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.
Excerpted from The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks Copyright © 2005 by John Twelve Hawks. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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