Simon Lelic: A Thousand Cuts

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Simon Lelic A Thousand Cuts
  • Название:
    A Thousand Cuts
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Viking
  • Жанр:
    Триллер / Современная проза / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2010
  • Город:
    New York
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    978-1-101-18996-2
  • Рейтинг книги:
    5 / 5
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A Thousand Cuts: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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In the depths of a sweltering summer, teacher Samuel Szajkowski walks into his school assembly and opens fire. He kills three pupils and a colleague before turning the gun on himself. Lucia May, the young policewoman who is assigned the case, is expected to wrap up things quickly and without fuss. The incident is a tragedy that could not have been predicted and Szajkowski, it seems clear, was a psychopath beyond help. Soon, however, Lucia becomes preoccupied with the question no one else seems to want to ask: what drove a mild-mannered, diffident school teacher to commit such a despicable crime? Piecing together the testimonies of the teachers and children at the school, Lucia discovers an uglier, more complex picture of the months leading up to the shooting. She realises too that she has more in common with Szajkowski than she could have imagined. As the pressure to bury the case builds, she becomes determined to tell the truth about what happened, whatever the consequences…

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We try the main gates first but there’s these policemen there dressed in yellow, they look like stewards at White Hart Lane. They turn us back. Banks tries again and has to scarper when one of the policemen shouts at him and tries to grab him. We go round the back instead, to the side gate by the kitchens, and there’s a policeman there as well but he’s talking to a woman with a pushchair, pointing at something across the street. He doesn’t see us.

I’ve never been in the kitchens before. I’ve seen em from the other side, from the counter, but only the main bit and even then you can barely see past the dinner ladies, they’re like sumo wrestlers in a scrum. Not that you’d want to. It’s fucking disgusting. The main bit, where they serve the food, it’s not too bad but in the back, with the cookers and the bins, it’s rank. I see what I had for lunch the day before, a pile of pork all glistening with fat like it’s been run over by a herd of slugs, just left on a tray in the sink. And there’s stuff all over the floor, lettuce gone soggy and brown, and peas with their guts splattered and smeared all over the tiles. I almost throw up. I have to swallow it back down. But I’d rather eat vomit than eat in the canteen again, I swear. Banks, though, he doesn’t hardly notice. He lives in a council. I live in a council too but a better one.

We’re trapped in there for a bit. We can’t find a way out cept for the way we’ve just come in. In the end we jump up over the counter. I kick at a tray of glasses with my foot, not on purpose, but some of the glasses fall and they break. Banks starts having a go, tells me to be quiet, but no one hears. No one would of cared.

From the canteen we go out into the passageway and along into the entrance hall and that brings us right up to the main doors and there’s a crowd there and who should we run into but Michael Jones himself. And we know just by looking at him that it can’t of been Jones.

He spots us but doesn’t say anything and he’s as pale as a custard cream. He’s trying to get out by the looks of him but he’s stuck behind a wall of sixth-formers. The sixth-formers, they’re standing there, waving their arms about and bossing people where to go but it seems to me like they’re only making things worse. Bickle’s there too, Mr Travis, he’s standing by the doors, telling the kids to keep moving to settle down to maintain order to move along. That’s one of his phrases that: maintain order. As in, I’m sitting in on this class today to help maintain order. Or he’ll be marching the corridors, whacking kids on the head, yelling, order children, maintain order. He calls us children even though we’re like thirteen. The sixth-formers are eighteen some of em. Anyway, it should be our school motto – maintain order – not that thing we have in Latin. Something about helping yourself or helping others or doing one but not the other. Something like that.

Bickle spots us too and he looks like he’s about to collar us but he’s distracted, there’s kids pushing past him, banging against him, on purpose some of em I bet, and Banks and me slip past and into the main corridor, the one that leads to the stairs and the classrooms and at the bottom, at the end, the hall, the assembly hall. That’s where it all happened, right? The assembly hall.

We almost make it. We almost see it. The whadyacallit. The aftermath. I’m glad we didn’t. Banks wanted to but I think I’m glad we didn’t. Do you know what I mean?

It’s a woman that nabs us in the end, a policewoman and they’re the worst. All bossy and up themselves.

Oh.

No offence.

But anyway, we’re halfway down the corridor and we can see the doors into the hall and we can see there are people inside, police and that mainly, and we don’t see her reach for us. She was in one of the classrooms, I guess. She saw us pass and must of figured what we were doing, where we were going, and she doesn’t shout or anything, she just comes up behind us and she nails us. Banks yells at her to geroff but in the end we can’t really do anything, I mean what can we do? And she marches us up the corridor, back into the hallway, through the doors past Bickle, who just kind of glares, and all the way to the gates. And then she gives us a shove.

Banks tried to get back in after that but I’m pretty sure he didn’t make it. By the time we get outside there’s tape and more police and TV cameras and everything’s being organised. The teachers, they’re calling register and forming lines and that sort of thing. I stand on my own, to one side. I sit on the kerb. Then, I dunno. I just watch, like everyone else.

So that’s it, I guess. I told you, I don’t know anything really. I wasn’t even there when it happened.

.

This time she started where he had started.

There was nothing in the room that gave notice of the violence it had begotten. Several coats on the rack, though not many. There was one overcoat, on a hanger, a relic presumably of the winter. Otherwise just jackets, lightweight, inexpensive, the one on top with an arm turned inside out. There were coffee mugs on the table, the one nearest to her drained completely, the rest finished with but not emptied, milk curdling on the surface of the liquid. On the arm of one of the chairs, an open packet of digestives, and crumbs on the rest of the seats. The seats themselves were stained, ripped in places, comfortable looking.

Lucia May moved from the seating area towards the kitchenette. She opened the door of the microwave and then shut what she found back inside. The smell escaped, though – sweet, artificial, she thought, low calorie. A packet of Marlboro lay next to a yellow Clipper on the worktop. She did not look at them directly. The cupboard next to the sink served as a makeshift noticeboard. There was a Garfield strip bemoaning Mondays cut neatly from a newspaper and a ‘Now wash your hands’ sticker and a handwritten note reminding people to please rinse out their cups. The word people was underlined, as well as the word cups. Four mugs sat festering in the basin. The basin smelt of drains.

He would have left this room alone. He would have waited until he was the last.

Lucia drifted back towards the seats and out of the door and into the corridor. Opposite her was the noticeboard proper, half the size of a snooker table and almost the same shade of green. It displayed fire-drill instructions, medical procedures, assembly rosters, break-time regulations. Nothing else. The notices were attached to the board with colour-matched pins, all red on one sheet of paper, all yellow on the next, four pins to a page. She felt an urge to shuffle the pins, to remove a notice and reattach it at a less regimented angle.

She turned to her left and moved along the passageway, down the short flight of stairs and into the entrance hall. She paused, wondering whether he had done the same. She glanced right, towards the canteen, and then the other way, towards the doors. Through the glass she saw two uniforms, and beyond them the playground, and beyond that the road. The policemen were watching her, their arms folded and their eyes shaded by the brims of their helmets.

There was blood on the floor. She had known it was there and she had meant to ignore it because the blood had come after, during, not before. She looked at it anyway. The girl whose blood it was had still been alive when she had shed it. It had run down her arm and to her hand and from her fingers as the teacher had carried her out. It lay in drops and in several places it was smeared, as if by a toe or a heel or a knee where someone had stumbled.

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