Sunday, 4 October 2009

Chapter Three: Are You There?

Chapter Three: Are You There?

Alice’s POV

I seriously wish I had listened to Bella when she had said she was too tired to go shopping, then we wouldn’t be in this mess. Rosalie and I were only trying to get her to buy something decent to wear, not possibly get her killed.

When the gunshots went off I was absolutely terrified and did the first thing I could think of, dove to the floor. I didn’t know where the shots were being fired or who was firing them. All I did know was that I had to try and protect myself as best as possible. My emotions just exploded when I hit the ground, and I struggled to see from the tears.

Rose and Bella both were on the ground also and I couldn’t help but grab onto the closest part of Rose to me, her leg. I had never been around guns growing up and knew nothing much of them, except that they killed people, obviously. I didn’t expect myself to get into a situation much like the one I was in now so I had no idea what to do next.

Unfortunately the men with the guns had plans on what they wanted us to do. With the sight and sounds of someone being dragged across the floor and then dumped out of a window I felt like I was going to be sick.

Then, of course, they gathered us up and led us away. Bella was hidden and managed to stay behind, I was just praying she would get us some help. Rose and I followed the large burly American through the mall, where other shoppers were being escorted out of shops, and we all went down the stairwell then across to the food court.

All the tables and chairs that usually covered the area had been pushed and thrown to the side so all that remained was one large empty space. I thought we were all going to sit there but instead they split us up. Rose was taken off with a bunch of other shoppers and into another store while I was told to sit down with everyone else.

More and more people kept coming in and gradually so did more armed men to watch us all. I tried to remain calm and hold my emotions in check but was finding it difficult, as were many others. What surprised me most was the fact that one of the hostage takers came around and put a box of tissues down for anyone who needed it.

That kind act of generosity shocked me somewhat as I really wasn’t expecting it. The other hostage takers there didn’t even bother either, like that was meant to happen. Whatever was going on was beyond me. It was as though they had no problem killing us but in the meantime would make sure we were cared for.

With nothing to do but sit there I started taking in the movements of the men throughout the food court. There were about seven men all up on the balcony above us as well so the idea of any escape plans went out the window quickly. It would be foolish to try and get away when there was nowhere to go. In order to get out of the building alive we would need to rely on the cops outside to do that for us.

Everyone seemed to be just as anxious as each other but gradually as time wore on we all calmed down. We weren’t in complete silence as the hostage takers clearly didn’t want us listening in on their conversations so one of them put on a radio nearby. It was playing very softly but just enough so that we could hear it.

I was actually glad they put it on, despite not being able to eavesdrop, as it gave me something to focus on. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop the need to go to the bathroom. I had been desperate to go to the toilet since the gunfire went off. Though I was just happy I managed to hold it in and not piss myself in fear. That would have been really embarrassing.

Very slowly I raised my hand, with my eyes cast to the ground. One of the men came over and knelt before me. He was not armed and didn’t seem scary at all, yet I knew not to underestimate him. Without a second thought I’m sure he could kill me.

“What is it?” he asked in a southern accent which he was attempting to hide.

“I need to go to the bathroom,” I said softly.

The blond looked around and sighed. He stood up and walked over to the other guy standing there. They talked in hushed whispers for a few seconds before the man I had spoken to was handed a gun. I immediately thought he was going to hurt me for talking and cringed when he walked back over.

“Get up slowly,” he said, sounding bored. I did as he asked and flinched when his hand took hold of my arm. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he whispered. “I just need to escort you to the bathroom and back.” I nodded my head and walked with him in silence.

We entered the woman’s toilets and my arm was released. He nodded for me to go to the toilet while he leaned against the wall, hand on the gun the entire time. I never liked peeing in front of folk but knew in a time like this there was going to be no other option.

When I shut the door of the cubicle I couldn’t help but cry in fear again. I wasn’t cut out for situations like this. Rose and Bella could handle themselves, I, on the other hand, couldn’t stand this. With the fear of not knowing what was going on, the possibility of not making it out of here alive, and worrying about Bella getting caught I was a nervous wreck.

I didn’t want to get in trouble for taking too long so I got down to business and flushed the toilet before grabbing some tissues to take with me. The man watched me constantly as I washed my hands thoroughly using the soap provided and dried them on the paper towels.

“Okay,” I said softly, waiting to be taken back.

“Don’t be scared. If you follow orders nothing is going to happen to you.” I nodded and kept my eyes cast down. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Alice,” I whispered, worried about why he wanted to know.

“Well Alice, I’m Jasper. It’s nice to meet you, though I wish it could have been in under better circumstances.” I didn’t know what to say to that so I just nodded. “I need to do something, so you’re just going to have to wait there for a few minutes, okay?” I nodded again, hoping to appease him.

Jasper, with one hand still on his weapon, reached into his pocket and pulled out a small electronic device. I couldn’t work out what it was really and didn’t want to be seen snooping so kept my eyes on the floor.

“Alice?” I looked up into his piercing blue eyes, waiting to hear what he was going to say. “I’m going to be using my two hands so won’t be in reaching distance of my gun quickly. If you try and run from me they will kill you, understood?” Once more I nodded. “Just stay standing there and we’ll have no problems.”

With that Jasper turned his back to me and started fiddling with whatever he had in his hands over the sink. He was muttering softly to himself the whole time and seemed to be getting quite aggravated. However, he wasn’t’ making any sudden movements, so I wasn’t that worried.
Suddenly we heard the gradual nearing of footsteps. Jasper looked startled for a second before shoving the device in his pocket and grabbing my wrist. He looked at the door and then at me, shaking his head once before sighing.

“I need you to get against the wall, now,” he said, moving me around and towards said wall he was speaking of. I really didn’t have a chance to argue with him. But the next thing that came out of his mouth made me want to scream in defiance. “Wrap your legs around my waist.”

I shook my head violently only to be hoisted up so that I had to put my legs around him in order not to fall. Jasper’s hand came down over my mouth to stop me making any noise. “Look like you’re in pain, unhappy or whatever just don’t look relaxed or happy.”

I was already horrified about what was about to happen that I didn’t need to put on a face. This man was clearly going to rape me and there was nothing I could do. They would have free reign to do what they wanted. No one could or would stop them.

“Whitlock, what the fuck are you doing?” Someone called from the door, the man with the heavy footsteps. I spun my head to look and saw it was another hostage taker, one Jasper had been talking to earlier. “We’re not meant to touch them,” he ground out, clearly annoyed.

“Marcus said I could do what I want, so I’m doing what I want. But don’t you get any fucking ideas. Now, can you piss off? I’m busy here.” The man at the door chuckled and shook his head before leaving.

