Mission Critical

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Chapter 25 - Anatomy of the Shot

Some tough cop I turned out to be, huh? I just puked my guts out behind the Winnebago! How could I not? The thought of that fucking pig raping that poor woman while everybody had to listen to her screaming was…I can’t even think about it! God, maybe he did it right in front of them! Maybe he made them all watch! He’s fucking dead! Forget everything I said before! I swear to almighty God, he’s fucking dead! If I have to plant a goddamned bomb under that truck, I’ll kill him one way or another! And I’ll be happy about it! I’ll find the potter’s field where they bury his worthless ass and I’ll take a shit right on his fucking grave! I only wish there was some way I could kill him more than once! I know he did it! I’m positive! And so is the Sarge! How the hell did I not see that coming? How the hell did any of us not see that coming? And why the hell did we not go crashing in there and stop it before it happened? I think I’m going to start screaming and never stop! I really think it’s going to happen any second now! How the fuck did we get to this point? Can somebody explain that to me? How?

But I can’t let myself think about that right now. I’ve got to stay sharp. I’ve got a job to do and things are going to get busy any minute, now. I can’t let myself get distracted. I just…I’m sorry. I’ve always been scared to death of being raped. It’s a wonder it never happened to me when I was a kid; what with the places we lived in and the way I used to wander around the streets. It’s never gone away; even after I became a cop. The fear. Even when I wasn’t as focused on being a good cop, I always carried a gun with me. I even had one in my dorm room at college, even though it was totally against the rules. I swore I was never going to get raped and I wanted to make sure I had the means to defend myself. But that poor woman in there? What did she have to defend herself with? Nothing. An army of cops outside and she still got raped. Can someone tell me where the justice is in that? Anyone? No, I didn’t think so. So I couldn’t prevent it from happening to her, but I can sure as hell make that piece of shit pay for it. There’s no wrong in killing a piece of subhuman shit like that. None at all. It’s not only justified; it’s required. I’ll be happy to do it. It’s the least I can do for her, right?

“Did you get it out of your system, Rane?”

“More like out of my stomach. I’m sorry, Sarge. I didn’t mean to…I should have more control…”

“Like hell! There are some things only a woman can truly understand and that’s one of them. I get it. Believe me, I do.”

“I want to kill that fucking piece of shit!”

“Good. I fully expect you to. They’re not getting away in that truck. If they do, they’ll make their way to the border and some corrupt son of a bitch will let them in. That much cash? They’ll find someone who’ll take it in exchange for a pass. It’s only about a hundred and sixty miles to the border. They could make it that far.”

“We’re not going to let them.”

“Now you’re talking, Rane. Come on, we need to get to work on how we’re going to stop them. Here, take the canteen. Rinse your mouth out. You don’t want to talk to Mister DeWitt with puke on your breath.”

Always thinking about me, aren’t you Sarge? How many times do I have to say it? He’s the best friend I ever had. No doubt about it. And he’s going to help me kill that son of a bitch. He’s going to spot for me and he’s going to call the shot and then I’m going to squeeze the trigger and blow that motherfucker’s head clean off!

Rinse…spit…better. I still feel like I just got hit by a car, though. That really is what it feels like. There’s Lieutenant Shears. He doesn’t have that confident look he’s usually got. I’m worried he doesn’t know what to do about this any more than I do.

“Where’d you go, Allison?”

I’m not about to tell him I just tossed my cookies all over the parking lot. I don’t want him losing confidence in me. I’ll tell him some other time.

“I just needed a minute. What are we going to do now, sir? We’re losing daylight. It’ll be hell trying to follow them in the dark; even in that thing.”

“I don’t think it’s going to go on that long. The units from the back of the bank are withdrawn. Our people saw Maritza watching them leave through his binoculars. They’re ready to move out.”

“Should we try again to get the last three people out of there? We think there are still three hostages inside; maybe more. Eugene said he’d think about letting some of them go.”

“They’re not going to let anyone else go, Allison. Three walking hostages means one on three sides of them. They’re going to use them as a human shield to get in that armored car. They’ll also use them as leverage in case we get a couple of bulldozers to block the roads.”

