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The Girl in the Red Hoodie, Chapter 2

The Bridge over the Don River

January 31st 2019.

"Mr. Silver, I have a weird question."

Silver looked up at Yasmeena, his glasses balanced upon his balding combover of black and grey hair. He was one of the older teachers at her school, and he taught both English and History, so the combination of factors made him seem very wise in Yasmeena's opinion. Although the combover was fooling nobody. He peered at her, squinting without his glasses. "I don't believe there are at any weird questions. Only weird answers," he said with a wry smile.

"Uh. Have you ever experienced a really powerful adrenaline high?"

Mr Silver suddenly looked wistful and he stared off at nothing, clearly remembering something profound. "I... Hmm. Okay, I guess that is a weird question. Also a very personal one, now that I think of it. I can think of one time. I was visiting my grandfather and he took me deer hunting."

"With a bow and arrow?"

"Bowhunting? Gosh no. With a rifle. You've got archery on the brain I see. I read part of your paper already. Anyway, I shot a deer and I got what hunters call buck fever. Your whole body shakes from the combination of adrenaline and endorphins. It is an amazing experience. My grandfather died months later, so I never hunted again, but it is one of my fondest memories of him. The whole experience brought me closer to him and gave me a sense of what it must have been like for our ancestors, hunting for their food. And hunting to survive. It was one of those things that got me interested in history, now that I think about it." He turned to squint at her. "Why the odd question?"

Yasmeena bit her lip before answering. "I was downtown on the subway during the, uh..."

"During the shooting?" Mr Silver exclaimed. "And you think you had an adrenaline high because you were shaking with fear? Something like that? Don't worry about it. Fear is a perfectly normal response. Or is it more than that? Would you like to speak to a counselor?" He seemed rather worried about her welfare suddenly, as if she was one of those kids who had survived a school shooting and suddenly needs grief counseling.

"Umm... No thanks, I'll be fine. Thanks!"

It wasn't fear, but whatever. Let him assume it was. The story about buck fever matched the feeling Yasmeena had been experiencing for days now. Except it wasn't an one time thing. If she thought about the memory too much, the rush of adrenaline would hit her and she would start shaking from excitement. It was an incredibly intense sensation and although it was enjoyable, she tried to avoid thinking about it.

It had been over a week since the incident. The RCMP were negotiating with the 1/23 terrorists still inside the CN Tower with their hostages. Food was being delivered via elevators to the terrorists and hostages. Various experts on the TV networks were predicting hostages might start to experience Stockholm Syndrome as a survival mechanism. The media fuss over the Girl in the Red Hoodie had died down a bit, but social media was still talking about her. The news media was now focusing squarely on the negotiations.

On Monday the RCMP had tried shutting off the electricity to the building and had hidden a cannister of knockout gas in the elevator as part of a scheduled food delivery. But this plan had backfired spectacularly. Toronto's ETF team (similar to SWAT in the USA) was waiting in the staircase to make an assault, but the doors at the top had been heavily barricaded from the far side, and although they used explosives to damage the doors, the barricaded objects beyond proved to be more than enough to thwart their attempt.

In response the 1/23 terrorists had taken two tourists from India and China and pushed them off the Observation Deck through a hole in the glass floor. They plummeted over three hundred meters and died on live news, broadcasted internationally. The Chinese and Indian governments were incredibly upset, but at the same time everyone acknowledged that this was a terrible situation.

People were short on viable suggestions and the Canadian government was more than happy to hear what other countries thought was a decent solution that would rescue all of the hostages.

It was an unwinnable siege, said one hostage expert on CNN. The whole point in a longterm hostage situation is that the hostage takers are in control and have an easily defensible position. And if the authorities try anything, they kill hoatages - which sways public opinion and puts pressure on the police and politicians to resolve the situation. Violently if necessary, but the problem was a shortage of options.

Yasmeena felt like she was under pressure too. But what could she do? She had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. She wasn't a superhero like the Flash or Superman. She wasn't even a cheap version of Batman. She was just Yasmeena, the Girl in the Red Hoodie. She had gotten lucky, that was all. She felt useless.

