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I witnessed the whole happening. The adrenaline pumping through my body furiously, my feet frozen to the spot. There she was, facing the old man, her finger on the trigger of her pistol. The fear in his eyes I cannot forget.
It was late at night. I was at the station, waiting for my father to pick me up. Everything was running according to plan- I would remain at the train station after researching at the State Library until my father had returned from his night shift at the pharmacy five blocks away. That night was not the same though.
I was having a failed attempt in making sense of the notes I had written when I heard shuffling noises on my right. In the end, curiosity found me walking toward the stairs, my flimsy bag on my shoulder in case some poor stray needed my takeaway dinner leftovers. As I ducked beneath the space behind the stairs, I stifled a gasp. Standing less than a metre in front of me was a young girl-possibly no older than me, her hands outstretched and clasping a sleek silver pistol. Although she was facing away from me, I feared that a single lift of my foot would reveal my presence. The barrel pointed at the nose of a wrinkled man with hands held to his head in submission. His eyes revealed utter horror and fear. A few muffled words from the girl were followed by a sudden sound which pierced the air and echoed. The world around me froze. The old man fell to the ground. Limp, lifeless.
I did not wait to see what would happen next. I turned and fled so fast that the world was flying past me, a series of changing colours. I forced myself not to look back, not to stop until I came to the end of the station, where I exited and continued until I caught sight of a suburban home. I didn not know where I was, but I didn’t care. Rummaging through my shoulder bag, I whipped out my mobile, desperate to hear my father’s voice. He picked up after one ring.
“Dad. I’m okay.”
“Where are you?”
I scanned the area around me for some identification object or sign of my whereabouts.
“I’m on….Alexandra Drive. I’m standing, like, right in front of a white bench under a streetlight.”
My father began to sob.
“Dad? Are you….all right?’
“You don’t know what I saw….” he sniffed quietly.
The great impact of being thrown into the watery depths of an ocean hit me, causing my heart to pound furiously. Had my father seen the girl who had shot the old man? Even worse, had the girl seen him?
“Dad, what did you see?”
“Selena, I’m coming to get you right now. Stay right where you are.”
“Dad! What. Did. You. See.” I was trying to remain calm now.
“It doesn’t matter right now. I will tell you later. Right now, I am coming to get you. Don’t move. I’m heading toward Alexandra Street.”
I sighed and ended the call. Sitting on the white bench, I struggled to forget all that had happened tonight. I could not erase the image of that girl. Or the man she shot dead. The sound of her gun-it echoed continuously in my head. Footsteps approaching on the footpath interrupted my thoughts. I glanced up to see my father running toward me, an anxious look on his face. There he was, in his work clothes and shiny black shoes, coming for me. I ran to him and buried my face in his new ocean-coloured work shirt. It was my turn to cry now. The tears seeped through the material. But my father didn’t care. He had found me.
“Can you give a description of the girl’s face?” the Constable asked.
“Long face, black hair…” my father stared intently at the ceiling, as if scanning through his mental library of memories, trying to remember the details.
“Long or short?”
“Long.” I replied firmly and shuddered at the memory of the girl.
We looked over to the officer who was furiously sketching the murderer’s face.
“Small, thin mouth and a sharp nose pointing downwards.” My father continued, his eyes glued to the paper on which the portrait was being drawn. “Oh yes, hazel-coloured eyes.”
It was my father who knew the facial details. I had only seen her wispy hair tied black, flowing down her bony back like a silent black waterfall.
I turned to the portrait that was being drawn. It was beginning to look like the girl I had seen from behind. Bit something seemed to be missing. Images flashed of the ghastly scene I had witnessed a few hours before.
“The girl- she had a small birthmark on the side of her neck.” I realised.
Without thinking, I grabbed the pencil from the surprised officer and drew the small detail onto the sketch. Constable Wiltshire raised an eyebrow.
I stepped back to examine the face. My father bent down to have a closer look. Then we both grinned.
“Do you recognize,” Wiltshire held up a small evidence bag, “these?”
Right before our eyes were two strands of hair as dark as night, unmistakably belonging to the murderer.
My father and I gasped in unison.
“The girl’s hair.” I managed to breathe.
The constable nodded. “The area in which the murder took place has been sealed off and is currently being investigated.”
Setting back down the small bag, Constable Wiltshire swivelled the computer screen around.
Staring back at us was a digitally processed portrait of the girl we had described. The image was flawless, every detail was in place.
“The murderer.” my father could not take his eyes off the screen.
“At the moment we cannot label her the murderer until we have enough evidence. For now we refer to her as a suspect. Also, we accessed all the state’s records and found the suspect’s credentials. Her name is Astha Sry, a sixteen year old girl.”
“Astha Sry,” I repeated. The name rolled over my tongue like a cold, bitter seed. This girl was younger than me. I wondered what caused her to do what she had done two nights ago.
