Mystery and Crime Fiction posted November 13, 2020 Chapters: 2 3 -4- 5... 

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Andi gives a math lesson.

A chapter in the book The Teacher

The Teacher - 4

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.

Kevin watched the caravan of black sedans and SUVs pull into the parking lot. About two dozen individuals stepped out and approached the Mobile Command Center.

Kevin sighed. They'd been at this for about four hours. Now, it would become complicated.

"Who's in charge here?" a tall, African American man in a navy-blue suit asked. He had short black hair and piercing brown eyes, currently narrowed as he studied Kevin.

"I am," Lieutenant Cruz said, coming up behind Kevin. "Lieutenant Aldo Cruz, Suffolk County Police Department."

"Supervisory Special Agent Seth Nance, FBI," the man said, presenting his badge and credentials. "I'm from the Boston field office."

Keeping a strict poise which hinted at a military background, Nance introduced the rest of the group. Some were also from the Boston FBI office while a few had come up from Washington. In addition, there were representatives from the Boston and Watertown Police Departments and several state and county agencies in that area. The dizzying array also included more federal representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, The U.S. Marshalls Service, and the United State Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts

"That's quite a lineup," Lieutenant Cruz remarked in an unimpressed tone.

"The situation warrants it," Nance replied. "A lot of manpower has already gone into this case. Look at the carnage this man has already left in his wake. Six people dead, another six plus wounded, and countless terrorized citizens. Now, we've got this mess."

He gestured at the school building behind Kevin and Lieutenant Cruz.

"Have you established contact with him?" he asked.

"We have," Lieutenant Cruz said. "This is Sergeant Kevin Greer. He's been leading the negotiations."

"What progress have you made?" Nance asked, looking at Kevin for the first time.

"It's been slow," Kevin admitted. "Kirkland does not want to talk. He's been making this up from the beginning. He never had a plan in place and probably never intended to do this."

"Well, it's done. And it needs to be undone now. John Kirkland needs to answer for what he did."

Nance studied the Mobile Command Center.

"You've got a hard line into the classroom?" he asked.

"Yes," Kevin confirmed.

"Divisional SWAT's on the scene?"

"They got here a little over an hour ago."

"Let's give Mr. Kirkland a call. HRT's mobilizing and waiting for the word to get on a plane at Quantico. He's got one more chance to surrender peacefully."

Nance paused, considering.

"Let's see if we can bring him down with SWAT alone," he said.

"You'll never be able to get in there without endangering almost two dozen lives," Kevin Objected.

But Nance was already stepping onto the bus, Lieutenant Cruz behind him. Sighing, Kevin followed the pair, trying to come up with a way to calm down the newcomers.

Nance recognized which phone was designated for calling into the classroom. He turned to Kevin.

"Make the call," he commanded.

Kevin thought about pointing out that he didn't answer to this FBI agent. He decided not to. Things were already tense enough.

He walked over to the phone and hit two buttons, assuming the FBI man would want to hear everything. They all listened as the long tones indicated the phone at the other end was ringing.

"What?" a gruff voice answered over the speakerphone.

Kevin recognized this was Kirkland. He also realized the man picked up the phone's receiver this time. He couldn't hear as much background noise as he had during the previous calls.

His heart hammered in his chest as various implications raced through his head. Was everyone all right? Was someone hurt? Was someone dead? Why was Kirkland suddenly not letting him hear the room or let the students and their teacher hear him.

All Kevin knew for sure was that he needed to speak.

"Hello, John," he said.

"What do you want?" Kirkland asked. "We're busy."

"The FBI are here, John. They're ready to end this. It's time to act."

Kevin hoped the man hadn't acted already. They hadn't heard any gunfire coming from the classroom, but they wouldn't hear if he'd strangled or smothered somebody. After all, he'd pistol whipped his ex-girlfriend after his gun jammed during the break-in which got him arrested.

"Oh, yeah?" Kirkland remarked, sounding curious. "Let me talk to them."

"John Kirkland," Nance said, stepping closer to the phone and adopting the most authoritative tone he seemed to have available. "I'm Supervisory Special Agent Seth Nance from the Bureau's Boston Field Office."

Kirkland made a noise, seeming to acknowledge this.

