Have you ever heard your own heart in your ears, pounding away at your brain as if Thor was trying to create thunder from your own body? Have you had those moments where the world around you is drowned our by your own internal machinations, punching and thudding, drums deep and foreboding within your skeleton? I had barely heard the voices owner scurry away back into the house as the door was left ajar.
Casey sprang to life, knocking me out of her way; she slammed her slender frame into the open door and burst into the hallway looking to see where our shuffling escapee was headed. To see she was momentarily too late she stood in a narrow hallway, three feet from the foot of a set of steep narrow oak stairs leading upwards to the first floor. The wooden floor led into darkness, leading to a large rectangular silhouette in short murky distance. Just past the stairs lay a doorway with a dull amber seeping from underneath, steady light from a room closed from view. I distinctly remember the stench of bleach mingling with a subtle pine cleaner. The scent wasn’t overpowering, however it was distinct, it was memorable.
Alex came up behind me, touching me lightly on the shoulder, I moved stealthily into the house and toward the lit room behind the closed door. I held the gun limply by my side, feeling it’s alien weight again. I envisioned the myriad crime drama, as the police extend their arms, rapidly moving the gun toward all corners of the room. I am a rookie, I am untrained. I am not sure whether I should be moving like a Hollywood hero, or whether I should keep my gun limply bouncing from my thigh. I opened the door and was enveloped with a deep yellow light blasting from a warm room. Before my eyes adjusted I heard Casey gasp behind me. Alex breathed a heavy sigh on my neck, and then I saw the four people in the room.
Bernstein was sat in an overlarge leather sofa, the opposite end of a large room. By the right arm of his large comfortable scarlet dressing gown a long cigarette lay burning in a bulky glass ashtray, his left arm rubbing his white ragged stubble. His eyes alight with fear.
Seated on the coffee table, his left arm pushing down on to his knee leaning all his weight upon it sat Rob. Alex’s father. My father and Casey’s father stood either side of him. All three were wearing jeans and white t-shirts. I looked with soaring relief at him, my Dad. Simon. There was a stand-off of silence, interrupted only by a thudding metronome created by a large grandfather clock. A large brass pendulum swinging to hypnotise a silent room with its unbiased beat, remained resolute. Nothing affected its steady rhythm, our adrenaline, our thudding chests, our racing minds, and the clock remained impervious and loud amid the thick silence. My eyes met my fathers, his eyes burning and bright, searching into mine, angry, afraid, sensitive, and understanding. A whirlpool of festering emotion.
“Dad what are you doing here?” It was Casey who cut the monotone with a shrill incredulous question. It was so sudden we all jumped; reflexively I raised my gun arm, sweeping the room in a frightened arc.
“Think you should put that gun down boy, it’s a man’s weapons. Lewis hasn’t sent any men, just the brainwashed children of his flock.” Bernstein’s sandpaper voice grated acidly as he spoke. A hint of pomposity, smatterings of condescension, and a rich aroma of fear decorated his aging timbre.
“Bernstein I think you should shut up.” Rob hissed through his teeth as his eyes burned into Alex. I caught Alex shifting his weight awkwardly in the corner of my eye. I moved my gun around and leveled it at Bernstein. A sickening flicker of power and trepidation rushed through me, I was not to be belittled, I had a gun, and although I didn’t want to use it, I wanted the satisfaction of seeing Bernstein afraid. The abrupt shuffle back into his seat and the widening eyes gave me the release I needed. I felt a little smile creep across my face, and at a quick glance I am sure I saw a faint glimmer of a grin on my father’s otherwise impassive face.
“You enjoying yourself son?” My Dad moved forward placing himself between the gun and the target. “Put it down. You are better than this.”
“Cameron don’t listen to him. Lewis sent us here, we cannot fail him on our first mission?” Casey almost screamed at me.
“Stay quiet young lady.” Mark, Casey’s father, broke his own feverish silence.
“No Dad you don’t understand.”
“I understand as a Police Officer that I will be witness to a crime Casey, and you’d be foolish if you thought you could get away with it because we’re under DOF jurisdiction. You do know that any crime linked to the governance of the constituency will be investigated by National Squad don’t you. Tell me if you honestly think Lewis will allow that to happen?” Mark was a bear of a man, with a roar of a voice. Even speaking softly he could overpower any other man. His manner always serious, his stance always impressive, his tone always sharp and genuine. Mark would was the unflappable epitome of a police officer, and luckily for us in this moment, his loyalty lay with the law and not the party who gave him his orders.
“No, but if we walk away he’ll kill us.” Casey shrieked this time. I could hear in her voice exactly everything I had always suspected of courage, it is never evident in the absence of fear. It is always evident in spite of fear. Casey would kill for fear, was driven by fear, and would do anything because of her fear. She was no killer, it was not natural in her, it was only because of fear that should would have me pull the trigger. I almost felt sorry for the soppy bitch.
