Outside the building and across the street, FBI agents from the CNU were listening intently.
"What's she doing?"
"She's humanizing them."
"What is she, a cop?"
"What's the matter, Temp?" Frank asked, approaching.
"Seems someone's doin' his job for him in there," Binder answered with a grin.
"What do you mean? She actually knows what she's doing?"
"I don't know," Cheryl interupted, holding up a hand to silence her negotiators, "but she's doing it well. Why don't we just hang tight? See how this plays out?"
"I'm sorry, I just can't," Bill practically sobbed. JJ had made progress but he still felt trapped, desperate and incapable of loosening his grip on the gun. "I wanna call them back. Make a deal." He had resumed pacing. JJ got up quickly, remembering she had left the phone off the hook. He walked toward the phone. She followed him. She needed to stop him without freaking him out. She was starving and sweaty and terrified but she gathered all the strength she had and yelled at him.
"What are you gonna do Bill? Make some ludicrous demand and tell them you'll kill all of us if they don't comply?"
He stared at her, eyes wild, confused. "I need a helicopter. It's gonna take me out of the country. Until it comes, nobody leaves."
"Ok. Well, let's just say they do that for you. Then what? What waits for you in this new country? How are you going to start a new life? Did it ever occur to you that once you're on your little helicopter, it might not take you where you wanna go?"
About half and hour crawled by after this without anybody speaking. Bill paced, stopped, sat down, got up, paced again, thinking.
"Come on, Bill." JJ's voice was a little hoarse. It had been so quiet, she could practically hear her heart beating. "It's the end of the line one way or another. Honestly, best case scenario right now is you walk out there and serve some jail time. What option do you have?"
"I could kill myself!" he screamed at her.
"No, you don't deserve to die. Just go out there, do your time and then live your life, Bill, come on."
Another half hour elapsed, in the last ten minutes of which Bill seemed to be winning an immense inner struggle. An additional ten minutes went by with him standing still, by the counter, facing the front of the store. All at once he seemed to just give in. He gave in to heat exhaustion, to his emotions, to JJ. He fell to his knees, letting the gun fall and slide across the floor where Marc quickly grabbed it up. Noah got on top of him and took Ed's gun from him too. Within seconds, JJ had jumped over the counter and said breathlessly into the phone, "He's down. Get in here." And they did, before she could blink.
Then chaos ensued and JJ allowed herself to get lost in the shuffle. Ed was put on a stretcher by paramedics and carried out. The other hostages were escorted out too, and practically tackled by the waiting family members who had gathered. JJ sat on the counter still and removed her blood and coffee stained polo, leaving herself in just a tank top. She shivered as cold air blew in and chilled her sweaty body. She held her baseball cap in her hands, looking at it. Without really knowing what was going on, she allowed herself to be helped down and escorted outside into the rain. She stood there dazed. Someone wrapped a blanket around her and then she was sitting on the edge of the back of an ambulence.
"What's your name sweetheart?" She forced her eyes to focus on the person bending down next to her. It was the big man who had helped her off the counter.
"JJ" she said weakly. He looked dumbfounded.
"You're JJ?" She nodded, unsure what the big deal was. "Guys!" Two men approached.
"What do you want Frank?" one demanded.
"JJ," he explained, pointing. Temple and Binder looked amazed too.
"So you're our future negotiator!" Binder said. If she had more energy, she would have beamed at him. Then suddenly, she remembered. The day, her grandpa, where she was going. "Look, guys, I need your help. See, I was actually on my way to…"
"Excuse me, sorry to interupt," Cheryl apologized as she appeared with Lia close behind her. "I need to talk to you two for a moment." Then she looked at JJ with genuine, deep admiration in her eyes. "Nice work." To JJ, coming from an FBI boss, this was the biggest complement she could receive. "Lia, debrief." And Cheryl walked away with her negotiators. Lia glanced at Frank before turning to JJ.
"Hi, I'm Lia."
"Hi. Look, I know this is weird but I was wondering if you know…" Lia's phone rang.
"Sorry." And she disappeared momentarily.
"Hey," Frank said to JJ in Lia's absense, "between me and you, you did those guy's job way better than they could have tonight." JJ smiled.
"Well, I've wanted to be a negotiator for a long time." Before Frank could respond to that, Lia reappeared, clipboard at the ready.
"Anyway," she smiled, "What's your name?"
"I like that, it's so cute. Listen, can you answer a few questions about what went down in there for us?" JJ nodded. "Well, first JJ, what's your full name?"
"Jessica Johanna Flannery."