The Bell Tower sounded midnight, a single low toll. It’s scheduled to toll again in exactly six hours but the six o’clock toll will not be heard because by then the tower will be a smouldering heap of rubble.
Like clockwork, headlights swept up the street, moving slowly, searching, until they came to rest on a body lying half in the street dressed in a dark red t-shirt and jeans. One of his feet was shoeless, covered only in a white sock, blackened on the sole by loosely clinging gravel. Two looming figures left the patrol car, unsheathed their truncheons and advanced on the body with slow marching steps in heavy, black boots. One of them kicked the body. The young man sat up and shielded his eyes from the headlights. He tried to stand but stumbled and fell because his one leg was longer than the other. The other night guard shouted something at him and he stood again rocking gently on his feet, his head lolling between his shoulders.
They started stabbing him with the blunt, round ends of their truncheons in the stomach, the face, the back, all the while circling him, leaning over him and speaking softly in his ear, but he said nothing he just held his hands up and tried to focus his bloodshot eyes on them. The guard pushed his nose into the young man’s face, his lips moving in frenzy, lathering at the side with a sticky white paste. The young man said nothing, he just blinked heavily, slowly and then vomited all over the guard. The blows that followed were swift and savage. The guard didn’t even waste time wiping the light pink slurry off his face, he just landed blow after blow, bits of it flew off him with each strike until the young man was just as they found him. They dragged him by his feet and threw him into the back of the truck. Alexi, drunk again, but this time no bribes, no wife running out with picture of the children, and inviting the guards in to “explain”.
My mother didn’t bother waiving a photo in their faces, she would wake me up and take me outside with her to wave in their faces, then when I got too old to invoke the required sympathy she took my sister out with her and when that stopped working that’s when she started bringing them in. She would put dad to bed then lock all of our rooms and go downstairs. The older we got the faster she aged and the less she spoke. She started looking at us with disgust and getting angry at every little thing we did but dad didn’t stop. Then one day I woke up, dad hadn’t come home and mom was gone. The neighbours looked derisively at me when I knocked on the door and asked if my sister and I could have some breakfast with them. She said yes but I could see she didn’t want to. By the end of breakfast the social services people were there to pick us up.
Pathetic, but I could spare the four minutes and if Alexi was stupid enough to keep passing out in the streets after curfew than he deserved whatever happened to him.