Submission Details

After the Kill – A Jake Roberts Novel (Book 4)
After the Kill – A Jake Roberts Novel (Book 4)
Cary Allen Stone
Thriller
Yes - full manuscript is available


A terrorist enters Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. His van has enough explosives to bring the terminal ... down.  As Jake Roberts watches Caitland’s flight depart, desperate alerts are made to evacuate the airport. Jake runs to assist the airport police. He learns his best friend, an airline pilot, has been shot twice. Will he be able to rescue him? Mackenzy specializes in serial killers. On a research grant, she works with those confined in Broadmoor Hospital in England. She has a surprise for the most dangerous one. When she returns to San Francisco, will she apply what she learned? In Malibu, Caitland hosts a party for her A-list clients. After the party, Caitland is alone in the house, except for an intruder waiting in the dark. The Malibu police call Jake about an incident at his home. He’s told the "West Koast Killer” is stalking him. Jake goes outside the law to kill the stalker and asks a gang leader he knows to help. They capture the stalker and drive far into the desert late at night. Will Jake pull the trigger?



Chapter 1
1 "No more. I can't do it anymore." Dying was the answer, when you ran out of options. Either someone else pulled the trigger, or you did. He had seen the ice cold, boney finger pointed at him at least a hundred times. He loved his country, and the Special Forces soldier proved it during three back- to-back tours in Iraq and two more in Afghanistan. He was their go-to-guy for explosives. The other soldiers he served with said he was the bravest man in country. His commanding officer recommended him for the Medal of Honor for his actions in one ambush attack. He alone saved his unit, but he refused to accept the commendation. He took a direct hit to his psyche sometime during his last tour. It fucked him up. Inside his shirt, on the chain with his dog tags, was the house key. He had come home to the empty house his parents left him in North Phoenix. They were crushed to death by an eighteen-wheeler with a dozing driver on I­10 when he was in some shithole, covered in leaves and sticks, holding his sniper rifle's crosshairs on an insurgent as he squeezed the trigger. There was no celebration waiting for him. Eric walked around the dust-covered furniture, the kitchen table, and his bedroom that was still the way he left it before his first tour. He stopped at the photo that hung on a living room wall of mom and dad. The regret he had about not returning for his parent's funerals ran deep. He stared at the photo until the first tear streamed down his cheek. "I'm sorry mom, dad. Sorry for going, and sorry for not coming back soon enough." He never told his friends he was back. He didn't want to hear, "I told you so." They were against his volunteering to fight. They didn't see any reason to fight in a two thousand year old war in the Middle East. They said it was another mistake, like Viet Nam. For months, Eric stayed in the house day and night, except for short trips to get food from Safeway, and cases of Jack from the liquor store down the street. When his demons were angry, he'd fall into a drunken rage, and hone his sniper skills by aiming plates, glasses, and empty liquor bottles at a bullseye target he spray-painted on a plaster wall. Target practice ended when he'd pass out on the floor. When the demons were quiet, he would sit with his laptop and write disturbing rants, and manifestos about what he thought of the world. Sometimes, at night, he would sit for hours on a kitchen chair that he dragged to face the framed photo of his parents, illuminated by moonlight that bled through the shades. The photo never spoke to him, held him, or told him how proud they were of their only son. Grasped in one hand was a fifth of Jack. In the other was a semiautomatic pressed against his lower jaw sometimes in his mouth, and other times at his temple. Eric Sutherland made hundreds of calls to an unanswered phone in the V.A. Hospital. He left as many messages and begged to see a psychiatrist, or someone to help him quiet his demons, and nightmares. He believed he was possessed by the devil PTSD. The V.A. never returned his calls. When he walked in the front doors, he was given an appointment six months away. He knew he couldn't keep the demons locked out that long. After another night of cold-sweat nightmares, Eric sat on the edge of the bed. He knew what he had to do. The scenario had run repeatedly through his thoughts for weeks. He showered, shaved, and dressed in his desert combat fatigues, with boots on his ground. The suicide vest he had prepared days earlier went over the camo. He strapped on the shoulder holster with his nine-millimeter semiautomatic, and took the remote detonator off the kitchen table. He packed it into the pouch around his waist. The soldier walked down the hallway, and out of the hall closet retrieved his AR-15, with two full magazines taped together. Eric stopped at the photo of his parents and said goodbye. He smashed the glass with a fist, took the photo then folded it in half. He slid it between his chest and fatigues. He knew it was his last day on earth. "I'm going to convince the V.A. to make it right." He grabbed the keys to his van off the kitchen counter, and walked into the garage. Besides the trips to the food and liquor stores, he had made one other stop. Before he got into the driver's seat, he checked the explosives that filled the back of the van McVeigh- style. Having lost most of his grip on reality, he relied on a single focus to take him where he wanted to go­­ straight to Hell. It was 6:00 a.m. The drive to Sky Harbor Airport would take half an hour. Eric knew blowing up the airport would get everyone's attention. Blowing up the V.A. would only get applause. He backed out of the garage slowly. *** "I want you to stay here, don't leave me." Caitland had seen the same puppy face many times, and knew how Jake felt. "It's only for a few days, Jake. I have to get back so Angelina can sign the contract today. It's a multi- million-dollar deal. I have to close it this afternoon. The studio is going crazy, and Angelina has a small window of time with the kids, besides directing another film project. It's difficult to get a few minutes with her. She's promised to be there," Caitland said. "I don't care. I want you to stay." "Who's going to get Wynter and John settled in? They'll be eaten alive in LA without me." "It's just a few days, Jake. What can happen in a few days?" Wynter said. She didn't understand why Jake had a problem with Caitland's leaving. He never appeared to be insecure about anything. She had a lot to learn about her new business partner. Phoenix was never short of beautiful mornings. Cacti, hunched over from days of staggering dry heat, stood up straight after the monsoon rolled over the valley the night before. As the sun rose higher over the Four Peaks, its rays fired orange and pink beams across the jagged ridges. The sky was clear of clouds, just a canopy of deep blue. At 6:30 a.m., the temperature was pleasant for an Arizona summer day, but that would change to intolerable by noon. A hot air balloon, with vibrant colors, could be seen floating on a gentle desert breeze over the mountains to the north. "Don't forget, I also have the party to get ready for. I have a hundred guests coming, all A-list celebs. You could come with me. That way, I could get the contract closed, while you help Wynter and John settle in, then I could be on your arm at the party," Caitland said. "Somebody has to go back, or else Dad and I will be totally lost," Wynter said. "Why don't you two stay at the house? You can get used to LA, and then I'll find a place with you when I get back," Jake said. "That sounds like a better plan to me. You don't have to worry about these two, Jake. I have it under control. I won't let either of them out of my sight the entire time. I'll make sure Caitland gets on the first flight back after the party," John said. Former Phoenix homicide detective, Wynter Williams, asked two airport police officers she knew to give Jake a courtesy escort through TSA. The two officers recognized Jake from the Bobby Goode shooting two days before. They had no problem bending the rules by walking him past the TSA security lines. Jake wanted to say goodbye to Caitland at her departure gate. Wynter had resigned from Phoenix homicide after the shooting. She was one of the lead investigators on that case. John, Wynter's dad, had retired from Phoenix PD after thirty years in homicide. Both were leaving with Caitland to LA so they could find a place to live. They were going to take charge of Jake's private investigation company, The Roberts Agency. Wynter and John said goodbye to Jake and walked down to the plane. Before Caitland boarded the flight, while in Jake's arms, he leaned close to whisper into her ear. "You know how hard it is for me to be away from you for any amount of time, Cait. Please stay." "Be a good puppy while I'm gone," Caitland said. At the gate, Jake gave Caitland a long kiss goodbye. He hated whenever they were separated. He had another good reason why she shouldn't get on the plane. He needed Caitland to stay, because inside his head, killing Bobby was killing him. In the brief time they were in Phoenix, Jake had become friends with the megastar comedian. In his entire career in law enforcement, twenty- seven years, Jake had taken one other life. It was during a firefight. With Bobby, he was forced to kill a friend. It was hard for him. Caitland and Jake were in Phoenix visiting his childhood best friend. Fred, and his girlfriend Andrea, had moved to Phoenix for his job as an airline pilot. Jake had to stay a few more days. He had to be there to give a deposition for the shooting. Caitland would be back after the party to continue with their mini-vacation. Jake's backstory had many pages. Most were written with pain and sorrow, but recent pages were written with love, ever since he met Caitland. One chapter was about his forced retirement from Atlanta PD's homicide division. He was given a choice­­retire, or face criminal prosecution. Jake went outside the law, beyond the boundaries of legal right and wrong, to capture a serial killer named Jared Hamilton. Jake retired, and left for the West Coast with Caitland. He needed the change of scenery. Caitland coaxed him into writing authentic crime fiction novels, something he knew well from living it. With her connections, Caitland was instrumental in helping Jake become an author on the New York Times best sellers list. She also found him consultant gigs on film lots involving police tactics. To keep his hand in investigations, Jake opened the Roberts Agency. Caitland did everything she could to keep him away from being in law enforcement ever again. After the plane was boarded and pushed back from the terminal to start engines. Jake and his police escorts walked out from the D gates. The two officers asked if he faced any repercussions for the Bobby Goode shooting. He told them what he thought would happen, that no charges would be filed against him. *** At 6:45 a.m., a burgundy Chevy utility van drove up the Departure lane to Terminal Four at Sky Harbor Airport. Outside the terminal, cars and SUVs occupied the two departure lanes. Families and individuals unloaded and carried bags. Some checked their bags. Parents hugged their children, and gave them stern warnings about their behavior while on a school trip. Tears fell for a few of the kids. Most of them had anxious smiles because they would be free of mom and dad for a week. Two lovers stood in a timeless embrace. With bags slung over their shoulders, the travelers squeezed through the terminal doors. They made intermediate stops at bathrooms, and the food court. After passing through the TSA checkpoint, they found their departure gates. The rusty van continued to inch forward along the congested lanes looking for a place to park. The driver saw a brief opening and went for it. He parked right in front of the entrance doors. The traffic police kept things moving, at times threatening citations for those who tied up the lanes of vehicles. When the officer noted no one exiting the Chevy van to off load baggage, he walked from the car behind the van. He would decide if the driver got a warning, or a ticket when he observed the driver's disposition. He glanced through the tinted rear windows, as he approached the van. The figure of the driver hadn't moved, and seemed to be preoccupied as the officer reached the side window. A knuckle rap on the window drew the driver's attention. The window rolled down slowly. Just as the officer was about to speak, he took an R.I.P. nine-millimeter shot to the forehead. The Radically Invasive Projectile had a unique hollow point design. It caused greater damage at impact. It shredded flesh as it passed through the body. The officer stumbled backwards and fell. He was dead before he hit the pavement. Blood shot straight up from the head wound, and spread from behind his head. The sound of the gunshot made passenger heads rise up like a frightened herd. They panicked when they saw the officer. Some dropped to the ground, others crawled on hands and knees toward safety behind their vehicles. Parents covered their babies and young children, willing to take a bullet to save them. The fallen officer's partner was working the west entrance to Terminal Four. He drew his service weapon and ran toward the sound of gunfire. He wasn't sure what happened, or why. Halfway there he saw his partner lying on the ground. He skidded to a halt when he saw the driver's side door of the van open, and a man exit wearing combat fatigues. The officer drew down on the man, and shouted for him to freeze and drop his weapon, but there were too many civilians, and he was too far away to make the shot. Eric didn't care about the officer's command. Amid the screaming and panic, he displayed no emotion. With his AR-15 slung over his shoulder, he calmly walked toward the double doors of the terminal. The young officer, with just over a year with the department, turned his attention away from the gunman and concentrated on his partner. The officer's heart beat like a jackhammer. He knelt down, looked into his partner's dilated eyes, and knew it was over for him. He then realized he was so focused on his dead partner that he failed to alert his fellow officers inside the terminal of the approaching gunman. He reached for the radio microphone on his shoulder. "901-Hotel, officer down! I need an ambulance on the north side of Terminal Four." Seconds later, the call was followed by another one from an officer inside. "All units. Shots fired inside Terminal Four. Single male suspect is in TSA checkpoint Charlie. Multiple wounded and dead." After hearing the details of the call, the two officers with Jake drew their weapons, and ran toward the TSA checkpoint. Jake ran with them. He had been in law enforcement too long not to assist. As they rushed to the checkpoint, other officers who responded flanked them. Jake was the only one unarmed, but it wouldn't stop him from trying to help. The Public Address system warned passengers in the terminal to find cover, or to evacuate if possible. The sound of gunfire got louder as Jake and the officers ran to the checkpoint. Inside