Hardworking police officer, Karl, promised to make up for missing his young daughter’s school play with a day of fun activities. When an armed robber takes Karl and his daughter hostage, Karl knows he must do whatever it takes to ensure his daughter survives.
Karl sat at an empty desk and paged through the Procedure Manual. A Detective position had opened up in his precinct, and he was determined to get the job. He’d recently completed his degree in Psychology and felt like the sky was the limit. Only the insistent ringing of his phone broke his concentration.
“Karl, did you forget?”
Karl froze. His wife, Teresa, had just spoken the most terrifying words a husband could hear.
“Forget what, my sweetheart?” Karl asked.
“Mary’s school play! Our daughter has been rehearsing the entire semester, and I reminded you yesterday and this morning!” Teresa let out a loud exclamation. “You promised her you would be here, baby.”
Karl was already pulling on his jacket with one hand. “I’m on my way. Tell Mary I’ll be there soon.”
Studies forgotten, Karl raced to his car. Moments later, he was speeding across town to his daughter’s school.
Karl didn’t make it in time. While everyone was leaving, he arrived at the school and ran into his wife and daughter in the parking lot.
“I’m so sorry, Mary.” Karl knelt beside his sulking daughter, but she refused to look at him. “I tried hard to get here in time, but I got stuck in traffic.”
“You love your job more than me.”
Mary spun round and strutted to Teresa’s car.
“You’ll need to do something big to make this up to her.” Teresa waggled her finger at him. “She was a fantastic fairy, by the way. I recorded all her parts so you can watch them at home.”
Karl hugged Teresa tightly. “You’re the best. I was studying for the Detective’s exam and lost track of time.”
“You watch my videos of her and do something special together this weekend, and maybe our little princess will forgive you.” Teresa shrugged.
“Sounds like a great idea.” Karl kissed his wife on the cheek. “And while I’m treating the little princess, maybe my queen would like to visit the beauty salon?”
“I’ll book my appointment tomorrow.” Teresa grinned at him.
That Saturday, Karl planned a slew of activities to enjoy with Mary. They went to a park where they bounced on trampolines and played on slides and swing sets. There was even a shooting range, where Karl won a giant unicorn plushie for Mary.
It didn’t leave her arms, even when they went to eat lunch at a restaurant. Karl couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he watched Mary offer fries to the toy, which she named Duchess Twinklestar. It had been a great day, but that was about to change.
Karl never took his eyes off the gunman as he reached back to comfort his daughter. A tear sprang to his eye when he felt her small fingers wrap around his.
Karl looked up as a stocky man entered the cafe. Something about the way the man scanned the room caught Karl’s attention. He studied the guy and noticed his nervous demeanor and how he kept his hands in his pockets. There was an odd shape to those pockets. Warning bells sounded in Karl’s head, but it was too late.
“Hands in the air!” The man had pulled a gun on the staff working at the counter. “Open the register and get out here on the floor. Don’t get any bright ideas.”
One of the patrons wailed. The man quickly pointed the gun in their direction.
“Shut up!” The gunman ordered. “On the floor, all of you, and don’t even think of making a sound or it’s over.”
Karl realized immediately that he’d never be able to disarm the man from his current position. There were too many tables in his way. The best thing to do for now was to play it safe. He got onto the floor with Mary.
Mary had pushed her face into Duchess Twinklestar’s shoulder. She was trembling when Karl put his arm around her. Karl kissed the top of her head and pushed her under the table. Then he pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed 911.
“You put that phone away!” The gunman strode toward Karl.
“Don’t try to be a hero, man.”
“We’re cool, see?” Karl slid the phone across the floor. All his hopes of saving this situation went with it.
Mary let out a sob then. Time stopped as the gunman aimed at Mary beneath the table.
Karl’s training and finely honed instincts stalled as a bone-deep fear filled him. He wanted to leap to the side and shield his daughter with his body, but any sudden movements now could escalate the dangerous situation. He had to try something different.
“Why are you robbing the Blue Umbrella Cafe anyhow, man?” Karl asked.
“No questions.” The man backed away and turned his attention to the staff. “You there, take this and pack the money in. Keep your hands where I can see them.”
