Mystery and Crime Fiction posted November 14, 2020 Chapters:  ...5 6 -7- 8... 

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John gives Andi a choice.

A chapter in the book The Teacher

The Teacher - 7

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.

Vince Dodson and his entire team had heard a single, loud syllable. It had come seconds after Seth Nance gave clear instructions for them not to breach the room until explicitly told to do so. Timing was a funny thing today.

They heard nothing else after that loud syllable. They weren't even sure who said it or what they'd said. Dodson supposed the speaker had been a woman, probably an adult. Silently, he vowed to give the breach order at the next sign of trouble, no matter what.

* * *

"She okay now?" John asked, pointing his gun at Andi while casting an occasional glance in Stacey's direction.

"For now," Andi said, also glancing back at Stacey. The girl was looking down at her desk.

"Good," John said. "Go sit down again."

Andi took slow, deliberate steps. When she reached her desk, she looked at the still-ringing phone.

Then, she heard John grumble something. He stepped forward and shoved her aside. It wasn't a hard shove which might have knocked her off-balance, but it'd been a shove, nonetheless. Startled, Andi watched him pick up the receiver.

"What?!" John asked and then paused, listening. "Everyone's fine. No need to worry about tomorrow's headlines. Now stop calling. And no more tricks."

He slammed the phone down again and glared at Andi.

"Go sit," he demanded, jerking his arm out and pointing at her chair for emphasis.

Andi hesitated.

"Why did you come here?" she asked.

"I ran out of choices," John replied.

Andi found it hard to believe taking them all hostage was his most viable option.

"How is this supposed to end?" she asked. "I mean, we can't go on like this."

John paused before answering.

"I don't know yet," he admitted. "But I'm not going back into a cell. I can promise you that. And I am not one of those guys willing to face a hail of bullets."

He glared at Andi.

"No more questions," he insisted. "Sit down."

Andi moved around her desk and sat. She retrieved a wet wipe from the drawer, John not objecting to her actions, and wiped down the inhaler's mouthpiece. She then replaced the cap and returned everything to the drawer, pushing it shut with a dull thud.

Andi considered what John had just said. He didn't want to face a hail of bullets. Did this improve their chances at survival?

She studied John, this being her first opportunity to do so with clear vision. He was tall and had a shaved head. His large dark eyes seemed fixed on her. There was some stubble. He probably hadn't shaved since his escape from the courthouse the previous morning.

More importantly, there were no bruises or other injuries on his face.

Andi remembered what John had said about his reason for shooting Patrick Fahey in Watertown. The college student had fought back, becoming more aggressive when his girlfriend was accidently killed by a stray bullet ... at least, that was the account Andi was given by the man holding the gun. Now, seeing John's unblemished face, she had doubts about this version of events. More importantly, she considered how volatile the man really was. Could he have taken the car and avoided killing the couple altogether? He'd managed it before.

And what about all of them in this room? So far, Andi and the students had skated past all disasters. But what could put a finality on all that? How many more lucky misses would they have?

"What happens now?" Andi asked. She needed John to keep thinking forward.

"We all stay quiet for a while," John replied. "Just sit there and keep quiet."

He grabbed a chair and sat, staring at the ceiling, his gun on his lap.

* * *

"Can we take his word for it?" Nance asked.

"You have a better idea?" Kevin retorted.

The two men and Lieutenant Cruz were in the Mobile Command Center, reviewing Kevin's last call with Kirkland. Sure, it'd be nice to get some visual confirmation of everyone's wellbeing, but the FBI's Divisional SWAT Team had long confirmed this wasn't possible. Sure, Kirkland might have some device with a camera built in. So many electronic devices also had cameras built in. But Kevin didn't want to ask for a photo and give Kirkland leverage.

"Let's give him a few minutes," he suggested. "Then I'll call back and demand proof everyone's all right ... maybe get him to send someone out."

Nance nodded, considering this. Their group and Kirkland understood the need for the children to remain unharmed. Problem was, without a viable end or a clear idea of Kirkland's plans, everyone's future remained uncertain.

A commotion outside the bus brought all three men out of their thoughts. In single file, they descended the steps to investigate.

A man in a gray suit was arguing with a uniformed patrol officer. The gold badge around this man's neck made it clear how he'd gotten past the barricades.

"Don't you tell me where to go," the man was saying. "I am not leaving until I hear from whoever's running this circus. You got me?"

He moved towards the officer, raising his hands as though to shove him. The officer stood poised to defend himself.

"Hey!" Lieutenant Cruz barked. "Break it up, now!"

The man looked at the lieutenant and, seeing the insignia on his suit, became more composed, his arms relaxing at his sides. The officer relaxed as well, also looking at the lieutenant.