Terminal Four, the gunman walked toward the line of passengers at TSA checkpoint Charlie. He unslung the AR-15 from his shoulder as he walked. The self- absorbed passengers checked their tickets as they moved forward in the line. The first one to see him was a senior TSA agent, who sat at a podium, and checked tickets against IDs. The agent looked into the man's cold eyes, and saw the weapon pointed at him. He started a prayer before two rounds penetrated the agent's chest. The burst of gunfire turned heads. The smell of cordite wafted through the area. Passengers fell to the ground, and tried to cover themselves to prevent becoming victims. They crawled away in opposite directions leaving an irregular path for the gunman to walk through. It reminded Eric how Moses led the Israelites through the God-parted Red Sea. The thought didn't slow him as he continued his indiscriminate slaughter of the innocents. He left behind his own Red Sea. The wounded cried for help. Others died immediately. Lying across their stroller were two-year-old twins, their bodies shredded by the gunfire. Their mother saw the murder of her children and screamed. She brought the attention of the shooter to her. He shot the mother a heartbeat later. Some of his victim's blood splattered across Eric's face. He used to wipe it off during his first tour in Iraq. After the second tour, he learned to accept the warmth of it, and inhaled the metallic tang. He emptied the remaining rounds of the first magazine into the walls and ceiling, to alert those ahead to get out of his way. Shards of glass and aluminum rained down on the passengers. He rotated and inserted the full magazine. Everyone, including the unarmed TSA agents, ran for cover by the time he reached the screening devices. He paused in the middle of the checkpoint to see if anyone planned to interfere. There was no resistance. Still walking, he left behind four more wounded, and two more dead TSA agents, in his turbulent wake. He knew exactly where he intended to go, but diverted to his backup plan, when he saw several officers on the run coming at him from the left. He fired a burst at them from the AR-15. They fired back until they saw he wore a suicide vest. He detoured down into the low-numbered C gates. By then, several radio calls had gone out, including the ones Jake and the others heard. The gunman stood in the center of the concourse. Finding cover behind a pillar, a large, African- American male pilot decided to rush the gunman. The pilot knew he had to try to take the gunman down. He believed he could delay the gunman until help arrived. It was a courageous act, but a fruitless one. The gunman let the pilot come within ten feet before he fired twice. The first round ripped through the pilot's left knee. He fell to the ground and let out a scream of agony. The pilot placed his hands around his knee to stop the bleeding. A second round pierced his back and exited through his chest. Blood streamed out of the pilot's wounds. His pressed, crisp white shirt turned crimson. The First Officer lay still on the floor, not a sound passed from his lips. He went unconscious. The Golden Hour clock, a gift from his Creator, began to count down. The gunman stood at ground zero inside the concourse. He surveyed the cowering passengers and airline personnel. An elderly man, deaf since birth, made his way out of the men's room with his cleaning cart, unaware of what had happened. His attention turned to his next stop, when he saw the gunman holding the weapon in the center of the concourse. The gunman pointed his weapon to the ground telling the old man to get on the floor. The old man did as directed. It made no sense, because Eric knew the old man and everyone else, including himself, would die when he pulled the lanyard. A soldier, also in desert camouflage fatigues, covered his wife, daughter, and newborn son. He, like the pilot, knew he had to do something. He knew the gunman was ex-military. His wife saw what was in his eyes, grasped his arm, and pulled hard. She told him "no." He kissed her forehead, and looked at his daughter, and his new son. He wasn't sure he would see them again. Corporal Stanton stood up, and interlocked his fingers behind his head hoping to convince the gunman he was not a threat. His wife's pleading turned the attention of the gunman to face the brave corporal. The gunman aimed, but did not discharge his weapon. "Do you have something to say, corporal?" "Yes sir," Stanton said. "Say it." "I don't know why you're doing this. The people in this concourse are civilians. They don't understand. They just want to be able to see their loved ones. I got back from Afghanistan a few days ago. I understand. I know what you're feeling. I feel those things too. There's help available for us, all you have to do is ask." "Ask who, the V.A.? They don't answer calls." The corporal didn't want to argue the point. He just wanted to diffuse the desperate situation. "If you need someone to be a hostage, let it be me. I'm a soldier, like you. Please, let these civilians go." At least his family would be safe if his request was granted. "You are not a soldier like me." Stanton unlocked his fingers from behind his head and lowered his hands. "So, corporal, you'll take a bullet and everything will be fine?" "Yes, haven't you had enough killing?" "No, corporal, so lay down and cover your family." The corporal remained standing a brief time, then knelt down and covered them. The look of hope on the faces in the concourse melted away. Eric surveyed the concourse. There were people huddled together behind whatever they could find. He stopped his turn, and pointed the AR-15 at a flight attendant behind a gate podium. He told her to come to him. The flight attendant shook with fear as tears fell from her begging green eyes. "No, please." "Now!" The menacing look he gave her said he was a second away from pulling the trigger. She hesitated, stared at the weapon, and walked toward him fearing every move he made. She looked at the pilot lying face down on the floor. She was scheduled to fly with Fred in a few hours. The gunman told her to stand next to him, and get down on her knees. After she knelt, he fired the weapon over her head, and around the entire concourse. He shredded anything, or anyone, higher than waist level. She let out a terrified scream. When the second magazine was empty, he tossed the AR-15 to the floor. He slid the ring of the lanyard attached to the suicide vest over his left hand. From the pouch on his belt, he removed and armed the remote detonator. From his shoulder holster, he drew out the semiautomatic. He told the flight attendant to stand. She rose on weak legs. Her heart raced. She felt the weapon placed against her throat. From Ground Zero, it was time for Eric to talk to whoever was in command at the entrance to the C gates. Every law enforcement officer had his, or her, service weapon drawn. They hunkered down in strategic positions in the main terminal. The gunman was too far away to take a shot. They waited for the Phoenix SAU team to arrive. Each officer analyzed the calm man who looked back shielded by the flight attendant. Radios were alive with calls adding to the intense confusion. Jake, and the officers he was with, arrived. He went immediately to the senior officer, a sergeant. The sergeant had found cover out of the line of fire, and gave commands to the officers with him. The sergeant's back was to Jake, so he pulled on the man's shoulder to face him. "No way! You sure can find trouble," the sergeant said. "You of all people should know trouble finds me." The sergeant was a man Jake knew well. No longer a homicide detective, Vince Farina was Wynter's partner on the Bobby Goode murder case. As a reward for his work on the case, Vince earned a sergeant slot at the airport. He planned to live out the last two years he had before retirement, off the mean streets­­no more visits to Pablo's house with Jake. "Why are you here? I thought you went back to Los Angeles to continue being a famous writer," Vince said. "I was saying goodbye to Caitland, Wynter, and her dad off for LA in D concourse when I heard the call over the radio. What's this all about, Vince?" "Well, we have a gunman." Vince pointed around the corner. "He killed a traffic cop outside then came into the terminal, and killed a few civilians, and TSA folks. On a threat level of A to Z, I'd say this one reaches M­­ motherfucker." Vince looked into Jake's eyes. "There's something else. A pilot in the concourse tried to rush the gunman. He's a large black man, and he was shot twice. That's him on the floor. We don't know if he's dead, or alive." Vince waited for Jake's reaction. It took Jake a second to process what he heard then he swung around and looked down the concourse. He recognized the pilot on the floor instantly, knew him all of his life. Vince forcibly held Jake and kept him from running to his friend. He released Jake after he promised not to run. "Control it, Jake, stay focused." Outside, the airport police cleared the traffic lanes and established a perimeter. The Chevy van remained. Sirens heard outside the terminal got louder. A sea of blue and red light bars, with strobes, on emergency vehicles, surrounded both sides of Terminal Four. Police officers swarmed every floor, rushing everyone they could find to safety. Yellow crime scene tape flapped in the wind. The EMTs in the first ambulance to reach the scene, removed the dead officer's body. As one of the EMTs closed the rear doors, he looked across at the dead officer's partner, sitting on the curb, next to the van. The EMT thought he might be in shock and approached him to ask if he needed medical attention. "No, I'm okay." Seeing the mobile command center approaching, the young officer stood up, and tried to gather his thoughts. As he did, he noticed a scent in the air. It got heavier as he rose. He followed the scent to the back of the van. It smelled like his grandfather's farm­ ­ fertilizer. The rear doors were locked. He took out his Maglite to see through the tinted windows. What he saw made him step back. The department's mobile command center parked behind the van. Inside were Police Chief Thomas Burns, Assistant Chief Michael Weston, and Commander Richard Dawkins. The command center's computers were connected by satellite to the FBI's Virtual Command Center. Law Enforcement Online provided a state-of-the-art communications information sharing portal, they were also connected to the FBI's VICAP, or Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. As soon as the side door opened, the officer pushed his way inside. "Sirs, the van is full of fertilizer. I saw what looks like a detonator with a flashing red light." They left the command center to verify what the officer said. After a careful look through the van's tinted windows, the chief spoke. "Get these vehicles out of here now. Call the experts. Let's move!" Within minutes, all vehicles surrounding the van sped to a safer distance. A safety zone was established. Police SUVs barricaded entrances and exits to the airport. The bomb squad, and the closest operational SAU mobile unit arrived together. The other SAU mobile units in Maricopa County were still enroute. Sheriff cruisers filled in the few empty parking spaces in the safe zone. K-9 officers held tight on the leashes of anxious German shepherds. The C958 captain, the terrorism liaison officer, maintained direct contact with the Deployment Battalion Chief and the Phoenix Fire Alarm Room. He made sure that all fire personnel remained clear of the inner perimeter, and the forward and isolated zones. Phoenix Fire CR vans and personnel were in standby. Medi-Vac helicopters set down in strategic landing areas. Out of the back of the SAU van, eight men in full tactical gear jumped to the pavement. They wore body armor, Kevlar vests, and helmets, with handguns strapped to their thighs. Communications with command were through earpieces with boom mikes attached. Held against their chests were rifles carried with index fingers off the triggers. The first Phoenix PD officers on the scene owned the territory. When SAU Lieutenant Bob Hart arrived, he took operational control over all other agencies. He listened while Dawkins briefed him on what they found in the van, and that a sergeant was relaying information from inside the terminal with eyes on the suspect. Hart directed the bomb squad to diffuse the explosives in the van. His team would breach the terminal through the doors to the east, and backtrack. He radioed for an update from the sergeant. "Is the suspect still on the move?" "No, sir, he's standing dead center in the C gates, with a female hostage in front of him as cover. He has a weapon at her throat. Civilians around the gates took cover. He looks like he's making his stand there, sir," Vince said. "Is the rest of the terminal evacuated?" "Far as I know. I'll send out a second team to take another look." "Sergeant, SAU will be entering the terminal soon. When we're in position, I want all officers to evacuate from the terminal, and that means you too, sergeant." "I can live with that," Vince said. Jake looked hard at Vince. No way would Jake bail out, and let more innocent people die. Moreover, there was no chance in hell he would leave Fred. It would take another SAU team to drag him away. Vince covered his radio. "What? They're the professionals. It's what they do­­the elite of the department." "My friend is down there. I'm not leaving." Vince did not want to stay at all, but he relented for Jake. He ordered the officers who arrived with Jake to evacuate with the others then he radioed Hart they were clear. He snarled at Jake. "Every time you show up, I'm that much closer to losing my pension." Hart received a diagram of Terminal Four. While he spoke, he pointed to positions he wanted his team to take. The disciplined team watched. His tone was direct, but controlled. It was always better to slow things down­­mistakes happened in white heat moments. The scenario they were in was fluid­­ explosive. "We're going to treat this perp as a professional, albeit unstable. He has a mission he wants to complete. When Dorsey gets here, she can try to talk him down, but if he thinks we're playing him, he might figure­­ what the fuck." Gina Dorsey was SAU's chief negotiator with a huge reputation for success. In her twenty years as a negotiator, she let people vent, until their emotional stress dissipated. They often surrendered afterwards without firing a shot. Hart was hoping that was how it would turn out in the terminal. "Grafton, you take up a position here, and Willis you here. Let me know what you see." Hollywood created SWAT snipers to be shooters. In the real world, they watched suspects through Nightforce scopes attached to Remington 700 rifles and relayed information. They were the last resort if authorized to take the shot. "Let's move, gentlemen." The team ran to the east end of the terminal and breached the entrance. As they advanced, they would split up, and cover potential threat areas. Grafton and Willis knew exactly where they needed to go. After a brief conference with his team, an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician, suited up in the bulky bomb disposal suit, with the help of his partner. The suit, made of state-of-the-art ballistic materials, protected him, but he knew there wasn't any foolproof protection. Shrapnel