We know it’s all gone wrong when Ramirez stops smiling.
We were nearly there. Joel was hamming it up a bit, making too much of showing just how relaxed he was, how straight he was. This always made Anna tense. Me too. Unchecked, Joel could be all kinds of trouble.
Ramirez was having fun, though, toying with him
“Maybe you should get yourself a haircut with your wages, menino,” Ramirez says and winks. His goons laugh.
He stabs the first packet and licks a stubby finger. The goons focus. With the shades down, it’s difficult to pick up on anything other than their presence and their bulk. They’re bored, or maybe just tired, worked into a state of stoic, unyielding duty. Still, you wouldn’t even look at them.
That’s when we hear the banging from below. A thud – the main door? There’s engine noise and brakes. Three, four cars at least. Voices travel up the stairwell and there’s movement – muffled but distinct, and getting louder, closer.
Anna grabs my hand and squeezes, and it’s there on her face. She knows
in an instant. What were we thinking?
Ramirez raises his head, breathes deeply and goes around the room, checking for reaction. No-one moves, no-one looks away. No-one shows the nerves that might tell a different story. They’re all waiting.
Satisfied, he turns away and licks his finger.
There are three doors. Anna’s looking at me and it’s all she’s thinking, too: Get out of here.
Eventually, a nod and the goons stand, twitchy and sweating now: “Go. Move.”
They head for a door behind us and the rest is only images and disorder. Stumbling blindly, we run.
I hear: “Not you.”
The door slams behind us.
Anna’s just ahead. She reaches back for my hand again. There’s a dark corridor and we’re all barrelling past open doors where already people are starting to peer out. There’s no time to even think about Joel.