Mystery and Crime Fiction posted November 12, 2020 Chapters: 1 2 -3- 4... 

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John lectures to Andi's class.

A chapter in the book The Teacher

The Teacher - 3

by teols2016

A hostage situation at an elementary school.
Previously in "The Teacher":

A gunman invades the Ellison Elementary School and takes a classroom hostage. While the teacher, Andi Defesne, attempts to talk to the assailant, Kevin Greer attempts to negociate on behalf of the police department, all while learning about underlying political implications.

Wearing protective body armor over his uniform, Kevin followed the SWAT officer around the side of the building. There were no windows here. Still, they needed to be careful and moved at a slow pace, watching their surroundings. All they saw were more officers, vans, and cruisers which made up the perimeter. A department helicopter was circling overhead, its rotors emitting a dull roar.

By now, officers had used the commandeered school busses to ferry the evacuated students and teachers to Edna Louise Spear Elementary School, informally known as "Scraggy Hill", where their families were being sent for reunifications. All schools in Port Jefferson, as well as the neighboring towns of Mount Sinai, Miller Place, and Port Jefferson Station held emergency early dismissals and residents were advised to stay out of the area if they didn't need to be there.

Though Kirkland's presence inside Ellison Elementary School was not yet known outside of police circles, the press already had plenty to broadcast. News vans lined the streets beyond the barricades and televisions inside the Mobil Command Center were being used to monitor what the reporters were sharing with their viewers.

"Here," the SWAT officer said as they reached the door. "This is where he got into the building."

Kevin studied the door, made of metal and plastic with a slim window in it, similar to the windows on the classroom doors inside.

"Did he pick the lock?" Kevin asked, remembering having read how Kirkland picked the lock on the balcony door of his ex-girlfriend's apartment. The school's door didn't look damaged, but someone would have taken the time to examine it more closely by now. A professional eye would spot what the average examination would likely miss.

"Principal says that's what they saw him doing on the security camera," the SWAT officer replied. "The SRO went to check it out and that's when it all went down."

Kevin considered this.

"How far is the classroom with the hostages from here?" he asked.

"Right there," the SWAT officer said, pointing through the slim window. "Third door on the left."

Kevin knew they had to reposition the Mobile Command Center and all operations related to it. He wanted this door to be their focal point, not the building's front door, a good five minutes' walk through school corridors to the seized classroom.

He peered through the window and studied the door to Andi Defesne's classroom. It was wooden with a metal lock and handle. It too had a slim window, which Kirkland would be watching. Kevin could just make out that part of the window was missing, having been shot out earlier. He could see a few pieces of glass on the floor.

"All right," he said, turning back to the SWAT officer. "Let's go back."

The FBI and other federal agencies would be here soon, making things more complicated. Kevin wanted to try and use that before it became an issue.

Lieutenant Cruz was waiting by the Mobile Command Center.

"Our secret's out," he reported.

"What do you mean?" Kevin asked as the SWAT officer left to rejoin his unit.

"Come in and have a look."

Kevin followed the lieutenant onto the bus. It didn't take long to learn what had happened.

On one television screen, a blonde reporter was speaking while John Kirkland's mug shot was prominent just over her shoulder.

"Though authorities are not confirming it at this time, there is strong evidence that the assailant inside the school is John Kirkland, who has been the subject of a large-scale manhunt for the past twenty-four hours," the reporter was saying. "Yesterday morning, Kirkland escaped from Boston's Suffolk County Courthouse during a plea hearing. Gaining control of a court officer's service pistol, Kirkland shot multiple people while fleeing the building. Killed in the shooting were Superior Court Judge Michelle Powell, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Lucius Oakes, and Court Officer Matthew Vinyard. Also wounded in the shooting were court reporter Remy Kaye, defense attorney Kyle Hudson, two more court officers, and four spectators. Kirkland is known to have taken the pistol of one wounded court officer, as well as a spare ammunition clip, during the rampage ..."

"We know how this got out?" Kevin asked, turning away from the screen, sickened by the photos of the victims that were now flashing across the screen. They weren't gruesome or anything like that, but it bothered him to see the vibrant faces of people involved in his case whom he knew were already dead.

"Not sure," Lieutenant Cruz admitted. "It was bound to happen though."

Kevin only nodded. He'd worry about leaks later.

"How'd Kirkland overpower that first officer and get his gun, anyway?" he asked.

