Only Angels Are Bulletproof
I would not have answered my cell that day , if habit hadn’t forced me to check
the caller I.D. the minute I heard it ring. It was a habit I formed to keep from having to talk to my boss too often; but on that day it alerted me to a call from my partner. I knew she wouldn’t call unless it was an emergency.
“Scott, we’ve got another one,” she said with an intriguing tension in her voice
“The Los Angeles Community Bank on First and West.”
“Do the usual stuff and—”
“Scott, it’s ongoing!”
“What?” I cried.
“He’s in there right now!”
“I’ll be there as quickly as I can.” I snapped the phone closed and headed for the dresser containing my badge and wallet.
“You’re not leaving?” my father whined, pointing to the chess game we were in the middle of playing.
“Sorry, Dad , I have to.”
“But it’s your day off. For heaven’s sake , it’s only ten thirty in the morning on your day off.”
“I know, but this is the case that I have been working on for the last four months. You know how desperate we’ve been for a break.” I pulled on my jacket.
“But what about our game?” he cried and waved around one of the pawns. “I was just about to beat you.”
“Dad, you have beaten me the last six times we’ve played. What does it matter if you miss out on this victory?”
“A man my age has to take what victories he can.”
“Fine,” I said with hands surrendered. After putting the last of my equipment together I reached over, took hold of his pawn, and knocked down the last of my black knights that had any chance of bringing me back into the game.
“There. You win.”
“You’re no fun,” he moaned, assuming a pouting stance.
“I know. If you could have dinner ready when I get home, that would be great.”
“Oh, so you’re actually going to be home tonight?”
he snorted sarcastically.
“I didn’t say that. I just said when I get home,” I replied with a smile and headed out the door.
Keeping my mind on the road was a trial all the way to the bank. The thought that we might finally have a chance to break this case was enough to make me giddy for a moment. For four long, embarrassing months we had been dealing with a string of carefully calculated bank robberies and up until that moment we hadn’t had a glimmer of the solution. We couldn’t even give a description of the robber. In all three incidents a different man had walked in and performed the robbery. All we had to go on were three different men in nice business suits, each with a cell phone and a briefcase, who walked into three different banks, asked to see the manager, and walked out with anywhere from fifty to a hundred thousands dollars. It was ridiculously little to go on.
Bank employees had begun to go up in arms, suspecting every poor soul wearing a business suit who wanted to speak to the manager. Just that week , we were called in on three separate occasions to investigate innocent business owners who wanted to open new accounts.
I knew that this incident could turn out exactly the same way, but the tone of Lori’s voice had me convinced that there was something more to this than a jumpy teller. After eight years of working with her I could tell a lot from her voice. I could also tell a lot from her body language. The pose that her lanky figure struck as she waited on the corner for me was clearly displeased.
“Tell me we caught him,” I pleaded as I approached.
“We didn’t catch him,” she sighed and handed me a bulletproof vest.
“He got away?”
“He didn’t get away.”
“What have you—”
Hostage. There was no word that could make a day worse than hostage. The very sound made my stomach turn.
“I don’t know how he knew we were out here, but he found out, and the hostage just became his life insurance plan,” she continued
The block had been surrounded by the swat team, the police, and our boys from the FBI. It looked as if the law enforcement community wanted our bad guy to know how many members it had. The scene was beginning to look like an ocean of officers quickly filling every crevice like a consuming wave.
“Get these guys back,” I yelled to the officer who appeared to be in charge.
After identifying ourselves, Lori and I pushed forward through the crowd and took up a position behind a concrete planter.
“Has he tried to communicate with us?”
“He’s waved his gun around along with the head of some poor kid.”
My heart sank even further. “He’s got a kid?”
“I can’t tell how young she is.”
I peered over the edge of the planter. It was actually a beautiful day, sun shining, clouds drifting aimlessly, flowers blooming. The only thing that made it different
from any other nice day was the death-like silence. The place was as still as a church on a Monday morning. Apparently, the abundance of officers had even scared the birds away.
Narrowing my eyes, I focused in on the massive glass doors that comprised the
front of the building. He was standing there all dressed up in his nice pinstriped, navy blue suit and red power tie. The choice of attire that our culprits chose led the press to dub them the “Executive Robbers.” It wasn’t the only clever touch the media had added to the case. Each night I had to hear my team criticized in a whole new way for not having captured the criminals yet.
As far back as I was, I was still able to a get good look at his chosen victim. She was young, but not a child. My guess put her at early twenties. She was a seemingly plain type of girl who, from the look of things, was quite angry with her tormentor.
“I’m going for it,” I whispered and stood up so that he could get a good, long look at me and the letters FBI written across my vest.
“Sir,” I yelled. “I’d like to talk to you. Could you come—”
He didn’t wait for me to finish. In a clumsy surge, he bolted through the doors,
dragging his captive kicking and squirming.
“Back off,” he screamed and put the gun to her head. “I-I’ll do it.”
“I understand, sir,” I said calmly. “We can talk—”
“I don’t want to talk! I want to leave here now! And if you don’t let me, I’ll hurt her.”
He tightened his arm around her neck.
“Ow,” she screamed in response. “Stop you idiot. Let me go!”