I know. I thought of that, too. They’ll just tell us to move them out of the way in thirty seconds or they’ll kill a hostage. He’s right: they’re not letting anybody else go. Not until they cross the border. And once they do that, they’ll kill off the lot of them. No doubt about it. No witnesses. Even though it doesn’t matter anymore. I just don’t understand it. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it. How do people get that fucking sick?

“So we’ve got to take them out before they get in the truck. How do we do that, sir? They’re bound to tell us to pull the truck right up to the front door and angle it so it’s between us and them.”

“Then we’re going to have to get around it. I think our best bet is to put you and Doug in a couple of lineman’s buckets so you can shoot down on them. It won’t be an easy shot, though. We looked at a diagram of the area and we figure your best spots are over there and over there. That’s going to be a four hundred twenty-seven yard shot at a downward angle from ninety feet, and there’s only going to be about eight feet of space between the front door and the armored car. You’ll also be facing west, so you’ll have the setting sun in your eyes. Can you do it?”

It’s not an easy shot by any means and I hate shooting from those crow’s nests, as I’m sure you’ll remember. But I can do it.

“Roger that, sir. I’ve done it before with the Sarge. Just one thing, though: I want to be the one to take out Maritza.”

“I thought you might. That’s going to be the most important shot, so you’re the one to take it. Now remember: you’ll probably have to shoot over the hostages’ heads. You’re going to be aiming at a very small target. Let’s hope those hostages aren’t a couple of pro basketball players.”

Meaning that if they’re too tall, I won’t have a shot at the suspects’ heads. I doubt they’re that tall. But it’s still going to be one hell of a shot. At just over four hundred yards, I’m looking at about four and a half minutes of angle. That’s a four and a half inch circle in which the bullet can strike. That’s about the entire size of the kill zone for the average human head and they’ll probably be moving when I pull the trigger. The shot is going to have to be perfect. Absolutely perfect. There’s no margin for error.

“Sir, if they see us on those cranes, they’re just going to order us down from them.”

“That’s why we’re putting you both so far away and up at ninety feet. We figure that’s the maximum distance we can put you where you’ve still got a good chance of making the shot. If we had the time, we’d have you both switch out of those uniforms and into some kind of construction workers’ clothes. Now, our plan is that Maritza is the primary target. Take him out and we think the other guy will come to his senses. But Doug’s going to be trying for a head shot on him as well. The point is, Maritza has to be neutralized. If we can’t do that, then we’re probably going to lose those hostages. All of them. Understood?”

He doesn’t have to explain it to me. I know. Everyone knows.

“Don’t worry, sir. He’s finished. I guarantee it.”

“Good. Everyone’s counting on you, Allison. Get together with Varanasi. He’ll be your ground spotter. You’ll be on earpieces and headset mics. The wind is starting to pick up, so you’ll have to compensate for that. Take a wind reader up with you and get a reading. We’ve got the buckets en route. They’ll be here any minute, now. You and Doug get your gear and get over there. One of the patrol units will take you. Good luck, Allison. You’re going to need it. We all are.”

We’ll make it happen. This is going to be one of the most important shots I’ve ever attempted. Even though no one will be shooting back at me, it’s still going to be a hell of a lot of pressure. I can handle it. I can make the shot. I’ve done it lots of times. I can do this. I’m ready.

There’s the patrol unit. Time to make it happen.

“Let’s go, guys. Get me over there. I’ve got a shot to make.”

I’m going to kill that piece of shit. That’s all there is to it: I’m going to kill him. I need to focus, though. I’m so angry right now, I might miss. I can’t be angry. I can’t let myself feel anything. I’ve got to be absolutely without feeling for this. I can do that. I’ve done it in practice more times than I can count. I’ve done it under fire, too. I know I can do this. Those assbags are not getting away with those hostages. This shit ends now. Right now!


