For the Safety of the Public


“Aren’t you going to tell me why I stalked 500 people?” Astrid asked. “For the safety of the public.” Anderson responded

Ethan Simmons, Staff writer

Astrid checked his leather bound journal one last time:

“June 3rd 1 PM, meet Anderson in the square north of the market” the entry read.

“Right place, right time. I swear if he forgot-” Astrid began to think, but he was cut off by some disturbance in the street below him. His eyes scanned the crowd from his hotel balcony quickly finding the source of the unrest. Three men were shoving their way towards the lobby of the building.

“Not good!” Astrid almost yelled to himself, he spun on his heels swinging his backpack from the bed to his shoulders. Shouting penetrated the floor as the three men barged into the stairwell below Astrid’s room. The boy scanned his surroundings, mentally listing his options. Footsteps and voices from the hallway made him decide that the window on the opposite wall would have to do. Astrid threw a chair through the glass just as the men began to beat on his door. “Time to go”, he thought as he forced himself to follow the furniture through the broken window. A ten foot drop separated him and the roof below. He looked up, the Egyptian city of Alexandria sprawling before him.

“Go to Egypt he said. It will be easy he said. There won’t be any trouble, I swear on my mum, he said. Anderson if I make it back, I will kill you” Astrid muttered under his breath as he crept along the roof, trying to stay out of sight. He made it around a corner and hid behind a pyramid of steel pipes. The roar of the rush hour commute and the Egyptian heat were making it hard to use clear judgment. Astrid wiped the sweat now streaming down his face, so he took off his shirt and wrapped it around his head the way he had learned to in Venezuela. He swung his bag onto the ground next to him, wrenching it open. “Camera, memory cards, passport, journal, phone, and my iPod. Great no money, and I left my gun under the pillow.” Astrid fished around in the bag until he got ahold of his pre-paid phone Anderson had given him, he turned it on and opened the contact list, picking the first one and holding the device to his ear as it began to beep in a low tone. A voice called out from the other end.

“Hello?” the voice asked

“Anderson you lying ass” Astrid nearly yelled into the phone, forgetting that he was trying to be stealthy

“Astrid, where the bloody hell are you? We were supposed to meet half an hour ago.”  Anderson replied ignoring the insult

“And we would have if there weren’t three thugs currently ransacking my hotel room” Astrid retorted, sarcastic impatience dripping from his voice

“Right, do you have the-” Anderson continued dragging out his words, his tone utterly unchanged.

“Are you not listening?” Astrid interrupted, really getting angry now as the realization of the imminent danger he faced hit him. “Highway a mile north of town, 8pm” He ordered into the phone before burling it back into his bag.

Astrid stood and put on his backpack. It burned his back despite only being in the sun for only a few seconds. He located a ladder that went into the alley behind the hotel, and after he made sure the coast was clear, he made is way on to the street. It was dusty and smelt of sweat and car exhaust. People pushed and shoved, still recovering from the thugs rampage as Astrid made his way into the courtyard that sat adjacent to the building that he had just escaped. Keeping one eye in the back of his head, Astrid worked his way through the crowd, most of whom were on their way to the market less than two blocks away. That’s where he planned to, hide in the crowd, because there was no doubt the three men were still hot on his trail.

He walked into the market in stride with a group of holy men making their afternoon rounds, chanting verses from the Koran in Arabic.  Astrid  grabbed a sheet off a table and wrapped himself in it trying to blend in with the holy men’s cotton robes as he watched the same men from the hotel sweep through the narrow, cluttered and grimy street the held the market. Without warning, gunshots rang through the street: one of the thugs had tried to thin the crowd. Merchants, customers and even holy men began to scream and run in every direction with no regard for the safety of others.  Astrid, pushed and shoved by the stampeding mass of people found himself less than ten feet from the gunman. The man caught sight of Astrid, and instantly trained his weapon on the boys head. Astrid took his only chance and charged the shooter. Caught off guard, the man missed his opportunity to let the shot fly. Astrid landed a solid punch to the man’s jaw and twisted the gun back on its owner before sending a shot tumbling trough the thug’s knee. The sound of the ear splitting bang followed by the wounded gunman’s shrieks of pain alerted the remaining gunmen to Astrid’s position. They began firing back at Astrid, who dove for cover behind an archway. Bullets ricocheted off nearby bricks showering him in dust as he flew head long down the narrow road. Skidding to a halt, he pinned himself to the wall just around the corner, gasping for air and clenching the gun he had wrestled from his attacker. Astrid’s black hair clung to his face under his makeshift mask which he clumsily ripped off the moment he was out of the line of fire.

