Go Between

"I'm the go between," he said, cold, clammy and shaking despite the heat. He raised his ugly, striped shirt to reveal metal capsules tied too tight, digging into the pale flesh of his stomach: "Explosives. Please let me in. Please."

Don't call the police, he told her, just act normal, please. Take the necklace - she should know which one - and the earrings and put them in the box. Then she will get her daughter back. No, don't touch the belt. If she touches it, he will die. If she takes more than a half hour, he will die. He's only seventeen. He's just a pizza boy. Please.

On shaking limbs he slid to the floor.

Shamefully, her first thought was of the mess it would make. Then of insurance, then of losing an heirloom. Once a widow, she'd shed her children like snakeskin, keeping only those things she treasured. Giving away precious history for a daughter she hadn't seen in two years and hadn't talked to in five was unthinkable.

She thought of the girl's face, those pretty red lips forever stretched into a shout, emerald green eyes just slits of anger and resentment. Not worth the earrings. Certainly not worth the necklace. Get her daughter back? She never had her in the first place.

But she looked at the boy, shanghaied from a nothing job to become a doomed little messenger and felt a pang of sympathy. Sacrifice her past for his future? She looked at the clock.

Clutching the pizza box tightly, taking care not to jog the little metal capsules, he disappeared around the corner and out of her life. She was most upset to find that she did not feel better.