Part 8

Monday 30th July 1990 cont'd

Sam watched over Mickey’s shoulder as he followed Elwood’s patrol car past the official police barrier and into the school car park. A subdued crowd of local people were waiting behind the police line for news. Sam prayed that they would be successful and find a way to rescue the hostages without any loss of life.

As the car rolled to a stop, Sam pushed open her door and stepped down onto the gravel. Elwood was already out of his vehicle and he waved them towards a trailer on the other side of the car park. There were other police department cars left haphazardly and Sam wove her way around them as she followed Mickey and Robert. About a quarter of a mile away, screened by trees, she could just make out the large two-storey school building.

When they got inside the trailer, it was hot and the air was stale. Lucas was standing by a large table covered with blueprints of the building, assorted papers and communications equipment. "Thanks for coming."

He looked and sounded very tense and Sam recalled that as principal of the local school, Dorothy was almost certainly a hostage too.

Robert said, "Fill us in on the details."

Lucas took a deep breath, "We've got six escaped prisoners holding twenty students and four staff hostage inside the school. As far as we can tell they’re holed up in the auditorium at the eastern end of the building. They took a couple of pot-shots at some of my deputies so we know they're armed."

"Do you know why they came here?" Robert asked.

"The leader of the bunch is a man called Nolan and he was born here in Silver Bay. Six years ago he was convicted with two others of the rape and murder of four local teenagers. I tracked them down and made damn sure they all got life sentences. At the trial Nolan promised to get even. Two days ago, two guards were killed when Nolan, his friends and three other lowlifes escaped from Elmira. I think Nolan’s brought them here to help him get revenge."

"Why would the other escapees come this way? Wouldn’t it have been better for them to split up?" Robert asked.

Lucas shook his head. "Nolan has something about him. I don’t pretend to understand it but he manages to attract people and get them to follow him."

"How were they spotted so soon?" Mickey voiced that question.

"Silver Bay’s a small place and Gus Jenkins in the sports store recognised Nolan right away. He called it in, but before we could pick them up they were spooked and ran into the school."

Sam looked up from the blueprints. They had been cut off from normal news while they had been at the cabin and hadn’t heard anything about a jailbreak. "Is Dorothy inside?"

Lucas nodded, the pain in his eyes was indescribable. He gave Sam a half smile, "Mickey mentioned a few days ago that you were a field agent. I’m sorry to wreck your vacation but you folks are the only chance those kids have. I don’t trust Nolan an inch."

Sam lifted her hand to reassure Lucas, "It’s okay, I’m glad to be able to help."

"What does this man, Nolan, want?" Robert asked.

"He hasn’t said," Lucas checked his watch, "We only got the direct phone line connected just now. He’s going to call back in five minutes and tell me his demands."

"What else can you tell us about Nolan’s background? Does he have any training?" Robert said.

Lucas chewed on his lower lip for a few seconds before answering, "Nolan's smart, he’s ex-special forces and knows the procedure. He’s expecting me to try to delay while I get a SWAT team in here."

"We’re going to need some communications equipment to keep in touch when we go in." Mickey was also studying the plans. Sam noticed that no one argued with him. It was accepted that they would attempt to rescue the hostages.

"I’ve got one of my deputies raiding a local store for the latest headsets and radios." Lucas managed a half smile, "It probably won’t be as good as the gear you’re used to, but we all know that the government gets all the best equipment first."

Sam lifted the papers, already memorising the names and faces of each of the convicts. "It says here that all of these men are serving life with no chance of parole – they’ve got nothing to lose."

"I know." Lucas’s voice was gruff with strain. Sam was amazed he could still function.

Mickey pushed himself away from the table. "Okay, I’ll go get some things ready while we’re waiting for the call."

Sam nodded; she knew how much Mickey hated waiting around. She was feeling pretty tense herself. She’d worked on hostage situations before but this time they were going in blind. "Need some help?"

He smiled at her, "Sure thing." He stopped suddenly, "Lucas, we don't have any body armour Sam’s size. She needs a vest."

