Anders moved around the room, chatting with guest as they ate, offering a pat on the back or a hug. He exchanged a few words with a group of women at the buffet table and then filled his own plate. He edged around the outside of the room and sat down at the table next to the kitchen door with Dieter, Yanko, Conner, Tamás and Boris. “I think we pulled this off. The guest all seem grateful for what we’ve done. They keep mentioning the feeling of community and family here. How they needed that tonight. Well done.” He looked at Dieter. “Thanks for stepping in.”
Yanko shifted uncomfortably. Dieter said. “I think things were in hand. Probably more of my needed to be with my husband and I’m a bit of control freak.”
Anders patted Yanko on the shoulder. “That wasn’t a criticism. We have no procedures for a night like this.” He sighed. “We probably need to come up with something when the emotions settle. I just wanted to say I appreciate that you and Megan are mostly hands off owners but don’t have a problem stepping in during an emergency. That isn’t always the case.”
Dieter nodded. “Noted.”
Tamás’ phone played a little Latin beat. “Gus,” he said. He fumbled as he stood and pulled his phone out. “Hey. You’re on speaker. We’re all here. Meg and Tuck there yet?”
“What? No. I don’t expect them for another two hours.” His voice was different, older. The sassy youthfulness gone. “Alejandro’s here.”
Everyone tensed, bracing themselves for the worst.
“He’s a mess,” Gus sighed.
Tamás collapsed down in his chair and put the phone on the table like it was too hot to touch. Everyone looked at Dieter. He steeled himself and asked, “How bad is he?”
“Pretty fucked up. He had to hide under dead bodies—his friend’s bodies. He held them as they passed. He’s covered in their blood. Lost his wig, heels, and his clutch with his phone in it. A nurse let him use his phone so he could send me a message on Facebook. He thought we were dead too…” His voice cracked with a sob. “This is all so fucked up. Why’d this happen?”
“So he wasn’t shot?” Tamás asked.
“No. But they’re still checking him out. He’s pretty hysterical. I think they are medicating him with something and trying to find him some scrubs or something to wear. God he was so proud of that dress.”
Anders whispered, “I think I’d be a raving lunatic after that.” The other men nodded.
“Gus…” Dieter started but didn’t know what else to say. This wasn’t a time of words, but a time to cling to one another, and they were over a hundred miles away.
“Look, I have to go. I’m next to talk to the cops. They’re interviewing everyone. I wanted to let you know we all made it out… more or less.” Silence, then he said in a broken voice. “So many didn’t. I heard they got the fucker, but the EMTs said there are dozens of bodies still in there… I gotta go.”
Tamás called out. “We love you.”
Everyone affirmed it.
“Back at you.” The call ended.
Boris’ fist slammed down on the table causing them all to jump.
“Dude!” Yanko said.
Tears ran down Boris’ face and he spouted an angry steam of Bulgarian. None of them knew what he said, but they all nodded in agreement. Maybe English didn’t have the words for such soul wrenching anguish.