Rust: Episode Seven
by Alan Augustson
22 March 2017

They were everywhere, the damned screens, and most of the time people were content to ignore them. Yes, a few always stood and gaped, at the endless sideshow of pretty, smiling people, doing things that made no sense but which seemed enjoyable to them.

Kids sometimes played beneath them, mimicking them as they fantasized joining their ranks one day. That phase never lasted long, though; a few years more would beat out of them any ability to pretend, and then they’d join the older ones in occasionally pelting the screens with rocks and garbage. No one ever bothered to chase them off, as the chain link covering the massive things was protection enough, and they were situated much too high up to sustain any real damage.

Today was different.

A fairly decent crowd had congregated at the foot of this one, and Burke noted that they actually seemed engaged. From his balcony he watched with interest as the face of a pretty young girl was pasted across the huge screen, and then that of an old man, far less pretty. The tale was told of a gruesome killing in the man’s home. Photos of the scene told him there was nearly no struggle, and the blood, copious as it was, was well contained. Execution-style, Burke thought, and his temple twitched.

His eyes narrowed at the final image: an adjacent wall had been painted with a symbol, the letters A and D, interlocked. It was in bright red, undoubtedly blood. Apart from the aftermath of the decapitation, it seemed the only disarray at the scene. It didn’t fit.

That’s no mere vandalism, Burke thought as his temple twitched again. It’s not random, though clearly intended to appear so. Like someone made a stained glass window just to put a brick through it.

He knew he’d see it again. And he’d better make sure he hadn’t missed it once already.

Burke reached for his phone.

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Social scientist, public policy analyst, emergency management consultant and author. U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former firefighter. Former candidate for U.S. Congress.

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