Letters and Diary Fiction posted November 13, 2020 Chapters:  ...3 4 -5- 6... 

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Andi has family connections.

A chapter in the book The Teacher

The Teacher - 5

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 didn't like it, but he had no choice. The FBI and their out-of-state counterparts were all in agreement on it and even Lieutenant Cruz wasn't raising objections. Even Vince Dodson, the leader of the Divisional SWAT Team, seemed to be on the opposing side, a far cry from his friendly introduction where he indicated an intent for cooperation.

So, standing by the Mobile Command Center, Kevin could only watch as half a dozen armed and armored members of the FBI's Divisional SWAT Team entered the Ellison Elementary School building through its front doors, Dodson in the lead. They would make their way to the hallway outside Andi Defesne's classroom and take up positions in the doorways of the adjacent, empty rooms. At the first sign of trouble, they would move in and take Kirkland down by force. Kevin feared what the cost of such a maneuver would be. As soon as the SWAT Team breached that classroom door, Kirkland was sure to start shooting. Even if he only got off one or two shots before they got him, the price would be too high.

Kevin glanced at Nance. The FBI agent looked as rigid as ever. Kevin didn't fault him for anything. He was keeping his emotions out of his decision-making. Kevin was doing this as well and it was logic that told him a confrontation would lead to a bloodbath ... logic and experience.

The interview with Kayla James had aired a few minutes ago. In it, the woman, with a long, broad scar running down the left side of her face from Kirkland's attack, described her ex-boyfriend as "loving but controlling."

"John could be the sweetest guy in the world," she'd elaborated, "but it was always on John's terms."

She confirmed this was why she had left him. She did express shock over what Kirkland had done, having never believed he'd be capable of such violence.

"It goes beyond what he did to me and Eric," she said, referring to her current boyfriend, who was still recovering from taking a bullet in the lung from Kirkland . "I just ... they're innocent people."

It was clear who she stood with.

Kevin's musings were interrupted when another federal agent approached Nance and handed him a sheet of paper.

"What's that?" Kevin asked as Lieutenant Cruz also took interest.

"Report from the VIN number of the dark-green Chrysler SUV Kirkland drove," Nance explained while skimming the document.

"When did you run that?"

"Just a few minutes ago. We got a warrant to enter the vehicle after receiving your report about it."

Kevin was irked by how casual the agent was sounding as he relayed this sequence of events.

"When were you planning on sharing any of this with us?" Lieutenant Cruz demanded, echoing Kevin's thoughts.

"You know now," Nance replied, frowning. "And you obviously don't know the political implications of this situation. Nothing can be overlooked."

Kevin was about to respond that they would have traced the SUV back to its owner when the hostage situation was resolved. The armed man inside the school took priority. But, something else took priority in his thought process.

"What political implications?" he asked.

This couldn't be about gun control. The FBI wouldn't take this sort of interest for something people would spend a few weeks discussing on the news while politicians got nowhere on the matter.

"That teacher in the classroom," Nance said. "You have any idea who she is?"

"No," Kevin admitted, figuring this response might get him a straight answer.

"You ever hear of Oren Fischer?" Nance asked. "Associate Justice Oren Fischer on the United States Supreme Court? Appointed twenty-four years ago?"

Kevin was sure he'd heard the name. He watched the news. But he couldn't place this man in any topic he'd followed.

"His record on the bench has been pretty unremarkable," Nance continued. "A lot of bland concurrences with whichever side he's on and a few majority or dissenting opinions in unremarkable cases. Probably the safest judicial appointment in political history."

None of this was helping Kevin with recognizing the name in a manner he seemed to be expected to. He knew the law. He was a police officer, so he had to know the law. But, he didn't specifically seek out legal news to digest and follow in his spare time. Home repair shows were his vice.

"But," Nance continued, "twenty-three years ago, his daughter, son-in-law, and grandson were shot and killed in their home in Pennsylvania. There was one survivor in the massacre."