"Who are you?" Lieutenant Cruz demanded.

"Detective David Summers," the man replied, glancing at the Sergeant's stripes on Kevin's uniform while answering the lieutenant. "Vice Division out of the 2nd Precinct."

"What are you doing here, Detective?"

"My son's in that class in there," David Summers explained, gesturing at the school building. "Arnold Summers."

"You're just finding that out now?" Kevin asked, his tone laced with skepticism. This was by far the biggest news item and had been so for the past few hours.

"I've been undercover all day," the detective explained. "Busting internet hookers."

He looked like the middle management type and could probably portray a man with a sleezy quality to fool his targets. He was slightly overweight with short black hair and some stubble that suggested a lousy shaving session.

"I get off-duty and I see my phone," David Summers continued. "Two dozen texts and another eight calls from my wife. What is going on in there?"

He pointed at the school building again.

"We're making progress," Kevin said, supposing that extracting two students from the situation could be called that.

"Progress?" David Summers asked. "Progress would be going in there and pumping this prick full of lead. You know what he's already done. Why are you giving him anything?"

"We do not want to risk anyone's life," Lieutenant Cruz replied.

"By hanging out in your bus and chatting?"

David Summers glared at the Mobil Command Center behind them for emphasis.

"Look, Detective," Lieutenant Cruz said. "You shouldn't be here."

"Yeah, right," David Summers remarked. "I'm not going anywhere until I see some action."

Lieutenant Cruz shook his head.

"I'm extending you a curtesy here," he said. "You're too closely involved and should not be here. Leave now and all this remains a rumor for water coolers."

"Or?" David Summers challenged.

"I write you up for your hostility, regardless of extenuating circumstances."

The detective studied the Lieutenant, the two men looking like they were sizing each other up before a fight.

"Fine," the detective finally said. "Just know this ... I want my son."

"We understand," Kevin offered. "I've got two boys of my own. I couldn't imagine ..."

"Bull. You couldn't understand. I get my son back or, when you blow it, I come back. Anything happens to my son, ranks and write-ups aren't gonna mean a thing."

He patted the holstered pistol on his belt. Kevin glanced at Lieutenant Cruz, wondering if this threat was crossing a line. But the lieutenant wasn't saying anything. He was just glaring.

David Summers walked away without another word, casting a final sharp glance towards the patrol officer he'd been arguing with earlier.

"Forget about him," Lieutenant Cruz told Kevin and Nance, not taking his eyes off the detective's retreating back. "Let's figure out our next move."

* * *

Andi had never seen her kids so quiet. Under the circumstances, she wished they weren't.

She studied John. He was still staring at the ceiling. The class all looked at him, waiting for his next move. He seemed to have calmed down, his breathing slow again. Maybe he wouldn't hold Michael and Travis's escape against them anymore.

Andi glanced over at Stacey. She was being quiet like her classmates. More importantly, she was breathing normally. Still, she ought to see a doctor.

"John?" Andi asked.

"What?" he replied, not sounding angry or curious or anything. He was just responding to her addressing him.

"Would you let someone else go?" Andi tried. She thought she might have gained some compassion from him.

"Why?" John asked, looking at her.

He still didn't sound angry. Andi decided to plow ahead.

"Stacey should see a doctor," she said. "Maybe ... maybe you could let her leave."

Stacey looked up at Andi. John turned his head, studying the raven-haired child.

"She looks fine," he said in a dismissive tone. "Besides, it's not like I've actually let anyone leave."

"She should see a doctor," Andi repeated, trying not to aggravate him by sounding too insistent.

"Want me to get one in here?"

Andi didn't know what to say. On the one hand, it would give Stacey the opportunity to be seen by a medical professional. On the other hand, she would still be in this room and the doctor was liable to become a hostage as well.

John studied Stacey again. He then turned his head left and right, surveying the whole class. After repeating this pattern two or three times, he looked back at Andi.

"You still hungry?" he asked.

Except for a few scraps of fruit and remnants of some sandwiches, they had nothing left to eat.

"I suppose," Andi said, more to see where this was going than anything else.

John studied the class again. He then rose to his feet and came over to Andi's desk. He picked up the phone's receiver and studied it and the rest of the apparatus.

"You gotta dial out to call anyone not in this place, right?" he asked.

Andi nodded.

"Hit '9'," she replied, knowing she had no choice but to answer. She didn't know how he'd contact the police outside. She doubted they'd just let him call in an order with a local restaurant. How did these things work?

John hit a button and they could all hear the tone through the phone which indicated the other end was ringing.

* * *

Kevin, Nance, and Lieutenant Cruz all stared at the ringing phone aboard the Mobil Command Unit. Kevin was the first to move, reaching out and grabbing the receiver.