"You need to understand the situation," Nance continued. "A lot of people have been effected by what you've done. There needs to be justice. We are giving you one chance to surrender peacefully."

"Or what?" Kirkland asked. "You'll storm the room to take me down? How would you accomplish that? How many of these kiddies would get hurt? How many could I shoot before your boys get to me or get off a shot?"

There was a pause. Kevin glanced at Nance. The agent was keeping his composure, though his expressionless face seemed rigid, like he was forcing this neutral reaction.

"You and I know you don't have a clear shot at me," Kirkland continued. "Your justice system might be able to railroad an innocent black man, but you think you can get away with allowing a bunch of white kids and their pretty teacher to die? Oh, you'll have your paperwork to justify yourselves, but do you think that'll make the news stories any more pleasant?"

"What are your intentions?" Nance asked, still looking rigid.

"All I ever wanted to do was live my life ... go to work, come home, maybe to a family, hang out with friends, catch a game ... I had all that going before you cowboys broke that up. Now, I'm fighting back. Hurts, doesn't it?"

Without waiting for an answer, Kirkland hung up, leaving them listening to the long dial tone.

"You okay?" Kevin asked, looking at the FBI agent.

Nance waved a hand.

"I want closer surveillance on that room," he said. "We'll send SWAT into the building. They won't act, but they'll be ready when the time comes."

"Are you okay?" Kevin repeated.

"Yeah," Nance replied in a gruff tone, sounding similar to Kirkland.

Behind him Kevin noticed a television was tuned to a news channel. It was one of the national outlets and they were announcing an upcoming interview with Kayla James, Kirkland's ex-girlfriend. The photo on the screen showed the woman with a long, prominent scar on her cheek. No doubt about where that came from.

* * *

John put down the receiver and looked at Andi, who stood frozen by the whiteboard, her arm raised. She'd been halfway through writing "0" on the board when the phone rang.

"Keep going," John instructed. He went back to an empty desk on the far side of the room and resumed leaning against it like he'd done after she'd begun teaching.

"S ... so ..." Andi said as she finished writing on the board. "In this case, twenty-seven is less than thirty, so we use the less-than sign. See how it points?"

She thought she saw a hand go up, not believing someone might have a question.

"Yes?" she asked.

"Why doesn't the thirty go first?" a boy asked. "The bigger number went first the other times."

"G ... good question. It doesn't matter which number goes first. The greater-than or less-than signs can be used no matter what order the numbers are in."

Andi wished she could tell which of her students was speaking, but this was impossible without her glasses. She knew some of their voices by heart, but to memorize them all would never happen.

She recalled how, in the last two years of doing this lesson, she'd enjoyed springing the next part on her students. If she got out of this alive, she could probably never do that again.

Andi picked up the eraser and wiped the board, not sure if she was removing everything she'd written. She glanced at her desk, wishing she had her glasses.

"Ho ... ow about this?" she asked.

She wrote "50" and "50" on the board.

"Which do you guys think is greater?" she asked and waited, her heart pounding in her chest. She hadn't tried to prompt anyone for an answer since beginning this lesson. What would John do if no one answered? She wished she hadn't done this. But, it was too late to take it back. She waited.

Nobody moved or spoke. Andi tried her best to see what the students were doing, unsure if she saw a raised hand. She glanced at her desk again, really wanting her glasses.

"Mrs. Defesne?" someone asked.

Andi withheld a sigh of relief. Whether this student had an answer or a question, she was happy to keep things moving.

"Yes?" she asked.

"They're equal," the boy said.

Andi's heart soared.

"Yes," she said, "they are equal. So, what sign would we put between them since they are equal."

Again, there was silence. Andi waited again, hoping she wasn't sweating. They had to know this. She might have not explicitly taught this to them, but they would have seen this sign on every math problem since they started school. Come on, she pleaded in her head.

"The equals sign?" the student asked.

"Yes," Andi said.

As she drew the sign between the two numbers, hoping it was lined up with the digits, she thought she'd need to see a cardiologist if she ever got out of this room.

"Nice job," someone remarked.

Andi turned to see John standing up straight again. He was looking at something on the ceiling or high up on the wall.

"It's almost 1:30," he said. "Anyone hungry?"