“This portrait,” Wiltshire nodded toward the screen, “will be sent to the National Police Headquarters and the case will be thoroughly investigated. We are still trying to identify the body of the victim. There have been no sightings of Astha so far, though I can assure you the police are doing their best to find the suspect.”
I was seventeen when I witnessed the murder of Tyson Fisher. The memory still haunts me to this day.
It was my father who first asked. Weeks after the murder case began, we were having a very pleasant dinner-or so I thought, when he decided it was an appropriate time to bring it up.
“Are you willing to testify in court? As a witness, I mean.”
I nearly spat out the mash potato and peas I was slowly chewing. Grabbing a glass of water, I swallowed hard and took a deep breath.
“You’re kidding, right?” I exhaled dramatically.
“I’ll take that as a no?”
“No way. Nup. Nope. No. Never.” I replied firmly, suddenly losing my appetite and jabbing my fork into a pea.
My father paused for a moment before answering.
“Constable Wiltshire phoned last night. They have found the suspect. She will stand trial three months from now, and we’re the only known witnesses. I would have hoped for you to agree to being a witness. Your words could change someone’s life.
“Yea, right, my words could make that Astha girl hate me for life.” I muttered irritably under my breath.
“Pardon me?” my father glanced sharply at me.
I popped the thin casing of the pea. Lifting my head a little, I looked straight at my father.
“I don’t want to be a witness. I can’t stand there in court and face that girl.” I said quietly.
My father sighed but nodded. “I will let the constable know tomorrow that I will be a sole witness.”
I didn’t know whether to feel relieved or guilty, but I knew that I was so fortunate to have a most understanding and loving father.
“Dad?” It had to be my father calling at this time in the night.
“Selena Falls?” The voice was high and feminine, certainly not my father.
“W-Who is this?”
“Selena, I’m Officer Danielson. Your father is at the St Benedict Hospital –--“
“My father is what?”
“Your father is in a critical condition at the moment. He was shot by two bullets.”
“My father doesn’t just walk home from to get shot by some crazy gunman!
“What happened? I NEED TO SEE HIM NOW!” It was all too much. I began shouting, panicking hard.
“If you calm down now, I can explain everything, Selena.”
“I’m sorry.” I fought back tears and fell silent.
“Around twelve o’clock we received a call from your father asking for help. He sounded very much in pain. When we arrived, he was unconscious, sprawled on the cement. Fortunately, paramedics were able to revive him. He had been shot twice. It was obvious that whoever shot him thought he was dead. We suspect Astha Sry may have had something to do with the incident. May I say your father is a very brave man.”
I restrained the anger and anxiety that was building inside me. “Can I see him?” I whispered so quietly I guessed Officer Danielson could barely hear it.
“He is in the emergency ward at the moment. The doctors are doing everything they can to save him. I’m sorry, but you won’t be permitted to see your father tonight, although first thing tomorrow morning I can take you to the hospital to see him.”
I rested the receiver in its cradle slowly. I would have trouble falling asleep tonight.
The doorbell rang promptly at six the next morning. I grabbed my coat and raced for the door. I could not wait to see my father.
The police officer standing before me was young and tall with an ID card reading ‘Scarlet Danielson’. The expression on her face was an indicator of something I knew I would not want to hear.
“May I come in?” she spoke almost inaudibly, a hoarse whisper. It was as if she was afraid of saying something.
“Yes of course……..are we going to see my father now?”
Officer Danielson sat on the couch and immediately stared at her lap, avoiding my gaze.
“No, I’m afraid not.” her voice quivered.
“But you promised…?”
“I’m sorry.” After several tense minutes, the officer looked up.
It was then that I understood what had happened.
“No, no no….no. No……NO!” I burst into fresh floods and fell into the arms of Danielson, sobbing uncontrollably.
“He passed away at four this morning after an emergency operation last night. They say his heart just…stopped.” the officer’s quiet voice attempted to comfort me.
At those words, I pulled away and rushed upstairs, collapsing onto my bed. It was all too much.
I never thought about losing the one person I treasured the most. The one who I sought guidance from the time I learnt to walk. The one who was always there when I was falling apart, the one who always believed in me. Losing my father was a feeling simply indescribable. It cast a silent shadow over my life-I walked through endless tunnels of darkness for weeks. I refused to leave the house, I would not eat more than once a day and I left the phone ringing, even when Officer Danielson left a countless number of anxious messages. I was lost in my own isolated world.
Eventually, they collected me from my home and put me with a counsellor who visited once a day. I slowly recovered over the next month. It was only when Officer Danielson came to talk to me about the court hearing of the murder case to be held the following month that the darkness I was in completely dissolved and exposed me into light. I realised that all this time I had been miserable about my father’s death I had not once thought about what I could do moving on. Over the next few days, I made my decision. I picked up the phone and dialled Constable Wiltshire whom I had not seen or talked to during what seemed like a long nightmare. After a few rings, he picked up. I took a deep breath.
“I am Selena, daughter of Callum Falls and I am willing to be a witness in the court hearing of the murder of Tyson Fisher.”