Lucas only needed to look at Elwood and the deputy nodded, "I’ll see to it."

She followed Mickey out into the car park and took deep breaths of the fresh air. They crossed over to the Jeep and she waited while Mickey opened the back door. He pulled up a well fitting, concealed lid and she saw a deep compartment full of the tools of their trade.

She watched while Mickey moved things around. He found an Uzi, which he placed to one side with spare clips of ammunition. "Do you want an Uzi?"

"I’d prefer an MP5K if you’ve got one."

"I think there's one here. He looked around, shifting things about for a few minutes before pulling out the familiar weapon and handing it to her. "How many spare clips?"

She thought for a moment as she checked the weapon, she was carrying three for the Browning already. "Four should do. There are thirty rounds in each, if I set it on auto, I can knock the bloody building down!"

Mickey reached over and squeezed her hand, "Let's leave this stuff here for now and take a walk and have a look around."

"Okay."

Making sure to keep out of sight of the windows, they made a fast circuit of the school building.

On the west side of the building Sam poked Mickey with her elbow and whispered, "Look! There on the second floor, that window is open."

Mickey dug into his pocket and came out with a grubby piece of paper and a stub of pencil. "I'll sketch the location then we can check it with the plans. It could be our way in."

Seeing no other possible entry points in their quick tour, they walked back to the Jeep. Once there, Mickey opened the back door again.

"I think we're gonna have to go in through that window. It's the only way. It'll be us too, McCall doesn't have the head for high work."

Sam knew she had looked puzzled when he explained, "Don't say I told you but he's scared of heights."

"Oh." Sam nodded, "No problem. You could lift me high enough to get into the window and everything else looked locked up tight. Unless Lucas has any other ideas… It's a long way from the auditorium which could be a problem."

"Yeah, but at least those bastards are less likely to hear us once we are inside."

Mickey looked through the weapons cache again, "Can you think of anything else we might need? You want me to see if Elwood can get a crossbow for you?"

"No, it’s okay. If we're going to climb in – it would get in the way." She smiled, "I’ll have a knife if you’ve got one."

"A knife?"

"Yes, one I can throw. I'm accurate and it's quiet."

"Okay." He rooted around in the back of the Jeep for a few seconds more and handed her one in a leather sheath which she clipped onto her belt. She saw him take a knife for himself.

Between them they picked up the rest of the weapons and two flak jackets before making their way back to the mobile HQ.

They had barely got inside when the phone on Lucas’ desk rang. He snatched up the receiver and flipped the speaker switch so that everyone could hear the conversation. "Grant."

"Well, fancy that, just the man I wanted to talk to. They got you answering the phone now, Lucas?" The voice was cold and devoid of emotion and the ambient temperature in the room seemed to drop by ten degrees.

"Cut the crap, what do you want, Nolan?"

"That isn’t very friendly, Lucas. And if I were you, I would keep on my good side. I’ve got a lot of nice kids here and it would be a shame if anything had to happen to them."

Sam listened carefully, assessing what she could about the men they had to face.

"Just tell me what you want, Nolan," Lucas snapped.

"Not much really, considering there are over twenty hostages here."

Lucas waited in silence and Sam admired him for that.

"I want transportation out of here, for me, my friends and a couple of hostages. And I want some spending money, at least a half million. If you do it right and don’t screw with me, I’ll let the kids go."

"Have you harmed anyone so far?"

"Of course not. You know me better than that."

"You’re right. I do. Let me speak to the principal – I want to make sure you're telling the truth."

Sam realised then that Lucas was hoping Nolan didn't know that Dorothy was also his wife.

"You want to speak to Mrs. Grant? Fine. Here she is."

"Lucas?" It was Dorothy’s voice.

Sam listened carefully, she had met Dorothy twice during her stay and could hear the strain in her voice. Dorothy would have a strong sense of responsibility for the students and staff in the school. Nolan would almost certainly have reminded her of his connection with Lucas, which would have added to her feelings of guilt. Even so, she was sure that Dorothy would keep her head and aid them in their rescue attempt at much as possible.

