Chapter Three

“My book, my life's work, I have to find it all. You there, Nell. Help me!”

Salisbury Frood ran around the confined area, plucking pages off the floor with one hand, while waving his gun at Nell, with the other. She collected papers, as he spoke to the other hostages.

“Get back against the wall, and stay there. Don't walk on my pages. If you see any of my work nearby, pick it up and give it to me,” he ordered.

They huddled in fear against the far wall, as they watched his erratic movements. A voice on a megaphone outside of the store, could be clearly heard on the inside.

“Gunshots ... I heard gunshots. What's going on in there Mr. Frood?  What's happening? Is anyone hurt?” The man seemed to be struggling to keep a tiny element of panic out of his voice.

Frood  dropped his pages on a desk, then dragged Nell to the window that separated the reading room from the rest of the bookstore. He looked out through the glass storefront, his hand clamped tightly on her wrist.

“When did it get so dark? Why are there so many cars out there, Nell?

“I think they're police cars, s-s-sir,”

He stared at the revolving red and blue lights, mesmerized. He stood motionless, watching them. Nell was too terrified to move.

“Mr. Frood? Can you hear me?  I'm Captain Monroe Steele. Do you need help in there?”
Mr Frood, you need to answer me!”

Dead silence.


Steele shouted through the megaphone, sending a shock wave of sound toward the storefront. Frood whipped around, and focused on the Captain. He snarled into the headset microphone he brought, but hadn't needed for his book reading..


“I want to come in to talk to you. Will you send someone else out in my place?”

“Someone else ... someone ... I don't know ...”

His voice filtered back to the captain, disjointed. Suddenly Frood straightened, made a decision.

“Nell, would you like to go out there?

“Yes. Yes sir, please,”  hope in her eyes.”

“You come in, and I'll send someone else out after.”  Frood spoke into the mic again.

“It doesn't work that way, Mr. Frood. You have to send someone out first.”

Frood lost interest and shrugged. He turned and faced the interior of the room, dragging Nell with him.

“ Sir, sir, you said I could go out,”

“Did I? No, I don't think I did. I just asked if you wanted to go out there, I didn't say I was going to let you.”

He returned to the podium, and rifled  the pages, rearranging them by chapter.

“Here's chapter two where the princess is abducted, yes, it's all here. I don't see chapter eighteen ... where's chapter eighteen, Nell?”

I- I don't know, sir. I c-could look.”

“Yes, that's what we'll do, we'll look.”

He wandered aimlessly, dragging Nell with him, waving his gun at  the hostages. He almost stumbled over the body of Drake Abernathy.  He stared at it, then focused on Nell.

“What happened here?”

“You ... shot him ... s-s-sir.”

“I shot him. Hmmmm.” Frood poked at Abernathy's head with the toe of his boot.

A sane man would have felt something - anger or regret perhaps, but Salisbury Frood was not a sane man. He felt nothing. He glanced up at the huddled hostages, and chose two men.

“You two closest to the bookshelf  - come over here.”

They shuffled cautiously forward.

“Come on, MOVE!!”

He pointed the gun at the men, and pulled the trigger. A hollow click indicated it was empty. The two men made a rush toward the author, who had already reloaded with a clip from his pocket. They stopped in their tracks.

“Thought you had me, didn't you? I saw you try to jump me, yes I did. Do you think I should do something about that? Yes, I think I should do something about that, but what should I do? I think I should shoot someone. Yes, that's what I should do. I won't shoot you two, though. No, I don't want to do that. I need you to move this thing. It's an eyesore, and it's in my way.”

He kicked Abernathy's body, dropped Nell's wrist, and fired into the crowd.

“God oh God oh God, please help us, Jesus!”  Nell prayed as she dropped to the floor.

Cries of “Help! Help! Help!” and  “No no no!”

“Is anyone hit?” Frood asked conversationally.

No answer, just frightened sobs, and whispered prayers.

“I SAID, IS ANYONE HIT?” Frood roared, rage once again taking over his fragile psyche.

“ I'm not.” This came from a small female voice in the front.

Others followed her lead.

“I don't think so.”

“I think I got nicked.”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” A tortured scream.

“Stop that infernal noise, what's your problem.?” Frood barked, annoyed.

“There's a guy back here with a bullet in his head!”

“I must have hit someone then, I guess,” disinterested, detached.

“Mr. Frood! This is Captain Steele again. What's going on in there?”

“Nothing. What do you want?” Frood yelled.

“We heard shots.”

“So did I. I think someone's shooting at me,” he lied.

“ I don't think so, Mr. Frood. We've got Doctor Merkle here to speak to you. Perhaps you can tell him what's going on.”

“My shrink? I don't want to talk to him.”

The End

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