could always find a vulnerable place in the suit. The EOD tech took along a Hammerspike XL, developed Chris Trapp, a Phoenix tactical officer, to breach the tempered vehicle glass with one strike. He could then reach inside to unlock the van's doors. The other things he brought with him were expertise, discipline, rock-steady hands, and balls. The cumbersome suit made it difficult to move fast. He looked like an astronaut walking on the moon. He approached the rear doors of the van, and took out one of the windows with the Hammerspike. After opening the doors, he studied what he saw. He determined any attempt to disarm it without the remote control wasn't possible. Sitting beside it was a second trigger device. He radioed back. "What you thought was ANFO, ammonium nitrate/fuel oil, was wrong. ANFO was what they tried to bring the World Trade Center down the first time. This is ANNM, ammonium nitrate and nitromethane. It's much easier to detonate. McVeigh used it to take down the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The amount of ANNM here will take down this entire terminal, and if reaches the underground fuel lines, it will take everything down for a half mile, including the fuel farm. The ANNM cannot be disarmed without the remote. Whoever constructed this knew what he was doing." "I'm standing inside one of those Las Vegas casino implosions. This is fucking great!" Vince said. The C958 directed the Sky Harbor airport's fire department to evacuate to a safer distance. Hart advised his men the threat alert had elevated to bright, fucking red. More ambulances and EMTs arrived. After Hart's team cleared the TSA checkpoint, a limited number of EMTs entered the main terminal to treat the wounded. As soon as they were stable, they were evacuated. Emergency rooms at all area hospitals were stocking medical carts, and preparing trauma rooms to meet any need. ER personnel stood silent while they waited. They tried to prepare themselves for the horrors they would see. Air Traffic Controllers diverted all incoming air traffic. They separated the news helicopters from the police and Medi-Vac helicopters in the airspace overhead. Sky Harbor Airport went into full lockdown. Ground crews and baggage handlers were told to evacuate. When additional SAU teams arrived, Hart deployed them to the exterior Jetbridge stairs to evacuate passengers inside planes parked at the gates. The flight and cabin crews assisted. A flood of passengers and crew ran as fast as they could across the tarmac, taxiways, and runways­­appropriately named in the situation. Radios squawked when the passengers had reached a safe distance. Print and broadcast reporters from every media outlet were ordered to stay behind police barricades. News trucks with station logos occupied a far corner of the safe zone. FBI Special Agent, John Kelly arrived with agents in FBI windbreakers from the local office. He told Hart the FBI's Hostage Response Team was already on its way from Quantico and would arrive in just over three hours. Hart expressed his appreciation for their help then he told Kelly it was a Phoenix jurisdictional matter. Hart received a radio call from Grafton saying both he, and Willis, had sights on the suspect. "He's wearing a suicide vest. His right hand holds a semiautomatic, and it's against a flight attendant's throat. His left hand has a lanyard and remote," Grafton said. "Do either of you have a clear shot," Hart said. "Negative," Grafton said. "Negative," Willis said. "All right, I'm coming in, I need updates." Hart added a Kevlar vest over his shirt. He secured a semiautomatic holster to his thigh. The temperature, outside reached one hundred degrees. The EOD technician sweltered in his protective gear, as he moonwalked back to the air-conditioned command center as fast as possible. He remained in the armor in case he needed to return to the van. He drank several bottles of water. Gina Dorsey arrived and was briefed by Hart. She was already in tactical gear. They were going in as close as possible to where the gunman was. "Sure hope you can talk this guy out, Gina, he's about to bring Armageddon down on Sky Harbor." They exchanged looks and understood the severity of what they faced. They entered where the gunman had, and started toward the concourse. Both monitored every update Grafton and Willis made. They walked passed the last EMT's finishing up with the wounded then through the TSA checkpoint. On the other side of the checkpoint, standing behind a wall, Hart saw Vince and another man. "Why are you still here, Sergeant? I told you to evacuate. It was an order." Hart pointed at Jake. "And who's the civilian?" "I understand, Lieutenant, but this man refused to leave. I stayed with him until you arrived," Vince said. "Arrest him! Drag him the fuck out of here if you have to," Hart said. He looked straight at Jake. "You're interfering in police business," Hart said. "Detective Roberts shot the perp in the comedy club shooting last week. He saved my ex-partner Wynter. I know you're in command, but I recommend he stay, sir. It would be a mistake to make him leave. He's a real asset." Hart and Dorsey evaluated the civilian. "I'm retired from the job, twenty-seven years as a homicide detective in Atlanta. I'm on vacation." "Then you should know how this works. Sergeant, take this man out now!" Jake interrupted. "Sir, the pilot lying on the floor, covered in blood, is my best friend. I'm not leaving without him." Hart sized up Jake who reached out a hand for Hart to shake. Dorsey saw the look in Jake's eyes for his friend. Before Hart could say another word, Dorsey interrupted. "Bob, he's ex-law enforcement, one of us. I'll keep him with me and out of the way." Hart was reluctant, and thought he would regret allowing Jake to stay. "Okay, Roberts, you can stay, to observe. Stay back as far as possible with Gina. She's our best negotiator. You don't have any weapons do you?" "No sir." Hart looked down the concourse at the gunman. A radio call came. Those standing around Hart heard the report about the explosives in the van. "Did everyone hear that?" Hart said. "Sir, those planes parked around the concourse are full of jet-A," Jake said. Hart radioed to Grafton and Willis. "Have you seen any confederates? Are we certain he's alone?" "We've been watching for a while now. He appears to be a lone wolf," Grafton said. "Jake's from Atlanta, he's the only Confederate here," Vince said. No one laughed. Vince looked at his shoes. "Whose move is it, sir?" Vince said. Hart, Dorsey and Jake exchanged looks. "Ours, he's waiting for us," Hart said. He turned to Dorsey while he spoke to the two snipers. "Gina is here, we're right behind you. I want you to stay on the gunman. Has anyone got a shot?" "Sir, if we take a shot, he could reflex, and press the remote trigger. He's also wearing that vest. If he moves a pubic hair, we might hit the vest then everything blows," Grafton said. Jake could see Hart's stress level spiking. "He hasn't blown it yet. He wants something. Gina, we need to talk to him, find out what he wants." The gunman stood disciplined and defiant, with his gun still pressed against the flight attendant's throat. An unknown number of cowering passengers, airline and airport workers, surrounded him. "What's your name?" Her hands shook. She was breathing so fast, she could have hyperventilated. "Wendy Moore." "Stop crying, Wendy, I need you to do something for me. I only want you to deliver a message to the men you see up there." He pointed his weapon at the small army at the top of the concourse. She thought she could reach freedom, if she did as he said. "Okay." "I want you to tell them I want a news crew to come to me." Wendy hesitated, and searched his cold eyes for the truth. "Just tell them you want a news crew, right?" "The sooner you tell them, the faster this will end." Wendy knew she had no choice. Eric gave her an obligatory smile. She knew she had to get moving, so she turned away from him, and walked. She kept her eyes on the rescuers. Dorsey had to stop her, because there was no doubt in her mind the gunman would kill the flight attendant to make a point. "I'm going down there," Dorsey said. "Wait," Hart said. "I can't, she'll be dead in a second." She pushed past Hart and Jake. The gunman saw the movement, and told Wendy, only a few feet away from him, to stop and come back. He saw a female SAU officer walk toward him down the long hallway. Along the way, she laid down her semiautomatic on the floor to be retrieved on her way back. "Hold fire!" Hart said. It was a critical moment. Jake, Vince, and Hart watched Dorsey raise her hands, as she got closer to the gunman. He held the semiautomatic against Wendy, and used her as a shield. He let Dorsey get to within fifteen feet then commanded her to stop. "You must have read my mind, officer." "I'm Gina Dorsey, chief negotiator for Phoenix PD. What should I call you?" "The Hand of God." Dorsey tried to slow her breathing, and appear calm. She had been in many hostage situations before but had never acted on impulse. She, and the team, had always coordinated before she approached a suspect. "Officer Dorsey, I'm not here to negotiate with you. I have one demand. I want a news crew. I have something to say. I want them in fifteen minutes, or we all die." Dorsey never took her eyes off him. She spoke into the radio on her shoulder. She told the command center to send in the requested news crew as Eric asked. Hart decided to send two undercover tactical members as the news crew. Eric heard over Dorsey's radio that they would comply, but it would take longer than fifteen minutes. The reason they gave was the distance to the safety zone. "Tell them again. You now have fourteen minutes." She relayed the information again, and the urgency of the situation. "Thank you, Gina. Now walk back." "Can we just­­" "No, we can't." She turned to walk back. "Does anyone have a shot?" Hart said. Only Willis thought he might, but as Gina walked, she crossed his line of sight. "I authorize the use of lethal force," Hart said. There were two loud bursts of gunfire. Both rounds struck Dorsey, one in her right shoulder, and the other in her lower back, just below her Kevlar vest. She fell forward to the floor. Her blood flowed over and down into a pool along the contour of her body. Eric placed the still hot weapon against Wendy's throat. It burned her neck. Wendy tried to push his arm. He pressed it harder into her neck and positioned her in front of him. "Fuck!" Hart said. "Sonofabitch!" Vince said. Jake continued staring at the gunman. He came up with a plan and grabbed Hart's arm. "Not now, Roberts!" "Listen. Can your snipers sever his wrist with the remote?" "What?" "Can they do it?" "Why?" "I'm going down there." "No, you're not!" "Yes, I am, and if I can distract him as long as Gina did, your snipers can take off his hand, and end the explosives threat. Send one of your men up the Jetbridge behind him. He can call ready and coordinate the kill shot." Hart had seen Grafton shoot a gun out of a suspect's hand at one hundred yards during another SAU operation. He asked both snipers to target the gunman's wrist with the remote. Hart thought a moment then radioed for tactical officer Rogne. In less than a minute, Rogne stood next to Hart. "Sir?" "Get down to the tarmac. Come up on a Jetbridge behind him. When you're ready, call the shot. All three of you will take the shot together." He received confirmation from all three. Vince interrupted. "Rogne, the door code from the Jetbridge into the terminal is 7­5­3, got it? 7­5­3. If you open the door to the terminal, and it's not disarmed, the alarm will go off, and he'll have a chance to pull the rip cord!" "Understood, 7­5­3." "Jake, are you ready?" Hart said. "I'll distract him by checking on your officer, and then Fred. Tell your men not to fire until I bend down to check on Fred. He didn't give us much time." Jake knew he was taking a big chance. He hadn't worked with the SAU. He'd go down into the concourse, and do his best to distract the gunman, maybe negotiate a way out, or hug the floor while the bullets flew. He did it in Atlanta more than once. "You are way the fuck out of your mind," Vince said. "So I've been told. I'd do the same for you, Vince." Vince was surprised by Jake's remark. Jake looked back at him. "Tell Caitland, I­­" "You tell her yourself. I don't make domestic house calls any more," Vince said. The more Hart thought about it, the more he knew Jake was right. It was the only play. He waited to hear that Rogne was in position. Jake looked at the gunman and took a deep breath. He tried to slow his breathing. He wiped his sweating palms. He gave a half-smile to Hart then started toward the gunman. What are you thinking, Roberts? I'm thinking Fred's down there. The EOD technician, still suited up, rode inside the protected tug marked Bomb Squad. The trailer behind the tug carried the bomb disposal unit. The tech entered the terminal, while Jake and Hart debated Jake's plan. He was close to them when Jake started his death march. Vince saw the EOD tech, and briefed him. Inside the Jetbridge, Rogne squeezed the door handle and rotated it. He stayed low. Once inside, he crawled behind a gate podium. He held a finger to his mouth when several passengers stared at him. He scoped the back of the gunman's head. Bobby Goode's face flashed in Jake's thoughts then disappeared. As he got closer to the gunman, he stopped to check on Dorsey. He felt for a pulse, it was weak. He acted indifferent toward her. He wanted the gunman to notice his disrespect for the cops. Rogne heard the gunman's unwavering voice talk to Jake. "Far enough." The gunman told Jake to raise his hands in the air, interlock his fingers behind his head, and to turn 360°. Jake complied. "Who are you? A reporter? Where's the camera? I'm down to the two minute warning." "I'm a reporter for Fox 10 News. The cop standing up there in the Kevlar vest is in charge. He sent me down here, because I got to the terminal first. My man went back for an extra battery pack he left in the cop car that drove us here. He didn't want to piss you off in the middle of taping over a dead battery. He's a minute, or two, behind me. I came down here to find out what you want to say so we can do it right the first take. Our broadcast conversation could get me an anchor spot with a major news outlet." "Are you serious? You risked dying, so you could be on network news?" "Or cable news. My station is a Fox affiliate, so I might get to report the news sitting next to one of their hot, leggy anchors with big tits. Now that's worth taking a chance for I'd say. I covered ISIS in Iraq. I could have been killed over there, and end up with no hot blond co-anchor." Eric tried to determine the sanity of the reporter while his own sanity was teetering out of control. Jake pointed at Fred's body. "The lady cop is barely alive. Can I see if the pilot is alive?" "Go ahead." Jake knew the knee shot wouldn't kill Fred. He wasn't sure if the shot to his back went through his heart. Jake lowered his hands, and walked to where Fred lay. "Make it quick, and how long does it take to get a battery?" Jake maintained strong eye contact with the gunman. He saw the man becoming more impatient, and agitated. "You've got two fucking minutes for your camera guy to get here, or you will take a bullet to the head and they can get someone who has