“Relax. I just want to talk a little. Just talk,” Kim Namjoon kept his arms raised above his head and flashed a brief smile. A disarming smile, he hoped.
The man standing across from him didn’t let go of the gun he’d kept pointed at Namjoon’s forehead since he stepped through the glass door into the bank, but he didn’t fire it either and Namjoon thought that was a decent first step.
The man stayed silent, and Namjoon briefly let his eyes shift from the man to the woman struggling against the man’s grip around her neck. She was young, probably just out of high school, and terrified—Namjoon bit the inside of his lip as he took in the bruise reddening on her left cheek and the faint streaks of smeared mascara from her eyes. She’d stopped crying before he got there. When she met his eyes, Namjoon could see the hope she was trying hold in check. Save me, her eyes said.
If Namjoon had believed in God, he would have prayed then. He still did, in a way. The same plea echoed in his head on every case he took. Please, let me do this well.
“Ain’t got nothing to say to you, cop,” the man huffed after a moment.
Namjoon’s first impulse was to correct him. He wasn’t a cop. He was a behavioral analyst at the FBI. One of the best, if he felt like bragging about himself (he never did), and leader of the best team in the world (them he never stopped bragging about).
Namjoon didn’t mention any of that to the man with the gun. The man’s appearance—long, greasy hair tucked under a sweat stained ballcap, ragged, pale blue jeans, and tee shirt of Calvin pissing on “my ex” written in bold letters—suggested the last thing that would win him over was hearing that “the cop” had a Ph.D in psychology from a fancy university.
“Okay. You’re in charge here. We’ll do what you want,” Namjoon’s tone never lost its light, folksy quality.
The man gritted his teeth and the woman wimpered. “What I want is for you to shut up and let me out of here. You think you can do that, or do I have to start shooting everyone?”
“He’s called Jason Michelsen. Divorced. Recently laid off. A couple of priors for assault, including a fight that resulted in quote, ‘a partially severed ear and gouged eye’ on his last victim. Nice guy you’ve got there.” The low voice crackled through Namjoon’s earpiece.
Namjoon nodded slightly, but stayed silent. Yoongi wouldn’t expect him to respond more than that.
Min Yoongi watched everything from the security camera he’d tapped into when they’d arrived. He saw Namjoon’s nod. The picture quality was shit. A bank could afford better and should have paid for it. But the angles were good and he could everything. He’d be able to see anyone trying to sneak up on Namjoon. Or see if one of the other four hostages lying on the floor decided to try and flee. That could be as dangerous as a second gunman.
Yoongi took a sip of the coffee next to him in the van that served as his mobile workspace and winced at the bitterness. The cameras were shit. The coffee was shit. And a piece of shit named Jason Michelsen was trying to rob the local Wells Fargo. The morning had all the markings of a shitty day.
“Okay, Jason, I just want to make sure everyone gets out here, too, alright?” Namjoon didn’t miss the way Jason’s eye’s widened when he heard his name. Saying it was a calculated risk. Namjoon knew it would spook Jason, but it also was the first step in roping him in. We know who you are, it said. We’ll find you even if you slip away from us now.
“How the hell do you know who I am?” Jason said. Then he cursed under his breath for confirming his ID. The woman he held tried to twist away from him, but he held firm.
“A friend told me. You can call me Namjoon, by the way.” He made eye contact with the woman again. “Can you tell me your name, too?”
“Becca. Rebecca.” The woman’s voice cracked slightly as she spoke.
Namjoon nodded. “Okay, Becca. Don’t worry. This is all going to work out okay.” His voice firmed slightly. “Jason, why don’t you let Becca go back with the other hostages? It’s got to be tiring holding her there.”
“I’m doing fine thanks.” Jason shifted on his feet. “She can go when you and your friends clear out of here, cop.”
“You watch a lot of cop shows, Jason?” Namjoon asked, taking a small step forward. “You ever see the cops just turn around and drive off because someone asked them to?” Namjoon raised an eyebrow.
Jason cursed again. “This look like a fucking movie to you?” He waved the gun around the room.
“Kinda wish it was. Then this vest wouldn’t weigh a million fucking pounds.” Namjoon chuckled and pointed to the black Kevlar vest snugged tight against his torso. He wasn’t scrawny by any stretch, but his long legs gave him a slightly lanky appearance. “And if it was a movie, the payout would be better for both of us.”
Jason’s upper lip curled slightly into the barest hint of a smile. “I’m totally fucked, aren’t I?”
Namjoon shook his head slowly. “You did fuck up a bit. I won’t lie to you about that. But everyone here’s still alive,” he glanced at Becca, “and mostly unhurt. And as cliché as it might sound, that counts for something. A lot actually. This is an opportunity for you to make a deal.”
Jason laughed at that. “Oh wow, ten years instead of twenty. What a fucking deal. Better to just end it now. Go out with a bang!”
Becca screamed as Jason dragged her backward toward the teller stations at the back of the bank. The four other hostages: an elderly white couple, a woman in her mid-forties in a business suit, and another kid that looked to be in his late teens, whimpered as the Jason moved toward them.
