Charles Hannigan raised his wine glass, silently toasted his wife, then slurped down all six ounces of merlot. His blond moustache was the purple of children’s toothpaste when he lowered his glass. Julia Hannigan took one look and rolled her eyes as she angled herself away from him. “Really, Charles?”
Charles stared at her as he wordlessly lifted a glass from the neighboring table and drank that, too. The glass’s original owner frowned and regretted not doing the same, back when he had had the opportunity. Charles wiped his moustache on the back of his sleeve. “Cheers,” he belched.
“What’s going on over there?” the gunman yelled from where he stood by the front windows.
“You’re going to get us shot!” Julia hissed, her nostrils flaring open into an infinity symbol.
Charles wondered if she’d allow him to pop a pea into each hole. He snapped his fingers in the air. “Garçon! Another glass, please.”
The waiter, who was huddled in a corner with two other members of the staff, remained where he was. Charles lifted his glass and pointed at it. “The merlot.”
Julia kicked Charles under the table. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Without lowering his voice, Charles said, “We’re at Le Gavroche, damnit. I paid 50 quid just to get this table, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you ruin my night.”
“Oy! How much, did you say?” the gunman called.
“I said,” Charles replied, rising from his seat, “That I came here to celebrate my anniversary and so far it’s been a complete waste of money.”
“Is that right, mate?” The gunman picked up a menu and looked it over. “Looks top-notch. Prices ain’t even listed. Tha’s how I knew it’d be worth knockin’ over.” He tossed the menu aside. “Is it tha’ service? The food?”
“Nae, the food’s alright,” Charles replied, then walked over to Table 8 and took up a glass of single-malt scotch. He swirled it around thoughtfully. “But she asked for a divorce between the first and second course, so it really doesn’t matter.” He threw the scotch down his throat and searched for another drink.
The gunman cast a casual glance over his shoulder out the window, then strode to Charles, swiping a cocktail off Table 4 on the way. “Here you are, mate.”
The man wore a bally to cover his face, but Julia could see, even from three tables away, that his blue eyes held more concern for Charles than she had had for a year. “She asked for a divorce on your anniversary? That’s cold. That’s ice cold.” Julia crossed her arms over her chest and grit her teeth. “What kind of a woman does that? How long you two been married?”
Charles plucked a bite of filet mignon from a plate, chewed it twice, then pushed it to the side of his tongue so he could talk around it. “Thirteen years.”
“Oy! That’s harsh. Kids?”
“All the better, then.” The gunman looked over at Julia and pointed with his SA80. “That her?”
Charles swallowed a lump of creamed spinach. “Yeah.”
“Want me to blow her head off?”
Julia fiddled with her wedding rings and kept her eyes locked on Charles. Charles took a few deep breaths while he considered. She could hear his nose hairs whistling.
Finally he shrugged. “Nahhh.”
The gunman lowered his rifle and stuck out his hand. “Name’s Cheese, by the way.”
Charles wiped his fingers on Table 12’s napkin before shaking. “Charles. Nice to meet you, Cheese.”
“What sort of business you in, Charles?”
“You know Lott’s Candy Shoppe?”
“Oh, yeah. There’s one round the corner o’ my flat.”
“Brilliant. I own them.”
Julia drummed her fingers on the tablecloth as she glared at Charles and his new best friend Cheese. She felt her phone vibrate in her purse down by her foot and she knew it was Keller, texting to find out what was taking her so long. She was supposed to have met up with him fifteen minutes ago, but of course Charles would find a way to drag this out. Keller would grow suspicious and might even begin to think she’d got cold feet. Her phone vibrated again at the same time her stomach grumbled. Her escargot had been rather oily and was not settling well. She didn’t know how, but she was determined to blame this on Charles, as well.
“Look I think it’s safe, yeah?” she said. Charles and Cheese stopped chatting and looked over at her. “I mean, it’s been almost thirty minutes. There’s been no sirens, no police. I’m sure it’s okay to leave now. They’ll not find you.”
Cheese looked toward the front of the restaurant, as though he’d forgotten where he was and what he was doing. He scratched his armpit with the muzzle of his assault rifle.
“Can we leave now?” Julia pressed. Her phone vibrated a third time and she pushed her purse away. “Is it okay if we go?”
“What time is it?” Cheese said.
Charles checked his wristwatch. “Getting on 11.”
“Bollucks, is it that late? The missus will be wonderin’ where I am. She’s a worrier, that one.” Cheese turned to Julia. “I don’t know what went wrong ‘tween you two, but I hope ye can work it out. True love is hard to find, and 13 years is nothin’ to throw away.”
“Well, tha’s right kind o’ ya,” Charles said. He cast a quick smile at Julia, then clapped his hand on Cheese’s back. “Here, I’ll help you carry your loot to your car. Where are you parked?”
Cheese grabbed one duffel bag of cash and handed Charles the other. “Thanks, mate. I’m just ‘round the corner there.”
The two men stepped out the door and were immediately tackled by police. Julia leaned over to get a glimpse of Charles being handcuffed. “Julia!” he screamed as his face was ground into the pavement. “Julia!”
Julia reached down and collected her purse from under the table. Sorry, she texted. Got a bit held up. I’ll be there soon. She put her phone down, then looked up and snapped her fingers. “Oh, waiter,” she called, “I’m ready for dessert.”