At noon she went to the Prayer Room. Her school was Marc Garneau Collegiate, which was named after an astronaut who later became a politician. The school had a small multi-faith prayer room, and while she did use it regularly, she admitted to herself she didn't always use it for praying.

Mostly she used it to socialize with her other Muslim girls at her school, in a neighbourhood that was predominately Muslim. You would think that would mean the room was crowded, but since the Toronto District School Board only allocated one tiny room as a multi-faith prayer room in each school, and made no exceptions for schools with above average number of Muslim students, then they were stuck with this tiny prayer. Which meant the hundreds of Muslim students at the school didn't even use it, because everyone knew that if they all prayed at once they would need a room the size of the gymnasium to accomodate them all.

So the room was empty was most of the time.

But for Yasmeena and her friends, it was like having their own private room to eat lunch in, email, snapchat, and yes, sometimes even pray to Allah.

Mostly Yasmeena prayed for forgiveness and understanding for lying. Allah, being all knowing should understand that she did everything because she felt it was the right thing to do, right? But still, doubts plagued her so she would still pray quietly in her head for forgiveness for lies she had to continue to perpetuate.

Today was a bit amusing when she arrived. Half the girls in the room were wearing red hoodies. The newest fashion craze. She had seen a red van parked near the Food Basics selling red hoodies out of the back of the van for ten dollars each. They were cheap, reasonably well made, with no logos on them. The guys selling them were probably making a bundle. Of the girls here, two thirds of them were wearing the cheap red hoodies. Some with hijabs, some without.

Clearly this fashion trend was spreading. It had been, what, eight days now? Eight days and half the girls were now wearing red hoodies?

She sat down next to Ameera, who was her closest friend. Ameera was busy browsing Instagram on her phone and liking things. Then she saw what Ameera was liking. It was girls posing in red hoodies while making duckfaces with their lips.

The other girls were talking in hushed tones about boys, in Arabic, so that if anyone overheard them there was a good chance they would not know who or what they were talking about. Many of the kids at the school had been born here in Canada and their parents were doing a sloppy job of teaching their children Arabic, if they bothered at all.

Saudi-born Canadians like herself usually spoke very good Arabic as they had been raised with it and only learned English after arriving in Canada. Ameera was one of those few who, like herself, had been raised in Saudi Arabia and knew what it was like back there, spoke excellent Arabic, and to whom she felt a kinship.

Although she had to admit she was not as interested in boys as Ameera was. Or Instagram. Or making duckface photographs on her phone. Or makeup. Mama never let Yasmeena buy makeup, and it was something she had always simply done without.

Ameera leaned over and offered her some of her Korean seaweed crisps she was addicted to. "Kim snaku?" she said, doing her imitation of a Korean accent.

"Shukran," said Yasmeena, thanking her. "Are you still learning Korean?"

"Well the alphabet was really easy, and I have been practicing with the guy who runs the convenience store whenever I buy Korean snacks there. You should try it. It is a pretty easy language."

"I will stick with French for now. When am I ever going to use Korean?"

"To buy snacks?"

"I mean asides from that."

"Maybe North Korea will attack Canada and we will all have to fend for ourselves. Kim Jong-Un and Trump could nuke each other and then the North Koreans could invade Canada."

"In which case we could just as easily end up fighting the Russians or Chinese. This is all just hypothetical. We are just as likely to end up fighting aliens."

Ameera made a mock face of shock and disappointment. "Blasphemy! You infidel!" She pretended to slap Yasmeena across the face. In response, Yasmeena pretended to be struck and leaned back as if she had really been hurt.

One of the other girls laughed and snorted coffee up her nose. She started coughing. She gasped for breath. "Careful, Yasmeena. Ameera might be the Girl in the Red Hoodie in disguise. She punches really hard."