It didn't take any leaps and bounds for Kevin to realize who the survivor was.

"Andi Defesne," he said.

Nance nodded.

"She was seven at the time," he explained. "Justice Fischer was barely a year in on the bench when he took her in. He raised that girl, and he's taken an interest in what's going on here. The Director got the first phone call just minutes after we found out what was going on here."

Now Kevin understood.

"He wants his granddaughter out of there alive," he concluded.

Nance nodded again.

"He hasn't made it explicit yet," he said, "but he's keeping an eye on things and he wants us to know it. His career may have been quiet, but he's still got friends in D.C."

"But at what cost do we satisfy him?" Lieutenant Cruz asked.

Nance stood still, not having an answer.

"What did you find out from the SUV's VIN number?" Lieutenant Cruz asked, recognizing how dwelling on the political implications would get them nowhere.

Nance sighed and showed them the information.

"It does get worse," he said, sounding truly disheartened.

* * *

Standing well inside the empty classroom, Vince Dodson watched the door. He couldn't see what was happening in the hallway outside, at least not what he wanted to see, but that was okay for now. His people had things under control. One sign of trouble and two of them would emerge from the classrooms on either side of Andi Defesne's room, ready to take down Kirkland. Ten feet in front of Dodson, Special Agent Craig Dennis was prepared to emerge from this room, his pistol gripped in his hand. He looked like a Jack-in-the-Box which was waiting for its handle to be turned just a bit further.

But, all was quiet. Dodson almost wished Kirkland would emerge from the adjacent room and spark such a confrontation. It would end things quickly. He hated waiting.

Craig Dennis flinched and Dodson watched him closely. Then, another figure, dressed in FBI body armor, crawled into the room. Once across the threshold, the figure rose to her feet and flipped up the visor on her helmet.

"No good," Special Agent Rakhee Spencer reported. "He stuffed something in the crack beneath the door ... looks like paper of some kind. We can't use a snake unless we move some of it aside."

Dodson nodded. A small camera on a long cable was standard issue for the FBI's Divisional SWAT Teams. They could be slipped in through the cracks beneath locked doors and similar tight spaces and give the team a good look at the room, the hostages, and the hostage taker. They were easy to maneuver, giving a three hundred and sixty degree perspective with most people inside such rooms never catching on to their presence.

But, it looked like this hostage taker had considered such a maneuver and had prepared a countermove. There would be no eyes in that room for the FBI and local authorities this time.

Being as quiet as they could and using hand signals, the team had already used FLUR, Forward-looking infrared. Their system was able to penetrate the thick brick wall separating the classroom from the hallway and they saw blurred shapes of small people, presumably the students, sitting in relatively neat rows. Towards the front of the classroom were two larger shapes, one sitting and one standing. Though this hadn't told them much, it did suggest no one was hurt and that the hostage taker was near the classroom door.

They knew from the local police that one of the first responding officers had tried the doorknob hours ago, finding it was locked. Without being able to get a camera in that room, Dodson was reluctant to try and breach it. The risk of young collateral damage was too high.

"Were you able to hear anything?" he asked.

"Some muffled voices," Rakhee Spencer replied. "Nothing I could make out."

Dodson glanced at his laptop, which he'd set up on this room's vacated teacher's desk. His screen showed the building's blueprints, which the Suffolk County Police were able to obtain and e-mail to him. The documents also included some related information, including the thickness of the walls and doors. In the wake of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, more emphasis had been placed on safety and security when school buildings were erected or renovated. The walls were made of stone covered by sheetrock and few bullets could penetrate them. The doors didn't look it, but they too could sustain a certain level of artillery fire. Problem was, this also made it harder for sound to get through. For now, the best option seemed to be for the hostage negotiator to talk John Kirkland into coming out of that room.

* * *

After the students ate, John had Andi start teaching again while assuming the same leaning position against the empty desk. She had switched to Social Studies and was talking about the aftermath of the Civil War.

