Chapter no 41

Anxious People

Estelle was moving silently through the hall, her old body was now so light that she would have been an excellent hunter if only she didn’t talk so much. She looked indulgently at the bank robber, Ro, and Roger in turn on the bench, and when none of them noticed her, she cleared her throat apologetically and asked: “Can I ask if anyone’s hungry? There’s food in the freezer, I could throw something together. That’s to say, I’m sure there’s food. In the kitchen. People usually have food in the kitchen.”

Estelle knew no better way of saying that she cared about people than to ask if they were hungry. The bank robber gave her a sad but appreciative smile.

“Some food would be great, thanks, but I don’t want to be any trouble.”

Ro, on the other hand, nodded enthusiastically, for no other reason than that she was so hungry she could eat a lime with the rind still on. “Maybe we could order pizza?”

The thought delighted her so much that she accidentally elbowed Roger, who seemed to wake up from being deep in thought. He looked up.


“Pizza!” Ro repeated.

“Pizza? Now?” Roger snorted and looked at his watch.

The bank robber, who had been struck by another thought, in turn sighed in resignation: “No. To start with, I haven’t actually got enough money to order pizza. I can’t even manage to take hostages without them starving to death…”

Roger folded his arms and looked at the bank robber, for the 1rst time not judgmentally, but more curiously.

“Can I ask what your plan is? How are you thinking of getting out of here?”

The bank robber blinked hard, then admitted without bothering to dress it up: “I don’t know. I didn’t think this far. I was just trying… I just needed money for the rent, because I’m getting divorced and the lawyer said they’d take my children away otherwise. My girls. Oh, it’s a long story, I don’t want to bore you with… sorry, it’s probably best if I give myself up. I get it!”

“If you give yourself up now and go out into the street, the police might kill you,” Ro said, not altogether encouragingly.

“What a thing to say!” Estelle said.

“That’s probably true, they see you as armed and dangerous, and people like that tend to get shot on sight,” Roger added informatively.

The ski mask suddenly looked rather moist around the eye holes. “This isn’t even a real pistol.”

“It doesn’t look real,” Roger agreed, based on his almost breathtakingly total lack of experience in the subject.

The bank robber whispered: “I’m an idiot. I’m a failure and an idiot. I haven’t got a plan. If they want to shoot me, they might as well. I can’t get anything right anyway.”

The bank robber stood up and walked toward the door of the apartment with newfound determination.

It was Ro who went and stood in the way. Partly because the bank robber had talked about having kids, of course, but also because at this point in her life Ro could sympathize with the feeling of getting things wrong the whole time. So she exclaimed: “Hello? You’re just going to give up now, after all this? Can’t we at least order pizza? In hostage 1lms the police always provide pizza! Free of charge!”

Estelle folded her hands over her stomach and added: “I’ve got nothing against pizza. Do you think they’d send some salad, too?”

Roger grunted without looking up: “Free? Are you serious?”

“Serious as kidney stones,” Ro swore. “Hostages almays get pizza in 1lms! If we can just think of a way of contacting the police, we can order some!”

Roger stared down at the Aoor for a long, long time. Then he glanced over at the closed door of the closet at the other end of the apartment, trying to sense his wife’s presence through it. The skin beneath his eyes kept twitching

spasmodically. Then it was as if he’d made up his mind to act, because in Roger’s experience nothing good ever came of him thinking things through for too long, so he slapped his hands down 1rmly on his knees and stood up. He was seizing the initiative. And just doing that made him feel warm inside.

“Okay! I’ll organize pizza!”

He marched toward the balcony. Estelle scuttled quickly into the kitchen to 1nd plates. Ro in turn set oP toward the closet to ask what sort of pizza Julia wanted. The bank robber was left alone in the hall, clutching the pistol and muttering quietly: “Worst hostages ever. You’re the movst hostages ever.”

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