Adam felt dizzy with excitement.
"Looting! Hey, what about it?" he hissed in Lizzie's ear. "Wow. Look at it. Look at it!" yelled Lizzie, staring about her with bright, big eyes. "You scared?"
"No! I love it!" Lizzie had lived all her life safe and sound, protected by her parents' money. Sometimes she felt as if life was going to grind to a halt. Now look! The city going up in smoke and here she was, right in the middle of it.
They made their way up Princess Street to Albert Square. It was heaving. There was some sort of struggle going on in front of the town hall, a mass of people fighting their way forward showing no mercy. The police were there, trying to hold them back from storming the building. They were acting more like soldiers than law keepers, lashing out at people with their batons. But they were out-numbered, and the crowd against them was swelling rapidly. Suddenly they'd had enough and made a run for it, pushing their way out of the crowd, which parted to make way for them. A roar of victory went up, and the vanguard at the front began smashing the windows of the town hall and pounding at its heavy oak doors, trying to get inside.
The police re-formed a line and tried to push their way back to the town hall, but it was no good. The doors were giving way and people were already crawling in through smashed windows. The banks and the headquarters of the big companies around the square were under attack as well. Bottles and bricks were in the air. There were no peacemakers. Anyone who wanted out had already left; it was just the hard core now. In the shopping streets and malls around them, the looters were still busy at work, but here in the square, people weren't interested in wide-screen TVs and crates of beer. They wanted more. They were trying to tear the whole city apart with their bare hands and start again.
And they were organized. From where Lizzie and Adam stood, they could see people wearing rat masks. Adam hissed in excitement. Zealots! Half madcap protest group, half armed rebels right here in Manchester, fighting to take over the seat of the city government.
"It's not just looting," yelled Lizzie. "It's a revolution, Adam!"
Across the front of the town hall, there was a ripple of movement. They looked up as a huge banner, a hundred feet wide, unraveled like a wave of water down the height of the building. It showed a gigantic rat clutching a can of red paint, staring angrily into the crowd, with the Zealot slogan painted red behind it:
OUR TIME WILL COME!
The crowd in the square roared their approval. Above the noise, an amplified voice boomed out: "The town hall is ours. Free cheese for everyone!"
Around them, people screamed in delight. High up on the roof, they could see Zealots in rat masks looking down at the crowd. One of them shook a machine gun in the air. Was it real? Adam wondered. The Zealots were everywhere pushing back the police and hauling them off as if they were under arrest. One group had taken a jackhammer to Barclays Bank on the corner; someone else was squirting glue into the locks of the NatWest. Loud music started blaring out a Jimmy Earle number, "The Rats Are Taking Over." The crowd around them jostled and surged. A man banged into them and thrust a handful of pills into their faces."
What is it?" Adam asked, reaching out. Free drugs! Ecstasy, maybe?
"Sweeties," said the man, grinning at them. "Courtesy of Jimmy Earle. Last point on his bucket list."
Adam handed one to Lizzie and they looked closely at them. On each pill, neatly printed in black, was a tiny skull.
"It can't be . . ." But it was. Everyone knew what the pills looked like. Adam could see the man moving on, passing out handful after handful of the deadly little pills. It must have cost a fortune.
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.
Blood at the Root
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