Dedicated to Holly Fowkes and Celine Harris, two of my awesome friends.
Six years can change a life.
In six years, somebody could raise a child.
Somebody could contract a serious illness.
Somebody could win a million pounds, and spend it on a mansion, or a fancy car.
Or, in my case, in the case of me and my boyfriend, the couple formerly known as Georgie Walls and Logan Saunders, a single moment could result in a completely new identity.
Monday, 31 July 2006. I had gone to school that day as usual, expecting to return home the same way.
It seemed like a perfect day, made even more so when, out of blue, my friends Gabrielle and Nina invited me into town for lunch. My boyfriend Logan was also tagging along.
It took us around half an hour to eat our meal, before we left, thinking we'd return back quickly.
However, this was not to be.
As we approached the antique fountain in the centre of town, we bumped into a group of shady looking men, wearing black hoodies, faded blue jeans, and trainers which looked like they'd barely survived a fight with a grizzly bear. Even though they were clearly holding some brand of alcohol, we largely took no notice of them, and continued to walk.
But that was before we heard the tell-tale sound.
"Guys," Nina asked. "Did you just hear what I heard?"
She turned, facing the men head on.
All eyes turned to face Nina as she fell to the ground. "Oh my god!" Gabby screamed, her eyes wide with shock. As she ran away, the men looked to her for a second, but largely disregarded her, after realising she was uncatchable.
Logan and I were held down by two of the men afterwards. A third stood still.
"Gabs, where are you going?"
There was no response. I tried to turn my attention to Nina, who was breathing in short, sharp gasps, but I was held down harder and gagged by the man's hand for a few more minutes. Ditto for Logan.
When we were pushed out of their grasp, we immediately bent down to see her. Her dark amber curls were spread out over her face, and her eyes were only open a few inches.
"My chest...hurts…" she choked out. "Call…hospital…" She spluttered, and her head lolled to the side.
I motioned at Logan to take my place as I stood up, scanning the crowd. I was disgusted by their lack of concern.
"You heard the girl, didn't you?!" I yelled to the masses. "Somebody call 999!"
After a few seconds of silence, the square came alive with the sounds of people searching their bags and pockets for phones. I saw the men scatter out of the corner of my eye, and ran to catch them, but they were too quick for me.
Groaning, I re-joined Logan in trying to ease Nina's pain. Blood was flowing slowly from her now open chest, coating my hand.
"They're gone." I relayed solemnly. "I'm so sorry, Nina. I wish I could've stopped them…"
"Georgie," Logan interrupted, his sapphire blue eyes sparkling with either tears of sadness, or the feeling of honesty, "There's no need to apologise. Not to me, not to Nina, not to anybody. What she's just gone through is a point blank gunshot to the chest. There was no way she was going to come out of it alive, whether we caught them or not."
I nodded, and, simultaneously holding Nina's chest and burying my head in Logan's shoulders, let the sounds of the bustling crowd fade out and be replaced by the beat of both their hearts.
I only regained the strength to leave her when the police and ambulance arrived.
The paramedics got to work patching up her wounds and loading her onto a stretcher as quickly as they could, whilst a tall, muscular police officer with short black hair came over to us.
"I'm just here to ask you a few questions." he explained. "Firstly, full names for all three of you?"
I spoke on our behalf. "Logan Brett Saunders, Georgina Celine Walls, and…"
I looked over to Nina, who was now being wheeled into the back of the ambulance.
"Nina Jocelyn Glover." I finished, trying to keep the sadness out of my voice.
The officer opened his mouth to speak again, but stopped, presumably out of courtesy, as the ambulance whizzed away.
I didn't care that I wasn't going to be with her, to be there supporting her. Chances of survival were, as Logan had said, very slim. Without the help of the medical staff, they would be even slimmer. Plus, if I was there, I wouldn't be next to the officer now, he wouldn't be asking me these questions, and ultimately, helping to catch the twisted group of men that had did this to her.
"Alright, second, what were you doing before the crime occurred?"
