When the last leaf fell, the world hushed. It was a smattering of silence, each barren tree telling the next one to quiet down, the wind itself holding its breath. The sunlight waned in, as if it couldn’t bear to witness the macabre.
The leaf fluttered in the air, and the tree seemed to sway with it, as if it were coercing it to stay. One pull, then another. And it broke free, floating gently to the ground in a strange, oscillating motion. When it touched the floor of crackled, fire-bred leaves, a sigh escaped the Earth.
Natalie Shutterman blinked. Once, twice. The leaf was gone, fading into the backdrop. Her hand rested on the railing, head bent almost imperceptibly to the side, hair falling in soft waves, cradling her in a golden halo. Her hazel eyes were glazed, as if in a drowsy sleep. She was beautiful, stunning even, in a way that caught your eye only the second time.
Now, she appeared frozen, a breathtaking portrait, an elaborate sculpture. Something was wrong. Her movements were too stiff, her eyes too glazed. Her knuckles were white on the sill, hand clutched almost desperately to the railing. If you tilted the lens slightly to the left, you’d see the edge of the gunbarrel pressed to the back of her head.
At 5:06 a.m. the streets were empty, and the few people who jogged by, feet pounding on the pavement, arms pumping back and forth, were caught up in their own world. At 5:07 precisely, a muffled gunshot cracked into the air. Her hands left the sill, fingers reaching out, mouth open, eyes wide. Her body dropped to the ground with a soft thud, head bouncing off the tiles. Two pairs of hands: one callused and rough, the other slim and undoubtedly female, dragged the body away.
Natalie Shusterman: female, age 28, model/actress, IQ 82, number 0000000001 was down.