"Are you all right? Has he touched anyone yet?"

"I don’t think so. He’s moved some students out – " The line went quiet for a moment and Sam could make out muffled voices in the background. When Dorothy came back on she sounded more shaken, "He says to tell you that he hasn’t hurt anyone yet but there are bombs and booby traps all around the school. And if anyone tries to get in they’ll set them off and make him kill everyone."

Sam’s mind raced, where had Nolan and friends got hold of the explosives? She’d get someone to check it out.

"Dotty, you do what he wants and make sure everyone else does too. I’ll work something out, I promise…"

"How touching," Nolan’s voice was savage, little more than a hiss. "Just remember what I'm capable of, Grant, and we can make a deal. Don’t treat me like a fool."

"I would never do that, I know you too well."

"You have an hour to meet my demands. I'll call you back every fifteen minutes and if you’re not there to talk to me, kids are gonna die. I’m not gonna to give you the chance to get a rescue team in here. If I hear or see anything that tells me you’ve called in the Feds or State Troopers, the hostages will die. I want my transportation and money here by fifteen hundred hours when I make that fourth call and it’s not negotiable. Get it organized or I start killing hostages."

Sam found it easy to imagine the smug look that would be pasted on Nolan's face right about now – he must think he was holding all the aces in this particular hand.

"And, Lucas… You remember how I get my kicks, don’t you?"

Before Lucas could respond the phone went dead, but Nolan's manic laughter echoed around the room.

Lucas looked at all of them, "When he calls again I’m going to try to stall him some more, but I don’t think it will work. You really need to be ready to go in before the hour is up. It doesn’t give you much time to make plans."

Robert spoke, "I’ve got to say this, Lucas. We’ll do our best to get the hostages out, but it is going to be difficult. There are too many unknowns to offer guarantees. Also, you understand that we won’t be offering Nolan and his friends the chance to surrender don’t you?"

"I know you have to play for keeps. Just do the best you can, that’s all I ask."

Sam spoke up, "I think we need to check if he has actually managed get any explosives. Do companies here have to report any losses?"

Lucas nodded at her, "Yep." He looked away at another deputy standing by the doorway, "Check it out, Harry."

"Sure thing, chief."

Sam studied the blueprints as the minutes ticked away. Nolan had called twice, on schedule, interrupting their planning. From what they could see through high powered binoculars Nolan had some of his people around the school keeping watch, but most of the kidnappers and hostages were gathered together in the school’s auditorium.

They had decided to go in at the same time as Nolan’s third check-in call. Hopefully he would be distracted for the vital seconds it took for them to get close to the building. John Mitchell, another of Lucas’s deputies had previous military experience and he had volunteered to go with Robert as part of the two pronged attack.

Most of Lucas's people were off doing other things, Grace and the other medics were setting up a temporary triage station outside, so there were only five of them now. Robert looked at the people grouped around the table, "Right, let’s go through it one more time. Lucas?"

"Undercover, the four of you get in position as close to the building as possible. As soon as I tell you over the radio that Nolan’s calling, you’ll move in."

"Sam?"

"Mickey and I will go in through the open upstairs window. Once there, we’ll make our way down to the boys locker room, here." She pointed at the location on the plans. "You and Mitchell will be waiting on the outside. The check for missing explosives has come in positive, so we are assuming that Nolan was telling the truth about the booby traps. Mickey will defuse any bombs or traps we might come across while I stand guard, feeding you Intel. Once the door's open and we’re all inside we’ll move to the entrance hall outside the auditorium."

"Mickey? Any problems you can see?"

"Nope. As long as the radio frequencies are okay and we don't end up broadcasting to the world!"

"The frequencies are fine, I checked myself and I’m keeping everyone else on radio silence just to be on the safe side." Lucas said.

