Eddie’s back was against the light green cement block wall. His Glock 19 nine-millimeter pistol was in his hand and aimed towards the ground. He felt his cell phone vibrate in his shirt pocket, pressed into his chest by the bulletproof vest he had taken from the trunk of a police car outside. He hated wearing vests, but hated the idea of being dead worse.
At the far end was a man on the floor, and even from a distance Eddie could see a small pool of blood that had gathered around the figure and no body movement. The officers outside had told him that one person had been reported shot. He could hear a few sounds from classrooms on either side of the hall where students were likely hidden behind overturned desks, their teachers protecting them as best they could. But it was the cafeteria Eddie was looking for, where the 911 call had come from.He reached the corner to the main hallway lined with gunmetal grey lockers, lowered to one knee and looked quickly around the edge to get a look down the deserted hall.
The cell phone vibrated again. Eddie knew it was Gus calling from outside the single story school where he was standing with the other police officers to yell at him. He dug under the top of the vest and pulled the phone out and answered.
“Not a good time,” Eddie said.
“What the hell are you doing?” Gus Ramirez said.
“A bunch of cruisers sped past me with lights and sirens and I followed to see what was up. I got kinda bored out there with all the local PD,” Eddie said. “You know Sergeant Kincaid had a kid last week?”
“Yes, I do,” Gus said. “I sent flowers.”
“Flowers?” Eddie said. “What’s a baby going to do with flowers?”
“Would you get out here right now?” Gus said.
“Nah. I think I’ll look around some more,” Eddie said. “Why are you here, anyway?”
“The police chief called me,” Gus said. “He asked for Bureau assistance in case the hostage rescue team is needed. Now get out. SWAT is minutes out.”
“No can do, old friend. We both know how these things end when SWAT gets involved,” Eddie said. “They’ll throw a couple of flashbangs, run through the smoke with guns raised and some kid or teacher gets shot.”
He could hear Gus tapping his phone against his forehead, frustrated with Eddie.
“Well, what do you see in there,” Gus said.
“There’s a man down at the north end of the hallway. There’s some blood on the floor under him,” Eddie said.
“Probably the principal,” Gus said. “According to the caller he’s the only one who’s been shot. Let’s hope he’s the only one at least.”
“Stay with me,” Eddie said. “I’m going in for a better look.”
He pushed the cellphone into the back pocket of his jeans without disconnecting then took another look down the hall. Stepping away from the relative safety of the wall he turned left and ran towards the end of the hallway, thankful for his well-worn running shoes he’d pulled on that morning that kept his steps muffled.
A set of steel doors with a narrow glass panel on each were closed at the end of the hall and Eddie came to a stop with his back to the door on the right. The body of the school’s principal lay a few feet away. Eddie reached and placed two fingers on the man’s neck then pulled his hand away. He took the phone out of his pocket.
“Principal is dead,” Eddie said.
“That’s not good news,” Gus said. “PD is itching to breach and that’ll make it worse.”
“Just hold them off,” Eddie said. “Get me a few more minutes. Don’t tell them about the principal yet.”
“Hold off SWAT?” Gus said. “I’ll get right on that. Just hurry. But be careful.”
“Which is it, hurry or be careful?” Eddie said.
“Shut up,” Gus said.
Eddie leaned against the door and looked at the motionless man in front of him. It was far from the first time he’d seen a dead body, but the sight always hit something inside him. He glanced at the man’s left hand and saw no ring, which relieved him. He shook off the emotions he was feeling and looked around him.
“I smell tater-tots,” Eddie said.
“How do you know they’re tater-tots and not French fries?” Gus said.
“I just know,” Eddie said.
“Guess you found the cafeteria then,” Gus said. “Do you have a visual on the shooter?”
Eddie kept low on his feet and turned to look through the window. In the far corner of the large room there was at least 30 children huddled together, with a few adults holding them back trying to keep them calm. He tried to see the rest of the room but the skinny window kept his field of vision limited.
“A few dozen kids and some teachers in the far corner away from the windows,” Eddie said. “No visual on the shooter. I’m going to try to find a better angle.”
The phone back in his pocket, he looked into the room again and saw the counters at the back of the cafeteria where the students were served their lunches each day. He moved away from the door then ran down the side hallway to find a way into the kitchen. He tried two doors, which turned out to be the teacher’s lounge and a broom closet. The third door opened to a narrow hallway where the smell of a commercial kitchen was strong.
