Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Sound Of Salvation
Chapter One: Hello?
My neck was killing me. I had been leaning over the desk in my office for three hours straight, cramming in as much paperwork as I possibly could before heading out. With so many cases on the go that needed to be closed I had to get my ass in gear.
Despite my role as the hostage negotiator in the SWAT team unit I didn't spend all of my time talking folk down. There was more to it than that, mostly paperwork. Although I loved my job I sometimes needed a break. That was what I had planned for the next two weeks.
Tomorrow I was flying out, first to spend four days with my parents and then I was spending the rest of my holiday time up in Alaska. There was a small, secluded cabin that was going to be my saving grace. The city was great, but eventually I had to get away from all the scum I was around daily. Things occasionally got pretty intense and that cabin would pick me up from my darkest times.
So, suffice to say, I was looking forward to getting out of here for a while. All I needed to do was finish a few things and then head home to pack. As far as I was concerned my night ahead was going to be a breeze.
However, as if someone was conspiring against me, my good friend and fellow Lieutenant, Roddy, stuck his head in the door and shattered all plans of going home sometime soon.
"Edward, you're needed in McGuire's office right away." I glanced at the clock quickly before dropping my pen and following him out the door.
"What's going on?" I asked as we strode through the hallways. I had gathered there was an incident and my presence would be needed but I wanted the details as soon as possible.
"Situation down at city shopping mall. Officers on site are saying the doors have been chained shut on the inside, all exits are also barricaded shut, and they believe they've been triggered to blow up upon opening. We're getting bits and pieces from different guys down there so that could be wrong." My holiday plans just went up in smoke.
"How many hostages you think are there?"
"Well over one hundred. It's a busy night, plus you've got the sixty two staff that were in, so there's going to be a lot of people inside," Roddy said, shrugging. He knew as well as I did we were going to have our work cut out for us.
"And you know why they want me?" I asked.
Lieutenant Howler was the superior hostage negotiator and he was the main man in the department. I was like the backup guy. Granted, I did get my fair share of the workload, but it was evident that they only used me when they had to.
"Howler's in Maine and you're the only other hostage negotiator around," he answered, confirming my suspicions.
"They could call in someone from another precinct," I suggested.
The department had confidence in me, yes, but they lacked enthusiasm where I was concerned. Howler would get the others to give him as much time as he needed while I'd be constantly pushed to let them go in there guns blazing.
"Don't kid yourself. They're not going to do that. What are you worried about anyway?" Roddy asked as we weaved our way around the many officers coming and going from McGuire's office.
"Come on Roddy, you know my file pretty damn well. You know why I'm worried about this." Let's just say I've had one major fuck up in my career that gives everyone doubts about my ability.
"That wasn't your fault Edward." I shook my head in disagreement. Roddy was biased anyway.
"It doesn't matter whose fault it was, I was in charge. It shouldn't have happened."
"You weren't in charge, the commander was. Now don't let that cloud your judgement for tonight."
"God, and here I thought I could get away early." Roddy laughed and shook his head.
"Not a chance, and this one will be long. They've got resources inside that building. I won't be surprised if this lasts several days."
He had a point there; it was a shopping mall after all. From what I knew of going there on personal errands they had access to everything they could need. We couldn't offer trades for food or anything.
"That's not what I need."
"Yeah me neither." Roddy held the door open and I walked into McGuire's office, surveying the situation before me.
Captain McGuire was on the phone frantically giving orders to someone while a few guys were looking over floor plans, no doubt eyeing up the vent system and tying to find any possible points of entry.
Seeing as the other hostage negotiator in our team was away it was my turn to step up to the plate. For a serious situation like this I was terrified. I could handle the store robberies gone wrong, or the mentally unstable taking refuge in their neighbour's house with a shotgun. However, when it came to the big jobs, multiple hostage-takers and many hostages, I was much more cautious.