I’m at the location. I see they got me a much better crane than the one the Sarge had me training in. That thing shook so much, I thought it was going to come crashing down at any minute. This one doesn’t have a little bucket. It’s got a whole platform to stand on. Hey, it’s not like the little bucket type is any less conspicuous. They’re both attached to big, honking a crane, after all. I’m just glad this one is a lot bigger and sturdier. It’ll make for a better shooting platform. That’ll help. I’ll take all the help I can get.

I guess this guy is the crane operator. He’s got a hard hat on. He looks like a crane kind of guy.

“Are you the one running this thing?”

“Sure am, Sarge. How high up do you want to go?”

I guess they didn’t have time to brief him. Fortunately, the Lieutenant already told me how high he wants us to go.

“Good question. How high can it go?”

“This is a CTA-130. You’ve got a hundred and twenty-nine feet of elevation to work with. You’re going straight up, right?”

“That’s the plan. Take me up to ninety feet and lock it down. How sturdy is the platform at that height?”

“This thing? With the outriggers, solid as a rock.”

That sounds good to me. I’ll take his word for it. I don’t know what outriggers are. He’s the crane expert. He’ll be running the show. I’ll just be doing the shooting.

Up we go! I’ve got to keep my ears open. There’s a lot more noise out here, even without the noise of the crane. Earpiece on…adjust the volume…time to check it.

“Echo One to Echo Two, Sarge? Do you read?”

“Loud and clear, Echo One. Status?”

“They’re taking me up now. How’s your visual?”

“Not the best, but it’ll get better once they’re out of the door. What’s your elevation?”

“I told them to take it up to ninety feet. That’s what the Lieutenant said. I’ll have to compensate for the bullet drop. I’ll give you a wind reading once I’m locked off.”

“Understood. The Lieutenant just got the word to move the truck. Our driver’s going to give you two as much room as possible without making it look too obvious.”

I was thinking about that myself. If they park it too far away from the front door, then the assbags are going to know we’re setting them up for a surgical kill. If they park it too close to the door, we won’t have a shot. It’s all about the details, isn’t it?

It stopped. We must be at ninety feet. Time for a wind check. Hold up the little wind meter and take a reading. Six miles per hour. Gusting, but not constant. Not bad. Not great, but not bad.

“Echo Two, I read intermittent gusts of six miles per hour out of the south-southwest. I’ll favor left. I’m getting a pretty strong glare from the setting sun. I’m going to go with an ARD.”

That’s anti-reflecting device, for those of you who aren’t snipers. It fits over the end of your scope and cuts down on the glare without screwing up your sight picture. It also keeps the light from reflecting off of the lens and giving away your position. We snipers have all the cool tools, don’t we? All right, the ARD is on. Let’s see what my sight picture is like. Crank up the magnification and…good to go. There’s not a lot of room in there between the truck and the front door. I wonder how they plan to do this? Will they have the hostages surround them like the Lieutenant suggested? They will if they’re smart. Eugene is smart. Maritza isn’t. We’ll just have to wait and see.

“Echo One to Four Henry Alpha, I’m in position and ready. My field of fire is clear.”

“Roger, Echo One. Stand by. They should be coming out any minute now. Confirm you can ID your target?”

“Roger that. I’ve seen his picture and I’ve seen him today. I’ll zero him the minute he steps out of that door.”

So now the only question is: what can they do to screw with us? Short of popping a smoke grenade – which I don’t think they have – I can’t think of anything. They’ll want to get in the truck as fast as possible after they load the cash. They’ve got to figure that if we’re going to stop them, it’ll be when they’re transferring into the vehicle. I’ve got a good, stable platform and a good rest for my rifle. I’m ready.

Come on! What are you waiting for? You got your truck! Let’s go! Jesus, I’ve got to settle down! I’m too keyed up! Remember the Sarge’s training. Focus! Clear everything out of my mind except for the mission. The shot. What I have to concentrate on. Remember to favor left. Wait for the wind to die down. Don’t take the shot when it’s gusting. The shot has to be perfect. At this angle, I’ll have to pick the right aiming point. It’s all about the anatomy. If it’s a frontal shot, I aim for the frontal bone; one inch above the glabella. If it’s a side shot, I aim for the parietal bone; about one and a half inches above the squamous suture. Blast right through the cerebrum. The bullet should destroy everything from the limbic lobe to the front half of the parietal lobe to the back half of the frontal lobe. The shockwave should blast through the corpus callosum down into the thalamus. It’ll take less than a tenth of a second. It’ll be an instant kill. The son of a bitch won’t even know he’s dead. Too bad. I’d like him to suffer for what he’s done, but I’ll settle for him being dead and roasting in hell for eternity.