"Now, why do you think states like New York were able to recover quickly after the war was over?" she quizzed.

"They helped free the slaves," a girl said.

"They did do that, but that's not why they were able to recover quicker than the southern states. Remember, the war was fought mostly in the south, so there was a lot more damage done there. The south had a lot to rebuild."

She heard a snort and looked at John, not sure what to say.

"Didn't stop them from oppressing us," John remarked. "Are you going to tell them about that? About the scams, poverty, rapes, and all that?"

Andi wished she had never brought this topic up and she didn't know how to steer away from it now.

"It's still happening," John continued. "That's how I got to be where I'm at. Nobody believed my side of the story. They were oppressing me, and I had no choice."

He stood up straight again and walked around Andi's desk. He began punching keys on her computer keyboard but soon became frustrated.

"What's your password?" he demanded.

"Catsnack12," Andi replied. "The 'C' is capitalized."

She would change that if she ever set foot in this room again.

John punched in the password and pulled up the Internet.

"Time you all understood what I had to do," he said as he moved the mouse across its pad, clicking every so often.

He turned the screen around so everyone could see. He'd gone to a news website and was starting a live stream. A blonde reporter was facing the camera, police cars behind him.

"We have breaking news regarding the hostage situation in progress on Long Island," he was saying. "Authorities in New Haven, Connecticut, have linked John Kirkland, the prime suspect in yesterday's shooting at a courthouse in Boston, to another attack that occurred early this morning. Chief Deputy U.S. Marshall Joseph Shaw was shot while investigating a possible burglar at his home at about 5:00 this morning."

A photo of a man with graying hair appeared in one corner of the screen.

"Deputy Shaw is a senior Marshall assigned to the federal courthouse in New Haven," the reporter continued. "His wife, Eleanor, was also shot and police say the deputy's dark-green Chrysler SUV is missing. The Shaws were rushed to the hospital and are reported to be in critical condition. John Kirkland also remains the prime suspect in the carjacking and double homicide of Patrick Fahey and Mallory Whiteson in Watertown and the ambush-style killing of Boston Police Officer Richard Queenan. Authorities have also linked Kirkland to six additional robberies and carjacking's throughout Boston and two attempted kidnappings in the wake of yesterday's shooting and escape."

The scene switched to a newsroom, where a news anchor sat behind a desk.

"Thank you, Brian," the anchor said. "And later this hour, we will speak live with Nathan Whiteson, the father of Mallory Whiteson. Mallory and Patrick Fahey were visiting the Whiteson home in Watertown for dinner and had just left when they were confronted and killed. Friends and family members confirm the pair was in a relationship. Both were students at Northeastern University in Boston."

"Turn it off," Andi demanded, feeling tears welling up again. "Don't show them more."

To her surprise, John complied, closing the webpage.

"H ... how could you? Andi asked as uncontrollable tears ran down her cheeks. "How could you do this to all these people?"

"You think you have it all figured out?" John asked. "You know nothing. The kid in Watertown came at me. I was defending myself. My shot went wide and hit the girl. The guy went wild. Landed two hard punches on my face. I had to defend myself. No one else was going to."

Andi tried to study his face. She couldn't recall having seen any bruises earlier, but without her glasses, she couldn't be sure. If Patrick Fahey's punches were as hard as John claimed, there had to be bruises. It hadn't even been twenty-four hours since it happened. There had to be bruises.

"Same thing with the Marshall," John continued. "He wanted to bring me in dead. I was ready to give up, but he had his gun out and aimed at me. He would have killed me if I hadn't acted. And his wife ... she came out and picked up his gun. She would have shot me too. I figured no one would believe my side like before, so I got out of there the quickest way I could think to."

"And the police officer?" Andi asked, remembering the phrase "ambush-style killing" from the news report.

John didn't say anything.

"It has to end," Andi insisted. "How many more people have to get hurt before it does?"

John seemed to consider this.

