Blog Tour: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips - An Extract

Today I'm delighted to be hosting a stop on the Fierce Kingdom blog tour! I'll be posting a review later today but first up I have an exclusive extract....  


Lincoln is a good boy. At the age of four, he is curious, clever and well behaved. He does as his mum says and knows what the rules are.

'The rules are different today. The rules are that we hide and do not let the man with the gun find us.'

When an ordinary day at the zoo turns into a nightmare, Joan finds herself trapped with her beloved son. She must summon all her strength, find unexpected courage and protect Lincoln at all costs – even if it means crossing the line between right and wrong; between humanity and animal instinct.

It's a line none of us would ever normally dream of crossing.

But sometimes the rules are different. 

Published June 15th 2017 by Transworld




4:55 p.m.
For a long while Joan has managed to balance on the balls
of her bare feet, knees bent, skirt skimming the dirt. But
now her thighs are giving out, so she puts a hand down and
eases onto the sand.

Something jabs at her hip bone. She reaches underneath
her leg and fishes out a small plastic spear – no longer than
a finger – and it is no surprise, because she is always finding
tiny weapons in unexpected places.

‘Did you lose a spear?’ she asks. ‘Or is this one a
scepter?’

Lincoln does not answer her, although he takes the piece
of plastic from her open hand. He apparently has been wait‑
ing for her lap to become available – he backs up, settling
himself comfortably on her thighs, not a speck of sand on
him. He has a fastidiousness about him; he never did like
finger painting.

‘Do you want a nose, Mommy?’ he asks.

‘I have a nose,’ she says.

‘Do you want an extra one?’

‘Who wouldn’t?’

His dark curls need to be cut again, and he swipes them
off his forehead. The leaves float down around them. The
wooden roof, propped up on rough, round timber, shades
them completely, but beyond it, the gray gravel is patterned
with sunlight and shadows, shifting as the wind blows
through the trees.

‘Where are you getting these extra noses?’ she asks.

‘The nose store.’

She laughs, settling back on her hands, giving in to the
feel of the clinging dirt. She flicks a few wettish grains from
under her fingernails. The Dinosaur Discovery Pit is always
damp and cold, never touched by the sun, but despite the
sand on her skirt and the leaves stuck to her sweater, this is
perhaps her favorite part of the zoo – off the main paths,
past the merry‑go‑round and the petting barn and the
rooster cages, back through the weedy, wooded area labeled
only woodlands. It is mostly trees and rocks and a few
lonely animals back here along the narrow gravel paths:
There is a vulture that lives in a pen with, for some reason,
a rusted-­out pickup truck. An owl that glares at a hanging
chew toy. Wild turkeys that are always sitting, unmoving;
she is not positive that they actually have legs. She imagines
some cruel hunter’s prank, some sweat-­stained necklace
strung with turkey feet.

She likes the haphazard strangeness of these woods, which
are always shifting into some half-hearted try at an actual
attraction. Currently a zip line is strung through the trees,
although she never sees anyone zip-­lining. She remembers
animatronic dinosaurs here a couple of years earlier, and
once there was a haunted ghost trail. There are hints at
more distant incarnations: large boulders that she assumes
are real but possibly are not, plus split-­log fences and a pion‑
eer cabin. No obvious purpose to any of it. Empty cement
pools might have been watering holes for large mammals.
There are occasional efforts at a nature trail, random sign‑
age that makes a walk feel less anchored rather than more
– one tree labeled sassafras while the twenty trees around
it go nameless.

‘Now, let me tell you something,’ Lincoln begins, his
hand landing on her knee. ‘Do you know what Odin could
use?’

She does, in fact, know a great deal about Norse gods
lately.

‘An eye store?’ she says.

‘Yes, actually. Because then he could stop wearing his eye
patch.’

‘Unless he likes his eye patch.’

‘Unless that,’ Lincoln agrees.

The sand around them is scattered with small plastic
heroes and villains – Thor and Loki, Captain America,
Green Lantern, and Iron Man. Everything comes back to
superheroes lately. Pretend skeletons lurk beneath them in
this sand pit – the vertebrae of some extinct animal pro‑
trude from the sand behind them, and there is a bucket of
worn-­down paintbrushes for brushing off the sand. She and
Lincoln used to come here and dig for dinosaur bones, back
in his former life as a three-­year-­old. But now, two months
after his fourth birthday, he is several incarnations past his
old archaeologist self.

