Carnage. Maxime Chattam
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Translated from the French
by Gallic Books
Table of Contents
About the Author
East Harlem Academy, Harlem, 18 November, 8.28 a.m.
The school resembled a stone monster on its knees, its arms spread out between islands of asphalt and patches of grass. The darkness had not yet lifted so that a yellow glow radiated from its entrails, pools of light showing through the rectangular wounds of its concrete skin.
The building knelt there, behind a flag buffeted by the autumn wind and East 120th Street, with its incessant flow of white and red headlights, like so many blood cells feeding the system of veins. Beyond, the blocked network of major arteries pumped into life, gearing up to start another day.
In the small school yard, figures brushed past each other, laughing as they jostled and shoved, some chattering, some complaining, others not saying anything at all. Their dark outlines hurried into the building’s gaping mouth and, as they passed in front of the windows, it was as if the monster were winking at the shadowy sky.
The central hallway slowly filled up with students who would soon disperse to their classrooms to soak up knowledge.
Lisa-Marie tied her hair up with an elastic band while her best friend told her about her evening. Lisa-Marie wasn’t really listening; she was focusing on a boy she had had her eye on for weeks and who had just appeared. She had to make a good impression. She immediately adjusted her expression – she knew her face was prettier when she smiled. This week, she was determined to get him to talk to her. It was no good just obsessing about it. Carpe diem, like it said in the film.
A little further away, Lucas was sitting on one of the radiators under the bay window. He was tired. His heart had been racing for the last minute or so – maybe that was what tachycardia was? The morning spliff had been too strong, for sure. He nodded to himself as he sat there on his own. He’d put too much in, or else the shit had been poor quality. There was too much tar in it … Yeah, that was it.
I’m baked, he thought, with a grin.
His eyes glazed over as he watched the students file past in a long multicoloured procession.
Mario went down the steps to the corridor that led to the changing rooms. He hated starting the week with PE – sport was not his thing. He was overweight, which didn’t help. He had to get himself excused. The doctor should have excused him ages ago, in fact. Yes, next time he would make sure of it …
The bell rang. It reverberated through every hallway, every staircase, every floor.
In the shadows, a teenager whom several witnesses would later identify as Russell Rod, aged seventeen, pulled his hood up, tugging the strings so that it tightened round his face. He was breathing hard.
He pulled on his leather gloves, which crackled as he spread his fingers. He was filled with a sense of power.
His backpack was open at his feet. But it didn’t contain exercise books.
Only a black bar that reflected the corridor lights. Long and rectangular.
The magazine of an Uzi submachine gun.
The boy bent to pick it up.
The weapon rose into the air in the school corridor, almost in slow motion.
The improbability of such an object being in this place gave it a different, almost unreal, appearance. It shone.
It seemed elegant.
The teenager carefully stored some extra magazines in his pockets.
And started walking.
A fat student stood in front of the changing-room door.
The barrel of the Uzi pointed at him.
Lisa-Marie leant against the wall outside the classroom, waiting for the teacher. Just opposite, the boy she fancied was with a group of students who were chatting as they waited. He was Hispanic; she preferred Hispanic guys. And he was really cute.
A series of sharp blasts rang out so loudly that most of the students covered their ears, wincing. Several of them jumped.
They all looked at each other. One of them began to laugh hysterically. The others exchanged glances that were curious, surprised or a bit worried. Some of them were unfazed and resumed their conversations.
Lisa-Marie left the line to go and stand in the middle of the corridor to try to see what was happening. The fire doors were closed. There was nothing to see.
Then one of the doors shook. It began to open. A leg appeared, then the rest of the body. Holding something strange in its hand …
Lisa-Marie didn’t hear the next shots go off, nor the panicked shrieks of those nearby.
Her head had just exploded.
The boy she had fancied a second earlier was now covered with her brains, splinters of bone and burnt fragments of her long red hair.
Lucas let out a long sigh. The deafening noise was getting closer and boring into his head. What on earth was that racket? Roadworks?
Right now, though, he had something else to worry about.