Belonging

Hot Call 3 - Bennie's Gas Station


Enroute to Bennie's Gas Station - 12 pm

"Ed with me" called Greg as he approached the SUV. Greg needed a moment to talk with Ed privately before the team arrived at the next call.

"On my way" Ed responded as he sprinted to Greg's location. The team paired off and headed to the remaining vehicles. Jules jumped into the driver's seat and Sam in the passenger seat of one. Wordy and Lou took the last SUV and Spike headed over to the command truck.

"Winnie, a gas station robbery is usually a patrol unit call not SRU territory. What makes this one ours?" asked Ed climbing into the driver's seat. He knew calls were not routed to SRU unless they met a certain criteria, but this one had sounded so ordinary that he needed the full details.

Winnie replied "Yep usually, but this one has six young kids, ages three to five as hostages. According to a unit on scene a daycare van stopped to fuel up on its way to a zoo trip. One of the chaperons thought it would be nice to let the kids pick out their favorite snack for the ride and took them inside to select their items. Right after that the subjects entered demanding the cash. The cashier refused and things went downhill from there. Currently, there are two subjects and eight hostages, unknown if anyone is injured. That's all the details I have here."

"Thanks Winnie. Let the on scene units know our ETA is about ten minutes" Ed said then glanced at Greg. Greg motioned for Ed to mute his headset as he proceeded to mute his own. Ed turned his off "What?"

"Ed, we've had two intense calls. Need your assessment of the team's readiness before we arrive" Greg responded.

Ed thought for a moment "Well, you, me, Wordy and Lou appear fit to go. Spike's a little shaken. Based on his reactions to Sam getting hit, I think he saw something the rest of us didn't in that last call. He had cameras at all angles. He's good to go now, but you should talk to him about it later."

Halting a moment to focus on shifting lanes to go around traffic Ed continued "Jules, well she's angry with herself that Tom got the shot off that hit Sam. Also saw those dammed scars of Sam's for the first time. That had to be upsetting. Still remember when we all saw them for the first time."

Ed shuddered and Greg nodded knowingly agreeing "But she has already pulled it together and is back in professional mode. She's good to go."

He was quiet a moment as he considered Sam fitness status. "Sam, wow what a morning our rookie has had. Neutralized a subject, shared some private and horrifying memories to help someone and gets shot in the vest. All that and he can still have the presence of mind to tease Jules helping her through a bad moment and have a good laugh with Spike. I will say I'm impressed with his resilience. I'd be inclined to say he is fit for duty ..."

When Ed hesitated to continue, Greg interjected "I hear a 'but' there. And I concur with all you've said. I often worry that even strong resilient ones such as Sam can take only so much. I understand where your hesitation is coming from. But we need to go cautiously here."

Greg checked his PDA as it vibrated indicating Winnie was feeding him current information then he said "Sam's a protector at his core, we've discussed that before. He copes best when he is active. When we force down-time on him he gets restless. I think that is when he is most vulnerable to emotions he has not yet processed. Working helps him process those emotions and put them in the proper places."

Both contemplated what each other had said then Ed suggested "For this call we put him in the truck with Spike. Have him focus on tactical analysis away from the potential for lethal action and negotiating. He may be a protector but he needs protecting too. Give him a little space to breath and process things before throwing him back to full action."

Greg approved of the idea. The two of them usually had much the same read on each of the team members. It felt good to have his assessments validated via his team lead's assessments. They worked well together, effortlessly filling in each other's shortcoming thus making a stronger leadership team.

Wordy and Lou started to have a similar conversation but quickly it veered off track. Lou had initiated it motioning for Wordy to mute his headset and doing the same. "So, you think Sam is okay?" Lou asked smoothly.

Wordy needed no time to respond since he had been thinking about Sam's state since closely watching the mirrored emotion in John's face as Sam talked. Wordy answered "He's wounded beyond what any of us even imagine."

That drew a quick look from Lou but he had miss-interrupted Wordy's meaning. Lou said "But the EMT cleared him. They wouldn't do that if he was injured. Sure he'll be bruised. Man, he does bruise so intensely, it's a bit scary. I can't get the image out of my mind of that first bruising I saw, scared the shit out of me when I saw it. You remember? It was the day after we did all the hand to hand take down drills. You had him act as the target for all of us, take down after hard take down for hours."