"Hello," he answered.

"Do I need to say who it is?" Kirkland asked.

"No, john. I know who it is."

Kevin had no clue where this was going. But the fact Kirkland called was a relief. The man needed something. And when a hostage taker needed something, it opened options for negotiation.

"Good," Kirkland said. "I've got a class of hungry kids in here. Send in some pizzas."

Checking the time on a nearby computer screen, Kevin calculated the standoff had now lasted six and a half hours. He figured some of the students had brought lunches from home, so there had been some food available inside the classroom. Now, it seemed this food had been consumed or was being ignored. Whatever had befallen those sack lunches, Kevin would forget about them and take full advantage of this opportunity.

"We can do that, John," he said while Nance and Lieutenant Cruz, both now waring headphones plugged into the phone, gave encouraging nods. "But we need a sign of good faith. You have to send out some hostages."

He could hear Kirkland chuckling.

"How many do you want?" the man asked. "Twenty plus?"

Kevin had to think fast.

"Send out five of the children," he said. "You're asking a lot of us, so we need something big from you."

"I'll send out one," Kirkland countered without hesitation.

"That's not enough," Kevin replied. He wouldn't waste this chance to get more students out of danger.

"What if I refuse to go higher?" Kirkland asked. "Would you let these kids go hungry?"

"Would you?" Kevin countered. "Come on, John. It's in your best interest to work with us."

There was a long pause. Kevin began worrying that the call had gotten disconnected. He wouldn't dare to ask if the hostage taker was still there. Then, to his relief, he heard Kirkland let out an exasperated sigh.

"You can have two," the man said. "That's as high as I'll go. And you don't get to pick who."

Kevin understood he'd never get a better offer.

"Okay," he agreed. "Send them out and we'll get to work on those pizzas."

He heard a noise suggesting disagreement and wondered what was going wrong now.

"I send them out when the pizza's here," Kirkland insisted and hung up.

As he hung up as well, Kevin was thinking. An idea had crept into his head during the final seconds of the call. He turned to Nance, who was removing his headphones.

"Talk to those Boston PD reps you brought," he said. "See if their guys back home can find Kirkland's favorite pizza place."

Nance stared at him. Then, a smile crept across his face as realization dawned.

"It'll be tight," he said. "Can you guys stall if needed?"

"We can try," Lieutenant Cruz replied. The lack of a concerned expression on his face indicated he too knew what Kevin had in mind.

Nance nodded and left the Mobile Command Center. Watching him go, Kevin reviewed his plan in his mind, hoping it would work. He wasn't so much worried about Kirkland's reaction to their move, but rather the lack of guaranteed time and resources to get it done. But, if they got it done, the reward could be enormous. Heck, the FBI guy seemed to like it. That had to count for something.

* * *

Marshall watched as the doors in the back of the auditorium opened. A man in a gray suit entered. As he moved down the aisle, Marshall caught the glint of the badge hanging around his neck. This was a cop.

Sure, cops were coming in and out of this place every few minutes, usually reporting they had nothing to report. Some were sticking around to keep an eye on the parents.

The only exception had been when some officers escorted two sets of parents out of the auditorium and word later trickled back about the two boys who'd made it out of Andi's classroom. After many demands for information, a police official confirmed that two boys, and only two boys, were rescued when they were allowed to leave and use the bathroom.

"We are negotiating for the safe removal of all your children," the official added, his words not comforting anyone. "Rest assured our team's diligence will continue."

But this cop in the gray suit was different. He looked defeated as he made his way down the aisle. Like everyone else, he hadn't noticed Marshall or was choosing to ignore him.

The man selected an aisle and moved past several empty seats towards a brunette woman. She looked up as he sat next to her and took her hand in his. The man shook his head and she looked down again.

Marshall figured this was another parent who happened to wear a badge. He hadn't seen the man before and wondered what kept him. He also wondered if this man tried to use his badge to influence the situation. Recalling the man's defeated look, he supposed any such attempts were unsuccessful.

* * *

"You pick which two," John said, looking at Andi. "Do it now."

If this were meant to arouse conflict, Andi wouldn't let that happen. She'd formulated a plan ever since John and the cops agreed on how many students would be released when the pizzas came.

"Stacey," she said. "Rahat."

Rahat was Stacey's best friend. There was no question that Stacey had to leave the room. She needed to be seen by a doctor. Rahat understood enough about her friend's asthma to communicate this necessity to the authorities.

"That simple, huh?" John remarked with a chuckle.

Andi looked at him, hoping he wouldn't incite a protest among the students. While she knew what was needed immediately and made the appropriate choice for this, she still considered the possibility that Stacey and Rahat might be the last to make it out alive.

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.

Marshall Shaffer: Andi's husband.

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