batteries." Jake had delayed the gunman as long as he could. He knew he was out of time. Fred's breathing was so shallow it looked like he wasn't breathing at all. If the snipers weren't able to take the shots, it was over for him, and everyone else. He stooped down to check Fred's pulse. Fred twitched and surprised Jake. He saw Fred open his eyes then go unconscious again. Fred's Golden Hour was at half past almost dead. The pain was unbearable. He needed medical attention immediately. Another ten minutes and he would be dead from the loss of blood. Three shots rang out, and the thunderous blasts reverberated throughout the concourse. The huddled passengers screamed. Jake saw Eric's face fly off followed by brains, blood, and skull fragments. He also saw the severed wrist. Jake ran to cover the lanyard and remote isolating them until the bomb squad got there. Wendy ran up toward the main terminal until she ran into the arms of Vince. The rest of Hart's team descended into the concourse. They still had weapons ready and verified the remaining hostages weren't confederates. The team evacuated the passengers down the Jetbridges. Stanton made sure his wife and children evacuated then he ran toward Jake to help. "I have this, sir, please help the wounded." Jake placed a hand on Stanton's shoulder then went to Fred. On his way down into the concourse, Hart radioed for the EMTs and stopped at Gina to apply first aid. She was a strong woman and he didn't want to lose her. The EOD tech waddled to the dead gunman. The EMTs arrived and went to work on Gina and Fred. Once they were stabilized, they were placed onto gurneys and evacuated. Hart approached Rogne who stood over the gunman, rifle still on target. "Good work, Jeramy." Grafton and Willis came up behind Hart. "Good work, gentlemen." The team cleared the area. Keeping the area uncontaminated for evidence collection was impossible. It didn't matter. The gunman wasn't going to a trial. He had a non-stop ticket straight to Hell. "Area's secure, Lieutenant," Willis said. "Good work, clear a path for the EOD tech to take the explosives out of here." The EOD tech took the lanyard and remote from Stanton then disarmed the vest, and removed it from around the gunman. He was all too familiar with suicide vests having disarmed many in Iraq. He took the bloody lanyard still held by Eric's hand and laid it on the vest. He analyzed the remote before he turned off the switch. He radioed to his partner outside by the bomb disposal transport. "Is it still illuminated?" he said. "Lights out, boss. I'm going to cut wires now." The technician told Hart they would still treat the vest as if it was hot. Hart told him there was a clear path to the transport. Jake thanked Stanton for his help then told him to go find his family. As Stanton moved toward one of the Jetbridge doors, he heard his name. "You're a brave man, soldier," Jake said. Vince sent Wendy off with one of the EMTs then sat down on a chair while he waited for his pulse to slow. Hart walked with the technician and Jake out of the terminal. Rogne, Grafton, Willis followed. The tech's partner, also in protective gear held the pressure lid open. After the vest was carefully placed inside, he locked the lid down tight. The EOD tech that brought out the bomb remained standing on the rig, and held on to a side handle. His partner got into the tug and drove to an isolated area on the airfield where planes parked when they received bomb threats. The tech on the transport waved goodbye. A third bomb squad vehicle, a tow truck, took the van away. The threat level dropped from bright, fucking red, to chill out. Jake and Hart stood together and watched the transport. Two ambulances were preparing to take Fred and Dorsey to the hospital. All the rest of the emergency vehicles returned to the terminal. Special Agent Kelly radioed Hart that the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team had touched down on Runway 8. "The cavalry's finally here," Hart said. Jake smirked at Hart. No one in law enforcement liked the FBI. "Where do you plan to go on your next vacation, Roberts?" Hart said. "Thanks for letting me go to my friend." "Wasn't any way to stop you, was there?" Jake smiled. "Looks like they're ready to transport Fred, I'm going to ride along with them." Jake climbed into the ambulance. The driver turned on all the exterior lights, and added an annoying wailing siren. As they pulled away from the terminal, the pain in Jake's neck and shoulder muscles increased. The EMT sitting next to Jake did a quick evaluation of him. Jake looked through the rear windows. He was glad he didn't have to take part in the investigation. As he rode in the ambulance, Jake's thoughts wandered. It seemed like there were more psychopaths loose in the world. They were different, not organized crime wiseguys, or gang members. The latest ones had delusions of selfrighteousness. Some deranged individuals hid behind their own twisted versions of right and wrong, or religion. Still others felt life had cheated them. Then there were psychopaths like Jared Hamilton. Jake hadn't classified the killer with no face yet. He placed his hand over Fred's. He heard a groan.
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Chapter 2
2 The young traffic officer on the scene would normally open the Murder Log, but since he was a material witness, another officer took responsibility. He logged all those who entered and left the terminal during the investigation. Detectives had taken statements from the wounded by the triage area. They caught up with their fellow investigators at the Terminal doors. They waited until cleared to go into the terminal. They all wore latex gloves and medical booties over their shoes. Each had a pocketful of paper and plastic evidence bags. They would work from the outside in until they reached ground zero where the dead killer lay. Police photographers, from the various precincts, entered first. They used Panoscan cameras to get a 360° digital photo of the area. Nikons and Canons shot the rest. It looked like a lightning storm with the flash blasts. They documented the scene. After they left, the investigators and forensics technicians went inside to comb for evidence. Every investigator became sickened when they saw the twin babies. Only a short distance away, their mother's hands reached for them from where she died. Dr. Clifford Baker, the Chief Medical Examiner of Maricopa County, would probe and dissect the dead later in the morgue. Baker had an impeccable reputation and trained under Dr. Michael Baden. He was in the terminal and pronounced the dead at the scene. He only needed to look at the shattered clock on the terminal wall to establish time of death. Later, Dr. Baker would supervise the identification of the dead by the families. A priest found his way inside and gave the dead their last rites. Baker decided to take the job offered to him at the pain management clinic when he was done with the autopsies. After the sound of gunfire and screams for help, the quiet was eerie. Blood covered most of the floor, some of it still moist. Blood splatters were in too many places to count. The Crime Scene Technicians collected, bagged, and tagged all evidence including victim's personal belongings. Investigators placed numbered cones where empty shells lay. The gunman's AR-15 and semiautomatic went to Ballistics. Two investigators recovered airport surveillance tapes. CSTs catalogued what the found into the Evidence Report Form. One CST carried the plastic freezer bag containing Eric Sutherland's face. Everyone paused when the gunman's body-bagged remains rolled past. They didn't know who the shooter was, or why he did it. They just knew he was stopped. *** As the ambulance ran every red light to St. Joseph's Hospital, Jake watched Fred's eyes the entire time. He couldn't remember how many times he made the same ride with ex-partners after a shooting. This time was different. He watched a lifelong friend. He held Fred's hand hoping positive energy would flow to him. Jake wasn't going to let him die. St. Joseph's had the necessary tools and skills to keep Fred alive. Their trauma care was one of the best in Phoenix. If Fred survived the shooting, and the ride to the hospital, Jake thought, he had better than a fifty-fifty chance. When the ambulance came to an abrupt halt in front of the Emergency Room entrance, Jake felt a slight squeeze from Fred's hand. Within seconds, Fred was offloaded and wheeled into the waiting arms of the ER doctors and nurses. Head nurse Wilma Conley pushed Jake aside and pointed to the waiting room, where he could sit with the relatives of the other victims. He stood in the middle of the hallway and watched until a rapid left turn took Fred to Trauma One. He walked up to the double doors and watched anyway. In Trauma Two, doctors and nurses prepared Gina for surgery. In the hallway, it looked like a cop convention. Burns, Weston, and Hart's SAU team, paced outside the double doors and waited for news about their fallen colleague. They followed when she was taken to surgery. Hart arrived and joined them. He asked if they had heard anything from the doctor. Rogne pointed at Jake down the hall. Hart walked over and stood next to Jake. "How's he doing?" Jake's professional detached demeanor failed him. His eyes moistened, and he tried to cover his shaking hands. It was difficult for Jake to speak. The lieutenant understood, and gave Jake some space. Before he went back, he wished Fred a speedy recovery. He got a nod from Jake. The doctors and nurses worked at a feverish pace to prepare Fred for surgery. They intubated him. They brought the CT scanner closer. An IV needle penetrated one of Fred's veins. Several units of blood hung next to the gurney. The heart monitor showed a weak rhythm. The readout kept fluctuating. One of the nurses called out Fred's blood pressure. The doctor scanned the x- rays. Fred went into V-tack, Ventricular Tachycardia, with a heart rate of greater than 100 beats per minute. Fred was in cardiac arrest. The doctor started CPR. He called for the charged defibrillator. He grabbed the paddles and called out "Clear!" Everyone stepped back. Come on Fred. The defibrillator reestablished normal contraction rhythms of the heart by electric shock. It took two shots of the voltage before Fred came back. They rushed Fred through the double doors on his way to surgery. He wasn't out of danger yet. As she passed Jake, nurse Conley pointed a finger at him, her way of saying, "I told you once." Jake complied and found a quiet place to make the call to Andrea. "Jake, are you alright? I've been watching the news. They put your picture up and­­ " Jake didn't want his picture on the news, and he didn't want reporters in his face. "I'm fine. I'm at St. Joseph's Hospital. Do you know where it is?" Bobby's face appeared in a reflection from the window. "Yes, I know where it is, but I thought you just said you were okay." "Andrea, it's Fred. They just took him up to surgery. He tried to stop the gunman. He was shot twice. Get here as soon as you can." "My Fred? How? He's flying today." Jake could hear Andrea fighting back tears. "I know. Just get here and I'll tell you all about it. I have to call Caitland." "I'm leaving now." Jake knew if Fred made it through surgery, he would be spending time in the Intensive Care Unit. When Jake was in Atlanta, the detectives called it the Eternal Care Unit because most patients were one heartbeat closer to the next life. After he took a few calming breathes, he dialed Caitland. He knew he would get an ass kicking. She wanted Jake to stay away from danger, and leave enforcing the law to someone else. In the studio conference room, holding signed contracts, Caitland took the call. "Where are you Jake? It's all over the news about the massacre at Sky Harbor. You're at home, right? You went back after we­­" "I'm at St. Joseph's Hospital, Cait. It happened before I left the terminal. Next thing I know, I'm right in the middle of it. I'm fine, unhurt." She was worried about him after Bobby. She knew how many times he woke up in the night, sweating, and breathing hard, from the nightmares he already had. He might be unhurt on the outside, but she worried about the hurt inside him. "Then why are you at a hospital?" "It's Fred. He took two shots trying to stop the shooter. He just left Trauma, and is in surgery. I called Andrea. She's on her way." "And so am I." "No, wait until I hear how the surgery goes. I'll call you when he's out." "No, I'm on my way, Jake." Her hands were shaking. Small droplets fell from the corners of her eyes. "There's nothing we can do right now. Just wait until I call, then we'll figure out what to do, one step at a time, okay?" "What happened, Jake?" "I'll tell you when I see you. Fred­­ Caitland heard Jake's voice quiver. He paused. He didn't want to alarm her any more than he had. "I have to go, Cait. I promise to call after I talk with the doctor." Caitland pictured him standing in a corner of the hospital, alone. "Jake, I'm afraid. Call me as soon as you know." "I will, Cait, as soon as I hear." Jake disconnected. He saw Bobby's face in the glass again. It disappeared, and was replaced by Eric Sutherland's flying face. He went to wait outside of surgery. Nurse Conley was assisting the doctor. He knew if she saw him, she'd be pissed. He saw the officers gathered down the hall where Gina was in surgery. They were not only professionals. They were also a support group. He avoided the waiting room and found a quiet place to sit. He closed his eyes as he put both elbows on his knees and cradled his face with his hands. He knew from the job, it didn't matter if you killed a good guy, or a bad guy, the nightmares were the same, and so was the guilt. Shooter's remorse was the reason why, after a shooting, the department sent you to a shrink. This time he was on his own. He was glad the gunman died. He was happier still he didn't do it. He also knew he had to keep it together for Fred, Andrea, and Caitland. He dialed Wynter's cell phone. She and John were at Jake's house unpacking. "We've been watching the news. I leave town and the whole place goes to hell! Are you alright, Jake?" "Yeah, I'm good. I'm at St. Joseph's though." "Why?" "Fred tried to stop the shooter, and took two shots. He's been in surgery for a while now. I'm waiting for the doctor. I talked to Caitland a minute ago. She wanted to come back, but I told her to wait until I heard something." "What do you want me to do?" Wynter said. "Just stay by your phone. There's nothing else to do right now." "Are you sure?" "Well, you need to make a call to Vince. He's busy right now, but try to call him in a few hours. He made sergeant. They put him in charge of airport operations just two days ago then this landed in his lap. He did a great job. Lieutenant Hart from SAU arrived inside the terminal and ordered all officers to evacuate including Vince. I refused to leave because Fred was bleeding to death right in front of the shooter. Vince refused to leave, and stayed with me. He changed Hart's mind about my being there. Oh, and he misses you a lot." "Wow, I didn't know. I will only say this to you. I miss that cranky jerk too." "Give him a call. I have to go, just wanted you to know what's going on." Jake disconnected. When they found him, Special Agent Kelly, and Lieutenant Hart interrupted Jake's thoughts. Jake found his game