In the middle of it all, flat on the floor, eyes wide open, beyond any excitement or fun or sadness or pleasure or pain, Jimmy Earle lay, his chest violently pounded by the big paramedic. The air was going in and out of his lungs, the blood pumping in all directions in and out of his shattered heart. Not one drop of it was ever going to do him any good again.
THE BIG SCREENS BLANKED OUT SO THAT NO ONE COULD see what was going on, but it didn't stop the chaos. Things were being thrown. Shoes, cans, even bottles were flying through the air and down into the crowd. There were screams; people were getting hurt. Fights broke out; security was getting overwhelmed. It was turning into a full-blown riot. There were warnings over the PA that the whole place was under CCTV surveillance and vandals would be prosecuted, but the violence didn't stop. It was doubtful anyone even heard.
Then there was another announcement Jimmy was alive! It was just a stunt after all. Everyone, just calm down, please. It seemed to work for a minute or two. People milled around in confusion. After a short wait there he was! Jimmy Earle, walking onto the stage, waving, and smiling. But it was pathetic it was obvious it was just a look-alike dressed up in his gear. If anyone had any doubts that Jimmy Earle really had died, those doubts were put to rest there and then.
Things got suddenly worse. Seats were being torn up and thrown about. People were trying to storm the stage to loot the equipment it would be worth a fortune after this. But then the doors banged open and police came in, squads of them, storming up the aisles in full riot gear. They fought their way to the stage, turned to face the crowd shields up, batons drawn and began to edge their way forward. They were going to literally push the audience out onto the street.
There was another announcement; there would be a refund available online to anyone not prosecuted. The management apologized and asked everyone to leave quietly. At last, things began to calm down.
Herded by the police, the crowd began to shuffle toward the exits.
Adam and Lizzie had good seats, close to the front, so they were among the last to leave. They heard the sirens going off while they were still inside, and by the time they got outside, things were already kicking off. Thousands of overexcited, upset fans, suddenly thrown out into Manchester on a Friday night, with nothing to do there was bound to be trouble. The venue was safe, but now there was the whole of Manchester to run riot in.
Out on the streets, the atmosphere was electric. People were running to and fro in groups, groups merging into gangs, gangs into crowds. As Adam and Lizzie walked toward Piccadilly Gardens, some kids chased past, barging them out of the way.
"Hey!" shouted Adam. But the gang had already gone. They walked on to the middle of the block, and saw what it was a shop window, smashed, and the police gathering to stop the looting. Some-one stumbled past them with a huge cardboard box held in front of him, leaning right over backward in an effort to keep his balance, like a man in a cartoon. Farther ahead another gang appeared out of nowhere and started throwing bricks and stones at the police.
It was like a Jimmy Earle song turned real. His music had always been about love and sex, loss and hope, about rioting and looting and fighting back against poverty and failure and here it all was, sizzling hot in the drizzle of a Manchester night. Tonight the streets belonged to his fans, and they were going to make the most of it.
Adam and Lizzie ran on. The city was in flames. The shops had given up the ghost, the windows smashed open, people running freely in and out. On the corner of Princess Street, someone was pounding the back doors of a van with a piece of broken paving stone. There were shouts and sirens, clouds of smoke, the stink of burning rubber and gasoline. It was a war zone. But for what?
Excerpted from The Hit by Melvin Burgess. Copyright © 2014 by Melvin Burgess. Excerpted by permission of The Chicken House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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