His dull green eyes shot left and right to make sure he had a moment to catch his breath. Astrid waited for the now familiar shouts of the thugs to make their way down the alley. As they rounded the corner, Astrid let fly a hail of ammo, shooting the entire clip in their direction. One fell instantly, the other managed to find cover behind a stack of wooden crates with only a shoulder wound. Seeing the chance, Astrid disappeared down the alley which dumped into the main road. The young Americans eyes whipped back and forth, looking for some kind of transport. He spotted a motorcycle parked outside a restaurant about a block away. He reached it just as its owner did.

“I need this,” Astrid told the man, grabbing one of the handle bars.

“No!” the man shouted back in his face. Astrid raised his eyebrows, placing the barrel of his gun in between the man’s eyes.

“Yeah?” he asked again. He took the man’s backing away as a yes.

Astrid jumped on the motorbike and took off down street and through intersections as quickly as the machine would carry him, after an hour of waving through traffic, Astrid found himself on the road out of town. Darkness was falling as his phone began to ring. He slowed his speed in order to quiet the wind then answered.

“Astrid you there?” Anderson asked in her perpetual tone of annoyance. Astrid opened his mouth to speak but before he could, another muffled voice came through the phone.

“Astrid, Astrid can you hear me?” the voice crackled, barely recognizable

“Yes, yeah I got ya” Astrid said back trying to hear over the rumble of the motorcycles engine.

“L-Listen you have a tail” the phone hissed.  Astrid’s head whipped around to the highway behind him, there a pair of head lights was growing in the encroaching desert evening. Astrid heard more muffled voices from the phone and the sound of a light struggle.

“Astrid, can you hear me better now? Good. I took Andersons phone, Listen I’ll deal with the tail just don’t slow down, ok?” the voice said, much more clearly before hanging up.

“Jayce, Jayce is that you?” Astrid talked back into the now disconnected phone, his eyes still on the headlights behind him. It was then when he noticed the unmistakable sound of a helicopter rotor growing louder. Astrid turned back around to see a Blackhawk helicopter rapidly approaching him. It started to hover horizontally less than 20 feet from the surface of the highway. As Astrid approached, the door on the side slid open and a figure sat down on the edge of the helicopter with their feet dangling off the side, a belt fed machinegun sat in their lap. A fraction of a second later the figure engaged the weapon and unleashed a furry of ordainments, shell casings rained from the helicopter. Bullets whizzed inches over Astrid’s head as the seemingly endless stream of bullets impacted both the car following him and the surrounding tarmac, pounding it into rubble. Astrid drove underneath the chopper not daring to look back until the gunfire stopped. When it finally did, all that was left of the following vehicle was a smoldering husk of charred metal.

The helicopter circled around and landed on the road. The figure sitting in the door jumped out a few feet to the ground and made his way over to Astrid.

He was dressed in full tactical gear and still toting the machinegun. He dropped his gun and hugged Astrid, lifting him off the ground and spinning him.

“It’s good to see you too Jayce” Astrid squeaked, trying not to pass out from the strength of the hug. Anderson stepped out of the helicopter as it landed and made his way to the two in the street. Astrid turned to him as he got close.

“You know, I really hate it when I come just to take pictures and I get shot at! I’m 17, Anderson! Most kids my age are worried about going to prom and passing the SAT, but oh no, not me! I get to doge gunfire in some Egyptian city!” Astrid fumed, his anger returning.

“You handled It well”, Anderson replied in a smooth tone, his Manchester accent much more prudent in person

“Oh sure!” Astrid responded rolling his eyes. It was exactly the answer that he anticipated. He climbed aboard the helicopter and threw his bag to Anderson.

“There. That’s what you wanted, right? Photos and info about everyone in or out of the Aśubha parikalpanā hotel in the past week,” he said.       “Indeed,” Anderson said, catching the bag with surprising speed for an older man               “Aren’t you going to tell me why I stalked 500 people?” Astrid asked.  “For the safety of the public. Your next assignment will be given to you shortly.” Anderson said paying Astrid no mind.                               Astrid rolled his eyes as he sat next to Jayce. Field medic gave Astrid food and water while he was examined, but his mind wasn’t in the helicopter whose blades began to kick up dust in the twilight. It was back in his hotel, wondering why those thugs were after him. After an hour or so he shrugged and resolved that it didn’t truly matter. After all, the assignment was over…