face. Kelly spoke first. "We never had a chance to talk, it all moved fast out there. I want to thank you for your help, Jake." "The same goes for me, and my team, Mr. Roberts," Hart said. Jake had no reply. He accepted their thanks with a shake of his head. "We found out more about who he was. Facial recognition made a match before the shot took his face off and stuck it to the wall. It led us to his service jacket," Kelly said. "Special Forces. He served three back-to-back tours in Iraq, and two in Afghanistan. Explosives expert. His commanding officer recommended him for the Medal of Honor. He saved his unit during an ambush. He turned it down," Hart said. Jake tried to process the information while he waited for news about Fred. It didn't make sense. "His name was Eric Sutherland. He's been back in the states about six months. He's from Phoenix. His parents passed away while he was in Iraq. They found this photo inside his camo," Kelly said. "I have investigators swarming his North Phoenix residence now. The house was a mess, broken glass everywhere. They found his laptop. It had some insights into what might have been going through his head. His phone records show he called the V.A. repeatedly, left voicemails asking for help. They never returned his calls," Hart said. "Other than the calls to the V.A., he stayed off the grid," Kelly said. "He never showed up in any Suspicious Activity Reports in the Intelligence Fusion Centers. He was just a pissed off soldier with PTSD," Kelly said. Jake's pent up emotions went ballistic. "You know, we take young men and women who are at the start of exciting lives, and we train them to kill. We send them to some screwed up country still in living the Dark Ages, and tell them to make it right. We keep sending them back. They trust us, so they believe in the mission. After the trauma and the killing, they come home stripped of their humanity, their bodies damaged, and broken. They have no limbs to hug with, no legs to walk proud on. When they come home, there is no home. We don't take their phone calls? He `was just a pissed off soldier with PTSD,' Special Agent Kelly? Really? Maybe he felt he didn't fit in anymore. Maybe he felt abandoned. I know personally what that feels like." Kelly and Hart politely excused themselves and headed back to Gina. Before they got ten feet, Jake spoke out. "Was it worth it? Was today­­the dead and the wounded­­worth some bureaucrat not returning a phone call?" Jake said. "No, of course not, and all we did today was react. Maybe, someday, Congress will give them the help they all deserve. Maybe Sky Harbor will be the wake up call. Right now, is there anything we can get for you?" Kelly said. "No, Agent Kelly, unless you can perform a miracle to keep Fred alive." Standing in the hallway, Jake ran through a spectrum of emotions. He was agitated, because there still was no news about Fred. Frustrated and angry, he paced and looked down the hall for either the doctor, or Andrea. Kelly didn't answer. Hart pressed his lips together. "I'm sorry, I'm just processing what you said, and trying to decompress at the same time. I called Fred's girlfriend, Andrea. She didn't take the news well, as you would expect." "I can send a car for her," Hart said. "She's already on her way. I also called Caitland. I just saw her off this morning. She and some friends left for LA, when all hell broke lose. She was angry I got involved until I told her Fred was shot. I've only been in Phoenix a week, and I've killed one man, and came close to getting whacked in the airport. It's ironic. I hate to fly. I got into more trouble here than I did in all my years as a homicide detective in Atlanta, well that may not be true." "Fred's a good friend of yours, right?" Kelly said. "Best friend, ever since the first time I climbed out of a basement window in the orphanage. I first met him on the street. We grew up together, street kids. We've been best friends ever since then. He was always there for me. Whenever I fell down, he picked me again. He knew how much I hated the orphanage, so when I got past the nuns, he included me in his family. His moms cared for me, fed me, kept me in line, and then I'd sneak back in for bed check. I've lost too many friends. I can't let go of Fred." Kelly and Hart laughed when Jake told them the nuns said the two of them would most likely end up doing hard time. "Hey, is your offer of a favor still good?" "Of course," Kelly said. "Great, as soon as I hear from the doctor, I'm going to call his family back in Atlanta. Maybe you could fly them here with one of your Fed-jets." "Done, just tell me when. Fred earned it today." "Do you have a final count on how many?" "Twenty-two all together. Three TSA agents, four uniforms, and the rest were civilians. Eighteen wounded. Some of the wounded are in critical condition. The others have already gone home. Before they left, we took statements. Thanks to you, the entire terminal is still­­a terminal. You saved lives today," Hart said. Jake bowed his head. He wanted them all saved. He doubted he would ever sleep through the night again. He just wanted to be with Caitland. "Your guys did the heavy work. I was only an extra in the movie. Please tell them thanks for me. The outcome would have been significantly different if they hadn't made those shots. Oh, and someone needs to find the soldier who tried to talk to the Sutherland­­ Stanton." "They'll receive commendations," Hart said. Jake chuckled. "You know the nuns in the orphanage were the original SWAT teams. No weapons, except for a wooden pointer, or a yardstick. They could swat the back of your head hard enough you saw light bars." "Who do you think teaches at the Academy? I went to parochial school. I know exactly what you mean. I could take an entire convent of the Sisters of Mercy and wipe out ISIS in a day!" Kelly said. The three men shared a well-deserved laugh. "How about you, Jake? Did you have a chance to see a doctor?" Hart said. "I'm good, thanks, not a scratch. As soon as Caitland gets here, everything will be fine." Hart returned a smile. "I spoke to Atlanta PD earlier. They wanted me to tell you how proud they were of you," Hart said. Jake shrugged, and thought about his encouraged retirement. My ex-captain was a Hart. They must be everywhere. Kelly checked the time. "Hey, I've got to go. They have a media briefing in about half an hour. Here's my card. Let me know about Fred's family," Kelly said. Jake took Kelly's card. Seeing the FBI insignia on it reminded him of Mika. "And I'm going to see how Gina's doing. I also have a lot of paperwork to complete. Oh, I'll need you to stop at the precinct to give your statement. I'm told you know where it is. Captain Bradley said he thought you had gone back to Los Angeles. He told me he was glad you were here. If you could see the news, you'd hear the word hero repeated. You'll find guerilla reporters outside looking for you when you leave the hospital," Hart said. They exchanged a firm handshake. "I'd rather remain anonymous. I only want to see my name on a novel. The press, and the city, should thank every cop, firefighter and EMT­­the first responders. They're the heroes. I just want to slip out of town when Fred gets better. Can I get a favor from you?" "What do you need, some parking tickets, or moving violations to go away? Outstanding warrants." "No, unless you heard something about a warrant. Can you get me a photo of Sutherland while you're raking his house? Preferably in uniform." Hart dialed the lead detective at Sutherlands house. He told him what he wanted, delivered to Jake. "Done, but why do you want it?" Hart said. "When everything is stable here, I'm going to walk it into the V.A., and tell them what they caused by not talking with Sutherland." "Good thought. We'll see you at the precinct." "I'll be there. Thanks for believing, Lieutenant. You took a big chance on me out there." Hart smiled and walked over to the other officers outside Gina's ICU room. Jake sat down and rested his head against the wall. He closed his eyes and pictured Fred lying on the floor covered in blood. He was grateful Fred made it to the ER. Then it started. The list was long. Chief of Detectives Edward Fairchild, Jake's mentor, killed in the line of duty. He thought about Mika, his first love, and first partner. She died taking a bullet for him from Jared Hamilton in the graveyard. He thought about the teenage girl he shot and killed during a firefight under an I-75 overpass in Atlanta one night. He saw Chipper's face contort from the shotgun blast, while taking on the prison guards on Death Row. Chipper wasn't going to walk from his cell to a lethal dose of anesthetic followed by a lethal dose of Pentobarbital. Then he saw Bobby's face again, the pained frozen look, when Jake killed him only days ago, suicide by cop. He'd add to his collection of the dead­­Eric Sutherland. Jake heard Andrea's voice asking a nurse if she knew where he was. Jake got up and ran to the nurse's station. Andrea ran the last few steps and threw her arms around him. Jake felt her tears on his face and the shaking of her entire body. He knew he had to be strong for her. "I can't believe this! He went flying and was supposed to be back home by tonight. He told jokes and stories about when you were kids. I never heard him laugh so loud! Thank God you were there." "No word from the doctor yet. I held his hand in the ambulance. When they were ready to take him inside, he gave my hand a slight squeeze. He's strong. I watched him through the windows of the trauma room. They had to use the defibrillators to bring him back once then they rushed him to surgery. He's going to get through this, Andrea. We're all going to get through this." "How could someone be so cold and heartless­­ those poor babies!" Andrea said. Jake didn't have an answer for her. He had spent his entire career in homicide trying to find an answer, one so he could understand, but there wasn't one. "FBI agent Kelly was just here. They were able to identify him. He was a soldier. He did three tours in Iraq, and two in Afghanistan. He was Special Forces, and an explosives expert­­recommended for the Medal of Honor for saving his guys." Andrea tried to comprehend what he told her. "Sounds like he came home with a lot of demons, and didn't know how to excise them." "Why here? Why Sky Harbor?" "He was from Phoenix. Long story. He tried to get for help from the V.A., but they ignored him." "Does Caitland know?" "Yeah, I called her right after I called you. She wanted to come right back, but I told her to wait until we knew more." "I turned on the television and walked to the kitchen to make a sandwich. Everything was good. Out of nowhere `Breaking News' flashed across the screen. They went to a camera shot from some news helicopters, and explained what happened. Why would anyone want to kill all those people?" "We live in a universe that's in a constant state of violence and chaos­­black holes, quasars. It's no different with people. We're made from stardust. Did you want something to eat, or drink?" "I could use a strong margarita, but a bottle of water would help," Andrea said. "There's a machine down the hall. I'll get you one. Just sit in here, it's the safest place right now from the hoard of reporters." Jake took a right turn toward the vending machine. One reporter saw Jake from outside of the ER doors. He made a break for him. Two Phoenix uniforms tackled the reporter. The bottle of water fell to the bottom of the machine. It was cold when he grasped it. He bought another to hold against his neck. His hands had tremors, which made it difficult to open the bottle. He tried to hide them when he handed the bottle to Andrea sitting on the sofa. He sat in the chair closest to her. "Tell me what happened out there." He didn't want to talk about it. He hesitated then thought it might help to get his thoughts organized for his statement. He began with saying goodbye to Wynter and John, kissing Caitland. He ended with Andrea's arrival. Jake's head dropped. "I've lost too many in my life. I can't lose another. Fred has to make it through this. It's wrong they're all gone, and I'm still alive." Andrea put her hand on his tight fists. *** The crime scene investigation was about to end in Terminal Four. The Airport Authority set up detours for passengers to get to their gates. The airport received inbound flights again, and the transportation system worked to recover revenue flights. A podium, with a cluster of microphones, stood at the doors where it all started. The scheduled time for the press conference had passed. Reporters made certain their smart phones had battery life while they waited. The news cameras focused on the podium. People across the country stayed glued to their big screen HDMI television sets. Finally, the news anchors stopped their commentary, and the press conference began. Mayor Sanchez spoke first. He wanted to assure everyone Sky Harbor was safe again. He said police snipers killed the perpetrator then he gave the totals of the dead and wounded. Chief Burns commended the work of his police force. The Chief praised Vince's heroism, and said he would receive a commendation for valor and bravery. Vince didn't care about a piece of paper, unless it had a picture of a dead President on it. He was ecstatic to hear he would receive another step in pay grade. The Chief continued with as much information as he could. Finally, FBI Special Agent John Kelly spoke. He told the anxious public who the shooter was and what they found inside the van. He described the valiant efforts by the officers to stop the man. He knew Jake wanted out of the spotlight, so he highlighted the first responders. The Mayor, Police Chief and Agent Kelly took turns answering questions. The public fed on every detail. The twenty-four-hour news cycle repeated every horrific detail with disclaimers. Survivors who had used their cell phone cameras during the assault called in to CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News. Pundits debated who was to blame. Sutherland was from Phoenix, and had been an All-American on the ASU football team. That surprised everyone. They were stunned to learn he had been recommended for the Medal of Honor for a heroic action in the heat of battle, and turned it down. Then the story blurred. They did not know about the traumas he suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan. They heard the acronym PTSD, and assumed it explained everything. Andrea, sitting next to Jake, noticed the slight tremor in Jake's hands, and he couldn't sit still. He would sit, cross his legs then uncross them. He paced, stood by the only window in the room, and stared out at nothing in particular. Fred had been in surgery for over two hours. One of the fluorescent lights overhead had a failing ballast and flickered. It became annoying enough Jake wanted to rip it out of the ceiling. Andrea walked over to where he stood, and reassured him Fred would be fine. "Yeah." Experience had taught him nothing was for sure. Nothing would stop the way the world turned. It was luck, or chance, that ruled life, not certainty. He thought about the faces of the children he saw, some bloodied from the assault, and others with frozen wide eyes. He saw the terror in the eyes of adults who never could have anticipated the assault. They're thoughts were about Disney World and other vacation destinations to