Sudden rain battered Bermuda that morning, pounding the whitewashed roof on its way to the cistern. Rivulets coursed down the windows. Wind bent the old trees that stood in front of the house, survivors of hurricanes of the last fifty years. Beyond the trees, the whitecaps crashed against the grey dock and up onto the white stones stacked along the shore. Anne turned from the window when she saw the car arrived. Usually she took the bus when she went anywhere without her sister, but this was a taxi sort of day.
A sweeping drive led off the street and around an immense ornamental pond to Hamilton’s city hall. At the top of the welcoming arms staircase, two-story white pillars guarded the doors. A replica of the ship Discovery decorated the summit of the clock tower, gleaming in the sudden sunshine. Below it the clock with its sea- blue face chimed ten o’clock.
Wide Bermuda cedar stairs, carpeted in deep red, led up from the foyer to an encircling mezzanine. Anne paused to admire the portraits of a young Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, copies of the Winterhalter oils that hung in Windsor Castle that flanked the entrance to the National Art Gallery.
She spent a pleasant but solitary two hours in the permanent collection of paintings, furniture and objets d’arte made by Bermuda artists or inspired by the islands. At noon, she thanked the volunteer at the desk and signed the guest book. There was still time to see an exhibition of art by local children that hung in a room at the other end of the mezzanine. She opened the door.
A scene from a movie. The sound effect, a muffled explosion. One man down, the other searching his pockets. She, screaming, frozen for a moment.
He heard her, jerked his head towards her and away and fled through the exit door. She raced across the endless meters that separated her from the young black man crumpled on the floor.
She pulled off her jacket and knelt by his body; blood was spurting from the hole in his navy tee shirt. The wound punctuated the proud words written on his shirt—Bermuda Born. So young she thought. So young. The soft white cotton of her jacket, pressed against his chest, turned red beneath her hands. His fading heart fluttered and stopped; colour faded from his lips; the pupils in his dark brown eyes dilated. She started chest compressions, but she knew it was too late. The bullet must have gone straight through his heart.
He had no chance. No chance.
“Help,” she screamed again. “Help me!”
Blood seeped from beneath the body and congealed on her yellow linen skirt — a thickening, dull-red jelly. A man in a grey uniform, perhaps a security guard, appeared at the top of the staircase, ran towards her along the blue carpet, stopped, his mouth opened to speak, and then he wheeled into the Art Gallery.
Where was he going? Couldn’t he see she was in trouble?
A woman appeared in the gallery door, the volunteer from the desk inside, gasped and disappeared.
“Stop. Come back.”
Hours passed, or so it seemed. The movements developed an automatic rhythm, useless, but automatic. Sweat dripped into her eyes and her shoulders ached. Her own heart beat a frantic rhythm too, but she couldn’t stop; didn’t want to let him go. The iron smell of blood, mixed with a faecal stench rose from the body. She gagged and turned aside, afraid she would vomit into the wound, and then started again. At last two paramedics reached her and one took her place on the body. A few people — the volunteer from the gallery, the security guard, three others — stood watching from the safety of the gallery door.
Anne sat back against the wall and pulled in her feet, away from the blood that seemed to creep towards her. The man—the shooter—looked back at her when she shouted at him, wrenched something from his victim’s hand and ran to the exit: a strange man— white skin and white hair beneath a ball cap. Something odd about his walk, not a limp, exactly. His gait was uneven, a slight hesitation with his right leg. She thought she’d seen him before. But where and when?
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