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A story for you to finish (well out of comfort zone, call it a lockdown distraction)

J is sweating profusely, although the rifle is steady as a rock. He’s a sniper with an anti-terrorist unit and he can see his target. The terrorist – call him X - is shielding himself with a hostage. J is an exceptionally good shot. The chances are 50/50 the hostage will escape injury or death – but only 50/50. J has few illusions: if the hostage is hurt or killed, he will be thrown to the wolves. The officer in charge has ordered him to wait for a clean shot but to end the business as fast as possible. There are at least 20 hostages, staff and shoppers, at stake.


At least 19 hostages at stake.

No-one knows why X is doing this – he’s made no demands, there’s no frenzy in his actions, he’s cool and controlled. He has executed a hostage every time the unit has tried to make contact. Three times a unit negotiator has tried a loud-hailer. Three shots were the response, three spatters of blood on the whited-out glass and the silhouettes have shuffled to take up the space. Since the third shot a child has been screaming and sobbing in either agony or grief.

The drama started two hours ago around 10 am, when a shopper tried to enter the popular greengrocery and found the door looked. She looked at the plate glass window and 3 people were painting it white on the inside with rollers, working with frantic haste. One of them was her neighbour, tears pouring down her cheeks. Their eyes met and her neighbour shouted HELP US! A shot rang out and her neighbour was flung against the window. Blood abruptly spattered the glass. As her neighbour slid to the floor the blood smeared. The white paint now covering that bit of the window is pink. Once the glass was painted the hostages were lined up along the window, their silhouettes clearly visible against the thin coating of white. Four of them are barely three feet high.

The unit has tried to phone the shop to speak to the terrorist. The phone was heard ringing once, twice – then a shot, and it abruptly stopped ringing. Using the loudhailer triggers an execution. The shopper who called the police has told them her neighbour’s mobile phone number. There is still a chance they can reach X that way. Or – get another hostage shot.

J can see a narrow angle of the shop from the window in the back alleyway. X is roaming restlessly round the shop, dragging a hostage clasped to his chest with one arm. Occasionally he passes J’s line of sight but so far the shot has been obscured by the hostage.

J has no problem with the morality of his job. He has only ever had to shoot someone who was directly endangering others, sometimes many others. To shoot through a hostage to reach his mark, that’s different. He will do it if ordered – but waiting for a clean shot could mean another life lost, or more.

It’s just a story. Read it and go on to the next blog, or add to it – why the terrorist is doing what he’s doing, starting a successful dialogue, miraculous intervention, J getting a clean shot . . .

There are no rules per se. I won’t comment on your comments and I will delete any comments that jeer at the comments of others (get a life, guys) although I’ll leave any that add to their story. dunno Anything obvious I’ve left out, point it out and I’ll add it to the narrative.

I’ll do a story more relative to singles at some point. I couldn’t resist trying one out of most blogger comfort zones.

Comments (30)

Some are reading but no comments, so they are - just like in real life - waiting to criticize whatever J does.

My take is that he’d take the shot as soon as possible after the next hostage killing, at an angle doing least damage to the shield hostage while still dropping X instantly. Disfiguring the hostage, even risking their losing an eye, finally had to outweigh the deaths.

The Action First contingent will be enraged that he waited so long, trying to protect one life and effectively causing two - three? - more deaths by delay. They’ll call for his immediate removal from the unit.
The Experts will criticize the entire unit for not exploring all other options – they could have gone in through the roof, fired high through the shop window to scatter the hostages, or tried a stun grenade. They will deplore the injury to the shield hostage and call for J’s removal from the anti-terrorist unit.
Some, after thought and debate, looking at plans and sketches of the venue and how the hostages were placed, will come up with an effective or even brilliant solution and be loudly astonished that their solution wasn’t reached at the time, in the time, and under pressure.
The All-Heart-No-Brain contingent will be up in arms that the mobile phone wasn’t tried, so the poor misunderstood terrorist could be given a chance to state his case. It could all have been resolved without any more bloodshed!

Life, they scold, is precious and the misunderstood life the most precious of all. They will call for J's immediate removal from the anti-terrorist unit as a danger to society.
His superiors will announce that he has been suspended and will be undergoing trauma counselling for having permanently disfigured the hostage. He may be quietly returned to duty later – it really depends how upset the AHNB bunch are and how closely they watch against his return.

But that’s just my take. I’ll try a nice love story with, hmm, one or two warning signals . . . some time. I do appreciate it is hard to break the cycle of attention riveted on politics and health. Hope those that did read found the momentary break interesting at least smile

wave Sis!

I considered shooting out the window.

Shooting X in the right eye would ruin his aim wink ... grin

Fast acting tranquilizer delivered Silently to the shield-hostage May convince X said hostage fainted/suffered heart attack.
If, however, he suspects otherwise ... likely a bloodbath.

Shooting to minimize damage to the shield-hostage is probably the least bad option.

I guess I come under the All-Heart-No-Brain category, so you've already jeered at my answer, but if I might just add another point where X is deeply misunderstood: if the hostages are standing close enough to white-washed windows that their silhouettes can be seen, how does he shoot them such that their innards turn the paint pink, but the bullet doesn't break the glass?
jac ...
Don't over think it scold
You're right, of course -- Just Don't Over Think It.