celebrate life, not mourn it. He saw the bodies of the dead TSA agents, and police officers unable to react fast enough to stop him. He continued to stare out the window. He was uneasy. As a homicide detective, he arrived at the crime scene after the killing. He wasn't part of it, except for the girl one tragic night in Atlanta. Vince appeared in the hallway. Jake turned from the window and walked to him. Jake held out his hand and got a firm grip returned. "Sorry it took so long to find you. There's still a lot of activity out there. I was sure glad to see your face there. You doing okay?" Vince said. "I was glad to see you there. Thanks, Vince." The two looked at one another. They both knew they existed at opposite ends of the spectrum, but this time, they had bonded while they faced death together. "I hate to say this, but I have to get back, there's a lot of work to do. I couldn't leave until I found you. We'll talk later at the debriefing." He started to walk away, but turned back. "Would you tell Wynter I miss her next time you talk to her?" Jake smiled because he knew what partners meant to one another. Vince was never overtly sentimental. He always hid behind his smartass remarks. He didn't have any this time. He walked away down the hall, while Jake watched him get something out of his eye. Andrea came up behind Jake. "He's a good man, Vince. He looked out for our Fred," Jake said. Three hours had passed since Fred went into surgery. There still had been no news of his progress. Jake asked if Andrea wanted to get something from the cafeteria. "Thanks, but no. I'm staying right here until we hear from the doctor." They both prepared to wait as long as it took. Andrea sat back down on the sofa, and pulled out tissues from the box on the table. Jake walked to the window again. He needed to see open space. He felt the room close in on him. It had been two years since Jake left law enforcement a tarnished hero. When a man reached fifty, his view of the world began to change. Native Americans described it as changing from the warrior, to the wise man. Jake knew it was time to get out of law enforcement in Atlanta. The events of the day confirmed it. Caitland walked away with him. He was good with it. He loved her and didn't want any more traumas in his life. Caitland was his lover, companion, and healer. The sound of her voice from the hallway spun Jake around. A look of surprise filled his and Andrea's face. They reached her at the same time. Jake threw his arms around Caitland and buried his face in her neck. Andrea stroked Caitland's arm until Caitland's hand pulled her into the embrace. The three didn't want to let go. "I thought you were staying in LA until I called you?" Caitland held his face with both hands. "I can't leave you alone for a minute, Puppy." A long kiss followed. Caitland then hugged Andrea and told her everything would be all right with Fred. He would get through it, because the greatest aviator who ever lived couldn't stop flying. And, Jake needed all three of them to keep him out of trouble. Caitland's statement brought a needed smile to both of them. "How did you get here? The airport is shutdown," Jake said. "They reopened it several hours ago. You must have lost track of the time," Caitland said. "But the airlines were diverted because of what happened." "I got a ride in a private jet." "What?" "I was in the middle of signings when we heard the news. Angelina offered me her private jet to fly here. I took her up on it. In fact, Angelina rode with me along with her kids. She was on her way to a meeting with some investors for another film she wants to direct. She said to say hello, and to tell you she gets first bid on your life story." "How many kids?" "A handful, but she handles them well." Having Caitland with him was exactly what Jake needed. He was glad the wait was over. His world burned since she left. She returned to put out the flames. He didn't want to let go of her. She sat next to Andrea, her arm around her shoulder. Jake pulled up a chair and sat down in front of them. "What can I do to help, Andrea?" "I just want to see Fred. I want the doctor to come here, and say he's going to make it." Caitland looked at Jake. She saw something in Jake's eyes she had never seen before­­fear. He was always the one who took control and fixed everything. She would ask him about it later, when they were alone. "So, Jake, start from the beginning. Don't leave anything out," Caitland said. The doctor found them. He wore his scrubs from surgery. He had streaks of blood on his shirt. His untied surgical mask hung from his neck, green booties covered his shoes. All three stood up to hear the news. "Mrs. Campbell?" Andrea didn't want to explain she was not the missus. "I'm Dr. Greene. Mr. Campbell is in critical condition. It took some doing to get one of the bullets out, a lot of muscle to cut through to get to it. The other round left a gaping hole when it exited his chest. He lost a lot of blood." The doctor looked at Jake. "You know we lost him for a minute in Trauma." "Yeah, I watched through the windows. Listen, doctor, if he needs anything­­blood, a kidney, a foot, I'll donate it, except my...you know, he's used to a larger­­" "I think I understand. Well, we won't need anything yet. All of his parts are good. We weren't sure if he would make it to surgery much less through it, but we have an excellent staff here. They did everything possible to make the surgery a success. Dr. Carter will speak with you when Fred is moved out of Post Op, and into the ICU. Nurse Conley said to say hello to you. Before I go back, I wanted to ask you about something he said to me, just before the anesthesiologist put Mr. Campbell under. His eyes flickered, and he could only whisper. He said not to tell Andrea what happened. He said the letter `Z' then was out cold. Do you know what he meant?" The three of them laughed, and explained it to the doctor. "Funny, you're quite a group. Anyway, he's in Post Op." "Can we see him?" Andrea said. "I think I can arrange it. Are you two family?" Andrea jumped right in and said yes. They followed the doctor down one hall and into another to Post Op. You couldn't see Fred buried under the tubes, wires and monitors. "You can look for now, but no talking. He's still out of it, and intubated, so it will be a while until he can speak. When we move him to ICU, we might be able to remove the endotracheal tube in his throat, and then you should be able to talk to him. I'm sure he'll be happy to see you." Greene smiled and walked over to Wilma the nurse. He gave her some instructions, and told her to page him as soon as Fred started to wake. Greene was exhausted. Fred was the last of the critical patients he had worked on all day. He hadn't lost one. Jake caught him before he went out the doors. "Thank you, doctor." "You're the guy in the news, right­­Roberts?" Jake nodded and stared into Greene's eyes. "I should be thanking you, Mr. Roberts. My wife and kids were there when it happened. They were going to visit their grandmother. They were leaving out of the A concourse, but from what I understand, if he had set off the bomb, they wouldn't have made it." Jake looked at the floor and swung his head. He never took "thank you's" well. Greene's statement bothered him. All through the assault, Jake never thought about the others who were there. He never saw them, because he focused on staying alive, and the shooter. His mentor, Ed Fairchild, taught him if he was safe, then everyone was safe. "I'm glad they made it out, doctor. I only wish they all did." The doctor placed his hand on Jake's shoulder. "Yeah, well we can only do so much. The rest is for God to decide." Greene walked away to find a quiet place to close his eyes for a while. He wanted to decompress, in case they needed him, in the ER again. Jake wasn't a religious man. He thought about "The rest is up to God" remark made by Greene. He couldn't accept it, because it put the Great Maker at the end of the equation. After what he had seen in his lifetime, he couldn't believe any god would let such horrible things happen to the creatures roaming the earth. None of them asked to be born, or to die. They were made the way they were. None of them could be expected to pass a test when all the questions, never had answers. They were gamed from their first breath. Jake was okay if people wanted to believe, if believing made them feel better. He thought they should believe in themselves more. Andrea had just kissed Fred's forehead when Jake walked back into Post Op. Caitland's hand slid into Jake's, and she squeezed tight. He thought about holding Fred's hand in the ambulance, and the weak squeeze Fred gave him. The three of them stood as close as they could get to Fred. Post Op was dark, except for the LEDs flashing on the monitors. A hissing sound came from the respirator, which helped to regulate the airflow in and out of Fred's lungs. Jake found himself breathing with the rhythm of the respirator. There were pads with wires on every part of Fred's body. A small patch of blood had soaked through the sheet above Fred's knee. A spotted red bandage was over the chest wound where the bullet exited an inch from Fred's heart. "I thought he was dead," Jake said. Andrea and Caitland looked at him. "When I first saw him on the floor, there wasn't any movement, no sign of life. We concentrated on the shooter. The paramedics arrived and worked on him. I stayed to assist the bomb squad tech." Jake blinked a few times, and touched Fred's arm. "After we got the bomb outside, I saw him in the ambulance­­" Caitland put her arms around Jake. "And he's here, and he's safe. He's going to make it, Jake," Caitland said. "Can you believe it? My Fred wanted a pizza before he went under for surgery," Andrea said. She made them laugh. The worst was over, they hoped. The three stayed with him until he went from Post Op, into the ICU. There were more cardiac monitors and the hissing ventilator. Attached to his finger was a pulse oximeter that monitored the saturation of oxygen in Fred's blood. Sutures secured the CVC that administered frequent medication. The IV in his arm supplied fluids, medications, nutritional preparations, and blood. Jake left to go to the men's room. After a long stop at the urinal, he looked at the man in the mirror as he splashed water in his face, and washed hands. He studied his face to see if he had a new lifeline from the day. He checked to see if what happened had turned his salt and pepper hair completely white. He dried his hands with a paper towel after a wave of his hand in front of an electronic, motion-sensor dispenser. If only you could fix life with the wave of a hand.
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Chapter 3
3 "We were within a minute of calling the time of death, but Dr. Greene wouldn't give up on Fred," Dr. Carter said. During surgery, Carter had assisted Greene who gave Fred better odds. Carter followed nurse Conley as Fred was moved to the ICU. Following close behind him were Andrea, Caitland and Jake. Carter explained why he thought Fred wouldn't make it. "The one bullet had passed so close to his heart we thought we'd have to put him on life support until a heart became available. It shredded everything in its path from his back through his chest." Andrea had her arms folded. She never took her eyes off Fred. She listened while Carter spoke and knowing how close she came to losing Fred hit her hard. Caitland's eyes were on her. When Andrea looked weak on her legs, Caitland put an arm around her for support. Jake was behind them all, watching everyone. He heard Carter's words and they caused a stabbing pain to his own heart. All of the wires, IVs, even the Endotracheal tube were double checked to make sure nothing got disconnected during the transport. Carter studied the monitors. Nurse Conley made Fred as comfortable as she could. She worked with critical patients over her entire career. She anticipated every move. Andrea was certain she was an angel. Greene and Carter, she thought, stood next to God. "He's still out from the anesthetic. I'll come back in an hour and see how he's doing, maybe take that nasty tube out," Carter said. Jake tried to make a joke. "Does it mean he can talk again? You may want to leave it in for the nurse's sake." He took a poke in the ribs from Caitland. "What?" "Do you think this is a good time for levity?" "Yes, I do. It's been a hard day. I need to balance out the serious, with the crazy. I know Fred, he'd think it was funny." "Do you see anyone else laughing?" Caitland said. "The doctors and nurses are excellent, but I want to know how they plan to get a Z Pizza down that tube." Andrea and Caitland did lose it on that one. Jake took another punch from Caitland. Andrea turned to Jake with a big smile. "Thank you, I needed that. Jake's right, Caitland, it's been the longest day of my life. I'm just glad Fred's alive. And I'm glad he has a friend like Jake." They spent the next hour waiting for the doctor to return. They made a lot of small talk. Jake left a few times to get the girls something from the vending machine. Every ten minutes nurse Conley came into the room to check on Fred's vitals. She told Andrea, Fred would make it just fine. "How do you know?" Andrea said. "After all of my years as a nurse, some thirty-two years, my instinct has never been wrong." She tucked the blanket in along Fred's body then she whispered to Andrea. "He may still be under, but talk to him. It helps." Andrea didn't hesitate. She leaned close to Fred's ear and whispered her love for him. She said she would be next to him everyday, waiting for him to come back to her. She looked up at Caitland and Jake. "We're all waiting for you my love." As nurse Conley walked out, Jake stopped her, and whispered into her ear. "See, you're not as mean as you pretend. I thought you might have been a nun in a previous life." Conley squinted back. "I am a nun, Sisters of the Holy Cross. I do the nursing and the praying. And if you don't behave­­" The good Dr. John Carter returned and checked all of the monitors. He placed his fingers against Fred's throat and placed his stethoscope on the only place there were no wires or tubes. He called out "Fred" several times, and it worked. Fred's tried to open his eyes. It felt as if lead weights were on his eyelids. As his head cleared from the anesthetic, the first thing he saw was Andrea's smile. "Hey, baby, I'm here." She held his hand with the IV. He gave hers a light squeeze. Carter said Fred would go in and out for about another half hour. He'd be back to check on him again. Andrea reached across Fred to take Carter's hand. "Thank you, for bringing him back." "He's a strong man and he has a lot to live for," Carter said. The compliment was for Andrea. He let go of her hand, smiled, and disappeared again. Jake pulled on Caitland's arm. He wanted to talk to her outside of the ICU room. Andrea leaned over and continued talking to Fred, trusting the nurse's instinct. "Now that I know he's good, I have a debriefing I have to attend. You know how it works. We just went through this a few days ago with Bobby. They need my statement." "I want to go with you," Caitland said. "No, stay here with Andrea, she needs you. Besides, it will be tough enough for me to get through the vultures outside the door. I'll call when I'm on my way back." "Are you sure?" "I'm sure. Just take care of Fred. I