“EVERYONE SHUT UP AND GET DOWN! DOWN ON THE GROUND NOW!”
It was Tuesday, March 12th, 2018, and the entire building of En Passant Bank was filled with the sounds of screaming. No one could have suspected when they woke up and headed to the bank in the heart of Cleveland, Ohio, that they would be caught in the most terrifying moment of their lives. But once the ball got rolling, there was no stopping the chaos that had erupted. Tellers crouched down as they were pulled from behind the counter; civilians huddled together; two children cried in fear as they clung tightly to their mother.
“Where is he?!” the head of the crew shouted to his men.
“I found him, he’s over here!”
Looking to his left towards the bank manager’s office, the head walked over and yanked him and the customer he was with out of the room.
“Alright,” he chuckled, “now we’re in business.”
Thirty minutes later, on the roof of the building across the street, SWAT Sniper Jones sat and watched through the tiny window at the top of the bank’s doors the horrific scene unfolding: twenty hostages and six men dressed in black business suits and ski masks armed with automatic rifles.
“They’ve got all of the hostages sitting on the floor, but one of them is sitting in a chair away from the others, sir,” the sniper radioed in. “It seems like the leader is interested in him. Three of the others are surrounding the other civilians, one lookout in front and another in the back.”
“Can you describe who’s in the chair, Jones?”
“I can do better than that, sir, and just tell you who it is: Brian Cairne.”
“Jones, say again?” Chief Humbar started to sweat.
“The hostage that is in the chair is Brian Cairne, sir. I’m positive.”
“Shit!” the Chief exclaimed at the news. Turning to his Lieutenant, he barked. “Get Sam over here, now!”
“He’s already here, sir!”
The stocky man turned to see his friend and trusted colleague, Sampson Angus McKay, running over, his Kevlar vest in hand. Towering at almost six and a half feet tall, the black-haired man had to stay crouched to avoid getting his head blown off. It almost made him an easy target. But no matter how many times the Chief saw him do it, it still boggled his mind that a giant Scotsman wanted to be a cop.
Sam crouched next to the Chief and looked over the hood of the car. “Wha’ we got, then?”
“Six of them, armed with automatics, twenty hostages, one of which is Brian Cairne. They’ve singled him out.”
“Brian Cairne, the steel millionaire.”
“Ach, I’ll take yer word for it.” Sam quickly slipped the vest over his suit. “Has anyone made contact yet?”
“No, we waited for you.”
“Alrigh’, well, le’s ge’ started.”
The two men looked over their shoulder at the giant black van behind them, watching as Sam’s trusted team set to work connecting their surveillance equipment. Not a minute later, they signaled for Sam and the Chief to join them.
Sam quickly grabbed the phone with a quiet “Thanks” and took a deep breath as he listened to the line. After two rings, it was answered.
“Who the hell am I talking to?” a deep voice spoke.
Calmly, Sam answered. “Hallo, my name is Sam McKay.”
“What the—you’re not American?”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
“Well, what the hell kind of accent is that?”
“I’s Scottish. Are ye the man in charge?”
“Scottish, interesting. Well, caballero, yes, I’m the man in charge.”
“Alright. Do ye have a name I can call ye?”
“You can call me Gerry,” the voice growled.
“Very good, Gerry. Looks like ye’ve go’ a very interesting situation goin’ on, made a lo’ of cops around here a wee bit nervous.”
“Yeah, and I’m about to make their day a lot more interesting if my demands aren’t met.”
“Alrigh’, tell me yer demands and I’ll see wha’ I can do.”
“We’ll get to that. First, let me give you the full scenario: I’ve got twenty people here, some of them are women and children. And I will not hesitate to shoot any one of them if you screw with me. Is that clear?”
“Aye, tha’s very clear. I donnea want to screw ye, Gerry, I want t’help ye.”
“Good, then get me a bus out front in ten minutes and tell these cops to stand down.”
“I promise ye I will look into the bus, but I cannea tell anyone t’ stand down,” Sam answered calmly.
“Do I need to shoot someone already, Sam?”
“Gerry, please listen to me. There are a lo’ of frightened people in there, and the cops need to be nearby in case any of them needs help when this is all over. Alright?”