Frangible bullets like the kind used by Air Marshalls so they don't shoot holes in airplanes.
"Frangible hollow-point bullets may penetrate clothing, drywall, and light sheet metal; but often disintegrate upon striking glass."


You see how thoughtful that is of X?
Given X's response to attempts at communication ...
If One were a hostage, would One want a (One's) phone to ring? ... uh oh

Yeah. I don't think so scold

Mic, X has no shortage of hostages if his shield fainted but yeah I also thought about the fast-acting sedative, but how fast are they? I know big-game vets use them but generally there's a few seconds at least while the lion / elephant / rhino staggers around. Can do a LOT of damage in a few seconds ...

As for the hostage's phone ringing, she was the first one known to die so kind of beyond his irritation. From a fictional point of view, since he blew hell out of the store's phone, and shoots someone every time the unit tries the loudhailer, I wanted to leave a communication route open.

Appreciate the thoughts though grin glad the story provoked a reaction
Jac, good point well made re the Amazing Unbreakable Glass laugh

Artistic licence? it's an unrealistic situation on multiple levels and mainly that the killer has made no demands, can't possibly know everyone in such a random group of people, and is not in any way frenzied. He planned enough in advance to bring paint and rollers to a grocery but doesn't have his end-game worked out? It isn't a story idea I could ever use, not my sort of thing, but the scenario niggled at me and I thought I'd share as a change to the never-ending American politics diet. grin

I did think either no comments at all or lots of totally unrelated ones,. CS can still surprise me.
Good Save with the Frangible Bullets, eh? ... batting

You're a good details man, Mic!! handshake
I didn't assume that because X made no demands that he didn't have an end game worked out.

Shooting hostages everytime contact was attempted is an interesting concept. It creates a unique tension where the 'heros' are responsible for the deaths. There could be a play with that concept where every action taken by the rescue services leads to another execution, as the actions change, so do the deaths.

I'm confused by this comment.

There was reference in the story that X, or J knew everyone and I don't see how it might be relevant to the story continuing.

Except that X was pacing restlessly shielding himself with a hostage. I imagine that takes quite a lot of adrenalin fuelled energy to accomplish.

One last point: the child who was screaming in agony, or grief? If you're very badly hurt, you don't make a sound; if a child is hurt enough to scream I think you can tell the difference between the sound of that and grief; & possibly children have better survival instincts, knowing when to keep their mouths shut better than some adults.

Perhaps a mother is more likely to keen, regardless of any risk to herself, if the loss of a child renders life meaningless.
What time of year is it? And what was the phone's ringtone ?
If it was Xmas time and another jingle-bells going off one would fully understand the shooting.

J will not be removed from his unit, depending on the order he was given.
Was the order take out the target when you have a clear shot? take out the target asap regardless of cost?
Anyway, that building would get stormed.
With a trigger happy hostage taker like that the longer one waits the higher the death toll.
His number is up
Did you write this? If so well done for trying. I'd love to be your editor, I have surely read more than 500 books, fiction and non. I spot errors, inappropriate nuances and ways of saying things, what seems plausible or not, right and wrong, good and stupid. Unfortunately when I'm reading a book, when I spot something out of place I lose track of the story and start thinking about the 'error'.
Even Lee Child is guilty. e.g., "The guy hauled his motorcycle onto the stand". It was a Harley Davidson which has a side stand or 'kick stand' so called because you kick it out and lean the bike over. So I'm thinking why didn't he research this, obviously his books will be read by bikers. I won't go on. laugh
Jac, I'm chuffed it got you thinking, yay! The comment about knowing people - there's usually a motive to be found in the relationship between killer / victim(s) but in this case no obvious link since it is a busy popular shop with at least a dozen customers.

Kiddies in my experience can keep up more sustained shrieks than any other creature on earth but really I was more trying to build a picture of sensory overload for J - nothing like a child screaming to twist the screw one more notch.

X on the other hand was unbothered by the screaming and wasn't firing wildly. Each action had been met by one fired reaction. A cold and totally unknown agenda - for the unit outside, totally unguessable.
Meta, so true! rolling on the floor laughing the best, the VERY best, thing about Christmas in Spain is hardly any carols or jolly little festive songs and the few played in the supermarkets are intermittent and at normal volume. LOVELY. As opposed to Slade and Bing Crosby and Boney M and all that hideous crew at full volume from November onwards help

The order was "take him the second you have a clear shot." uh oh

So you'd have gone with firing high into the window to scatter the hostages, then go in ... well, it is a story but I think in real life you'd be right. A sniper would be fewest casualties - but only one person to take the flak afterwards. It's a hell of a thing to ask of anyone, to decide whether killing one hostage is worth saving nineteen when it could have been resolved by - your suggestion - storming the place and maybe saving all.
Reboot, in my defence the thought had teased at me for a while but the actual writing of it was 15 minutes. I do have a professional editor for my books, which take a hell of a lot longer to write, but am always looking for beta readers flirty grin

I think the most irritating thing I ever saw was in one of Jilly Cooper's first horse novels (Riders, maybe?) when she said at least 3 times that a horse was jumping up on its hind legs. I thought honestly, woman, if you don't know the term rearing, should you be writing horse books??? She should care, they all sold millions dunno (and she did get a better editor for the next ones laugh)
Taken in the right spirit. thumbs up wine

Another one, this time a woman:- "you could hear the snow falling on the roof"
and a few more from her which I can't remember but were definitely wrong. She has sold three books in so many years. So people don't object.
I'm still going to maintain that kids have to feel safe to scream their heads off, or even cry.

