Chapter III – Adrian Terrence
Adrian Terrence nearly fell to the ground as the shock of the explosion ripped through the café. He crashed into the table in front of him, barely steadying himself, and looked up at his cousin. Xavier, already seated, had jolted against the table as well, but kept in his chair.
Screams and the sounds of glass breaking mixed with the roar around them, deepening the chaos and confusion. The lights went out and a sort of gray haze enveloped the café, as the noise died down.
A woman behind Xavier began screaming, her voice almost unearthly in the near silence following the explosion. Another woman struggled to her side, despite her large and rounded stomach making it difficult to move so soon after such a jolt.
His ears still ringing, Adrian stood up and looked around the café. The entire building felt like it had been rocked to its very foundation, but as far as he could tell in a few seconds, no one appeared injured or anything beyond frightened. A little girl hugged her stuffed bunny tighter, while she huddled in the back corner and stared at the hysterical woman. A man in a business suit followed a younger one in casual dress toward the front of the café.
Is it safe to go toward the glass? Lord, keep them safe if there is danger.
“Adrian! Are you okay?”
He felt a shake on his arm and turned, focusing on Xavier’s worried face. “I’m all right. Thanks. You?”
He smiled briefly, despite needing to raise his voice over the screaming woman, then looked toward the door again, where the two men tried shaking and pushing. “It appears to be blocked.”
Xavier nodded again, but he had already looked down. “I noticed.”
Adrian strained to hear any other sounds; follow up explosions, screams, sirens. He couldn’t, however, hear anything from the outside, much as he wanted to.
Then again, why did I expect to hear anything with the noise in here? It’s foolish of me, really.
Xavier stood up. “Adrian, check your cell, will you? Mine isn’t working.”
“You’re already worried about your phone?” Adrian recognized the middle-aged woman who stopped in her tracks beside them, her gray eyes narrowed. He didn’t know her name. “There’s an explosion, screaming people, and an obvious emergency, and you’re worried about your phone?”
“My wife and her brother were planning to meet us here.” Xavier used the tone that Adrian recognized as the one he employed when attempting to hide his annoyance in court. “I need to know if she’s all right.”
The woman pursed her lips and moved away with a glare toward the wailing woman.
Adrian tried his phone one more time, then shook his head. “I’m sorry, Cousin. Mine isn’t working either.”
Xavier closed his eyes. If he hadn’t gone pale before, he did now. He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t have to.
Adrian put a hand on his shoulder. “God will take care of them, Cousin.”
“Five minutes, Adrian. She said that they would be here within five minutes. Whatever it was, that explosion shook the ground in a wide radius, I’m sure.”
“God will still take care of them.”
Xavier took a deep breath. “You’re right. I know.” He sighed this time. “I know.”
Others began trying their phones, apparently coming up with the same answer as Adrian and Xavier. Adrian saw the little girl hug her bunny tighter as the clamor around her thickened with exclamations of fear and distress.
“That man! That man in the corner! He’s dead!”
Adrian spun around. Instant and utter silence filled the café. For a moment, everyone froze, except to move where they could follow the woman’s pointing finger. Even her wails had ceased after her exclamation.
Xavier, pushing aside his distress of a moment before, walked forward and Adrian followed him. A middle-aged man sat in the corner booth by the window, still upright and leaning against the wall, but not moving.
“He’s dead!” The renewed and piercing wail earned a hushing sound from somewhere.
Adrian held back as Xavier approached the man’s side. He watched his cousin try for a pulse and listen for a sign of breathing. After a brief moment, he shook his head.
Wails ricocheted through the café again, ripping through the air and shredding every ear drum.
Did she know the man? She didn’t sound like she did a moment ago.
“Mary Dill!” The young waitress planted herself in front of the other woman and stamped her foot. “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?”
Adrian grimaced and several other people stared. Mary stood, mouth agape, the scream dead in her shock.
“We are locked in?” Xavier’s voice sounded quiet. “No back entrance? Anything?”
Another employee stepped forward, his carrot hair on end. His nametag declared his name to be Eddie. “No other entrance. The only other room is a break room and there’s no way out of there, except by way of the café.”
Xavier sighed, then gently shut the man’s eyes. He began pulling off his coat. Adrian watched him in silence.
“Should we move him?” Eddie spoke again.
“Not if we can help it.” Xavier laid the coat over the man’s face as he reclined against the wall.
Eddie looked at Adrian.
“Common procedure. We don’t really have anywhere to put him, anyway,” Adrian answered the look. He didn’t like the sound in Xavier’s voice.
Eddie shrugged, turning away.
Xavier watched him join the others, then stepped closer to his cousin.
Adrian glanced around the rest of the café. People exchanged worried glances or spoke in hushed tones. Mary Dill still remained silent. He looked over at Xavier. “What’s wrong?”
Xavier shook his head just barely, lowering his voice to a whisper. “I don’t want to say anything in front of everyone just yet. At the moment, it will only rile everyone up all the more.” He glanced around and lowered his voice even more. “Adrian, that man-”
He didn’t get to finish. Another explosion, stronger and, if possible, louder than the last, threw both men to the ground. Nearly everyone in the café joined them.
Mary Dill screamed.
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