"Sit down," he said after a few seconds. "I'm done talking."

As Andi walked back to her desk and sat, she thought she saw a hand go up.

"Yes?" she asked.

"Mrs. Defesne," a boy said, "I gotta go to the bathroom."

"Yeah," another boy added. "Me, too."

Andi looked at John.

* * *

Everyone jumped when the phone inside the Mobile Command Center rang. Kevin hurried to answer it, Nance and Lieutenant Cruz right behind him.

"Hello," Kevin said. "John?"

"Yeah," Kirkland's voice said over the speakerphone.

"Listen," Kevin said. "We can't continue this standoff. We need to move towards a resolution."

"I bet we have different ideas of how we want to end this."

"How do you want to end this?"

"I want to drive down an open road ... just me. I want to be left alone. I want to leave all this behind me."

Kevin thought he could see Nance seething. The agent seemed to be gritting his teeth. Kevin turned his attention back to the phone.

"You know that can't happen," he said. "Not like that."

"What do you want then?" Kirkland asked. "You wanna find a way to put me on a gurney? Lock me up in some dark hole and forget about me? It doesn't work that way for me."

"Keep doing what you are doing and you won't be able to negotiate anymore," Kevin advised. "The longer we are in this stalemate, the more likely it will be that we are authorized to end it by force."

"You willing to take that risk?" Kirkland asked.

"I want to end this."

That was the best Kevin could do.

"Well, forget that for now," Kirkland said. "I've got two boys in here who need to take a leak. The teacher tells me the bathroom's at the end of the hall. Think I can send them out and back without you guys trying something?"

Kevin was about to reply when Kirkland continued speaking.

"Let me put it like this," he elaborated. "Those boys have five minutes from when they step out the door here. They're not back by then, I start shooting."

Kevin knew he had to take this threat seriously. Kirkland had at least three guns and extra magazines which he took from the court officers in Boston and the Marshall in New Haven. He had plenty of firepower.

"I'll be sending them out in two minutes," Kirkland said. "Get your priorities in order by then."

The subsequent click and long tone indicated he'd hung up.

* * *

"You get five minutes," John reminded the boys, who were now standing by the classroom door. "You're not back by then, your class will be a lot smaller."

Still seated at her desk, Andi couldn't think of anything to say. She was sure the boys were staring at her for guidance. She didn't know how to give them any.

She felt as helpless as the night her family died. She'd heard her parents arguing and hadn't intervened. She hadn't stopped her brother when he went to investigate. And, when she heard the bangs, she hid under her bed until a police officer guided her out of the house and away from the horror.

Others had made all the decisions then, but there was no one to do this for her now. John certainly didn't count.

Andi looked at the boys and took a deep breath, willing herself not to show fear, even as her mind again flashed back to that dark closet.

"Go," was all she could say. She sat, slumped in her chair, as John unlocked and opened the door and directed the boys out, relocking it behind them.

"They're not coming back," another boy remarked from his seat. "They'll run outside. They are not coming back."

"They'll be back," John said. "They know what's coming if they don't."

A girl whimpered.

"They're not coming back," the boy repeated with confidence.

"What'll happen to us?" the girl asked.

John snickered.

Still slumped in her seat, Andi evaluated the circumstances. Her vision still poor, she could only guess who the boys were. Travis and Michael. She couldn't recall either of them standing out in terms of being shy or outgoing.

"They should run," someone said. "That's what I would do."

"Guess you won't be getting a bathroom break anytime soon," John remarked.

Andi considered this exchange. Being honest with herself, she thought that, if she had the chance, she too would run. She hated herself for thinking that way ... for abandoning her class like that. Letting out a long breath, she stared at her desk.

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.

Patrick Fahey: junior at Northeastern University. Murdered in Watertown, MA, by John Kirkland during a carjacking.

Mallory Whiteson: junior at Northeastern University. Murdered in Watertown, MA, by John Kirkland during a carjacking.

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