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Elaine's story challenge

They Do Not Love Us
by Marcia Brin

They do not love us.
The sheep.
Huddled in their concrete fields,
While we circle,
Ever on guard,
Willing to offer fang and claw in their defense.

They do not understand us.
The sheep.
For theirs is a world of warmth and hope and life;
Ours, a world of honor and bitter reality and death.
And when the howl of the wolf is heard in the night,
They tremble,
And hide in fear at the sound,
And cannot understand
Why we seek out the enemy
And risk death
On behalf of those we do not know and do not love.
With whom we are not kin,
nor kith,
nor kind.

They fear us.
The sheep.
For the smell of blood is upon us also,
And they know our kinship lies with the predator
and not with the prey.
Are not our fangs as sharp,
Our eyes as cold,
Our souls as deadly?

And they are not fooled.
The sheep.
For though we wear the guise of sheepdogs,
They know the truth.

We are wolves, too.


Only Human

"It's all right to make mistakes, you're only human" - Slide, Dido

You'd think I'd be used to it by now; the bodies, and blood...

But you never get used to it.
         Things had been under control. So we thought. The gang of bank robbers were adamant in their demands and refusal to be talked out, although the protracted negotiations had calmed the potentially explosive situation. The local Met had handled things initially, but after the first couple of hours they'd called us in.
         Cowley's orders had me at the back of the building with Murphy. It was the sort of situation we'd handled before; the sort of situation thrown at us at least once during every training refresher.

The sort of situation that could be deadly if we got it wrong.

And we did get it wrong. Someone did, anyway; but I'm not sure exactly what happened. We got Cowley's signal to move in, believing what we'd been told, that the gang were at the front of the building.
         They weren't.
         As we hit the rear door together we heard the first shots being fired, our forced entry alerting the gang to our attack. In the precious few seconds it took us to smash our way in and run through the short corridor to the rear office and the hostages, we were too late.

Ahead of me, Murphy swung left to take out two of the robbers immediately; the third was to the right. He was turning towards us; the SMG still spraying bullets indiscriminately...
         My first shot was high in his chest but kicked him backwards, giving me a split second to take in the whole scene; the bodies of the hostages lying where they'd fallen, in a string on the floor - the bastard had literally lined them up against the wall...
         My next shot was lower, the third squarely in his stomach, the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh randomly blasting holes in the already prone figure...
         Murphy knocked the Browning from my hand, flinching as brief contact with the hot barrel burned his fingers. "That's enough...!"

I glared at him before gesturing to the dead and injured. "Yeah, I think it's enough..."
         I didn't wait for an answer. Sick to my stomach, I began checking the bodies in front of me, instinctively picking out those still alive. Silently, Murphy began working from the other end of the line; reporting into the R/T to Cowley.
         Seeing movement, I reached out to help a young cashier as she drew away from the body of a second young woman and struggled to a sitting position. As far as I could see, the bullets had missed her, although she was liberally splattered with blood from those closest to her.
         My hand brushed her arm; her face came up to mine, eyes focusing wildly as she shrieked and threw herself back against the wall...
         "Don't touch me!" Her hand touched one of the bodies beside her, and the shriek rose to a scream as the shock began to get through to her. "You shot them...!"
         I pulled back as if I'd been stung. Knowing all the underlying factors didn't make her accusation any easier to refute; shocked as she was, there was no point in trying. Twisting away I pushed my way through the other arriving operatives, shouldering my partner and Cowley aside and emerging into the street, police and ambulance crews parting in front of me as they rushed towards the building.
         Seeking escape, I headed down the street but was brought up short by the barriers and the mostly silent crowd beyond them.
         At the hundred yards cordon set by the police, they couldn't see much of what was happening but the sound of gunfire, even at this distance, must have been unmistakeable.
         Reluctantly, I focused on some of the white, wide-eyed faces at the front. How many had friends or family in the bank; how many had just lost someone?

In the confusion behind me, some of the shouts were starting to get through and make sense to the crowd. "Radio in, we need more ambulances..." "At least 11..." "...a massacre..."
         There was a sort of reactive swell from the crowd, the anxious faces giving way to new expressions; fear, dread, panic - and hostility...
         I turned blindly away, retreating to relative safety before anyone else could accuse me. The Capri was parked a couple of streets away; heading down a side alley I threaded my way through to sanctuary.

"You all right, mate?"
         I lifted my head from the seatback and shrugged.
         "Murph told us what happened," he continued.
         I shrugged again. This wasn't something I really wanted to discuss; but he carried on regardless.
         "She's seventeen, and in shock. You can't blame yourself for what happened - "
         "I don't."
         Having provoked a response, he waited. Perhaps I should discuss it. "It was someone's balls up, but not ours - not mine. I don't blame myself."
         "So what's eating you?"
         "The whole thing. We go out there and offer to get shot on almost a daily basis, and the only notice anyone takes of our sacrifice is when things go wrong... The crowd looked at me like I was responsible."
         "What's new?" He sighed. "We both know the score. Cowley's lavender and roses, that's what these people think life is made up of. They don't realise what's out there, don't know what it's really like. And people fear what they don't understand."
         I knew all that. Didn't make it any easier. "Got any answers?"
         "Nope." He glanced over at me. "Thinking of chucking it all in?"
         I shrugged: pushed myself straighter in the seat. "Nah... Suppose not."
         "You'll be needing this then." He slapped my Browning against my chest, grinning as I fumbled with it. "Don't worry, safety's on."
         I held it for a moment; caught by the weapon's oil-sleek gleam. "Are we any different to them?"
         For a second I saw wilful misunderstanding before he replied, expression fading into solemnity. "You know we are. We have a job to do, and we do it. Maybe not everyone can see us clearly, maybe the edges are blurred - but we're different."
         The radio squawked with Cowley demanding our location. He leant forward, lifting the handset but pausing before answering the call. "We know it; and that's what's important."
         "Yeah." I slid the Browning back into my holster. "Thanks, Ray..."

© Carol Good - November 2001

The poem inspired me to a picture too