Jasper watched the door for a bit longer then turned to look at me. His intense blue eyes were staring straight at me, watching carefully.

“I had to do that. I’m sorry. If I take my hand off will you please not scream or make any noise?” I nodded a little and his grip let up.

My body slid down his as I untangled myself and Jasper helped keep me steady for a minute. His kindness was surprising me and I was getting confused. I didn’t understand why he was trying to hide what he was doing from the other hostage takers and I didn’t understand why he was being somewhat friendly to me.

“You’re not going…?” I let the sentence hang and glanced up at him.

“God no, I don’t do that. It’s not right,” he answered, shaking his head.

“Then why the-“

“There was no other way to explain why we would be in here so long. I’m not meant to talk to the hostages.”

“Why are you doing this?”I asked, sounding very exasperated.

“Because I have to. You wouldn’t understand,” he muttered shaking his head again. Jasper stepped back from me and glanced at the watch he was wearing. “I need to finish what I was doing. Just go stand back over there please.”

I did as I was told and waited patiently, looking down at the floor the entire time. As I had nothing to focus on my mind was going crazy with thoughts and questions. I was contemplating the fact that these could have been the last hours of my life and that I would never get to say goodbye to my family or friends.

I wasn’t sure how much time had passed but Jasper shoved whatever he was doing into his pocket and turned back around to me. He gave me a soft, worried, smile and walked over.

“You have to look like I’ve roughed you up a bit. I’m sorry.” His hands reached out and he started pulling at and altering my clothes.

He ripped my skirt at the side and crumpled it up in his hands, leaving crease marks to suggest it had been around my waist. I was far too scared to say anything so I just stood there as still as possible and waited for him to finish.

Jasper got down onto his knees and my heart rate picked up dramatically. His hands slowly touched my ankles and worked their way up my legs. By this point I was shaking and sobbing quietly. Jasper grabbed my tights around my knee and ripped them, then he dug his nails into my skin and scratched me. Red lines were left in his wake.

“I’m so sorry, “ he whispered before leaning in and kissing the red skin. I didn’t know what to do with his actions so tried to block them out. I wrapped my arms around myself and waited for what was next to come.

Standing up, Jasper ran his fingers through my hair, messing it up. I shut my eyes so I didn’t have to look at him and what he was about to do. I jumped when I felt his lips on my neck. The whole situation was horrible. He wasn’t kissing me, but gently sucking, no doubt to leave a mark.
When Jasper pulled back away from me I opened my eyes and looked around him to see my neck. There was a dark purple mark. Silent tears ran down my cheeks, knowing he had claimed me as his and that was going to be my fate while I was in here.

All the other hostages would think he had raped me in here and they would all be too scared to do anything. My look would strike the fear of God in them, especially the women.

Focusing on Jasper I saw the sadness in his eyes. Why he was sad though, was beyond me. Surely he knew what he was signing up for when he took this job or got involved in crime. If he didn’t then he was an idiot and deserved everything that was coming to him. Though, a small part of me, and I mean a miniscule part, felt sorry for him. He had been rather kind to me and for that I was grateful.

Without a second thought Jasper gently took hold of my arm and reached for his gun again. He led me back through the mall and back to where I was sitting. There he sat me down carefully before walking off.

Just like I suspected, I was receiving mixed glances and looks from everyone around me. They were all giving me some kind of pity look but I wasn’t having any of that. I didn’t’ need their pity. Nothing had really happened. But, Jasper’s plan to strike fear in the other hostages certainly worked. Now I’m sure none of them would want to go to the bathroom until they were freed. God only knows how long that could be.

I spent the passing time looking around and monitoring the movements of our hostage takers. They all seemed to move around much like clockwork. I knew this information wasn’t really going to help but it did ease my mind that there was a chance to escape, if I was crazy.

Suddenly, breaking me from my watching, a store alarm went off up on the second floor. Everyone looked up and the men loitering over the balcony quickly went into action, cocking their guns and running towards the sound, and out of sight. The hostage taker standing at the side of the food hall barked at us all to keep our eyes on the floor. His hand was on his gun and his eyes were trailing over to the stairwells in sight.

The elevator doors dinged open and out walked three men. One of them looked pretty calm while the other two were looking around for the location of the sound. Then things got really bad. All the shop security systems started going off, blaring loudly from all directions. That made the men in charge particularly pissed.

“Get me the phone,” the tall, calm man demanded. It was brought over to him quickly, shoved in his hands where he instantly picked up the receiver.

“Edward, stop playing silly games, turn the alarm system off. You do not want to test me, boy. So do as I’m asking,” he said, sounding serious yet relaxed. Whatever Edward said on the other end did not appease him. “Maybe you don’t realise how serious I am about this.”

The man walked over to the side of the food court and reached for a gun. He took the safety off and fired three shots at the closest hostages. Blood splattered out from their skulls, spraying across my face and top along with others around me. I started sobbing, horrified by what I just witnessed.

“You’ll get their bodies shortly.” The man hung up and threw the phone to a lower ranked hostage taker. “Clean this up and put the bodies outside, by the window again please.”

Jasper came into sight, looking around at the scene before him. I watched as he looked straight at me. Quickly he grabbed one of the men who walked out the elevator by the arm and whispered something to him. The man nodded and smirked, patting Jasper on the back.

Smiling, Jasper made his way towards me. I had no idea what he was going to do again and felt uneasy. These men were murderers and for some strange and unusual reason this one had taken a particular liking for me. All for what, so I could die at the end of this sick game they’re playing?

Sobbing, I accepted my fate. It seemed very unlikely I would be getting out of here alive. This was going to be my end.

Edward’s POV

“Yeah, bye Edward.” With that Bella hung up the phone and my stomach sank. I was terrified for her. God only knows what they would do if she was caught.

About a minute later an alarm started sounding from across the street. Everybody’s eyes were on the building in question, wondering what the hell was going on, and then it clicked together.

“Shit!” I cried, flying out of my chair.

“What is it? What’s that noise?” Maxwell asked, worried.
“The security tag on the dress, it’s set the alarms off. They’re going to find her!” I put both of my hands on the back of my head and entwined my fingers, terrified for her safety.

She was in serious trouble now, and there wasn’t anything I could do. Then for the first time in a long time, I prayed, begging God to keep her safe. I don’t know why or how, but there was just something about Bella, and I felt the need to protect her more than I’ve felt the need to protect anyone besides my family ever before.

“Set the alarms off!” I yelled, moving quickly through the mass of desks and officers. “Arkin, randomly set store alarms off.”

“Why?” he asked, confused.