Wordy laughed "Yeah. I remember that. Had him be the target because he was so damned good at getting out of every maneuver I could think of. We learned a lot from him that day. He never looked winded and barely flinched on some of the hard throws you guys landed or when we practiced using pressure points to disarm and take down. I think we got schooled in only a portion of what he really knows."

Lou stated "Yeah, I learned a bunch. Remember all the razzing we gave him the next morning when he joined workout wearing a long sleeved shirt and sweat pants instead of the sleeveless shirts and shorts he normally wears. He just said he was cold but he sweated like a pig that morning. We all gave him more shit when came out of the shower area fully dress and ready.

Wordy injected "Then we had that call where you and Sam had to climb into the huge garbage container to pull out that kid. You guys stank and Sarge ordered you back to shower and change. None of us was willing to get into a truck with either of you."

Lou grimaced remembering "God that was an awful smell. Something like skunk meets rotting fish with a side of vomit. Uuugh. I was at my locker already half-dressed when Sam rounded the corner with just a towel around his waist using a small wash cloth to towel dry his hair."

Chuckling Lou said "I scared the crap out of him when I suddenly yelled, HOLY SHIT, WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO YOU! He jumped back about three feet and slammed into the locker behind him. He looked around to see who I was yelling at and then back at me confused when he didn't see anyone else. I was just staring at him my mouth hanging open."

"It looked like his body had been used as a paintball gun target. His torso, arms and thighs were covered in bright red, blue, and purple hues. It finally registered with Sam what I was talking about and said, 'oh that, it's nothing, just a little bruising from yesterday's training' and moved to his locker to dress."

Wordy was laughing at the recollection and added "The rest of us had just gotten back and Sarge, Spike, Ed and I ran into the locker room to see what the commotion was. The four of us stopped dead in our tracks when we saw him."

"Remember Ed's reaction? He went ballistic. Didn't believe in the slightest when Sam said it was nothing and he wasn't injured. Ed threatened to relegate him to the truck for a week if he didn't let the EMTs check him out. That's when Sam got pissed and said 'Dammit Ed, I just bruise vividly, it is nothing. Looks awful but nothing hurts. I'm okay. If I beat you in the tactical course will you believe me and drop it?"

Lou was laughing now too "I think Ed regrets agreeing to that. He was hard to live with for a while after Sam bested him in the course by fifteen seconds and broke his long standing record for the course by five seconds."

They smiled at the memory and then quieted a bit as they were approaching Bennie's Gas Station. They turned on their headsets and shifted into job mode.

Over in the SUV Jules and Sam shared the headsets were muted too. As they neared the gas station, Sam was busy begging Jules for a power bar. She was having a good time teasing him, pay back for the comment early.

Their banter had started just after they got into the truck. Sam was sitting quietly and somewhat meditative if Jules had to put an emotion to it. Then out of nowhere there was a loud growling sound.

Jules snapped her head towards Sam "What the hell was that Braddock?"

"Just my stomach" snorted Sam. "I woke up late and didn't get to eat breakfast today. Only had the coffee the guys brought today."

"It sounds angry, better feed it. Why did you wake up late anyways?" she asked.

"Would if I could, and because I was sleeping" replied Sam.

"Don't you pack power bars? And that's a stupid answer, I ask why you were late not what you were doing" she countered.

In the past few weeks they had started to banter like this. Anyone listening to them might get lost with the multiple conversations within the same conversation but they never did. It was like a small mental calisthenics session.

But unrealized either they each had an ulterior motive. For Jules she was trying to get a handle on how this guy ticked. He was so different from any guy she'd known, which made him intriguing.

For Sam, he liked saying things that got her hackles up. There was a fire in her sable eyes and a flush to her cheeks when she was slightly pissed that made her so sexy and desirable. He couldn't stop himself from doing it.

"Took care of the most important thing only before I left, and no it's not a stupid answer it was because I was sleeping" Sam retorted.

"So what's more important than food? And yes it is a stupid answer, that's what you were doing, not why you were late" Jules said.

"Brushing my teeth and no that wasn't what I was doing. It was why I was late" Sam countered.

