by Melanie Brown
Copyright © 2016 Melanie Brown
“Why are we going in here?” I asked my best friend Ethan as he stopped in front of the City Credit Union. We were heading for the downtown Imax theater and had to park almost two blocks away. The theater was the latest of the city’s downtown renovation projects.
Looking back at me, Ethan said, “It’ll only take a few minutes. I have to deposit a couple of checks. Don’t worry, Tony. We have plenty of time.” Ethan and I were both seventeen and enjoying our summer break from school. However, I have to admit that Ethan’s part-time job did get in the way of our marathon gaming sessions.
I’m something of a late bloomer as I often get confused with fourteen year olds and sometimes really annoying as a girl. I was almost a head shorter than Ethan. And even though we were best friends, he always treated me like a kid. He would always drive. He’d sometimes pay if we decided to get an impromptu burger and I didn’t have any money. He’d step in if someone decided to bully me.
I followed Ethan inside the credit union. I looked around and was satisfied that there weren’t many people. This was actually my first time to go inside. The building had originally been The First National Bank and had been built back in the nineteen thirties and it was in an older section of downtown. It looked like something out of an old movie, with its marble floors, high ceiling and granite counters.
I laughed behind Ethan. “You don’t have auto-deposit yet? What century do you live in?”
Ethan frowned. “It’s more like what century my boss lives in. He’ll only write checks and I don’t live close to one of the credit union’s other branches.”
I frowned back at Ethan. “This better be quick. The movie starts in forty minutes and I want to have time to get popcorn.”
Ethan shook his head. “Five minutes tops. Look not all the tellers are busy. And we should have time later to run you by for a haircut after the movie.”
I frowned again. “You know my mom was just kidding, right?”
Ethan laughed as he headed towards the next available teller. “She didn’t sound like she was joking to me, bro.”
I stopped at the tables in the middle of the floor as Ethan went on to deposit his checks. I guess I stopped suddenly as a large guy from behind bumped into me. He gave me an odd look. He had a big bushy beard and wore a large backpack. I turned to briefly glance at him. “Sorry mister.”
The man just huffed and stood there for a moment, looking at his watch. I turned my back to him to wait for Ethan.
The hair that my mom wanted me to get cut was grabbed roughly from behind. It hurt as I was pulled back with a sudden jerk. Then two gunshots rang loudly in my ears as the man behind me fired twice into the ceiling.
My hearing rang for a moment and I barely heard the man shout, “Allahu-Akbar!”
There were screams and scuffling of feet as people inside the credit union jumped to the floor or if they were near the entrance, fled the building. Ethan spun around, a shocked expression on his face. He started to run towards me.
The man holding my hair pushed the hot barrel of his pistol close to my face and I could feel the heat against my ear. The man shouted, “Stop! Or I pop your girlfriend’s head!” Sheesh! He thinks I’m a girl.
Ethan stopped in his tracks, looking confused. Instead of correcting our new local terrorist, he raised his hands and pleaded, “Please. Let the girl go.”
The man tugged tighter on my hair. He shouted, “Everyone out! Now!” He pointed at Ethan as everyone made a mad dash to the door. “You! Lover boy! Tell the police I have a hostage. I have demands for them. If they make any attempt to enter the bank, I’ll set off this bomb.” He pointed with the gun at the backpack he wore. “I have enough explosives to take out this whole block. Have them call the bank’s number. Do it now!” He pressed the business end of the pistol against my ear.
Ethan took a step towards us and the terrorist pushed the gun harder against my head. “Tony!”
“I’m fine,” I said scared out of my mind. “Go do what he says, Ethan.”
The man chuckled. “Do what your girlfriend says, Ethan.”
Ethan hesitated, and then ran out of the now nearly empty credit union. I heard the door close behind him and despite myself, I started to cry. Is this guy going to kill me? If he discovers I’m not a girl, is he going to kill me? Or is he just going to blow everything up?
In the distance came the sound of police sirens and other emergency vehicles.
The man laughed as he set his gun down on the table. Holding me by my hair at arm’s length he walked over to the emergency exit and rattled the door to make sure it was locked. He took off his apparently fake beard. He picked up the gun and pulled me quickly to various offices to make sure we were alone. He still held my hair, but he seemed to relax a bit. He let one strap of his pack slide off his shoulder, and then he changed hands holding my hair and let the backpack slide to the floor with a bump.
I jumped. I thought for sure we were going to die from the pack hitting the floor. The man just laughed at me. He reached into the pack and pulled something out. He roughly pushed me against the table so I was doubled over. I couldn’t see what he was doing. One arm was suddenly jerked behind me. He let go of my hair as he jerked my other arm. I felt a plastic tie quickly bind my hands behind my back. He pulled me roughly to the floor, face down and he sat on me. Just as quickly he bound my feet. It hurt like hell as he picked me up by my bound hands and gruffly pushed me down into a chair by the table in the middle of the credit union.
The man glanced at his watch again. “Hmm. I wonder what the holdup is. They should be calling by now.” His accent wasn’t Middle Eastern. What’s going on, I thought?