“Four Henry Alpha to Echo One and Sigma One, we’ve got movement inside the bank. Stand by.”

Standing by. The waiting feels like it’s going to kill me, but I can do this. I’ve done it before. I waited in a ditch for a whole night to get the shot against Corey Faisse. I didn’t move a muscle. I didn’t make a sound. This is nothing compared to that. I can do this. Remember the training. Everything the Sarge taught me is going to come down to this one shot. I can do this. I’ve got the skills. I’ve got the tools. I’ve got everything I need to make this shot. And no matter what happens, there’s no way they can shoot back and hit me. Not at this distance. Not with a .223 with iron sights. They don’t have the means to kill me. I’ve got the means to kill them. And I know how to use them. I’m a trained sniper. I’m an expert killer. I’m ready.

“Four Henry Alpha to all units, they’ve got two of the hostages loading the cash into the truck. Stand by. They’re tossing the bags in the back.”

It’s not like they’d leave the cash, would they? And they’re not going to risk doing it themselves. I figure eight or nine sacks. It should take a minute or two at best.

“All units, be advised: it looks like they’re coming out. This is it! Stay sharp! All tactical teams, do not engage hostiles! Repeat: tactical units, do not engage hostiles except on my order! Echo One and Sigma One, you are green light at opportunity! I say again: you are green light at opportunity!”

There’s the fire order. We’re clear to shoot as soon as we’ve got the shot. Focus! Control my breathing. Slow, even breaths. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Nice and slow. Don’t breathe during the trigger squeeze, but don’t force it or try to hold my breath. Stay calm. Keep my heartbeat down. Stay ready. Observe. Don’t miss anything. Don’t anticipate.

“Four Henry Alpha to all units, they’re coming out! The door is open! They’re coming out!”

I see the door. It’s open just a little. They’re probably looking out to see if anyone is waiting for them. They’re probably afraid we’ve got officers hiding inside the truck. We don’t. It’s too risky. If they make one of the hostages search it and the guy sees a bunch of SRT cops, we’d be sunk. There! The door is opening wider! The first one out will be a hostage. They’ll send one of them out to take the bullet if we fire as soon as we see somebody. We’re not that stupid, dickheads! There! That’s one of the hostages! I’m sure of it! He wasn’t loading the truck, though. They’ve got four hostages, not three. Male white, about forty. Definitely not Maritza and he’s sure as hell not DeWitt. He’s the bait. He’s there to take the bullet if we get careless. We won’t. We’re waiting for the real suspects.

He’s checking out the truck. He’s looking inside the cab. Probably making sure the keys are in it. Now he’s going around to the back. He’s trying the door. It’s open. Look inside, pal. There’s nobody in there. Just the cash. God, I hope that guy doesn’t look over here. He’d probably notice two cranes sticking straight up in the distance. But we’re far enough away that he might not think they’ve got anything to do with what’s going on down there. He’s headed back to the door. He’ll give them the all-clear. He looks as nervous as hell. The way he’s walking…he’s scared. He should be. After what he’s been through, he’s got a right to be scared. And he’s not out of it yet, is he?

It looks like he’s giving the people in the bank the all-clear. They should be coming out any second. Do they have a plan for it? We’re about to find out. No matter. We’ve got a plan. I don’t care about their plan. It looks like the guy is standing just inside the door. They’re making him do that. I’m sure of it. They’re using him as a human shield. That’s what we figured. Stay sharp. Stay focused. Think about the shot. There’s nothing but the shot. Nothing at all. Just the shot. Just the mechanics. I know what to do. I know how to do it. I won’t miss. I’ll hit the mark. I know it.

