Food Truck Hero ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes Part 16

“Thanks,” I said as we went back the way we’d come.

Following the directions, we found the back door to the closet and crept closer to Mr. Starke’s office. I had to wonder if he was one of the hostages, but I doubted it. As CEO, he didn’t come in very often.

“Stay here,” Jake told me before going out the back door to the closet. “It’s not safe for civilians.”

“Please. Rowena….”

“I’ll get her myself, I promise. Stay. Please? You’re my best friend. I can’t be responsible for your death.”

Realizing it was of major importance to him, I did as he asked. They moved forward, flanking the door to Mr. Starke’s lavish office. Even at that distance, I could hear someone yelling. It was the same voice from the phone call. He sounded angry.

“You don’t have enough time? Don’t give me that shit! I told you my deadline. If you don’t follow through, I’ll kill the first hostage. Say hello, honey,” Ray, the criminal, roared. “Tell the nice police officer your name before I send you to meet God!”

“Rowena Tynan,” she snapped. “There are five men, three in Starke’s office with us. Armed with semi-automatic weapons, disorganized, sloppy—”

A sharp slap, followed by a grunt of pain, ended that conversation. I wanted to rush out of the closet and hit the door, gun blazing, but I knew the others were better trained for this. I was along as a wall fixture, or window dressing. They didn’t need me, but I couldn’t stay away.

Jake and the others flanked the office door, motioning to one another. I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but they seemed to be in disagreement. They were all in silent mode, arguing. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I walked out of the closet, handed my gun to Jake, motioning them all away.

Rapping on the door, I prayed no bullets would find me. “My name is Keir Doyle, Captain Monroe sent me up to negotiate.” No bullets yet—yay. “I’m unarmed. I just want to talk, see if we can’t resolve this problem peacefully.”

The door opened and I stared into the big, terrified eyes of Rowena. I made a face, flickering my eyes to right and left. Pressing my lips together, giving a tiny shake of my head, I indicated she should pretend she didn’t know me. Nodding ever so slightly, she opened the door enough for me to slide in. I wanted to hold her, tell her it would be all right, but how could I do that, when I knew it was a lie?

“Why didn’t Monroe just call?”

“She decided that maybe her approach wasn’t working. By the book….” I shrugged. “Not always effective. So you get me.”

“What can you do that she can’t?”

He was a big man, bald, nasty looking. His voice seemed to rumble up from his toes. He wasn’t as tall as me, but had a few pounds of muscle that I don’t. I’m fast, but he’s possibly better trained than my bony ass. One thing I possess, the gift of Blarney, and I’m quick thinking. Had to have it in a houseful of women, who hated anything with testicles, for a couple weeks every month. Even the cat was a girl, and she didn’t like me much, either.

Hands still at my sides, I asked if I could put them down. Doing a slow turn, I showed I was unarmed. He motioned Rowena back to her place among the other hostages. She wasn’t the only one with a mark on her. He’d also used Lucy as a punching bag. Keeping my emotions in check, I did my best to stay calm, kept my distance, and started talking.

I don’t know everything I said. Words spilled out, reassurances from every cop show I’ve ever seen. I was glib, charming and full of shit, but he was buying it. He didn’t want to be here doing this. Something in his plans had gone awry. He wasn’t in the right office, or there were more people here than he’d been expecting. He was nervous, twitchy. His two remaining men looked even more apprehensive than he. These men weren’t professionals. I got the impression that their demands had been taken from TV, as much as my negotiation techniques.

“What do you really want?” I asked calmly. “I can’t believe you’d come in here, asking for money, and not care who paid it. You have a purpose. A goal. Tell me what it is, so I can make it happen.”

Something flashed behind his eyes, and I knew I’d hit a nerve. Whether is was one that was going to get me killed or not, I couldn’t tell.

“Wasn’t supposed to be like this.” He motioned to the others. “No one was supposed to be here.”

“They work late on Thursday, putting through payroll.” I know that because they’ve told me. “Any other day of the week, they’re gone by five. But that’s not the point. Why here? This isn’t an important office. This company hasn’t got millions in assets. Why Starke and Howe?”

His lip trembled and a tear eased out of his left eye. The other men looked uncomfortable.

“Can’t we put the guns aside and talk about this? These nice people would be more comfortable on chairs. Maybe we could let them go, and the rest of us could talk a while. Maybe have a cup of coffee? I got no place else to be. But I’m sure these folks want to go home, see their kids, their families. Me, I got no one. Not even a cat.” I shrugged slightly. “At least let the women go. The guys and me can stay, keep you and your friends company, while we talk this out.”

I could see him weakening, but I shut up. If I pushed, he’d push back. Lucy started weeping. She’s a pretty little thing. Big brown eyes, long walnut colored hair. Her lips were split, her cheek swollen, making her look even more pitiful. Another young woman started to sob, and a third. Soon, even Rowena was in tears. I thought hers were an act, but I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slide.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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