The dinosaur pit is currently the Isle of Silence, the prison
where Loki, Thor’s trickster brother, has been imprisoned,
and – when questions of extra noses don’t arise – the air has
been echoing with the sounds of an epic battle as Thor tries
to make Loki confess to creating a fire demon.
Lincoln leans forward, and his epic resumes.

‘The vile villain cackled,’ Lincoln narrates. ‘But then
Thor had an idea!’

He calls them his stories, and they can last for hours if she
lets them. She prefers the ones where he invents his own
characters. He’s concocted a villain named Horse Man, who
turns people into horses. His nemesis is Horse Von, who
turns those horses back into people. A vicious cycle.
Joan is half aware of Lincoln’s voice changing tones and
inflections as he takes his different characters through their
paces. But she is pleasantly drifting. In the mornings these
paths would be crowded with strollers and mothers in yoga
pants, but by late afternoon most visitors have cleared out.
She and Lincoln come here sometimes after she picks him
up from school – they alternate between the zoo and the
library and the parks and the science museum – and
she steers him to the woods when she can. Here there are
crickets, or something that sounds like crickets, and birds
calling and leaves rustling but no human sounds except for
Lincoln calling out his dialogue. He has absorbed the patter
of superhero talk, and he can regurgitate it and make it
his own.

‘There was a secret weapon on his belt!’

‘His evil plan had failed!’

He is vibrating with excitement. Every part of him is
shaking, from the balls of his feet to his chuffy fists. Thor
bobs through the air, and Lincoln bounces, and she won‑
ders if he loves the idea of good conquering evil or simply an
exciting battle, and she wonders when she should start mak‑
ing it clear that there is a middle ground between good and
evil that most people occupy, but he is so happy that she
does not want to complicate things.

‘Do you know what happens then, Mommy?’ he asks.
‘After Thor punches him?’

‘What?’ she says.

She has perfected the art of being able to listen with half
of herself while the other half spins and whirls.

‘Loki has actually been mind-­controlling Thor. And the
punch makes him lose his powers!’

‘Oh,’ she says. ‘And then what?’

‘Thor saves the day!’

He keeps talking – ‘But there’s a new villain in town,
boys!’ – as she curls and straightens her toes. She thinks.
She thinks that she still needs to come up with a wedding
present for her friend Murray – there is that artist who does
dog paintings, and one of those seems like a thoughtful
choice, so she should send an e‑mail and see about placing
the order, although ‘order’ is probably an insulting sort of
word to an artist. She remembers that she meant to call
her great-­aunt this morning, and she thinks that maybe
instead – she is solving problems left and right here, having
a burst of mental efficiency as Loki gets buried in sand –
maybe instead she will mail her great-­aunt that hilarious
paper-bag monkey that Lincoln made in school. Surely the
artwork is better than a phone call, although there’s a cer‑
tain selfishness to it, since she hates to talk on the phone,
and, all right, it is a cop-­out – she knows it – but she settles
on the paper-bag monkey regardless. She thinks of the
squash dressing her great-­aunt makes. She thinks of the left‑
over plantain chips in the kitchen cabinet. She thinks of
Bruce Boxleitner. Back in junior high she was slightly
obsessed with him in Scarecrow and Mrs King, and she has
discovered that the show is available in its entirety online, so
she has been rewatching it, episode by episode – it holds up
well for a 1980s show, with its Cold War spies and bad
hair – and she can’t remember whether Lee and Amanda
finally kiss at the end of the second season or the third sea‑
son, and she has six more episodes to go in the second
season, but she could always skip to the third.

A woodpecker hammers somewhere nearby, and she is
pulled back to here and now. She notices that the wart on
Lincoln’s hand is getting bigger. It looks like an anemone.
There is that beautiful shifting of shadows on the gravel,
and Lincoln is doing his evil-villain laugh, and it strikes her
that these afternoons, with her son’s weight on her legs, the
woods around them, are something like euphoric.
Thor falls against her foot, his plastic head landing on
her toe.

‘Mommy?’

‘Yes?’

‘Why doesn’t Thor wear his helmet in the movie?’
‘I think it’s harder to see with a helmet on.’


‘But doesn’t he want his head protected?’

‘I suppose sometimes he wears it and sometimes he
doesn’t. Depending on his mood.’

‘I think he should protect his head all the time,’ he says.

‘It’s dangerous to battle without a helmet. Why do you
think Captain America only wears a hood? It’s not good
protection, is it?’

