22nd November

Café Limbo (2)

Apart from the fat man who was not Mr Brogan, there were five other customers: an elderly couple, an old man on his own, a younger woman reading a book, and a child of about ten. The old people sat patiently and silently: they had finished their hot drinks. The child had an air of bewilderment about her. I imagined someone had left her while they went to a shop or a cash machine.

It was dark outside. The waiter kept consulting his watch. Once he opened the door and peered up and down the street. Of that street I had absolutely no recollection.

The waiter came back in, shut the door and locked it. At this, the young woman closed her book. We all focused on the waiter, who addressed us from the middle of the room.

‘We cannot wait any longer,’ he said. ‘Mr Brogan is unaccountably late.’

‘Late for what?’ said the fat man.

There was the sound of running feet, then a crash against the café door. A frightened voice shouted, ‘Help! Let me in!’

The waiter advanced rapidly, but not to open the door. There were bolts at the top and bottom and he shot these home.

Shadowy figures passed by the window. The same voice called again, ‘Help me!’ This was followed by thuds and blows and a scream of pain.

Now we were all on our feet. ‘They are beating him up!’ I said.

‘I fear so,’ the waiter said.

‘Well, let him in for God’s sake.’

‘It is too late.’

The sounds of violence continued. The voice was sobbing, begging for mercy. Then it grew more distant.

‘They’re dragging him away!’ said the old man, his face against the glass. ‘A gang of them.’

‘For God’s sake, call the police if you won’t open the door,’ the fat man said.

‘The police won’t come,’ the waiter said. ‘There are no police.’

‘They’re going to kill him.’

‘No. They can’t.’

‘At least let us out so we can help him, if you won’t,’ the fat man said.

‘You can’t help him either. I’m sorry. And we can’t wait any longer.’

‘What are we waiting for?’ the child asked.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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