“We won’t let him Casey. Cameron called me, and the three of us came straight around. We can help you.” My Dad never took his eyes from the gun in my hand. He was listening to everything around him, but completely focused on my hand. The craziest things run through you head, I remember at that moment looking at my father’s face remembering what Miss Stanton, my psychology teacher, telling me about weapon focus and eye-witness testimony. Crazy thoughts huh.
“You duplicitous bastard, you phoned your Dad? You went behind Lewis’ back and called a History Teacher? Duplicitous bastard.” Casey screamed at me.
“Oh dear sounds like the young whippet has been learning new words. Tell me, does being able to pronounce such a long word make you feel more intelligent? Or is that the effect of listening to Lewis droning on?” Bernstein mused from behind my father. Rob growled a low inaudible warning at the old man.
“Cameron put the gun down.” My Dad said softly.
“Cameron he’ll kill us. Lewis will kill us.” Casey squealed again.
“Cameron I can help you all. We have a plan, we can get you out of this and before Lewis knows he has been duped it will be far too late for him to do anything about it.” My Dad’s voice began to sound like he was pleading.
Bernstein rose from his seat and stepped between my Dad and the gun. As he reached to take the weapon from me I did the only thing I could think of from the movies, I chambered a round. Bernstein stopped suddenly wary before he spoke.
“My life is more important to me than a radio show. I can disappear for a period and stay away from the debate young man. You can say you scared me into fleeing. All Lewis cares about is that the opposition is removed. I can remove myself. Just put the gun down son.” The patronising tone had vanished, the silky smooth talk of a man used to communicating and discussing had replaced it. I motioned him backwards with a flick of the gun, but Bernstein remained motionless, staring at the weapon the way my father had.
“Cameron put the weapon down, you know your Dad isn’t stupid, my Dad isn’t stupid and Casey’s Dad is a smart pig who understands the law. Don’t put our fathers in this position.” Alex had never sounded so nervous, his voice wavering with a fearful vibrato. The strongest friend I had was afraid, one of my smartest friends was afraid, and the deepest part of my psyche rang a shrill alarm in the back of my head. I started to lower the weapon in my hand.
“Good Cameron put it on the table let mark take it.” I began to lean toward the table slowly the weapon now just in the ends of my fingertips as my father gently directed me to lower the weapon. I had never seen Casey move so fast, she ran from behind me, and grabbed the weapon from my hand. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion, momentarily she juggled with the gun trying to position it in her hands before raising the gun and squeezing the trigger repeatedly. All men dived in different directions, the smell of burning flooded my nostrils. Casey squawked as the recoil took the weapon into her face letting the final shot thud crash harmlessly into the ceiling above her, but ultimately breaking her nose with a shotgun crack noise all its own. Blood spurted from her face onto the shaggy cream rug beneath the coffee table.
The pendulum again accompanied the ringing in my ears, and the sudden surge of fear in my chest. I had a stomach like a tempest, a heart like a machine, and a head like pea-soup. I could d see so much blood, and couldn’t locate the source. My eyes searched the four men and I saw nothing. The ringing stopped and Casey’s howling reached my ears, accompanied with a distressed wailing of a completely alien source. I heard Bernstein screaming “No” at the top of his gravelly voice as he emerged cradling a cat mewling and screeching in agony as its ribs seeped scarlet.
Mark swiftly gathered the gun from the floor as Casey put her hands to her face screaming, blood dripping through her fingers and down her porcelain arms. Slowly Rob and my father stood up unhurt. Alex was rooted to the spot, his eyes glassy. Nobody had seen the cat, maybe it wandered in to see what was going on, to check out the multitudinous alien voices heatedly bleeding from the room. Maybe it was curious; maybe curiosity killed this cat. My father ran to ,me, saying nothing he ran his hands up and down me checking for bleeding, or holes. Relieved to find me unhurt the man pulled me in for the tightest imaginable hug before dragging me out of the room.
Before leaving Rob had gone to Alex and made him move to a chair to sit down, perhaps because Alex had turned olive green and pale. Mark went to Casey, the gun nowhere to be seen. Bernstein was wailing with his struggling, dying black furry cat, matted with fresh blood. I felt cool breeze before being slammed into the side of a car. Before I could gather my senses my father did something he had never done before. He slapped me hard around the face and pushed me once more against the car.
“Are you fucking demented boy? You hold a gun to an old man, because he is fighting for the rights that DOF are taking away from you piece by piece. Do you not see what is happening? He has you kids wound up so much with fear that you are willing to do what? Kill for him? Or worse, uphold the ideal that killing freedom of speech is acceptable? What did Idi Amin do?” My father was raging.
“He slaughtered his opposition Dad.”
“He slaughtered his opposition Cam. How could you be so pissing stupid?”
“I was afraid, I was arrogant, angry and afraid Dad. What do you want me to say?” I was staring glassily at the gravel. I heard sirens in the distance. “Guess our party has been discovered then huh.”
“It’s part of the plan Cameron. You are going to have to be arrested.” My Dad sighed and sat heavily on the ground and stared at me, not so much in anger as in fear.