Paul gets bored with this superhero chatter – her husband
would much rather talk football formations and NBA
line-ups – but Joan doesn’t mind it. She was once obsessed
with Wonder Woman. Super Friends. The Incredible Hulk.
Who would win in a fight, she once asked her uncle, Super‑
man or the Incredible Hulk? He’d said, Well, if he was losing,
Superman could always fly away, and she’d thought that a
blindingly brilliant answer.

‘Captain America has his shield,’ she tells Lincoln. ‘That’s
what he uses for protection.’

‘What if he can’t get it over his head in time?’
‘He’s very fast.’

‘But still,’ he says, unconvinced.

‘You know, you’re right,’ she says, because he is. ‘He really
should wear a helmet.’

Some sort of man-­made rock forms the back wall of the
pit, beige and bulging, and a small animal is rooting around
behind it. She hopes it is not a rat. She imagines a squirrel
but makes a point not to turn her head.

She opens her purse to peer at her phone. ‘We probably
need to start heading toward the gate in around five min‑
utes,’ she says.

As he often does when she says it’s time to stop playing,
Lincoln acts as if she has not spoken at all.

‘Does Dr Doom always wear a mask?’ he asks.

‘Did you hear me?’ she asks.
‘Yes.’

‘What did I say?’

‘That we’re about to leave.’

‘Okay,’ she says. ‘Yes, Dr Doom always wears a mask.
Because of his scars.’

‘Scars?’

‘Yeah, the scars he got in the lab experiment.’

‘Why would he wear a mask because of them?’
‘Because he wants to cover them up,’ she says. ‘He thinks
they’re ugly.’

‘Why would he think they’re ugly?’

She watches a bright-orange leaf land. ‘Well, they made
him look different,’ she says. ‘Sometimes people don’t want
to look different.’

‘I don’t think scars are ugly.’

As he’s speaking, a sharp, loud sound carries through
the woods. Two cracks, then several more. Pops, like bal‑
loons bursting. Or fireworks. She tries to imagine what
anyone could be doing in a zoo that would sound like small
explosions. Something related to the Halloween festivities?
They’ve strung up lights all over the place – not here in the
Woodlands but all over the more popular pathways – so
maybe a transformer blew? Is there construction going on, a
jackhammer?

There is another bang. Another and another. It sounds too
loud to be balloons, too infrequent to be a jackhammer.
The birds are silent, but the leaves keep skittering down.
Lincoln is unbothered.

‘Could I use my Batman for Dr Doom?’ he asks. ‘He
wears black. And if I use him, can you make him the right
kind of mask?’

‘Sure,’ she says.

‘What will you make it with?’

‘Tinfoil,’ she suggests.

A squirrel scrabbles across the roof of the dirt pit, and she
hears the soft whoosh of its impact when it leaps to a tree.
‘And what will we use for the scarves?’ Lincoln asks.
She looks down at him.

‘Scarves?’ she repeats.

He nods. She nods back, considering and replaying. She
gives herself over to deciphering the workings of his brain: it
is one of the bits of mothering that has delighted her all the
more because she did not know it existed. His mind is com‑
plicated and unique, weaving worlds of its own. In his sleep
sometimes he will cry out entire sentences – ‘Not down the
stairs!’ – and there are windows to his inner machinery,
glimpses, but she will never really know it all, and that is the
thrill. He is a whole separate being, as real as she is.
Scarves. She works the puzzle of it.

‘Do you mean the scarves on his face?’ she asks.
‘Yes. The ones he thinks are ugly.’

She laughs. ‘Oh. I was saying “scars” – you know, like the
one on Daddy’s arm where the water burned him when he
was little? Or the one on my knee from when I fell down?’
‘Oh,’ he says, sheepish. He laughs, too. He is quick to get
a joke. ‘Scars, not scarves. So he doesn’t think scarves
are ugly?’

‘I don’t really know how Dr Doom feels about scarves,’
she says.

‘He doesn’t have them on his face.’

‘No. Those are scars.’

She listens, half considering whether she could have han‑
dled the idea of scars more tactfully, half wondering about
gunshots. But they could not have been gunshots. And if
they had been, she would have heard something else by now.
Screams or sirens or a voice coming over a loudspeaker mak‑
ing some kind of announcement.

There is nothing.

She has been watching too many battles.