As the gunman gave his duffle bag to the cashier, Karl glanced across at his phone. His call had gone through, and the operator was still on the line! They would’ve heard him mention the cafe’s name, which meant police officers were being dispatched to the location.
Mary ducked behind him as he confronted the man on their doorstep, the same man who held them hostage in the cafe.
All he had to do now was wait. Karl studied the gunman again. He was nervous, fidgety, and held his gun a little awkwardly. This man lacked the confidence of a hardened criminal, but his nervousness and inexperience with a firearm presented a different hazard.
No matter what, Karl had to ensure Mary survived this. He slowly moved closer to the table and knelt, so his daughter was squarely behind him.
“Papa?” Mary whispered.
“Shh.” Karl never took his eyes off the gunman as he reached back to comfort his daughter. A tear sprang to his eye when he felt her small fingers wrap around his.
The police arrived with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Chaos erupted inside the cafe. Several patrons on the far side of the dining area ran for the emergency exit. The gunman turned to shout at them, and one of the cashiers fled through the front entrance.
Karl got ready to tackle the gunman, but the man grabbed his duffle bag of cash and fired a round into the ceiling.
“Next person who moves will get it! I’m not playing around.”
The man moved away from the glass doors at the entrance and herded the remaining patrons into a corner with him.
This had just gotten very bad, and Karl knew how quickly a hostage situation could escalate. He needed to do something immediately to help keep everyone safe.
Karl watched the gunman out of the corner of his eye. He was about to take a huge risk, but it was the only way.
“Hey, man,” Karl said in a neutral tone, “I know you want to get out of here as easily as possible. Maybe I can help you.”
The gunman huffed at Karl. “Yeah, right. Ain’t nobody in this world that wants to help me, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
“This world can be cruel—”
“What do you know about it? I lived a good life, I raised my kids to live good lives, and I thought that was enough till I realized the world don’t care; it’ll come for you no matter what you do.”
“Sounds like somebody wronged you. Who was it?”
“Them boys out there.” The gunman gestured at the door. “The law came for my boy, even though he did nothing wrong, and then they assigned the dumbest, greenhorn lawyer in the state to defend him.”
The gunman clenched his jaw. “But I won’t let them pin this on my boy. I’m going to get him a good lawyer with this cash.”
“Then let me help you. I promise I’ll do everything I can to see your son walk free, but you have to listen to me.”
The gunman stared at Karl, but then a woman asked if she could use the powder room. The gunman gestured to her to proceed and watched the woman until she reached the door.
“You’d best quit your chattering.” The gunman pointed at Karl.
“I ain’t going to trust you. You’ll run for that door first chance you get, and all your promises will be forgotten.”
Karl sighed. It was clear he wouldn’t be able to talk the man down. “Can I take my daughter to the bathroom too?”
“When that lady gets back.”
Karl waited. He’d noticed something useful when the woman went to the bathroom and knew this could be his chance to disarm the gunman. When the first woman returned, Karl took Mary’s hand and walked her to the bathroom door.
The man had watched the woman only until she opened the door. He never watched her actually enter the powder room. Karl watched in his peripheral vision as he opened the door for Mary. When the gunman looked away, Karl gestured to Mary to be quiet and shut her in.
Karl sat down with Mary and explained that he’d investigated Roger, the gunman’s, story about his son’s false arrest. He’d found evidence proving the man was innocent and was released.
“Roger did go to jail for doing bad things,” Karl continued, “but the judge was kind enough to understand that he did those bad things to help his son, so he’s out of jail now.”
Mary frowned. Her cheeks puffed out as they always did when she thought deeply.
“I think all police people should be as good and fair as you are, Papa,” she said. “That way, everyone will be safe and happy.”
Karl kissed Mary’s forehead. His daughter’s words filled him with pride. Being a cop was tough, but days like this reminded him how important it was to maintain his integrity and belief in making the world a better place.
What can we learn from this story?
Always help those in need. Even though Roger took the restaurant patrons hostage, Karl didn’t hesitate to prevent his son from being wrongfully imprisoned.
There are few things as validating as a child’s respect. While Karl aimed to use his job to do good for society, Mary’s respect provided him with the hope he needed to continue.
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