“Because if you don’t they will kill her, if they haven’t already. So do it, now!” Arkin looked over to Maxwell who nodded. With that he did as I asked, more going off that could be heard from where we all were.

We all waited with bated breath and then the phone rang. I picked it up instantly, desperate to know what was going on but knowing this couldn’t be good news.

“Edward, stop playing silly games, turn the alarm system off. You do not want to test me, boy. So do as I’m asking.” I took a breath and sighed, nodding at Arkin.

“They will be off shortly.”

“Maybe you don’t realise how serious I am about this,” Aro began, and then it was followed by three gunshots. “You’ll get their bodies shortly.” With that he hung up.

“Mother fucker! Shit!” I grabbed my jacket and stormed out the room, the Commander yelling after me.

“Whoa! Whoa Edward!” Roddy called, running behind to catch up. “Slow down a bit mate.” I followed his request and stopped in the stairwell, the door closing behind me.

Roddy opened it a few seconds later, looking at me pitifully. I shook my head when he opened his mouth to talk. I didn’t want to hear him right now. Checking my coat pockets I came up short and Roddy reached into his, handing me a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.

“I thought you quit?”

“I have.”

“Sure looks like it,” he said chuckling as we made our way out and into the back alley behind the office building. “Maxwell’s pissed,” he started.

“I’m pissed. This is just like four years ago.” I shook my head and lit up my cigarette. It was a dirty habit I picked up when I became stressed.

“Come on Edward, stop blaming yourself for that,” Roddy pleaded. He should have known it would be a lost cause though. “Four years ago, you weren’t to blame. Tonight, right now, you’re not to blame. You might have saved her life for all you know.”

“Yes I might have saved hers, but what about the other three I just killed? Where is their justice? Who was meant to be fighting in their corner? Me, I was.”

“Don’t beat yourself up over this, if you are going to though then do it another time. What about everyone else in that building? Edward you are aware you just walked away, right? Cause seriously mate, if you’re not you need your head checked.”

I finished up my cigarette, threw the lighter and pack back at Roddy and headed on up the stairs again. He followed behind once more and patted me on the back when we came back in. Some of the guys stopped to look and then over at Maxwell. He was fuming.

“Cullen, in my office, now.” His voice was not loud, not aggressive and not demanding but you could tell those were the exact emotions he wanted to get out.

I thanked Roddy before heading back into that bloody office that always seemed to be the bearer of bad news. Without him asking I took a seat and waited patiently for what was about to happen.

“I should fire your ass for what you just did. Fortunately for you Howler’s stuck in Maine, can’t get a flight out until morning. So until then, you’ll be the main hostage negotiator on this case but once he gets here you’re out. You’ll be escorted out of the police cordon and are then free to take your holiday time. Once you return disciplinary procedures will be taken against you in light of your actions tonight. Do not think you got away with that stunt you just pulled. Now, go and try not kill anyone else before Howler arrives.”

I stood up after my verbal smacking and walked away, back out to my desk. Swivelling my chair round I turned to face the shopping mall. The neck pain from earlier had returned with full force along with pain in my shoulders and back. This time the pain was due to stress rather than overexertion. The only thing that would calm me down would be the sound of Bella’s voice on the other end of the telephone.

Looking at all the windows, I saw one of them open ever so slightly. Much like they did earlier, three bodies were dropped from the window and landing on the ground, blood splattering from their open wounds onto the pavement.

There was an explosion of activity after that. The window closed and teams moved in to retrieve the bodies. Using riot shields for protection, the agents successfully removed the bodies from in front of the mall. They would be searched for wallets and purses then the families would be contacted.

“Roddy?” I called, knowing he was nearby.


“When you find out who they are and the families are brought down, come get me. I’ll break the news.”

“Edward I don’t think that’s a good idea, I mean-“ I looked up at him and he stopped short.

“Alright, I’ll let you know.”

“Thank you.”

He left me after that, going off to finish what he was doing. Within ten minutes he was back with all the files they could pull on our three victims. From the wounds we could conclude that the three of them died from gunshots to the back of the head. Execution style from the looks of it. And it was all my fault.

I read through everything Roddy provided me with, needing to know more and more of the lives that had been taken before their time. Immersing myself in their details kept me occupied until their families all arrived. The three of them were local Seattle citizens and had all contacted their local police office when they knew their daughter, husband and mother had gone to that mall and were no longer answering their phones.

Roddy came back and got me when they arrived in the building and I was led down a few floors to where a seating area had been set up in the back office. The three families were all in there and looked worried, anxious and pale. Upon seeing us they all stood up and moved towards the door to maybe get the information out of me quicker.

The news was then broke to them all at once. It was delivered by my monotone voice, telling them of the hostage takers that could not be reasoned with. When asked how they died Roddy told them briefly that it was a gunshot wound, keeping details to a minimum. Then when one of them asked how it happened I knew what I had to do.

I was all set to say it was my fault, that if I hadn’t fucked about with the alarms then their loved ones wouldn’t be died and lying in the morgue but rather alive and in that bloody building across the street. None of us would even be having that conversation if it wasn’t for me. However, Roddy stepped in. He lied to them by saying the hostage takers grew impatient and this was a warning, therefore blaming their deaths on the whole team, not just me.

It was my fault though, and I was pissed he didn’t let me explain that. Giving them time to take in the news we departed and made our way back up the stairs. Family liaison officers were already descending anyway.

“What the fuck was that?” I asked, running a hand through my hair and glaring at Roddy.

“We’re a team, we stick together,” he replied, shaking his head as we took the stairs two at a time.

“No, that was my error in judgement that got them killed, not the teams.” Roddy continued to shake his head at me.

“Look Edward, did you see that guy in there? He looked like he could kill us with his bare hands. There was no way I was going to let you take the blame and then have you in the hospital all night cause he clocked you one and broke your jaw. We stick together no matter what. One person’s problem is everyone’s problem, you know that.”

“It’s not right,” I replied, not having anything else to really say.

“Doesn’t matter. It’s done. Now, let’s get back on task. As much as I feel sorry for those families and I wish their loved ones hadn’t died I also want to get the bastards that did this.”

Nodding, and sighing, I wandered back over to my desk. I asked the techies about Bella but they shook their heads. It was all a lost cause it seemed. She was gone, she had to be. There was nothing short of a miracle that could have saved her life.

Leaning back in my chair I surveyed the mall building again. It was hard to believe everything was taking place right across the street, yet I was completely helpless. There wasn’t anything I could really do. My hands were tied.

Suddenly my phone rang, without thinking twice I picked it up frantically.

