The Baby's Guardian

By: Delores Fossen
Chapter One

The sound of the gunshot sent Captain Shaw Tolbert’s heart to his knees.

Hell. This couldn’t happen. He couldn’t lose a single one of those hostages.

“Hold your fire!” Shaw shouted to the nearly three dozen officers and SWAT team members he had positioned all around the San Antonio Maternity Hospital.

For a split second everything and everyone around him froze. No more frantic orders and chatter from his men. Even the reporters and photographers who were pressed against the barricades nearly a block away went still, their cameras no longer flashing the bursts of light that knifed through the night.

The stunned silence didn’t last. The officers and the SWAT team already had their weapons ready, and they adjusted, taking aim in the direction of that shot.

But the shot hadn’t come from any of them.

It’d come from the fourth floor where a group of pregnant women, newborns and hospital staff were all being held at gunpoint. Hostages that included Nadine Duggan, the wife of one of Shaw’s own men, Lieutenant Bo Duggan.

That shot meant Nadine or one of the others could have been killed.

Shaw didn’t know all the hostages’ names. Heck, he wasn’t even sure he had an accurate head count. Basically, anyone unlucky enough to have been on the fourth floor at 3:00 p.m. had been taken captive by at least two gunmen wearing ski masks and carrying assault weapons. Shaw had managed to get that meager bit of information from a nurse who’d made a hysterical nine-one-one call during the first minutes of the attack. Since then, neither the nurse nor any of the other known hostages had answered their cells or the hospital phones.

Using the back of his hand to swipe the slick sweat from his forehead, Shaw maneuvered his way through his men and the equipment and hurried from his command center vehicle to the hostage negotiator. It was Texas hot, and the unforgiving August heat was still brutal despite the sun having set hours earlier.

He spotted the negotiator, Sergeant Harris McCoy, in the passenger seat of a patrol car that several officers were using as cover. The blond-haired, blue-eyed officer might look as if he’d just stepped off a glossy recruitment poster, but he was the best that San Antonio PD had. In the past four years, Harris had successfully negotiated nearly twenty hostage situations. Shaw desperately needed him to add one more gold star to his résumé.

“What happened?” Shaw asked.

Harris shook his head. “I’m not sure. I was talking to one of the gunmen on his cell—trying to get the guy to give us his demands. Then he shouted ‘she’s getting away’ and he hung up. About five seconds later, someone fired the shot.”

Shaw cursed. He prayed that shot had been fired as a warning and not deadly force. Because if a hostage had been killed, he’d have to seriously consider storming the place ASAP. He couldn’t sit back and let all those people die. But the SWAT team and police forcing their way onto the ward would almost certainly cause its own set of casualties.

“Try to get one of the gunmen back on the line,” Shaw told Harris.

While Harris pressed redial and waited for the gunman to answer, Shaw held his breath and paced. Not that he could go far. The scene was a logjam of law enforcement officers who’d initially responded, and more had arrived as this ordeal had dragged on. Nine hours. God knew what kind of havoc the gunmen could have created in that much time.

“What happened?” Harris demanded the moment he had one of the gunmen on the phone. Like the other calls throughout the afternoon and evening, this one was on speaker.

“Everything’s under control,” the gunman assured him. Which was no assurance at all.

After nine hours, Shaw was familiar with that voice, though the guy had refused to identify himself. But it was a voice Shaw would remember, and when he had everyone safely out of this, he was going after this SOB and his accomplice. That wasn’t his normal role as a captain. These days, he was pretty much a supervisor working from his desk, but for this, he’d make an exception and do some field duty.

“Is anyone hurt?” Harris asked the gunman.

“No. It was a misunderstanding, that’s all. It won’t happen again. Will it?”

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