They left the zoo and strolled through Regent's Park. It was late April
and young men were kicking footballs across the muddy lawn while parents
pushed bundledup babies in perambulators. The whole city seemed to be
out enjoying the sunshine after three days of rain. Maya and her father
took the Piccadilly line to the Arsenal station; it was getting dark
when they reached the street-level exit. There was an Indian
restaurant in Finsbury Park and Thorn had made reservations for an early
supper. Maya heard noisesblaring air horns and shouting in the
distanceand wondered if there was some kind of political demonstration.
Then Father led her through the turnstile and out into a war.
Standing on the sidewalk, she saw a mob of people marching up Highbury
Hill Road. There weren't any protest signs and banners, and Maya
realized that she was watching the end of a football match. The Arsenal
Stadium was straight down the road and a team with blue and white
colorsthat was Chelseahad just played there. The Chelsea supporters
were coming out of the visitors' gate on the west end of the stadium and
heading down a narrow street lined with row houses. Normally it was a
quick walk to the station entrance, but now the North London street had
turned into a gauntlet. The police were protecting Chelsea from Arsenal
football thugs who were trying to attack them and start fights.
Policemen on the edges. Blue and white in the center. Red throwing
bottles and trying to break through the line. Citizens caught in front
of the crowd scrambled between parked cars and knocked over rubbish
bins. Flowering hawthorns grew at the edge of the curb and their pink
blossoms trembled whenever someone was shoved against a tree. Petals
fluttered through the air and fell upon the surging mass.
The main crowd was approaching the Tube station, about one hundred
meters away. Thorn could have gone to the left and headed up Gillespie
Road, but he remained on the sidewalk and studied the people surrounding
them. He smiled slightly, confident of his own power and amused by the
pointless violence of the drones. Along with the sword, he was carrying
at least one knife and a handgun obtained from contacts in America. If
he wished, he could kill a great many of these people, but this was a
public confrontation and the police were in the area. Maya glanced up at
her father. We should run away, she thought. These people are completely
mad. But Thorn glared at his daughter as if he had just sensed her fear
and Maya stayed silent.
Everyone was shouting. The voices merged into one angry roar. Maya heard
a highpitched whistle. The wail of a police siren. A beer bottle
sailed through the air and exploded into fragments a few feet away from
where they were standing. Suddenly, a flying wedge of red shirts and
scarves plowed through the police lines, and she saw men kicking and
throwing punches. Blood streamed down a policeman's face, but he raised
his truncheon and fought back.
She squeezed Father's hand. "They're coming toward us," she said. "We
need to get out of the way."
Thorn turned around and pulled his daughter back into the entrance of
the Tube station as if to find refuge there. But now the police were
driving the Chelsea supporters forward like a herd of cattle and she was
surrounded by men wearing blue. Caught in the crowd, Maya and her father
were pushed past the ticket booth where the elderly clerk cowered behind
the thick glass.
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