“Are you there?” I asked in a rush, begging to God to hear Bella’s voice down the other end of the phone. Instead the line went dead. “Arkin, what the hell just happened?” I asked, getting angrier by the minute.

“Someone picked it up to dial, they began entering a few digits. I suspect they either changed their mind or heard you.”

“Shit,” I muttered, hoping that I hadn’t just made Bella’s situation worse. If they found her and then found the one way phone line things would be hellish for her.

Watching the phone like a hawk I stayed in my chair. It briefly registered with me that Bella’s father had arrived but before I had a chance to go over to him he was led out the room by Roddy and a few other officers. He seemed to be covering all bases tonight, really helping me out. No doubt someone was telling Mr Swan the situation his daughter was in and that we hadn’t heard from her in a long time. Well, at least it felt like a long time.

Waking me from my thoughts, my pager went off, vibrating against my belt. Looking down I unclipped it and read the message. It was simple a series of digits: 4870366388. They were completely random by the looks of things and they meant nothing to me. Frowning I called Roddy over. He took a look at the number and jotted it down on a piece of paper. I was to continue working the case while he was going to work out what that meant.

I still felt devastated. Due to my actions three people had died. Their lives were taken from them by a man who couldn’t get prosecuted. And what did they die for? So I could try and save the life of a hostage who may or may not be dead. There was no way on me knowing until I heard her voice again.

“It’s a case file,” Roddy said, walking back over and loading up what he was referring to on my screen. “The number sent to you is a case file, it has code clearance and we don’t qualify.”

“Why would someone send me the code of a case file?”

“The question you really should be asking yourself is: what’s in this file?” Roddy hit a few buttons and the access denied screen came up.

“What are you two doing?” Maxwell asked, coming over immediately. He was keeping an even closer eye on me than before and it was very off-putting.

“Can we talk in your office?” I asked, not wanting this detail to get out just yet. Whoever sent me this only sent it for me to see; they didn’t want the rest of the team knowing.

“Right this way.” Even though I didn’t want to go back into Maxwell’s office as it had been a very unlucky place for me so far I knew that this was the best way to keep this information contained. “So, tell me what’s going on?” Maxwell asked, taking a seat.

“I was sent these numbers, Roddy ran them and it turns out to be the code for a restricted case file,” I said, handing him the piece of paper with the digits on it.

He entered the numbers into his screen and rather than being stopped when he tried to access the file he was let in, but only so far. Maxwell got the basics on screen but when trying to read the details it blocked him, wanting a specific password and code, one we were not privy to.

“Well?” I asked, waiting for him to tell me what was going on.

“Whatever I say doesn’t leave this room gentlemen, now take a seat.” Roddy and I sat down across from him and waited patiently for him to begin. “Two years ago the Volturi crime organisation was at its peak, you both know this. Well, they were taking on recruits to expand. We got an agent in the organisation. He’s been undercover for two years now, feeding us little bits and pieces. Some agents believe he’s flipped sides due to an ambush that took place six months ago.”

“Remember there were seven cops who died when they were trying to take a warehouse? Well, our guy inside told us they were all going to be there unarmed. So surprise surprise when we show up and they’ve got AK47s and M16s firing at us. His tip got those men killed and since then he’s been in doubt. Don’t get me wrong, without him we would never have got these men to trial. But, in the past, things haven’t added up and we’ve been left with our pants down by our ankles.”

“You’re restricted when looking at this case, why is that?” I asked. He seemed to know so much so why were they not letting him in? What could be in that file they didn’t even want Maxwell knowing?

“They’ve restricted his identity. Only three agents know who he is. Apparently the guy was plucked right from the academy and thrown in with the sharks.”

“What are they trying to tell us with this message?” Roddy asked.

“Oh they’re not trying to tell you anything. If they, the guys in there, wanted to send a message they would have broadcasted it for the world to see. This was the work of one man.”

“The undercover officer?” I supplied.

“I think so, yeah,” Maxwell said, nodding.

“What do we do?”

“Go on like normal. Do not assume we have an officer in there because if we do, why weren’t we told about this beforehand so it could be prevented. Unless you hear anything, ignore it. I have to go through certain channels with this, let those directly involved know. When I know more on it you’ll know more on it.”

Nodding, Roddy and I got up and headed for the door.

“Oh wait, Edward, is this a personal pager or work pager?” Maxwell asked.

“Personal, only my immediate family have it,” I replied, frowning deeply now. If my family were in any type of danger I would fly off the handle. They mean everything to me. I couldn’t let them be harmed because of my job. But why was I targeted? Usually it’s Howler who gets the high profile hostage situations. Would things still be the same if Howler was in charge of this case?

“Call your family, immediately.” Taking Maxwell’s advice I grabbed my cell phone and nipped out of the office.

The house phone rang out and went to the answering machine, scaring the hell out of me. I tried again, thinking they may just have not got to it in time. Sadly I was put through to the answering machine again. I left a hazy message telling them to call me as soon as they got this, no matter what time it was, and then hung up.

Next on the list was to call their cell phones. Carlisle, my father always had his on him due to him being on call for the hospital. When I heard his voice down the other end of the line I practically cheered.

“Edward, is that you? What’s going on?” Carlisle asked. He sounded happy to hear from me but knew there was bound to be something wrong if I was calling this close to when I was meant to be flying out to see them.

“Dad I’m tied up in a case right now but just need to know, is everyone alright?”

“Of course, why wouldn’t they be?” he asked, sounding a bit confused.

“I’m just checking. Can you put mum on?”

“She’s at home with Kate.”

“I called the house a moment ago and didn’t get anything.” The hair on the back of my neck and arms was beginning to stand on end.

“Well they’ve probably gone out for drinks or something. Don’t let it bother you. Now look, I have to go into surgery, bad car crash, I’ll speak to you soon.”

“Yeah, love you, bye.” My father hung up and I scanned through my contact list before dialling my sister’s number.

Her husband picked up the phone, saying my mum and her were out for dinner, leaving their phones at home so they wouldn’t be interrupted. They were going to eat at home but wanted a night out, just the two of them. I thanked him and asked if he could get my sister to call me immediately once she returned home.

I felt slightly better, knowing they were out together and safe. However, I wouldn’t be completely satisfied until I heard their voices, much like the same with Bella. With her on my mind I went back through and asked Arkin if he’d heard anything again, he hadn’t. As each second ticked on I knew the likelihood of her being alive was slim. If she had been she would have contacted me.

“Lieutenant Cullen, we have the security feed you’ve been wanting,” Ben said, calling me over to where he was stationed.

I strode over and took in the screens, looking for one person in particular. She wasn’t visible but there were a lot of camera’s blacked out. Ben seemed to know what I was going to ask so jumped in to answer.

