Mystery and Crime Fiction posted November 15, 2020 Chapters:  ...7 8 -9- 10 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Andi's tragic secret is revealed.

A chapter in the book The Teacher

The Teacher - 9

by teols2016

A hostage situation at an elementary school.
Previously in "The Teacher":

A gunman invades the Ellison Elementary School and takes a classroom hostage. While the teacher, Andi Defesne, attempts to talk to the assailant, Kevin Greer attempts to negociate on behalf of the police department, all while learning about underlying political implications.

It took almost an hour for most of the class to use the bathroom, but the trio inside the Mobile Command Center considered the time worth it. Five more students had been released and were on their way to Mather Hospital, where they'd be checked out and reunited with their parents. More detectives were being sent to the hospital to meet and debrief them, though Kevin supposed any information would not prove useful. Those girls who'd been released earlier in exchange for the pizzas weren't able to provide anything game-changing, so the odds were their classmates would have the same lackluster information.

"It's getting late," Nance remarked, looking at the darkening sky through the open bus door. "Normally, I'm helping my girls with their homework over the phone while I'm driving home now."

Kevin nodded, admiring the fellow devoted father. He too still helped with homework, his younger son having a tough time with English.

More pressing than the late hour was the approaching live interview with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oren Fischer. No one was able to make any headway with getting that postponed.

"Stubborn and stupid," Nance remarked, referring to the station not cooperating. "They're liable to get everyone killed."

"Should we give up and have your guys go in?" Lieutenant Cruz asked.

Lethal force was still not a desirable option, but they were running out of good bad ideas.

"After the sweetheart deal we just got, I'd rather not," Nance said. "If we screw up and this standoff continues, we won't be able to regain Kirkland's trust."

"Cutting the feed is out," Kevin remarked. "No way we can account for everyone."

More stations were getting ready to air the interview and several streaming services were likewise announcing their intention to make it available for their subscribers. The police couldn't prevent them all from showing the footage.

"Too bad the mics are gone," Lieutenant Cruz said. "You think Kirkland knew about those?"

"He probably guessed," Kevin figured. "A week ago, this guy had no criminal record, but I'm sure he's seen cop shows. He had to have suspected we would try something."

"Try calling him again," Nance suggested. "Maybe we can distract him."

Kevin nodded. It was good enough.

* * *

John answered the phone on the fifth ring, not putting it on speakerphone.

"Yeah? ..." he said. "Yeah ... you want more? What are you trying to pull? ... I'll think about it."

He put the receiver down again.

"What did they want?" Andi asked.

"More of your kids," John muttered. "It's getting late and they're getting desperate."

"Maybe you could demand something else in return."

"What I want, they won't give."

John moved around Andi's desk. Grabbing the back of her chair with one large hand, he pulled her out of the way and began typing on her computer keyboard again.

"What are you doing?" Andi asked, not daring to move from where he'd left her.

"Seeing what's going on," John replied, using the mouse to scroll. "something's got them hopping. They want to end this fast."

"It's getting late," Andi reminded him. "No one wants to do this all night."

She noticed some of her students exchanging worried glances. Some also looked towards the now-empty desks. John was ignoring all of them.

"What's this?" he asked, speaking to no one in particular while staring at the computer screen.

Remaining seated, Andi leaned forward to see. Her heart sank when she caught sight of the link on which the cursor was poised to click.

Live Interview: Supreme Court Justice Fischer Speaks About NY School Hostage Crisis

"What's with you?" John asked, turning and noticing Andi's pale face.

"No ... nothing," Andi said, hoping her lie was convincing. She quickly straightened in her seat again.

John studied the screen.

"What's a judge in D.C. got to do with this?" he said to no one in particular. "Usually, all those old white guys only speak up to say it's okay to put guys like me down in one way or another."

Andi clenched her fist. Her grandfather was not a racist. The very implication was ludicrous and revolting.

"You up to something there?" John asked, whirling around and pointing his gun at her.

"No," Andi replied, loosening her fingers.

John studied her for a moment before turning back to the computer and clicking on the link. A bar showed a live stream was loading and the image of her white-haired grandfather soon appeared, looking splendid in an olive-green suit. He was seated next to a dark-haired reporter whose smile made it clear this was his White Bronco.

"What would you want to say to the gunman," the reporter was asking. "If he were watching, what would you want to say to him right now?"

"I only ask that he not harm anyone else," Oren replied in the soft tone Andi recognized. "I want a peaceful resolution."

Andi knew her grandfather could be loving and soft-spoken. He could also be firm and resolute. She'd seen him admonish lawyers for poor conduct or unprofessional behavior. He acted in a similar fashion when confiscating her cell phone and laptop for poor grades or some other manner of disobedience.

