Chapter no 64

Anxious People

All the witnesses from the hostage drama were released at the same time. In a way, this story stops as suddenly for them as it began. They gather their things and are shepherded gently out onto the little Aight of steps at the back of the police station. When the door closes behind them they look at each other in surprise: the real estate agent, Zara, Lennart, Anna-Lena, Roger, Ro, Julia, and Estelle.

“What did the police say to you?” Roger immediately asks the others.

“They asked loads of questions, but Jules and I just played dumb!” Ro declared happily.

“How clever of you,” Zara says.

“So none of the police said anything particular to any of you at all when they let you go?” Roger demands to know.

They all shake their heads. The young police officer, Jack, had just gone from room to room, saying no more except that they were free to go, and that he was sorry it had taken such a long time. The only thing he was careful to say was that they wouldn’t be leaving via the front entrance of the police station, because there were reporters waiting out there.

So now the little group is gathered at the back of the station, glancing nervously at each other. In the end Anna-Lena asks the question they’re all thinking: “Is she… okay? When we left the apartment I saw a police officer standing in the stairwell, that older one, and I thought: How on earth is she going to get into the other apartment now?”

“Exactly! When the police told me the pistol was real and that they’d heard a shot from inside the apartment, I thought… ugh…” The real estate agent nods, without wanting to 1nish the thought.

“Who helped her get out if it wasn’t us?” Roger wants to know, eager for correct information.

No one has an answer to that, but Estelle looks down at her phone, reads a text message, and nods slowly. Then she smiles, relieved.

“She says she’s okay.” Anna-Lena smiles at that. “Say hi from us.”

Estelle says she will.


Behind them a woman in her twenties emerges from the police station on her own. She’s trying to look con1dent, but her eyes are darting about wildly in search of somewhere to go, and someone to go there with.

“Are you okay, dear?” Estelle wonders. “What? Why are you asking?” London snaps.

Julia looks at the name badge on London’s blouse; she never took it oP after she left work for the interview.

“Were you the person working at the counter in the bank that got robbed?” London nods hesitantly.

“Oh my, were you very frightened?” Estelle wonders.

London nods, not as if she means to, but as if her body is answering for her when her brain doesn’t dare.

“Not at the time. Not… when it happened. But afterward. When I… you know, when I found out that it might have been a real pistol after all.”

The others on the steps nod understandingly. Ro puts her hands in the dress pockets beneath her coat, inclines her head toward a small café on the other side of the street, and says: “Do you fancy a coPee?”

London feels like lying and saying that she has places to be, people to see, because it’s, like, New Year’s Eve tomorrow. But instead she says: “I don’t like coPee.”

“We’ll 1nd something else for you,” Ro promises.

That’s a nice thing to promise someone, so London nods slowly. Ro becomes the 1rst friend she’s had in a long time. Ever, perhaps.

“Wait for me!” Julia says.

“What? Worried I’m going to get vobbed if I go on my own or something?” Ro grins.

Julia doesn’t grin. Ro clears her throat and mumbles: “Okay, okay, too soon to make jokes about it, I get it, I get it!”

As they cross the street London whispers to her: “That wasn’t a very good joke.”

“Who are you, the joke police, or what?” Ro grunts.

“Darling! If you get shot, I’m going to give your birds away!” Julia calls behind them.

“Now that was funny!” London chuckles. She hasn’t had anything to laugh at for a long time. Ever, perhaps.

She receives a letter a few days later, written by a bank robber who wants to apologize, which means more to the twenty-year-old than she can admit to anyone for many years. Not until she falls in love, in fact. But that’s an entirely diPerent story.


Julia hugs everyone on the steps and is hugged back in turn. When she gets to Estelle, the young woman and the much older one look into each other’s eyes for a long time. Estelle says: “There’s a book I’d like to give you. By my favorite poet.”

Julia smiles.

“I was thinking that maybe we could meet up, you and me. Now and then.

Maybe we can exchange books in the elevator.” “How do you mean?” Estelle wonders.

Julia turns to the real estate agent. “Will you sort out the paperwork?”

The real estate agent nods so enthusiastically that she actually starts to jump oP the ground. Roger 1nds himself grinning as well, suddenly delighted.

“So you and Ro bought the apartment after all? Did you get a good price?” Julia shakes her head.

“No. Not that apartment. We bought the other one.”


Roger laughs out loud at that. It’s been a while since he last did that. That makes Anna-Lena so happy that she has to sit down, in the middle of the steps, in the middle of winter.

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