“They’ve disconnected these cameras and if you look at this shot here-“ he said, pointing at another camera angle, “you can see their own camera that has been set up.”

“Why would they put in their own cameras?”

“Most likely because they knew we were going to do this. If we could get access to it they could get access to it.”

“Is there any way in which they can see what we’re seeing?” I asked

“How do you mean?”

“We’re routing the feed here, can they find out we’re doing that?”

“Well yeah, I mean it’s a possibility. Why?”

I watched the camera for a moment and was irritated to see they flipped view points. It meant that for a small space of time we couldn’t see one part of the mall.

“If they know what we’re looking at they can manipulate what we see. These camera’s here, they flip view for fifteen seconds and then flip back. In those fifteen seconds we could be missing a lot of important details,” I pointed out.

“There isn’t anything I can do about that unless we get their camera feeds, which we can’t do,” Ben said, shaking his head


“They’re all wired up. The feed is direct to them; it doesn’t go somewhere else, bounce off something or broadcast itself. It’s direct. The only way we could get that is by being inside that building and having a device where all these cables are connected that broadcasts the feed. Unless you’re capable of that then don’t get too excited.”

Nodding I knew it was a lost cause. There would be no way to do that so I wasn’t going to even consider it. I would just make do with what I had for now.

“Alright, thanks Ben. Keep me posted.” Turning round I walked over to Roddy who was briefing a few agents on God only knows what. It wasn’t relevant to me so I tuned it out.

“Can I help you with something?” Roddy asked, finally sending the others away.

“I want cameras in that building as soon as possible. Where are our teams?” He floundered for a moment before pulling me over to a table with more floor plans on it. The room was littered with them.

“Well the building is surrounded and we’re getting teams in place to go on the roof. Maxwell has utterly refused the use of helicopters so we’re going to get them up using ladders, not exactly stealthy but it’ll do the job. Once they’re there guys are being sent into the vent system and possibly into the elevator shafts. For that to happen though power needs to go out. That’s your call.”

“Shut it off. Aro has had far too many privileges. He’s just abusing my good nature now.” I was pissed about those hostages dying, all for putting on alarms.

“You sure?” Roddy asked, looking me over to see if I had any doubts.

“Yes, send them in.” He nodded and jotted a note down on the side of the floor plan.

“Okay well then, our guys will be in the vents, and the elevator shafts. They both should be able to get cameras in so we can see more of the building rather than that crappy footage over there.”
“Hey, it’s better than no footage. Our eyes and ears are going to end this thing. It’s vital.”

“Of course,” Roddy returned to the floor plans and walked me through things a bit more so I would know what was going on in case Aro mentioned something about it.

With that done I returned to my desk and without even having to ask the techies told me Bella hadn’t called back. The whole situation was frustrating the hell out of me but I was just trying to get by. It wouldn’t be long until Howler got in anyway. He would take over and be the knight in shining armour while I would be the chump who fucked up.

I didn’t do the job for the glory of saving lives and normally couldn’t care how I was perceived by others but what with my reaction earlier I knew my job was going to be hanging on the line. I had to do something good to reign it back in and convince my superiors that I shouldn’t be laid off and that disciplinary actions would be justified.

Just when I thought my night couldn’t have gotten worse in walked the bitch from hell, Jane Regal. That crazy woman was the prosecution attorney. Maxwell probably called her in, what a tool. With her here I was going to have to follow strict rules in regards to not killing the fuckers across the street. She would want them prosecuted no matter what, and probably would get them prosecuted. A silly hostage negotiator like myself wouldn’t be able to stand in her way.

“Ah fuck,” Roddy said, shaking his head. “Does she have to be here?” he asked me.

“Probably, otherwise I don’t see why she would be here.”

“She’s going to kick my ass.” I raised my eyebrows at him and he shrugged, giving me a sheepish smile. “So I forgot to call her back, is it really that big a deal?” Rolling my eyes I turned to see Jane disappear into Maxwell’s office.

“Things are just about to get complicated.”

“You can say that again,” Roddy muttered.

Jane’s arrival could only mean that things were not as good as originally thought, which did not help ease my worries. What with my mother and sister not calling me back yet, the death of 3 hostages due to my error, and having not heard from Bella in so long I couldn’t see how things could get any worse.

But of course, I spoke too soon.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Chapter Two: Bella?

Edward’s POV

“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.

Is this call 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,”

“You guess?” She let out a shaky laugh.

“Well I am one of the hostages. They just don’t know I’m here.”

“Yeah, let’s talk about that. Can you tell me what’s going on?” I asked, ready to write down all the details she could give me.

“I don’t really know. They started shooting and then rounded everyone up. There’s a lot of them, has to be more than four.”

“Have you seen them? Can you tell me anything about them? Their accent? Just anything?” I stressed, needing something to run with.

“I’ve only seen their boots, the guy that spoke to us sounded American but I think the others were foreign.”


“Yeah, European.”

“Any chance you could be more specific than that?” I knew she was trying her best but I needed a little more. The sooner we had this information the sooner we could get started on bringing them down.

“Eh…I don’t really know, it wasn’t Spanish or French. Greek or Italian maybe? I’m sorry I didn’t hear it very well.”

“No, you’re doing great. Did you catch any names?”

“No, none.”

“Alright, thank you Bella. Can you hold on for a minute please?”

“Sure.” I put the phone on hold and turned to the guys.

“Set this line up as another one way. I want her to be able to talk to us if she needs to.”

“You think we can use her?”

“I don’t know. Obviously I‘m not going to ask her to go out and find the guys, but she can tell us if anything is going on from what she can hear. That’s at least a start. Now, have you gotten my other line yet?”

“Any second now.” I nodded and picked up the phone again.


“Yeah, I’m here.”

“We’re setting up a line so you can stay in contact with me. If you hang up for whatever reason, all you have to do is pick the phone up and my end will ring. You got that?”

“Yeah, and thanks.”

“No, really, thank you. I know this can’t be easy for you. We’re going to try and work out who’s inside the building so any help you could give us would be great. May I ask, what’s your full name?”

“Isabella Marie Swan, look my father’s a cop. He’s a detective in homicide. Can you maybe get a message to him that I’m safe? It’s Charlie Swan.”

“Of course, we can do that.” An officer listening in stood up and got right on that. “Clearly you are aware of the possible danger you are in but I want to assure you that we are doing everything we can. Unfortunately we haven’t made contact with the hostage takers yet so we do not know their demands, but I do intend to rectify that any second now. Therefore, is it alright that I leave you on the line?”

“Absolutely. Do what you need to, I’ll just be sitting here.”

