\ 22:47 Alison ventures downstairs | unlimitedi.net
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Five minutes. All she’d wanted was five minutes alone with her man, and she couldn’t even have that.

Alison’s progress across the floor to the head of the stairs had been accompanied by little other than that thought. She barely noticed Jasmin and Evalyn as she passed them by, lost in her own ruminations. She couldn’t help feeling bitter about the interruption to her balcony rendezvous with Pablo, but she also felt sorry for the poor man in the alleyway. He’d seemed terribly burned, what she could see of him. And as for the rest of it – whoever had been involved had gone inside. Even as she put her foot on the first step she was fishing out her phone again, ready for whatever awaited her downstairs.

That’s when all hell broke loose. Shots rang out below, and someone screamed. Alison hesitated. Human instinct told her to run and hide, but her reporter’s instinct told her to head down and get it all on HD video. The two sides warred momentarily, until a portion of her human side reminded her that Pablo was down there in the midst of that chaos. The gunfire and screaming and breaking glass began to crescendo, and she forced herself to start walking down those stairs once more.

Keeping her grip on the railing let Jasmin focus on keeping herself under control. It was still tempting to head down there and begin snapping a few necks. No matter how fun that would be, however, the necessity of not getting caught loomed overhead. So instead she stood, listening and watching in a mix of anger and anticipation when the woman she knew as Lucinda started walking downstairs. She moved quickly, probably too quickly, laying a firm and cold hand on her shoulder.

"You may want to stay up here," she spoke in her chilly tones, the warmth and compassion still gone from her voice. "Don't try to be a hero, Ms. Graves."

Alison started slightly at the touch on her shoulder. She hadn’t noticed anyone right behind her on the stairs. Turning to see that it was Jasmin she wondered how the woman had got there so fast – hadn’t she just passed her by further back in the room? Those thoughts flitted by, filed away somewhere for later consideration. Right now she had other things on her mind.

“Oh believe me, I’m not planning on doing anything stupid.” She held up her phone which she’d just thumbed over to video mode. “When I’m not writing novels, I’m a reporter. I’ll be hiding behind some heavy scenery, taking pictures. Ghoulish, perhaps, but it’s that or cower up here. Besides,” she added with a quick glance down the stairs, “Pablo’s down there.”

....I can't catch a god damned break, can I? The police and the press are both already here! Maybe Connie is secretly an EMS so she can have brought the medical services, too. The thought flew through Jasmin’s head, her eyes falling onto the video phone. She made a note to thank Evalyn for, once again, stopping her from doing something stupid. Video.

She made one more attempt to stop the horrible headline, ‘Celebrity gunned down in shooting’. "Not necessary. We have security cameras." Still, she relaxed her grip now in case the other woman pulled away.

“I’m sure you do.” Alison kept her tone polite but professional. “However, I’m sure you also understand that reporters like to get their material first-hand where possible.” She half-turned, freeing her shoulder from Jasmin’s cool fingers. “And like I said; Pablo’s down there. If he gets himself hurt, I want to be right there so I can tell him off. You probably ought to call the police and ambulance, though, if you haven’t already. Now excuse me.”

Not caring whether Jasmin had a reply and not wanting to be held up on the stairs any longer, Alison continued her downward journey. A man was coming up the stairs. He wasn’t running, as Alison would have expected of someone escaping the fray, but was climbing with a deliberate tread, a scowl on his face. Keeping her phone by her side she pressed the record button, knowing where it was from long practice, and surreptitiously angled it to film the man’s ascent. Their eyes met briefly as she passed him by.

“Is dangerous down there, girly,” he growled in heavily accented English.

Alison ignored him, and he seemed unconcerned whether she heeded his warning or not. Keeping her video running, she took the last few stairs slowly, crouching behind the banister as much as possible while holding her phone just above the railing.

What Alison saw sent icy tendrils of fear through her guts. Several people lay still on the floor, some twisted at unnatural angles. Blood was everywhere, spattering the walls and pooling on the floor, showing as dark stains in the electric blue lighting of the club. From where Alison crouched at the bottom of the stairs she could see several people hiding behind whatever furniture they’d managed to find, some of it entirely inadequate for protection from bullets.

She panned her camera around, zooming in on some of the grisly details. She’d never be allowed to publish anything too graphic, but she had to get as much footage as possible. After her survey of the existing carnage, she finally focused on the section that her brain had been screaming at her to look at from the beginning. Two men stood to one side of the dance area, the muzzle flashes from their guns erupting in bright orange against the subdued lighting of the nightclub. Alison wished for some normal white light, knowing that she’d see far more details that way, even though part of her was glad that the imagery was somewhat surreal and muted.

A pair of gunshots sounded from further back and one of the figures stumbled. He didn’t go down, however. Pablo, that was a lousy shot. Take them down before they get you! She had to assume it was Pablo who’d shot the man, at least. From here she couldn’t see him at all. There were other people still moving about the room, not hiding. She focused her camera on them for a few moments.

Two people – a young black woman and an older man – looked to have recently come in the front door of the club. Their backs were to Alison as they moved around the room. Too far away for them to hear her over the ruckus, Alison willed them to dive for cover, or better yet to turn and run back out the door.

Another person was on the far side of the room, appearing from behind the heavy bar and circling around behind the two shooters. Alison zoomed in on the man’s face and stifled a gasp of shock when she recognised him. Logan? What was he doing down here? Damn fool’s going to get himself killed if he keeps on playing hero, she thought to herself.

Biting her lip, resigned to her role as observer and chronicler of events, Alison watched and waited to see what would happen next.

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