The Lockdown's Endby
The first thing Ian remembered hearing was the bangs. Hearing a bang was nothing out of the ordinary in a high school; it could have been any number of things. A locker slamming, a construction worker dropping a piece of pipe, a kid getting shoved into the wall by someone stronger than him, the list was endless and after three years here he had learned to ignore all outside noise. He glanced at the library door and saw nothing wrong, then returned to work.
He was sitting in the school library buried in a particularly difficult chemistry problem, with books, charts, and papers strewn across the desk. He had chosen a seat in the private study area, where the desks were surrounded by three wooden walls that prevented anyone from seeing what you were doing. Although his back was exposed to the aisle, it was one of the few places in the building where a student could have any privacy. It was his lunch period, but he had no desire to be in the cafeteria. Days of sitting alone waiting in vain for someone he recognized to come over to his table were how he had started the year, and he had eventually given up. He knew it looked weird to be sitting alone, enclosed in a private desk, while everyone else was having fun with their friends. But Ian didn’t care; the days when the topics most students talked about during their free time had meant anything to him were long gone.
He looked back down at the chemistry sheet. The problem was ridiculously hard, which meant that most people in his class probably wouldn’t do it. At least he wouldn’t be singled out, and in some classes that was all that mattered. Still, he had nothing better to do and the problem offered the opportunity to kill some time.
Bang again, a little louder this time. A few other people looked over to the hallway and the buzz of voices softened a little. But when nothing happened, they turned back to their friends and the noise rose again. For a second he thought he saw a person run by outside. Maybe some kid was getting beat up. Ian sighed in frustration. That had broken his concentration, and when he turned back to the desk he had lost his train of thought completely. He tried to piece together the possible answer he had been pondering before, but nothing came.
Fuck this. My average is a 93 and missing one question won’t matter.
He shoved the piles of paper back into his binder and squeezed it into his overstuffed backpack. For a second it looked as though he wouldn’t be able to get it back inside, which was never good. Any exposed book he carried would most likely get wrenched from his hands and thrown into the nearest garbage can, he knew because it had happened to him before. It could be worse, of course. He’d seen people thrown into garbage cans in this school, and knew that the kind of kid who spends his lunch period working on a chemistry problem was the ideal target for something like that. That was why he always looked around carefully before entering a hallway, like a meerkat emerging from its hole. He also carried a small Swiss Army knife in the pocket of his jeans. He had no desire to hurt anyone, but if worse came to worse it might scare them enough that they would leave him alone.
Heaving his pack up onto the desk, he leaned back and closed his eyes. The bell would ring any second now, and he’d have to get up and make the same trip to the next class that he made every day. They were his last few seconds to rest, and he was going to use them.
Another bang from the hallway, much louder this time. Those construction guys must be feeling a little off their game today, dropping pipes every ten seconds. Over at the checkout desk, one of the librarians rolled her eyes. Ian tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, but it was clear that was not going to happen. Then he heard the hinges squeak as the door of the library opened.
Some people say time slows down during a car accident. Psychologists say that’s bullshit. Having done substantial research on the subject out of curiosity, Ian had learned that the section of the brain called the amygdala is activated when faced with a dangerous or traumatic event, and immediately pulls up any memories related to what’s going on. The sudden influx of memory and thought meant to better prepare you for what’s coming creates the illusion of the world slowing down, so that everything seems to creep by, from the blaze of light from the other car’s high beams to the crack of the windshield to the pop of the airbags and you can see them all happen one by one. Ian didn’t know what related memories his brain could possibly unearth for this, but as his eyes refocused to see across the room and the dark outlines of the two boys sharpened, he was able to look over them for what seemed like forever, taking in every last detail; the sunglasses, the camouflage jackets, the army boots, and the guns they held pointed at the cluster of people gathered at the nearest table.
Every muscle in his body froze. The two kids stood there silently for a moment, they looked like they might be scanning the library but he couldn’t see past the sunglasses. For all he knew, maybe they were looking straight at him. From somewhere that seemed very far away a part of his brain was telling him to duck, get down, you idiot, what good is slowing down your perception of time if you’re not going to do anything with it, but the entire world was static. Maybe nobody else had noticed.