“Alright then, thank you. Speak to you soon.” I got Arkin to put her on hold and we set up for the next call.

To say I was nervous was an understatement. Making contact was crucial and the very first phone call may just define how the night goes. If I said something to offend them or upset them in any way you can be assured they’d up the body count. I needed them to know I was going to ‘help’ them and was trying to see it from their point of view.

However, I doubted my normal routine was going to work on them. They seemed smarter than the kid holding up a store for fifty bucks. If I wanted this to end quickly I’d have to work extra hard for it and do everything in my power to seize opportunities for hostages without enraging them.

“Cullen, let’s get this show on the road,” Commander Maxwell said, nodding at me to pick up the phone. When I picked up it would ring on the other end and that would be it, no going back for a second chance, we’d be in this until the end.

Trying to steady my hand I picked up the phone and put it to my ear, listening to it ring. All eyes were on me and the building across the street for any movement. The phone continued ringing and on the twentieth I figured no one was going to answer.

Thankfully someone did pick up.

“Hello-“ I began, only to be cut off.

“I wondered when you would be calling. To be perfectly honest I thought you wouldn’t have taken so long. What, is this not important enough? Does another person need to die before you take the situation seriously?”

“Absolutely not-“ The man’s laughter on the other end of the phone confused me.

“I’m kidding. I know there’s a problem with the phones. Now, who am I speaking to?” he asked, sounding all too flamboyant for this. I mentally wondered if he was high but this was all too calculated for that.

“Lieutenant Edward Cullen, I’m the hostage negotiator.”

“Oh I know who you are Edward, no need to explain. I bet you want to know who I am, isn’t that right?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“Good, well why delay you anymore, I’m Aro. Am I right in thinking that you’d also like to know my demands for these pitiful hostages?”

“Yes, we’d like to know your demands,” I said, pen at the ready once more.

“Good, you know Edward, you’re awfully good at this. Anyway, where was I? Oh that’s right, my demands. Well, for exchange of these hostages I would like one hundred and seventy four million dollars deposited in an off shore account and eighty tons of cocaine delivered to a certain drop off. Once you have the cocaine assembled I will tell you the location and we will go on from there, same applies with the money.”

“Just to clarify, that was eighty tons of cocaine?” I asked, not believing what I was hearing. That was an obscene amount of cocaine. Hell, the whole of the United States accounted for three hundred tons of cocaine in a full year. How he expected us to get just over a quarter of that was beyond me. It wasn’t like we had a lot of time to get it either.

“Yes that is correct, eighty tons. Eight, zero. Just so you know, every two hours I will add another ten tons onto that. So, if you don’t have my cocaine ready, it will be ninety tons rather than eighty. And again, same applies for the money. Another ten million every two hours.”

“Well, that’s very generous of you, giving us two hours instead of just one” I said, looking round at the rest of the team who all looked as lost as I did.

“Oh and I will also start killing hostages as well,” Aro informed me.

“Right, well we’ll get right on that, what with the deadline and all.”

“Good.” I could hear the son of a bitch smiling on the other end. He knew he had full control and I had to change that.

“Seeing as I’ve listened to everything you’ve had to say, and have taken note of your demands so we can work something out, I was wondering if you would tell me-“

“About the hostages? Oh I’m a step in front of you my boy. There are a total of two hundred and fifty nine hostages. Ninety of them are males, ninety eight are females, thirty six are elderly, twenty eight are children, and seven are babies and toddlers. So, who do you want me to give up first?”

“I’m not going to insult your intelligence. You seem to be very aware of the procedure.”Aro chuckled in agreement.

“So I’ll send out the children and babies, as they don’t need to get involved in this messy situation. Also, I’ll send out anyone with a medical condition so you know I’m not such a heartless bastard who is intent on killing everyone. I can be caring, and I can be kind, as this goodwill gesture shows. They’ll be out in twenty minutes.”

“Thank you.”

“No Edward, thank you.” With that the line went dead, telling me he’d hung up.
I leaned back in my chair and ran my hands through my hair. The other guys in the room had jumped into action and were alerting the team around the mall about what was going to happen should they see any movement.

I couldn’t understand Aro. He must have known that these situations never ended well. So why was he even attempting this? What also didn’t make any sense were his demands. Eighty tons of cocaine was not easy to get a hold of. In fact, it was almost impossible.

“Relax, the night’s still young. This is the easy part,” Roddy said, coming over and sitting on the corner of my desk.

“No, it’s not.” I loosened my tie some more and turned in my chair to Roddy. “Have we got facilities set up for the hostages coming out? I want to be able to question them about what they saw.”

“You personally?”

“No, of course not.” Roddy nodded and surveyed the room.

“I’m sure someone’s already on that. The commander will have done that so no need to worry. Your job is to man that phone. How’s the girl doing?”

“I…I haven’t spoken to her since we called the hostage takers.”

“You’re not just going to leave her?”

“Well no, I wouldn’t do that.”

“She still on the line?”


“Then talk to her. Come on Edward, you’ve got a hostage on the phone, how often does that happen?”

“Fair point.” Roddy clapped me on the back and headed off. The tech guys gave me the go ahead that Bella was actually still there before I picked up the phone. “Bella?”


“Yeah it’s me. How are you holding up?”


“Yes please. Honestly, how are doing?”

“I really need to pee.” I couldn’t help but chuckle, either could the techies monitoring the call.

“Well I’m sorry to hear that. There’s nothing I can do to help with that particular issue.”

“Yeah, I know. So can you tell me what’s going on?”

“We’re getting some hostages.”


“Yeah, we’ll see what-“ The line went dead and I frantically looked up at the techies. They confirmed that Bella was no longer on the line. I swung in the chair and looked out the window at the mall and directly at the shop window where Bella was meant to be.

There was no activity from what I could see and the whole place looked relatively calm. Despite only speaking to her briefly I was worried about her safety, more so than what I usually was to the hostages involved. Everything here seemed more personal.

Setting the phone down I got up and headed over to Roddy who was organising the
officers that were to question and help the newly released hostages once they were out safely. We gave them direct instructions on what to ask and what information had to be relayed back to us immediately.

With them on board, and a check back in with Arkin that Bella still hadn’t called back I went over to Roddy who was reading over eye-witness accounts from when the shopping mall was first taken. He had a frown on his face and knowing him well I knew whatever he was reading wasn’t going to help me at all.

“What is it?” I asked, taking a seat next to him and grabbing one of the files he’d already read.

“They brought things in with them,” he muttered, scanning the page quickly. “Three witnesses so far said they saw up to seven men carrying large black bags, and from the looks of things they were all full. I can’t think what they’d take in with them.”

