The latest in local terrorism comes in the form of late middle aged men and women. This folks are recruited to strategically place themselves in open areas where many of us grab our coffee, have lunch or utilize Wi-Fi. Once there, they will pull out their cellular phones and begin casual, general conversation. The unsuspecting nearby population is then pulled into and held hostage by these "monsters" and forced to listen to details that were once reserved for private places, like a home or residence.
According to police, 53-year old Margaret Brundage of Marion held twenty people hostage at the local Panera Bread late Tuesday morning. Officials say Brundage hid herself, like natural human camouflage, in the corner of the popular breakfast and lunch place. Once the restaurant began to fill, she called her accomplice and began discussing general things like family, Thanksgiving preparations and the weather.
For the better part of two hours, Brundage would casually move closer to folks who looked as if they were trying to ignore her or who were simply just not listening. "It was awful. I'm still in shock", says 28-year old Brian Reader. He tells us, "I only wanted to get a refill of the dark roast coffee, but before I knew it I had to endure details regarding the family dog who refuses go outside to do it's business during the current cold spell. I can't even look at my own dog now. My family is heartbroken."
Many of the hostages say they tried to move, but claim Brundage just got louder and more detailed about nothing, nothing at all.
Security footage of Brundage just before Tuesday's hostage situation.
Police Detective Scott Ferris indicates that they have been tracking these terrorists for some time now. "The members of this organization are taught to be louder and more prominent when there are other things going on in the area. There doesn't even have to be background noise or any competing sound, just make sure that anyone within earshot is aware that you are in a conversation. A conversation about nothing important or pertinent. It's scary", he claims.
Another hostage, Farrah Swineheart, says that, "..many folks made snide remarks and gave her (Brundage) dirty looks, but that just seemed to make things worse. It egged her on. Her conversation just increased with further nonsensical details followed by a deafening laugh or cackle-like sound."
Detective Ferris says this growing organization has taken off in the last decade or so. "These folks, in years past, were forced to be stationary and unable to move from room-to-room or place-to-place, so their reach was limited. This was because they were tethered to a wall, or a device, by a cord. Folks knew how to avoid them. Now with a sort of grasp on the latest technology, lack of respect for others and an appetite for destruction...everyone is in danger. We must be vigilant."
As impossible as it seems, Tuesday's situation could have been much worse.
Panera Sandwich Engineer, Josh Townsend, says he first thought the worst, but realized folks just needed to be patient. "I was going to call my parents and say goodbye, but I noticed Mrs. Brundage was only using a flip phone, so it was only a matter of time, I thought, before her call was dropped", he states.
The call was apparently dropped, but before folks could react Brundage was able to swiftly hit redial and before they knew it she was talking again and louder than before about even more ridiculous things. Fortunately, it didn't last much longer before her service was disrupted again and she was able to get away cleanly like an average person, just disappearing into the crowd.
Officials agreed with Townsend's assumption. "What we have going for us is that this group isn't always the best at reading the fine print or paying attention to detail. The hostages survived and weren't held long for the basic fact that Mrs. Brundage was not aware that her Verizon contract included a "new phone every two years" provision. If she had been aware, and taken advantage, god only knows how long these folks would have suffered and the extent of useless everyday conversation they would have been subjected to", claims Detective Ferris.
Police say similar episodes in surrounding states have lasted much longer and we are only witnessing the tip of the iceberg unless something is done. This week's victims were lucky, but will still have to deal with that fact that it was two hours they will never get back again.
Homeland Security is in talks with Verizon and other cell phone carriers to hammer out ways to at least curb the non-violent violence being forced upon the general public.
In a statement released this morning, Homeland Security Public Affairs Director Howard Leavitt says, "We want to assist cell phone carriers in flooding the market with smart phones and devices with upgraded technology. This, we hope, will deter this group of thugs because the phones will just be harder for them to figure out. The more buttons and confusing icons we create, the better we can keep them at bay."
He goes on to say, "They (the carriers) have assisted thus far by making the contracts long and arduous to read. We just now need to work on the devices."
As for today, Marion is back to normal. Though tomorrow may still be in question.