nodded before burying her face into her bunny’s head. Adrian took the booth seat opposite his cousin, listening to the confused noises around him and understanding very little. He checked his phone again.

No service. I didn’t really expect any, I suppose, but it doesn’t hurt to check once in awhile.

The pregnant woman who had been with Mary Dill since just after the first explosion, finally moved awkwardly to the closest table and sat down. Mary didn’t seem to notice one way or another.

The two café employees stood to one side. Ginger’s eyes narrowed and her brow furroughed in strong annoyance, if not anger. Eddie just stood gawking in confusion. Two more people stood nearer the door, a man and woman, apparently talking. The woman held her arm close to her side. Another woman sat in a chair, rather a distance from any of the tables. A man, dressed in a business suit, seemed awkward and out of place as he stood near the pregnant woman, as if he wanted something to do and could think of nothing.

I see these people every week. I recognize them all. I don’t know their names or, really, anything about them, except what I can see right now. Even though I would know their faces, if I passed them on the street, I think.

He saw Ginger’s face flush a darker shade of red and her glare deepened. She dropped her arms to her sides and held her hands in fists.

Nor do I know how they would react to almost anything. Some people start to act ugly when they’re afraid. We don’t know how long we’ll be in here or what may occur in that time.

He swept the room again with his eyes, wondering who he could classify as a fuse waiting to be lit and who would be potential assistants in peace keeping. He found no certain fuse besides Ginger, nor any certain peacekeeper besides Xavier.

I literally know nothing about them, except their faces.

His eyes strayed to his cousin again with the little girl beside him, still hiding her face in the ragged stuffed animal.

Except her. I’ve never seen her anywhere before, poor child. Where did she come from and why is she here?

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter IV

Chapter IV – Timothy Teller

Timothy watched the discovery of the dead man with a growing sense of horror.

He was alive when I got here. He looked fine!

His head began to ache from the constant screaming. Ginger put her hands to her hips and marched across the room toward the wailing woman.

“Mary Dill! You get ahold of yourself! I don’t care if you’re two heads taller than me and twice as round; I don’t want to hear another shriek and neither does anyone else. Do you hear me?”

The silence that followed brought sweet relief. Timothy tried to relax the tension building in his shoulders. Lord, I don’t approve of how she did it, but I am thankful for the silence.

The conversation of the two men nearer the corpse, made Timothy forget his short-term relief.

There’s a dead man and I’m worried about my hearing.

The young woman beside him shuddered. “It’s all rather like a nightmare, isn’t it?” She spoke in a low, even voice that Timothy could barely hear.

“It does seem rather surreal.”

She shuddered again. With the dead man gently covered by the coat, the young woman turned a bit and sighed. “I suppose the explosion must have been too much for him.”

“What does it matter to you?” The stringent tones of another woman made Timothy jump. A gray-haired, gray-eyed woman had joined them, her wrinkled, oval face stamped with the lines of a permanent frown.

The young woman didn’t reply.

The gray-haired woman stared at her for a long moment, then grunted. “You’ve no call to bother your head about him, Anna. He’s dead. You can’t help him.”

“No, of course not.” Anna spoke in a barely audible tone once more. “Still, I-” Her words cut off as another explosion ripped through the café, drowning all other sounds except Mary Dill’s scream.

Timothy lost his balance, hitting the ground and narrowly missing the window. Instinctively, he shielded his head, but nothing hit him. The noise died down, the cries of those around him becoming more audible. From somewhere above him, Mary Dill kept up her cries.

Timothy opened his eyes and pushed himself upright. He rubbed his neck and looked around. Beside him Anna started to move, very slowly trying to sit up while holding onto her left arm. She bit her lip as Timothy scrambled to help her.

“Are you going to be all right?”

She didn’t look at him, but nodded, still holding onto her arm. She bit her lip so hard that it nearly bled and she made no move to stand.

“You don’t look like it.”

She’s fine.” Timothy wanted to glare at the gray-haired woman behind him, who struggled with the legs of a chair. “I’m not all right. You could help me get disentangled.”

Timothy looked back down at Anna again. She nodded once more.

He never knew before that so few people could create such a din of noise. As he extricated the gray-haired woman from her chair, the noise hovered about the room, buzzing like a hornet’s nest.

Not everyone in here is even talking. Neither Anna nor I are currently saying anything.

Mary Dill had ceased to scream, but still made plenty of noise with her wailing exclamations. Chatter seemed to come from everywhere. Once he’d pulled the gray-haired woman to her feet, she glared in Mary’s direction.

“What a ridiculous woman! Who does she think that she’s helping? She’s not even helping herself! Everyone is going to hate her soon. Some people already do.”

Timothy followed her nod to where Ginger glared daggers at Mary.

Some people handle stress and fear in different ways than others, I suppose. Still…

Anna still held her arm close to her side, but color had come back into her face as Timothy reached down to help her stand up. She shivered and her eyes traveled around the room. Timothy followed her gaze.

Two people, a man and woman who Timothy had often seen, stood beside Mary Dill, apparently trying to calm her. The woman’s hands shook while she spoke as soothingly as her shaking voice allowed and Timothy wondered if Mary even noticed The two men who had been near the body, stood looking around and seemed to be conversing.

There’s no doubt that those two are related. They couldn’t hide it if they tried.

Both looked distressed. One of them frowned, before hurrying across the room. Ginger and Eddie stood together, neither speaking, Ginger still glaring.

Timothy looked back toward the window and sighed. Lord, I wish I knew what on earth was going on.

“How long has it been since the first explosion?” Anna asked quietly.

Timothy thought for a moment, but shook his head. “I really don’t know.”

“Half hour? Three hours? Time doesn’t seem to be keeping track.” The gray-haired woman sighed, then lowered herself into the chair she had fought with a few minutes before. “Why are you concerned about the time?”

“I’m not concerned. It’s just…” Anna bit her lip, gently this time. “I know it’s difficult to hear what’s going on outside, but shouldn’t we hear them by now?”

A shriek from Mary Dill caused everyone in the café to jump. Again.

The gray-haired woman stood. “Someone needs to slap some sense into that woman before we all go deaf!”

“Kimberly, don’t.” Anna shook her head, a pleading look on her face.

The woman stopped in the act of moving forward.

“She’s right.” Timothy could see the determined glint still lingering in Kimberly’s eyes. “You shouldn’t. It won’t help. Not for long, anyway.”

“Even a moment of silence would be glorious relief!”

Timothy bit back a laugh that quickly dissolved as soon as he recalled the gravity of the situation.

Anna nodded toward the exit. “I don’t suppose that the second explosion would have cleared a pathway on the other side door…”

Timothy tried pushing against the door again. It didn’t even shiver under his weight. “No. If anything, it’s holding stronger than before.”

Anna nodded a bit vacantly.

“What were you saying that we should be hearing, but aren’t?” He watched Anna’s face, her bright eyes clouded with pain. She still held her arm.

“Sirens.” Anna sighed and her eyes met his. “We should be hearing sirens, shouldn’t we?”

Timothy frowned and tried to listen. He heard nothing, even though he stood by the window. Granted, the noise indoors continued on, but something as piercing as sirens ought to have cut through. So, he thought.

Anna watched him, raising her eyebrows a little. “Wouldn’t the police and emergency personnel be running their sirens as they make their way to us?”

“I would think so.” Timothy wished yet again that he could see through the windows. “You’re right though. I don’t hear anything.”

“Then…” Anna lowered her voice to a whisper. “Where are the police and why aren’t they coming?”

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