Lunchtime, the usual rush to the elevators, the rush out onto the street, deciding at the last minute, which restaurant. You decide to check out the new place. You grab a small booth, place your order, and before your food even arrives, someone else shows up, wanting to share the booth. You motion them in, and exchange pleasantries. The other person, a young bearded guy, seems ill at ease about something, his eyes keep shifting about, and he is generally nervous. All at once he sees something through one of the windows to the street and jumps up, shouts, “Here, this is for Tomas!”, tossing a small package at you across the table as he runs toward the back. As he flees, there is a commotion at the front of the restaurant when several uniformed policemen come in, arrive at your booth, then run toward the back when you gesture that way. You glance down at the small package in your hands, and see that is is stamped, “RUSH – Medical Supplies”.
What’s going on? Why are the police chasing this guy? Who’s Tomas? What could be in the package?
My take on the story:
I continue to sit in the booth, stunned into immobility. Everything has happened so quickly I’ve hardly had time to process it. The waitress has brought my banh mi, and I absentmindedly munch on the sandwich, hardly tasting it. She brings around a refill for my hot tea, and as she leaves, a young woman slips into the booth, opposite me. She whispers, “Do you have the package? I know I’m late, but this is the right booth, I know it. Do you have it?”
I’m starting to add all this up, and so far, I’m getting “2+2=7”. Very puzzling.
She seems agitated, says, “Tomas is very sick, getting weaker. Why do you delay? We paid the money, now we need the serum!”
I looked around, checking the other patrons, but no one seemed to be interested in us. I leaned forward, asking, “What is wrong with Tomas? How do I know he’s supposed to get this stuff?” I was trying to pry loose a few facts here – was this for a rare, contagious ebola-like disease, or did Tomas just have the mumps? Should I quickly leave, or should I turn over the package?
She looked at me, quizzically. “Hey, are you trying to change the deal? It’s done, all taken care of, so hand it over, now!” Her purse was in front of her on the table, and she quickly slipped her hand inside, but just paused there, waiting to see what I’d do.
I slowly spread my hands wide, to either side of me, indicating (hopefully) that I was no threat, ,and to just take it easy. She relaxed, just a bit, but kept her hand inside the purse.
“I didn’t get the whole story, so I was just wondering about the background here.”
She hissed, “You don’t need ‘background’, Bozo, just”, she was speaking forcefully now, “give me what I came for!” Again with the hand movements inside the purse, but more nervously now.
“Surely you can see my side of this, “ I argued, reasonably, I hoped, “this could be a sucker deal. I hand it over and eighteen cops rush to the table. Maybe you’re wired, and maybe there’s a big van out there with guys wearing headphones and doodling pictures of me behind bars.”
I don’t know why I was being hesitant, really. I should just hand over the package, just as she said. Why was I even doing this? Maybe I’d seen too many detective shows on tv, too many drug deals played out, too many gunfights. Was I crazy? Surely I knew the possible consequences. I guess, because I’m a writer, I just wanted to know more.
I couldn’t believe myself as I said, probably risking at least a smash in the face, “Hey, how about I come along, see what’s going down here? Then I can be sure that there really is a sick person at the center of this, and you’re not just another junkie needing this rocket fuel for another trip.”
I had unthinkingly placed the package on the table in front of me as I talked, and her eyes locked onto it as she drew the little gun out of the purse. She pointed the gun at me, but concealed it behind the napkin holder so no one else could see what was going on. She gestured that I should slide the package over to her.
I was about to slide it over, as she was demanding, but then I had another thought. I said, “Maybe I could just…”
She stood up, grabbed the package and shot me in the chest, three times quick. She ran out toward the back, just as he had done.
I slumped over, feeling my world drifting away, wondering, “What’s going on? Why are the police chasing this guy? Who’s Tomas? What could be in the package?”