Logan spoke this time around. "We were at school, as students. We were out on lunch."
The officer nodded, looking us up and down. "Judging by your uniforms, I'm guessing you're from the Angelsway Academy?"
We both nodded. Our uniforms, made up of a medium length grey skirt for me, trousers for Logan, and a duke blue blazer sporting the golden angel logo for both of us, were very recognisable.
"Okay, can you explain the entire incident to me?"
I let my mind rewind itself to the moment we had left the school gates. "Um, we went from school, out of the gates into town…"
The officer nodded, scribbling the details onto his notepad.
"We went into Subway, got lunch, and came out about, what, half an hour later? We came out, walked past the fountain, and there were this group of men standing there…Nina bumped into one of them, she turned around, and then they shot her, right over there."
I gestured over to where they had been.
His brow furrowed, and he took out a pencil, grasping it in his hand along with his pen. "Can you tell me what the men were wearing, possibly?"
"Um, black hoodies, faded jeans, and really, really torn trainers." Logan replied, as him and I shared a brief giggle, which seemed glaringly wrong to do in the midst of such a sad occasion.
"Did they shoot with a handgun?" he asked.
Exchanging a slightly confused glance for a second before racking our brains, I nodded.
The officer's eyes seemed to widen, with almost the same shock I saw on the face of Gabby.
"Sir, are you alright?" Logan asked.
Not responding, he whispered something to another officer, before turning back to us.
"Logan, Georgina, I need you to come with me and my colleagues to the station. I'll be calling Angelsway in order to get your parents' numbers."
"But, wait, why-"
Logan touched my hand, causing me to stop speaking. He gave me a knowing look, and I pushed my words back for a later time. As we wee both bundled into the small and terribly stuffy police car, we listened in as best we could to the conversation the officer was having on his phone.
"Yes, Mrs Walls. Your daughter is safe with us…no, she hasn't done anything wrong. But I will have to warn you, her just being where she was today may very well change her life forever. Yes, and Logan's too. Yes. Yes, I know she loves him, I can see that vey clearly…I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do about that. Yes, OK. Goodbye Mrs Walls."
"What was he on about?" I asked worriedly.
Logan shrugged rather uninterestedly, as the engine rumbled into life. The wheels began to turn, and we set off. Even though he seemed to take little notice of the question, I could sense that he was just as nervous as I was.
It was roughly ten minutes later that the station came into our sight. It looked pretty normal on the outside, its exterior basically a big white box. But, we were both sure that this appearance was a deceptive one, and approached the building with caution.
Every part of it was well-lit, and almost too clean. People working on computers and talking on phones turned to look at us, some turning their noses up slightly, as if to say we weren't good enough for them.
I wanted desperately to be able to do the same back to them, but refrained, knowing it would get me into even more trouble.
We were led through a door, displaying a sign on it saying "Interrogation Room."
The room was dark, and it took my eyes time to adjust, though I quickly made out that there were another group of people in the room with us, besides the police.
Thinking it was the group that had killed Nina, I turned to run, but Logan held me back.
"Suits, not hoodies." was his only sentence.
As I adjusted even more, I noticed that, as Logan has said, these men were wearing formal suits, and dark sunglasses, instead of old, ripped hoodies and trainers.
The tallest one stepped forward to speak to us. "You're Logan and Georgina." he stated, even though it should have been a question.
We nodded, trying to keep our communication with him scarce.
"Agent K Santos." he introduced, taking each of our hands and shaking them.
"A-Agent?" I echoed, thinking he wouldn't be able to hear me.
"Yes." he answered unemotionally. "We're part of an outside company, brought in by your city to help with the large amount of organised crime witnessed by students like you two. We make sure you'll never encounter it again."
"That's impossible!" Logan thought aloud. "If the murders happen that often…"
I saw the corners of Agent Santos' curl into a smile. "Oh, Mr Saunders. Nothing's impossible. Especially not with our tactics."
He placed a file onto the table, and the words printed on the front sent shivers down our spines.
Witness Protection Programme.