Breaking News

Bob looked up, shielding his eyes from the midday sun, and spotted the source of the droning, a helicopter approaching from the west. Helicopters didn’t fly over his quiet suburban neighborhood very often. Not much to see in Shady Heights. It was the police from the markings. His eyes followed the aircraft as it drew near at a surprisingly low altitude, maybe two-hundred feet. He instinctively looked down the tree-lined street, wondering what the police were looking for.

His curiosity piqued, Bob stepped out to the curb for a better look, his gaze anxiously sweeping the peaceful landscape. The noise of the blades cutting the hot air brought several of his neighbors outside. Manny waved from his front lawn across Hastings Street and joined Bob.

“What do you think is going on?” Manny asked.

Bob moved to the side for a better view of the helicopter hovering over Manny’s brick bungalow. “I don’t know, but they seem interested in your house.”

They were joined by Margaret and her husband, Franklin. Franklin sipped his beer and said, “I’ll bet they’re lost. They don’t have Google Maps for helicopters. I once had a neighbor the cops threatened from a helicopter, using a bull horn. They told him to get on the ground. A SWAT team dropped down on ropes.”

“What—” Bob started to interject.

“Yep. They were looking for a serial killer. Thought they had him cornered in his backyard, having a beer. Turned out he lived behind my friend. Good thing Ricardo hadn’t been a victim but still…”

The small group moved over for a better look. Bob didn’t hear anyone talking on a bullhorn, but the aircraft continued hovering over Manny’s house. Then, he realized what was happening.

“I’ll bet it’s a practice drill, like what Franklin said. They’re probably working on finding the correct address.”

“That’s it,” Manny added.

“You’d think they would have figured it out by now,” Margaret said. “Or a police car would have arrived to verify the address. I mean…they can’t see the house number from up there.” She pointed at the helicopter still hovering over Manny’s house. Everyone’s eyes followed her pointing finger.

Another helicopter was approaching from the north at a higher altitude. It wasn’t the police. Bob was the first to identify it.

“That’s a KBHF News chopper. Maybe this isn’t a practice. What the hell’s going on?”

“Those eyes-in-the-sky boys monitor the police channels, looking for a breaking story. They’re probably just here because the police are,” Franklin offered.

Margaret began, “Do you think they’re talking on the radio…” She didn’t finish her sentence when the police helicopter spun around and climbed rapidly, towards the KBHF aircraft several hundred feet above it, on a collision course. Everyone waved their arms frantically.

Bob grimaced and ducked instinctively when the two helicopters collided. The horrific scene unfolded in slow motion. The spinning blades of the police chopper disintegrated, shredding the KBHF helicopter. The two aircraft, locked in a deadly embrace, engulfed in a ball of flame, plummeted towards Manny’s three-bedroom house. The fireball missed his home but crashed into Tom and Brenda Martin’s house next door. They were out of town. Bob watched the scene unfold in a daze, frozen where he stood, until it was too late to duck or run.

The small group was knocked to the ground by the blast. Debris covered Bob’s yard, the front windows of his house shattered, but miraculously the four of them were uninjured. Bob’s ears were ringing as he stumbled through his front door, intent on collecting his cellphone and calling 911. He was followed by the others as if leading them to safety. The phone hadn’t been damaged.

Bob was speaking to the dispatcher while the others turned their attention to the television, intact between the shattered windows, tuned to a baseball game. The game was interrupted by a newscaster Bob recognized. The old guy who did the weekend afternoon newscast.

“We’re interrupting the game to report breaking news. The police have tracked a man who recently escaped from the state prison to Shady Heights. We’ll hear from the KBHF eyes-in-the-sky team for an update.”

“What the hell…” began Manny.

Margaret added, “This should be interesting.”

“They don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground,” was Franklin’s comment.

Bob finished his call to 911, looked out the front window at Manny’s house, now on fire from the explosion. He shook his head in disbelief at the stupidity of the newscaster.

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