Mickey nodded, "Okay. Then Sam will cover me while I work and we’ll aim to take out any hostiles we meet quietly."

Robert spoke now, emphasising his instructions by pointing at specific locations on the plan. "Once you have cleared the doorway and John and I get in, we can make our move on the target. We’ll get into position near the auditorium and synchronise our assault. We will wait there until Nolan makes his final call. While that is in progress we will move in. Sam and I will go in together through the single side door of the theatre while John and Mickey will take the rear entrances."

Sam looked over at the last member of the team, John Mitchell's face was shining with nervous sweat and as Sam watched, he wiped his forehead on his cuff. She couldn't blame him, she’d never done something like this with so little preparation before. Most hostage rescue missions were practised over and over until the teams could almost do the job in their sleep.

"John?" Robert’s voice broke into her thoughts.

The black deputy managed a faint grin, "I wait with Robert until we’re let in. I stick with the experts here and when I hear the signal from Lucas I go in through the left side, rear door while Mickey takes the right hand one." He touched his holstered pistol, "I only fire if I’m sure of a target."

"Good. Can anyone think of anything we’ve missed?" Robert looked at the group gathered around the table.

"What do we do if Mickey or Sam are spotted once they are inside and it looks like Nolan is going to kill hostages?" John Mitchell asked.

"I'm sure it won't come to that," Robert said calmly, "but if it happens and the inside team," he nodded towards her and Mickey, "are still functional, we will go in hard and fast and meet up at the auditorium. Remember we keep radio contact to a minimum. Anything else?"

Sam saw four heads shake and checked her watch. "We’ve got eight minutes before Nolan calls again."

Robert nodded, "I think we should make the final checks on the equipment and get into position."

Less than five minutes later, she and Mickey were crouched in bushes as close to the school building as they could safely get. Robert and Mitchell were ten feet away. While she waited for Lucas to give the signal, Sam found her thoughts coming back to the man beside her.

After more than a week together, she knew she was falling for him. She wasn’t completely sure how he felt because they were both too damn good at hiding their feelings. She shook her head, she shouldn’t think of that right now. She had to concentrate.

She was pulled out of her introspection when Lucas’s voice came over her headset, "Call coming in. Go! Go!"

Side by side, she and Mickey headed for the school, keeping low and watching and listening for any alarms. They had discussed how to check that the supply room was unoccupied and Lucas had found them a sophisticated periscope.

They reached the wall of the school without difficulty. Sam kept watch while Mickey held the extendable tube up and sneaked a look in through the window.

"It’s clear," he whispered.

Standing with his back to the wall, he made a stirrup with his hands. Sam put her foot in and, steadying herself with her hands on his shoulders, let him lift her until she could reach the sill of the window. Pushing  the window open the rest of the way, she pulled herself up and inside, the bulk of her Kevlar vest impeding her progress. Landing on the floor, shoulder first, she sprang to her feet and drew a thin rope from around her waist. Tying it off onto a heavy cabinet, she threw the end out of the window, keeping her hand on it lightly. When she felt a tug on the line, she pulled it in, bringing the bag with the heavier weapons with it. Untying it, she threw the rope down once more.

Something alerted her and, feeling uneasy, she went over to the door and listened. When she heard the faint footsteps in the hallway outside she knew that her instincts were working just fine. It sounded as though someone was walking along the corridor outside checking the rooms on this floor.

She whispered, "Someone’s coming," into her headset, confident Mickey would hear her and know what to do. Then she stood to one side, behind the door. The footsteps got closer and then, with a rattle the handle turned and the door opened.

From her position, Sam only saw the man in profile but it was enough to identify him. His attention elsewhere, the convict was completely taken by surprise when she stepped out, confronting him. He hadn’t had a chance to make a sound when she hit him once, directly in the face with the heel of her hand, forcing the bones of his nose into his brain. He went down heavily and didn’t move.

Sam checked for a pulse, but, as she had intended, he was dead. Mickey came in through the window then and looked over at the corpse. "Problem?"

