“I got your disc right here,” Martin brushed his blonde bangs off his forehead. He reached down the back pocket of his jeans and held the object up against his face for everyone to see. The golden DVD gleamed in the sunlight. Funny, the envelope was gone. And I was pretty sure the last person who had it was Jess. I didn’t think asking them about all this would be appropriate in this situation, however. In front of me, the bald man in the sunglasses pointed his gun straight at Jess. The other guy – a big, scary-looking dude – was aiming at Ian. Jess seemed pretty calm about this. She breathed some air up her face, her black bangs billowed in the wind for a split second. If anything, she looked slightly annoyed. Ian wasn’t faring so well. His slouch and his eyes closed shut made him look as if he was paralyzed with immense fear. Freddie was staring daggers at the big suited guy, but he remained silent. I could tell he was ready to rip him apart for all this. His face and ears were red, trembling with rage and helplessness, eyes barely visible underneath thick black eyebrows that came closely together in the fury he was hold back. Brandi seemed completely unfazed by this stickup, however. Sure, she was holding her arms in the air like the rest of us, but other than that she would just roll her head around slowly, as if stretching after a long workout, and that’s when she wasn’t ostentatiously yawning. I was pretty sure she was taunting them. I could hear Martin’s shallow but controlled breath behind me. “Come and get it. Just let them all go.”
I looked back at Martin. He seemed absolutely calm but for the single drop of sweat that trickled down his forehead. The sunlight reflected in his glasses obscured his eyes from view. Mia stood by his side, her black, slanted eyes cold and fixed on the larger of the two oppressors. Her hair, tied in an elegant high ponytail, was orange – this came as a surprise to me, as I didn’t remember her sporting that bright color at the party. But then again, I was completely wasted back then. The two other men that accompanied them were complete strangers to me. One of them was black and lanky with a fierce look on his face, the other was a white-man in his forties or fifties, heavy-set and balding, with a reddish handlebar moustache. Just where did Martin get those two?
“It’s not going to be that simple, you know that,” the bald man in a suit sneered. “I come over to you guys, I’m Swiss cheese. I mean, you’re still gonna lose – my buddies are on their way – but I don’t think I want to throw my life away just yet. Toss it here. Or do you want Bubba here to shoot the fat one in the knee?”
“Over my fucking dead body, you piece of shit!” Freddie growled. Ian let out a soft whimper.
“Chill out, Freddie,” I could hear Brandi whisper to him. “One wrong move and Ian’s toast. You’ll help him more by keeping quiet.” Freddie’s ears didn’t get any less red, however. I glanced at Jess and tried to give her a reassuring smile, but I felt my lips tremble as I did. In the end, it was her subtle smile that reassured me.
“That won’t be necessary,” Martin’s voice was cold and distant. I could barely believe he could control himself so well. If only he kept this cool during our crossword meetings. With an elegant flick of the wrist, he sent the disc flying towards the guys in suits. The bald man caught it between his fingers right in front of his Roman nose. The one he called “Bubba” pulled out something out of his left pocket while still pointing his gun at Ian. He hovered the contraption over the DVD, as if scanning for something. With a soft beep, a green light flashed on its surface.
“Good boy,” the bald guy smirked. “Well, Bubba, looks like our job here is done. Now, if you would kindly let us take our leave.”
“Be my guest,” said Martin. You know what, Martin? Why don’t you have your guests visit your own damn place!
The two men kept pointing guns at us regardless as they made their way to their vehicle. Everything actually went pretty smoothly. They closed the doors to their car, then drove away, just like that. Heck, Bubba even got out the car before they drove off completely, came back, put the sofa back together and left me a check to make up for the losses. Then they finally disappeared out of sight, leaving us all in a stunned silence. One, two, three seconds later, we let out a collective sigh of relief. Freddie rushed towards Ian, almost making Brandi trip in the process. I stood there, relieved to the point of being paralyzed. I couldn’t move an inch. It wasn’t until Jess threw her arms around me that I came to my senses. We both started laughing. It was a moment of pure bliss. It couldn’t last long, though, as Martin made sure he had our absolute attention with that annoying cough he always did. We let go, not looking back at each other’s faces again. My moment was gone, my chance missed, my grumpiness escalating.
“I don’t mean to be a killjoy, but we don’t have much time,” Martin said, as he took off his glasses, rubbing his blue eyes with his fingers. He waved his other hand at the two strangers and they scurried out of sight. They seemed to be looking for something. Mia took that hand into hers and tapped Martin gently on the shoulder, then picked up where he’d left off. “We can’t stay here any longer. We need to go, quick.”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Why? What’s wrong? You gave them the disc, it’s over, right?”
“Wrong,” I heard Freddie say in a dangerously calm voice from behind me. I turned around – he was slowly walking in Martin’s direction, lean and threatening as a panther. He pulled out a circular, golden object out of his back pocket, and stopped right next to me. “I think we deserve an explanation. Wouldn’t you agree, Leo?”
“We really don’t have time for all this,” Martin put his glasses back on. “Yes, I gave them a fake disc and we all need to get out of here. They will pursue each and every one of us until this case is resolved.”
“What case?” Jess asked as she folded her hands. “Seriously, Martin. What the hell is going on?”
“Stop asking your stupid questions and just listen to me for once, okay?!” Martin suddenly shouted. His face went instantly red. He took a few deep breaths. “All I know is that whatever’s on this disc is top secret and those people want it. I can’t let them have it.”