I could tell that tonight's situation was going to require a lot of effort to control and contain the environment, and also require a lot of luck if we were to get everyone out alive. My mission was to get the hostages out and ensure their safety, I'd let the other guys worry about the hostage-takers.
The Captain put the phone down and turned to Roddy and myself. We were awaiting instructions before both of us would go straight to the scene. Roddy was always my right hand man and I needed his calm and collected self around otherwise I was a bit of a mess.
"Right, we have one dead already. Mall security guard was shot several times and was dead on arrival at the hospital. They dumped his body out a second floor window for all to see. These guys are damn serious and we cannot fuck up. Edward, you need to go down there right now. We've set up across the street in an office building."
"They're prepared for this and I don't think you're going to get them walking out with their hands up. If you need to, force entry and take out these bastards. We do not want the body count rising here. The press is all over this so you will be watched constantly. That means there's no room for error," Captain McGuire said.
"How long have they been in there?" I asked, glancing up at the clock. There was always a lag time between when hostages were taken and when the SWAT team was assembled. We took awhile always getting together and down at the scene.
"We believe that they took the building twenty five minutes ago. Several officers were sent down to the scene immediately so we've got guys onsite. They've secured the area for your arrival. So, go and we'll talk later."
Nodding, Roddy and I left, heading straight down to the car park. I had left most of my things in my office so Roddy was driving. He could tell I was nervous but was being kind enough not to mention anything, which let me try and collect myself before everything went crazy.
Without a glance back Roddy raced his Bristol Fighter T out of the car park and onto the main road. Like myself, Roddy had a love for British cars. They were one of his weaknesses, along with leggy blondes and gin.
He was born and raised on the other side of the pond as it were but moved here when he was twenty-one. I'm not quite sure what possessed him to move but he's never looked back yet. Of course, it's still obvious where he's from with the accent that is definitely not American. It seems to work in his favour though so I can't fault him for it.
"Where do you want me tonight, armed to go or working info?" he asked, breaking me from my thoughts.
"Info would be great if that's alright with you? I'll probably need your help on a few things."
"Hey, no problem with me."
"I know, but you like the action and prefer to be right in there." Roddy shook his head as he moved his way through the traffic.
"Sometimes I do but tonight I want to get these bastards and it's going to take more than barging in with a few guns firing to do that. If they're already killing folk you know we've got to work fast. We don't need another gun inside; we need more guys running intelligence. I'm happy to do that."
We pulled up to the police cordon and were quickly let through when they saw who it was. Roddy parked his baby safely out the way and then we were both ushered over to the office building across the street from the shopping mall.
The floor we decided to use was level with the mall's roof so we could look down on the situation. There were a load of guys moving furniture, answering phones, setting up equipment and fixing gear for what was bound to be a long night ahead of us.
Commander Maxwell, who was in charge of the whole place, waved me over upon seeing I'd arrived. He would be the one person I would have to answer to. I couldn't be in charge of the scene entirely as it limited my options when handling the hostage takers.
If they asked for something I knew there was no chance of getting I could simply say I'd have to speak to my superior about that. It would buy me more time and allow myself to try and talk them out. After all, it's not like I could just flat out say no. That's how people got killed.
"Good, you guys are here. We haven't heard anything from inside yet."
"Have you tried to make contact?"
"No, there's a problem with the phones. We're working on it though." That didn't fill me with much confidence. "Ben's going to walk you through some things and once we get the one-way line set up you'll be on. Until then, get up-to-date."
I walked over to a spare desk littered with floor plans. Rifling through them, I could see some things that would work in our favour but many hindrances. Although I didn't like forcing entry I was well aware that in some cases it was the only option.
"Right, Ben, walk me through the floor plans." The man in reference came over immediately. He hunted out the plans he wanted and then began.
"Okay, in the garage there are two stairwells, two security desks and the elevators. For obvious reasons we can't use the elevators but there is a chance that at some point we could take the stairwells. If we can get the SWAT team in there it would be easier to form an attack if the moment comes."