"So you think brushing teeth is more important than food. Explain you answer. We are going around in circles" she said.

"Yes they are more important, because I couldn't WOW you with my smile without my pearly whites now could I. I was late because I fell asleep unexpectedly before setting my alarm. So the cause for me being late was I was sleeping" he explained.

Secret target bulls-eyes achieved by both. For Sam the 'wow you with my smile' comment garnered a flashed glare from Jules that said 'get over yourself and never in your dreams'. He gave her a lopsided grin as he relished the fire in her eyes.

For Jules his explanation for being late clarified that he went directly to a base root cause not one several layers up. Most people would have said I forgot to set the alarm, but the root cause for not setting the alarm was that he was already asleep. Interesting.

His stomach roared again and the begging commenced. He hadn't had time to replenish his stock of power bars in his bag. Sam knew she kept some too so he begged her to give him one. She should have just offered him some but it was too much fun to see how he would try to wheedle them from her.

Just before they arrived, she grabbed two from the door pocket and tossed one to him with a smile. A muffled thanks though a mouthful of power bar was heard just before they exited the truck.

Jules laughed as she noticed that he'd actually shoved the whole bar in at once. He must be really hungry, he's used a ton of energy in the past seven hours and it doesn't look like they'll be getting a break any time soon. She planned to eat the second one herself but as an afterthought said "Hey soldier, think fast" and chucked the bar to him.

Sam gave her a huge smile that showed off his pearly whites as he caught the bar. She ducked her head as she headed to the command truck so he couldn't see that, yes, that smile did in fact, WOW her.


Bennie's Gas Station - Exterior Front - 12:10 pm

The team with the exception of Greg converged at the command truck, which Spike had parked near the rear of the gas station, to determine their plan of action. Spike was already at the computer trying to pull up camera footage to try and identify the subjects. They were completely blind to who they were dealing with at the moment.

Ed started to layout the tactical assignments "Due to the kids in there we need to go less lethal and no flash bangs or CS gas. Spike's working on eyes in to find where the hostages are located. Sam I need you in the truck studying those blueprints and finding us options for getting in undetected if possible. Jules we need info about the subjects and hostages. Boss is getting current status from the units on site. Lou and Wordy, make sure the units have the perimeter secured and get those news crews back further."

A chorus of "copy that" and all proceeded to their assigned tasks.

Greg started feeding them information "According to the unit on site, at least one of the subjects appears to be high on drugs, behavior is erratic. The second subject is behaving less erratically. They have been holed up in there for twenty minutes now."

Spike got access to the station's cameras. They were fixed in place and not movable and didn't give full view to the interior. There were several blind spots. The most concerning spot was the one by the back door. There was full view at the front of the short hallway which also had the bathrooms. But if someone was in the bathroom already they could slip to the back door unnoticed. Spike located the hostages. Sam studied the blueprints and noted several options for entry depending on where the hostages and subjects were located.

"They have grouped the kids together near the candy case just left of the hall. The jittery subject is covering the kids and is armed with a semi-automatic pistol. Calmer subject has a rifle and has the cashier and chaperon behind the counter on the other side of the store. Sam's is pretty sure it's a single shot hunting rifle. Why would they separate the adults and kids?" pondered Spike aloud.

"Good question" intoned Greg. "Anyone have any ideas why?"

"Maybe they don't think they are a threat and are content to just eat candy, since they placed them next to a fully stock candy counter" offered Lou.

"Tactically on their part it is smart. Doing so makes our entry options more difficult. We have to cover two areas instead of one. Also, if an adult is not keeping the kids calm they may panic and bolt into the line of fire. They might know that limits our entry options" Sam said.

"Agreed. Sam, see if you can determine an entry plan based on this intel" Ed simply said.

Sam reviewed many options and no scenario was good enough. He was not happy. There were too many variables when kids were involved.

Greg looked at Ed and said "So, we really need a talk solution. Any progress yet on identities of the subjects?"

"Still running facial recognition on the images we got from the cameras" Spike said.

Jules started sharing details she gleaned from her interviews "Wendy Glines, the daycare chaperon outside has given me names and pictures of the kids involved. I've sent them to you Spike. We have one five year old girl Ava Clarry, four four year old boys, Gary Burns, Todd Olsen, Kenny Rescher and Paul Vorhees and one three year old girl Sara Clarry who is Ava's little sister. The chaperon inside is Gayla Fines. The cashier is Lonnie Beam."

