FBI Supervisory Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney was glad she’d skipped her morning coffee. The adrenaline she mainlined when the Escalade’s driver pulled a .45 was quite enough to jump-start her heart. Wide awake now, thank you very much, have a nice day.
“Lower your weapon, Commissioner Schultz!” Sheriff Mona Holdeman shouted from where she stood behind her cruiser stopped on the other side of the Escalade from Caitlyn’s position.
The early-morning March wind cut down the lonely country road, bringing with it the promise of snow. A stray memory flitted through Caitlyn’s mind even as she sighted along the barrel of her Glock 22, aiming at the driver. Waking up on mornings like this as a child, rushing to the window, ignoring the sting of the cold floor on her naked feet, and looking outside, searching for snow, only to be disappointed. Not by the weather, but by the fact that by the time she reached the window, she’d be awake enough to remember her father was gone. Dead. Buried back in North Carolina at the home they’d left behind.
Caitlyn shook free of the childhood memory and focused on their subject, a corrupt county commissioner with a penchant for weaponry. Holdeman’s cruiser and two state trooper vehicles blocked Schultz’s path forward, creating a barricade. Not that there was anywhere to run. They’d chosen their spot carefully, here in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, where the only civilians to worry about were a trio of horses grazing in the field across the road.
Caitlyn was here as backup—something the newly elected sheriff was in dire need of after discovering two-thirds of her force were on the county commissioner’s payroll and that Schultz had ordered a hit on her.
When your county’s population numbered twice as many cows as people, and most of the people didn’t get involved in elections or vote, it made for interesting politics. Which was exactly how Schultz had been able to control this quiet patch of Pennsylvania countryside for the past decade, growing rich as he decimated taxpayers’ coffers. Public corruption was one of the FBI’s top priorities, so when Holdeman and the Pennsylvania State Police needed assistance building a case against Schultz, Caitlyn was happy to help.
She hadn’t intended on being on the front line. But after two months in her new position as the FBI’s Local Law Enforcement Liaison, juggling cases via phone, Skype, e-mail, and paperwork, it felt good confronting a bad guy in person. From what Caitlyn and the other investigators had dug up on Schultz, he was a very bad guy, into everything from taking bribes, extortion, and now, contracted murder.
Knowing that the commissioner always traveled armed and had a stockpile of weapons at both his house and office, they’d chosen the location for their takedown carefully: an empty road surrounded by farmland on one side and rolling hills covered in forest on the other. Schultz drove the road every day on his way into work.
“Place the weapon on the ground and back away,” Holdeman’s voice came over the loudspeaker of her patrol car blocking Schultz’s vehicle from the front. “Keep your hands above your head.”
Schultz hesitated. Turning his weapon on Holdeman would only invite certain death from Caitlyn positioned at the rear of his vehicle or the two state troopers behind Holdeman who both held long guns aimed at Schultz. Exactly how they’d planned it: Give the subject no reason to resist, and things would go quietly. Their plan called for a quick takedown and arrest, back at the sheriff’s station in time for coffee and homemade doughnuts drizzled in maple syrup.
Slowly, with exaggerated movements, Schultz bent forward and placed his weapon on the pavement, keeping one hand in the air. He raised the second hand and turned to back away from the pistol on the ground.
That’s when everything went wrong.
Caitlyn was in charge of covering the rear and passenger side of the Escalade. Easy duty since Schultz was supposed to be alone. At least that’s what their intel said. No one was visible through the Escalade’s tinted windows. Schultz stood at the driver’s side of the vehicle, all guns and eyes trained on him except Caitlyn’s.
She was too busy trying to figure out what to do with the little girl who had jumped out of the passenger door, aiming a rather large semiautomatic pistol at Caitlyn’s heart.
Caitlyn’s training had her sighting her own Glock at the girl, but she stopped herself from pulling the trigger. The girl was a skinny thing, looked to be around eleven, with twin blond braids and freckles on her nose. She wore a purple jacket with puffy sleeves decorated with a grinning kitty cat with impossibly long whiskers embroidered on the front. The cat’s whiskers crisscrossed right over the girl’s heart, making for a perfect target.
