Book Excerpt – After: A Novel
Copyright © 2006 Penguin Random House/Marita Golden No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher or author. The format of this excerpt has been modified for presentation here.
The bullets discharge from the muzzle of officer Carson Blake’s sixteen round Beretta with the tinny explosive popping sound of a toy gun. He will not remember exactly how many shots he fires so wildly. Fires with pure intent. Fires, he is sure, to save his life. In the first seconds after the shattering sound of the bullets subsides, he would say, if sked right then, that he had fired every bullet in his gun. Never before has his gun been so large. Never before has it weighed so much. He’s dizzy and breathless. His hearts beats so fast he can’t believe he is still standing.
When he shoots the man, everything, all of it, unfolds as if in slow motion. He wants to look away. He dares not turn his gaze. The first bullet boring through the man’s thick neck riddled with razor bumps, the force twisting his head to the side, as though he is looking with those astonished, horribly open, not yet dead eyes to see where the bullet comes from. The second bullet piercing the skin of the black leather jacket, lodging in the flesh of his shoulder. The third bullet, fired at his groin, bringing him to his knees, and then onto his face, flat out sprawled on the parking lot forty feet from the entrance to the Chinese Restaurant, The House of Chang.
Staring at the man on the pavement, his body a bloody heap illuminated by the fluorescence of the mall parking lot lights, when Carson Blake sees the cell phone a few feet from the man’s hand, he prays for the ground beneath his feet to shift in a cataclysmic rumble and swallow him whole. A cell phone, he thinks, unbelieving. A cell phone. Not a gun. He hurls a howl, deep, and guttural, into the night. Sinking to his knees, he touches the man, turns him over on his back, sees the bulbous, bloody wound in his neck, smells the stringent odor of his sodden groin, desperate now to find, to feel, a pulse. There is none. There is only the cell phone. Looking up in desperation, Carson sees a sky unfamiliar and frightening, in which he can fathom not a single star, a vastness that makes him wish for wings.
Carson tries to stand but cannot and crawls a few feet away and vomits. When there is no more sickness to spill from his gut, he wipes his mouth and shouts at the dead man, through trembling lips stained with a blistering splash of tears,
’What the fuck were you doing?’
didn’t you just do what I said?’