I have 24 hours to edit one more chapters and also write one more chapter to Among Others before completing and sending in my first novel.
Among Others: Chapter 27…
It started slowly, then grew louder.
“Authorities say the terrorist Wretches in custody are talking,” the news announcer bellowed from the ever louder television speakers in Geissler’s old television. Collins and the old man turned away from each other and toward where the woman with knotted red hair pointed. As the camera panned back away from the reporter holding a brightly colored microphone to a more familiar sight to Collins and her two compatriots, “And as they do, we are expected to get further details about the female Wretch in the now infamous cell phone footage.”
“Where are you, Connie,” asked a voice off camera. But Collins did not need explanation as to Connie’s position in the city.
“I am standing outside the apartment complex of the Wretch from that viral video. It is widely believed she is in large part connected to the recent string of attacks on citizens throughout the city. Her attacks have sparked copycat attacks around the country.”
Connie looked away from her audience long enough to point to several police squad cars splayed awkwardly in the street in front of the complex main entrance like a brightly flashing tree skirt. At the tree’s trunk collected black uniformed presents tied up with shiny bows pointed inward in their hands.
“As you can see, it appears authorities are taking no chances with this dangerous criminal. I’m going to move out of frame so my viewers can get a better look at the raid about to take place.”
This raid held no immediate danger for the three fugitives watching on the television. However, disquiet bubbled up in Collins. Maybe it was the simple fact that what she called home for so many years was about to be violated, right before her eyes, on national television. Perhaps some part of her felt enough connection with her small studio apartment that she felt she too was about to be violated, again. Had she pulled her gaze away from the television propped up against the wall along the floor line of their new hideout, she would have seen the woman with knotted red hair covering her mouth with one hand while her other hand twisted and knotted a log of red hair nervously. The old man just sat. His eyes sunk further inward, his facial tissue more taught, but he looked at ease. He was home.
Just in frame on the left, the reporters fingers counted down from five. As if on cue by the reporter herself, when she produced a fist, the collective of black dressed presents flowed through the main entrance like water funneling through a bottleneck exit. The camera view began to jostle around as it followed the S.W.A.T. team through the now broken door. Connie was no longer in frame. Pursuit footage was now most important. There would be time available in mere seconds to frame the next scene with Connie in the foreground.
Up a flight of stairs, the point of view brought images of S.W.A.T team backs crouched over in a single black mass of mechanized practice. The black mass stopped. The camera continued to jostle, either for dramatic effect or to discover better viewpoints.
“Now,” whispered Connie breathlessly, “the moment we’ve all been waiting for.”
Collins heart raced. She left behind all she owned but the clothes she wore. The thin wooden door she had seen countless times over the course of the last decade was all that separated her possessions from disappearing. So helpless.
As the camera calmed, one S.W.A.T. member dropped his fist pulling an invisible heavy chain from somewhere above and off camera. A loud crash echoed. The thin wooden door exploded into splinters. Then the S.W.A.T. team sprayed into the tiny apartment. The camera followed.
Different voices echoed “Clear” one after another. The camera settled on Collins’ flat panel television turned to the same channel that employed the camera operator and Connie. Somehow her apartment felt foreign. It was familiar but exotic, well-known but strange. Connie shuffled back into frame, her lips pursed.
“The Wretch must have known we were coming,” she barked, “As you can see the television is set to our channel, Channel 5 News. We are actually watching ourselves live on the perpetrator’s own television.” Connie turned to the television screen, quickly fixed an out of place hair, turned back, and continued.
“It appears tonight,” she paused rather dramatically, “we are still not safe from this horribly dangerous mass murderer.”
I’m no mass murderer, you hateful Normal.
Suddenly, a figure appeared opposite Connie on the television screen. Before she or her camera operator reacted to the figure’s blocking of their dramatic shot, the figure bear hugged Connie. The long greasy haired but otherwise well dressed figure leaned into her neck slowly. On camera it appeared as a passionate embrace on the greasy haired figure’s part. The figure’s head tilted sideways and into the nape of Connie’s neck. Her piercing scream that sent her microphone to static intermittent with squealing let her audience know, her embrace was quite passionate, in deed, though not as she might have hoped.
Collins covered her mouth with both hands from sheer surprise and disgust. It is one thing to send the fat man and the young man with the now rebroken face off to kill in the name of equality and recognition. It is something else entirely to lay witness to such violence. The newscaster’s scream drowned into a gurgle. Even in the perfect lighting provided by her camera crew, her blood flowed down her mostly bare neck and upper chest in a deep midnight red. The camera kept perfect focus, perfectly still.
Half Connie’s neck was separated from her twitching body before properly armed authorities left the background. Joining the foreground, Connie and the figure feasting on her warm flesh, nearly a dozen uniformed officers pulled the assailant off her. The camera followed the tackle to the ground. Pushing in close to the figure’s face, a pristine black pistol entered from the left. The figure’s blood soaked lips, teeth and cheeks glistened. Its forehead blossomed into blackened red before the gunshot was heard by the audience at home. The old man wearing overalls, the woman with knotted red hair and Collins jerked back in unison.
The camera refocused on the newscaster now bleeding out from her jugular. Her fingers curled and twitched near her gaping wound. She gasped for air like a fish out of water. A strand of blood and bile trickled down from the corner of her mouth. Collins remembered the young girl raped and beaten to death beside her months before. She knew what happened next. Without a tender hand or caring soul to console her, the newscaster sucked in one last breath but did not exhale. The blood pumping out her throat ceased.
It was not until this point that the screen cut away back to the quiet, stunned news studio. The two newscasters now in view were frozen, their mouths agape. No twitching. No tears. Several barely audible clicks came from off camera. Then the screen went to a full screen version of the news program’s logo and remained silent. Nobody in the apartment moved for some time.
The old man wearing overalls was first to break the ice by sitting back down cupping his face in his hands. Collins sat on the couch opposite the crying woman with knotted red hair.