Ella found herself struggling to keep up with the crowd. The Indian girl next to her looked much too young to be there all by herself. A copy of The Great Gatsby protruded from her blazer pocket and Ella wanted to push it back more securely. An elderly man beat her to it and they exchanged a look. He looked like an academic type, with his faded denim jeans and leather patches on his jacket elbows. She was propelled forward by the crowd and noted youngsters, intermingled with middle-aged people, all dressed in casual clothing, all united in a common cause. The air was electric.
Ella absorbed the energy. It was tinged with fear but the big crowd drew together and seemed to take comfort in their closeness. Apprehension was overridden by a wave of idealism. She was in two-minds about all of this. Her matrics were about to write and here they were using precious time to protest. The Gatsby girl stumbled and fell. The crowd surged forward and Ella picked up the dog-eared copy of The Great Gatsby as the elderly man pulled her up, before she was trampled. He put his arm around her shoulder and kept it there, as they moved forward. She looked familiar. Could she be one of her… No, she’d have remembered.
“Mandela must be released. We must never, never give up!”
People raised their fists and shouted.
“Power to the people.”
Words swam around in her head and people pushed in front of her. The crowd heaved towards the human barrier. Ella tried to steady herself as they reached it. Policemen coursed forward. All their batons were held high, ready for action and daring the crowd to cross the line. What was that near the pavement? Her heart beat loudly as she zigzagged through the crowd to reach the suspicious looking bundle. There was a brown shoe sticking out from under the cloak. Could it be… she pulled the cloak back and there she was, curled up in a foetal position. Blood was oozing from a cut in her side. Ella put her hand on the girl’s wrist. No pulse. Oh my God, she’s…A tap on her shoulder made her turn around and look up into a pair of steely grey eyes and a shiver ran down her spine. He thumped his baton into the palm of his hand.
“You have her school book.”
Ella frowned at the policeman. Of course she had the book.
“But I picked it up to keep it safe.”
The policeman kept his eyes on her.
“You were the only one close enough to…”
“I pushed through the crowd to see what was lying here. I was only trying to help.”
Why was he even saying these things? He couldn’t possibly think…
“Are you telling me I’m a suspect?”
He hesitated before nodding.
“But what reason would I have to kill a young girl I’ve never even met?”
This was insane. It couldn’t really be happening.
“That’s what we’ll find out in due course, Miss. You’ll have to come with me.”