"How I understand it, the court officers screwed up," Lieutenant Cruz said. "They only used a pair of handcuffs to restrain him. Kirkland was sitting in jail for two months and didn't have a blemish on his record. He was Mr. Meek and Compliant and they let their guard down. When he attacked the lone officer assigned to escort him to the holding cell outside the courtroom, he had full use of his feet and even used the cuffs as a weapon to choke the officer unconscious."

"Meek and complient. I think that's how Hannibal Lector tricked his guards."

Kevin wondered what act Kirkland might try now. He hoped no one here would become complacent.

* * *

Andi watched as John studied the students, still searching for the speaker. His gun seemed to be down at his side, which offered some small relief.

"Funny," John muttered. "One of you calls me a 'bully', trying to be some sort of hero, but you all are now quiet. Anyone willing to step forward and take the credit?"

Andi prayed everyone would stay silent and they could overcome this latest confrontation.

"You think you've got it so tough living out here in these nice suburbs?" John continued.

"Nobody thinks that," Andi tried, though she doubted he'd be convinced. In any case, he seemed to ignore her comment.

"Any of you ever hear of Roxbury?" John asked.

The students remained silent. John chuckled.

"Yeah," he said, "you wouldn't have heard of it. I lived in the projects there. It's nothing like your cushy town here. You got gangs, drug dealers, shootings ... and I haven't even gotten to the ghetto part of it."

Andi thought about pointing out that parts of Port Jefferson weren't great either. The area near the train station was a known location for dealing. Her and Marshall's apartment wasn't in the safest neighborhood. After their next-door neighbor was robbed at gunpoint in his home last year, Andi had forsaken her issues with guns and allowed a small revolver to be kept for protection. She had yet to touch the thing or take shooting lessons, but Marshall was being patient and understanding. He knew what it had taken for her to even let the weapon through their front door.

Thinking about the gun led Andi to thinking about the closet again. These thoughts didn't come up often when she was at work. She supposed her current situation could serve as an exception to the rule. She shook her head, trying to clear away the darkness.

"You got an objection you'd like to share?" John asked.

Andi decided this wasn't the time for a debate. Plus, the ringing phone took away any opportunity she had to object.

John came over and hit the phone's speakerphone button again.

"Hey John," a voice said. "Can you hear me?"

It was the same voice as before ... the sergeant, Kevin.

"Yeah," John grumbled, "I hear you."

"We gotta see if we can work something out, John," Kevin said.

"Why's that?" John asked, not seeming to care.

"The FBI are on their way. Other agencies as well. I wouldn't be surprised if representatives from Boston show up here. It's going to get a lot more complicated."

"Let me guess. You wanna bring me out in cuffs so you can be the big hero."

"I want to end this without more bloodshed," Kevin replied without betraying any emotion. "A lot of people have been hurt and killed. You sent three people to the hospital today. Not a lot of guys out here will want to listen to what you want to say the longer this continues."

"I'll think about it," John said and ended the call.

* * *

Kevin sighed. He supposed that could have gone worse. He wondered how much time he had before the feds, and possibly a delegation from Boston, arrived. This had already gone on for two and a half hours.

Kevin heard approaching sirens and stepped to the door to have a look. He saw several black sedans and two large vans pulling into the parking lot, officers having moved aside the barricades to grant them access.

Figuring this was the FBI's Divisional SWAT Team from Manhattan, Kevin exited the Mobil Command Center and approached this convoy as about twenty men and women in body armor exited. Sure enough, their body armor was stenciled with "FBI" in bold white letters.

One of the agents looked up as Kevin approached. Already wearing his helmet, he raised its visor. Kevin stared at the man, who seemed to be around the same age as him.

"Supervisory Special Agent Vince Dodson," the man said. "FBI."

Kevin nodded and introduced himself.

"You guys have a plan?" he asked, fearing he was about to be pushed aside.

"We're here to work with you," Dodson replied with a raised hand. "From the information we've been given, it's my understanding that the school's been evacuated with the exception of that one classroom."

Kevin nodded.

"I'd like to lead a small team inside to better assess the situation," Dodson said. "First and foremost, we want to get eyes into that room. It is my understanding that you were not yet able to accomplish this."

"How many do you want to send in?" Kevin asked, eyeing the twenty or so armored agents behind their leader. They were unloading equipment, which included large, automatic rifles.

"Four or five," Dodson replied, seeming to ignore Kevin's stare. "We want to integrate the rest of our people with yours out here. Maybe we can set up shifts so no one freezes in this weather if this continues for a while."

He gave Kevin a hard look.

"We want to cooperate with you," he added. "I've been hearing there's something bigger at play in all this. I know people from New England are on their way. You and I can probably agree how murky that could make things."