“Well, resources,” I added, thinking it over.

“Yeah, like what? What do they need that isn’t already in there? The food court has several stores all selling food, there’s even a supermarket. There are bathroom facilities, obviously. The place is packed with clothes so if they wanted to change, if it was going to last that long, they could just take them. As for sleeping, there’s a furniture store on the top floor. What do they need?” he asked, frowning deeply.

“I have no idea.” And I didn’t. It didn’t make sense what they had in the bags seeing as we were going to be acting as fast as possible and hopefully have the entire situation over with by tomorrow. They wouldn’t be staying for the long haul. “What else do these say?”

“Some say they saw a black van park up, drop them all off and then leave. Others say several police vans dropped them off. A few are claiming police officers entered the building, others Arab extremists. The usual with this sort of fiasco.”

“So really, we have nothing concrete to go on apart from the fact they may or may not have bags in there with them, filled with something?”

“Yep, and that they’re European with black combat boots according to our hidden hostage. What do you expect though, you know how inconsistent eye-witnesses can be. Hell, remember that store hold up where the store owner claimed it was a samurai sword he had been stabbed with when it was just a pocket knife?” I nodded, recalling the event. “People get it wrong, they miss see things or they think they saw something when it was all in their minds.”

“You’re giving me great hope that the hostages we should be getting any minute now are going to be helpful.” Roddy chuckled and shook his head.

“Sorry mate but we’re going to get a lot of mixed information here. We’ll try and shift it out and find the consistencies but let’s be reasonable, some of it won’t be helpful at all.”

“Are you two busy?” Commander Maxwell asked, coming over.

“Just reading up, waiting on the hostages. What do you need?” Roddy replied, standing up as I followed example.

“Both of you come with me then.” Roddy looked at me curiously, to see if I knew what was going on, and I shook my head, not having a clue.

We walked back to the closed off office at the back of the floor, Maxwell shutting the door behind us. He closed the blinds on the window and told us to take a seat. To me it seemed like I was about to be told this was too big for me and that I was just to hold down the fort until the other hostage negotiator, Howler, pitched up. I had been expecting it but was saddened now. I didn’t want to leave Bella out there.

“Alright, we have a problem,” Maxwell began. “The name Aro rang a bell so I called up a few guys and found out exactly who we have in there. Aro Volterra is part of an organised crime group known as Volturi. He and his two brothers, Caius and Marcus, are in charge now. Their former boss is going on trial in a week, and the three of them are the leading witnesses. As part of their amnesty deal all crimes will be forgotten when they testify.”

“When they testify?” I asked, hoping I had heard wrong. “Are you telling me that for the next week they can run around and do whatever they want without being punished for their crimes?”

“Well yes.” I groaned and flew out the chair, in a fitful of rage. “Look Edward, I know it’s a shitty situation but we have to deal with it.”

“Deal with it?! Are you kidding me, sir? They have two hundred and sixty hostages in there that they can kill at free will and we can’t do anything to stop them. We can’t kill them, they’re needed for trial, and we can’t charge them as the amnesty kicks in when they do testify.”

“I know,” Maxwell said, looking just as peeved as I was.

“Why weren’t they secured? Shouldn’t they be locked away somewhere so this couldn’t happen?” I asked, one hand on my hip and the other running through my hair.

“They initially were. Three different guys were on each of them. The last they saw of the brothers they were boarding a plane, where our officers were going to pick them up on the other side. We have reports saying that they’re still out of the country.”

“Well the clearly didn’t board a fucking plane as I’ve got them across the street holding folks hostage!”

“I know. the situation is fucked up.”

“Heads better roll for this,” I said, still angry as hell.

“They will, don’t you worry. You just do your job.”

“I’m trying but his demands are rather impossible.”

“Ah, yes about that,” Maxwell began again, letting me know there was much more to this than I would have liked. “When their last boss was arrested his assets were seized along with 80 tons of cocaine and 174 million dollars in cash. They obviously knew it was there and they want it back. We have it secured somewhere.”

“As they know we have it and they want it I’d like to think we’re getting it ready for delivery. After all, I don’t want to be the one to tell someone that their loved one died due to incompetence, and we can’t press charges on those that did it.”

“We can’t touch it, I can’t authorise that,” Maxwell said, sighing. “My hands are tied right now. I’m fighting with a hell of a lot of red tape here. I’ll need time. Unlucky for us it’s twenty to midnight on a Friday night, the men I need to speak to have buggered off.”

“So what do you propose we do in the meantime?” Roddy asked. I had completely forgotten he was still in the room. Unlike me, he listened to all the facts before blowing up.

“Talk to the girl, keep her on the line and find out as much as you can,” he said to me then turned to Roddy, “Look over statements from the hostages that have just been released and report back to me. I don’t intend to go tactically here, but if the option is available we may need to.”

With that we were dismissed. I was reeling in anger. Far too many people were at risk because someone cocked up the amnesty agreement. Roddy could tell I was in a foul mood so he sent me to get a drink of water before trying to get hold of Bella again. He said that I needed to be calm with her so I didn’t tip her off that there was a problem. She needed to hear that everything was running smoothly.

By the time I had calmed down thirty eight hostages had been released. They were escorted across the empty streets over to the building we were congregated in. Everything they needed was set up a few floors below, where they would be seen for medical treatment if they required it, given food, and then questioned when ready.

A fellow officer gave me a note from Roddy telling me that Aro had sent out the seven babies, twenty eight children, one elderly man with a heart condition, and two women with diabetes. While they were getting taken care of I returned to my desk.

“Arkin, is she on the line again?”I asked, pointing down at my phone.

“Yep, she came back about twenty minutes ago when you were in with Maxwell.”

“How’d she sound?”

“Fine, I think she got spooked. You want to talk to her?” I nodded and took a seat, grabbing the phone.


“Hi Edward,” she said softly, her voice automatically relaxing me.

“How are you? You had me worried.”

“I’m sorry, several of them gathered outside the store front and I didn’t want to take the risk of getting caught.”

“No, you were right to do that. I don’t want you risking your safety anymore than you have. If you need to put the phone down please do so.”

“Thank you,” she replied quietly. I did worry they would be able to hear her voice but she seemed to be doing a good job of escaping their notice. “Did you get in contact with them?” I heard her ask.

“Yes, we did. We’re working on their demands now,” I said, hoping to reassure her that all was well. To be honest, I hadn’t gotten a clue what was going to happen.

“Well good, sounds like progress has been made in getting us out of here.”

“Oh it has, no need to worry. Now, how are you really holding up?”

