Tales from the Black Swan: The Gunman Incident

I locked the door of my car, pocketed the key and started walking towards the Black Swan. It was a pub that was situated at the edge of the town, facing the hills. It was owned by Almecho, who was also my very good friend. The pub was usually alive on , since it was the end of the working week. And today was Friday.

Before entering the pub, I glanced at a board hanging beside the door. It was a tradition at the Black Swan to serve a new and special dish every Sunday. As I looked at the special item of that day my jaws dropped and my eyes nearly popped out. For, on the board it read: "Skewered Shark Liver." Skewered shark livers? Whoever would want to eat that?

A musty smell, a buzz of people and a ringing bell greeted me as I opened the door and stepped inside the pub. I heard someone shout my name as I looked around the crowd. Towards the eastern corner sat five of my buddies: Peter, Adrian, Paul, Charlie and Michael. Peter was waving at me. I made my way to them (progress was real slow!) through a jungle of people and clouds of smoke. Finally reaching them, I sat down on a stool beside Charlie and turned towards the bartender.

"The usual please," I said to which I added, a little hesitatingly, "And the special."

The bartender looked at me and nodded.

"In a minute," he said.

I turned my attention towards my friends who were talking busily.

"So, what are you guys talking about?" I asked.

"End of the world," Michael answered, "2012, December 21st!"

"Oh come on!" Adrian exclaimed, "That's nothing but bullshit. The world is not going to end in 2012."

"As if you know the future," Michael retorted. I noticed that Peter was eating something I'd never seen before in the pub.

"Hey Peter. That the special?" I asked.

He nodded, unable to speak because of his full mouth. He chewed disgustingly like a child and swallowed it.

"So, how's it?" I asked once he had washed the remaining down with beer.

"Don't worry," he said putting down the glass, "You won't die. At least it's better than those fried rabbit kidneys of last week anyway. And it's a little oily."

I winced at the mention of fried rabbit kidneys. That had been last week's special. Only I and Peter had dared to eat it. However disgusting it may have looked or smelled, it was horribly good (when Almecho said "special", he meant it) but we had been unable to convince the rest of the pub otherwise.

As said, my orders arrived in exactly one minute. I forked a piece and, squinting, placed it in my mouth. It was amazing! The piece seemed to simply melt in my mouth like a piece of chocolate and the taste diffused inside my mouth. Like Peter had said it was oily but heck! It tasted just great. Very soon I had emptied the plate and ordered two more.

It never arrived.

At the moment, the door burst open and a masked man clutching a revolver in hand stormed in.

"Nobody moves!" he exclaimed.

That was useless actually, since most of us had already frozen in fear or surprise or both. I expected a scream to erupt any moment. Then I realized that the pub was usually devoid of women. They came on rare occasions with their husbands only.

I could sense movement behind me. The gunman fired immediately; the sound was deafening. It was followed by a cracking noise. Slowly, everyone in the pub turned around. There stood one of the young waiters, shaking uncontrollably and looking as if he was about to pee any moment. Inches away from his head in the wall, was a miniature crater where the bullet had hit.

"That was only a warning shot," the gunman said coldly, "Next time I won't miss."

Moving the gun in an arc, he walked up to the cashier. He thrust out his bag to the terrified cashier and said, "Fill it!"

The cashier was immediately punching buttons on the cash register. For a moment, I thought that maybe he was an alibi to the gunman. But one look at the cashier's face told that I was wrong. He was sweating just as much as any of us.

"Quick! Quick!" the gunman muttered.

"The register doesn't open!" the cashier said in an exasperated tone.

"What?" the gunman asked incredulously.

"The register," the cashier said, pointing to it, "Does not open."

"Give it to me then!" the gunman snarled.

The cashier raised the cash register until it was level with the gunman's face.

"It is supposed to open when you press this button," the cashier said and as he did so, he pressed the button.

The drawer suddenly sprang open, catching the gunman unaware. It hit him on the nose, right on the bridge. He howled in pain and let go of the gun as he reached up with his hand to massage his wounded nose.

Charlie was already in action. A marine, he jumped from where he sat to the gunman bringing him down on the ground with himself. Charlie stood up with his arms hooked under the gunman's shoulder and clasped tightly behind the gunman's neck. As the hunter turned hunted thrashed around blindly, I grabbed the plate next to me, ran to the struggling figure and smashed it into the struggler's face. This time, the gunman gave out a bloodcurdling scream. His nose was bleeding profusely and so was his forehead.

The pub was in an uproar. Many of them had fled as soon as Charlie had grabbed the gunman in his shoulder-lock. Peter was hurriedly unloading the bullets of the gun lest (as he explained later) it should go off accidentally by a kick from a terrified customer. The cashier was on the phone, talking with the police. His whole body was shaking violently, probably as a result of the heroic and risky action he had just undertaken.

By the time the police arrived, the gunman had been unmasked, bound and tied to a chair. Despite his helpless condition, he thrashed about wildly as if he could resist arrest merely by showing how dangerous he was. Charlie's face had been flushed when he had made the lunge for the gunman, now it was blood red (he had anger management issues). Without any warning, he grabbed a bottle (Almecho later told us that it was an authentic French wine, nearly fifty years old and really expensive) on a table beside him and threw it at the gunman. The bottle exploded, the glass shattered and the contents splattered everywhere when it hit the head of the gunman. But most importantly, the gunman was quiet now; he had gone unconscious.

After the police had left with the mad gunman, it took an hour to clean the pub. Most of the people who had fled did not return that day. There were only a few of them, six of us, the workers, bartender and the cashier.

The cashier was the hero of that day (also Charlie but it was the cashier who had initially disarmed the gunman, however unusual the process).

"What's your name kid?" Charlie had asked.

"It's Ayano, sir."

"Well Ayano, that was very brave of you."

"It was … just an accident–––"

"I'm a marine boy. You can't fool me. I saw the determination on your face. Really, that was very brave of you."

"Thank you, sir."

Night was approaching. The pub was now almost empty. Almost. There were still the six of us, the bartender and Ayano. Usually, night was supposed to be the main time for people to enjoy themselves in the pub. But that day was just not a normal day.

"So," Paul said slowly, "That was quite a jump back there Charlie. From here to the gunman … umm … I'd say about ten feet or so. Ten feet! In one leap! That should be world record!"

"Stop flattering me. You know I ain't gonna pay your bill."

"Oh come on!"

"Hey Antei, watch it! You might explode after eating all that!" Michael exclaimed.

"Yeah right," I retorted, "If you had just tasted it, we'd have to call in the air force and the navy to get you out of the kitchen."

"Eating a kitchen empty is Peter's job," Michael retorted.

Peter looked up suddenly, his mouth full of shark liver pieces.

"Whaaf?" he asked, his voice muffled.

Everybody broke out into uncontrolled laughter with only Peter looking at faces on after another with a perplexed expression. At that moment, he just looked so stupid.

"Hey Antei! Where're you going?" Charlie asked.

Halfway to the door, I turned around and looked at my friend apologetically, "Sorry guys. Today's incident was a bit too much for me, I think. I gotta go home and get some sleep."

"Why don't you just accept the fact that your stomach hurts after eating all that and you want to go to the toilet," Michael said.

At that, everybody broke into another round of laughter. This time, Peter was laughing too, his face no more stuffed with shark liver pieces.

"Whatever," I muttered as I turned around and headed for the door.