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The abortion clinic was under siege, surrounded. It looked like a scene from a B cowboy-and-Indian movie because it had been constructed about three miles out of the village and back a good five hundred yards from the highway. It resembled a wagon train, isolated, vulnerable, under attack.
There was a nicely maintained lawn in front of it, a small parking lot behind the wood building, and behind that was a field and woods. The building itself looked nothing like a medical structure. It seemed more like someone's home, a two-story Colonial revival with a simple entry porch, the whole building in a soft, Wedgwood blue, the windows with curtains and flower boxes. There were two wide redwood chairs and a small redwood settee on the front lawn.
It was at least a half mile to the next structure in any direction. The clinic had been deliberately placed where there would be a sense of privacy. The patients who came didn't feel under surveillance. Not until today, that is. Today the clinic was under attack.
Upwards of fifty members of the militant Shepherds of God surrounded the building and moved in a circle. They wore no special uniforms. Most of them looked like ordinary people, housewives, gentlemen. A few of the men even wore shirts and ties. Some of them waved welded iron crosses, a number of them ominously sharpened at all ends. About a dozen beat on tin drums. Most of the women carried dolls streaked with blood. All chanted, "Murder, murder, murder."
Dr. Carla Williams stood inside the front entrance, facing the closed front doors like the palace guard, her arms folded over her bosom. Her two patients, both women in their early twenties, hovered behind her in the lobby. Millie Whittaker, the fifty-two-year-old receptionist, was on the telephone, screaming hysterically at the state police dispatcher. Two nurses lingered in the examination-room doorway. All eyes were on Dr. Williams.
One of those porcelain dolls streaked with blood came through the front window and shattered on the tile floor, the shards of glass falling in and around it. Everyone except Dr. Williams screamed.
"Bastards," she muttered. She was thirty-eight, divorced, the mother of two girls, one ten, the other twelve. Despite her five feet six inches of height and 128 pounds, she presented a formidable appearance: determined, unmoved, resourcefully independent. She had become one of the area's most well known advocates of women's rights, appearing at many panel discussions and debates, and often as the guest speaker at dinners. She took on all opponents without discrimination: priests, rabbis, archconservatives, wishy-washy politicians.
Without warning the fanatical right-to-lifers had descended on her clinic. Usually a demonstration like this came only after bitter charges made in the media, well publicized so they would get more media coverage and attract an audience of sympathizers.
This morning, however, their cars just suddenly lined the highway and it appeared that more were coming. Carla saw them as moralistic locusts, religious demagogues who would have their way or else.
Suddenly a storm of rocks penetrated every window in the clinic.
"Back away!" Carla shouted.
Her two patients rushed out of the lobby and into the corridor, screaming. The nurses guided them to safer quarters.
"Where are the police?" Carla shouted.
"On their way," Millie cried. She lowered herself as a rock bounced off the counter.
"Murder, murder, murder..."
The circle was tightening. Their chanting grew louder. More rocks were thrown. It had the effect of an earthquake shaking the very foundations of the building.
"They can't do this to me," Carla muttered. "This is America."
She had defeated a womanizing, degenerate of a husband in court despite his high-priced legal representation; she had built a lucrative practice, and she was successfully raising two children while maintaining an active medical career. A bunch of religious fanatics would not make her back away another inch. She had faced down these people many times before; she would do it again.
With a surge of courage, she seized the doorknob.
"Doctor Williams!" one of the nurses called.
"Stay back," she said. Carla stepped out on the small porch and the maddening circle slowed its tightening and shrinking. Rocks pelted the sides of the building and some kicked out the jagged pieces of glass that lingered in window frames, but even that came to an end in the face of this unexpected appearance.
"How dare you do this?" Carla screamed at the distorted faces of rage that faced her. They all looked like they wore the same mask. "There are people in here with families, just like the rest of you, and you are terrifying them and harming them. Where's your Christianity? You are violating laws, destroying property."
Some of the crowd wilted, but others simply stared. Carla walked down the steps and paused on the sidewalk to glare back at the protesters.
"I want you all off my property this moment, do you hear? Get off!"
She waved her fist at them.
No one moved. Then the chanting started again, low at first, but building and building in volume and intensity: "Murder, murder, murder..."
Another rock was thrown and then another pounded the side of the building. One hit the porch floor.
Deep down in her gut, Carla felt a surge of fear that she hadn't felt since she was a little girl who had found herself alone on a dark night. All that was primeval in her being, her instinctive alarms, rang. Her organs cringed, her heart contracted, and her blood pounded and rushed from her head.
She was going to turn, back up, wait for the police, but without warning, seeming coming from the ground itself, one of those sharpened crosses flew into her chest, cracking the bone like brittle candy and slicing her heart in two. The last thing she heard was the distant, far-too-late sound of sirens before crumpling to the walkway, lowering the flag of life on her thirty-eight years, her medical education, her love for her children, her promising future.
Someone shouted, "Death to Satan!" and the crowd cheered.
Undaunted, they stood their ground and continued to chant, "Murder, murder, murder..." as the police began to arrive and rush from their vehicles: a cavalry that had come far too late to save this wagon train.
Copyright © 2002 by Andrew Neiderman