"Can we get cameras in the car park?"
"I'm pretty certain we can though it will be difficult. My guess is that they've got guys down there watching the cameras that are already in the stores. We need to rectify that if we have any hope of taking the place."
"If that's the necessary. Who knows, they might walk out willingly. Carry on."
"We're trying to get information on how the security system works but so far we believe that the feed runs live out to a security company on the other side of the city. The feed is recorded there and inside the security desks. We're working on getting access to that feed."
"Do whatever you need to, I want it."
"Will do. Now the stairwells give us access to the whole place. We can take them to the roof and then go in through the ventilation system. The guys are looking through it but we're certain you can fit some men through there and it will be easy access."
"Why do we need to use the vents once we're already in the building? What advantage does it have?"
"The vents go over the food court. If that's where they are grouped we can see and hear them, you obviously know the significance there." I nodded and let Ben continue. "With the roof, the only way we can get guys up there is by using a helicopter. The building was not designed with fire escapes. Due to its size they were sure you could get out in time."
"Why can't we drop them on the roof?"
"Well that's more your call than mine. We can, but they'll hear the helicopter, and I don't know how they'd react to that." I nodded again, pleased that Ben was covering a lot of options. "We need the stairs, that's going to be our way in. Granted, we could storm the place but there aren't many windows in there so it's rather limited, doable but limited."
"Alright, now, from this, where would the ideal place to congregate be? You mentioned the food court."
"Yeah, the food court, by the fountain, looks to be the best place. It's a wide open space and there are plenty of things to cover behind. It's only weakness is the second floor looks over it." Ben pointed out on the plans what he meant and it was a pretty ideal place for us to take them. "Now, they will know that's their weak point too so they might have guys up there, I don't know, but if we could take the second floor we have a serious chance of ending it quickly."
"Ending it quickly if we know who's who. I don't want guns blazing only to find out we killed more hostages than hostage takers. I need to see in there, can you get me that?" I stressed.
"We're working on it." It sounded like they were all working on something but with no results yet.
"Thanks." With that I turned away and went over to what was deemed as my desk. There was an elaborate set up of phones, recording devices, headphones, and laptops waiting to run and store data.
I looked up at the clock on the wall and saw that they'd been in there for forty minutes. That was far too long without making contact. We needed to speed things up.
"Have you got me my phone line yet?" I called.
"Not yet, we're getting there. There's a lot of phones in the place."
"Well make them all ring, I don't care just get me a damn line now!"
I took off my jacket, loosened my tie and took a seat. We had no info on the hostage takers and that was pissing me off. I just needed something to run with; somewhere to start and then we'd be on. But, in order to get that, I needed to talk to them.
"Ben, distribute the floor plans to the team that we'll send in okay?"
"You look knackered already," Roddy observed, coming over with a cup of coffee.
"I am," I admitted. "Plus, I hate not knowing what's going on in there."
"We're close to getting you that line. It's only taking so long as the phone company has been doing maintenance on several things. We'll be up and running in no time."
"I hope you're right because if they kill another person, this time out of impatience, I'll lose it."
"That won't happen."
Looking out the office windows across the street the mall was lit up like it normally would be. The only difference was obviously the three block police cordon making it deserted.
"You got any more information on the possibility of explosives?"
"No, none. We've got a bomb squad assembled and they'll go and check it out once we get the order, which we won't get until contact has been made." Sighing I rubbed my hands over my face, trying to alert myself.
"They have to know they won't get out of there alive," I muttered to Roddy.
"I know but they certainly can stay in there a long time."
"Don't remind me."
"Excuse me, Lieutenant Cullen, I have someone on the phone saying they're inside the shopping mall," another officer said, coming over.
"One of the hostage takers?"
"No, a hostage." Several of the tech guys took over then, getting the call put through to one of the phones at the desk, that way it could be recorded as well.