“Apart from still needing to use the bathroom, I’m okay, a little scared,” Bella admitted, instantly filling me with worry for her.

“How can I take that fear away?”I asked, hoping to do something for her.

“Eh…I don’t know, distract me?” she said, making it sound more like a question.

“Okay, I think I can give that a go. Tell me, what were you doing at the mall tonight anyway?”

“My friends took me out shopping, I’m currently wearing the dress I fully intend to buy, though I might get another one still on the rack as this thing is looking pretty grubby, and I don’t think they’ll let me leave with the security tag still on it,” she said, clearly taking in her appearance as she spoke. I smiled softly to myself, glad to have her talking about something else.

“Do you like to shop?” My sister, Kate, was an avid shopper so I made the assumption that most women did like shopping.

“Not really, no. I don’t like spending money. What about you?”

“Do I like shopping?” I asked for clarification.


“Eh, no I don’t think I do like shopping. It’s not my favourite past time.”

“What is?” she asked, genuinely sounding interested.

“Listening to music.”

“Ah, so I take it you have an extensive collection?”

“Indeed. And yourself, favourite past time?”

“Reading,” Bella answered.

“You have an extensive collection of that too?”

“Indeed,” she said, copying my reply. “I don’t know, I just get lost in books.”

“Wouldn’t you rather be out living the adventures you’re reading about?” I asked, recalling wanting to do just that after reading some books.

“I would, but if we all had those experiences it wouldn’t be fiction now would it?” I chuckled and agreed.

“No it wouldn’t, you’ve got a point there. Alright, what sports are you into?”

“Oh no, none. Walking is a hazard to me. I don’t partake in any sports.”

“You’re clumsy?”

“Very. You certainly seem like a man who would be into sports though. What do you play, football, baseball, soccer?”

“I play baseball occasionally but prefer to play Rugby and Cricket, the influences of my British friend.”

“I’ve not played either of them.”

“Yeah I wouldn’t suggest Rugby to you, maybe too rough. From what you’ve said you seem to give yourself enough injuries, I wouldn’t want to send you out to gain more,” I added. From the sounds of it, keeping Bella safe from harm seemed like a fulltime job.

“Well thank you for thinking of my safety. I was wondering, do you mind me asking,
what age you are Edward?”

“Of course not, you can ask me anything. I’m twenty nine years old, and do you mind me asking you?”

“No, I’m twenty four. Em, Edward can you hold on a minute?”

“Of course,” I replied, anxiously waiting. A few minutes later she returned.

“Sorry about that, they do routine checks of the mall and I don’t like to talk when they’re around.”

“Eh, Bella can you tell me more about these routine checks please?”

“Sure, what do you want to know?”

“How often do they do them? Do you know where they check exactly? How many of them check? Details like that would be great.”

“I can’t actually see them but I know two of them check this side of the mall. I can hear their footsteps and voices lowly. They walk up from the left of the store I’m in and go close to the window then along, going towards the elevators. I think they check every ten minutes.”

As she was talking several men in the room were plotting the route on the floor plans, working out breach plans and estimating how long it would take to get our team in unnoticed, provided we take the car park without being discovered.

Although forcing entry was a very unlikely option given the new information we had received on Aro and his brothers it was safer to just be prepared in case. Also, we didn’t know how the evening was going to pan out, breaching may be necessary if they were to shoot more hostages.

“Was any of that helpful?” Bella asked, sounding hopeful.

“Very helpful, thank you very much, we’ll put it to good use.”

“Glad I could be of some assistance.”

“Bella I don’t think you realise how valuable you are right now. Never ever have I heard of a hostage calling the hostage negotiator and feeding him information. It just doesn’t happen.”

“True, but it’s not like I’m in the thick of it, I can’t tell you how many there are in total, or what they’re doing.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said, shaking my head. “Just having you there, telling us that they’re not going crazy is enough.”

“No problem. Hey Edward is there any chance you could tell me where the closest bathroom is? I take it you have the floor plans there.”

“I do and I can, though I’m a little worried about you going out of hiding.”

“I have to, seriously,” she replied, sounding desperate.

“Alright, fine, but please for the love of God be careful. The closest bathroom is four stores down, to your left. You’ll be in direct view of any men they may have further up the mall when you leave the store. You are aware of that right?”

“Yeah, I am. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

“I hope so. And please, when you get back, pick up the phone and let someone here know you’re safe.”

“I will, I promise.”

“Good, so I’ll speak to you later then.”

“Yeah, bye Edward.” With that Bella hung up the phone and my stomach sank. I was terrified for her. God only knows what they would do if she was caught.

About a minute later an alarm started sounding from across the street. Everybody’s eyes were on the building in question, wondering what the hell was going on, and then it clicked together.

“Shit!” I cried, flying out of my chair.

“What is it? What’s that noise?” Maxwell asked, worried.

“The security tag on the dress, it’s set the alarms off. They’re going to find her!” I put both of my hands on the back of my head and entwined my fingers, terrified for her safety.

She was in serious trouble now, and there wasn’t anything I could do. Then for the first time in a long time, I prayed, begging God to keep her safe. I don’t know why or how, but there was just something about Bella, and I felt the need to protect her more than I’ve felt the need to protect anyone besides my family ever before.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Chapter One: Hello?

Chapter One: Hello?

Edward’s POV

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.”

“Yes, sir.”

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?”

“Yes, sir.”

“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.

Bella’s POV

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.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Floor Plan- First Floor

First Floor. Not too sure if the X can be seen but basically Bella is in the red coloured clothing store in the bottom left of the picture.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Floor Plan- Ground Floor

Ground floor of the mall. This all should be self-explanatory from the guide.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Teaser- Chapter 4

Bella's POV

“Oh fuck!” I cried under my breath, horrified over what I had just done.

The fucking security tag on the dress set the alarm off and I was now leading those bastards straight to me. With tears streaming down my face I ran for it, flying into the bathroom and hoping to hell no one saw me. I anxiously opened the cubicle door and locked it behind me, taking a seat on the toilet seat, with my knees pressed against my chest, feet off the ground. I couldn’t have them seeing my legs under the door if someone saw me come in here.

Unfortunately someone did.

The door opened and then I heard the sound of the latch locking. The person walked over and gently pushed all the other cubicle doors, opening with creaks. He got to my door and tried, it not opening. I could see his boots underneath the door and was terrified. My sobs were getting louder and louder and I knew this was it. They had found me. I was a goner.

Floor Plan- Car Park

This is my rubbish attempt (you can see it's rubbish from the right side being squint) at floor plans.

The elevator shaft is in the middle, security booths by the exit and entrance, and the stairwells in the top corners.