"Wendy says the boys are very rambunctious. It is hard to keep them still for more than thirty minutes. Sara has asthma so we definitely cannot use CS" Jules finished sharing the info she had obtained.

Sam finished assessing the blueprints "Hey Ed, I've got one or two possible entry scenarios. None of them are ideal, too many factors. Also determined there are no clear Sierra positions."

"Plan A seems to be the best bet and would require two to enter the front door to contain subject one who is with adults. To contain subject two who is with the kids, one us us would need to do a drop entry from the ceiling vent and two enter from the back door. Again no plan is ideal, there is a high risk the kids will get spooked no matter what entry plan we use. It would be best if we can talk them out" Sam shared.

"Hey Boss we just got ids on the subjects from facial recognition" Spike said. "They both have fairly long criminal histories. Mostly petty robbery and smash and grabs at computer and jewelry stores. No record of use of weapons in previous incidents. This one appears to be different from their usual. They have been involved in many crimes together. Our calm subject is Chance Bigalow and the jittery one is Ted Jitters. Wow that's funny, what are the odds of that?" Spike smirked.

Greg grabbed the megaphone and called out to the station "My name is Greg Parker with SRU. I'd like to talk with you. I'm going to call the gas station number, please pick it up so we can talk."

The team all breathed a small sigh of relief when Chance actually answered the phone and began talking with Greg. He learned that Chance did not really want to rob the station with guns. Chance preferred to just smash and grab. But Ted had wanted to try it for fun.

Ed was proud of his team, it was amazing how fast the team had worked to pull together the intel and develop a plan. They'd been on site for less than ten minutes. He decided to position the team based on Sam's plan. It was going to piss Sam off but he was going to stay in the truck.

He doled out the assignments "Lou you're with me Alpha team entry thru the front for subject one. Wordy, Spike, Jules you are Bravo team. Wordy and Spike entering from the rear for subject two. Jules, entering via the vent since you are small enough to fit. Sam you're in the truck on the cameras. Need you to inform us if anyone moves."

A chorus of 'copy that' sounded thru the headsets as everyone moved to comply.

Sam wanted so badly to object. He bit the insides of his cheeks to keep from mouthing off. Why was he benched? He'd been cleared for duty by the EMTs. It was his plan yet he was relegated to just watching.

Was Ed questioning his abilities? He didn't even put him as backup on the back door. He could feel his anger rising. Why the hell was I benched? Spike was always in the van. He's the tech/bomb guy. I'm sniper/tactical.

He started pacing back and forth in the truck. That pissed him off to because it was a confined space, only three steps each way. He hated confined spaces.

Greg was continuing to talk to Chance. In the few moments he was pacing angrily Sam failed to notice that Ted was escalating and the kids were getting antsy and moving more.

Ed could hear Sam's pacing through the headset. Sometimes the kid was loud; usually when he was angry. Ed would give him a few more back and forth paces. He knew Sam need to burn off the anger at being benched.

He was damned sure that Sam would interpret this as a lack of trust in his abilities. Ed hated to do that to him but it was for his own good. Someone had to watch out for Sam too. Ed was also sure that if Sam did discern the real reason it would still piss him off. Ed heard when Sam finally dropped back into the seat.

Sam recognized immediately what his anger had cost the team when he looked at the monitor. God dammit he'd screwed up. "Ed, subject two has moved to behind the kids instead of in front of them. I can only see five kids now. Sara is no longer in camera view" Sam firmly said.

"Where'd she go?" Ed asked.

"I messed up. I didn't see. I missed it" Sam said with self-loathing dripping from every word.

"Keep scanning Sam let us know if she comes into view" Ed replied.

Well this is just wonderful, Ed thought sarcastically to himself. His attempt at protecting Sam had just backfired one hundred fold. He should have told Sam to sit down immediately when he heard him pacing. If anything happens to the little girl Sam will blame himself. Hell, I'll blame myself too. How fucked up can this day get.

About fifteen minutes later, Sam said loudly over the headset to get their attention "Ed, Boss! Ted has just grabbed Kenny and is shaking him hard."

