Flawed (Flawed, #1)(3)

Written By: Cecelia Ahern



Mom looks completely startled, frozen in time. Drained of all color, she looks at Bosco, and I think she’s going to faint. She doesn’t even try to stop Ewan from running out the door.

The sirens get louder; they're coming closer. Art jumps up, then so do I; and I follow him down the hall and outside to where they’ve all gathered in a tight huddle in the front yard. The same is happening in each yard around us. Old Mr. and Mrs. Miller in the yard to our right hold each other tightly, looking terrified, waiting to see whose house the sirens will stop outside of. Directly across the road, Bob Tinder opens his door and steps outside. He sees Dad, and they look at each other. There’s something there, but I don’t quite understand it. At first, I think Dad is angry with Bob, but then Bob’s face holds the same stare. I can’t read them. I don’t know what’s going on. It’s a waiting game. Who will it be?

Art grips my hand tightly, squeezes it for reassurance, and tries to give me one of his winning smiles, but it’s wobbly, and too quick, and only carries the opposite effect. The sirens are almost on top of us now, the sound in our ears, in our heads. The vans turn onto our road. Two black vans with bright red F symbols branding their sides, letting everybody know who they are. The Whistleblowers are the army of the Guild, sent out to protect society from the Flawed. They are not our official police; they are responsible for taking into custody those who are morally and ethically Flawed. Criminals go to prison; they have nothing to do with the Flawed court system.

The emergency lights on the roofs of the vans spin around, rotating their red lights, so bright they almost light up the dusk sky, sending out a warning beacon to all. Clusters of families celebrating Earth Day cling to one another, hoping it’s not them, hoping one of theirs won’t be plucked from them. Not their family, not their home, not tonight. The two vans stop in the middle of the road, directly outside our house, and I feel my body start to shake. The sirens stop.

“No,” I whisper.

“They can’t take us,” Art whispers to me, and his face is so sure, so certain, that I believe him. Of course they can’t take us, we have Judge Crevan sitting in our home for dinner. We are practically untouchable. This helps my fear somewhat, but then anxiety turns to the poor, unfortunate person they are targeting. This surprises me, because I’ve always believed that the Flawed are wrong, that the Whistleblowers are on my side, protecting me. But because it is happening on my street, at my front door, that changes. It makes me feel it’s us against them. This illogical, dangerous thinking makes me shudder.

The van doors slide open, and the whistles sound as four uniformed Whistleblowers leap out, wearing their signature red vests over black combat boots and shirts. They blow their whistles as they move, which has the effect of numbing my mind and stopping me from being able to form a single thought. In my head is just panic. Perhaps that’s the intention. The Whistleblowers run, and I stand frozen.





FOUR

BUT THEY DON’T run to us; they go in the opposite direction, to the Tinders’ house.

“No, no, no,” Dad says, and I can hear the surge of anger in his voice.

“Oh my God,” Juniper whispers.

I look at Art in shock, waiting for his reaction, and he stares ahead intently, his jaw working overtime. And then I notice Mom and Bosco still haven’t joined us outside.

I let go of Art’s hand and rush back to the door. “Mom, Bosco, quick! It’s the Tinders!”

As Mom races down the corridor, hair from her chignon comes loose and falls across her face. Dad acknowledges her and shares a look that means something to the two of them, his fists opening and closing by his side. There is no sign of Bosco joining us.

“I don’t understand,” I say, watching as they approach Bob Tinder. “What’s going on?”

“Shh and watch,” Juniper silences me.

Colleen Tinder is now in the front yard with her dad, Bob, and her two little brothers, Timothy and Jacob. Bob stands in front of his children, blocking them, protecting them, puffing his chest up and out against the Whistleblowers. Not his family, not his home, not tonight.

“They can’t take the babies,” Mom says, her voice sounding slow and faraway, so that I know she is right here and panicking.

“They won’t,” Dad says. “It’s him. It must be him.”

But the officers walk straight by Bob, ignoring him, ignoring the terrified children, who have started to cry, and waving a sheet of paper in his face, which he stalls to read. They enter the house. Suddenly realizing what is happening, he tosses the piece of paper in the air and chases after them. He shouts at Colleen to look after the boys, which is a hard task because they’re starting to panic now, too.

“I’ll help her,” Juniper says, making a move, but Dad grips her arm tight. “Ow!” she yelps.

“Stay here,” Dad says in a voice I’ve never heard him use before.

Suddenly there’s screaming from inside the house. It’s Angelina Tinder. Mom’s hands fly to her face. A slip in her mask.

“No! No!” Angelina wails over and over again until, finally, we see her at the door, held at both sides by a Whistleblower. She is almost ready for our dinner, wearing a black satin dress, pearls around her neck. Her hair is in curlers. She is wearing jeweled sandals. She is dragged from her home. The boys start to scream as they watch their mother being taken away. They run to her and try to reach her, but the Whistleblowers hold them back.

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