Red and blue lights flashed a macabre disco strobe across the front of Mr Lee’s convenience store and the open doors and windows of the neighbouring houses. Police and ambulance radio chatter provided the soundtrack to the evening’s events.
The local newspaper reporter stepped out of her car, pen and paper in hand. Her camera man checked his pouches and went to get the story from the police and take some snaps. She scanned the scene. The police and ambulance officers moved about their duties with precision. The neighbours were kept at a respectable distance behind the police tape and their own fears. Huddled in small family groups they whispered gossip and theories to one another. Parents kept a firm hand on their children, drawing them in close.
The footpath in front of the door was strewn with shards of glass, a set of keys and a large padlock. Inside the corner store, police cameras illuminated the carnage; a secondary tempest and lightning storm making the onlookers shield their eyes.
Neighbours peered into the narrow doors of the store into the storm’s epicentre. Wads of bloodied cotton mixed with stock strewn on the floor. Numbered cones outlined the scene; a forensic dot-to-dot puzzle.
The reporter moved from group to group, looking for a story angle.
People huddled in small groups, furtively eyeing the shadows, hoping that nothing was hiding.
One old man in a faded cardigan and tattered slippers shuffled up to the reporter. “I’ve lived in this area for thirty years and never has this place been robbed or broken into.” A cigarette passed to his lips. “Mr Lee’s been a part of the scenery for almost twenty years. He knows all the kids by name and their families. He is a fair and decent man. Is he still alive?”
“I don’t know,” said the reporter.
“I buy my paper every morning on the way to the station,” said one man. “Mr. Lee is always smiling and good for a chat.”
“And I get bread and milk from time to time when I forget to stock up,” said the woman next to him.
The child huddled in between them butted in, “I buy chips and lollies from Mr. Lee. I especially like the bags of mixed lollies where you get one of everything. Teeth are my favourite lollies and I could eat a whole bag of them in one go.”
“Bought my first girlie mag from here,” said a young lad, baseball cap perched precariously on the back of his head.
“And your first smokes. Both of which you bought with a fake ID,” countered his mate.
“Shut up, man. Don’t tell her that,” replied the young lad, punching his friend in the shoulder.
The clatter of a trolley diverted people’s attention to the doorway of the corner store. Ambulance officers surrounded a body strapped to the trolley, one holding an IV bag above his shoulder. Mrs Lee stuck close to her husband, one hand holding his, the other clutching a fistful of tissues.
“There’s no story here for us,” the camera man said to the reporter. “Police reckon it was just a robbery that turned violent; probably local thugs shaking down the owner or kids needing cash for whatever.”
The reporter snapped shut her notebook relegating the story in her mind to spare column inches tucked away in the middle of the paper. The camera man packed his bags, ready to chase the next vision to be broadcast on the front page.
As if on cue, the police cars and ambulance faded from view, the police tape waving like a broken hand.
The neighbours bade silent farewells, sticking closer to one another, fearful of the shadows that were suddenly darker and more menacing.