She checks her phone. They only have a few minutes until
the zoo closes, and it is entirely possible that they might be
overlooked back here in the woods. She has imagined the
scenario more than once: camping in the zoo overnight,
maybe even intentionally hiding back here, going to visit
the animals in the pitch-­black of midnight – children’s
books are written about such situations. It’s ridiculous, of
course, because there surely would be security guards. Not
that she has ever noticed a security guard here.
They should get moving.

‘We need to go, sweet,’ she says, lifting him from her lap,
waiting until he takes his weight on his own feet, which he
does reluctantly. She thinks he should be wearing a jacket,
but he swore he wasn’t cold, so she let him leave it in the car.

‘Do we have a little more time?’ he asks.

She gets up from the sand and slides on her sandals. This
preference for sandals is the reason she lacks the moral
authority to tell him to wear a jacket.

‘No,’ she says. ‘It’s nearly five thirty. Closing time. Sorry.
We need to get out of here fast, or they might lock us in.’
She is now starting to get nervous about that possibility –
she’s waited too long, and they have the whole walk out of
the woods and then the long way through the children’s
area, and they really are going to be cutting it close.

‘Can we stop at the playground and go across the bridge?’
Lincoln asks.

‘Not today. We can come back tomorrow.’

He nods and steps from the sand onto the sparse grass.
He does not like to break rules. If the zoo people say it is
time to go home, then he will go home.

‘Can you help me with my shoes?’ he asks. ‘And put my
guys in your purse?’

She bends down, brushes the sand from his feet, then
pulls his socks over his pale toes and his wide, stubby feet.
She tears open the Velcro straps of his tennis shoes and looks
up to see a cardinal land an arm’s length away. The animals
have no fear in them at all here. She can sometimes spot half
a dozen sparrows or chipmunks or squirrels within a few
feet, eyeing whatever battle Lincoln is staging.
She drops his plastic figures into her purse.
‘All done,’ she says.

5:23 p.m.

Joan scans the sand pit for any forgotten plastic men, and
then she takes Lincoln’s hand and heads down the path
leading out of the woods. She wonders when he will stop
wanting to hold her hand, but for now they seem equally
happy with the arrangement. In less than twenty steps the
trees have opened up – it’s only an illusion, the seclusion of
this place – and there’s the sound of the waterfall splattering
on the rocks in front of the otter exhibit.
The otter is one of their favorite animals, one of the few
that will still pull Lincoln from his stories. The two otters
have a huge cavern-­styled enclosure with faux-­rock overhangs,
and the animals curve and flip and dive in a greenish pool
behind a wide glass wall. The rocks jut over the walkway,
and a waterfall rushes over visitors’ heads and spills down to
a turtle pond thick with lily pads and reeds and some sort of
purple-­flowered stalk. The wooden footpath that winds
over the pond has always struck her as the prettiest part of
the Woodlands – but now it seems only empty.
Lincoln laughs next to her. ‘Look at the otter. Look how
he swims.’

He still struggles with words ending in ‑er. ‘Ott‑o,’ he
says, instead of ‘otter’. Lex Luth‑o. Score a goal in socc‑o.
‘I like his paws,’ she says.

‘He has paws? Not fins? Real paws like a dog or finger
paws like a monkey?’

She is tempted to stop and point out the anatomy of otters.
This is what she wants most for him, maybe, to see that life
is full of astonishing things, to know that you should pay
attention – Look, it’s beautiful, he said, staring into a puddle
of gasoline in the zoo parking lot – but they don’t have time.
She gives his hand a tug, and he comes easily enough, though
his head is slow to turn away from the otter. As they step onto
the wooden bridge, lily pads to either side of them, she wishes
that they would see someone else, some other chattering fam‑
ily also running late. Not that it’s unusual to have the path to
themselves. They often see no one else all the way to the exit
in the afternoon, and they are pushing it closer than usual to
closing time. She picks up her pace.

‘Want to race?’ she asks

‘No.’

‘You want to skip?’

‘No, thank you.’

He plods along.

She sometimes wonders if his determination not to do a
thing is in direct proportion to the amount of enthusiasm
she shows for it. He continues meandering along the bridge,
pausing to shrink back from a gnat or to stare down at a
speckled koi. He comes to a complete stop to scratch his
chin. When she asks him to hurry, he frowns, and she knows
by the look on his face what he will ask for.

‘I want you to carry me,’ he says.

‘I can’t carry you all the way to the car,’ she says. ‘You’re
getting too big.’

She watches his lip slide out.

‘Here’s my compromise,’ she says, before this escalates
and slows them down further. ‘I’ll pick you up when we get
to the scarecrows, and I’ll carry you from there. If you can
do a good job of walking to the scarecrows.’