"Are we ready?" I asked, ready to answer the call. Arkin, the main techie, gave me the green light. The room quieted down and many guys put on headphones to hear the call. Commander Maxwell nodded and I picked up the allocated phone.
"Hello?" I asked, waiting for a response.
"Hi." A soft voice said back. On a stray piece of paper I scribbled a note and passed it to Arkin.
Are we sure this call is coming from inside the building? He nodded and then grabbed a floor plan, pointing to a shop on the second floor, in direct view of where we were sitting.
"Hi there, my name is Edward and I'm the hostage negotiator handling this situation."
"I'm Bella, and I guess I'm one of the hostages," she said quietly, sounding fragile and scared. That needed to change and I'd make sure it did.
I was going to kill Alice and Rose for the impromptu shopping trip they had dragged me on. After a long day at work where I had been on my feet for hours I was then taken out by my so called friends and forced to try on many different outfits.
They claimed that I needed to splurge on myself from time to time so figured tonight was the best time to do that. I, of course, thought otherwise but there was just no arguing with them. On the other side of the dressing room door I could hear Alice impatiently tapping her foot on the floor as Rose ranted about her perverted neighbour.
"I mean it's getting ridiculous. Every time I finish my shower he rings the fucking doorbell. It's like he waits for me to only be in a towel before meandering over with some lame excuse about borrowing some ingredient for cooking. Not only am I turning the bastard on but I'm also feeding him!" she cried, outraged.
Alice snorted and then flung the curtain open, revealing me half in and out of a dress. I was use to it so didn't squeal like I did when she first revealed me to the store. Both of their eyes turned to me immediately as I finished dressing.
"No," Rose said abruptly.
"Why not?" I asked, thinking the dress I was currently wearing was fine.
"It's not your colour," Alice added with Rose nodding.
"Alright, fair enough. I take it you have another one for me?"
"Yep." Alice grinned as she grabbed a navy dress off of the rail next to her. She handed it to me and shut the curtain.
I shimmied out the one they had point blank refused and began getting into the other, listening to Rose and Alice the entire time. Alice was giving Rose tips on how to get the pervy neighbour to piss off. She suggested using her personal trainer, who was a tank of a man, to scare him away. Although Rose liked the idea she wanted to give it some more thought, no doubt thinking she could come up with something better.
Before Alice had the chance to whip back the curtain I stepped out, allowing them a proper look. This one I liked and definitely wanted to get. Thankfully, they seemed to agree.
"I like that one," Alice said, nodding.
"Me too, much better than the last one you tried on," Rose agreed.
"What do you think Bella?"
"I'm happy with this one."
"Well good, that one is it." Alice smiled happily, shoving the curtain closed for me. After many years of shopping with her I had managed to tame the shopping witch that occasionally came out. She wasn't as eccentric with her responses and was also more open to what I liked, which helped matters greatly.
I hadn't even started taking the dress off when shots went off, terrifying me. People began screaming and more shots were fired. Instinctively I dove to the floor, knowing the sound of gunfire immediately. My father, Charlie, had taken me to the shooting range before.
Lifting up the bottom of the curtain I saw that Rose and Alice were cowering down too. They both looked frantic as well, not daring to move an inch. Coming from another part of the mall yells and cries could be heard. Then the distinct sound of something being dragged across the ground alerted us to their presence close by.
The three of us could only see below the clothes racks. We watched as the mall cop, bleeding profusely was dragged past the front of the store, leaving a blood trail smeared across the floor. The sales assistant whimpered at the sight from behind the desk and in turn caused one of the attackers to stop and stand by the store entrance.
The window closest to the right of the store entrance was opened; the squeak of the latch gave it away. I shut my eyes and braced myself for what I was about to hear. The thud and screams from outside confirmed my thoughts that they threw the body out of the window.
Looking back at my friends I saw that Alice had tears streaming down her face and Rose looked just as terrified. I was holding myself together, barely. The two attackers who were previously by the window and who had dragged the body walked past, saying something to the man remaining. They weren't talking in English and at most I gathered it was European.
