Simon Lelic: A Thousand Cuts

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Simon Lelic A Thousand Cuts
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    A Thousand Cuts
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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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Simon Lelic


A Novel


I wasn’t there. I didn’t see it. Me and Banks were down by the ponds, pissing about with this Sainsbury’s trolley we found on the common. We were late already so we decided to ditch. Get in, Banks says. You get in, I say. In the end, I get in. I’m always the one getting in. He pushes me for a bit over the field but the wheels keep seizing up, even though the grass is short and it hasn’t rained in a month. Sainsbury’s trolleys are shit. There’s a Waitrose just opened up where the Safeway used to be and their trolleys are built like Volkswagens. Sainsbury’s get theirs from France or Italy or Korea or something. They’re like Daewoos. Although Ming says Daewoo means fuck yourself in Chinese, which is the only reason I’d ever buy one.

How many was it in the end? I heard thirty. Willis said sixty but you can’t trust Willis. He reckons his uncle played for Spurs, years ago, in the eighties or something, and that he can get tickets whenever he likes. He never can though. I’ve asked him like four times but he always comes up with some excuse. Not cup games, he says. He can’t get tickets for cup games. Or I asked too late. Says I have to tell him weeks in advance. Months. Not the day before, even though it wasn’t the day before, it was a Monday or a Tuesday or something and the game wasn’t till Saturday.

So how many was it?

Oh. Really? Oh.

Just five?


Well, anyway. That’s where we were when we heard: down by the ponds. There’s this track that runs round the edge. It’s made of planks. There are gaps where the wheels can get wedged and it feels like you’re off-roading in a Skoda but you can get up some speed. You have to watch the flowerpots. They stick out into the path and you can’t move em cos the council have nailed em to the floor. I dunno why they bothered. They’re full of Coke cans now, not flowers.

When I say we heard, I don’t mean we heard it happen. School was half a mile away, back across the railway tracks. But these year eights turn up just as Banks decides to have a go in the trolley. He gets his foot caught and sort of falls, not arse over gob but enough to make me laugh. I shouldn’t of. He gets pissed and starts having a go. And then the year eights turn up and even though they haven’t seen him trip, Banks decides to have a go at them.

It was weird though. They’re crying, the year eights. Two of em are, any rate. The other one just kind of stares. Not at anything in particular. Like he’s watching TV on the inside of his glasses.

So anyway, Banks starts having a go but the year eights just kind of let him. They don’t run or mouth off or try to fight or anything. I recognise one of em. Ambrose, his name is. My sister, she’s in year eight too, she knows him and says he’s okay so I ask him what’s going on. He can’t speak. His words come out all squashed and stuck together. Banks turns on him but I tell him to leave it. In the end one of the others tells us. I don’t remember his name. Spotty kid. Normally I’d say shut the fuck up but he’s the only one making any sense.

Banks wants to take the trolley with us but I tell him there’ll be police and that there so he shoves it in a bush and says to the year eights if they take it he’ll shit in their mouths. They don’t look much interested in the trolley, to be fair. The spotty kid nods just the same, all wide-eyed like, but the other two don’t look like they’ve even noticed the trolley.

I’ve never run to school in my life. Neither’s Banks, I guess. I remember we were laughing, not cos it was funny, just cos it was something, you know?

I say to Banks, who do you think did it?

Jones, Banks says. It was Jones, I know it.

How do you know it?

I just do. He was pissed all last week after Bickle made him sing on his own in assembly.

Bickle, that’s Mr Travis, the headmaster. That’s what we call him cos basically he’s mental.

You won’t tell him I said that, will you?

Anyway, I don’t say anything for a moment. Then I say, I bet it was one of them Goths. One of them kids with the hair and the jeans and the boots they wear in the summer.

Banks sort of scrunches his nose, like he doesn’t want to admit it but he thinks I’m probably right.

Have you seen Taxi Driver, by the way?

You should.

We hear the sirens before we see the school. We’ve heard em already I expect but we haven’t noticed em. And when we get there I count ten police cars at least. Shitty ones, Fiestas and that, but they’re everywhere, all with their lights going. But I guess you know that. You were there, right?

But you got there later?

Thought so. Cos it’s your case, right? You’re in charge.

Sort of? What does that mean?

Well, anyway, there are ambulances there too and a fire engine for some reason. Some are still moving, just arriving I guess. The rest are all across the street and halfway up the pavement like someone’s asked my mum to park em.

I’m sweating and I stop and I hear Banks panting beside me. We aren’t laughing any more.

Everyone’s going the opposite way. They’re leaving the building, any rate. At the pavement everyone’s sort of gathered, hanging together in groups. There are some year sevens near the teachers, just outside the gates. The sixth-formers are furthest away, across the road on the edge of the common and just along from me and Banks. I can’t see any of our lot but people keep blocking my view. It’s like three-thirty or parents’ night or a fire drill or something, or all of them things at once.

Check it out, says Banks and he’s pointing at Miss Hobbs. She’s carrying some kid in her arms, crossing the playground towards the gates. There’s blood on em but I can’t tell whose.

Are you sure it was only five?

Well, whatever. So Miss Hobbs is crossing the playground, wobbling and swaying and looking like she’s about to drop this kid but no one helps her, not till she reaches the gates. All around her kids are buzzing about and the police, they’re going the other way, into the school. Then Miss Hobbs yells, she’s got quite a yell I can tell you, like the time she yelled at Banks for flicking his sandwich crusts at Stacie Crump, and one of the ambulance men spots her and legs it over with a stretcher. They disappear after that, behind the ambulance, and that’s when I see Jenkins with the others by the lights.

I tug at Banks and I point and we weave in and out the cars and over to the crossing.

Where you been? says Jenkins.

What’s happening? I ask him.

Someone went loony tunes. In assembly. Shot the whole place up.

What, with a gun? I say and right away wish I hadn’t of.

Jenkins looks at me. Either a gun, he says, or a fifty-litre bottle of ketchup.

Who? says Banks. Who did it?

Dunno. Couldn’t see. People were up and running and that before we knew what was happening. Someone said it was Bumfluff but it couldn’t of been, could it?

Then Banks says, where’s Jones?

Didn’t I say? says Terry, who’s standing right beside Jenkins. Didn’t I tell you it was Jones?

Jenkins gives Terry a punch on the arm. Banks doesn’t know it was Jones, does he? He was just asking where he was.

Well, where is he? Terry says but Banks is already moving away.

Where you going? I say but he ignores me. I run to catch up and hear Jenkins behind me. You won’t get in, he says but Banks doesn’t even look back.

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