We’ve got movement at the door. They’re getting ready to come out. They can fit two people abreast through those doors. Is that what they’re going to do?

“Echo One to Echo Two, sit-rep.”

“We’ve got a group at the door. They’re all bunched up behind it. It looks like they’re going to come out in a group, probably with the x-rays in the center.”

That’s what we figured. They’ll use all four hostages as human shields.

“Echo Two, it looks like three males and a female are surrounding the x-rays. I can’t tell if they’re all going to come through the doors at once. I don’t think they’ll fit.”

My thoughts exactly, Sarge. They’ll probably do it two hostages, one assbag, two hostages, and the last assbag. We’ll have to see which assbag goes first. I’m thinking it’ll be Eugene. That way, Maritza can keep all four hostages in front of him so he can shoot them if anything goes wrong. We’ll see soon enough.

“Echo Two, they’re coming out. They’re coming out now.”

I see them. Two guys in front. There’s the guy who checked out the truck and the other guy looks like a Hispanic guy in a suit. Definitely hostages. The suit guy was one of the ones loading the cash, but he didn’t have the jacket on. The next one out is going to be one of the assbags. If it’s Eugene, he’s not my target. Mine’s that piece of shit Maritza. Wait until I see him. He’s all I’m concerned with right now.

There’s the third person! That’s got to be Eugene! I can see a rifle! He’s trying to hide it under his jacket! There’s your target, Doug! Just wait for Maritza to come out! Don’t fire until he’s out in the open! If you do, Maritza will jump back inside the bank and start shooting! There! There are the other two hostages! There’s the woman! My God, look at her! Even this far away, I can see she’s totally traumatized! And the way she’s holding her blouse closed with a death grip? God almighty! She was raped. She was raped for sure. I’ve seen enough rape victims to know it. You’re a dead man, Maritza! Take a good look around because that’s the last you’re ever going to see of this earth! You’re fucking history!

There! There he is! Fuck! He’s holding onto her jacket! She looks like she can barely stand up! Come on, you son of a bitch! Step completely out of that door so I can blow your goddamned head off! Damn it! He’s whipping her from side to side; using her as a shield! Fucking asshole piece of shit! Leave her alone! You’ve done enough to her already! All right, don’t think about it! Focus! Stay sharp! Wait for him to move her to his right side! Just a little further! Come on! Move her to your right! Give me a clear shot!

There! He moved her! Wait! She fell! She fell down! What the…he’s fucking kicking her! Aim! There! He’s clear! Wait for him to bend over and yank her up! Wait for it! Favor left! The wind’s died down! Wait! Wait! There! Right there! He’s clear! Aim…fire! Yes! I got him! Direct hit! The whole top of his head blew completely off! He’s history! He’s fucking dead! Holy shit! Everyone in that group got sprayed with blood and brain matter! They’re freaking out! Switch to Eugene! Aim! Another shot! Doug just fired! It’s a hit! He hit him! Oh, fuck! It’s not a kill shot! He’s still on his feet! Where the fuck did he get hit? I think it hit him in the shoulder and went down into his chest! Take him out! Aim…shit! He got back in the bank! How the hell is he even standing up? The hostages are just standing there! They’re totally freaked out!

“Echo One to all units! Hold your fire! Repeat: hold your fire! One suspect KIA! Suspect two is back in the bank! He’s alone! He’s hit but still alive! He’s still armed! Get those hostages out of there now! Right fucking now!

“Echo Two to Lima Team one, move in! Move in! Get those hostages out of the line of fire! Lima Team three, secure the rear of the building! We still have one suspect on the loose! He’s back inside the bank! Armed with a rifle! Definitely wounded! Severe wound! Do not enter the bank! I say again: do not enter the bank!”

Not until they get those hostages the hell out of there! There they go! Our first team is moving in fast! Get those people the hell out of there! Drag them out if you have to! Move! Yes! They’re there! Watch yourselves, guys! Eugene still has a rifle! I’ve got no shot from up here! I need to get back down there! I need to get down there fast!