Kevin nodded. He was starting to like this guy.

"You'll have to speak with my lieutenant," he said. "He's coordinating with our SWAT Team."

Dodson nodded as an officer approached them.

"We've got a growing crowd of anxious parents out there," he reported, pointing back towards the barricades. "What should we tell them?"

Kevin thought for a moment. Lieutenant Cruz had gone to confer with the SWAT team, so this was his call.

"Go," Dodson said as though his input was requested. "We're not running off anywhere."

Kevin nodded again.

"I'll talk to them," He said.

He followed the officer around the Mobil Command Center over to the barricades. A crowd had indeed formed behind the sawhorses, consisting of many people in various business attire and winter jackets. Having left his own winter coat on the bus, Kevin suddenly felt chilly himself.

He knew the school had sent out automated calls and text messages when the crisis began, directing parents to Scraggy Hill to reunite with their children. These folks here would have by now learned where their children were after discovering they weren't in the other elementary school.

The chatter was incomprehensible as a couple officers and Phillip Caulder, the school's principal, tried to address the group.

"My son is in there!" one man bellowed, looking ready to punch someone.

"Stacey has asthma," a raven-haired woman was saying, almost in tears. "She can't take this kind of stress. You have to do something."

Kevin wondered if any of these parents had witnessed the FBI's arrival just now.

"What are you doing?" another man asked, trying to push a barricade aside.

"Sir," an officer said, holding the sawhorse in place, "you can't cross ..."

"The heck I can't!" the man said as other people gathered behind him.

"Folks!" Kevin shouted to get everyone's attention. It seemed to work as the chatter lessened a bit and the shoving stopped. Maybe they noticed the Sergeant's stripes on his uniform and understood he had more power and maybe more answers.

"I'm Suffolk County Police Sergeant Kevin Greer. I'm the lead hostage negotiator here. I want to reassure you all that your children have not been harmed."

"How would you know?" someone asked.

Kevin considered his answer. He hadn't seen the kids. He'd only been able to take their teacher's word for it. He supposed she might have been forced to respond that way, but no further gunfire had been heard and Kirkland wouldn't have had time to plan a ruse. He probably hadn't planned to be stuck inside this school at all.

"Why aren't you negotiating?" a woman in a purple parka asked. "Why aren't you convincing this man to let our children go?"

Some other parents murmured their agreement.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Lieutenant Cruz said, coming up next to Kevin. "We've set up an area at the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School for you to wait. Officers will be on site and will update you as soon as anything develops."

The group's volume rose again, carrying their objections.

"I'm not leaving!" the man who'd been shouting about his son earlier replied.

"We need to be here," the woman in the purple parka insisted.

"Folks," Lieutenant Cruz said. "We do not have the resources to accommodate you at this location. Please, go to the Edna Louise Spear school and we will keep you informed."

By now, more officers had gathered by the barricade. This time, the objections were quieter as, one-by-one, the parents walked back to their cars.

"Thanks," Kevin said, turning to his superior.

"It's not your job to deal with them," Lieutenant Cruz said. "And we can't let them stay here to influence God knows who. Get back to seeing how to talk Kirkland down."

Kevin nodded. He was turning to head back to the bus when he spotted a man who hadn't left his spot at the barricade. This man was staring at the scene of police cars, officers, vans, and the occasional fire truck or ambulance. His face was blank and his hands were on the sawhorse, but he wasn't trying to move it. Even so, an officer was watching him. Kevin walked over to the man.

"Sir," he said, "are you all right?"

The man started, as if coming out of a trance. He looked at Kevin, who stepped up to the other side of the sawhorse. Kevin noted he was taller than him. He wasn't as tall as Kirkland, but he had a couple inches on the Sergeant.

"Yeah, I guess," the man replied. "I mean ... I can't believe this is happening. You just don't think ... your own backyard."

Kevin nodded. He'd long worried when some random act of violence would put a place he knew into the national spotlight.

"You have a child in there?" he asked.

"No," the man said, shaking his head. "My wife's in there."

Kevin nodded. Still, he had to be sure.

"What's her name?" he asked.

"Andi Defesne," the man replied.

Though Kevin had suspected this, he wasn't prepared with a response. He was used to dealing with armed individuals, not family members of the innocents trapped in the crosshairs.

"You married?" the man asked.

"Yes," Kevin replied.

"You got kids?"

"Two boys."

Kevin was glad his family didn't live in this district.

"Mr. Defesne ..." he began

"Marshall," the man said. "Marshall Shaffer. My wife kept her maiden name."