If you read, or see accounts of children who survived the Holocaust they had an incredible capacity for silence, stillness and following their instincts.

Gavin de Becker who wrote The Gift of Fear learned his craft as a child living with domestic violence. When his family moved out the home in which his mum shot his dad, there were 9 bullets embedded in the walls from different incidents.

I've seen my daughter aged about 6 slide across gravelly tarmac taking the skin off her hands and knees, but she would not cry in front of the other kids in the street. She just got up, looked at the damage and walked slowly into our house.

Kids are like animals who know they're dying, or too sick to protect themselves from predators - they hide, stay still, stay quiet.
Reboot, but I've heard snow falling uh oh it's the oddest susurration, more furtive than rain but distinctive. I've been woken at 3 in the morning by it, when everything was utterly and completely still and silent otherwise. And maybe my roof needed seeing to.

Jac - I'm sure you're right. I have never, and I am touching wood here, been in a hostage situation with or without a child. I do know kids who run into sharp shelves in supermarkets can keep up an effortless shriek for 20 minutes or more without even seeming to need to draw breath and it is close to unbearable, so I added a shrieking child as an element of tension. I normally do write from what I know but every element of this story was alien to me dunno

Weird having 2 blogs going at once laugh
Fair enough, but not many could relate to such oddities. You have to cater to a wide readership. Unless of course you remark on the thing as being unusual, then it becomes a thing of interest. smile
A friend of mine once said to me, "You know the noise light bulbs make...?"

I think I might have laughed for a full ten minutes after that. I always thought they were a visual thing. laugh
It wont be one or the other, J might need the distraction caused by the rest of the team.
It probably would not be a happy ending regardless.
The hostage taker's behaviour at first sight is illogic with regards of the killings.
On the other hand he came prepared with rollers and paint.
It all makes him very dangerous.
What else did he prepare ? and what else is going/will go on in town?
Thoughts of J, through the eyes of a fellow sniper...

Well that sucks... lets see... Sweating... hot as balls out I guess I would be sweating... damn city heat...

Sniping through glass is always a b*tch too, screws up the ballistics of the shot, even with a high power riffle, once it hits that glass its going to deviate off target by a little or a lot... like flipping a coin to call heads or tails.

hmmm, the feel of the wind on my face keeps changing speed and direction too, being a city its mostly from the two streets funneling the wind... feels like 3 to 5 mile per hour.... god pick a speed, I got this idiot who I only get a glimps of through a small area, no trees or grass to get a solid read on the wind speed, have to hit a moving target that randomly comes into my line of fire for just a split second is which is always..."fun" in the way beating your head in with a beer bottle is "enlightening".

But X is cool as a cucumber, X is prepared, X is after something and the cops talking is not it...

Granted, as a sniper I am also cool as a cucumber, I can wait... Part of sniper training is literally holding a bead on a target for hours, waiting is easy, calming, I got time and I can ramble to my self to keep my mind active as I think...

Now that is an idea...

"Captain this is J over"

"Captain R here, send it"

"Target is far to calm and prepared, doesn't want to talk. He is up to something and wasting our time is a part of his plan, can we get ears and eyes on the area to find out why he is calmly waiting, over"

"Already on it J, Out"

Well that was a waste of time but at least it gave me something to do for a few seconds... Why are you waiting, why are you wandering.

And so goes the day, I get rained on but... meh its just water (not near as bad as when you have to pee on your self on mission out in afghanistan...)

And that idiot new guy... black is not a natural color... why would you put it in a gillie suit!
Friken weekend warrior wanabes. Hate cops like that, want a badge and power and glitz and glam but no respect for the actual work and tools of the trade...

And we are sniping building to building, wasting his time on some high powered kill you from 2 miles away riffle when my M1 is all I need to get the job done in these cities like this.

OH...nuts, I want more then just your shoulder you lucky bastard... and sooner or later... You will expose your self... you will get lazy... or you will run out of hostages... and you better prey it is not the latter, that will be bad for you...

I will let you flip a coin on which way it goes, but for real, snipers hate having to shoot into a small target, we like shooting through small targets that are close to us (gives us great cover and field of fire on target) but into a small spot... man that sucks. And X sounds like hes stalling while people rob a bank across town, and then he will bail out through a hole in the floor back of the store... into the sewer system... ya know... AFTER he kills all the hostages, and when the cops finally go in they find the silhouettes where card board cut outs or something stupid like that.

But people do not calmly hold hostages and not talk unless something is going on.
Skop, skiet en donner?laugh

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