A minute later the phone rang. “About fucking time!” The man picked up the handset and in a Middle Eastern accent said, “I was beginning to think I was going to have to kill this girl! No. Don’t talk. Just listen. I am demanding the release of Hassan Ben Lade, ten million dollars and a helicopter. You have half an hour! Then I set off the bomb.” He hung up. The phone rang again, but he ignored it.
He laughed as he reached into the pack that was sitting on the floor. He pulled something out wrapped in cellophane. “Are you hungry? All I have is tuna.”
I just gave him a dumb look. “You packed a lunch with your bomb?”
He laughed heartily. “There’s no bomb, you stupid girl.” He looked at his watch again.
“Is Hassan Ben Lade your leader?” I started tugging on the plastic ties. I remember watching a video on YouTube a couple of months ago on how to escape having your hands tied with this plastic ties. After Ethan zip tied my hands, I was actually able to free myself. It should work again. I tried not to move too much, and I felt I was starting to make some progress.
The man shrugged at my question. “Beats the fuck out of me who he is.” He pulled a soda out of the pack, sat down and started eating his sandwich. He waved it at me and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want one?” I shook my head. “Suit yourself.”
The phone rang again a few minutes after he finished his sandwich. Into the phone he barked, “Has he been released? Is the helicopter on its way? No! I will not give you more time. No excuses!” He looked down at his watch and grinned. After a pause he said, “I shouldn’t but I will agree to fifteen more minutes. You delay being here with that helicopter by just one minute longer and the girl dies! Allah be praised!”
He looked at me and said, “Your torment is just about over, little girl. I’m out of here in a few minutes.” He started removing his black shirt and pants. Under those clothes were what appeared to be a police uniform! What the hell?
With my mouth hanging open, I said, “Who the hell are you? You’re not trying to get anyone released, are you?”
He laughed and said, “You’re one smart girl! No. We don’t even care about the money in this bank. What’s a few thousand compare to billions?”
“What are you talking about?” I said as I swiveled my head around trying to follow his movements.
My captor laughed again. “There’s a chemical lab that shares a wall with this credit union. They just developed a strain of drugs that are worth a king’s ransom. Or maybe even a whole country. My partners will be dressed as cops and have surely already evacuated the lab. In about ten minutes, they’ll blast a hole in the wall… that’ll be me blowing you up.” He laughed again. “Then we all walk out, dressed as cops and go our separate ways. Maybe we leave town. Maybe we don’t! Hah. They’ll never find us!”
He stuffed his old clothes into the bag. “Damn! I gotta take a leak.” He glanced at his watch again. “I got time. Now you don’t go anywhere!” He laughed again as he ran to the restroom.
As he turned his back to me, I made one final tug with my hand and pulled it free. My legs were still tied and I didn’t have time to go anywhere or even use the phone. What do I do? What? What?
I reached into my pants pocket and pulled my cell phone out. I set it on silent and then quickly dropped it inside his bag. Now he’s trackable. I got seated and pushed my hand back through the tie as he opened the restroom door.
He walked up to me and brushed the hair out of my eyes. He said, “You’re damned cute. But I suppose you know that. I’d bring you with us, but Jackson will just tell me to stick with the plan.”
He grabbed my hair again and pulled my head back. “Yep. Damned cute, Toni.” He bent down quickly and kissed me before I could turn my head. Holy shit! This bastard just kissed me! He chuckled and said, “That’s for luck! Did you ever see Star Wars?” I just glared at him and he shrugged.
There was a tapping sound on the wall. He dragged my chair several feet further away from the wall. He said, “Now cover your ears!” He laughed as he got down on the floor and said, “Oh. That’s right. You can’t!”
There was a sudden ear shattering explosion as a large hole appeared in the wall amid flying bits of rock and debris. Dust filled the room. The blast knocked me out of my chair.
Through the hole someone shouted, “Maurice! Let’s go!”
I looked at the man as he stood up and dusted himself off. “Maurice?”
He grinned down at me and said, “Just call me the Space Cowboy. I enjoyed our visit sweet cheeks.” He picked up his bag and ran through the hole.
Several minutes passed as I lay on the floor, my ears ringing from the blast. A couple of police officers, automatic weapons drawn, stepped cautiously into the credit union. After seeing the room was clear except for me laying on the floor, one officer ran up to me.
As he cut my ties he said, “Are you okay, miss?”
I started to shake and felt a coldness come over me. The realness of it all started to hit me like a bucket of ice water. I’ve been held hostage! I had a gun held to my head! I was kissed by an asshole.
“I… I think I’m okay,” I said to the officer. “I’m sure nothing is broken or anything.” I started to sit up.
The officer gently put a hand on my chest to stop me. “Just lay quietly for a few minutes miss until a paramedic makes sure your spine and neck is okay. That was still quite a blast though not as big as we were fearing.” He made a quick call on his radio.
The other police officer peered through the hole in the wall. “Hey Stan. Check this out. This is why we don’t see our terrorist splattered all over the place.” He took a step through the hole.
Stan got up as the paramedics came running into the building and up to me. He looked through the gaping hole. “Well I’ll be damned. This was just to distract us from the real crime.”