She, her grandfather, and her grandmother all preferred his more soft-spoken side. Oren had expressed his disappointment when she had not chosen to study law in pursuit of a judicial appointment, but he supported her desire to become an educator. Later, he'd visit her classes to regale students with colorful cases he'd ruled on throughout his career. This class had yet to meet him, though he'd been planning a visit to New York next May.

"So, you want your granddaughter and all the students released?" the reporter asked.

Andi noticed John stiffen.

"Of course," Oren replied. "Adison's life is as precious as any of those young ones in that room."

John looked at Andi but didn't speak. Andi prayed he wouldn't make the connection.

"Does the fact you and your wife raised her make a difference?" the reporter asked.

"Is it that simple?" Oren replied. "We've all seen too many tragedies in our nation's schools. I would be devastated if anyone's life were cut short by violence, whether it's Adison or one of the children."

The reporter turned to the camera.

"When we come back," he said, "we'll discuss the tragedy which led Justice Oren Fischer to raise his granddaughter, who was the sole survivor of a shooting in her home almost twenty-three years ago."

Andi withheld a sigh. She knew it was clear now. Apart from John, she was the only one in the room old enough for that last statement to apply.

"Your grandfather?" John asked, closing the window on the computer.

"Yes," Andi replied in a small voice.

"Your grandfather, a judge on the Supreme Court in D.C.?"

Andi knew she didn't need to repeat herself. She studied John, trying to analyze his reaction to this revelation.

His expression surprised her. She thought he might be gleeful when he realized the new value of his hostage. Or, he might have become more concerned as to what lengths the police and FBI outside would go to rescue someone connected to this high-profile political figure. Maybe such a revelation would prompt his surrender.

Instead, John's face remained blank ... neutral. Andi supposed he might still be evaluating this development and his options. Andi kept watching
him, waiting for a reaction.

* * *

"I won't deny I never liked my son-in-law," Oren said. "But I never expected he'd do such a thing. I never saw myself leaving my home in my pajamas, but when I heard what had happened, I found myself doing just that."

"For your granddaughter?" the reporter asked.

Oren nodded, emitting a slight chuckle.

"I was quite a sight at the police station that night. And at the hospital. But I did not care."

Inside the Mobile Command Center, Kevin, Nance, and Lieutenant Cruz were watching the interview. Nance had been able to get through to Justice Fischer's cell phone just minutes before the show was due to start. The federal agent had tried to implore the Supreme Court Justice not to do it, attempting to outline the possible consequences.

"I need this man to understand the people he is holding have families out there," Justice Fischer had insisted in a resolute tone before ending the call.

"Academics," Nance had remarked to his law enforcement colleagues on the bus. "Always mucking things up."

They all knew Justice Fischer had been a professor, and later a dean, at The George Washington University School of Law prior to being appointed to fill a vacancy in the Eastern District of Virginia and then the 4th Circuit, followed by the Supreme Court. But there was nothing the law enforcement personnel could do about his apparent lack of awareness or concern about the possible consequences. The interview was happening and there was the possibility Kirkland now knew what he had.

"What do you want to do?" Kevin asked.

Nance paused, considering his answer.

"Let's wait before calling him again," he said after a minute or so. "Let this sink in. If we're lucky, Kirkland will be thinking about how bad things could get for him if anything happens to that teacher."

Kevin nodded, not having a better idea.

* * *

"Thought you said your name was 'Andi'," John mused, studying Andi.

Andi gaped at him. That was what he was focusing on now?

"It is," she said. "'Adison' is my given name."

"How did you get to 'Andi' from that?" John queried.

Andi considered if she ought to be sharing such personal information with him. But she wasn't in a great position to refuse.

"I have a cousin," she said. "She was three when I was five. She had trouble pronouncing my name, so everyone was trying to have her call me 'Adi'. But, she had a friend ... a little boy named 'Andy'. Things sort of blended in her head. I became 'Andi' and it just kind of stuck."

She wouldn't mention how she later let it stick as a way of distancing herself from what happened and the life she'd had more than two decades earlier. She always thought about legally changing her name, but she never got around to doing it, even when she'd married Marshall. Everyone except her grandparents called her "Andi" anyway, so a legal change never seemed that important.

Andi heard John chuckle. She supposed the story, on its own, was amusing.

"Families are weird," John remarked. "Your grandfather raised you?"

Andi nodded.

"Since I was seven," she added.

John paused, seeming to consider something again.

"Something happened to your parents?" he asked. "Something bad?"

Andi sighed. His tone was polite enough. He wasn't demanding an answer. But she understood all that could change, perhaps with little provocation.

"My family died," she said, praying such a vague response might be satisfactory.

"Yeah," John said without emotion. "They said it was a shooting and called it a 'tragedy'."

Andi glanced at her students, all of them watching this exchange. Her relationship to a sitting Supreme Court Justice was an open secret within the school, but not many people knew the complete circumstances behind her grandparents becoming her guardians. Andi didn't want to lay it all out now.

