It was just another political speech on an otherwise unremarkable day, when the world tilted past the point of no return. Historians would, of course, argue about this in future centuries, but for the moment nobody realized what was about to happen.
But at this particular moment, Sgt. John Christie of the Metropolitan Police Force understood that something had just happened. He was wearing his standard blue uniform, his brass and medals polished bright and he stood silently in front of the president’s podium in the park. It was standard routine to face outward during the presidential speech and he did so as all good security people are trained to do. He was caught on camera visibly flinching as the unmistakable whine of a bullet passed over his head. His eyes opened wide with the recognition of the sound and instinctively he started scanning for the shooter.
This was not the first time the sergeant had heard the sound of passing bullets. His 10 years in the military before joining the police force had been one of constant active duty in Africa. He’d heard the whining passage of bullets more than once and watched as his fellow Marines sometimes paid the ultimate price for their country. Neither his marriage nor the relationship with his children survived those 10 years, and while he wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything, the loss of his family left a bitter spot in his mind.
He heard the bullet hit the glass shield protecting the president, he heard the bulletproof glass shatter and a part of his brain wondered what rifle and shell the sniper had used that would poke a hole through unbreakable glass. His brain picked up the collective gasp of the president’s party and of the audience, but he never turned to look at the targeted man. The second bullet followed almost immediately after the first, and that whine was close enough he instinctively ducked. The time between the shots told him that either the shooter was very close or there were two snipers involved.
His eyes swiveled back and forth across the rows of buildings lined up down the avenues leading outwards and away from this presidential Park. He saw no flash, and other than a general direction caused by the whining bullet, he had no idea where the shooter was.
He heard the sirens begin, he heard the crowd screaming and a myriad of voices on the stage behind him shouting for command and control of the situation.
In swiveling his head, he saw his fellow security team members all focusing on the same direction that he was looking. None of them were pointing at any particular spot and all were trying to identify the location of the shooter. He saw the crowd panicking. Some had taken refuge by lying down while others fought their way out of the park to hide in surrounding buildings or rushed down subway entrances searching for any spot way from the shooting.
He turned back to the stage for a quick look, watched as one of the president’s bodyguards picked him up, threw him over his shoulder and carried his limp body as quickly as possible to the ambulance that always accompanied the presidential party.
The security people also surrounded the Vice-President, and two burly officers, one on each arm, had picked him up and were half carrying him, half running him, to his waiting vehicle. A stray thought appeared in the Sergeant’s mind about ridiculous looking politicians and he silently laughed to see the vice president’s toes popping off the stage as he was half-carried, half-run of the stage.
The only people he could see running towards the stage were the news videographers. Each was determined to get the best shot and the goriest pictures. They all knew the maximum “If it bleeds, it leads,” and every one of them knew their work today would be part of history. He pulled his service pistol out and trained it on them. One couldn’t be too careful he knew and if one turned out to be a traitor, he’d stop them.
The third whine went over his head, and he instinctively ducked again. He didn’t turn to find the source as he watched it enter one side of the vice president’s head, blow out the other side to bury itself in the neck of the security agent. That agent went down spinning but didn’t release his grip on the now-dead vice president. The three of them wound up in a tangle on the stage.
“Shit,” he said. “We’re in it now.” For the second time, he swiveled to look, to search for the smallest sign of the shooter. There was nothing he could see.
For the next two weeks, every apartment or office that could possibly have been the shooting site was visited and examined carefully by trained investigators with the latest tools. But the shooters, the police had established there had to be two to get two bullets to the stage within the time frame established by the video evidence, had left no identifying evidence.
A month later, the largest political task force that would ever be assembled to investigate the death of a president began its work. While they were able to identify the bullet, and the probable make of rifle it had been fired from, no other clues emerged over the next six months. The shooter, whoever it was, had done their job and had then simply disappeared into the city.
After that, things got interesting.
This is a work-in-progress from my next book “The Next 100 Years”.