Mark sees a Hero's passing
|Mark sat in the back of the Chapel. He had not known Dan Wayne, but he had known Chloe from high school. She was one of his sister's best friends. One year behind him, Mark met her and spoke to her several times. She had always just been Clarissa's friend, but today was different.
Chloe is beautiful, Mark thought as she began to speak. Funny how he had never noticed before. Listening to her, Mark remembered that day. He had seen it all, and when her voice broke near the end, when the sobbing cry escaped her, it all came crashing back in...
It was a Saturday afternoon in May. Mark graduated last summer. Planning to start community college in the fall, he had concentrated on getting his car paid off before classes began. His hard work at the Apple store in the Metro Mall had earned him an Assistant Manager's position just last week. Standing at the front of the store, he looked at his nametag once again. Mark Adams, Assistant Manager. He couldn't help but be proud. His parents had worried, though. "The Mall has become too dangerous," his dad had said. "Can't you get a job somewhere else?" Mark had argued with them. He needed the money, and he just didn't think his parents were right; the Mall was okay.
And then it happened.
Mark's store was next to the south exit of the Mall, right across from Firebird's Grill. Both his store and the restaurant got a lot of traffic from folks who just came to get a phone or eat. There were always a lot of people going in and out. It was great for business.
Loud voices interrupted his reverie.
"Shut your mouth, punk!" said an old man near the entrance to the restaurant. A young man, dressed in a black hoodie and wearing saggy, low-hanging jeans faced the old man and replied. Mark could not hear what he said. The old man punched him without warning, knocking him to the floor. A young woman standing near the old man yelled, "Papa, no!"
Mark focused on what was happening. The young man stood up and pulled a gun, pointing it at the old man. Mark turned to an employee that had come up to see what was going on. Mark hissed at her, "Call 911," he said. "Go," he said more forcefully when she hesitated, "That kid's got a gun!"
Everything seemed to slow down like it was happening in slow motion. The young man, holding what appeared to be a semiautomatic handgun sideways, like you might see in a movie, told the old man, "I otta to kill you for that, pops. But I think I'll just frag the girl instead." With that, he pointed the gun toward the girl and fired.
Before he could pull the trigger, the old man had jumped in front of the girl. The bullet hit him in the chest. The old man fell back into the girl, knocking her into the restaurant window as she tried to keep him from falling. Screams rang out as panicking people tried to get away, some running out of the exit doors, some back into the Mall. The young man froze for a second, and then shoving the gun into the hoodie's pocket, he turned and ran out of the Mall.
The girl's sobs brought Mark back to reality. She was sitting on the ground, holding the old man in her lap. "Chloe? That's Chloe," Mark suddenly realized and headed toward her.
Running up, he knelt beside them. "Chloe," Mark said. "We have called 911. Help's on the way."
Chloe had blood on her arms and face. She was cradling the man's head in her lap. She kept saying," Stay with me, Papa, stay with me, please!" The yearning, the sorrow in her voice nearly broke him. "Please don't die, she said, "please hang on." Mark reached over and put two fingers on the man's neck, feeling for a pulse. Chloe reacted violently.
"Don't you touch him, "she screamed.
"Chloe, it's me, Mark Adams. Clarissa's brother, remember?"
"He's got a pulse. Are you okay? Were you hit?" Mark asked. He heard sirens in the distance.
"Mark?" she said. "Clarissa? Oh yes, I remember..." she said through her tears. "I'm not hurt. Did you see it? He jumped in front of me." She sounded a bit off to Mark. He was sure she was going into shock.
Two ambulances pulled up outside, just behind a Police cruiser.
As the police and paramedics came in, they asked Mark to step aside. He did so reluctantly. The paramedics separated the two, beginning treatment on the man, and examining Chloe as the Policeman started asking her questions. Mark backed up but did not leave. He was surprised to learn the man was Chloe's grandfather. Soon, gurneys were wheeled in, and both Chloe and her grandfather were loaded onto them.
Before taking Chloe away, she said, "Mark, call my family." The plea in her voice was irresistible. "I will," Mark said as they wheeled her out. "Though I hate to be the bearer of sad news," he whispered as they loaded them into the ambulances. Mark felt numb now. The adrenaline rush was gone, and he noticed his hands were shaking. He was in a bit of shock himself, he guessed. Did he really just stand there watching as a man was shot? Turning, he headed for the store, dreading the call he was about to make. Though Chloe hadn't noticed, it was clear to him that her grandfather had died.
Hanging up the phone, he felt horrible. Chloe's father kept asking if his dad was okay if he was seriously hurt. Mark did not feel it was his place to pass on the news. They would learn soon enough anyway. Standing in quiet contemplation, Mark wondered if his parents had been right after all. Picking up the phone again, he prepared to call the manager and tell her what had happened, that he would have to close early tonight.
He realized he had blood on his shirt and his pants as he talked. "Great," he thought as he looked at the stains. He then paused, looking back over at the spot where the shooting had happened.
Sadly smiling and a bit surprised at himself, he realized something else as well, but that would have to wait for a while...