THE VICTIM looked like a child who had toppled over in prayer. His skull was crushed, flattened, and blood pooled out from the enormous fissure like holiday ribbons on a cake. All around the charred remains of his body lay pools of blood, severed limbs, twisted steel, ball bearings and nails -- the calling cards of modern terrorism. The victim looked like a child who had toppled over in prayer, and death flowered from the centre of his form. Gunther Gross grimaced as he lifted the dimpled sheet of newspaper someone had draped over the head, and examined the find. He was shaking.
<<Jesus, he can't have been six-years-old. The whole family must have died together. What kind of fucked up world...>>
<<Gross, over here>> said the big cop's loyal partner, Paul Luszeit. The two had patrolled the mean streets of East LA for more than four years and seen a lot of mean things, to paraphrase Han Solo -- but nothing could have prepared them for the devastation of this scene. <<Maybe it's the bomber.>>
Gross dropped the sheet again, and moved from one pulverised piece of smoking flesh to a new one. <<What's left of him, anyway. Cowardly bastard.>> He turned and peered out at the crowd, held back now by one of the uniformed officers. There was a constant hurry of paramedics and police officers, journalists all over the place (as usual they were the first on the scene.) He heard one of them say, telling his camera crew: <<We've seen it in Israel, we've seen it in Serbia and France -- but never here, never in the streets of America...>> They were saying there were more than 10 dead -- more than 20 dead -- at least 50 people wounded. The scene was one of utter devastation.
<<Do we have any witnesses?>> Gross roared, over the top of the journalists and all. There wasn't even a ripple of a reply, forcing Gross to spit on the ground. <<Didn't anyone see a god-damned thing?>>
Gross was about to throw his arms up in despair when he caught sight of a small, narrow-faced man who immediately turned away. <<Paul>> he said quickly <<take care of things here. I want to talk to that man.>>
Gross parted the crowd with his girth -- saw the little man hurrying ahead of him, dodging between the film crews. Before he could scuttle free of the crowd, Gross had him by the shoulder, pincer-style, ready to be interrogated. The sun was beating down like a furnace, and the crowd was getting heady on the smell of blood. It was the first suicide bombing on American soil.
<<Say, friend, don't you want to talk to me?>>
The man looked sideways at him. <<I see>> he said with a broken Spanish accent. <<I see, but I no talk.>>
<<Why not>> Gross (profile: Montana-born, 41, divorced) said gently, edging closer.
<<DIABLO >> the little man said. <<I saw the bomber. She was beautiful. She was on SEX AND THE CITY>>
The crowd's attention was caught now, and a swift, frightened murmur swept through it. Bloodlust was in the air, and it was still only 10am. Gross bit his lip, real nervous like.
<<All right, little man, just tell me what you saw.>>
His witness exhaled sharply, and Gross caught a whiff of old beer and worse. His teeth carried a week's worth of yellowish brown tartar, but there was still an ember of intelligence glowing in the muddy eyes. The little man held himself and rocked back and forth disconsolately, and made the sign of the cross. <<I tell truth, senor. First woman gets out of car, she's like a model. Big Cadillac, very flash. Blonde hair and short dress, she looks like a movie star. I watch a lot of television -- I see her before! She is holding a briefcase. Man in a lounge suit kisses her on the cheek, then drive off. She says: "There be no god and Allah is but his name." More prayers, and then the bomb goes off. It was like the end of the world.>>
Gross stopped, sucking in air. Oh god. Just when I thought I had something...
<<Beautiful woman. The same one from SEX AND THE CITY? >>
<<Si , senor. SEX AND THE CITY. She blew herself to bits.>>
Gross tried to smile, tried to hide his disappointment, and could barely summon anything except disgust. <<Well, thankyou. I'll remember that. SEX AND THE CITY.>>
The faces in the crowd around him were a spectrum of responses - everything from amusement to superstitious awe. Jesus Christ he groaned to himself. I can just see the papers tomorrow.