Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chapter XIII: Anti Hero (Half of the chapter)

Chapter XIII: Anti Hero

The leash was wrapped taunt around Larry’s left hand, the course edged leather biting into his flesh hard enough to draw blood.  

It doesn’t hurt, Larry thought, but the pain could go away now.

His vision started to focus as he registered what was happening.  He was downtown.  An hour earlier dispatch told them to take Pixel to the National Mall.  The canine did a splendid job in her highway patrol tests; of course they found no bad guys.  His partner was impressed by his ability to wrangle Pixel into behaving properly during the searching procedures. 
They were having Pixel sniff out possible explosives and chemical agent’s downtown for her next training exercise.  The office decided to have an agent with some fake explosives somewhere on their route that had a slight mix of Ammonium Nitrate to trigger Pixel’s senses.  On patrol in downtown D.C. they were more likely to run into a crack dealer than real explosives, but that’s just the way it was.  They couldn’t afford to wait for an actual terrorist attack so it was better to make a controlled environment to see how the dog worked under pressure.  Of course they didn’t tell him or his partner where it was going to happen as Pixel was long past the predictable training grounds at the K9 police facility.

Officers and canines have a few tricks up their sleeves when fighting criminals.  Larry could direct Pixel by making the Tssk sound with his throat.  Other commands in his arsenal range from directing her to pursue and apprehend, release and guard, defend and the list goes and on.

But what was happening right now wasn’t part of Pixels training.  He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
Is this real?

A moment ago he told his partner he was going to wait outside of the Capital Building while his partner used the bathroom.  They were waiting outside near the west front terrace when the ground began to undulate.

Moments before they wrapped up a preliminary patrol by having Pixel sniff the crowd gathered for a presentation in front of the building.  He didn’t know or care why they were there.  He just wanted to do his job.

Instinctively, he braced his bulk against the thick stone wall edging the terrace stairs. He didn’t lose his balance but instead watched in disbelief as everyone and everything around him began to roll like they were on a boat in the middle of a lake.  Pixel was going hysterical and she wouldn’t stop barking.  His mind was having a hard time registering what was happening. 

What was the command to make her stand still?  Oh yeah, its heel. 
He couldn’t find his voice.  Pixel continued to try to break free, fighting against his grip on her leash, as a siren began its endless wail.  He didn’t think about using his walkie-talkie, even if he could manage to grasp it in the disorientating motion.

He didn’t care about the pain biting into in his palm as Pixel continued to leap and bark.  What he was seeing was something out of a cheesy post apocalyptic movie. 
It’s almost as if I’m watching USA Up All Night and Mad Max came to DC…

The capital building was swaying.  Chunks of marble and granite started to tumble onto the suits below.  The cast iron dome shifted to the right and then the left against the clear blue sky. 

Is the dome going to fall?  

Larry couldn’t stop watching. He was frozen in just trying to absorb what was happening. His attention went to the steps. The granite was heaving and splitting.  People were running towards the entrance. 
Don’t go inside!  The dome is going to collapse!

Why couldn’t he say something, anything?  Even his voice was frozen in shock. His partner was near the entrance.  He made direct eye contact with Larry, a fierce determination steeling his gaze. 

Shit, NO!  Larry knew what his partner wanted.  It was something Larry couldn’t be.  His partner was a closet hero at heart.  Larry felt a slight urge deep down to run into the shaking building but then his mind stated to scream at him not to.

This is stupid.  They were going to die if they went in there.

His partner saw Larry stall and sneered back at him in contempt before disappearing into the trembling building. A half a dozen people streamed in after him with similar heroic intentions. 

I don’t want to die today. Where are the rest of the cops? 

Pixel yanked hard against the leash, desperate to follow Larry’s partner into the building but Larry doesn’t let go. It had only been about thirty seconds since the trembling had begun but if felt much longer.  The shifting seemed to be slowing so he reached for his walkie-talkie only to hear static.  Reaching for his cell phone instead he finds it is equally useless with no signal, just an endlessly looping emergency broadcast.  Dust was filling the air from the disrupted ground and crumbling walls. He could hear people through the increasing dust cloud. Some were hysterical, some just calling out for help; most were drowned out by the continued siren’s wail.

Moments later his partner reemerged from the tilting entrance to the Capital building, something big and bulky cradled in his arms. 

Was it causality?  No, he saw the body move.  His partner looked in his direction. Pixel, no longer barking, suddenly leaps forward with all her might.

Larry felt his body propel forward.  Pixel was on a mission and there was no stopping her.  He didn’t want to let go of the leash.  His partner went back inside and the dog was determined to follow.

Shit, I don’t want to go in there. 

Pixel wouldn’t hear it as she continued to move forward.  This was her day.  Larry was worried that Pixel wasn’t ready to deal with such a situation but it couldn’t stop her. He finally found his voice but it didn’t matter, the dog would not heel.  The K9 was leaping up the cracking stone stairs and he could do nothing but be dragged along.  His life was wrapped up in these dogs and he wasn’t going to lose her to this.

They were at the entrance.  His partner was dragging out a small form from the dust heaving entrance. They didn’t need to say anything.  His partner dropped the half conscious body and looked him in the eyes. 