No matter the hundreds of times he’d been in a hostage exchange before, the silence on the end of the line as he waited for a response always made a bead of sweat appear on Sam’s head. Just as he began to wonder if he had been hung up on, Gerry responded.
“Alright, fine. But the cops have to stay where they are.”
“Aye, ye got it.”
“I want that bus out here in ten minutes.”
“I will get ye a bus as fast as possible, bu’ I need something from you too. Ye said ye’ve go’ some women and children in there. Why donnea ye let them go?”
“No no, bus first and then we’ll see about hostages. You call me back in two minutes, caballero.”
Before Sam could reply, the call ended. Putting the phone in his pocket, he turned to the Chief. “He wants a bus here in ten minutes.”
“We can get one en route from the station but it’ll take at least twenty.”
“He won’t settle for twenty, we’re gonna have to do bettar.” Sam turned back to his team of three: Derrick Rivera on the phone systems, Simon Abler on the computer, and Julie Russell looking at the blueprints of the building. “You guys go’ anythin’?”
“Amazing,” Julie muttered as she looked over every page of the prints, “this bank should be completely impervious; there’s no way to breech it other than the front door. The two back fire escape doors would set off alarms, and there’s no way to bypass them unless you’re at the main computer in the manager’s office.”
“All of their security cameras and systems are intact,” Simon added, pushing his glasses up on his face. “Nothing was tampered with. It looks like a good old’ fashioned bank robbery, not too sophisticated.”
“But they singled out Brian Cairne?” asked Rivera. “You saying it was just a coincidence that he was at the bank today?”
“I don’t know, it’s your job to figure that out.” Simon sighed. “I’m just the computer guy.”
“Alrigh’, enough.” Sam interrupted them. “Here’s wha’ we know so far: the suspect is callin’ himself Gerry, and he’s go’ a Latino accent. At the moment, Gerry’s calm, which means this isnea his first time robbin’ a bank. Julie, go coordinate with SWAT on a way to ge’ into the buildin’. Simon, see if ye can ge’ the security camera feed up. Rivera, find a quicker route for the bus.”
“Oh, great,” Chief Humbar said.
Sam turned to where he was looking to see a middle-aged man in a three-piece suit walking through the lines of policemen towards them with a couple of security guards just one step behind him.
“Who the hell is tha’?” Sam asked.
Humbar was stunned. “You’re kidding, right? That’s Jackson Green: Cairne’s son-in-law, CEO of En Passant International Bank, Ohio’s Congressman, and golden boy planning on making a run for President. Honestly, McKay, don’t you ever watch the news?”
“I’d rather be out on my boat. Ge’ rid of him, will ye?”
Chief Humbar nodded and quickly walked over to the approaching politician.
Brian glanced around the room nervously. Of course, the one day I give my security man the day off is the day I’m being held up in a bank, he thought. Looking over to the hostages cowering in fear, he felt more afraid for the mother and her two small children who made him think of his own family. The older girl had to be seven, like his youngest grandson, AJ, and the boy couldn’t be any older than three. As their mother clutched them tightly, barely holding herself together, Brian’s heart ached to see them so petrified. Calmly, he raised his hand.
“What the hell do you want, gringo?!” One of the robbers barked, pointing his gun at him.
“Just to help make the situation a little more bearable for the children,” Brian answered him calmly. “I noticed in the manager’s office there is a bowl with some candy. Would it be alright if I got a piece for the kids?”
The robber stared at him blankly before answering, “Are you kidding me?”
Brian shook his head. “No, sir. They’re scared, and a crying child would make everybody feel more uneasy. Some candy might help them stay calm.”
Another tense moment of silence followed before the robber turned to the others and began to speak in a rapid-fire manner, though Brian couldn’t understand a word of the language. Finally, the robber walked into the office and retrieved the mentioned bowl. Shoving it into Brian’s hands, he motioned towards the kids. “Do it, but be quick and don’t be an idiot. Got it?”
“Yes, sir,” Brian nodded and gently stood up, walked towards the children, and squatted in front of them. “Hey, guys. It’s gonna’ be okay, don’t worry. Here, would you like a caramel?”
The children hesitated before their mother whispered, “It’s alright, you can take one.”
Gingerly, the kids reached out and took some candy, unwrapped them, and quickly placed them in their mouths. Brian smiled and set the bowl down in front of them.