"Not any more."

"One down. It’s Jansen." Mickey reported to Lucas.

Sam looked at the dead man, skinny, below average height, with lank greasy hair, he was the oldest of the escapees. She remembered that he had been convicted of the aggravated rape of a waitress in Albany.

They saw no one else as they made their way along a corridor and down a staircase to the boys’ locker room. Once there, she spotted a device in front of the fire exit door right away. It was basic but effective and would explode if the door was opened even a crack. Sam kept watch while Mickey worked on the bomb. She could hear faint sounds from Robert and John Mitchell on the other side of the door.

"Three more minutes, the bastard's booby trapped it." Sam heard Mickey’s whispered words in stereo, through the headset and from beside her.

Sam continually scanned the corridor leading from the locker room. Despite her best efforts a greater part of her concentration was on Mickey, cutting and taping wires. She sensed him relax before she heard him report, "All clear."

Moving the debris of the bomb to one side, Mickey stood up to open the door. Sam moved away and ducked out of sight into the doorway of the shower area. If anyone heard and came to investigate she wanted to be able to surprise them.

"Door’s open." Mickey’s familiar whisper came through next.

"We're coming in." Sam heard Robert's whisper through the headset.

Concentrating on watching the corridor and Mickey’s back, she didn't notice the familiar smell of death right away. Instead it slowly crept up on her, fuelling her feelings of unease. Feeling the hair at the back of her neck begin to stand on end, she whispered into her microphone, "Give me thirty seconds to check something out."

She turned and walked further into the shower area. The blood was clearly visible by the light coming in through the high, opaque glass windows. It had spilled across the tiles and was seeping into the floor drain. Letting her eyes move around the room, she spotted two partially clothed bodies. Both female. They had been sexually mutilated and their throats cut. Her guess was that they had been raped as well.

Keeping her feelings under tight control and avoiding the mess on the floor – she didn’t want to leave bloody footprints to advertise their presence – Sam walked over and took a closer look at the nearest corpse. It was a girl of no more than fifteen, a pretty blonde. The gash in her throat stretched from one side of her neck to the other. The smell of excrement along with the metallic tang of the blood filled her head and flowed into her mouth. Pushing down her anger she backed away.

"Lucas," she spoke quietly, "I’ve found two bodies, both female, aged between fifteen and eighteen is my guess."

"The lying bastard said he hadn’t hurt anyone." She heard Lucas swear before he was back in control.

Robert and John Mitchell looked grim when she re-joined them in the locker room.

Mickey was expressionless as usual but he mouthed at her, You okay? She nodded. Cold anger welled up inside her and she hoped that Nolan and his friends would make it impossible for them to be captured. Now, killing them would worry her less than shooting a rabid dog. In fact she would probably pity the dog more – at least it wasn't rabid through its own choice.

They regrouped just inside the entrance to the locker room and were about to move into the corridor when Sam heard something. She looked over to warn the others and saw that they had heard it too. They all retreated, finding hiding places among the metal lockers. The unidentifiable sound soon turned into footsteps and then she could hear voices, one deep and the other shrill and hysterical. As she watched, Sam saw another of Nolan’s accomplices, Cahill, come into the room. He was leading a pretty, teenage brunette by the arm. In his other hand he was holding an automatic. The girl was clearly terrified.

"Please… I want to go back to my friends."

"What’s the matter, Molly? Don’t you want to be nice to me?" With his filthy clothes, lank black hair and matted beard, Sam couldn’t imagine even his mother wanting to be nice to him. Once inside the locker room Cahill stuck the gun in his waistband and pushed the girl up against the nearest wall, grabbing her wrists in one of his hands and holding them above her head. He ran his other hand over her front, and Sam saw the pain and underlying terror on Molly's face as he squeezed her breasts.

The girl was much shorter and Cahill had to bend his neck to kiss her. She struggled but was no match for his strength.

