Chapter no 49

Anxious People

Of course it was idiotic of Jack not to realize everything from the start, who the bank robber was, because it seemed so obvious to him in hindsight. Maybe it was his mom’s fault. She held the two of them together, him and his dad, but perhaps that sometimes distracted him, and for some reason she had managed to get into his thoughts the whole damn time today. Just as much trouble in death as in life, that woman. Maybe somewhere there was another priest who was more difficult than her, but there could hardly be two. She got into arguments with everyone when she was alive, maybe more with her son than anyone, and that didn’t stop after her funeral. Because the people we argue with hardest of all are not the ones who are completely diPerent from us, but the ones who are almost no diPerent at all.

She used to travel abroad sometimes, after disasters when aid organizations needed volunteers, to the constant accompaniment of criticism from all directions both inside and outside the church. She either shouldn’t help at all or ought to be doing it somewhere else. Nothing is easier for people who never do anything themselves than to criticize someone who actually makes an ePort. One time she was on the other side of the world and got caught up in a riot and tried to help a bleeding woman get away, and in the chaos she herself got stabbed in the arm. She was taken to the hospital, managed to borrow a phone, and called home. Jim was sitting in front of the news, waiting. He listened patiently, as usual happy and relieved that she was okay. But when Jack realized what had happened, he grabbed the phone and shouted so loudly that the line began to shriek with feedback: “Why did you have to go there? Why do you have to risk your life? Why don’t you euev thinb about youv family?

His mom realized, of course, that her son was shouting out of fear and concern, so she replied the way she often did: “Boats that stay in the harbor are safe, sweetheart, but that’s not what boats were built for.”

Jack said something he instantly regretted: “Do you think God’s going to protect you against knives just because you’re a priest?”

She may have been sitting in a hospital on the other side of the world, but she could still feel his bottomless terror. So her whispers were half washed away by tears when she replied: “God doesn’t protect people from knives, sweetheart. That’s why God gave us other people, so we can protect each other.”

It was impossible to argue with such a stubborn woman. Jack hated how much he admired her sometimes. Jim, in turn, loved her so much he could hardly breathe. But she didn’t travel so much after that, and never went so far away again. Then she got sick, and they lost her, and the world lost a bit more of its protection.


So when the hostage drama started, when Jack and Jim were standing out in the street the day before New Year’s Eve, outside the apartment block, and had just been told by their bosses to wait for the Stockholmer, the two of them were thinking a lot about her and what she would have done if she’d been there. And when that lime came Aying out and hit Jack on the forehead and they realized that the note wrapped around it was an order for pizza, they both concluded that a better opportunity to get in contact with the bank robber was unlikely to arise. So Jack called the negotiator. And, despite the fact that he was a Stockholmer, he agreed that they were right.

“Yes, well, delivering pizzas could be an opening for communication, it certainly could. What about the bomb in the stairwell, though?” he wondered.

“It’s not a bomb!” Jack said con1dently. “Would you swear on that?”

“Using whatever swearwords you’d care to choose, and I can tell you that my mom taught me quite a lot of those. This perpetrator isn’t dangerous. Just scared.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because if he’d been dangerous, if he’d been aware of what he was doing, then he wouldn’t have ordered pizzas for all the hostages by throwing limes at us. Let me go in and talk to him, I can…” Jack paused. He’d been about to say I can saue euevyone. But he swallowed hard and said instead: “I can 1x this. I can sort this out.”

“Have you spoken to all the neighbors?” the negotiator wondered. “The rest of the building is empty,” Jack assured him.

The negotiator was still stuck in traffic on the motorway, far too many miles away, not even police cars were able to get through, so in the end he agreed to Jack’s plan. But he also demanded that Jack somehow get a phone into the apartment, so that the negotiator himself could call the bank robber and negotiate the release of the hostages. And take the glory when everything turns out okay, Jack thought sullenly.

“I’ve got a decent phone,” Jack said, because he had the one Jim called the special telephone thingy that got a bloody signal where there wasn’t a bloody signal.

“I’ll call after they’ve had the pizzas, it’s easier to negotiate when people have eaten,” the negotiator said, as if that were what you learned on negotiation courses these days.

“What do we do if he doesn’t open the door when we get there?” Jack wondered.

“Then you leave the pizzas and phone out on the landing.”

“How can we be sure he’ll take the phone inside the apartment?” Jack asked. “Why wouldn’t he?”

“Do you think he’s made rational, logical decisions so far? He might get stressed and think the phone is some sort of trap.”

That was when Jim suddenly had an idea. Which surprised him as much as anyone.

“We can put it in one of the pizza boxes!” he suggested.

Jack looked at his dad in shock for several seconds. Then he nodded and said into the phone: “We’ll put the phone in one of the pizza boxes.”

“Yes, that’s a good idea,” the negotiator agreed.

“It was my dad’s,” Jack said proudly.

Jim turned away so his son wouldn’t see how embarrassed he was. He looked up local pizzerias on Google, called one of them, and explained the highly unconventional order: eight pizzas and one of the uniforms the delivery guys usually wore. However, Jim made the mistake of saying he was a police officer, and the owner of the pizzeria, who was perfectly capable of reading the local news on social media, was quick-witted enough to say that he gave a discount for bulk orders on pizzas, but charged twice as much for hiring out uniforms. Jim asked angrily if the owner was a character in an English Christmas story from the mid-nineteenth century, and the owner calmly countered by asking if Jim was familiar with the concept of “supply and demand.” When the pizzas and out1t 1nally arrived, Jack grabbed at them, but Jim refused to let go.

“What are you playing at? I’m the one going in!” Jack said 1rmly. Jim shook his head.

“No. I still think that might be a bomb in the stairwell. So I’m the one going in.”

“Why would you go in there if you think it’s a bomb? For God’s sake, I’m

going…,” Jack began, but his dad refused to back down. “You’re certain it isn’t a bomb, aren’t you, son?” “Yes!”

“Well, then. It doesn’t make any diPerence if I go in.” “What are you, eleven years old?”

“Are you?”

Jack tried desperately to think of a counterargument. “I can’t let you…”

Jim was already changing clothes, in the middle of the street even though the temperature was below freezing. They didn’t look at each other.

“Your mom would never have forgiven me if I let you go in,” Jim said, looking down at the ground.

“Do you think she would have forgiven me if I let you go in, then? You were her husband,” Jack said, looking down the street.

Jim looked up at the sky. “But she was your mom.”

There was no arguing with him sometimes, the old bastard.

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