The boy on the left raised a shotgun and the spell broke. Someone in the library screamed and he fired directly into the crowd, sending up a shower of wood splinters that mixed in the air with the blood of the girl sitting across the table. Her chair teetered on the back legs, and she fell over and went sprawling on the floor. The one scream spread through the library like a fire in a pool of gasoline and soon nothing could be heard but piercing shrieks and the thunder of footsteps. Ian suddenly realized he had control of his body once again and dove for the floor, lashing out with his legs to kick the chair out of the way as he crawled under the desk.
Most people ran for the back door. It was smaller than the double door in the front, and there was no way they could possibly all fit through. They gathered around in terror, pushing and shoving each other aside trying desperately to fit through one by one. When the door was pushed open, the siren installed to keep students from escaping was triggered and the fire alarm’s earsplitting tone burst from the speakers. The room was filled now with the chaotic fog of noise.
Instead of legs, the private study desks were supported by heavy wooden boards to keep people’s feet separate, and from his hiding place Ian was out of the shooters’ line of sight. He peered out from underneath unable to believe this was happening, and saw the small crowd panicking at the door. People were running outside as fast as they could, but at least ten were still backed up inside, pushed together shoulder to shoulder and clawing at those in front. He realized with a sick feeling what was about to happen.
A burst of gunfire exploded from the far side of the library, and Ian saw the two boys holding their weapons at the hip, not even bothering to aim because they didn’t need to. They simply pointed the guns in the general direction of the door, and watched them all fall down.
He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to block out the sound of the screams that got louder and louder, then suddenly stopped. He wrapped his arms around his knees pressed himself against the wooden wall as if he could become a part of it. When he finally opened his eyes, there was a boy lying next to him staring blankly at the ceiling. At first he thought he might be in shock, but then he saw the ragged hole torn in his chest and knew that wasn’t the case. He had assumed that in a situation like this he’d be panicking, unable to think rationally or coherently. But when he looked at the boy lying there and watched the red stain on his t-shirt slowly grow, he didn’t feel much of anything. He would have been ashamed of this, but he couldn’t feel that either. All he could think of was to stay quiet, and stay hidden.
He leaned towards the open air outside the desk, and listened. The screams had died down, all he could hear was the siren blaring and the whimpers of a few people who had managed to take cover like he had. He leaned over slightly and saw the two boys out of the corner of his eye. They were reloading their weapons and talking to each other. It was hard to hear over the siren, but he listened hard and could make out some of it.
“That was fucking sweet,” the boy with the shotgun was saying, “did you see that one guy, his head just exploded. That was some crazy shit right there.”
The other one laughed. “Yeah. I almost feel bad for these stupid fucks.”
“Hey, you want to finish up in here? There’s a few teachers I’d like to visit upstairs.”
“Yeah alright, I’ll meet you over by the cafeteria when the cops show up.”
“Right, see you later.” He clicked the last shell into the shotgun and pumped it. Then he gave the other boy an affectionate punch on the shoulder and left the library. His friend watched him leave, but when the door had slammed shut he turned around and smiled at the people huddled under the tables and desks.
“Hey you all, remember me?”
He strode confidently over to the computer table and craned his neck over the row of monitors to see underneath. Ian couldn’t see over to that part of the room without exposing himself, but he heard a scream and knew there had to be someone hiding there. He flinched at the pop of the gun, and there was a thud as something, maybe a body, hit the ground.
“Oh, I’m sorry, were you doing your homework you little bitch? Sorry about that.”
He kept walking, over toward the bookshelves. Ian could see him again, and drew back farther under the desk to make sure he was as hidden as possible. But he might have been seen already. His skin felt cold, but sweat was appearing on his forehead. The boy walked along the edge of the shelves, occasionally firing into the aisles at unseen targets. Every shot sent pain through Ian’s ears, but he didn’t move a muscle.
As he reached the last aisle, a boy jumped up and made a run towards the door. The shooter whirled around and pumped four bullets in his direction, and the boy toppled to the ground only ten feet from the door.
“You fucker, you thought you could get away? After all the shit you did to me you thought you could escape justice, you pieces of shit? Fuck you!”
Ian heard the metallic clatter of an empty magazine hit the tile floor. He was reloading, but nobody moved. Nobody jumped up and charged him or tried to run, they all just stayed hidden, praying that they wouldn’t be noticed.
The boy finished reloading and looked around the library. It was quiet now; even the siren seemed dull and far away. He left the bookshelves and started walking towards the private desks. Ian’s throat went dry; he was coming. Trying not to make any noise or even breathe, he inched backwards to try and get behind the desk and stay out of sight. The loud footsteps of the heavy black combat boots on the linoleum floor were getting louder.