“Hey! Crane guy! Get me down from here! Hurry! Get me down now!

You know, I really should’ve asked this guy his name. I’m pretty sure it’s not “Crane Guy.” Whatever. I’ll ask him later. Holy Jesus! Slow it down, pal! I felt like I was in a free-fall there! This thing is a hell of a lot faster than the one the Sarge rented for our training! Hang on! For God’s sake, don’t fall off! Hang onto the railing! Almost there! Now! Jump down! Hurry! There’s the unit that drove me over here!

“Get me back to the CP! As fast as you can! We’ve still got one assbag on the loose!”

“We heard! Get in!”

Just jump in! Forget the seatbelt! Go! Move it, guys! Go! Burn rubber! I need to get there! I’m useless in that crane! I need to cover that damned bank door from the ground!

“Floor it, guys! Max it out!”

“Hang on, Sarge! We’re almost there! Did you get him?”

“I took out the main shithead! The other one’s badly wounded but still kicking! He ran back in the bank! Don’t ask me how! That shot should’ve torn him in half!”

“Does he still have the hostages?”

“Negative! He’s all alone in there! Crazy motherfucker! If he thinks we won’t go in after him now, he’s out of his goddamned mind!”

“Is he going to give up, or is he going to off himself?”

Good question! I have no idea! Eugene knows what he’s facing. He knows there’s no hope with a trial. He may very well end up killing himself!

We’re in the lot! I need to deploy over to where I can cover that door! That damned truck is in the way!

“We need someone to move that truck! It’s blocking the door!”

“I got it, Sarge! Stay here!”

Is he crazy? There’s an armed suspect in there! He could start shooting at him! Goddamned rookie patrol officers! They think they’re fucking invincible! God, I hope he knows how to drive a truck! He’s in! He started it up! There it goes! Nice work, guy! Remind me to put you in for a commendation later on! Right after I kick your ass for being a total nut job!

“Echo One to Four Henry Alpha, one of our lunatic patrol cops moved the truck! The front of the bank is clear! Eugene’s in there alone! He has no hostages! I’m deploying behind the truck to cover the front door!”

“Echo One, roger. Can you see inside the bank?”

“That’s affirmative. I can’t see Eugene, though. He’s probably hiding behind something big and heavy.”

Which could be all sorts of things in there. That was a bad hit he took. Massive hit! I’m amazed he was able to make it back in the bank. He’s not going to last very long without treatment. Damn it, Eugene! You’re smarter than this! You know there’s no getting out of there!

Fuck it! I’ve still got my cellphone. Call him up! See if he’ll answer. As bad as he’s hit, though? He might not be able to reach the phone! Try it anyway! All right, it’s ringing. Come on, Eugene! Pick up the phone! You know it’s us! Who the hell else would be calling that place? Wait! Someone’s answering!

“Hello? Eugene? It’s me, Allison!”

“Sergeant…Rane?”

Oh, he’s all messed up! I can hear it in his voice!

“Yes, it’s me. Eugene, I know you’re hit bad. I saw the shot hit you. Drop your rifle and we’ll come in and get you to a hospital. It’s over. You’ve got no more hostages. You’ve got no leverage anymore. You’re in no shape to fight it out. Just give it up. It’s your only chance.”

I can hear him straining to keep it together. He’ll die in minutes without medical treatment! He’s bleeding out! Damn it, Eugene! You’re smarter than this!

“I can’t…I can’t go…go to…I’m not going to prison.”

“Don’t say that, Eugene! Come on, you’re not like Maritza! You’re not some worthless assbag! Don’t do this! Let us help you! Please!”

He’s gasping for breath. What should we do? We could charge the place, but we’d probably end up killing him!

“Eugene, talk to me! Come on! I never lied to you, did I? I’m not going to start now! Let us help you! It’s over! Don’t make us come in there and shoot it out with you! That’s not who you are! I know that! Enough people have died already! Don’t be just another one! Listen to me! We can help you!”

Who the…Lieutenant Shears! Where did he come from?

“Allison! Is that the suspect on the phone?”