‘Okay,’ he says, although his voice is wobbly and his lip is
extending more, and he is starting to wail even as he moves
his feet in time with hers.

She did not, it occurs to her, specify that he could not cry
as he walks. He is technically meeting her terms. It is pos‑
sible that he will cry himself out in a few seconds and get
distracted by some passing thought of Thor’s helmet or
Odin’s eye patch. It is possible that he will only cry more
loudly, and she will give in and pick him up because he has
actually walked quite a long way, uncomplainingly, on his
small legs. It is possible that he will keep crying and she will
stand firm and make him walk all the way to the car because
she does not want him to turn into one of those children
who throw tantrums.

Such a system of checks and balances – parenting – of
projections and guesswork and cost–benefit ratios.
A dragonfly hovers and darts. A heron picks its way along
the edge of the water. The wooden path cuts back and forth
through trees and wild grass.

Lincoln has stopped crying, and she’s fairly sure he’s hum‑
ming the Georgia Bulldogs’ fight song – ‘Glory, glory to old
Georgia! / Glory, glory to old Georgia!’ – although as soon
as she finishes the thought, he switches to the Texas Long‑
horns. No one in their family is a fan of either team, but he
soaks up fight-song lyrics as he soaks up superheroes and
villains.

He is a collector. He accumulates.

Through the trees she can see the tent-like top of the
merry‑go‑round. It shines white against the dishwater sky.
They pass a chicken-­wire-​­enclosed exhibit for a one-­legged
eagle and a near-­invisible enclosure for a pair of egrets. There
are dead logs and monkey grass and lime-­green weeds. She
walks toward an overhanging branch, and one of its leaves
detaches, turning into a yellow butterfly and weaving up to
the sky.

Finally they are back on the concrete sidewalks, which
are as wide as roads. Jack‑o’‑lanterns perch on the fence
posts. 

They take a few steps into civilization, and she glances
over at the merry‑go‑round. It is still and silent; the painted
giraffes and zebras and bears and gorillas and ostriches are
frozen. Lincoln used to love the merry‑go‑round, although
he would only ride a zebra. Now the carousel animals have
rubber bats and tiny Kleenex ghosts floating around them,
hanging from the wooden framework. She and Lincoln are
close enough that the white canvas top covering the carousel
spreads over them, bright and calm.
‘Mommy,’ he says. ‘Carry me.’

‘When we get to the scarecrows,’ she says, ignoring his
arms stretched toward her. ‘Just a little farther.’

He doesn’t protest this time. They hurry past the
merry‑go‑round, toward the food court and the Kid Zone
Splash Park, with the fountains of shoulder-­high water still
arcing onto the blue-­raspberry-­colored splash pads.
‘Medusa’s been here,’ Lincoln announces, and she looks
beyond the spraying water to the shaded spot with the stone
statues of a turtle, a frog and a lizard. These days, anytime
they see stone figures it is a sign that Medusa has passed by.
Spider-­Man has been here, he says to spiderwebs.
‘Those poor guys,’ she says, because it is what she says
every time they pass Medusa’s victims.

‘They should have kept their eyes closed,’ he says, because
it is what he says every time.

She glances at the darkened glass of the Koala Café, with
its shelves of plastic-­wrapped sandwiches and Jell‑O and
hard-­boiled eggs, but she sees no sign of movement inside.
The plastic chairs are upside down on the square tables.
The staff usually close down the restaurants and lock the
buildings fifteen minutes before closing time, so she’s not
surprised. 

Off to their right is the playground with the rock moun‑
tains and swinging bridge. Once upon a time, Lincoln was
interested in Antarctica, and the big rocks were icebergs.
Then last spring he was playing knights and castles on the
swinging bridge, yelling at invisible kings to bring out the
cannons and to fill the catapults with rocks. Now that same
bridge is always Thor’s rainbow-­colored pathway to Earth.
In a year Lincoln will be in kindergarten and these days of
superheroes will fade and be replaced by something she can’t
guess, and then at some point the zoo itself will be replaced
and life will have gone on and this boy holding her hand
will have turned into someone else entirely.

They are making good time now, scurrying past the gift
shop and the wooden cut-out where a kid can stick his head
through a hole and pretend he is a gorilla. They slow down
by the algae-­clogged aquariums at the edge of the children’s
area – Lincoln cannot resist looking for the giant turtle –
and an older woman appears a few yards in front of them,
just around the curve of the aquarium walls, staggering
backward slightly. She is holding a shoe.
‘The rock’s out, Tara,’ she says, and there is a certain
cheerful desperation in her voice that identifies her as a
grandmother. ‘Come on, now.’