And just like that the conversation switched over to the Girl in the Red Hoodie. Whenever this happened Yasmeena stayed silent. She wasn't about to remind people that she worked part time at her father's boxing gym. She would rather everyone conveniently forget that.

"I would be such a good Girl in the Red Hoodie," said Ameera, striking a pose with a duckface. "I would make boxing sexy again."

"Oh! Oh! We should make red hats!" said one of the girls. "Make Boxing Sexy Again. We could use the same font and red colour as Trump's MAGA hats."

The girls laughed and giggled. Yasmeena rolled her eyes and looked away.

"M. B. S. A," said Ameera, appearing thoughtful. "Nah! Doesn't have the same ring to it. It sounds like you are getting a masters degree in both business administration and science."

"That doesn't sound like a bad degree," admitted Yasmeena. "I wonder if any Korean universities teach that degree." She was trying to change the subject.

"Oh, I should check. If I could get really good at Korean maybe I could study over there."

It worked. The girls started talking about boys again. Ameera started reading the Korean on the packaging of the seaweed crisps. Yasmeena ate her food and contemplated her situation.

After lunch Yasmeena had Physics class followed by Chemistry. Two classes she wasn't sure if she would ever use any of the knowledge within. She had French and English in the morning, and those she at least knew would be useful for getting a job.

After school she caught the 25 Bus, as usual.

When she got to Froggy's Boxing Gym after school the patrons were standing around looking at their cellphones and talking. She went to Ab to see what was going on.

"Yasmeena, come see this!" he said when he noticed her. He was holding Alesandro's cellphone, a Greek boy who was a few years older than herself. He went to a different high school, Greenwood Secondary.

Alesandro nodded at her. "Hey," he said.

"Hey," said Yasmeena, being polite.

"The 1/23 terrorists weren't just looking to kill people. It was all a big distraction. They robbed a vault at the Royal Bank of Canada. Took everything from the safe deposit boxes too. The bank has been trying to keep it quiet, but someone leaked it to CTV. They must have taken millions," said Ab, scrolling down the website on the phone to show her different parts as he talked.

"Tens of millions," corrected Alesandro. He made eye contact with Yasmeena, but she looked away.

"So they killed thirty-six people just so they could rob a bank vault?" asked Yasmeena, trying to concentrate on this new info. Alesandro had wonderful dark brown eyes, like coffee.

"Apparently. This is a big scandal. Their bank stocks are way down. It is apparently the biggest bank heist in Canadian history. They are saying it might even be bigger than when Merrill Lynch got robbed in Montreal in 1984. This is why the power got turned off downtown. They needed the power outage to trigger backup generators-"

"Does it say how much was robbed in 1984?" blurted Yasmeena, her curiousity triggered.

"Sixty-eight," said Alesandro, looking at her for dramatic effect. "Point five million."

Over $70 million? Yasmeena had difficulty trying to comprehend what that could buy. She remembered looking at home prices and even homes in the suburbs of Toronto was $750,000. Close to where Ab worked however, the home prices were closer to $1 million or $1.1 million. So depending on the neighbourhood, $70 million could buy maybe 70 or 100 houses. What would anyone do with that much money?

"Anyway, can I have my phone back?" asked Alesandro. He had given up trying to make eye contact.

"Yeah, sure," said Ab, giving up the phone with some reluctance. He didn't have a cellphone of his own, yet he was addicted to the things whenever someone let him use theirs.

Yasmeena turned to head towards the lockers. She needed to store her things and start cleaning.

"No need today," said Ab. "I think a lot of people are going to leave early today. I can clean up. You can just head home."

"But what about-"

"Not today. I will close up early anyway. You can go home, its fine."

Yasmeena shrugged and sighed. She put her red coat back on and went back outside. She could catch the bus, but judging by the schedule it wouldn't be here for another twenty-five minutes. She decided to walk home. It wasn't too far.

North on Pape, past the McDonalds, and then the road curved to the north-east where it converged with Donlands Avenue. By the time a person got to the bridge spanning the Don Valley Parkway it became Millwood Road. On the far side of the bridge, Leaside Park was on the right side and she could cut across the park to her apartment building.