“Tell your friends outside they’ve got ten seconds to clear out and let me leave or I start shooting. And you’re the first one on my list, cop.”
“Get him back toward the glass door. I don’t have a shot.” The voice, higher pitched than the one that spoke earlier, came from the rooftop across from the bank. Park Jimin knelt down and stared through the scope of his rifle into the bank.
Jimin had been against Namjoon going in. They weren’t part of the hostage rescue team, hell they weren’t even supposed to be working. Unless you counted the seminar on profiling they gave to the local police force. Jimin did not. He’d been a cop like that once. He spent most of those lectures trying to hide his phone while he surfed the web. He almost laughed at how that came back to bite him in the ass.
But as soon as the call came in about the situation, Namjoon had volunteered their services and the three of them rushed to the scene. The rest of the team was still in Washington. Jimin looked forward to telling the story to Taehyung. Let’s see if he still thinks this trip is boring.
Of course, that assumed that everything turned out okay, and until Namjoon got the suspect back where he was visible, Jimin would keep feeling edgy. Not everyone could be reasoned with. Namjoon was smart, the smartest man Jimin knew, but he tried to solve every problem with words. Sometimes you need actions instead.
Namjoon hadn’t moved for the first few counts. He hadn’t even moved his gaze. He kept his eyes on Jason, kept them focused just below Jason’s eyes, attentive but unchallenging.
Jason started to fidget. Shifting his weight from foot to foot. “You’re really going to make me do this? You have a death wish, too, or something?”
“You have a death wish, then?” Namjoon asked.
“Still don’t have a shot, boss.” Jimin sounded edgy. Namjoon ignored him.
“Does it?” The question was honest. Namjoon said it without sarcasm or condescending voice. He wanted to know. Would you rather die than spend your next few years in prison?
“You ever going to stop asking questions?”
“You ever going to start answering them?” Namjoon took a step back toward the door. Jason took half a step forward to follow him. “Here’s what I think,” Namjoon continued. “I think you don’t want to die. A man that wants to die isn’t desperate for money. And people who aren’t desperate for money don’t rob banks.”
“You think I’m a coward. That I won’t go through with it.” Jason’s grip tightened on the gun.
“No. No. I don’t think that, Jason. Walking in a bank with a gun in broad daylight takes guts. Most people never try it. They’re scared to. You’re not scared.”
“So, the money, what did you need it for?” Namjoon asked.
Jason twisted his head and frowned. Then he shrugged his shoulders. “That bitch of an ex-wife of mine took our kid. She skipped town with my Jessica. Says I’m not fit to be a father. Bullshit. I needed the money to track them down and make things right.” Jason struggled to control his voice. “I’m just trying to do right by my family.”
Namjoon nodded. “You just want to be a good dad.”
“I am a good dad. You try taking care of kid when no one will hire you. All these assholes,” he waved the gun toward the other hostages, “they’re just looking for an excuse to tear you down. I made a couple bad choices and that’s all I am to them now. I just want a fair shot.”
“He’s telling the truth. About the child, at least. I’ve pulled up the birth records.”
Namjoon guessed as much, but having Yoongi confirm it helped. He was good at reading people, but not perfect. Hoseok was the real body language expert.
“You deserve a fair shot,” Namjoon said. “And you deserve to see your kid grow up. How old is she now?”
“Three? That’s a cute age. I’ve got a niece that age. She giggles about everything all the time. I swear she must be mocking us or something,” Namjoon smiled. “You really going to stand there and tell me that you’d rather die here today than watch your little girl grow up?”
“Don’t worry. We can move slow. Nobody outside is going to try anything without our say-so.” Namjoon emphasized the last part. He could imagine Jimin clicking his teeth in frustration. “Why don’t you let Becca go and we can work this out?”
“Isn’t that usually the part in the movie where I get shot?” Jason said.
“I’m unarmed. And, honestly, I’m absolute shit with a gun anyway so it doesn’t matter much. But if it will make you feel better,” Namjoon reached down to unfasten his vest, “how about you release Becca and wear this instead.”
Namjoon, what the hell are you—
Bad idea, boss, this is—
Namjoon ignored his earpiece and focused on Jason. He slowly pulled his vest off and held it out toward Jason. “Here, you can have the gun and the vest. A vest is a lot better than a hostage, believe me. They rarely try to escape.”
Jason dragged Becca forward until he could reach the vest. Namjoon pulled his hand back slightly. “You have to let her go. I’m trusting you.”
Jason nodded and moved his arm away from Becca’s neck. She ran toward the front door.
“Hostage coming out. Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” Namjoon shouted as the door swung open. Namjoon watched her run out the door into a swarm of waiting of police. She was safe.
When Namjoon turned back to Jason, the gunman pressed his pistol against Namjoon’s forehead.
“Don’t shoot?” Jason made somewhere between a laugh and sob. “You’ve got a sniper waiting to take me out as soon as I step outside. You think I’m an idiot?”
