by Ben Franklin Schumpeter VIII
James heard the gunshots. He and his colleagues were in the conference room enjoying coffee and cake at one of the monthly Afternoon Coffee Break Socials. It was the idea of the Director that this team would get together at least once a month to chat with colleagues who rarely saw each other. A good way to ease some of the frictions that came from not knowing how the other colleagues contributed to the project.
"Everyone quiet!" James said as loudly as he dared. Now everyone heard the gunshots. A voice squeaked, "My God! Is that gunshots? Someone is shooting out there. We have to save ourselves."
"Quickly turn off the lights and lock the door" James said to the person nearest to the door. "Someone call 911. Everyone against the wall and down on the ground," as he pointed to the wall adjacent to the door. James wanted everyone there just in case the gunman -- gunmen? for he did not know how many there were -- opened the door. The angle from the door to the wall would make it difficult for the gunman to get a good shot at anyone.
James listened and he heard more shots. He turned to Lillian his partner on this project and said, "The shooter out there is going to kill everybody. We have to stop him."
"What can we do? We are not police. We have no guns. We can only hide and hope for the cops to get here quickly"
"I will stop him"
"That's crazy. You will get yourself killed. Wait for the police to come rescue us."
"I was in the military and know something about this sort of thing."
James bitterly thought of his past. At one time, when he was in the Marines, he had applied for and was accepted into Special Ops, but he did not complete the training. He had long felt that he was qualified and that his Special Ops Instructors did not properly evaluate him before they washed him out. He so felt the disappointment and failure of his washout that he left the service at the end of his enlistment. But, the instructors did teach him some of the skills necessary to deal with events like this.
"I need a weapon" he said to Lillian. Looking around the room, he saw the cake knife. James removed his jacket and tie and went to the table to retrieve the cake knife. Thankfully it was a kitchen knife not the usual cake knife.
Returning to the door, he said to the first person there, “When I leave, quietly close and lock the door." James unlocked the door, lay on the ground, and slowly cracked the door open. He peeked out and did not see anyone. He opened the door and ran to the reception desk for cover.
He needed to know where the gunman was. He listened and heard gunshots from two directions. "So, there are two of them." The nearest sound was to his right. He ran down the hall towards the sound and stopped at the first intersection. He crouched low and carefully peeked around the corner. All clear. He ran to the next intersection, once again he carefully peeked around the corner and saw the gunman. The gunman was searching cubicles looking for victims to shoot. James was too far away to attack the gunman without getting himself shot.
Remembering the floor plan, James worked out a path to close the distance. The cubicles were something of a maze. Visitors got lost all the time just going to the bathroom and had to be guided back to their meeting rooms. James figured that he could back track to the previous intersection and use another hallway to get closer to the gunman.
He was now closer but the gunman but was still fifteen feet away. He had no choice but to rush the gunman and hope that the killer would still be distracted searching the cubicles to notice him. James reached the gunman, put his hand over the man's face, jerked his head up and with his other hand thrust the cake knife into the gunman’s throat all the way to the handle and then pulled it out in a forward arc intending to do maximum damage. The knife cut something important as blood spurted everywhere covering the knife, the gunman, and James himself. The gunman dropped his weapon and reached for his throat. James threw the gunman face down on the floor and knelt on the man’s back to keep him there, reached for the dropped weapon and shot the gunman in the head. "One down, one to go."
James listened for the gunshots from the second gunman. He checked the gun he held, "Only two rounds left and not enough time to search the body for more." James headed off in the direction of the shots.
On arriving in the area, James crouched low and peeked around the corner. He saw the second gunman going down the hallway checking and shooting into the cubicles. James stepped around the corner, took his stance, and shot the gunman in the back of his head with the last two bullets quickly killing him. It was over. James, covered in blood and breathing hard, leaned on the wall and slid down into a seated position still holding the empty gun between his legs and waited for the police to arrive.
He had killed two men and he wondered how many of his colleagues had been killed. James knew that he should get up and go help his colleagues but he had already done all he could and had no more. There must be some who were shot and had not died but he did not move to help them. There are others unharmed on the floor and they would help them. He did not want to see his colleagues dead, blown to pieces with their blood seeping from them. It pained him to think of his colleagues, of how many of them had died today. The brilliant ones, silenced, the funny ones silenced, even the ones he did not like, silenced.
He had killed two men and that hurt him too. If there were more gunmen, he would have killed them all, brutally, quickly and efficiently. James now knew that he was not a failure and he understood why his military instructors washed him out. Killing people was painful to him. The Special OPS Instructors saw that while he could do the job, the killing would hurt him and eventually disable him. James appreciated the insight of his military instructors and was grateful for their wisdom to wash him out.