On the bridge however she noticed a man walking towards her, looking at his phone. A white man with a scary looking face tattoo, wearing a black hoodie. Her fists clenched inside her pockets and she tensed for action as he got closer. He was almost upon her, what would he do?

He passed by, still staring at his phone. He was playing Pokemon GO on his phone.

She breathed easier. Just because someone has a face tattoo doesn't mean they are crazy or violent, she reminded herself.

She got to the end of the bridge and cut across the park. Within minutes she was home.

Mama wasn't home yet. The apartment was quiet. This was an opportunity.

She went to her room and took her red hoodie out of luggage in the closet. She checked how clean it was before taking various other bits of laundry and putting them in a basket to do a wash. She had already washed her coat, twice, so she was certain it was clean. The hoodie however, she could not be certain. It definitely needed to be washed anyway.

She got the laundry started and then started to make supper. Give Mama a break when she gets home. She turned on the TV so there was at least something to listen to.

A man in a red ski-mask was kicking a rather young looking Clint Eastwood. It skipped to a different scene, so it must be a movie trailer. She shrugged and went back to the kitchen, listening. "But being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?"

Punk, thought Yasmeena. Does anyone still use that word, except for old people? This movie is really dated.

This was followed by a car commercial. Yasmeena ignored it. She had no intention of ever even owning a car. Commercials like that were wasted on her.

"Welcome back to CityNews at 6. Our next story is a heartwarming tale of fashion as local teens express their interest in the Girl in the Red Hoodie, the vigilante who took down one of the 1/23 terrorists on January 23rd."

Yasmeena rolled her eyes. She had noticed many of the kids at her school wearing red hoodies. Even Miss McGregor the gym teacher was wearing one. It was a big thing at her school. It was as if suddenly the school had adopted a school uniform, and that uniform was a red hoodie worn with the hood up. It reminded her of that old Spartacus movie.

"No, I am Spartacus!" she muttered to herself.

"You're a what?" asked Mama.

"Oh, hey Mama. I didn't hear you come in. Nothing, I was just reminded of an old movie. That's all."

"Thank you for starting supper. Do you need any help?"

"No, I am fine. Are we out of milk?"

"Yes. I asked your father to buy some on his way home."

"We interrupt this broadcast with breaking news. A mass shooting is happening on Bloor Street in Toronto. Police believe the 1/23 terrorists have returned. They are asking all residents in the vicinity to stay indoors and avoid going near your windows."

Both Yasmeena and Mama looked at the TV. On the screen people were running in a haze of smoke and distant gunfire could be heard. Cars were on fire. It was the intersection of Yonge and Bloor, you could tell by the buildings and the architecture.

The camera switched to a cameraman inside a CityNews van. The van was following police vehicles east on Bloor Street. They passed Sherbourne Street, you could see the apartment buildings on the right and the trees of the ravine on the left. More gunfire, this time louder and faster.

"Stay back, stay back! Don't get too close!" shouted the cameraman.

The camera frame caught a glimpse of a black van far ahead of the police vehicles with flashes of light coming from between the open rear doors. One of the police cars looked like swiss cheese. The windows were shattered and the police inside were abandoning it. The other police cars began driving around it.

By the time the CityTV van passed by it the police car had caught fire and looked like it could explode any second, but they wanted to stay close behind the vehicles ahead of them.

They crossed over a small bridge, the one west of Castle Frank Subway Station. The larger bridge that crosses the Don Valley Parkway was up ahead. Yasmeena was reminded of crossing the other DVP bridge earlier today. Not the same bridge, but this is so close to where they live.

"Is this live?" said Mama, sitting down on the sofa.

"I think so," said Yasmeena. Sitting down next to her. The washing machine buzzed in the distance to indicate it was done, but she paid it no mind.

The CityNews van passed by the Castle Frank Subway Station. The wreckage of cars was blocking parts of the road. Some of the cars were on fire and people were walking around confused while others were trying to help people trapped inside cars or injured.