“I’ve always thought that candy makes everything better. Why don’t you guys hang on to that?”
“Thank you,” the little boy squeaked.
“Alright, that’s enough! Back to your seat!” the robber barked.
Brian stood up and slowly returned to his designated spot. Looking back towards the mother, he nodded after she mouthed a “thank you.” Now that he’d had a chance to help, the tension in the air eased some but only a little. Looking out the small window next to the large doors, he prayed that this nightmare would be over soon.
Sam called the bank again. It was answered after two rings.
“My bus on its way, Sam?”
“The closest one is twenty minutes away, but I’m tryin’ to ge’ it re-routed so it’ll be here sooner.”
“That’s not what we agreed on, caballero. I let you keep the cops and you promised me a bus.”
“And the bus is comin’, i’s just gonna’ take a little—”
“Meanwhile you’ve got all these poor, scared people sitting here with a crazy guy holding a gun pointed directly at them. Should I start with the kids?”
Sam heard the sounds of screaming in the background and felt his blood start to boil. Taking a deep breath, he answered, “Gerry, I donnea control the traffic. I promised ye a bus, and a bus is comin’. There is no need to hurt anyone.”
“Chicos, agarren a la niña!”
“NO!” a woman sobbed, “No, please don’t! Please!”
“MOMMY!” a little girl screamed.
“Gerry, listen to me!” Sam barked a little louder than he would have liked. Quickly, he composed himself before continuing, “Gerry, righ’ now nobody has been hurt. But if somebody does get hurt then tha’ lands completely on you. Ye start killin’ people and I cannea stop these cops from bargin’ in there and shootin’ ye right where ye stand.”
Gerry remained silent, so Sam pressed further.
“Now I promised ye the bus, and i’s coming as fast as possible. Don’t hurt anyone, and ye’ll be able to leave here alive. Ye got that?”
More silence followed and Sam held his breath. When he heard the same woman crying, “Oh God, thank you! It’s okay, sweetheart!” he sighed in relief.
“Alright, Sam, you just bought yourself fifteen minutes.” Gerry hung up.
“Rivera, where’s my bus?!” Sam barked.
“It’s coming, stuck on 71,” Rivera answered.
“What are you people doing out here?!”
Sam turned to see the man in the suit standing at the door of his van and yelling at all of them with Chief Humbar directly behind him.
“Shouldn’t you be ‘breaching the building’ or something?! Why are you just sitting here and giving this terrorist what he wants?!”
“Congressman, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the scene and let us handle this,” the Chief said coolly.
“Forget it, Humbar! My father-in-law’s in there! I’m not leaving until he’s safe!”
Sam piped in, “Congressman Green, righ’ now there are six men, fully armed and ready to shoot, with twenty hostages. Their leader has already threatened to kill a child, and I guarantee that if we donnea handle this delicately, he will do tha’ and much worse.”
Sam stared the man down before adding, “This is a very high-risk situation. There is nothin’ tha’ ye can do here. For yer own safety, please go back to yer home or at least stay out of the way.”
Green glared before straitening his jacket. “Alright, fine. Just get my father-in-law out safely or I will ruin you, do you understand?”
“Sam, I got them!” Simon exclaimed.
Sam waved the Congressman off without a backward glance and turned his attention back to Simon.
“I was able to hack into the security camera systems, now we can keep an eye on everything.”
The two men watched the pixilated images closely, looking for signs of weakness or openings. Sam paid close attention to the older gentleman in a chair that was being closely guarded by one of the robbers and interrogated by another.
“Tha’s gotta’ be Gerry,” Sam pointed to the imposing figure in front of Mr. Cairne.
“What do you think he’s saying to him?”
“I donnea know, but it looks like shit might hit the fan soon. We’ve go’ to get these men to let their guard down a little.”
“Hey Humbar,” Rivera chimed in, “you’ve got eyes up on the building, why not have your snipers take them out?”
“The windows are too small for Jones to have a good clear shot; he’d only get one of them at best. The last thing we should do is antagonize this guy.”
“Aye,” Sam nodded. “Bu’ all the same, ge’ yer guys ready to breach. And ge’ a few more snipers up there with yer man jus’ in case we can take them out when the bus comes.”
“You got it.” Chief Humber turned and walked towards the waiting policemen.