I’m yanked backward. The kid has me by the collar. The girl takes my arm.
I’m suddenly and instantly savagely angry. Even as I stumble, I have condemned these two. They might change that with their later actions, but they will pay for this one. You do not grab an officer of the law, much less this one that is me.
But the front doors are under assault too. Neighbours. Women in high heels. Short workers in woolen suit coats. A sudden and great many pressed against the glass. Squashed in among them an old man shrieks. One of the door shatters and bellowing bodies fall inward and tumble down beside my table.
I yell at them, “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING!” I suppose that applies to everyone because I slip the boy’s grip too. If I had a stick or a tool, I would beat all of them. “GET OUT OF HERE!” The grumbling, moaning mass barely shifts at all. They press closer if anything. Absurdly, I am reminded of riding a train and how like an attendant I am, shoving people backwards, refusing them entry.
No one fights me. They barely even look, just roll their eyes and paw the air. In frustration, I may even kick a neighbor. It is their own fault. No one believes me in that regard. They won’t believe how worthless and wasteful this sickness is. How useless the sufferers become. And how deeply, truly, significantly, they should NOT AT ALL BE KEPT IN TOWN.
“GOD GLARE AT YOU ALL!”
A hand sliding up the back of my leg upends me and I comes down cursing on me elbow and shoulder. That old man, the first of them in here. God glare at him, the most awkward man alive, strains forward with black and hammering jaws and takes a mouthful of my trousers.
I slides backward, pulled bodily away. Coincidentally jamming my instep into that man’s chin and tipping his head hard backwards. With which result I am both pleased and horrified.
The boy has his mouth to my ear, which is unpleasant. “Come on,” he whispers.
Previously so dull, the worst kind of stupid, my neighbours have come into some manner of alertness. Tables squeal forward under their push to get inside. “Going up.”
Immediately on the left through the back door are wooden stairs. The grinning man perches there.
“Out the back,” I says.
“No, no,” whispers the boy. I slips past anyway, down the slim hallway. “Oh,” I says and there I stops. The girl pushes past.
There is a back door, and it is open a crack. Enough to send a dim spear of morning light across the floor. And that room is piled with people. Sprawled among much abused cooking tables and before cupboards. The owner lies among them, head and shoulders thrust into the far corner, bulging at the belly, identified by his blue shop coat. He bars the door.
“So you see?” says the girl.
I don’t see. I don’t look. She steps over anyway. No one is following us. I sees her black boots. She holds out her hand, sleeve pulled back. I looks at the roof.
“No,” I says. Shakes my head. I has to take her elbow and guide her arm away, turn her aside. “No, thank you” I tells her. “Just leave me alone.”
Into the stillness steps the inspector.