“Anybody back there? Let’s see.”
There was a blast, and a small circle of wood was blown away inches from Ian’s head. He clenched his jaw to stifle a yell as splinters showered his face, and gently placed his shaking hands on the ground and got ready to crawl. Any second he would look up and see the boy’s face leaning over the top of the desk, then maybe moment or two until the bullet came. The heavy footsteps became so loud they filled his ears, until he could hear nothing else.
And then they stopped. Ian looked over his shoulder and felt like all the energy left in his body had been drained out like blood. Two legs in army fatigues and black combat boots were behind the desk, so close that Ian could have reached out and touched them. The tears in his eyes blurred his eyes, but he could make out every detail. His mind was working fast but he felt like he had no control over it; it looked around searching for somewhere to run, or somewhere else to hide, but he knew it was too late.
He heard the boy playfully clicking the safety on and off, and tried to calm his ragged breathing. He had tried to picture his death before, and he had imagined everything from a heroic last stand like in the movies to a peaceful sleep surrounded by family. It had never looked like this, cowering under a desk waiting for a shot in the head to end his torment. This was not how he wanted to die.
His hand slid down to his pocket, and almost without thinking he wrapped his fingers around the knife and silently pulled it out. His hands were shaking so much that unfolding the blade was almost impossible, and just when he thought it was open the little metal sliver snapped back inside and he felt the panic rising.
The floor creaked, and the two feet walked off to the left, out of his line of sight. The boy was walking around the line of desks, trying to trap anyone who might be hiding there in the aisle. Ian ducked back under the desk and saw the boy’s back moving away. If he was careful, he might be able to make it to the exit before he had time to aim. He got up onto the balls of his feet and tensed up, trying to focus on nothing but the door. Not the shooter, not the pile of blood-soaked bodies lying around it, just the door.
“BITCH! Get the fuck back here!”
Ian heard the angry shout and almost fell over backwards under the desk. But then he realized it had not been directed at him. A girl had started running first, out from behind a newspaper rack on the far side of the library. He saw her as nothing but a pink blur rushing across the wall, but it wasn’t fast enough. The boy whirled around so fast that his coat blew up into the air, and he let off three shots in her direction. Two went wild, shattering the screen of a TV sending sparks flying into the air. But Ian knew from the sudden scream of pain that the third had hit home. She hit the floor and knocked over a chair, and rushed behind the checkout desk on all fours.
Ian heard the boy laughing, and something in his head told him this was the time to move. One more attempt to dig his fingernail into the little groove, and the knife flipped out and stayed there. He stood up slowly, hearing his knees pop and praying that the boy wouldn’t hear. With the knife held out in front of him, he began walking towards the boy’s back. He had the gun raised to his shoulder and was leaning over, trying to see where the girl had gone. Ian’s head was clearer now, and he could hear the siren again. It sounded like the most beautiful thing in the world now, because his footsteps were completely drowned out.
The boy lowered the gun and let the magazine drop into his hand. Confirming that there were still enough rounds left inside, he slapped it back inside and shouldered the weapon again. Ian realized what this meant; he was going to finish the girl off. And if he started walking away, he might notice the kid behind him with the knife.
“Hey bitch, ready or not, here I come!”
Ian didn’t realize it at the time, but for the next twenty seconds he was holding his breath. That strange slowed-down time effect was happening again, but he barely noticed that either. Taking one last step forward, he reached both arms around the boy’s head and with one hand grabbed his lower jaw, and with the other sent the tiny stainless steel blade plunging into his throat. He could feel the skin give way under the point, and the boy’s scream dissolved into a gurgle as a torrent of blood, unlike anything Ian had believed to be possible sprayed out into the air. Ian couldn’t think, he just held onto the boy’s jaw like a vise and kept the knife planted firmly inside as life drained from the kid in his arms.
It felt as though hours had passed, but it took less than a minute before the boy’s desperate contortions weakened and died. His flailing arms quivered, and then hung still by his sides. Ian was suddenly aware of the massive weight he was holding up. Deadweight. He’d never understood that term until now.
He let go of the boy’s head, and his body slumped to the floor. He landed on his back, and Ian could see the knife handle still protruding from his neck. Everything; his face, his shirt, his sunglasses, was spattered with blood. A pool just like the one from the boy by the desk was gathering on the tile floor below.