"Ow! You bitch!" Cahill yelled and Sam had to assume that the girl had fought back by biting him. He reacted by slapping her face, knocking her off her feet. Molly lay on the floor weeping until Cahill pulled her back upright.

Sam, Robert and Mickey exchanged looks calculating who was best placed to take Cahill out. Mickey indicated that he thought he had the best chance.

Cahill was so occupied with the sobbing girl and the fun he was going to have that he didn't notice Mickey. Moving with cat-like grace, the knife in his hand glinting as it caught the light from the windows, Mickey edged closer.

Mickey waited until the convict's hands were busy unzipping his fly before he put the knife against his neck and said in a voice full of menace, "Don’t move, scumbag."

Sam saw Cahill's shoulders tense and knew he was crazy enough to try something. She saw him turn, his hand going for the gun at his waist. Before he could reach it, Mickey’s hand closed over his mouth and the knife flashed. Then Cahill was falling, blood spewing from his neck and staining the front of his once white t-shirt. She hurried towards to the girl who was staring fixedly at the corpse on the floor. A loud wail of terror came from her throat before Sam cut off the sound with a hand over her mouth.

She pulled the teen’s head up so that their eyes met. "Listen to me. My name is Sam. We’re here to get you and your friends out but you mustn’t make any noise."

The girl’s eyes were wide with fear but she seemed to understand what was being said.

"We had to kill that man. He was going to hurt you."

The girl’s eyes started moving towards the body on the ground.

"No! Don’t look at him. Look at me." Sam made her voice sharp, forcing Molly to obey her.

Molly nodded.

"I’m going to take my hand away from your mouth but you mustn’t make a sound. Do you understand?"

She nodded again and Sam took her hand away, prepared to put it back if Molly couldn't control herself. Watching the youngster’s face Sam saw her grow pale and guessed she was about to pass out.

Pulling at Molly's arm to distract her, Sam urged her to move across the room. From the quick look Sam had taken, Mickey had gone for a sure kill, cutting into Cahill’s windpipe so that he wouldn’t be able to cry out. There had been lots of blood and they didn't need to freak the poor girl out anymore by letting her stand and look at the bloody corpse. Guiding her over to John Mitchell, who was standing by the opened door, Sam asked her, "Is your name Molly?"

"Yes." Her voice wavered and she was shaking so much she could barely stand. Sam positioned her so that she faced away from Cahill’s body.

"Molly, you know Deputy Mitchell here? He’s helping us to free your friends. I want you to wait with him for a moment." In her headset, Sam could hear Mickey reporting the death of another of the hostage takers to Lucas. She also heard him telling Lucas that Molly was safe and that they would make sure she stayed put.

Robert had understood Mickey's oblique reference because he walked over to stand beside Molly and put a hand on her shoulder, patting gently.

"It's all right, my dear. You're safe now. We just need to keep you safe for a while longer."

Sam saw him shift his grip and begin to press on the artery at the side of Molly's neck. It took a few seconds for Molly to realise that something was wrong but before she could make any fuss she slumped into John Mitchell's arms.

Mitchell opened his mouth to protest but Robert spoke again, "She's only sleeping. It’s not how I would have liked to do it, but we have to keep her out of the way so that she doesn't run off and get herself hurt."

Mitchell looked at the girl once more and nodded in understanding.

The deputy laid her in between the rows of lockers, making sure she was hidden from casual view and lying comfortably. It occurred to Sam that the unfortunate deputy was receiving a crash course in pragmatism.

She re-joined Mickey who had begun to move Cahill’s body. Between them, they heaved him into the shower area. There wasn’t time to do anything about the trail of blood on the floor but, hopefully, if another one of the hostage takers came looking he might think the blood belonged to Molly or another of the victims.

Sam went back to keeping watch while Mickey walked over to one of the sinks and rinsed his hands and knife.

They gathered at the exit to the locker room, knowing that time was running out. Nolan was due to call in less than five minutes and Cahill and Jansen were bound to be missed soon.

