2 - Demands

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This chapter is dedicated to crazypuppylady who won the Road to Redemption countdown competition. I'll PM you so you can pick the name and breed of Sam's and Rena's dog :)

2 – Demands

From the outside, the small townhouse in which Patrice lives with her siblings looks exactly the way it did this morning when I dropped Noah off right after breakfast. Lamar's bike still leans against the trampoline that is scattered with some of Alyssa's cheerleader gear, and the bin by the curb stands crooked with a tower of paper boxes right beside it. The freezing wind rattles at the hinges of the open gate; the snow and ice from last week's winter storm covering parts of the driveway where Patrice's Toyota Camry is parked.

But just fifty yards away, the usual quiet street has transformed into a circus. Two rows of police cars block any potential traffic on either side and barriers keep the bystanders at bay. An ambulance is parked at a safe distance. The cops wear bulletproof vests with the SWAT emblem written in the center. If I wouldn't know better, I would suspect this to be a movie set for one of the television shows filmed in Chicago. Crazy. Sam was supposed to keep a lid on this and not call in the cavalry.

When a young cop stops me and Doc at the barrier, I crane my neck to find him. Of course there is no sign of him. Figures.

"I'm sorry, but police only." The young cop's glare is unyielding.

"My—my son is in there." And Patrice, Lamar, and Alyssa. The fear has me stumble over the words. "Please, I'm Special Agent Cho's fiancé. You have to let me through."

"Are you Rena Cooper?"

"Yes—yes I am."

He squints at me for a second before getting on his radio. "Ms. Cooper is here."

The radio crackles. After some static, Sam's voice drifts through the receiver. "Copy that. I'll send an escort."

Seconds stretch like molasses until Joey, one of Sam's friends, heads toward the barrier. He has his usual lollypop stuck between his teeth. Sam always jokes that he is a Kojak wannabe, but Joey swears the sugar helps to calm his nerves. Considering that sweets usually hype you up, I've always believed in Sam's theory.

"You need to put this on." He hands me a thick, black vest and gives one to Doc. I fumble with the straps. "Come, I'll help you."

When he is done, the vest is awfully snug and restricts my movement. I stalk behind him with Doc by my side. Walking alongside the cop cars, we end up in someone's kitchen. Sam and a bunch of cops, most of them SWAT with a few FBI guys mixed in, have taken up camp around the large table. Conversations halt mid-sentence as everyone stares at me before the mumbling resumes. By the sink, I recognize the old lady who always walks a little yipping mutt Noah finds adorable. She gives me a weak smile and focuses back on the coffee maker.

I signal Sam with my eyes to follow me back into the hallway. "Sam, what's going on? I told you, I didn't want to involve the police until Noah, Patrice, and the other kids are safe." This time, not only fear, but anger laces my voice.

"Sorry, hon, but that's a bad idea in a hostage situation."

Now I regret calling him in the first place. He is ruining everything. "You should have said that on the phone."

"And risk you shutting me out." He shakes his head. "Sorry, Rena, but you need to let the experts handle this."

I will never forgive him if something happens to my baby. "Noah is my son. What if Marcus—?"

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