After years of considering myself the hero, the highly trained and brave guy that always solves problems and saves the day, my current lot is all the more an insult. I am in fear – for my life, and with selfish and total disregard to all those around me. I am hiding. And I am scared. What further worsens this is that it’s entirely my own fault that this even took place. I pick up my phone and beg for help again. I’ve already hung up on them twice already, but I was afraid somebody would hear me. Maybe I can talk this time and give them more information…
When I saw Jordan, I thought she was attractive, but I didn’t think much more of it. She was a subordinate, a coworker, and I didn’t want to jeopardize that personal relationship. Besides, I saw the ring on her finger so I just assumed she was off-limits. I’m not trying to mess with anybody’s marriage. She had a great smile, though.
But after months of being on my best behavior, of avoiding awkward situations with just the two of us in the lounge or the break room, our conversations inevitably extended beyond mere professional discourse. Come to find out, she was in a bad marriage. Her husband, Rick, was a walking disaster. Not long back from the war, he was irritable, jumpy, drank entirely too much, and was perpetually drifting further from her, and from most everybody else for that matter. And then he lost his job, which was probably the only thing holding him loosely to reality.
She’d be at work all day, actually earning money, and Rick, having lost his single purpose, gave up altogether, sat at home on the couch, drank from about noon onwards, and yelled at her when she came home. Why she told me this is still beyond me, but maybe I seemed trustworthy, as a supervisor and professional associate. What I did next began a series of missteps that, six months later, has me hiding in a small bathroom and cowardly begging for help.
Her honesty was alluring, as was even more so were her looks, and I began looking forward to her coming in and chatting with me again. I wasn’t particularly interested in what she had to say, but with spending time with her. And with being trusted, which I found flattering. But when she started talking about being lonely, I took it to heart and leapt at the perceived opportunity with impropriety. I betrayed her, for my own entertainment.
Rather than offer as much encouragement as I could and perhaps point her to somebody better suited as a confidant, I took the opportunity to paint myself as the concerned, caring, true friend that will listen and understand. And console. And the power of my consolation, the lie I fabricated that I actually gave a damn about her situation, endeared her to me all the more. Before long, we were seeing each other outside of the office. We had dinner a few times under the guise of a professional meeting or subject, but I soon cut to the chase and simply invited her to my house. I lived alone, while she obviously did not, and my home served as a peaceful escape from a verbally abusive, distant, and deadbeat husband.
What followed was a descent into gratification, the abuse of another’s vulnerability, and the enjoyment of futile trysts that could have no good ending. Everybody knew about it at work, but nobody talked about it. I guess they didn’t want to throw any more fuel on the fire. We, and mostly I, had already set that ablaze completely.
I have called 911 three times and tried to explain where I am here. I have told them that he’s here to kill me, and he may kill her too. He may have shot her already, but I think he’s only shot the guy outside in the hall He’s a coworker, and as I huddle here in the bathroom, I’m listening to him bleed out. He’s been screaming for what seems like forever. “He shot me in my legs,” he keeps screaming. He’s begging for help, but I’m afraid to go out there and help him. He wails that there’s blood everywhere and I imagine the hallways looks like a butcher shop. I’m paralyzed and can’t move. If her husband sees me, I will die. Every time my friend in the hall grow quiet, I’m terrified he’s finally died from his wounds. I told the 911 people about it, but they didn’t seem very concerned about it. “As long as he keeps making noise, he’s okay, sir.” This is all my fault. Somehow he found out, and he’s going to kill us both.
Soon after I heard them drag my injured coworker out to safety. They’d yelled at him to pull himself along the floor to where they were, but he didn’t have any strength left. I think he was crying. He has a wife and kids. He wanted to see them, he was saying.
When the SWAT team came storming into the room, I heard the through the door, so I started telling them, “don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” I didn’t want them to think I was armed. I was not. I was too scared to even move. I just wanted to be out of there. I feel like a coward, and I probably am one.
They threw me on the floor and searched me, then handcuffed me. I heard them talking into their radios as they half dragged, half guide me outside. I asked where Jordan was. Had they seen her? Was she safely outside? They wanted to ask ME questions, though.
Rick, they said, was inside with several hostages, to include my coworker, lover, and HIS wife. He was threatening to kill all of them if they didn’t send me in. “Are you really going to do that? He’ll kill me for sure!” They told me they would not, and I was thankful. But then I hated myself for being a coward. This entire situation is all my own doing. They’re going to get killed. One man almost died already, and now Rick was probably going to shoot the rest because they wouldn’t send me in. I started feeling so badly that I asked if they would. At least they wouldn’t hurt the other people. They were all my friends, too. I would probably die, but at least I wouldn’t face my maker responsible for the death of half my coworkers. As it was, I still had a lot to explain to God. I doubted He would understand. This was unconscionably wrong.
For some reason, they kept us close to the hostage negotiation van, and we saw and heard everything. I saw the spy camera in the room where Rick was, screaming at people, banging on things. And I heard the officers yelling at him and asking him what his demands were. He wanted water. He wanted safe passage out. But he mostly just wanted me. I begged them to go. This would eat me alive if I lived and they didn’t. But, the negotiators still wouldn’t let me. Jordan was going to die – mostly because I wasn’t a friend, I was instead a predator.
I asked a hostage negotiator for a cigarette. I hadn't really ever smoked, but I needed one now. I think I wanted it to somehow make my feeling of guilt and total responsibility go away. Of course, it didn't help. I just felt sick and coughed a lot.
After awhile he stopped yelling and started lining people up. When he sent out one hostage to get the water he asked for, she ran instead and he started screaming again. And then he put poor Jordan on her knees. “He’s going to kill her!” I started yelling at the negotiators. He’s going to execute her. And they knew it, too. Almost every one of them started yelling into their radios. “Go, get in there now. Take him down. GO!” I heard gunfire. I couldn’t look at the TV screen anymore. One of the officers led me off.
Jordan is dead now, and Rick shot himself before the SWAT guys could push through the door. They caught it all on camera – forever recording the consequences of my predacious behavior. Her best friend is yelling at me and crying. “It’s your fault. This is because you’re a pervert and evil.” She was the hostage that escaped. The cops are going to have to handcuff her just to keep her from attacking me. I can’t believe this is happening. What started as fun and simple attraction became immoral. What was immoral became evil. And there are now two people dead. I did this. And I cannot live with myself.
*Yup… I spent the day training with the local SWAT team as a role-player, alternating between hostage, coward, armed aggressor, and helpless victim. The one scenario I have recounted was scripted and planned. These situations were all purely fabricated, but such things do happen, and SWAT, highly trained, stressed out, and concerned for everybody’s safety, are called in to undo the selfish behavior of a character like mine. It’s certainly pause for thought.
At any rate, I preferred being the shooter. I’m good at it. Not so good at being a wimp. But then again, I haven’t been in such situations. And I hope never to be. Good training, indeed…
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw
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