“Yes, sir! I’m trying to get him to give up! He’s hit bad! Massive wound! I can’t believe he’s still alive!”

“Keep trying! I’ve got EMS standing by!”

You’re damned right I’ll keep trying! I don’t know why, but I really don’t want this guy to die!

“Eugene? Eugene, listen to me: we can get you out of there. We can get you help. Please let me help you! I know you’re not an evil guy. You just…you got caught up in some bad things. You made some mistakes. I know you never meant for any of this to happen. You wanted to do it by the book, right? No one gets hurt!”

“I never…I thought…though I could…sorry! I’m so…sorry!”

He sounds like he can barely breathe! That bullet probably took out both of his lungs! He’s going to bleed out or he’s going to blow his brains out! What do I say to him? What can I say to him?

“Allison, we can send a team in there…”

“He’s still got a rifle and he’s not thinking straight, sir. If we go charging in there, He might shoot it out. He’s a mess, sir. I don’t know what to say to him.”

“Just keep him talking. I’ll have a team go in there low-profile and try to take him without hurting him. Do you really think he’ll fight?”

“I don’t know what he’ll do if he sees six cops standing over him. He’s not going to last much longer with that wound in his chest. I know. I saw it. It should’ve killed him instantly!”

Eugene may be a smart guy, but right now all he can think about is the pain and the fact that he’s dying! No way is he going to think rationally! He can’t do it!

“Eugene? Eugene, listen to me. I know you did some bad things, but I also know you never wanted anyone to get hurt. You’re not a bad guy. Not deep down. I know. I’ve got a sense for these things. I’m telling you the truth, I swear! Please give up! Please let us help you! We can get you out of there! I swear! We can get you out of there and get you to a hospital in five minutes! It’s just down the street! Let us save your life, Eugene! Please!”

He’s not responding! Is he dead? Is he still conscious? Did he pass out? Fuck it! We need to go in there! We’re going to have to…oh, shit! Gunshot! Inside the bank!

“Sir?”

“Four Henry Alpha to all units, we have a gunshot inside the bank!”

Oh, God! He did it! He killed himself! He shot himself!

“Eugene! Eugene, talk to me! Come on! Talk to me! Are you there? Eugene, are you there?”

“Four Henry Alpha to Lima Teams One and Two, move in! Move in! Tactical entry! Move in!”

Don’t bother. We all know what they’re going to find. He’s dead. He killed himself. There’s no other explanation.

“He’s dead, sir. He shot himself. I’m sure of it.”

“Don’t blame yourself, Allison. You did everything you could to get him out of there. You gave him every chance. Not for nothing, but I’m proud of you. You did a hell of a job under impossible circumstances.”

The last part’s right: they were impossible circumstances. This wasn’t going to end any other way, was it?

“He wasn’t like the others, sir. He wasn’t…I should’ve been able to get him out of there. I just…I blew it.”

“No, you didn’t. He made his choice. Maybe he got involved with some people who were a lot worse than him, but it was his choice. This isn’t on you, Allison. I don’t think anyone could’ve done a better job than you did. I mean that. You did a fantastic job. You really held it together. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Lima Team One Leader to Four Henry Alpha, we’ve got three dead in here. Two white males and one Asian female. White male number one; maybe three or four GSWs to the chest. The female has one GSW to the neck. It looks like they’ve been dead for a while. The other white male is fresh. It looks like a self-inflicted GSW to the head. The location is secure. We’re coming out.”

So that’s it. It’s over. So ends my first official SRT callout. Two dead hostages; maybe more before the night is over. Three dead suspects; two who totally deserved it and one that I’m not so sure about. One woman raped and traumatized for life, six others who might be traumatized for life, and a whole bunch of victims from all of the crimes associated with this disaster. Is this how it always goes with SRT? If it is, then I made a huge mistake. Maybe I should call Robbie and tell him he can have my spot? Because if this is what it’s going to be like on a regular basis, then I’m not the girl for it. I can’t do this shit day after day. It’ll kill me for sure. I think it would kill anyone.

