Friday 11 November 2016


Sue Cross  

 crème de menthe

Jack recognised Roger immediately. It was the hair that did it. If Jack had not felt so terrified he would have laughed out loud.
            ‘Try not to panic; we’ll soon be out of here. I’ve messaged my people.’
            ‘Your people?’ Jack echoed and realised how stupid he sounded.
            Roger chose to ignore the remark and started to bite his nails.
            Outside gunshots and shouting could be heard and Jack tasted fear; cold and metallic. So, this is how I’m going to die, he thought. Stuck in a shop changing room with one of the world’s wealthiest tycoons.
            ‘Should we try and make a dash for it?’ Jack asked.
            ‘No point – we’ll be mowed down. Sounds like machine gun fire. Try and keep calm. Like I said – my people will get us out of this mess. Here – have a peppermint. Keep the blood sugar up.’
            Jack took a candy from his fellow captor and noticed how smooth his hands looked, how manicured his nails, in complete contrast to his own calloused hands and ragged nails.
            ‘I know who you are.’ He said, sucking the cool mint. ‘Seen you on the television. You’re Roger Gillingham, the famous entrepreneur aren’t you?’
            Roger stood a little taller, ran his hands over his bizarre hair and half smiled. ‘I get used to being recognised.’
            For a moment there was a lull in the shooting and Jack wondered if the gunmen had entered the shop or if the police had managed to arrest or shoot them.
            ‘So, what are you doing in a shop? I’d have thought that you’d have a personal shopper who, you know, brought stuff to you.’
            ‘I do usually. But I fancied a break from work and thought I’d buy myself a new outfit. Wish I hadn’t bothered now. I don’t normally go anywhere without my bodyguard. Well, actually he’s here somewhere. Needed to go to the gents. What you doing in a shop of this quality? If you don’t mind my saying, you look as if you don’t have a penny to your name.’
            ‘I don’t. I came here to use the toilet facilities. I was just on my way out when I heard shouting and saw these guys dressed in black and wielding guns so ran back in. God, I’m scared.’
            Roger continued to bite his nails and then checked his phone. He swore. ‘No signal.’
            ‘So, how did you manage to become a down and out?’ Roger had always been outspoken and prided himself on it.
            Jack swallowed hard. ‘It’s a long story.’
            ‘We may have a while. Here have another mint.’ Roger sat on the floor and composed himself like a child waiting for a bedtime story.
            Jack joined his new acquaintance on the floor and began. ‘My mother had me when she was sixteen and gave me up for adoption but, as nobody seemed to want such an ugly kid, I never got chosen. Instead I was brought up in an orphanage. It was pretty grim. I left when I was sixteen and was going to start a college course. Instead, I got in with a bad crowd. Ended up on drugs and I’ve been in and out of rehab ever since. I’m clean now, thank God, but, as I’ve never had a proper job, nobody wants to employ me. I live in a hostel and manage by busking.’
            ‘That’s too bad. You play an instrument then?’ Roger asked.
            ‘Yeah, guitar and I sing quite well, I’m told.’
            ‘Sing me something. Let’s hear your voice.’
            Jack thought for a moment, took a deep breath and started to sing, ‘The Sound of Silence.’
            Outside gunfire and shouting started up again but Jack continued to sing while Roger nodded in approval.
            When the song was finished, Roger clapped slowly, still nodding so that his long blonde comb-over fell into his eyes.
            ‘Tell you what.’ He announced. ‘If we get out of here alive, I’ll sign you. I have connections. Ever heard of Simon Cowell?’
            It was now Jack’s turn to nod. He could not believe his luck. But his euphoria was short lived as the dire situation in which he found himself overrode any feelings of hope. His life had been a disaster – why would it change now?
            The shooting became louder and outside there was more shouting.
            ‘Lie down flat and keep quiet.’ Roger whispered.
            Both men hit the floor. They were no longer the advantaged and the disadvantaged but two men, made brothers by circumstances. Death – the great equalizer, was feeling uncomfortably close. The laminate floor felt as cold as the grave. Jack closed his eyes tight, fought back the nausea and prayed. Roger stared into the corner, his mind racing, as he watched a spider crawl to safety, oblivious to the danger that surrounded them. For the first time in his life, his money, power and influence was of no use to him. After what seemed an eternity, a voice called out.
            ‘Police – anyone there? Come out. You’re safe.’ The words were a welcome lifeline.
            Both men scrambled up from the floor and embraced.
You may have heard of Jack Jackson. His new single, “Trapped,” reached the number one spot in the charts last week. 

About the author

Sue Cross has had two novels published, Tea at Sam’s and the sequel, Making Scents. Please visit her on the website

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