Hostage negotiation

“You motherfuckers,” Pete hissed and clenched a fist.

I drew my pistol and held it low. Pete had helped me out so far, but for all I knew he was just about to trade me to Magnus. He looked in my direction and nodded.

“Good instincts, Mack,” he said and then looked back to the Hip outside his walls.

Staying behind cover he shouted back. “I can’t see her with your lights on. Let me see that she’s healthy.”

Magnus leaned into the SUV and the lights went out. Now that it was close I could see it was a weird looking Jeep from 90s, the one with wood paneling on the sides.

1993 Jeep Wagoneer Blue DA HIP

The hipster in charge of Circe stepped forward, bringing her out of the shadow of the truck so she was just visible in the dim light filtering down from the bridge above. She looked a little worse for wear with blood on her face and dress and she swayed on her feet.

The guy holding her I recognized as Huck, and he gripped her upper arm with his left hand while he held a pistol in his right. Now that the lights were off I could see that all of the Hip were armed. Three pistols and Byron had a shotgun on the passenger side.

“There, you can see that she is intact,” Magnus shouted. “We had a vigorous discussion about where you went to, but as you can see we haven’t marred her… beauty.”

“Help me, my prince!” Circe cried out, her voice pathetic. Something about that struck me as odd. It didn’t seem like the earthy woman I’d met earlier.

A low sound of rage, almost a growl, emanated from Pete. Rather than respond, he looked over his shoulder and extended his left hand. Z slapped a submachine gun into his outstretched hand. It was a graceful black weapon, the kind you’d see SWAT and the Navy SEALs use. Pete checked it and transferred it to his right hand before returning his attention to the Hip.

Z had appeared like a ghost, but one bearing gifts. An assault rifle was slung on his back and he was carrying a black cloth duffel full of magazines. He reached in and extracted four skinny black magazines, each marked with a piece of red tape and set it down on the platform beside Pete. Then he turned to me, dropped the duffel at his feet and unslung the rifle.

Paranoia spiked and I nearly put my gun on him, but the earnest, open expression on his face stopped me. I was glad I refrained, as the next moment he pressed the rifle into my arms. I took it awkwardly, holding the heavy weight with my left hand while I holstered my pistol. It was long, black and heavy—nine or ten pounds. Unlike the AK I’d seen earlier, this one had a box magazine and a carry handle just behind the barrel shroud. It was a serious assault rifle.

“I don’t know how to use this,” I protested, looking the gun over. Z just shrugged.

FN FAL (C) Ammo (7.62x51mm NATO): 20/20
Handling: D Damage: B Serial: None
Penetration: B Accuracy: C Value: ???

“Figure it out. Z doesn’t shoot,” Pete said, and then raised his voice for the Hip again. “You’re a businessman, Magnus. I’m sure you don’t want trouble with us. Why don’t you just let her go and we’ll forget this all happened? I don’t know who Mack is, but he’s not here.”

I’d turned my attention back to the Hip, the rifle hanging loose in my hands. Z got my attention by slapping my shoulder. He pointed at the rifle and then pointed urgently at the Hip.

“There’s no room on that platform, Z. I’m not tall enough to shoot over the wall,” I objected. The wall was ragged enough that seeing through small gaps was easy enough, but shooting through them was another matter.

Z darted past me to the wall on the left of the gate and knelt. With a muted scrape of metal, he slid a steel panel aside and revealed a firing slit at just the right height for a shooter kneeling with a rifle. Once it was open and he was sure I’d understood he moved out of the way.

While I moved into position, the negotiation continued.

“Don’t test my patience, Pete. If we decide to come in there and torch your little camp there’d be nothing you could do to stop us. Mack, I know you can hear me. Why don’t you spare these poor folks and surrender yourself? Do you really want this woman’s death on your conscience?”

Magnus gestured and Huck raised his pistol and put it to Circe’s head.

Meanwhile, I was in position and looked over the left side of the rifle. Even though I hadn’t spent any time with the rifles at the Ball and Bean I knew I could figure this out. Just in front of the magazine a knob stuck out and I grasped it, pulling it back firmly and then releasing it. I glimpsed brass as I chambered the first round. There was a safety like my first pistol as well, labeled with three letters—S, A and R. The S was in white, while the A and R were in red. I pushed the switch down with my thumb from S to R with a click.

“Wait! Hold on,” Pete said, a note of panic in his voice. When he turned to me, his voice was rock steady. “Feeling noble and self sacrificing, Mack?”

“Er, not really?”

“Good,” he said. “Be ready. Don’t shoot my girl.”

“What?” I started to ask, but Pete was shouting to the Hip again.

“You win! Don’t hurt my mercurial princess!”

I had Magnus in my sights when Pete said that. I wasn’t confident that I could hit Huck and not accidentally kill Circe. Still, I saw what happened. Circe sagged, becoming dead weight. Huck grunted and stumbled forward, the muzzle of his gun no longer at her head. She moved in a blur, a flash of steel glinting in the streetlights as she slashed the arm he was using to hold her and then plunged the blade into his calf. He bellowed in pain as she dropped flat to the concrete.

