By: Emma Scott

Frankie smashed the computer on the desk, then the phone, cutting off all communications, and then shuffled and danced in front of us, chuckling as if he knew some private joke we didn’t, until Wolfman came by and told him to stand guard outside the door. Then Frankie stuck out his wormy, yellowed tongue through a breathing hole in the mask, and paced outside the closed door in an exaggerated fashion, like a Russian Cossack.

The eight hostages breathed easier without him staring at us, but we eyed each other uncertainly. One man—a big bald-headed man with a bristly mustache and a rumpled-but-expensive suit—scowled and leveled his finger at each of us.

“Let’s get something straight right now,” he hissed in a stage whisper. “Don’t any of you do anything stupid to get us all killed. I’ve read about these situations and the squeaky wheel does not get the grease. It gets a bullet between the eyes.”

The youngest woman in the group moaned softly at this and the other man with a high widow’s peak and glasses—shook his head mournfully.

“Hey,” Cory said. “Let’s quit with that kind of talk, all right?”

The bald man snorted. “What, and pretend like everything’s sunshine and roses?”

“No, I agree with you. We all need to play it cool and do what they say. But we don’t—”

“We don’t need you barking orders at us,” a sour-faced woman of middle years on Cory’s right said to the bald man. She inclined her head at Frankie, pacing outside the closed door. “We’ve got our hands full with that one.”

“Don’t lump me in with them! That’s how it starts.”

“Let’s all calm down,” I interjected. While the others argued, I had used yoga breathing to corral the fear that had been squeezing my chest. I felt better now. More in control. I used my best trial voice; the one I relied on when a witness was becoming too emotional and in danger of making the jury uncomfortable.

“We’re all in this together for however long it takes for the powers that be to get us out of here. And they will get us out,” I added, mostly for the benefit of the youngest among us—a Latina who was sniffling against the back of her hand in the corner to my left. “Why don’t we go around and introduce ourselves?” I looked to the bald man. “Sir?”

The man grudgingly appreciated the respect and said, “Roy Jefferson Morganstern. Hedge funds and wealth management.”

The middle-aged woman beside him was tall and lithe and wore billowy clothes. “I’m Tanya Stinson and I work for a craft services company in Burbank.”

“I-I’m Sylvie Flores,” said the sniffling woman in the corner. “I’m a…a nanny.”

I introduced myself, then Cory, then the Indian-American woman who had been on my left before but had chosen to sit on Cory’s right, putting him between us.

She had one hand up to her ear, under her hair. “My name is Amita Patel and my father, Indra Patel, is a very powerful man in Mumbai.”

Roy snorted. “You think that matters? They got their money, princess. It’s collateral they need now. You’re stuck just like the rest of us.”

Amita ignored him, staring at a spot on the floor, a look of concentration on her face. “Yes, P-A-T-E-L,” she said. “In Mumbai.”

Roy’s eyes grew round and then he flapped his hands. “Okay, so she’s crazy. Wonderful. Locked up with a nutjob…”

The tight-lipped older woman in the right corner snapped at Roy to shut up.

“I’m Carol Bradford and I’m a retired physician, and if I have to listen your blustery bullshit all the live-long day, I’ll get that crazy young hooligan to put me out of my misery right now.” She turned to the man to her right. “So. You. Who are you?”

“Uh, I’m…I’m Gil. Gilbert Corman,” said the balding man, in a voice watery with fear. “I’m a pharmacist.”

“Everything’s going to be okay, Gil,” Cory said, earning another snort from Roy.

“It’s that kind of hippy-dippy talk that doesn’t help anyone,” he said, adjusting his bulk against the wall.