Part of me expected the end. Part of me even thought it would be a good way to go. Clean. Over and done before I could commentate. But more than anything else, the biggest part of me knew his hand would go down, the gun would slip from my temple and I’d snatch it away, have him face down on the floor before I could think any more.
Looking up from my foot between his shoulders blades, I knew I’d see Toni, what remained of the plastic box in her hand, whatever had been its heavy contents still settling on the floor amongst the jagged white shards, a wide lopsided smile beaming in my direction as the world settled to the speed I was more comfortable with.
No one moved because I told them not too. Toni paused only for a moment as I hurried my voice for her to snatch a cigarette from the carton and get one to my mouth with a lighter. She read my distress as I shooed her away with the smouldering stick between my lips, as I took a moment, took my time to collect, drawing in the thick air, watching as my vision snapped back, the scents evaporating.
The three remaining women huddled over the fallen. The tallest had taken the lead, the price of her height. They let themselves fall to the floor as the obvious became undeniable. The man who’d sat at his laptop continued to type, his fingers speeding as if he was curating his own narrative. The soldier shook under my foot, but obeyed the one and only command I’d given as Toni bent at his side, pulling off the helmet, yanking the radio cables from their sockets, digging out the keys from his pocket.
For the first time in an age I took a moment to think and the question spilled. How the hell am I going to get this story out?
Massaging her wrists, Toni bent to her ankles and pulling up the orange overalls I winced back at her skin black and blue, my foot between his blades getting heavier with every second. She looked up and saw my pain, pulled the legs down and launched herself at me, her arms grabbing tight around my upper body, her head burying deep into the crook of my neck. I took a long draw, to push away the growing distraction, kept my eyes on the four, although they were looking anywhere, but in my direction.
A clang of metal rang out against the heavy door and Toni pulled away, her eyes catching on the cigarette in my mouth, returning a look, a scowl I knew well. Her eyes snapped to the door, but were soon on the rifle in her hands and the slide of the mechanism it was clear she knew so well.
“Radio check, dumbass,” were the cotton wool words just about making it through the steel. We glanced together, her nod gave me the will. I took my foot from his back and made sure he was aware a gun was pointed should he wish to be a hero. Without words I motioned for all to move behind the door, the man at the laptop took the longest to comply, almost upset to close the screen and let his fingers leave the keyboard. Before too many more words had repeated through the door, our hostages were in the crook and Toni and I were standing at the far wall. They would see us only when the door was full pushed open and we’d have them.
I padded forward, pushing the gun into my white coat pocket, gripped my hands around the handle and forced the slide across, pulling the heavy metal by the handle, just enough to crack it open before I jumped back to my position, both our aims centred on the gap. The door didn’t move, and no words came. It hadn’t crossed my mind that a plan might have been in place for this situation, a procedure ready should they get no answer. We should have opened the door straight away, guns blazing. Now on the other side backup would be on its way or already there in silence. Guns would be pointed our way, doing to us what we’d planned for them. They were professionals. No sound came. No boots ran down the corridor. No final calls were made just to make sure.
I’d covered enough sieges in my time, terrorists, bank robbers and plain old stupidity. A canister would roll all casual through the gap. A bang and a flash would overwhelm our senses and in those moments they would have control. We’d be dead or in chains. I chanced a look at Toni, her eyes were already on me. I drew a drag of foul smoke, letting the remainder drop to the ground, knowing the only way out of this situation was to lose control, to let myself go where my body ached to be. I’d just have to hope I could reign it in when the job was done and not destroy my reason for being here at the same time.
By not holding back, I could already taste the change in the air, could feel blood swelling, muscles tense, coiling up, ready to spring. It was Toni’s words which halted the march, made me pause enough to follow her outstretched finger down to the growing line on the floor at the gap. To watch the dark line of a viscous liquid glint in the light. As my eyes locked, I could taste it on my tongue, could smell the thick iron rich tang heavy down my throat, all before I heard the structure of her question.
“Is that blood?”
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.