Kevin nodded.

"We're doing everything we can to keep everyone safe," he said, "including your wife."

Marshall was looking at his feet, clad in thick winter boots. Kevin considered how the predicted snowfall hadn't come yet. Another unexpected element of this day.

"Mr. Shaffer," he said, "it's not good for you to be here. Please, go home. Go to Scraggy Hill. If you want, leave your contact information with an officer. We'll update you as soon as we can."

Marshall looked at him again.

"We just had our usual morning," he said. "Both of us thinking about our own things and plans and such. If I'd known what was coming for her ..."

"You can't think like that," Kevin interjected. "That will make things worse for you. Please, go wait at Scraggy Hill."

He knew he had to leave it here. Without another word, he turned and headed back to the Mobile Command Center.

* * *

"Where were we?" John asked. "Right. Roxbury. You grow up in the projects there, you're already ten points behind everyone else."

Andi could hear him inhaling deeply through his nose. This topic was agitating him. She tried to think of something to calm him again.

"I tried," John continued. "I tried to play by the rules society allowed me to know about. I made it through high school and community college. I got a good job and a better place to live over in West End."

He paused again.

"You know the best part?" he asked, sounding agitated. "I had a woman. A great woman. A nurse at the hospital where I worked. She was from Mission Hill. We had it all when she decides to end it, right out of nowhere.

Andi was desperate to make him stop. He seemed liable to start shooting for the heck of it.

"Next thing I know," John said,, "she's seeing this orthodontist. And she still won't talk to me, not even to explain why she ended things with me. She won't even let me come to her apartment to get my stuff. She says she'll 'mail it'. I'm still waiting for that to happen."

His voice was shaking now. All of a sudden, he whirled around and pounded his fist on Andi's desk, his breaths coming out in short bursts through gritted teeth. Everyone jumped and a few students whimpered.

"Then," he continued, "she goes to the police and tells them I broke in and beat up her and her new boy toy. I'm hauled to jail and lose my job and apartment because I'm not around to show up for my shifts or to pay rent. She gets to tell everyone this lie and they, the cops, the judge, and the prosecutor, go along with it without any evidence. How is that fair?!"

"You were going to plead guilty," Andi said. She'd long figured out exactly who John was, having seen the news about his violent escape. While terrified, a part of her brain suggested that, if this man was going to kill any of them, he'd have done so already. Maybe she could help him see some reason.

"I had no choice," John growled. "Even that so-called lawyer they gave me thought I did it. He wasn't going to find a way out. I was looking at a life sentence when the prosecutor offered me the fifteen years."

He stopped talking and was just breathing. Each breath was long, sounding like an engine which kept winding up and down. Andi remained frozen in her seat.

"Teach them something," John said.

"What?" Andi asked, confused.

"You're a teacher. Teach them something!"

John swung an arm at her but missed by about ten feet. Nevertheless, Andi's heart skipped a beat. She wasn't going to question him again.

She racked her brain, trying to focus on something to teach.

"Emm," she said, "last time, we were talking about ... about how some numbers are greater ... o ... or less than other numbers ..."

"Stand up," John interjected.

"Excuse me?" Andi asked before she could stop herself. Her heart raced again. Would he try to hit her again?

"What kind of lazy teacher just sits there and rambles?" John asked. "Trust me, I've had those kinds of teachers, and I didn't like them. Stand up, use the board, and do your job."

"O ... okay."

Her legs shaking, Andi rose and stepped towards the whiteboard. She grabbed a marker, hoping she could do this well enough with her hampered vision.

While Port Jefferson, NY, is a real town, the Ellison Elementary School is fictional.

Cast of characters:

Andi Defesne: 2nd grade teacher at the Ellison Elementary School in Port Jefferson, NY. Taken hostage alongside her students.

John Kirkland: wanted for a violent courtroom shooting and escape in Boston, Massachusetts, and related murders.

Sargent Kevin Greer: hostage negociator for the Suffolk County Police Department. In charge of negociating with hostagetaker John Kirkland at the Ellison Elementary School.

Lieutenant Aldo Cruz: Suffolk County Police official in charge at the scene of the hostage crisis at the Ellison Elementary School. Kevin's superior officer.

Supervisory Special Agent Vince Dodson: commander of the FBIâ??s Divisional SWAT Team from Manhattan.

Phillip Caulder: principal of the Ellison Elementary School.

Marshall Shaffer: Andi's husband.

Feedback, especially recommendations for revisions, additions, and subtractions, are always welcome. Enjoy.
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