At the end of the hallway was a closed door with no windows. With no other choices, he turned the knob and pulled it open a couple of inches and looked through. He could see two women in white aprons and hairnets lying on the floor, one with a cell phone to her ear.
Eddie moved into the room and lowered to the ground. The women saw him and he motioned them to be silent as he worked his way to the counter.
“All of you just shut the hell up,” a voice yelled in the cafeteria. “I’m tired of you telling me what to do.”
Eddie listened to the shooter talking and waited. A woman’s voice came next.
“Adrian, please,” she said. “Let the kids go. Just keep the teachers-”
The sound of a shotgun getting cocked, a shell being brought into chamber, silenced the woman. Eddie moved in a crouched position to the far corner of the serving window where he felt the shooter couldn’t see him and stood up. He was only ten feet from the children and teachers huddled in the corner. He knew if any of them reacted to him standing there the situation could get much worse.
He just needed a general idea of where in the room the shooter was. He locked eyes with one of the teachers that were holding the children back. Eddie nodded his head in the direction he thought the shooter was from him. The man moved his eyes into the room then back at Eddie and gave the slightest nod.
Taking a deep breath he looked around the edge of the opening, only exposing enough of his head for him to get a good look at the shooter and the room around him then pulled back. He liked what he saw.
The far wall was lined with windows but they were all covered with white plastic to deflect the hot Austin sun. The shooter looked to be a teenage boy and he was looking through an open window at the dozens of law enforcement that were gathered outside, eager to meet him.
With his gun moved to his left hand momentarily, Eddie used his right hand for support and threw his legs over the counter on the short wall into the main cafeteria. He knew he only had a few seconds before students started reacting and alerted the shooter.
Both feet on the linoleum floor and gun back in his right hand, raised and aimed at the shooter, Eddie worked to close the 40 foot distance as fast as he could. He knew the closer he got the better chance he had of taking the shooter with one shot if he had to, but also the boy would have a much better shot at Eddie with the wide spray of the 12-guage shotgun.
He was 20 feet away from his target before a child behind him shrieked. The teen turned his head and saw Eddie closing in on him with the pistol aimed at his chest. The shotgun was still pointed to the floor. The boy looked down at the shotgun and back to Eddie.
Eddie stopped, his gun still aimed at the boy.
“I wouldn’t do that. I’ll shoot you before you have a chance to pull the trigger,” Eddie said.
“I’m already dead,” the boy said. “I’ll get the chair.”
“You mean for the principal? He’s alive, for now.” Eddie lied. “You can still walk out of here. But let’s not scar these kids any more than we have to. There’s a chance a few may still turn out somewhat normal, even after this.”
“What is normal?” The boy looked at the kids, smiled, then began to raise the shotgun towards Eddie.
Eddie ran towards the teen and the shotgun that was now aimed at him. He pulled his aim slightly to the right and began squeezing the trigger on his pistol while closing the distance. He kept pulling the trigger and the bullets flew past the teenager and struck the cement wall below the windows. The sound of the shots was loud in the concrete and tiled cafeteria and the teen reacted to the blast of the gun firing at him and turned away, the shotgun’s aim dropping. Eddie lowered his weapon and sprinted the last few feet and tackled the boy, pinning his arms to his sides, his head smashed into the cold floor. He turned the boy over, face down on the floor.
“Clear!” Eddie yelled. He kicked the shotgun away and checked the boy for any other weapons while still holding him face down on the ground. He knew SWAT would enter the school as soon as his shots were heard.
The main cafeteria doors burst open and a dozen members of the SWAT team stormed in, M-4 assault rifles raised as they spread through the room. Two of the officers came and took Eddie’s place and within moments had handcuffs around the shooter’s wrists and ankles.
Eddie checked his weapon, cleared the chamber and placed it back in the holster in the small of his back then ripped the Velcro straps of the bulletproof vest off and tossed it to the floor.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Gus Ramirez came through the door and moved towards Eddie.
“I was thinking I could avoid another Columbine or Sandy Hook,” Eddie said. “The officers hands were tied waiting for SWAT to make the situation go from bad to worse. I made a decision to get in here and stop it.”
Gus shook his head.
“You weren’t thinking,” Gus said. “You aren’t a cop. You’re not an agent anymore. You haven’t even filed for your private detective’s license yet. What if this hadn’t worked out the way it had?”
“But it did,” Eddie said.