Saturday 17 September 2011
‘Right now, what I really want is for you people to listen to me. Why won’t you listen?’ Lee tried not to scream. Screaming never got anyone anywhere, except in more trouble, and he was in enough as it was. His six hostages flinched as he spoke and moved around the room, fearful that he would discharge the weapon in his hand.
‘Why won’t you listen?’ he repeated.
Harvey Bremner, at six feet six inches, towered over Lee. A softly spoken man, who rarely raised his voice even when his children were pushing him to his limit, was the only person brave enough to speak.
‘Lee, come on, taking hostages will not get you what you want. The police won’t listen to you any more than the court would if you were attending the hearing. In fact, the police probably won’t listen to you at all. They’ll be more concerned with how they can get us out, and how they can prevent you from hurting anyone. Do you understand what I’m telling you?’
Lee snapped, ‘Fucking sit down. This is about my kids. I’d do anything for them.’
‘Including die?’ Harvey retorted rapidly.
The question took Lee by surprise. He hadn’t considered that a possible outcome of his standoff might be his own death. He had certainly contemplated the potential necessity to shoot any of the hostages to make his point, but not that he may end up in the morgue at the end of the siege. Was it really worth it? Was it worth the risk of losing his kids forever? Was it worth the shit his kids would get all through their lives because of his actions today? Suddenly now, with some clarity, Lee realised the insanity of his actions.
‘It’s too late to back down now,’ he said, his words directed at Harvey.
Lee respected the man. He had worked with Harvey for near on eleven years, had been invited to Christmas parties at the Bremners’ home, and had been on a number of fishing trips with the tall African American. Harvey knew what it was like to struggle to find his place in the world, and Lee sensed that Harvey would be empathetic to his plight. He’d watched Harvey fight for his own children the previous year when the Bremners entered into nasty and bitter divorce proceedings. Laura Bremner had made her husband fight for his right to see his own children. She’d brought Harvey to his knees financially and emotionally, and Lee thought for sure he’d have an ally in the clerk. He was now beginning to question those notions.
‘Lee,’ Harvey cautiously approached his agitated colleague, ‘this is not the way. You know that.’
‘I can’t go to court and fight this, Harv. You know that. Look at how things worked out for you. You went through the courts. You get to see your kids twice a month. I can’t live like that, man. I need my kids.’
Harvey stepped a little closer. ‘I know, brother, but twice a month is better than being in jail where you might see them twice a year if you’re lucky. And it sure as hell beats being dead, ‘cause you won’t get to see them at all then.’
His argument was starting to make sense to Lee. Harvey was right. Maybe it would be better to take what he could get. It would only be until the kids could make their own decisions.
‘I can’t back down, Harv. All these people, they know what I’ve done.’
Harvey looked behind him at his five other colleagues. He saw Toni Mitchell sobbing. She had not been rostered to work today, but had come in to lend a hand knowing that there was a backlog in data entry. Julie Bassett was trying to comfort her. Harvey thought of her two children, twins who couldn’t live without their mother. Steven, Adam, and Walter were regular hunters, but now sat cowering against the reception desk, avoiding all eye contact with Lee.
‘What if we all promise not to say anything, Lee? I’m sure everyone here would just like to go home, and we’d all be happy to forget this ever happened. Wouldn’t we?’ he asked of his colleagues. Some nodded, others were to scared and continued to sob. ‘Put the gun away, Lee. Let’s talk about what we can tell the police. Maybe we could say that we were all held hostage, and that you wrestled the gun off the guy, and he fled. I’m sure we could come up with some random description of our assailant. I mean we see enough people in and out of here to be able to convince the police that it was some random person maybe trying to rob us. Right, guys?’ he asked of his colleagues again. Again, no one verbally responded.
Sweat beaded on Lee’s forehead, and he quickly thought about Harvey’s suggestions. They seemed like they could work. He transferred the gun back and forth between his hands, trying to remain calm. But the increasing sweat on his palms made the gun harder to hold, and it slipped from his fingers slamming onto the floor. He knew there was little risk of the gun firing. Weapons simply weren’t made that way, and it was only in Hollywood movies that guns fired accidentally when they hit the ground.
He was just as surprised as everyone else when the gun did fire after smashing into the marbled floor. Whatever the angle it had struck the floor at, the gun released a bullet that ended up in Julie Bassett’s neck. Blood poured almost immediately from the wound. The screams began, as the now unhinged hostages succumbed to their terror. Lee swiftly leaned forward to retrieve the weapon. Harvey, shocked beyond belief, stood watching the scene unfold. He understood that this was the beginning of the end for Lee Addison.
In an absolute state of panic, and oblivious to the voice of the police officer speaking through the loudhailer outside, Lee, gun in hand and waving it about, screamed at his hostages.
‘Shut up. SHUT UP! Fucking shut the fuck up. Is she alright?’ he asked Harvey, motioning to the wounded woman. Her breathing had become shallow, her skin pale, and her movement had all but ceased. Harvey turned to look.
‘I don’t know, Lee. I’ll have to go look.’
But before Harvey could do anything, Lee shouted, ‘Stay where you are. DON’T YOU MOVE.’ He fired the gun into the air to emphasise his point.
From outside the building, red dots appeared on Lee Addison’s back.
‘Put down your weapon. Put down your weapon,’ the voice said over the loudhailer. The police officer waited for a response, and getting none, he gave an ultimatum. ‘If you do not put down your weapon, we will deem that as an act of hostility, and we will open fire. I repeat, put down your weapon or we will open fire.’
Lee spun around to face the small window, the red dots now easily seen on his chest. He looked down to see them.
‘Harvey,’ he said, ‘there’s no way out now, is there?’
Harvey sighed, ‘No, I guess there isn’t, Lee. You should just put your gun down.’
‘How’s Julie?’ a calm had come over Lee.
‘I’m sorry, buddy. She’s dead,’ Harvey replied.
Lee nodded as much to show his understanding of what Harvey had just said as it was a signal that he knew what to do next.
Slowly raising the gun to eye level, Lee waited for the inevitable.
‘Sorry, Harvey. You’ll tell them that for me, won’t you?’ Lee asked. Seconds after they all heard the shots, Lee Addison fell lifeless to the floor.
‘Yes,’ Harvey whispered as an elite tactical response team stormed the office, coming to their rescue.