A Thousand Cuts by Simon Lelic

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By Simon Lelic

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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.

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.

She tried to ignore the state of the hall and to picture it as he would have seen it: every seat full, the children silent for once given the circumstances of the assembly, some of them crying and trying not to. The teachers seated in rows flanking the headmaster, jaws tense, eyes downcast or fixed on the headmaster himself. Travis at the lectern, his hands on the corners furthest away from him and his elbows locked, his eyes commanding the attention of his audience, his speechifying relentless despite the late arrival to the hall.

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