Pete opened up with a long burst, bullets ricocheting off the blunt nose of the SUV and a few finding Huck as he stumbled backward.

Magnus was bringing his pistol up in what seemed to me like slow motion, pointing it at the prone form of Circe. She was doing her best to skitter across the concrete toward the wall but there was no way she’d make it to us before she was shot.

I squeezed the trigger and the rifle bucked in my hands. The recoil was heavy, but the sheer weight of the weapon seemed to help control it. Just to the left of Magnus the glass in the driver’s door starred. I fired again and again, ricocheting a round off the hood and the third clipped his right shoulder and he staggered. Blood flew and the big man moved faster than should have been possible to duck behind the open door of the Wagoneer. I kept firing.

The Hip had all taken cover behind the open doors of the Wagoneer, and my rounds were leaving small dents in the metal of the Jeep, and larger craters in the glass. Not at all what I expected, and it seemed Pete was having the same problem. He was firing short bursts, keeping them pinned behind their doors but unhurt.

He dropped his magazine and reloaded. “It’s armored! Mack, load one of the blue mags!”

Without pausing, he kept up his relentless fire. Circe was moving quickly across the concrete but wasn’t too our wall yet.

I looked around, but Z was nowhere to be seen. He’d left the duffel behind, though. I opened it and rifled through the mags until I found one with blue tape on it.

“Hurry up, Mack,” Pete yelled between bursts.

It wasn’t like the pistols, but the principle was the same. I pushed the lever and the half-loaded magazine dropped free. I seated the new one and returned to my firing position.

The Hip were returning fire from behind their armored doors. They’d look through the glass and stick their pistols out to the sides, firing rapidly. A few rounds would hit the wall here and there, but it wasn’t any threat.

I sighted in on Magnus behind the armored glass on the driver’s side. I squeezed the trigger and the bullet hit the glass right in front of his face but failed to penetrate. The round in the chamber had been from the previous magazine, the red tape. I fired again, and I swear that Magnus somehow sensed his death coming. Right as I was squeezing the trigger he ducked. The round was on target, punching through the thickly armored glass.

Snarling in frustration, I rapid fired at the cowering Hip. The bullets punched through the glass but still failed to penetrate the body panels. The Hip got the message quickly and hid themselves.

“Nice work, Mack!” Pete yelled before firing another burst.

In the distance, I heard the sound of sirens. A lot of sirens.

Magnus scrambled into the driver’s seat and the rest of the Hip followed, piling into the Jeep.

“No, you fucking don’t,” I snarled and punched rounds through the windshield just above the dash. Foam exploded out of the seats as the heavy bullets spent the last of their momentum. The Hip kept their heads down, and I was pretty sure I didn’t hit anyone.

The Wagoneer lurched backward, accelerating with the doors still open. Pete stopped firing and I followed suit, not confident I could hit a moving target at any kind of range. Half a mile away they stopped and the doors slammed closed before the Jeep turned 180 degrees and roared off down the river.

Pete jumped down from the firing platform and opened the gate, running out to embrace Circe.

The sirens were getting louder, and I could hear a helicopter overhead somewhere.

“Pete, the cops!” I yelled.

Pete looked up, seeming to come to his senses. He rushed Circe back within the protective circle of his walls and closed the gate behind them. Magnus and his goons had roughed her up, but unlike the act she’d put on while they had her, she looked unfazed.

She bustled over to Z’s house and ducked her head in the doorway. “Z, honey, we need to hide the guns. The police are coming.”

Pete was shoving his magazines and the SMG into the duffel bag. “Mack, make sure to gather up all your mags. Don’t worry about the brass, we don’t have time.”

I did as he asked, putting the one mag I’d dropped into the bag. I had no idea what to do with the rifle, but Z appeared and plucked it out of my hands. With a grunt he took the heavy duffel out of Pete’s hands and ran back to his house.

“What, he’s just going to hide them in there?” I objected. “After all that gunfire they’re going to toss this whole place!”

“Probably,” Pete said, his face a vision of calm. “You should give Z your pistol as well if you don’t want the police to take it.”

“What the fuck, Pete? Why are you not worried about this?” I yelled at him.

“Have some faith, Mack. Oh, and don’t put your sunglasses back on. The police won’t like that.”

Z came back and I handed him my holstered pistol. The skinny young guy went back into his house and was there as the first of the cruisers pulled up just outside the wall. Seconds later, three more entered the river and stopped on the down river side. Cops spilled out and took cover behind doors.

Overhead, the helicopter was loud. A bright pool of light lit up the wall as they turned on their spotlight.

A voice boomed from a loudspeaker. “This is the STPD. Everyone in the camp, come out with your hands in the air!”