“Put the gun down,” Caitlyn called to her.
“Let my daddy go!” The girl jerked her weapon at Caitlyn.
All eyes turned to the girl. Except her father’s. Schultz used his daughter’s diversion to attempt to escape by running into the woods beside the road. Immediately the sheriff and one of the staties followed, yelling at him to stop.
Caitlyn didn’t move. Didn’t even blink. Her entire universe was filled with the girl and the gun.
The girl had a good stance, looked like she knew how to use the semiautomatic. Even more reason why Caitlyn should shoot her—lethal weapon, not responding to commands, everything in her training told her to take care of the threat. Now.
She was just a kid. If she’d been endangering someone else’s life, Caitlyn would have shot her. But it was only her and the girl on this side of the vehicle. Caitlyn knew it was stupid, risking her own life to save the girl, but she had to try.
“This isn’t helping your father,” Caitlyn told her. It felt like they were the only two people in the universe. Even the springtime serenade provided by birds pecking through the field alongside the horses had vanished, leaving just her and the girl. “What’s your name?”
The girl frowned. For a moment Caitlyn thought she was going to start crying, lay the weapon down. But then Holdeman and the statie dragged Schultz back, now in handcuffs.
The girl straightened, eyes narrowed. With Caitlyn dead center in her aim.
“I said,” her voice tight with anger, “let my daddy go. Now!”
“We can’t do anything until you put the gun down.” Caitlyn’s vision eclipsed to a black-edged tunnel, but she forced herself to break through it and scan the periphery. The other statie had moved to cover the girl from behind. One wrong move and he’d take the girl down for Caitlyn.
It wasn’t going to come to that, she vowed. Releasing one hand from her weapon, she stretched it out to the girl. Twenty feet separated them, but she wanted her to feel like she was closer.
“Your dad is going to be fine, sweetheart.” Damn, she’d forgotten the girl’s name from the briefing. “He wouldn’t want you to get hurt, now, would he?” Or hurt anyone else, she hoped. “Just put the gun down and come here. Then you can go with your dad.”
On the other side of the SUV, the sheriff moved to put Schultz in one of the squads. The girl whirled, stepping back at an angle so she had both Caitlyn and her father in sight. “Leave him alone! Back away, now!”
Time to play hardball. Caitlyn shifted both hands back onto her Glock and leaned forward. “Look at me,” she commanded. The girl obeyed, squinting over the barrel of her pistol. “Feel your fingers going numb? How heavy your gun feels? That’s adrenaline. Look at how your hand is shaking.”
It was working. The girl glanced at her hands knuckled white around her pistol. The gun wavered and she hunched her shoulders to steady it, but it kept trembling.
Caitlyn continued, “Shaking like that, you’ll never hit me. Pull that trigger and the gentleman behind you is going to shoot you dead. Worse, that will make your dad run to help you, and I’ll have to shoot him dead, too. That what you want? Want your dad dead?”
What she wanted the girl to hear was: dead, dead, dead. It must have worked. The girl began crying, shoulders shuddering. She shook her head. But she didn’t lower her weapon.
C’mon, kid. Don’t take all day. Caitlyn wasn’t sure how patient the staties would be.
She kept her voice firm and level. “If you want to stay with your dad, you need to put down the gun and come with me. Now.”
The girl hesitated; blinking hard and fast, glanced at her dad, looked back at Caitlyn, then finally nodded and carefully set her weapon on the ground.
Caitlyn kept her in her sights as one of the staties moved around the front of the SUV and took the kid into custody.
Even after the danger was over, it took Caitlyn a few breaths before her hand was steady enough to holster her own weapon. She sent a quick prayer up into the clear blue Pennsylvania sky. Thankful she didn’t have to kill anyone today. Especially not a little girl who only wanted to save her father.
Copyright © 2013 by CJ Lyons