Sunday, July 3, 2016
1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Gabriel
Name: Kimberly Gabriel
Genre: YA thriller
Title: FLASH MOB MURDERS
The air scrapes my throat and burns my lungs every time I inhale. It’s heavy and damp – unusually cold for this time of year. Not that anyone else here seems to mind. Instead, hundreds of people 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.
Ninety-five percent of these people are tourists. They come here from places like Plainfield, Iowa and Hartville, Ohio where I’m sure they lead normal lives. But here, they become hoarders of magnets and sweatshirts and shopping bags all plastered with the “New Chicago” emblem. They take pictures. They eat Dots ice cream. And they ignore the warnings about walking in groups fewer than four.
Even the ones who try to blend in have that same blithe expression. They amble along admiring Lake Michigan and the Rejuvenation mansions that line its beaches. They marvel over the city’s height and the way its buildings shimmer in the daylight even on a gray day like today. They disregard their immediate surroundings.
They are easy targets – all of 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 as if to read it.
A handful of middle-aged tourists approach the pier’s tip just a few feet from where I sit. Someone says something I don’t hear, and the whole group laughs louder than necessary like they want people to envy them.
For the most part, they are indistinguishable, like all the other tourists who have passed by. Only one sticks out – a woman with cropped blonde hair, princess-cut earrings, and some kind of designer messenger bag slung across her torso. While the rest of the group faces the water, she leans her back against the railing and scans the pier as if by habit. She laughs with the rest of them, but her attention remains focused on the crowd. She’s clearly the only local in the group.
Just as she turns toward me, I look down at my book. 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 it begins. 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.
More than once today, I’ve thought about my dad and what his last moments had been like.
I look for police officers, a SWAT team, for some kind – any kind of back up even though deep down I know they aren’t coming. When I called CPD to report what I’d discovered, the operator dismissed me like some delusional kid schitzing out over some random comment she found on the Internet. She took notes and promised to pass them on to a detective, which I know never happened. Every media spokesperson and city official have spent the last two years and seventeen days adamantly insisting the flash mob era ended with the attack on my dad. They’ve denied any implication that the mob has been simply lying dormant, waiting for the right moment to reemerge into society. A million times over, I would’ve rather used what I found to prevent today’s attack. Clearly, that hope is lost.
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.
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 sitting beside me on the bench. I don’t remember her sitting down. 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 as I count the locals. Three to my left. A captain, a first mate, and another crew member. They 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.
Twenty feet to my right, a teenage boy sits at the base of some monument. Eighteenish. Broad-shouldered. Hunched over where he sits. 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.