Ian breathed again and stood there staring down at the body. A few others who had hidden were started to emerge, slowly peeking out from behind chairs, computers, and copy machines. He heard crying in the background, and saw a girl kneeling over one of the bodies lying by the door. It didn’t affect him much, at that moment nothing did.
“Is he dead?”
The voice startled him out of shock, and he saw a freshmen boy looking up at him from the corner. His shirt was damp with sweat and he still hadn’t come out of his hiding place. Ian was about to reassure him when he remembered. He couldn’t stand here staring; there was still another shooter somewhere. For all he knew, he had decided to come back to the library.
Ian reached down and pulled the gun from the boy’s hands. The last time he had fired a gun was at a range with a few of his friends the previous year, and he had done relatively well. But it had been a long time, and a part of him was still feeling doubt. He looked the gun over; it was a Hi-Point 995, a cheap carbine that fired nine-millimeter pistol rounds. He recognized it from a sporting goods magazine he’d read once; it was inexpensive but reliable.
With the gun at his shoulder, he turned around and faced the library. A small group had gathered behind him, faces gazing at him in shock.
“Listen to me. I’m going to kill the other one, get out of here right now. Use the back door. The police should be here soon. Just get the hell out of here right now.”
Without waiting for a response, he ran to the main door the shooters had come in through. Then he paused, taking a look behind the checkout desk. The girl was still there, and drew back when she saw the gun. He lowered it quickly and raised his hands.
“No wait, it’s okay! I’m not going to hurt you. He’s dead, okay?
She hesitated, but didn’t try to hide. He saw blood on the floor, and remembered she had been shot. There was a large dark stain near her thigh, and he could tell from the look in her eyes that she was still in pain.
“Are you hurt bad?”
She looked like she was trying to speak but nothing came out.
“Look, there’s no time. I need to know if you’re hurt.”
She took a breath and looked at her leg.
“I’ll be alright” she answered, but her voice sounded weak.
“Just get out of here. Hey, someone help her walk!” He waited until a few people headed over towards the desk, then shoved open the door and left the library.
Ian had walked through these hallways more times than he could remember. He had done it so many times that he could have done it with his eyes closed, and still remembered every detail. But now the familiar monotony of his school’s corridors had been twisted into something terrifying, and it was like being in an entirely different place. Despite the urgency of what he had to do, he couldn’t help but to stare.
Every window of the nearest classroom was shattered and fragments of glass were scattered all across the floor. The bulletproof window of the main office was still standing, but it was dotted with buckshot and covered in spider web cracks. The siren was still on, and without the sound-absorbing walls of the library it echoed so loudly that his ears hurt. The warning lights beneath the alarms were flashing like blinding fireworks, and every time he blinked the scene remained before his eyes. Down the hallway to right, he saw at least three people running, bent over with their heads down. Then they were gone, and Ian was standing alone.
He reminded himself that there wasn’t time for this. Gathering his thoughts, he tried to determine what to do next. The other boy had talked about going upstairs, and since his school only had three wings upstairs he knew where that meant. But that had been minutes ago, and there was no way to be sure that he hadn’t finished his rampage upstairs and came back down. Ian felt panic rising in his chest again; the shooter could be anywhere. He could be at the cafeteria, he could be in the gym, or he could be right around the corner about to see his friend’s gun in the hands of one of their targets. He took a breath to calm himself, and realized he needed to get away from there. In the open space of the library’s lobby, he’d be an easy target. The only thing to do that made sense was to head upstairs and hope that the boy was still there.
He ran across the lobby to one of the hallways that branched out, and flattened himself against the wall. Before moving on, he lined up the sights of the gun so that it was pointed directly in front of him, and he could shoot whatever appeared without bothering to aim. Then carefully, he rounded the corner and started down the hallway. It was darker here without the lobby’s skylights letting in the sun, and the only light came from the flash of the emergency strobes and the reflection of the exit signs’ red glow on the floor. Many of the fluorescent lights had been shot out. At least he knew the shooter had been here.
Even with the siren, he could hear his footsteps and tried to keep quiet. Walking through this hallway was unlike anything he had ever experienced before; he was forced to think in ways he never imagined he would have to. All his life doors had been doors, nothing more. Now they were shadowy places where an enemy could jump out at any moment, and as he looked ahead he found himself planning every step, every breath, every movement of his hands to stay as silent as possible before he even got there. When he realized the clap of rubber on tile would never let him be quiet while still moving fast, he kicked off his shoes and darted to the next water fountain in socks. There was still glass on the floor and it cut into his feet, but with the adrenaline running through his body it felt like nothing but a tiny pinch. There may have been other students hiding in the classrooms lining the hall, but he had no time to check. It would be futile anyway; school lockdown procedure was to seal every door and not let anyone in until the announcement came to open up.