"What happened?" John asked.

He still wasn't being impatient or demanding, but Andi still knew this was not a consistent state for him. And, in some small part of her brain, she considered the possibility that, if he knew her story, he might feel compelled to end this standoff and release them all.

"My father did it," she described. "He and my mom were arguing one night. We were living in Rockville, Montgomery County, down in Maryland then. Dad was a corporate lawyer representing some defense contractors. He never liked it, even though the money was good. He and my mom argued a lot towards the end. That night, they argued, and he shot her. My brother went to see what was happening and he shot him. I hid and he never found me. Dad killed himself before the police got there."

Though she didn't share these facts often, she'd done so often enough that she was numb to them. There were other facts she didn't share because those emotions were still raw after all these years. She would not repeat them for John.

She could remember how she and her brother, Christopher, came out of their bedrooms at the sound of shouting and gunfire.

"What's happening?" her four-year-old brother had asked through the darkness in the hallway.

Andi hadn't answered him.

"Are mom and dad okay?" he queried.

Andi still didn't answer, not knowing what to do or say.

"I'm going to see Mom," Chris had insisted.

Andi's heart still hurt as she remembered how she had done nothing ... said nothing to stop him. Her mind was recognizing what a dangerous situation they were facing. Until that night, she'd never considered whether her father owned a gun. That night, she knew, and she was understanding he was using it in a very bad way. But, she hadn't stopped her little brother from going to investigate. And, when she heard another gunshot, she ran to hide.

Andi remembered her father coming to look for her.

"Adison!" he'd called. "Adison. Where are you?"

He had never called her "Andi".

He'd come into her room and opened her closet. Hiding behind some coats just feet from him, Andi believed she too was about to die. She could see him and the gun he was holding. She'd held her breath, willing herself not to cry.

The silent tableau was broken by approaching sirens outside. Andi later learned a neighbor had heard the gunfire and called the police. With a sigh suggesting resignation, Andi's father left her room. Listening to his footsteps retreat down the hallway, Andi remained hidden, not wanting him to come back and find her. She didn't want to die. Her heart jumped when she heard one more loud crack. But she stayed in the closet until a police officer found her and took her outside. The officer had shielded her from being able to look into the kitchen, where her father's body still lay, waiting for the medical examiner.

Andi still remembered her father's blank stare into the dark closet. She still wondered if he was making an effort to find her or just hoping she'd appear in front of him, ready to be shot.

She still never understood why he'd done it. Sure, people later spoke to her about his psychological problems, a growing embezzlement investigation at his firm, and an affair with a paralegal named Ashleigh. But all that came out after it happened. Andi still wished she'd seen some sort of sign before then. She was often reassured that she was seven and not expected to see something and say something, but she never found comfort in those words.

Andi would never share these memories and lingering feelings with John. She stared at him as he stood there, taking in what she had shared.

"Man," John said, stretching out the word. "I'm sorry that happened to you."

His solemn sentiment sounded genuine, but Andi didn't care. She looked at her students, all of whom were staring back at her. She wondered how much of this they were understanding.

"Did you ever forgive your father for what he did?" John asked.

"I don't know," Andi replied.

She had never found a resolution or closure on that issue.

"Could you?" John asked.

"I don't know," Andi replied.

She was never able to understand forgiving her father for what he did or outright hating him for it.

There was another long pause. John seemed to be thinking again and Andi waited.

"Could you ever forgive me?" John asked after another minute.

Andi too took a minute to contemplate her response. She soon decided to be honest, not concerned about the possible consequences. If anything happened, it would happen to her. She'd make sure of that.

"I don't know," she said. "I really don't know."

John nodded.

"Teach them something else," he said as the phone began to ring.

While Port Jefferson, NY, is a real town, the Ellison Elementary School is fictional.

Cast of characters:

Andi Defesne: 2nd grade teacher at the Ellison Elementary School in Port Jefferson, NY. Taken hostage alongside her students.

John Kirkland: wanted for a violent courtroom shooting and escape in Boston, Massachusetts, and related murders.

Sargent Kevin Greer: hostage negociator for the Suffolk County Police Department. In charge of negociating with hostagetaker John Kirkland at the Ellison Elementary School.

Supervisory Special Agent Seth Nance: representative from the FBI's Boston field office. Assigned to the Kirkland case following the courthouse shooting.

Lieutenant Aldo Cruz: Suffolk County Police official in charge at the scene of the hostage crisis at the Ellison Elementary School. Kevin's superior officer.

Supervisory Special Agent Vince Dodson: commander of the FBIâ??s Divisional SWAT Team from Manhattan.

Oren Fischer: Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Andi's grandfather.

Marshall Shaffer: Andi's husband.

Feedback, especially recommendations for revisions, Feedback, especially recommendations for revisions, additions, and subtractions, are always welcome. Enjoy.
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