“Better to be late than never, I suppose.” Larry ignored the shot. He didn’t need to explain himself to his partner and didn’t care what he thought of him.  Larry was barely holding back his fear and being so close to the building didn’t help. Chunks of stone and debris continued to fall from the building’s facade. The crashes echoed through the dusty air. 

Pixel started to bark again. Across the terrace few security officers had managed to gain their balance and were helping people to clear the area.  The bulk of the building was holding but the ground underneath them still hasn’t stopped moving.

“I saw people run to the Rotunda.  We need to get them out.” Larry’s partner said and turned to head back inside. Pixel, seeming to understand his partner, started darting forward again.  Larry still wasn’t going to let go.  He tried to command her, holding tight to the leash despite the now free flowing track of blood the leather was carving into his hand but she wouldn’t listen so he had no choice but to be dragged along.

They were passing the entrance to the crypt chamber that was the main support for the building’s rotunda. Another wave of terror struck Larry.  He knew he was going to die if he went forward so for the first time he pulled at the leash with all his might.  Pixel instantly flew backwards.

In Larry’s mind the fight or flight response had battled and flight won.  “The dome is going to collapse!” He called out to his partner as he held firm to the struggling dog. “I’m not going inside there.”

His partner turned on him with righteous fury, “Shut up and do your duty.  This is what we are here to do!  To serve and protect.”

Frustration laced Larry’s fear and he yelled back, “There’s no difference of helping people in here or out there!  Out there has no roof that is collapsing.”  They had stopped in the Brumidi corridor. The thick marble pillars suddenly looked as fragile as toothpicks to Larry. 

 “Larry, you are a coward,” his partner sneered. “Let me have Pixel then.  The congressman and politicians are going to be in there, or on the second floor.  They aren’t going to be in the crypt or in the old chambers.  Come with me and be a good cop.”

Larry was sick of his partner, “No.  You can come with us and help others but we are not going in there.  Ordinary people are just as important as world leaders”

His partner snorted and turned his back.  A few heavily armed military personal pass by at a quick trot and motion for Larry and his partner to follow them further into the building.  One soldier stops to assist a security officer bearing the sagging weight of a half unconscious congressman as they emerge from further in the building.  His partner runs after the other military personal into the inner chambers.  

Some of the soldiers reemerged a moment later escorting dust and blood speckled politicians outside. They moved by in a blur of dark suits and camouflage.  Among them a man in a gaudy floral tourist shirt and khaki’s stood out against the blur. He pulled away from the group and was calling out names at the top of his lungs, his voice echoing through the chaos as he stumbled back toward the building’s interior chambers. One of the soldiers commanded the man to stop. 

The man in the flower shirt didn’t seem to hear him.  He moving, disorientated and yelling, “Sharon where are you?  Timmy, Amanda?”  Every time the man yelled, Larry cringed. He imagined the whole place coming down like a scream triggered avalanche. The tourist fought against the soldier, becoming increasingly hysterical in his determination to find his family. 

People continued to emerge from the dusty crumbling corridors. Larry could not see past the dust and darkness into which his partner disappeared.  It took all his might to stop Pixel from running in the chamber.
The man with the floral shirt was becoming more and more desperate and agitated. The soldier had a grip on him again as he continued to yell, “Amanda is in there!  You need to let me in.  My family was touring in the chamber when this started!” 

Suddenly a man in a dark navy suit stood in front of Larry. He held one hand up to his forehead, blood seeping from under his palm. His other hand was waving a cell in front of Larry’s face. The same endless emergency message that was on Larry’s cell was running across the screen. 

“What does this mean?” The man yelled at Larry. “What’s going on?”

BANG! Larry’s response was lost as the sound echoed through the corridor. Some people froze, others screamed, terror propelling them even faster toward the exit. The man demanding explanations disappeared with them. 

Larry looked across the room toward the sound. The hysterical tourist held a hand to his floral shirt clad chest. His wide eyes held a shocked, glazed look then he tumbled to the marble floor. A red stain started to spread across his chest. Nearby the soldier that had tried to restrain the tourist re-holstered his gun and yelled for everyone to keep moving. Within seconds the civilians moved as one mass and rushed past Larry, shoving him toward the crypt entrance.

It was all too much for Larry.  He wanted nothing more than a stiff drink at that moment, but he was still a cop and did not want anyone to see.  After having a drink he told himself he would try to help as best as he can.  Being a cop, none of the soldiers or security personal worried about pushing him outside with the rest of the civilians so Larry directed Pixel to the crypt entrance.

Around him the murals decorating the walls by Constantino Brumidi were destroyed.  Cracks were spider webbing up the walls, but had yet to reach the ceiling.  Several pillars in the adjacent Hall of Columns looked like they were about to give he heard a few guards mutter as he slipped past.  Despite his earlier fears, he didn’t think twice in going down the steps to the crypt. He could only focus on getting away from everyone and the flask hidden in his pocket. 

Anything that would put him away from soldiers shooting American tourists.

He made it to the bottom of the steps and fished the small flask of alcohol out of his jacket.

Oh my God, this is really happening!

Larry ignored both the blood on his hand and Pixel as he quickly opened the bottle and downed the contents.