It was my first shock of the day. While not entirely unheard of, a random hostage who fought and insulted her holder was not a common sight. I had been involved with my fair share of hostage situations. A frantic figure pleading, shocked , or crying was the type I had always dealt with. This little creature, however, was angry with her captor and determined to let him know, vocally and physically. She put up such a fit of kicking and screaming that he was forced to put the hand with the gun around her waist. It was an opening and I tried to take it. Unfortunately, he saw me lunge and put the gun back up.
“Don’t you dare! Back off!” he snapped, and I obeyed with hands upraised. “Make everybody put their guns down.”
“Let’s just calm down—”
“I better hear the sound of a bunch of guns droppin’ to the ground now or I’ll hurt her. Every single gun. Don’t think I won’t know. I can see you all,” he snapped and shook her a little.
I held up my hands again and signified that his demands were to be met, inwardly hoping that there were a few guys out there hidden enough to keep their guns up
without being noticed. The colossal echo of weapons being dropped to the concrete dashed my hopes.
“Sir,” I began.
“Now, let me go—” His speech was cut short by his own howling scream.
The girl had sunk her teeth deep into his arm and was refusing to let go no matter how hard he shook her. Finally, wincing and screaming, he let the arm around her neck loose causing her to go stumbling forward. From the moment he let go I could tell what he was going to do. There was something in his eyes that just snapped. She had become the enemy and in a state of frenzy and pain he was going to deal with her. From fifty feet away there was nothing I could do but watch in horror.
Just as she regained her footing he fired and hit her once in the low back. Her body flipped around and faced him for a moment. Whipped even further into the frenzy, he used that moment to fire three more times into her chest, sending her crashing backwards onto the pavement.
“Go,” Lori yelled as she leaped over the planter.
Every officer on scene apparently had the same idea. The corners of my eyes were filled with the sight of officers rushing toward us. The movement, however, was only momentary. Every soul in sight was stopped dead in their tracks by a single motion. The girl got back up.
The petite figure pulled herself up off of the ground and stood
facing her assailant. One glance and the disheveled man began trembling violently. It would have been a perfect moment to tackle him, but not a single man or woman there could move. We all stood as still as statues as we watched her rub her hands up and down her chest and back, apparently in search of wounds.
It took me several moments to realize that there was no blood anywhere on her body. From the amount of lead that had just been projected at her, she should have been dripping with her own blood, but not a speck was seeping through her tan denim jacket. It appeared that the bullets hadn’t even scratched her. That fact was further verified when she suddenly ripped the jacket off, revealing a spotless white T-shirt
I rubbed my eyes furiously and tried to focus on the sight in front of me. There was too much to take in for my brain to begin to calculate the scene. I tried to summon the strength to step forward, but was stopped again by another slight movement. Holding the jacket up in front of her like a bullfighter, she shook it just slightly, causing four small lead pellets to pop out of the fabric and clatter to the ground.
It felt like we were at the epicenter of an explosion and each new movement she took caused a new shock wave to hit us. While everyone’s attention was focused on her, she was staring intently at our criminal. My body was trembling almost as hard as his was, whether it was from excitement or terror I couldn’t tell. One thing was
certain. The streak of iron determination in her eyes was quickly changing our
hardened criminal into a pathetic bowl of Jell-O.
“Tell me your name,” she commanded calmly, but firmly. Her voice seemed to echo off every building in the city.
“W-w-wh-wh,” was all he could get out.
“Tell me your name,” she repeated with even more determination.
“T-Tom,” he stuttered, still pointing the gun in her direction.
“God is giving you a second chance, Tom,” she stated matter-of-factly. “He wants you to repent.”
“I-I . .I-I”
She dropped the jacket and, with a stride like a general, started toward him.
“Give me the gun, Tom, and surrender. Surrender to these men as well as to God.”
He was shaking so violently that I wasn’t sure if he gave her the gun or if she caught it as he fell to his knees and began sobbing.
Finally, I gained enough strength to move forward and was quickly followed by the rest of the men caught up in the scene. The closer I got, the faster I ran until I was barely able to stop when I finally did reach them. Just as my feet ground to a halt, she suddenly turned to me, wrapped her arms around my neck, and hugged me like she’d known me all my life. A strong wave of warmth enveloped me. So much so, it just
seemed natural to respond by wrapping my arms around her and burying my head in her soft, sweet smelling hair.
“Tell me your name,” she whispered into my ear.
“Scott,” I said, forgetting my custom to introduce myself as Agent Malkin. My voice was so choked that for a moment I wasn’t sure she heard me.
“Did you see that, Scott?”
“Yes, I saw that.”
“Don’t forget it, Scott,” she whispered and pulled away.
“Wait a second,” I called after her. “You have to come with me. You have to answer questions and..and..things like that. What is your name?”
“My name is Grace, but I can’t stay. My father is waiting for me.”
“I’m sorry but this is the way it works. You have to come with me—”
“Scott,” Lori yelled from where she was standing over the crumpled figure in handcuffs.
“Yeah!” I yelled back. “I’m just trying to get her to come in.”
I turned back to where Grace was standing and was met with one more shock.
She was gone.