When he cocked his gun, another round of adrenaline shot through my bloodstream as I suddenly had a burst of energy. My thoughts on who these men were vanished and I began focusing on what was about to unfold before me.
"Listen up; I do not intend to shoot you if you follow orders. Everyone, stand up slowly, with your hands on your head," he called out to all of us. From the sounds of it the same was happening in the surrounding stores.
"Stay hidden," Rose whispered frantically before getting up. From where I was he couldn't see me unless he checked, and I was praying he wasn't going to.
"I don't have all night, do it now!" The anger and animosity in his voice filled me with dread. I had no idea what the hell he was going to do next.
Alice stood up as well, and so did the three others in the store. He ushered the ones closest to him out and then turned to my two friends.
"You two walk slowly this way," he called to Rose and Alice. I watched their feet walk across the floor to the pair of men's black combat boots. With one hundred percent certainty I knew that man would shoot them if he had to. The fear was racing through my veins but I wasn't going to let it show, despite no one being around to see. "Walk in front of me…go…now!"
With that they went out of sight. My heart was thumping in my chest so loudly I wouldn't be surprised if they could hear it. I didn't want to waste a second so as quietly as possible I opened up my handbag and grabbed my phone.
The battery was fucking dead. I felt like crying.
Footsteps rushed past, close by and I thought I had been caught. Thankfully that wasn't the case. Carefully I peered out from under the curtain, cautious not to move it too much, and checked the area. The store was located in the corner of the building on the second floor. Directly across from the store entrance was the side wall of another store. It was cut off and for that I was glad.
Mustering up all of my courage I crawled out from under the curtain and eyed the pay desk. There was a phone on top and if I could just get that I could maybe get some help. Being as quiet as possible I moved across the floor, stopping every so often if I thought someone was coming.
The pay desk had two tills on either side. It was square and had one entrance, a counter that lifted up. I just crawled through the gap and then slid in under the desk. It had a small curtain to pull over and hide the contents below so after grabbing the landline phone and placing it on my lap I enclosed myself.
I needed time to calm down. It felt like I was going to be sick, urinate myself or break down in a bawling mess, which would definitely attract attention. All in all it took me half an hour to steady my breathing, feel a little safer knowing they might not find me, and just get my thoughts in order.
I was still absolutely terrified but needed to get help for others inside the building. I mean, my friends were with those bastards, I had to do something. Shakily I picked up the phone and dialled 911. As quietly as possible I spoke to the person on the other end and eventually got over the fact that I was hiding in the mall that was currently a hostage situation.
They wasted no time in putting me on hold so I could be patched through to someone else. I was thinking that I should have called Charlie first; he'd know what to do. Several minutes passed before someone came back on the line.
"Ma'am, are you still there?"
"Yeah, I'm here," I whispered.
"Right, am I correct in thinking that you're a hostage inside the shopping mall on-"
"Yes, I am. I'm hiding in one of the stores," I said, cutting him off and not wanting to waste anymore time.
"Okay, hold on." I sighed and fought back the tears. I didn't want to hold, I wanted help. Okay, I could understand that they probably had an immense amount of things going on but how many calls like mine were they going to get?
"Hello?" a male's voice asked. This man's voice was much softer than that of the hostage taker from earlier. It almost sounded velvety to be honest, and for some reason that calmed me down even more. He sounded like he might know what he's doing.
"Hi," I said back, not sure what to say now.
"Hi there, my name is Edward and I'm the hostage negotiator handling this situation." Yeah, listening to his voice was helping me a lot. It was like now that I knew someone was directly helping me I felt much better.
"I'm Bella, and I guess I'm one of the hostages," I responded finally, silently praying that Edward would be able to get me the hell out of here. And from the conviction in his voice I had every faith he could do just that.
Major thanks to BLilTXgirl for beta reading this and also to TheSpoiltOne for being one hell of a CPM. Cheers, both of you, for all your help.