“Rane? Are you all right?”

The Sarge. That’s a loaded question right now, old man!

“I’m not sure. I thought by joining SRT, I’d prevent things like this from happening. Not contribute to them.”

“You did plenty of preventing today. You took out that son of a bitch before he could harm anyone else.”

“Big deal. He did more than enough harm before that. While we were out here trying to think of tactical plans, that woman was in there being raped and wondering how that could happen with fifty cops right outside. Another woman died right in front of us because she thought she’d be next.”

“There was no way to prevent that without getting everyone in there killed, Rane. You know that. I know it’s a God-awful…”

“What the hell good are we, Sarge? If things like that can happen? What good are we?”

I guess I don’t really expect an answer to that, but I’d like one.

“Sometimes we’re not good enough. That’s true of every aspect of police work. Sometimes we can’t stop horrible things from happening no matter what we do. It’s one of the worst parts of the job and it probably always will be.”

That’s an understatement if ever I’ve heard one. I mean, I know he’s right. I’m not stupid, after all. I just…this was supposed to be a major triumph for us and it turned into a total disaster. It’s not supposed to work that way.

“So how do I handle days like this without drinking myself silly? Because you know I’m not going to do that for obvious reasons.”

“You try to focus on the positive. You’re right: we lost some people today. Some of them were lost before we even got here, but one of them was lost right in front of us. We couldn’t have foreseen it and we couldn’t have stopped it. But we did manage to get a lot of people out of there safely and we took three very bad guys off of the streets forever. Those aren’t little things, Rane.”

“We only took two bad guys off of the streets. RSS killed the third. Remind me to thank them for that one.”

Of course, it doesn’t make up for the innocent woman they killed. You know, the one that’s lying in that bank dead with a bullet right through the neck? Yeah, her. Another one we couldn’t save.

“Sarge, would you come sit with me after we get done here? I’m kind of a mess right now and I could really use the company.”

“That depends. Are you going to make some insane pass at me again?”

“Some other time. Right now, I don’t have the strength for it. I just don’t want to sit at home and stare at the walls. I do that too much as it is.”

And as much as I love Beefy, I don’t think he’s going to be of much help to me tonight. I need a real friend. One who can talk. And who doesn’t drool on me.

“Sure, I’ll be there. I’ll bring the beer. I’ll even make sure you don’t drink too much.”

“You’re always looking out for me, aren’t you?”

“Who else is going to do it? Besides, I’ve seen how crazy you can get. I can’t very well turn you loose on the male of the species. We’d never survive it!”

Fair point. We’ll grab something to eat, even though I don’t feel much like eating. And we’ll watch some horribly bad movie and he’ll complain all the way through it and I’ll be damned thankful for it. What’s the alternative? Me sitting alone at home staring at the walls and asking myself over and over again how could this happen? I think I know how that would end up: with me face-down on the floor in a pool of my own drunken vomit. It would probably be the first step toward my becoming a total alcoholic. I can’t very well let that happen, can I? And I know the Sarge will cut me off well before I drink too much. Good Lord! How does anybody get through this job without having an old Sarge for a friend? I honestly don’t think it’s possible. I honestly don’t.

So I’ve got another notch in my gun. I killed a guy. I killed a piece of shit who should’ve been put down years ago. I’m not sorry I did it, but in a day or two? I’ll probably start to wish it hadn’t gone down that way. Then I’ll start to feel miserable that I had to kill yet another assbag who could’ve just given up. It’s crazy, isn’t it? I know what I did and why I did it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. So why do I feel like this? Can someone explain it to me?

So now I’m just standing here. Standing here and not really looking at anything. There are people running all around me; doing what has to be done at a major crime scene. Me? I’m just standing here. It’s like I don’t even exist. It’s like no one can see me. Are they avoiding me? I don’t know. I don’t even know what to do right now. I know what’s coming and what I’ll have to do then, but for now? I’m just standing here. I don’t know how long I’ll stand here. Maybe a few minutes? Maybe a few hours? Maybe a few days? Maybe forever? Forever sounds like a good idea, don’t you think?

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