As several more cops poured into the building, Stan came back to ask a few questions after the paramedics deemed me okay enough to sit up. I gave my statement sitting on floor. I told Stan everything that happened and what the man told me. I was still too addled to correct the gender mistake everyone was making. I just wanted to get out of this building. I don’t think we were going to see a movie today.
Stan smiled at me and said, “Thank you for this information. That was very smart of you miss, to use your phone like that. We should have at least him tracked down soon. Do you want us to call your parents to come get you?”
Oh God no. I can’t face Mom right now. And I’m sure they’ll say something about me being a girl. I know Mom pretty well. She’ll hug me and be grateful I’m okay and in the next breath chew me out about not getting a haircut.
I said, “I have a friend outside who can take me home.” Stan just nodded and helped me to my feet.
I was not expecting what was waiting outside the credit union. The police had their crime scene tape creating a wide perimeter around the building. Except for a few police cars, police and a fire truck and ambulance and of course the parked cars that had been stuck there, the area inside the perimeter was empty. Outside the tape was large crowd of curious onlookers. They all started to cheer when I walked out of the building.
One person lifted the tape and started running to me. Two police officers started to move to intercept when I shouted, “Ethan!”
“Tony! Thank God!” Ethan put his hands on my shoulders. “You’re okay? I thought you were going to die in there.”
Ethan has been my best friend for years so I felt no shame in burying my face into his shoulder and crying as I hugged him. I was still shaking as the full gravity of what could have happened settled into me. I said, “Me too.” I looked up at him and said, “Funny. I wasn’t afraid during it. But now… Oh my God! I had a gun to my head!”
Ethan continued to hug me. “Well, it’s over now. I’ll take you home.” We started to separate.
Nearby, from the crowd a woman shouted, “Kiss her for chrissakes! I swear. Kids these days…”
That caused a chorus of “Kiss her” to go around the crowd.
Ethan looked down at me and around at the crowd. “We should go.”
I gave Ethan a sheepish smile and looked around at the crowd. “It’s okay. I’ve already been kissed once today.
Ethan wrinkled up his nose. “I don’t kiss guys, Tony.”
I frowned and said, “I don’t give a crap. After what I’ve been through today, I think I deserve one.”
With a sigh, Ethan bent down and kissed me. It was a soft, brief kiss. He pulled back just a little and smiled at me. “Who knew you were such a good kisser?” He brought his lips against mine again for a long, deep, passionate kiss. My already weak knees started to give away and I put my arms around Ethan’s neck as he continued to kiss me.
A roar rose up from the crowd as Ethan and I kissed. We both laughed at the fact that we were being cheered for kissing. Ethan paused his kiss as we laughed. I said, “Funny. They think I’m a girl.”
Grinning, Ethan said, “Yeah. The jokes on them.” He kissed me again.
Ethan parked his car by the curb in front of my house. He just stared out the windshield. “Let’s never talk about what happened this afternoon.” He turned to face me and said, “That was, as they say, ‘in the moment’.”
Trying to not let any stray emotions cloud my thinking about my friend, I said, “Thank you though. That was very brave of you to try to save me. That was a very real gun he had.” They never repaired the two bullet holes in the ceiling.
Still holding the steering wheel, Ethan shrugged. “You’re really my only good friend. I’ve always taken care of you.”
“It was still pretty brave.” I bent over, kissed him on the cheek, grinned and then quickly got out of the car. I stood there on the sidewalk as Ethan’s car tires chirped as he sped away.
As I entered my house, my mom was in the kitchen. “Hi hon!” she called out.
I walked into the kitchen. Mom was preparing my favorite -- chicken fried steak. She turned briefly to acknowledge I had entered. “Anything exciting happen today?”
I shrugged. “Not much,” I lied.
Looking back at her meal preparation, Mom asked, “Did you hear about that commotion at City Credit Union?”
Again I lied, “No. What happened?”
Mom glanced back at me. “There was a hostage situation, and a bomb. There were shots fired and an explosion. You couldn’t hear any of that at the theater?”
Becoming increasingly uncomfortable about lying to my mom, I said, “It was a loud movie.”
I started to walk out of the kitchen when Mom said, “Oh. I got the strangest phone call. It was from the police. They said they’re holding your phone as evidence for the next couple of weeks. Why would they say that?”
I shrugged. “I guess they found it. I wondered where it went.” Well, technically, that wasn’t really a lie. I had no idea where my phone went after putting it in that pack.
“The police said something else,” Mom said as she started dragging the cubed steak through the flour. “The officer said, ‘You have one brave little girl there.’ Now why would he say that?”
I shrugged again. “I guess you should have asked the cop that.”
Mom stopped what she was doing and turned to me. “Local TV had live coverage of what was going on downtown. After the explosion, I saw what sure looked like Ethan kissing a girl with your hair color and length. Is there something about today you’re not telling me?”
I sat down at one of the kitchen chairs and sighed deeply. “Sit down, Mom. This will take a while.”
Not leaving out any details, I told Mom about the whole ordeal. I couldn’t help but smile when I got to the part about Ethan’s kiss…
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