Stuart Kenny, author of Hostage Crisis at the Shop’n’Fil, is an online English instructor living in Hastings, NE. He has previously published the short story, “The Treasure of the Perky Bean” in Mysterical-E.
“I need to speak to him right now!”
A row of snipers stood in front of Roy as he stood in front of the Shop’n’Fil pointing a gun at the head of the overnight cashier, Hamid, who was on his knees with his hands on his head. Roy held a phone in his other hand.
“We can’t track Mr. Evans down,” said Wendy, who led the Midwest portion of Happy Steaks. “He’s on some kind of retreat. He does that occasionally to reduce stress. He never says where he’s going.”
“You better find out, and fast, or I’ll kill your employee.” Shop’n’Fil was a distant subsidiary of Happy Steaks, which is why Roy chose it as the scene of his hostage-taking. “What’s your name?” he asked the man who was kneeling and shaking next to him.
“Hamid. I’m just a clerk. I don’t mean anything to this company.”
Tom, the hostage negotiator, stood in front of the row of rifles. “Look, I understand—we all understand. This community was hit hard by outbreak. I lost my sister. Officer Sampson over here lost a nephew.” He pointed to the woman talking into the speaker in her car.
Officer Sampson came over and whispered in Tom’s ear. “No one knows where he is, Roy, I’m sorry,” said Tom. “But what you’re doing isn’t going to get your wife back.”
Tom, the hostage negotiator, stood in front of the row of rifles. “Look, I understand—we all understand…”
“But I need to tell him what he’s done! He needs to know how many people he’s hurt,” said Roy, his gun hand shaking.
“Please,” said Hamid. “I’m just the day-shift clerk. I just started a week ago. I’m nobody, I’m nothing.”
“I don’t what to hurt you,” said Roy, “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
Roy’s phone vibrated. He answered, “Is this Evans?”
“No, I’m John Wilde, the President of the Western Branch, next in line. I’m probably as close as you’re going to get.”
“You’re not good enough! You must know where he is!”
“I know that you think we can keep tabs on him, but Mr. Evans is a very rich man. He could be anywhere. The stress of this outbreak has hurt him deeply, and he needed time away.”
“He needs to be here to be held responsible.”
“I agree. We’ve lost people, too. I lost one of my best administrative assistants. We should have been more careful about that shipment of beef before sending it out.”
“What aren’t you angry?”
“I am angry. I told him I was angry. That might be why he left. But that doesn’t mean I can find him.”
“We’re all angry, Roy,” said Tom.
Officer Sampson whispered to the lead sniper, “Can you get a shot?”
“Not without endangering Hamid,” he responded.
John Wilde said, “We’ll keep looking.”
“Make it fast,” said Roy, taking the phone from his ear.
“We need to end this,” said Tom. “We have to move on from here. Nothing can change the past.”
“I just have to tell him,” said Roy, almost sobbing. “I need to hear him say he’s sorry.”
“I’m not sure that’s going to happen today,” said Tom.
Officer Sampson ran up to Tom and whispered excitedly. “Hold on, Roy—we might have what you want.”
Roy’s phone vibrated. Lorde said, “We found his number. We figured out the phone he’s using. We’re going to call him right now.”
“Evans better be the next voice I hear on this phone!” Roy hung up. He pointed his gun at the cowering Hamid, thinking of his wife.
Tom hoped it was finally Mr. Evans. He thought about his sister and her painful last days.
Officer Sampson wanted it all just to be over. She hated Evans for what he’d done to her nephew, but she knew there wasn’t much she could do.
John Wilde dialed the number, thinking about all the people his company had hurt, and how sad he was for the family of his assistant.
The snipers stood at the ready, in case something went wrong.
The phone in Hamid’s pocket rang.
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