Andi supposed he'd been looking at the clock. She hadn't realized what time it was. Since this all started, the seconds alternated between creeping and speeding by as she tried to figure a way out for herself and the students.

A few students murmured they were hungry. Andi wondered what John had in mind. Would he let them go if they were hungry?

"How many of you brought lunch?" John asked.

Nobody moved or spoke. John looked at Andi and she got the message. She didn't need to see well to understand.

"How many of you brought lunch?" she surveyed.

She supposed about a quarter of the class raised their hands.

"Let's see what you've got and divide it up," John said.

Andi couldn't believe what she was hearing. But she knew she had no choice.

"If you brought lunch, bring it up to my desk," she instructed.

She listened to the shuffling as several students moved to obey. She also noticed John moving towards the door. She wondered if he thought someone would try and escape. She wondered if any of the students considered trying to escape. She shuddered as she thought about the bloodbath this might cause.

To her relief, nobody tried anything. Soon, about half a dozen lunchboxes, bags, and brown paper sacks stood on her desk.

"Everyone," John said, "back in your seats."

Without a word, the students returned to their seats.

"What about you?" John asked, looking at Andi.

"I ... I just brought a sandwich and a bottle of water," Andi replied. "Tuna on rye."

It was really half a sandwich, left over from when she'd picked up something to eat at the deli the previous afternoon.

"Go get them," John instructed, "and only them."

Andi dug into her handbag and withdrew the plastic package and water bottle, wishing her spare glasses were in the handbag.

"Let's see what we've got," John said.

Stuffing his gun into his pocket, he laid out everything in the boxes, bags and sacks. Andi could identify more sandwiches, some juice boxes, another water bottle, a couple bananas, and various snack foods.

John grabbed a bag of chips and pocketed it. He then withdrew a pocketknife. Andi's heart froze. She'd never considered him having another weapon. She stood, frozen in place, as he studied the food and began cutting the sandwiches.

She'd never considered that this man, who'd forced his way into their room and their lives, threatening violence, actually might care, at least enough to feed them. Or, maybe, it was a way for him to control them. She couldn't be sure.

John walked around the room, giving everyone a small portion of a sandwich.

"This isn't what I brought," one boy complained.

"Too bad," John replied. "I'm not running a restaurant. Eat it."

"But ..." the boy protested.

John stepped back over to him, raising his gun.

"Don't!" Andi cried.

John was breathing deeply again. He was agitated again.

"Let me make myself clear," he said. "I'm in charge here. You eat what I give you. That's the way it works."

The boy recoiled and fell silent. Nobody else objected either.

"Sit," John said, returning to Andi's desk. He slapped a piece of sandwich down in front of her.

Andi sat and ignored the food.

"You don't want it?" John asked.

"I'm not hungry," Andi explained. Even though she'd had a light breakfast with her coffee, she wasn't hungry.

John shrugged.

* * *

With the aid of some cups and napkins Andi kept in a cabinet in the back of the classroom, John divided the remaining food and drinks. Andi continued to refuse anything left in front of her, but she was thankful the kids were eating. It did sicken her when she realized how subdued they sounded in comparison to the general chatter she heard whenever she walked past the school cafeteria.

Digging into the bag of chips he'd commandeered, John leaned against the board near where Andi was sitting. She hoped he wasn't leaning against anything she'd written. Finding marker stains on his clothes probably wouldn't make him happy.

"Sorry about the 'pretty teacher crack earlier," he said between devouring chips. "And for calling you 'Ginger'."

"It's okay," Andi replied in a low voice. He had plenty more to apologize for, but she wouldn't push it. She couldn't believe he felt the need to apologize for anything.

"You're a good teacher," John remarked. "You care and all that."

Andi didn't know what to say. Were they supposed to be having a conversation?

John sighed.

"I never meant for this to happen," he said. "It just ... did, and I got in too deep to stop it."

Andi wondered about this. What did he mean? Did he not want to be in this situation any more than she did?

She thought about pointing out the obvious. He could let them go and surrender. But she couldn't work up the nerve to say it. She blinked away tears as she realized she was being a coward again. She thought about Chris and hurried to erase that image from her mind.

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.

Supervisory Special Agent Seth Nance: representative from the FBI's Boston field office. Assigned to the Kirkland case following the courthouse shooting.

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.

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