"Chance, what is Ted doing to Kenny?" Greg called.

Chance replied "Ted don't, god Ted, he's just a little boy. Leave him alone. No, no, you don't want to do that …"

Sam's voice urgently and loudly cut over Chance's "Ed you gotta go NOW. Ted is gonna kill Kenny."

"Go, go, go" Ed gave the order as the sound of a gunshot reverberated through the air.

Two teams instantly move into action.


Bennie's Gas Station - Inside

Alpha team moved in quickly. Ed and Lou stormed through the front door weapons raised. Directing them at Chance as they yell 'SRU drop your weapon', 'drop your weapon now'. Chance was startled. The cashier and chaperon screamed.

Ed moved quickly towards Chance as Lou covered him. "Drop your weapon now and put your hands up, on your knees now" Ed commanded. Ed grabbed the rifle and handed it off to Lou then cuffed Chance.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, oh god I think he shot the kid. I'm sorry" Chance kept repeating in broken sobs.

The cashier was shaking terribly and still screaming. Lou approached her and placed a hand on her shoulder and said "You're okay, you're okay now." The chaperon overcome at the thought of Kenny being killed directly fainted. Lou barely caught her and gently lowered her to the floor.

Bravo team had entered at the same time as Alpha team. Jules kicked out the vent cover and fast lined to the floor landing just behind the kids. Weapon raised yelling "SRU weapons down" and scanning for Ted and checking the positions of the kids.

At the same time Jules dropped down, Wordy and Spike stormed through the back door. They headed towards the candy section with weapons raised yelling "Police drop your weapon" as they scanned for Ted and the kids.

Ted was not visible. He was no longer where he had been a split second before entry. Four little kids sat huddled together crying. One little boy, Kenny was crouching in the middle of the aisle screaming at the top of his lungs. Three year old Sara was not among the kids.

It took Bravo team mere seconds to enter and take in all these details. Instinctively they divided the tasks at hand. Jules was closest to the huddled set of kids. She moved in to cover them until Ted was located. Spike moved towards Kenny.

Wordy started scanning for Sara and Ted. "Subject two location unknown, one hostage location unknown" Wordy informed the team.

Spike dropped to his knee next to Kenny and started looking for the wound they expected to be there. He checked all over and did not find one, nor did he see any blood on the floor. "Hostage unharmed. No harm to Kenny" Spike said with a huge sigh of relief.

Wordy caught a flash of movement at the rear door. "Subject on the move, has hostage, exiting rear, in pursuit, could use some backup" Wordy yelled as he ran after Ted and Sara.


Bennie's Gas Station - Back Alley

Sam heard Wordy and exited the truck at top speed to provide backup to Wordy. "Wordy got your back" Sam said coolly as he easily sprinted to catch up to Wordy in the alley behind the gas station.

The two of quickly ran in the direction Ted took with weapons raised and ready. They rapidly cornered Ted. There was no outlet in the alley. Ted had nowhere to escape.

In his drug induced frenzy, Ted wildly looked for an exit. When he couldn't find one he turned to face Wordy and Sam with Sara held tight to his chest, facing outward. He was using her tiny body as a human shield. His other arm, the one with the gun, twitched uneasily at his side.

"You let me leave or I swear I'll blow her brains out" Ted yelled as his gun arm jerked violently.

Sam instantly took in all details as he scanned the area. Sara was a tiny slip of a thing with long, blonde hair and big green eyes framed by golden lashes. There were no tears in her eyes and she was very quiet. She was wearing a pink and green polka sun dress with a pink bow in her hair. Ted had his arm crushed around her little waist trapping her against his chest.

Sam was drawn back to Sara's little face. Big green eyes locked onto deep blue eyes. Innocent soul meet suffering soul. Trust shone brightly in her eyes as she smiled sweetly at Sam. Her thin little legs were dangling down and Sam noticed she was missing her shoes.

Sam's heart suddenly shredded into small, sharp, shards as the memory smashed savagely into his head.

SWEET. SMILE. SARA. SAM. SCREECH. SCREAM. SLAM. SILENCE. SHOES. SORRY. SAVE. SOLUTION.

BANG!

Three bodies crashed to the ground.

Ted was dead.

Sara was saved.

Sam was screwed.


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