Two blonde girls, surely sisters, come into view, and the
grandmother leans down, holding out the shoe to the smaller
girl. Her hair is in pigtails, and she looks a little younger
than Lincoln.

‘We’ve got to go,’ says the grandmother as she works the
rubber sandal onto a small foot. Then she straightens.
The little one says something, too quiet to hear, even
though they are all within a few feet of each other now. Sev‑
eral flies tap against the aquarium glass.

‘I’ll take them off when we get to the car,’ says the grand‑
mother, out of breath. She takes an off-­balance step, holding
the girls by their wrists. The girls blink at Lincoln, but then
the woman is propelling them forward.

‘That’s a grandmother,’ Lincoln says, too loudly, stopping
suddenly enough that he jerks Joan’s arm.

‘I think so, too,’ she whispers.

Joan glances toward the older woman – there is a flowery
chemical smell in the air, perfume that reminds her of
Mrs Manning in the sixth grade, who gave her and no one
else a copy of Island of the Blue Dolphins on the last day of
school – but the woman and her grandchildren are gone now,
already past the curve of the final aquarium.

‘If I had a grandmother, is that what she would look like?’
Lincoln asks. 

He has been fixated on grandparents lately. She hopes it
will pass as quickly as all his other phases.

‘You do have a grandmother,’ Joan says, tugging him for‑
ward again. ‘Grandma. Daddy’s mommy. She was here at
Christmas, remember? She just lives far away. We need to
go, sweet.’ 

‘Some people have lots of grandparents. I only have one.’
‘No, you have three. Remember? Now we’ve got to get
going or we’ll get in trouble.’

The magic words. He nods and speeds up, his face serious
and resolute.

There is another popping sound, louder and closer than
before, maybe a dozen sharp cracks in the air. She thinks it
might be something hydraulic.

They’ve come to the edge of a pond – the largest one in
the zoo, nearly a lake – and she catches a glimpse of swans
cutting through the water. The path forks: the right branch
would lead them around the far side of the pond, up through
the Africa exhibit, but the left will take them to the exit in
a few less seconds. She can see the green-­and-­red flash of the
parrots up ahead, unusually quiet. She likes their little island
in the middle of all the concrete – a bricked‑in pool with a
grassy mound and spindly trees – and it is always their first
and last stop, the final ritual of every visit.
‘Start practicing your parrot caws,’ she tells him.

‘I don’t need to practice,’ he says. ‘I just want to see the
scarecrows.’

‘We’ll have to look at them while we walk.’
A long row of scarecrows has been propped along the
fence that circles the pond. Many of them have pumpkins
for heads, and Lincoln is fascinated by them. He loves the
Superman one and the astronaut one – with the pumpkin
painted like a white space helmet – and especially the Cat in
the Hat.

‘All right, sweet,’ she says.

He drops her hand and lifts his arms.
She glances along the fence, spotting the bright-blue
pumpkin head of Pete the Cat. About halfway down
the fence several scarecrows have fallen. Blown down by the
wind, she assumes, but, no, it hasn’t been stormy. Still, the
scarecrows have collapsed, half a dozen of them scattered all
the way down to the parrot exhibit and beyond.
No, not scarecrows. Not scarecrows.
She sees an arm move. She sees a body way too small to
be a scarecrow. A skirt, hiked indecently over a pale hip, legs
bent.

She is slow to lift her eyes, but when she looks farther,
past the shapes on the ground, past the parrots, toward the
long, flat building with public bathrooms and doors marked
employees only, she sees a man standing, facing away
from her, unmoving. He is by the water fountain. He is in
jeans and a dark shirt, no coat. His hair is brown or black,
and other than that she cannot see details, but she cannot
miss it when he does finally move. He kicks the bathroom
door, his elbow coming up to catch it, a gun in his right
hand, some sort of rifle, long and black, the narrow end of
it stretching like an antenna past his dark head as he dis‑
appears into the pale-­green walls of the women’s bathroom.
She thinks there is another movement around the parrots,
someone else still on his feet, but she is turning away by
then. She does not see more.

She grabs Lincoln and heaves him up, his legs swinging
heavily as he lands against her hip, her right hand grabbing
her left wrist underneath his bottom, linking her arms.

She runs. 



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