could use some fresh air anyway, instead of this hospital smell. It has to be done. After it's over, I won't have to deal with it." He gave her a prolonged hug and a loving kiss. Neither wanted to let go as thoughts filled their heads about how close Jake had come to dying. Caitland thought she wasn't ever going to have to worry about it once they left for LA. She had to deal with it twice in a few days. Strength was what they needed most for each other, and Caitland was ready to give all she could. She also was concerned about the look of fear in his eyes earlier. She would wait until later to talk with him about it. She watched him walk away down the hall, until he turned down another hallway. She thought about how much she loved him. How close she came to losing him. Jake made it past the nurse's station, where he ran into the two EMTs that drove him in. They looked exhausted, and yet they were ready to go out again if needed. Jake stopped to talk with them, and thanked them for doing a great job getting Fred to St. Joseph's. "Are you leaving, sir?" "Yes, I have a debriefing to attend." "You're not going to get through the crowd out there. Do you have a car, or some way to get there?" Jake was embarrassed. Hadn't given it any thought. The EMTs didn't press him, knowing what happens to victims, and responders, after traumas occur. "We'll take you." Jake crunched his face. "How?" "You came in the rig, right? It's only fair we drive you where you want to go." "In the ambulance?" "Yep, the news folks can't get near our vehicle, they won't even know you're in the rig. I'll even let you turn on the lights and siren. We make all traffic lights. "You going to get into any trouble?" "Not a chance. You're Jake Roberts! Our boss will be envious." They walked out and got inside the ambulance. Jake sat in the back next to the stretcher, the same seat he took going to the hospital. The reporters didn't see a thing. Jake smiled as the siren went off and the lights were flashing. He laughed watching the driver make the reporters move out of the way. Jake got a thumb's up from the driver. They were right. They made every traffic light­­nothing stopped them. Along the way, Jake thought about curling up on the gurney. He could barely keep his eyes open. The abrupt stop brought Jake out of a sitting nap. "Thanks, how much is on the meter?" "You're going to have to sign a couple of your books for us." "I'll make sure you both receive signed copies of all of my books. Thanks again for the ride." It was early in the evening when Jake climbed out of the rear door. The temperature outside was in triple digits, but it felt good after sitting in the frozen tundra inside St. Joseph's. He saw that they parked away from the reporters standing in front of the precinct. Barricades had them corralled. He closed the door and banged his fist against it. He saw two waves from the cab. There were uniforms everywhere. When they saw Jake standing behind the departing ambulance, they ran to him. They surrounded him and escorted Jake inside keeping the press away. Each of them shook hands with him and said thanks. He smiled back. At the door, he told them he knew his way from there. Inside the precinct, the staff was focused on their work. Jake made his way to Captain Bradley's office. Vince walked from the opposite direction and motioned to Jake to precede him. The chief was there. Special Agent Kelly sat in a corner chair. The captain greeted him. They all looked dead tired, which was better than dead, if it had gone bad at Sky Harbor. "Jake, we might as well swear you in since you've cleared more cases than my squad. We've just been discussing keeping an office for you here," Bradley said. "Then it'll be Caitland who'll kill me." Chief Thomas Burns still wore his uniform buttoned up, braids and all, a fine example to his men. The captain had pulled his tie loose, and rolled up his sleeves. Kelly still looked like FBI. Jake hadn't time to change at all. He desperately wanted a hot shower. Jake was humbled by the words of appreciation from the senior officers. "Of course, we'll need your statement whenever you're ready." "I'm ready now." "Are you sure? You've had quite a day," Bradley said. "And so have all of you. I'm good. It won't be a novel, but I want to do it now and get back to St. Joseph's." Bradley handed him the forms, and the photo of Eric Sutherland in uniform Jake requested. After a few more supportive words from them, Jake got up to find an empty desk. "Thank you, Captain." "I'll find him a place to sit," Vince said. Vince found an empty interrogation room. It was the same one Jake had interrogated Ricky in about the murder Wynter and Vince were investigating. "There, right at home," Vince, said. Jake got the joke, but he couldn't make a crack. His thoughts were on what he had to put down on paper. "Can I get you anything, coffee, Coke, a stale donut?" "A bottle of water if you have one would be great. I haven't been hydrating enough. And, thanks, Vince." "Huh?" "For everything, for being a good friend. We didn't see eye to eye before." "Just don't ask me to go with you to visit your friend Pablo in the `hood' and we're good." Vince told Jake he'd be back. Jake began to write but the tremor in his hands made it difficult. His recollection about the morning's events made him uneasy. He thought he could handle it better. Several times, Jake put the pen down and held his hands in tight fists. He wanted it to stop. He knew he made a mistake by not bringing Caitland. When he started to write again, he kept it as basic as he could. He didn't want to embellish like he would if he were writing one of his novels. He wrote it straight, clear, and concise. He was glad when he finished. He walked back into the office and handed the captain his statement. "Did you want me to sit in on anything?" "No, Jake, we're good. I think the mayor left, but he does want some photo ops with you, a few handshakes for the constituents. I'll try to talk him out of it. I know how you want to play it." Kelly stood up and thanked Jake again. "Want a class date at Quantico?" "Me, an FBI agent? My ex-girlfriend and partner, Mika Scott, thought it was a good idea. You guys ruined a great detective!" Agent Kelly asked what station she worked at so he could contact her when he got back to Quantico. "She was killed in the line of duty, John, took a bullet meant for me. No Quantico, thanks. I'm only interested in a quiet life with Caitland. I want to take a break then get back to writing fictional crime." "I should arrest you for taking my best homicide detective to LA. Since Wynter left, Vince has been moping around the precinct. We put him at the airport for a change of scenery, but he misses her, and so do I," Bradley said. "She's in a better place," Jake said. "I'd argue the point if I had the energy. How did you get here?" "By ambulance," Jake said. After exchanged looks, Jake explained. "The two EMTs I rode to St. Joseph's with this morning, kept me away from the news hounds. I don't know if you have enough medals, but every one of the uniforms, firefighters, and EMTs deserve one after what they've been through today. I would have a day set aside to celebrate your people, all of them. They're all good men." Vince appeared at the door. "And this man here, deserves his own day­­the Vince Farina Day, for handling the mess out there. He kept it together. I'm proud of him." "Me?" Vince wasn't used to compliments after a long history of complaints. "We're proud of him too. Tell Wynter what he did," Bradley said. Jake's hand rested on Vince's shoulder. "Do you think you can get me back to the hospital without all of the press in trail? If not, I know two guys double-parked in an ambulance," Jake said. "Come on, I'll take you. Captain, did you need me for anything else?" "No, Vince, drop off Jake and take a few days to yourself. Jake, when it all settles down, I'd like to hear about it from you," Bradley said. "I'm already trying to forget it." His smile was weak, but Jake managed one. The captain understood. Vince and Jake left the office, and started down the hall, when Rogne, Grafton and Willis walked out of the debriefing room. They were talking tactics, reviewing how they might have done better. They stopped talking when they saw Jake. "Sir, we'd like to thank you for what you did out there. A civilian ready to lay it on the line isn't something we see much, unless Seagal is around," Rogne said. "I wouldn't be standing here if you guys hadn't done what you did. I'm grateful." "The elite," Vince said. They knew Vince had gotten his smartass mojo back, meaning a small sign life had returned to normal. The three SAU officers asked Jake for a signed book. He told them he would deliver them personally. All of them shared a quiet moment of understanding about what they had experienced earlier in the day. "How's Gina?" "She made it through surgery and is probably sharing an ICU room next to your friend," Rogne said. "I'll have to stop in and see her. Do you guys have first names, or do you use code?" Jake said. Rogne spoke again. "Jeramy, sir." "I'm Code Grafton, sir." "And I'm Code Willis." Firm handshakes were exchanged. "Come on, Jake, Caitland's waiting. Besides, who wants to talk to guys who are in SAU, they're not right in the head," Vince said. Before he knew it, they were in the unmarked. Vince drove. Jake pulled out his cell phone and told Caitland he was on his way back. He did persuade Vince to make a detour to Z Pizza. When Jake exited the vehicle at St. Joseph's, he promised Vince he would tell Wynter how much he missed her. Then he rushed through the hospital with a large pepperoni and mushroom pizza, until he found the ICU. Dr. Carter was there. Fred looked more alert. "Just in time. I'm about to remove the Endotracheal tube from Fred's throat. Fred, when I tell you to, I want you to blow hard. Now­­blow." Fred started to gag and cough, as the tube was pulled from throat. It hurt like hell. Carter allowed Sister-Nurse Conley to give him sips of water. Still, it was uncomfortable. Carter told them it would be hard for Fred to talk above a whisper for a day, or so. He seemed hazy, but knew where he was, and who was around his bed, except for Carter who helped Greene save his life. He couldn't take his eyes off Andrea. He whispered. "Don't cry, babe, it's all good." Jake put his arm around Caitland. Fred whispered again, struggling with the pain. "Am I hallucinating, or do I smell a Z Pizza?" Jake taunted Fred by taking a bite. "You better get well soon so you can have one of these," Jake said. Caitland and Andrea didn't say a word as they took a bite. Dr. Carter took a slice on his way out of ICU. "Umm, good pizza," Carter said. Fred was critical, but stable, and in good hands at St. Joseph's. Once Fred drifted off, Andrea, Caitland and Jake held a conference outside the room. Andrea decided to stay overnight. She had arranged with nurse Conley to bring in another bed. She gave Caitland the key to the condo. Caitland said they would trade places in the morning, so Andrea could go home for a few hours. They all were running on low battery. Hugs were exchanged. Caitland and Jake walked down the hallway, and saw the press. "I've been so distracted I never asked. Did you rent a car?" Jake said. "Yes, it's buried deep in the parking lot. If we make a few smooth maneuvers, we can lose the heat." "When did you start talking gangsta'?" "Ever since a cop's been tailing me," Caitland said. They stopped at the nurse's station, and Jake asked a nurse to walk outside, and stand where the reporter's were circling to distract them. He told her she didn't have to say a word. That's when Jake and Caitland would make a break for the rental car. She was more than happy to do it. Perfect timing. The automatic exit doors had barely cracked open before the poor nurse was knee deep in questions. Jake and Caitland hunkered down and bolted for the car under the cover of darkness. They locked the doors inside the rental. Caitland took the furthest exit and drove home. After they entered Fred's condo, and heard the door lock behind them, they knew they were safe and able to relax. Caitland headed straight for a hot shower. By the time she returned, she found Jake sound asleep, still dressed. She took off his shoes, and pulled a blanket up over him then cuddled next to Jake wanting to be close to him in case the nightmares came. She stroked his forehead, and ran her fingers through his hair. Jake's nightmares couldn't get past the exhaustion. Caitland fell asleep as fast as Jake, with her arm wrapped around him. While they slept, the Airport Authority tried to get things back to normal at Sky Harbor. The bloodied carpet had been removed and the concrete underneath was bleached. Any debris from the walls or ceiling was cleared away. Drywall was framed in to close the concourse to any departures. The work to restore the concourse would not be completed for weeks. The news trucks had returned to their stations. Some reporters had followed the investigators to Eric Sutherland's home. Friends and neighbor's, still in shock, tried to respond to questions. In the end, from behind tears, they simply said he was a good man and they didn't understand. *** The sunlight found its way through every sliver in the Levelor shades. It was unwelcome, but it brought Jake and Caitland out of their deep sleep. Neither had moved an inch the entire night. Caitland's arm was still draped over Jake. She groaned when she moved it. He squinted at the sunlight and closed his eyes again. It was hard to shake off the comatose feeling. He turned away from the window and toward Caitland, and realized he was still fully dressed under the covers. They looked into each other's eyes, but didn't say a word. They didn't need words to communicate what both were feeling and thinking. "You let me sleep in my clothes?" "Yes, and now it's time for you to shower, and put on clean ones." "I would have been happier to wake up and know you took my clothes off, and tucked me in." "You missed my sexy black nightie I had on when I left the bathroom." "No, don't tell me that." "Maybe you can feel bad later, when we get back home," Caitland said. The naughty smile on her face made him smile. "The van full of explosives going off couldn't have awakened you." She saw the look in his eyes when she first arrived at the hospital, the fear. He started breathing hard. She saw the tremor in his hands. Caitland held him. She placed both hands on either side of his face. "Jake, I'm here. You're safe. It's over, you're okay, everyone's okay." He blinked several times. She held him in her arms. The tremor quieted. His breathing slowed. "Now, go take a steamy hot shower. It'll make you feel better. I'm going into the kitchen and get the most important meal of the day started. Then we'll see Fred and Andrea. I need to call her and tell her we'll be on our way soon." He smiled and kissed her hand. "I never want to be away from you, Cait, ever." She climbed out of bed, put a robe on then went to the kitchen. She found her cell phone and spoke to Andrea. Jake climbed out of the bed and dragged himself into the bathroom. He avoided the mirror as he ripped off his clothes. He stepped into the shower. The hot water rippled over his shoulders and down to his feet. He couldn't remember a time when a shower felt so good, when water felt so good, when being alive felt so good. Once he stepped