Sunday, July 10, 2016
1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Gabriel Rev 1
Name: Kimberly Gabriel
Genre: YA thriller
Title: FLASH MOB MURDERS
The damp air scrapes my throat and burns my lungs every time I inhale. It’s heavy and unusually cold for this time of year – not that anyone else here seems to mind. Instead, hundreds of tourists taunt me with their perfectly capable lungs as they flock about Navy Pier like it’s the only acceptable place to celebrate Labor Day Weekend.
Their impulses are flawed like that. They come from places like Plainfield, Iowa and Hartville, Ohio where I’m sure they lead normal lives. But here, tourists become hoarders of magnets and sweatshirts and shopping bags all plastered with the New Chicago emblem. Even the ones trying to blend in amble along with the same blithe expression, marveling over the city’s height and the way its buildings shimmer on a gray day like today. They eat their Dot’s ice cream and take pictures of the Rejuvenation mansions along Lake Michigan, while disregarding their immediate surroundings and ignoring the warnings about walking in groups fewer than four.
They’re easy marks. No wonder the mob targets them.
My breath hitches, and my chest tightens just enough to push the air back out of my lungs. I glance at my purse slumped beside me on the weathered slats of the bench. As tempted as I might be to reach for my inhaler, today is not the day to show that kind of weakness. I pull the sleeves of my sweater as far over my hands as they will go and pick up the Truman Capote book lying face down in my lap. I begin to reread the same paragraph I’ve read at least a dozen times in the four hours I’ve been here. But before I finish the second sentence, I’m already distracted wondering which of these tourists is about to die.
The lanky guy with the red stubble and flannel shirt, sporting a designer trucker’s hat that cost more than my entire outfit. Or the pudgy woman wearing pantyhose, tennis shoes, and a blue monochrome outfit. She’s easily the adult version of Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka after turning into a giant blueberry. The second I mark them as potential victims, I envision their beatings and how they will begin. A fist in the back of the neck, an uppercut punch in the gut. The first hit comes out of nowhere – a seemingly random attack from a guy in the crowd. Then within seconds, dozens of teenage mobbers materialize, swarming the victim like a colony of flesh eating ants – hitting and kicking to death.
Like they did to my dad.
I pinch the bridge of my nose, burying the images, and remind myself to stay vigilant.
I skim the crowds looking for police officers, a SWAT team, for some kind – any kind of back up. On a clear day, you can see the arch above the dock street entrance a half-mile away. Today’s too gray to make out much past the Ferris wheel in the middle of the pier. Still, I don’t see any kind of reinforcement. I’m not sure why I bother to look. I knew they weren’t coming the second I reported what I’d discovered to CPD. When I called them, I didn’t even need to tell them I was Lia Finch for the operator to dismiss me like a delusional high school kid schitzing out over some random comment she found on the Internet. She assured me she’d pass my note along to a detective before condescendingly remarking the Flash Mob Era is behind us. For the last two years, every city official has denied any implication the mob has been lying dormant, waiting for the right moment to reemerge into society. They act like the nickname “New Chicago” will make tourists forget the attacks, mostly aimed at them. It’s scary sometimes what people are able to convince themselves.
My breath hitches again, making the inhale shallow and unsatisfying. I close my eyes, relax my shoulders, and curse the weather for changing too quickly this year. I breathe slowly and methodically – a lame attempt to convince my body it really isn’t that hard.
A phone chimes next to me.
My head snaps toward a girl as she walks up and sits beside me on the bench. She’s nineteenish. Bronze skin. Copper colored hair slicked back in a tight ponytail. Her oversized scarf conceals her neck and half of her face. Sunglasses. Clearly a local. Likely hiding her identity. She could easily be a mobber. I jerk my glance away and take another deep breath.
I grab the pendant on my necklace, a tiny four-leaf clover imprinted on a silver disk, and start twisting the chain around my finger. To my left, a captain, a first mate, and another crew member stand at the end of carpeted ramp leading to a mini-cruise ship. The captain and first mate greet each tourist climbing aboard with a reassuring, artificial smile. The third crew member stands at ease, though he hardly looks it. His eyes shift around erratically, no doubt looking for any sign of disturbance.
There’s a hotdog vendor hamming it up for each customer with a fake Italian accent, while the popcorn vendor next to him takes money and scoops popcorn in one sinuous motion. His eyes never leave the crowd.
Not everyone is foolish. No matter how much time has passed, most locals remain cautious and skeptical. We count on it for protection. I briefly consider the crew member and the vendor know something like me before quickly dismissing it. If anyone else knew about the attack, they wouldn’t be here. Not without reason.
I pick up my phone and check its battery life before chucking it back in my bag. No one’s ever caught enough footage of an attack to incriminate anyone in it. But if someone were to record the start of an attack and everyone on the pier in the moments before it broke out, it would lead to convictions – maybe even the start of annihilating the mob’s existence. I know it would. With CPD acting so complacent, it’s the only choice I have.
My eyes flicker twenty feet to my right where a teenage boy sits hunched over at the base of some monument. Eighteenish. Broad-shouldered. He jams his hands inside the pockets of an oversized New Chicago hoodie like he wants to be mistaken for a tourist. Headphone wires disappear beneath his hood – a hood conveniently concealing his facial features. He’s been sitting like that for over an hour. Even though he seems to be alone, he fits the profile of the attackers. I can’t stare at him longer than a few seconds at a time without getting a piercing pang in my gut.
“Will you sign a petition to preserve our city’s parks?”
Again, my head snaps to my left to find a short pixie-like girl holding a clipboard tight against her chest addressing the copper-headed girl sitting next to me. Copperhead doesn’t look up. She’s wearing headphones. Conveniently. Something I wish I had right now.
By the time I bury my face in my book, Pixie Girl has already turned towards me.
“Do you like our city’s green space?”
I keep my head down cuing her to move along but Pixie Girl is undeterred.
“We’re collecting signatures today to stop the Rejuvenation Project from selling off the parks along Lake Michigan. The Lakefront Ordinance dates back to 1919 and has protected that land…”
I make the mistake of looking up…