They passed the Rosedale Heights School for the Arts. Windows of the school were shot out. Up ahead the black van belonging to the terrorists slowed to a stop on the bridge spanning the DVP.

The guns, you could see them clearly now, in the back of the van began going back and forth and riddling the police vehicles with bullets. The police were trying to return fire, but several of them were injured or down. Possibly even dead. They were severely outgunned.

"Those look like twin .50 calibre machine guns," said the cameraman. "Like what you'd see on an Apache helicopter."

The CityNews van got hit by a few stray bullets and both the driver and cameraman made ducking motions. When they raised the camera back up to get an angle, you could see two of the terrorists exiting the van and climbing over the retaining section of the bridge that was meant to prevent suicides.

The gunfire ceased and the third man who had been pulling the trigger ran to catch up to his comrades. The first two attached themselves to a cable and slip out of sight.

Several police who were still uninjured move to shoot at the third man. One of the bullets looked like it caught him in the arm, but he still clambered over the retainer and attached himself to the cable.

The cameraman got out of the van and ran forward, huffing and puffing with the heavy camera and all the excitement, but still going pretty fast thanks to the adrenaline. Yasmeena knew that feeling. She had it right now.

From the side of the bridge he turned the camera to face the Don River below. The three terrorists disattached themselves from the zipline and got into a speedboat where a fourth man was waiting.

"Stay back!" shouted a police officer. "There might be a bomb inside the van."

The cameraman turned to face the van. The side passenger door of the van was wide open and a blue barrel was there for all to see. It was plain as day.

For a split second you saw it, the explosion and then a rush of dust towards the camera lens. Then the screen went black as CityNews lost the feed.

Yasmeena held her breath, paralyzed. Mama clutched her arm. She forced herself to breathe. She scrambled around and found the TV remote. She changed it to CBC to see if they had anything different.

The screen showed the CBC logo and a message of "We are experiencing technical difficulties."

Then the feed resumed. It was a different camera inside the CBC building and a different cameraman was running through a corridor past desks and offices. You could hear him panting and the lens was out of focus. He came to a window and adjusted the focus on the horizon towards where the SkyDome and other buildings surrounding the CN Tower.

Except the CN Tower wasn't there. A slender spire of concrete extending to the heavens. It was gone. Plumes of dust were billowing in between the buildings.

"What happened to the bridge? What is this?" asked Mama, not understanding at all what she was looking at.

The camera focused more as the dust began to settle. There was the tower. Broken and shattered. Large chunks of it was laying on top of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the roof of which had buckled and collapsed under the impact.

Mama held one hand to her mouth and was crying and holding Yasmeena now. "Where is the top? Where is the hostages?" she said between sobs.

The CN Tower was over five hundred meters tall, Yasmeena recalled. It was a massive structure. The top would have fallen further away.

The feed changed to a different camera, this one on the roof of the CBC building. The angle was better and it showed both the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and an angle of a small park next to the CBC building. Simcoe Park. Yasmeena remembered being there during a school trip to the Ripley Aquarium. There was the top of the tower with all the observation decks. Part of the trunk of the tower lay across Front Street.

The dust was still thick in the air, but you could make out bodies in the rubble.

End of Chapter Two.




Arabic Words

  • Shukran - Thanks (For reference, Thank you is Shukran lakum.)

    Notes

    So this chapter I only included 1 new Arabic word, but it is a very commonly used word. Or at least I hope it is. It would suck if my research is wrong and Shukran is not a commonly used word for thank you. I really have no idea. If anyone knows this and wants to correct me, please let me know via Twitter.

    It is possible I may go back and edit this chapter later to add a few more Arabic words. Maybe. We shall see.

    Yes, I still managed to make a reference to archery in this chapter. Sue me!

    Kim Snaku literally means Seaweed Snack. Apparently a variety of Korean snacks are quite popular amongst the Muslim community in Toronto, according to my sources. Kim is also a popular family name in both North and South Korea. It is joked that if you throw a rock from the top of Seoul Tower in S.K. that the chances are likely you will hit a Kim.