Finally he reached the stairs, and stopped to catch his breath. There was a window here, and as he looked out his face was bathed in the pulsing red and blue of police lights. Countless black-uniformed people who looked smaller than ants were milling around in the parking lot, but the glass was still intact and he couldn’t hear their voices, or anything from the outside.
For a moment, he hesitated. The police had surrounded the building, and their lights were like a beacon of safety calling him away from the nightmare inside. All he had to do was go about a fifty feet down the hallway to the door, run outside, and it would be over. It was a tantalizing possibility. He had killed one of the shooters, taken his weapon, and saved God knows how many lives in the library. It was time for the police to pick up their end.
The distinctive boom of a shotgun came from upstairs, reverberating through the hallway for several seconds after. It sounded so close that Ian instinctively ducked, and all thoughts of escape vanished from his mind. If the police were on top of things, then that wouldn’t have happened. Entire classrooms could be slaughtered before they finally took control. Ian started up the stairs, holding the carbine pointed directly upward with one hand and gripping the railing with the other. Suddenly he realized how close he had just come to death and felt a chill run over his body. He had been holding the gun below the windowsill while he was looking at the police; if it had been only a few inches higher they could have shot him through the window upon seeing it. He realized he had to get upstairs before the police came inside. If they saw him holding the gun, he would be riddled with bullets before he could even put his hands in the air.
At the top of the stairs, he extended the barrel around the corner before entering. Another boom shook the window, and he could tell it was close. The doors of five classrooms were visible from where he was, and two of them were open. He crept up to the first one and looked inside. Two bodies were lying draped over desks, a young blonde boy and an older woman who must have been the teacher. Blood was dripping onto the floor and they weren’t moving. But even when facing that horror, he saw that the window was open and nobody else was insight. There wasn’t even any other blood. The vast majority of the people holed up here must have gone out through the window, and the thought gave him hope.
He focused on the second open door. Light was pouring through onto the hallway floor, but shadows flickered across the beam from unseen movement within. There was noise too; voices distorted by the echo off the tiles. Then a third shot came from inside, so loud it left a ringing in his ears, and there was no more doubt. Screams followed the blast, and Ian heard the clatter of something heavy, maybe a desk falling over on its side. He placed each foot forward agonizingly slowly, until his right eye could see into the room.
There were about twenty students inside, all huddled up against the walls. The bloody, broken body of an old man was lying crumpled below the chalkboard and the boy with the camouflage jacket and sunglasses he Ian had seen in the library was standing in the middle of the room, holding the shotgun at waist height and surveying the terrified people around him. A thin wisp of smoke was curling out of the barrel, and he casually blew it away.
“Your fucking teacher’s dead, how do you like that? I just want you all to know you asked for this. Everything you did to me is coming back and biting you in the fucking ass. But I don’t have much ammo left, and I’ve got to save that last shell for me. So I can’t kill all of you; who should I let live?”
He turned and brandished the shotgun at three boys kneeling under a desk, and they shrank back in terror. He laughed and twirled the gun on his finger.
“Or maybe some of you would like to sacrifice yourselves to save everyone else. How does that sound?”
He started pacing in a circle around the room, tossing the gun from hand to hand. When he reached the computer table, he stopped and bent over. There was a boy underneath, and Ian heard him yell as he was dragged out onto the floor by his shirt collar. As he lay on his back holding his hands up as if they could shield him, the boy touched the muzzle of the gun to his forehead.
“How about you? You want to be a hero, don’t you? Of course you do. Well here it comes.”
His finger tightened on the trigger, and in that instant a movement from the door caught his eye. He turned away from the sobbing boy on the floor and brought his gun up into both hands again. For a fraction of a second he and Ian looked each other straight in the eye.
Then Ian stepped forward into the doorway with the carbine at his shoulder, and saw the shooter’s torso focused in the center of the sights, perfectly lined up. Everything was the way it should be, and all he had to do was pull the trigger.
The gun rattled his teeth and shook his entire body, but he kept firing at point blank range into the boy standing in front of him. His shotgun went off one last time as he crumpled to the floor, and the chalkboard was split in two by the blast. The boy’s body was jerked back and forth in the air, and splashes blood flew out from behind and stained the wall a deep crimson. Ian kept firing with tears in his eyes, walking forward into the classroom as the deafening pops went off again and again, until finally he heard nothing but a click and all seven rounds were lodged deep in dead boy’s chest.
Ian stood there over the body, his eyes so wet he could barely see it. He felt the gun slip from his hands and heard it hit the floor, but it sounded like it came from miles away. Suddenly, a wave of fatigue broke over him as if the impossibility of what he had just done had finally caught up to him, and he leaned against the wall for support. Then he sat down and tipped his head back, staring up at the fluorescent lights and hugging his knees.
Something touched his shoulder and he snapped his head back up, thinking for a moment that somehow the shooter wasn’t dead, that he had come back to finish the job. But there was a group of boys and girls sitting around him, looking at him with a mixture of incredulity and concern. Their faces were blurry, but he recognized some of them from class. The boy who had almost been executed moved up and took his hand.
Ian heard that and he felt like his body had melted; he hugged the boy and so did everybody else. His face was buried in his shoulder crying freely now, and they all sat there on the bloodstained floor holding each other close and crying until finally the police came in.
The scene outside the school wasn’t real, Ian thought. It was like something from the movies, with every police officer in the town shouting orders into radios or pulling up in cars with the sirens screaming. SWAT teams stood at every doorway, waiting for each new group of students to run out with their hands on top of their heads and guiding them behind the endless line of yellow tape. Across the street a few men were holding back a crowd of parents demanding to see their kids, and others kept the reporters out of the way. In the sky overhead at least three helicopters buzzed about, and he couldn’t tell whether they were from the news or the police.
Everything seemed like a dream, and he felt the same disorientation as if he had just been abruptly woken up. He was sitting on a bench with an itchy gray emergency blanket draped over his shoulders, and a paramedic was examining the cuts on his feet from walking over so much broken glass. He knew he should feel relieved, or even proud of what he’d done, but right now it was too much to deal with all at once. The reporters had tried to talk to him earlier, but the ambulance crew had ushered him away. He felt grateful towards them; he’d think about all that when the time came. Not right now.
The medic pulled a piece of glass from his foot and he cringed.
“Sorry kid, I’ve got to get these out before they get infected.” He looked genuinely sorry, and Ian nodded to let him know it was okay. Pain didn’t seem like that big of a problem right now.
“Look kid, I heard about what you did in there. You should be very proud of yourself; you saved a lot of kids today.”
Whatever. He was too tired to be proud.
A student walked up to the bench. She had a splint on her leg, and was using crutches. He recognized her as the girl from the library who had hid behind the checkout desk.
“Hey, do you mind if I sit here?” She sounded awkward and uncertain, and he quickly shifted to the side to give her some room. She leaned the crutches against the armrest and the medic helped ease her in a seat. She looked at him, but for a moment she said nothing. That didn’t surprise him; he couldn’t imagine what a person should say after something like that.
“They said I shouldn’t move around, but I just wanted to see you before they took me to the hospital, so I could make sure you were okay.”
“I’m fine, you shouldn’t have done that with your leg the way it is.”
“Well, I wanted to say thank you. You saved my life in there. You saved everyone’s life.”
He was about to protest, to say he had just tried to protect himself, that he wasn’t a hero, but his voice failed him. He looked her in the eye and tried to think of what would be the right thing to say, but ended up holding her hand with her head on his shoulder, gripping her hand tight like she was the only thing anchoring him in the real world. She was still saying something, maybe thanking him, but it didn’t matter anymore. He knew what she meant, and didn’t need to hear it.
Two policemen walked out from behind the nearby ambulance and came toward them. A few minutes ago he felt faint at the thought of everything that was coming, all the things they would talk to him about, how they would put his face on every newspaper and have him appear on every news program, but right now, on the bench beside this girl he had never even met before with her arm wrapped around his shoulder, he felt like he might be ready. The two officers approached the bench and looked down at him.
“Ian Rayner?” one of them asked.
The other man reached down and grabbed Ian’s arm, a bit more roughly than he had expected.
“You’d better come with us.”
Ian got to his feet, and the first officer pulled out a pair of handcuffs. He stared at the man, not understanding what was going on. The two policemen took him by the arms and began pulling him towards a squad car parked by the curb.
“We’ve got witnesses that say you had a knife on school property. You’re coming downtown to answer a few questions. You have the right to remain silent.”
5 May 2008