Tonight’s the night, he was sure of it. After his dinner of canned meat and sliced cheese, Roy had fallen asleep during the nightly news, only to awaken again during the sports highlights. They were talking about that day’s hockey game, and the key words strung themselves together in Roy’s mind, telling him what he had to do.
He was thinking about these words as he got off the bus across the street from the arena. He was thinking about these words as he crossed the street into the parking lot. Roy had his head down, mumbling to himself, so he didn’t notice the security guard leaning on the gate. It was a dark night, that’s why the words had chosen it.
“Ho there! No one beyond this point until game time tomorrow.” The guard continued to lean, showing no concern for Roy. He popped a round piece of candy into his mouth; it crunched loudly between his teeth.
Roy stopped short, nearly lost his balance. He looked around anxiously until he found the guard. “I left something inside. I came back to get it.”
“You at the game tonight? That was something, huh? Marty’s got some slapshot.” He popped another candy, crunched slowly. He casually kept his gaze on Roy, who looked everywhere except at the guard.
Roy hesitated. “I just . . . I just need to get inside.” He fidgeted with his pack, adjusted the weight on his back.
“No can do.” The guard lifted his body so all his weight was on this feet. “Chocolate-covered coffee bean?” He pointed the open end of the bag toward Roy. “Gotta stay awake, but who wants a cup of coffee on a night like this, am I right?” He shook the bag and the cellophane rattled.
Roy was becoming irritable. He shifted on his feet, almost imperceptibly making his way away from the guard. He didn’t seem to notice, and Roy thought he was about to settle back onto the gate. Roy’s eyes darted around, sizing up the situation, judging distances. He just needed to build up enough momentum to allow himself to jump over the turnstiles. Once inside the arena it would be so dark, they’d never find him before he had a chance to place the bomb and set the timer. Once inside, he knew exactly where he was going.
Roy felt a safe distance and took off toward the entrance. He had only taken a few steps when the guard was on him, pushing him to the ground, rolling him onto his stomach. The guard sat on him, pressing Roy’s groin into the asphalt. He pulled his arms back and wrangled off the back pack. This he tossed to the side. Roy tried to reach his hand out to grab it, but the guard held firm. He cuffed Roy and stayed seated.
“What are we gonna find in your bag, Roy?”
Roy grunted a question then stammered, “I’m not . . . My name’s not Roy.”
“I know who you are, Roy. We all know who you are. You’re here everyday, skulking around. You probably feel invisible, but we see you. Didn’t think you’d come here at night . . . with plans, apparently. But here you are.”
Roy grunted, tried to wriggle out from under the guard, couldn’t, became still.
The guard reached for his radio, pressed the button. “Suspicious character apprehended at north entrance. Need assist. Over.” He looked at Roy, grinding his teeth, struggling to keep his face off the asphalt. They stayed like that for a few moments, Roy intermittently renewing his struggle.
Shortly, a white SUV with blue flashing lights approached. Another guard got out, swaggered over. “Hey Roy! So nice to see you again. So unexpected.”
“That’s his pack over there. You mind checking it out?” At this Roy tried harder to get out from under his captor. He grunted and whimpered. “What’s wrong, boy?”
The other guard had the pack in one hand, the other hand on the zipper. Roy struggled more; the guard lifted his wrists away from his back, and Roy moaned in pain. “It’s . . . I made a bomb! Be careful!”
“You made a bomb? Now, this, I gotta see.” The other guard unzipped the pack, reached in, pulled out a mess of metal bits and wires. “Looks like the guts of a toaster and a kitchen timer.” He tossed the mess onto the ground.
The guards pulled Roy up and walked him over to the SUV, sat him in the back seat. With a slight shake of the head, they drove off toward the office, Roy sobbing quietly.
This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen.