IT'S WAY TOO EARLY in the morning for dead people.
That's what I'd be thinking, were I actually thinking clearly right now. I'm not.
The second I turn the corner on my way to work and see the crowd, the commotion, the dingy gray body bags being wheeled out of that oh-so-chichi hotel, I reach for my camera. I can't help it. It's instinct on my part.
Click, click, click.
Don't think about what's happened here. Just shoot, Kristin.
My head whips left and right, the lens of my Leica R9 leading the way. I focus first on the faces around me – the gawkers, the lookie-loos. That's what Annie Leibovitz would do. A businessman in wide pinstripes, a bike messenger, a mother with her stroller, they all stand and stare at theterrible murder scene. Like it or not, this is the highlight of their day. And it's not yet eight a.m.
I move forward, even as something inside me is saying, "Look away, walk away." Even as something says, "You know where you are. This hotel. You know, Kristin."
I'm weaving my way toward the entrance to the hotel. Closer and closer, I'm being pulled – as if by an undertow that I can't resist. And I keep shooting pictures as though I'm on assignment for the New York Times or Newsweek.
Click, click, click.
Parked at jagged angles, police cars and ambulances fill the street. ilook up from their sirens, tracing the twirling beams of blue-and-red light as they dance against the surrounding brownstones.
I spy more gawkers in the windows of nearby apartments. A woman wearing curlers takes a bite of a bagel. Click.
Something catches my eye. It's a refl ection, the sun bouncing off the rail of the last gurney being wheeled out of the hotel. That makes four. What happened in there? Murder? Mass murder?
They sit, gathered on the sidewalk – four gurneys – each holding a body bag. It's horrifying. Just awful.
My wrist twists, and I go wide-angle to shoot them as a group – like a family. My wrist twists back, and I go tight, shooting them one by one. Who were they? What happened to these poor people? How did they die?
Don't think, Kristin, just shoot.
Two muscular paramedics walk out of the hotel and approach a couple of cops. Detectives, like on Law & Order. They all talk, they all shake their heads, and they all have that hardened New York look to them, as if they've seen it all before.
One of the detectives – older, rail thin – looks my way. I think he sees me.
Click, click, click.
Having burned through a roll of film, I furiously load another.
There's really nothing more to shoot, and yet I keep firing away. I'm late for work, but it doesn't matter. It's as if I can't leave.
My head snaps back to the gurneys as something catches my eye. At first, I can't believe it. Maybe it's the wind, or just my mind playing tricks early in the morning.
Then it happens again, and I gasp. The last body bag...it moved!
Did I just see what I think I saw?
I'm terrifi ed and want to run away. Instead, I edge even closer. Instinct? Undertow?
I'm staring at that zipped-up body bag, and all I know is that there's been a horrible mistake by the police or the EMS.
It's creeping backward. That body bag is opening from the inside!
My eyes bulge, and my knees buckle. Literally. I stagger through the crowd, staring through my lens in shock and disbelief.
I see a finger emerge, then an entire hand. Oh, God, and there's blood!
"Help!" I scream, lowering my camera. "That person is alive!"
The crowd turns, the cops and paramedics too. They glance at me and scoff in disbelief or reproach, shaking their heads as if I just escaped from Bellevue. They think I'm nuts!
I stab the air, pointing at the body bag as the hand pushes through the plastic, desperately reaching out for help. I think it's a woman's hand.
Do something, Kris! You have to save her!
I raise my camera again, and –
Copyright © 2007 by James Patterson
Ilyana Kadushin's numerous credits include narration for The Discover Channel, Nickelodeon, and BBC America. She is a singer and songwriter for the duo Lythion, who currently scores music for film and television. Ilyana has also recently appeared in productions for Amnesty International and The Culture Project.
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