“No, I don’t think you’re an idiot.” Namjoon still sounded calm. That was training. He could fill his pulse pounding in his fingertips and the back of his throat tightening into a knot. He kept his gaze on Jason. “They’re not going to shoot unless they have to. No one wants anyone to die today.”
“It’s looking like they’ll be disappointed then.” Jason glanced at the hostages on the floor. “You, kid, help me put this on.”
The teenager in a navy blue beanie hopped up from the floor and his legs trembled as he walked over to Jason and Namjoon. He took the vest from Jason and nearly dropped it from the unexpected weight. Jason kept his gun on Namjoon’s forehead as the kid helped him into it.
“Nothing’s changed, Jason,” Namjoon said as the kid tightened the vest into place. “You’ve got the vest. No one’s going to try to shoot you. Put the gun down and turn yourself in. I’ll make sure you get a good deal.”
Jason licked his lips. He wanted to believe Namjoon, but trusting cops didn’t tend to get people very far. They only looked out for themselves.
“You’re coming out with me,” Jason said suddenly. “You’re going to make sure your friends out there don’t shoot.”
“Sure, Jason. Just put the gun down and—
“No. I’m not putting anything down until I know I’m safe. I’ll turn myself in, but I’m not getting massacred the second I step through that door.” Jason lifted the gun from Namjoon’s head. “Turn around. It’s your turn to play hostage.”
Jimin grimaced as they walked into view. He’d heard everything through his earpiece, of course, but seeing it was different. Nothing was real until you could see it. Jimin wished he could close his eyes because then he could pretend that he wasn’t looking at a gunman pressing a gun to his boss’s—to Namjoon’s—temple while he looped his other arm around Namjoon’s neck. The gunman kept his finger wrapped around the trigger rather than resting outside the trigger guard. Even if he didn’t mean to kill Namjoon, all it would take was one misstep for him to accidently fire the gun. Fucking amateur.
Over the earpiece, Jimin could hear Yoongi swearing under his breath. About half the curses were toward the gunman while the others were for Namjoon. Jimin wondered if Yoongi even knew he was speaking aloud.
“We’re coming out. Don’t shoot,” Namjoon said as they approached the door.
Jimin cursed and ran toward the fire escape on the building, leaving his rifle behind. He had his sidearm in his shoulder holster. He couldn’t cover Namjoon from the roof, but he’d make damn sure no rookie with a gun got trigger happy when they came out.
Namjoon squinted against the light as he stumbled outside. He couldn’t see Jason, but judging how he had stopped them just on the other side of the door, he guessed he must have been doing the same.
“Okay. We’re outside now, Jason, you can hand over the gun now. You’re safe.”
“You’ll help me see my daughter?” Jason’s voice wavered.
“I will. I promise.”
The cold metal pressing against Namjoon’s head went away and he took his first deep breath in what felt like hours. The next moments happened quickly. He heard the gun drop to the ground and hands pulled him away from Jason. Handcuffs clicked onto wrists. Car doors opened and slammed shut and Namjoon found himself sitting cross-legged on the floor of a cramped white van.
“That was one of the dumbest stunts I have ever seen, and considering we’ve worked together for eight years, that’s truly an accomplishment.” Yoongi nudged Namjoon with his foot. “Are you even listening?”
“Yeah. No. A little,” Namjoon confessed. “Still a bit of an adrenaline high, I guess.”
Outside the van, Jimin shook his head. “That’s why you’re not supposed to out there like that, professor. Leave the field stuff to me.”
“You know I don’t like you call me that,” Namjoon said, hints of a pout showing up on his face.
“That’s funny, because I don’t like it when you do stupid stuff like take off your vest in front of an armed gunman. You’re not bulletproof.”
“Fine,” Namjoon sighed. “Let’s both promise not to do that again.”
Jimin laughed. “You’re always negotiating, aren’t you?”
“Speaking of that, you really think putting that man in contact with his family is a good idea?” Yoongi asked.
Namjoon sighed. “I had to give him something. Or at least the hope of it. And if he gets in the right programs, anger management, therapy, he can turn himself around. At least he’ll be meeting them in a controlled setting. They’ll be safe.”
“If they agree.”
“If they agree.” Namjoon fell into a contemplative silence. Yoongi knew it was better not to bother him for a while. He had no doubt Namjoon would try to keep his word. Namjoon truly believed people could change, even if most of their cases proved them wrong. He’d make sure Jason got into therapy, and he’d probably even make a trip to check in on him if he could. Namjoon was that kind of a guy. An idiot, in Yoongi’s opinion, but part of him hoped Namjoon never lost that innocence.
A set of footsteps approached the van. Jimin bounced up from leaning against the van to stand in front of the open door, still feeling protective after the hostage crisis.
A young man, with dark brown hair and a sturdy frame approached them. He held out his hand to Namjoon and smiled shyly. “They said I could find you over here. I’m your new team member. Jeon Jungkook.”
As Namjoon took his hand, Yoongi glanced at Jimin. “Is this kid even old enough to drive?”