Monitoring: Mitch Lowell [null]
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
7:35 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
3:35 Coordinated Universal Time
Friday, January 3rd, 2014
The old woman and her son have been sitting there in the booth, eating and quietly fuming at each other, since before Mitch had arrived at the diner that morning. They are eating with deliberate movements, as if each bite required consideration before they could progress, lest something important be missed. He isn’t sure if they’re going to a funeral later that day—they are dressed formally, the man in a green suit and his mother or grandmother in white. It would account for the gravity with which they seemed to be approaching their meal, and in retrospect perhaps he had judged too quickly in interpreting their mood as angry.
At one point Mitch thought the son was going to speak, but his mouth only hung open for a few seconds, then closed again. Whatever he had meant to say, it would stay buried. There was only the clinking of forks against plates. Before Mitch calls someone over for his bill, though, something finally happens.
“You know,” says the man in green, “watched milk never spoils.” She hadn’t touched her glass in all the time that Mitch had been there.
Mitch isn’t able to see the woman’s face, but her head shifts, and he imagines that she’s looking at the glass now. A sound escapes her, like half a laugh.
“I didn’t really interfere,” she says. They have accents, and unfamiliar ones at that, but he thinks that they’re different from each other. In-laws, then, and not blood relatives? Or just friends?
“You did and you know it,” replies her maybe-son-in-law.
Mitch rethinks his intention to leave. He doesn’t have to be on the road for another hour, if he’s willing to get a hotel a little later than planned, and after drawing his curiosity all through breakfast he wants to know what’s going to happen next.
“Simon touched me. I didn’t do anything.”
“You did something. That was planned.”
“You walked with me, if I remember correctly.”
“I wasn’t permitted to leave you alone.” The man sighs. “What did he take off of you?”
“How am I supposed to know?” she says, in a tone that suggests that she’s smiling. “I’ll probably never be sure.”
Mitch can’t make heads or tails of the situation. In isolation one sentence is able to suggest, he doesn’t know, pickpocketing or adultery or something, but as a whole the conversation doesn’t make any sense at all.
“Sinjoro Akvo, you know as well as I do that I did nothing wrong.”
Her son—Akvo?—grumbles and picks at his bacon. “Technicalities.”
“Think to the future,” she says. “Someday you will be smiling at me. I give you permission to indulge then.”
He nods. “True enough. He won’t work out anyway.”
“You sound very confident of yourself.”
Akvo nods firmly. “We both know that I’m right. I wouldn’t bet on him if I were you.”
“Be that as it may…” She shrugs. “Why don’t you indulge a little before we go?”
He stops, mid-bite, and makes a noise that might be interpreted as “Here?” His mother certainly agrees, because she nods and says, “Here.”
Akvo swallows, in a way that gives Mitch the impression that it hadn’t been chewed quite thoroughly enough and had presented a little difficulty. “There’s a saying—”
“As you are fond of telling me.”
He continues, unflustered by the interruption. “It goes, ‘don’t shit where you sleep.’ We work here. This isn’t some town in the Midwest that we’ll never see again. How do you expect to stay in Toronto after we’ve gone and shat on our pillows?”
“Simon will not be staying here for long. There is little reason to be concerned with Toronto any longer.”
“And what about making sure that there’s a post-op?”
“The response time would give us a good window to get to safety. They’re understaffed in Toronto.”
“You’ve been thinking about this,” remarks Akvo. His face takes on a thoughtful expression as he looks around the diner. “Okay, Señora Viejo. Let’s do it.” He smiles as they each pull a briefcase onto the table. His mother pours her milk into a thermos container, and then the two of them pull guns from their briefcases. Before Mitch can move from his seat, Sinjoro brings his gun to bear, holding it with both hands. “Everyone put their hands up now!” he shouts. “I want to see all hands in the air, and if you have cell phones then drop them!”
Señora Viejo swiftly moves around the diner, then disappears into the men’s room.
“This is a robbery,” Sinjoro announces loudly. “I would appreciate it if you would all gather into one group over there by the restrooms so that we can get this over with quickly. My partner and I will be taking nothing but your credit cards, so at the end of the day the only people getting hurt will be your banks.”
Akvo had said that this wasn’t “some town in the Midwest.” Had they performed robberies there, too? Mitch wonders if they were referring to the Prairies, or to the region below the border. They aren’t from around here, so maybe they don’t know that there’s a difference. It feels a little bit better, though, to think that he’s being robbed by international criminals, even if that adjective were mostly technical.
Three men leave the restroom, one trying to put his belt back on. Señora Viejo is behind them, then she disappears into the women’s restroom.
“You are not liable,” Sinjoro says, “I repeat: you are not liable for charges that we put on your card. This will all be fixed in the usual five-to-seven business days, and then it will be as if nothing ever happened.” He speaks with confidence. If the conversation that Mitch had overheard wasn’t enough, then this confirmed that they had committed robberies before.
Señora Viejo comes back into the room. She shakes her head.
“On the other hand, if you make trouble then we will shoot you, and then you will be dead. And we will still have your credit cards.”
There are eighteen people in the group that Sinjoro assembled. Someone starts to hand over her purse, but Sinjoro refuses to touch it and she sets it on the floor before him. Mitch wonders why, and decides that it must be a precaution–you’ll never get surprised by someone at close range if you never let them get there.
“Everyone on your knees,” he says as Senora Viejo walks up to him. “There we go.”
Sinjoro and Señora Viejo exchange a glance, and then they start shooting.
The man kneeling beside Mitch is the first person to die. There’s a crack and then he falls to the side. Mitch hears two more gunshots, and then a searing pain tears through Mitch’s shoulder, and another goes through his torso. He falls forward, onto another body. He tries to move but can’t do anything but twitch one of his hands. He doesn’t know if this is shock or if the second bullet went through his spine. Part of him wonders if someone will fall on him, if he will be crushed, but the shooting seems to end as quickly as it began. Someone cries out but is stopped short. By what or how, Mitch doesn’t know. He can only see Señora Viejo’s shoes and part of her legs.
“Satisfied?” she says.
Sinjoro’s feet come into view, and then he crouches, bringing his face into view. He dips two fingers in a puddle of blood, brings them close to his face and, eyes closed, inhales deeply. “Not ripe, but it takes the edge off.”
“Someone might have heard the gunshots. We have to consider the time now,” Senora Viejo reminded him.
“Right. I’ll just have to remember this.” He takes a handkerchief from his pocket, soaks part of it in blood, then carefully folds and pockets it so that the blood doesn’t get on his clothing. “Let’s go.” Sinjoro Akvo and Señora Viejo’s feet disappear.
Mitch tries to keep their faces in his mind so he can give a description to the police, but it’s hard. Everything in his mind is slippery, like even his thoughts have been coated in blood and he can’t keep a good grip on them. At some point Mitch hears a siren in the distance. He tries to seize on that, keep himself focused on it, like a life preserver in an ocean of gore, but it’s so hard and his hands keep slipping on it. He can barely keep his head above the surface. He has to tell someone what happened, tell them who to look for. It’s so hard…