They had two minutes to spare when Sam stopped outside the doors of the hall. They had needed to sprint over the last hundred yards and Robert was breathing heavily. Sam fastened the MP5K into her shoulder holster and took out the Browning. She checked the weapon and made sure the safety was off. She heard Mickey’s voice in her headset, "We’re in position."

This was the time she hated most. It was when time slowed to a crawl and the doubts about your own abilities began their insidious march into your head. She looked over at Robert; he’d survived nearly forty years in their business. With Mickey along too she knew this team was one of the best she’d ever worked with. The fact that they had got this far with only minimal preparation showed that.

Visions of the dead students swam into her mind and Sam put them out of her head, she couldn’t afford to let her concentration be affected by thoughts of revenge or retribution.

She wanted both.

There were four armed men inside the hall with more than twenty hostages. Her one concern had to be to get them out safely.

Sam checked her watch again, sixty seconds left.

She moved closer to the dark wood double doors that led into the back of the auditorium. Through the crack between the two doors Sam could see that all the lights in the auditorium were on. All of the hostages, apart from Dorothy, were sitting in the first two rows of seats with the escaped prisoners standing or walking around. The phone connection to Lucas was on the other side of the room just in front of the stage. Dorothy was level with the phone but on the right side of the room, closer to where Sam was waiting. Her hands appeared to be fastened behind her.

Mickey and Mitchell had a lot more ground to cover to get close to the hostage takers from the rear doors so the chances were that she and Robert would have to deal with the majority of the four men. The Browning felt comfortable in her hand. It was the make she had used all through her training and she preferred its familiar action.

"Standby. Thirty seconds." She heard Lucas's voice once more.

She and Robert moved closer, standing right behind the doors now. This was it…

Taking a deep breath Sam began her own countdown in her head.

"Go! Go! Go!"

Lucas had barely finished the last syllable before Sam had thrown herself against the door, flinging it open with her shoulder. Her first sight of the room showed Nolan over against the far wall, one hand on the phone. The man she recognised as Matthews, from his mug shot, was standing only ten feet away from her and already reacting. She pointed and fired two shots, hearing the flat sound of Robert's automatic from behind and to her right.

The screaming started then. Panic erupted. Where there had been orderly rows of students there was suddenly a seething mass of teenagers trying to escape. She could hear John Mitchell, away to her left, yelling for them to get down on the floor

Scanning the room for more targets, Sam sprinted to the front of the auditorium towards Dorothy. Experience told her that a bastard like Nolan would take as many as possible with him.  By killing Dorothy he would have some kind of revenge on Lucas.  Positioning herself in front of Dorothy, Sam aimed but, before she could take Nolan out, a panicking student cannoned into her, spinning her off balance.  She managed to hang onto her gun and stay on her feet but before she could turn back, two blows in her back threw her hard against Dorothy, knocking them both to the ground.  She heard Dorothy's grunt of surprise as she landed on her.

Ignoring the woman under her, Sam rolled onto her side, discounting the pain as the MP5K dug into her ribs. 

She had to get up!  

Keeping a tight grip on the automatic she dragged herself onto her knees. When she tried to lift her arms to bring the gun to bear they were too heavy. Her head swam and lights danced around the edge of her vision as she looked around to locate Nolan. Dorothy was safe behind her. She tried to drag more air into her lungs but – nothing would work.

She could feel Dorothy moving and managed to croak out, "Stay down."

Though her awareness was poor, the sudden silence told her it was all over. Someone else must have got Nolan. She could hear her own rasping breaths. Dizzy, her lungs burning as she tried to breathe normally, she looked around for Mickey. She had to know he was safe. When she saw him jogging towards her, a look of raw fear on his face, she allowed herself to sink back onto the floor. It felt a lot easier to breathe like that. She wondered at his expression – it wouldn't have been fear for himself – she knew that. 

Oh Christ!  He was scared for her!

She stayed where she was as he knelt beside her and began to help her off with the vest. Her back was numb but she knew it would start to hurt, and soon.

Chapter 9