out of the shower, he dressed, and went into the kitchen where he found a plate full off scrambled eggs and bacon, toast and a glass of orange juice. He was starved. "I spoke to Andrea and told her we would be there soon." Caitland went to shower, and got dressed. Jake left the table and walked out onto the patio. The temp was ideal with a soft desert breeze. The view to the west of the White Tank Mountains was spectacular, bathed in the rising sunlight. Phoenix never looked so good. When Caitland found him outside, she wrapped her arms around his waist. "Before we leave, I want to stop downstairs at the office and see about leasing one of these. I can keep a better eye on Fred's progress," Jake said. "Good idea since we'll be spending a lot of time here. Besides watching over Fred and Andrea, you'll be working with Ridley. You'll be working with a director named Travis Mills. Ridley spoke well of him, said he was a talented director. I need to meet him, so I can talk him into letting me represent him. They start shooting today." "Please don't use that word," Jake said. "Sorry." "You're still going back to LA for the party?" "Yep, one more time, just overnight. Every client I have will be there. They will talk about my Jake, and what you did here. I won't be surprised if I get a few movie deals telling your story." "You think I want to tell the story." "I know how you feel about it. If you don't want to do Ridley's project, if you want to have some quiet time, I can tell him when I get back. I'm sure he'd understand." She knew how much he wanted to work with him. "We'll see. Let me think about it. When you go back to LA, you're going on the private jet, right?" "Yes, Angelina said round trip, and I fly out of Scottsdale Airport. All I have to do is call." Jake didn't want her to leave again, but he understood. All of her clients would have changed their busy schedules to be at her party. It meant a lot to Caitland. He needed her, but he rationalized that one night was bearable. "Let's stop downstairs and see what they have available, then we need to get to St. Joseph's." They went back inside the condo, and grabbed their things. Inside the leasing office, they were told a unit was available on Fred's floor, down a few doors. They signed the lease. Caitland drove to St. Josephs. The only sound inside the car was the air- conditioning fan. Caitland and Jake were lost in their thoughts, as they passed stop signs, and stoplights, tall cacti, and students walking to class at ASU. Caitland broke into Jake's thoughts first. "I want to ask you something." Jake looked at her. Her profile was backlit by the sun, and the air blowing from the air-conditioner made her hair flutter like she was in a photo shoot. He never wanted to forget the moment. "What does the most beautiful woman on the planet, and in the universe, want to ask?" Jake said. "Yesterday, when I first arrived, I watched you. You had a look in your eyes. I saw it when you spoke with the FBI, and the Phoenix lieutenant, and when Dr. Greene told you his wife and kids where in the terminal. It's a look I had never seen before." "What look?" "You had a look of fear in those beautiful eyes of yours." She tried to take several glances at him, while she drove. He turned away from her. "I must've had some gas, an upset stomach." He stared out the side window. She started to see it in his eyes again, the fear. She didn't know what to do for him. He powered down the window for air. He started to sweat and squint his eyes. He put his hand against his forehead and leaned on the door. Flashbacks. He hated flashbacks. Caitland pulled the car into a strip mall and parked under a shade tree. "Talk to me, Jake." "Just need some air." He looked at her then dropped his head low, and looked at the tremor in his hands. His breathing increased. He felt chest pains. Caitland watched him. "What happened with Bobby, and with what happened at the airport, left me feeling­ ­strange. I didn't feel strong, or in control. I can't take it like I used to on the job. I turn away from everyone, because my eyes get wet, and I feel claustrophobic. All I thought was I would never see you again. I'm just not as good as I used to be at handling things. I'm not as strong. When I was on the job, I could walk into the most gruesome murder scene with complete detachment, nothing bothered me, but lately­­" Caitland covered his hands. "You're changing, Jake." "Menapause?" "No, you've grown from a cold and detached kid, to a man who can now feel something. A man who realizes he survived all the traumas. You made it, Jake. You're safe. I have you and I'm not letting go. I want you with me for a long, long time. Be with me, write, or sit out on the patio with a margarita, and watch the sunset." He powered the window back up and held his hand against one of the airconditioning vents. His breathing slowed. He looked at Caitland. She leaned toward him and he toward her. The kiss was strong. He caressed her face. "I only feel safe when you're with me, Cait." "And that's where I'll be forever! You're not in law enforcement anymore. You're not the responsible one anymore. This is the time for you to enjoy your life, and enjoy it with me. Now let's get to the hospital and help Fred and Andrea feel safe too." "We have to make one detour," Jake said. "Where to?" "The Veterans Administration." Fifteen minutes later, Caitland pulled up to the entrance in front of the V.A. building. Jake told her to wait in the car. "Why do I have to stay in the car?" "Because there may be some shooting inside." He got out of the car and went straight past the check in desk, past a full outer atrium of patients waiting their turn, to a secretary's desk outside the Administrator's office. He asked to speak with the man. "You're the guy from the airport, yesterday. I saw you on the news­­you're a hero!" He was told to follow her then to wait outside while she went inside to speak to the Administrator who was in conference. Jake followed close behind her, and walked straight into the office. "This won't take long. I have something to say to you." "Mr.­­?" He had the photo of Eric Sutherland in his hand. He held it up for all to see. "Roberts, Jake Roberts. Do you recognize this man?" Each took a turn looking at the photo. They recognized Sutherland from the news. "I helped kill this man at Sky Harbor yesterday. I watched his face shot off by the SAU snipers. I held the lanyard attached to a suicide belt he was wearing. I held in my hands, the remote detonator he had connected to a van full of explosives at Terminal Four." They sat quiet and still. "He returned after his fifth tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he found it impossible to reach you for an appoint by phone. He needed help desperately. You didn't return over a hundred calls and voicemails. One returned phone call could have prevented the killing and destruction at Sky Harbor Airport. His name was Eric Sutherland, Special Forces, recommended for the Medal of Honor. You killed him and the others. All of you have blood on your hands. I almost lost my best friend in there. He took two bullets trying to save people. I want you to think about that for the rest of your lives." "We were just addressing that issue." "Fix it. Fix it now, or I'm coming back to rain hell down on you." He turned and left the Administrator's office. Caitland was waiting for him where she dropped him off. He looked angry. She asked him why he went inside. "I told them about a U.S. Special Forces soldier, and the blood they had on their hands." She leaned over and grasped Jake's face. She kissed him. She gave him time to calm down. As they arrived at St. Joseph's, they knew the press would still be trolling for an interview, but they knew the way around them. Nurses, volunteers, and a few strangers all wished Jake well as they walked down the hallway. They saw Andrea step out the ICU. She looked exhausted. It was understandable. She most likely held Fred's hand all night. They got a smile and a warm hug from her. "Oh you poor girl. Why don't I take you home so you can shower, and get a few hours sleep? Jake will stay with Fred. They can embellish their stories for anyone they want to impress," Caitland said. "I will after the doctor comes by to check on Fred. I would like to take a shower, and change clothes. You two look good, must've gotten some sleep." "Solid coma," Jake said. From around the corner, past the nurse's station, Dr. Greene walked toward them. "Good morning. You all look well," Greene said. It was obvious to him it had been a long night for Andrea. "Good morning, Dr. Greene. I spent the night with Fred. Jake and Caitland just arrived. We're all anxious for you to tell us how Fred's doing, then Caitland's going to take me home for a while." "I know the feeling. I spent the night here. I found an empty bed, and crashed for a few hours. Let's go see how he's doing." They followed Greene into the ICU. He pulled Fred's chart, checked the monitors, received a status report from nurse Conley, reviewed his tox screen then placed his stethoscope against Fred's chest. It must have been cold because Fred's eyes fluttered open. "Sorry," Greene said. Fred scanned the room, and saw all of his favorite people. It was obvious the meds were keeping him groggy, enough to suppress the pain. He had slept through the night, but as he cleared his head, the pain was more pronounced. "How are you feeling, Fred?" Greene said. "Like a 747 ran over me." "Let me know when you feel like it was a 737, so I know you're improving." Greene got a small smile from the big man. Fred looked at Andrea while Greene poked at him. "I'm ready to go home, babe." She shook her head. Caitland was next to her, and Jake was behind them. Greene interrupted. "Looks good, Mr. Campbell. I'm going to bail out of here for a while. I've been at this hospital for forty- eight straight hours." "You could be an airline pilot," Fred said. They all knew the life of an airline pilot had a great many drawbacks. The glory was gone in the new world. Being away four days at a time gets old after the first time. Eating travel food, lack of normal sleep, and stressful cockpits were the reality. Smiling at little kids who stared at a pilot was the only remaining upside. "No, thanks. Okay, so I'll be back later today to see how you're doing. Nurse Conley in the ICU is the best. She's made you her personal project. Any questions?" Fred whispered to the doctor. "Is it okay, you know, for sex?" "If you can pull it off, I'll release you from the ICU today," Greene said. Everyone laughed. "Oh, he's feeling better," Andrea said. "Get some rest, it's the fastest way to recovery. I'll see you all later. My son's little league game starts in an hour." Greene walked out of the ICU. Jake wondered where he got the energy. He admired the doctor's dedication. Caitland leaned over and gave Fred a kiss on his forehead. "You look good. I expected worse." "On the outside, inside is another story. I'm able to take the pain with the meds. I can't imagine what it would feel like if there weren't any," Fred said. Jake leaned next to Fred. "You look better than you did on the terminal floor." "Do you think I'll ever fly again?" "No, they're going to use UAVs, they're less expensive, besides, pilots are the weak link in the safety chain. You have been replaced by automation." "Thanks for cheering me up." Nurse Conley walked in and checked everything again. She asked Fred if he was up for a few visitors. "Visitors?" "A flight attendant, and a veteran with his wife and kids want to see you. They can't stay but a minute." Fred and Andrea exchanged a look. "Sure." Wendy, the flight attendant who stood next to the gunman during the ordeal, walked up to see Fred first. She still looked traumatized. She told Fred she was leaving the airline. "Thank you, Fred for your bravery in trying to stop the man. I always enjoyed flying with you." Corporal Stanton and his family followed Wendy. They surrounded his bed, careful not to step on any wires, or tubes, connected to Fred. Stanton thanked Fred on behalf of his family, and all of the families inside Terminal Four. Everyone in the room saw Fred's eyes moisten. "I wish I could have gotten to him. You all should be thanking the man over in the corner. He saved us all," Fred said. Caitland saw the look of fear reappear in Jake's eyes. To conceal it, he dropped his look to the floor. "No, you should be thanking officers Rogne, Grafton and Willis from the Special Assignments Unit. If they hadn't made those shots, none of us would have gotten out of there," Jake said. It got quiet. Everyone in the room thought about what Jake had said. The corporal stroked his son's head, and hugged his little girl. His wife leaned against them. Wendy wiped away tears. "Sorry, I'm still­­" Caitland put her arm around Wendy. "You're here, because that's the way it was meant to be. He had a gun at your throat. I can't think of anything braver than standing up to him like you did." Wendy blotted her eyes with tissues. "Thank you, it means a lot." Wendy and the corporal each took a turn thanking Jake, then nurse Conley said it was time for Fred to get some rest. When the others were out in the hall, Andrea kissed Fred. "I'm so proud of you." Caitland smiled at Jake. She was proud of him. "Come on, Andrea, let's get you home. Jake is here. I don't think they can get into any more trouble in here. Jake won't cross nurse Conley." "Don't underestimate us," Jake said. He gave Fred a bump. "Hey, buddy, good news! We leased a condo on your floor." "Serious?" "Easier to be with you. Besides, I'll be working with the film here." "How cool is that! Can I be on the set?" Fred said. "No, you have to do four nights at the comedy club, remember?" Caitland and Andrea shared a look, trying to decide if leaving the two alone was such a good idea. "We'll see you boys soon," Caitland said. "I'm good, babe. Go home for a while," Fred said. Jake reassured Andrea they wouldn't do anything stupid. "Define stupid," Andrea said. During the drive home, Caitland listened while Andrea talked about Sky Harbor. It was the first time she and Caitland were alone to talk. They both had tears in their eyes. They thought they could handle Jake and Fred's dangerous occupations. The tears proved them wrong. Fred and Jake were alone for the first time in two days. Jake had so much to tell him. In the middle of Jake's story, they heard a commotion outside the room. Two officers walking through the hallway to check on Gina's progress, ordered someone to freeze. Jake went out into the hall and was completely surprised. The officers had recognized Pablo. He had brought along two dangerous looking, tattooed, muscular, ex- Pelican Bay inmates, as his protection. Pablo saw Jake. He was buried deep in his Latino street slang accent, a persona he played in public. Jake reassured the two officers it was okay. Pablo told his protectors to guard the door. When he felt safe to do so, Pablo spoke like the Harvard PhD he was. Inside the ICU, Jake and Pablo exchanged a strong handshake, and a chest bump. "I didn't expected to see you here." "I came to show my respects. I wish I were inside the terminal with you. Nobody messes with my family." Jake's cell phone rang. "Roberts." "Mr. Jake Roberts, this is Anderson Cooper­­" Jake cut him off. "I don't have anything to say. Sorry."
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