The Beginning of September
‘Skinny latte,’ Jake said, barely a second before he heard the explosion. He turned to see where it had come from, and a second blast blew him off his feet. He was in Starbucks, Leicester Square. The plate-glass windows shattered, people screamed, parts of the ceiling caved in, and jagged, lumps of timber and brick flew through the air. Tables and chairs smashed into each other and lay broken and upended. The injured moaned, and cried out. Bodies were everywhere. Jake ended up facedown on the floor, pinned against the serving counter where the force from the blast had left him.
He was brought to consciousness, seconds later, by the sound of ambulance sirens and the wailing of the police cars. He lay still, with his eyes closed, and waited for a surge of pain. When it didn’t come, he opened first one eye, then the other, and flicked dust and debris from his eyelids. He gasped. He could make out the blurred outline of people moving slowly, but with purpose, through the swirling detritus that filled the air. Now and again, they’d stop and lean down, and tend to a person who lay on the floor. Jake became aware of sounds he hadn’t heard before. After a bit, he realised the sounds were of people in pain and distress. Some were yelling for help, some were screaming in agony, some just crying from shock, and some, he guessed, were dying.
He thought immediately about Jodie. ‘Oh my God,’ he shouted. ‘I must find her.’ He struggled to his feet, and started to weave his way through the carnage and destruction that lay before him. He started to tremble and shake, and felt sick. He stopped and stood still, and stared into space.
Should I stay and help? he wondered, and then thought again about Jodie. He’d been due to meet her. A medic, trying to reach someone lying nearby, pushed him to one side. Other paramedics with stretchers passed in front of him, stepping carefully around and over inert bodies.