Bang! Bang! Bang, bang, bang! Several rounds of automatic weapon gunfire pierced the din. The band stopped. Screams filled the void. A scream formed in my throat as well, but fear kept it from making its way to my mouth. I dove onto the landing a few steps above me and scrambled around the corner. Lying on my front, I peered around the edge of the wall and peeked through the rungs of the cherry banister. Smashing all three living room windows that ran from floor to ceiling, five masked men dressed completely in black made their entrance. Three more rounds of gunfire blasted overhead, and then silence. The leader of the men grabbed Susan, put a gun to her head, and began to speak to the rest of the group in perfect English with a strong European accent.
”Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention. We will only detain you for a moment. We are looking for George Karwell. If you will be so kind as to bring him to us, your pretty friend may survive the day.”
He had the look of a seasoned military officer – tall, erect posture, and solid build. His words had been carefully chosen, producing the desired effect. His deep-set, dark eyes expressed the non-negotiable nature of his mission. It seemed clear that he would take every necessary step to complete his task with dispatch. The stunned and bewildered partiers cowered against the walls as he held Susan tightly and kissed her on the cheek. She looked up at the ceiling, her lips moving in silent prayer.
I wanted to jump down there and rescue her. I forced myself to stand; my legs felt like rubber.
Looking back at the silent crowd, he yelled with a slight pause in between each word, “I want him now!”
George was still in the game room at the back of the house, furthest away from the living room windows. I knew he had to have heard the demand, and so I assumed he was weighing his options, maybe even the fleeting thought of sacrificing Susan and making his getaway. If George was anything, he was a survivor. Dammit George; get out there!
I had to do something. My heart beat so strong and fast that I was worried that the men downstairs would hear it…breathing too rapid, stomach queasy, knees starting to buckle. I reached out and grabbed the rail. Get a grip, John!
With knees shaking, I turned around and made my way back toward my room.
“Oh shit,” I muttered under my breath. I stood still, hoping that nobody had noticed. I waited about fifteen seconds and then continued on my way.
Entering my room I reached for the phone to call the police; it slipped out of my sweaty palms. Wiping them on my jeans, I picked up the phone and pressed 911; no dial tone. I fumbled through my desk and found my cell phone. I opened it up; signal strength registered nothing. I briefly reprimanded myself for not following through on my decision last month to install a satellite connection for my Internet work. Probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Kneeling down on the floor, I slowly crawled over to the windows and peered out: several men in dark clothing, roaming the yard with some type of weapons in their hands. They looked well-prepared and well-organized.
“Damn,” I whispered. I decided my best option was to make my way back to where I could track the events as they unfolded downstairs.
Less than a minute later, George made his way forward to the front of the crowd. He looked like he was trying to suppress the urge to throw up the two burritos he wolfed down an hour earlier.
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