    I play Pokemon GO. I have been playing the game since almost the beginning. I am currently at level 38 and 600,000 XP from level 39. While there are a bunch of people who quit playing Pokemon GO, I would point that most of those people who quit only did so because Niantic cut down on the cheating and made it impossible to cheat. From my perspective, as a person who does not cheat at the game, I say good riddance to these cheaters. The game still has a vibrant community of players, despite the naysayers (who are all cheaters) who think otherwise.

    I have nothing against people who have tattoos - or face tattoos. If anything I can empathize. Every winter I grow a big bushy beard to keep my face warm when I am outside doing archery (or shoveling snow), and I have determined that some people treat me differently when I have a big full beard. Are they jealous of my beard? I don't think so. I think it is "beardism". People discriminate against me because I have a beard. It is rare, but it is noticeable when it happens. I don't like it when people discriminate against me when I have a beard, and I likewise don't think it is fair to discriminate against people with tattoos.

    Merrill Lynch really did get robbed in Montreal in 1984. The thieves stole $68.5 million. Most of the money was never recovered.

    The Royal Bank of Canada is a real Canadian bank, and the building (Royal Bank Plaza) in question has gold in its glass windows so that the whole building has a golden hue. The building was also featured in the 1988 film "Short Circuit 2", during which the villain robs the bank vault.

    I am Spartacus! So if you don't get this reference, shame on you. At the end of the Kirk Douglas film about Spartacus, the captured gladiators and slaves are being crucified by the Romans and they all say "I am Spartacus!" This is done because the Romans want to confirm Spartacus is really dead or captured, but the defeated slaves will not grant them this victory so they all claim to be Spartacus.

    As noted in Chapter 1, I have been to almost all of the locations mentioned in the Chapter 2. With two exceptions. 1. Froggy's Boxing Gym, as previously noted, is not a real place. 2. I have never actually gone up the CN Tower. I have lived in Toronto for almost 19 years (20 years minus 1.25 years in South Korea) and I still haven't got around to going up the CN Tower.

    The CN Tower from root to tip is over 550 meters tall. However the observation decks are really only about 340 meters above the ground. Seoul Tower in S.K. is only 236 meters tall, but because it is built on top of a mountain the observation deck gives roughly the same level of view.

    Using a scale map I calculated that if the CN Tower fell northward, almost True North in fact, that the observation decks would land roughly where Simcoe Park is. The neck of the tower would make quite the impact on the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

    I have been inside the CBC building twice so far. Both for interviews on CBC Radio. The second time I went I took my son Richard with me and he cried a lot in the producer room during the radio interview.

    It occurred to me today that these chapters might make very good TV show episodes and that I should pitch it to the CBC. Maybe. I need to think more on this topic. We shall see what happens by the time I finish this series and if I still feel it would make a good TV show.


    Want More of this Web Series?

    Okay, so here is the deal with this web series. I have a lot of ideas for short stories, fables and full length novels, but I don't have time to write them all. It is one of the reasons why I write fables so often, because I have so many ideas for stories and I know I don't have time to write them all, so instead any story that can be made into a fable, I prefer to just make into a fable.

    With The Girl in the Red Hoodie however I have a full book with 20 chapters planned out, but I have to decide how to allocate my time as I only have so much. So here is what I need you, the reader, to do. I need you to send me an email, tweet me on twitter, etc and say something like "Hey Charles, I really liked 'The Girl in the Red Hoodie'. Please write more of that web series!"

    And then I will allocate more time to writing another chapter in the series. Scroll up and on the left you will find my email and twitter info in the Contact Info section.

    The more people who tweet me, email me, the better. Knowing that this web series is reaching an audience who appreciates what they are reading encourages me to keep writing more. So if I get 20 people tweeting me, asking for more of The Girl in the Red Hoodie then this book will get written pretty quickly.

    Have a good day!

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