"Okay, listen up!" the gunman shouted as soon as he
could be heard over the squealing brakes.
After a few seconds, everyone in the carriage seemed to grasp what had happened, and what would be happening. Carter furtively glanced around the carriage; no one was looking up, each person had his eyes fixed on the floor. Most were gripping the nearest railing. A few had clasped their hands together; one man appeared to be praying, his lips moving soundlessly.
"Everyone does what exactly I say. Nobody talks. You," the gunman gestured at the woman with the baby. "Come here." The woman stared back at him without moving, visibly trembling. "Don't make me come get you," he threatened her, cocking the weapon. She stood up shakily, clutching her child tightly against her body as she walked towards the man. No one spoke as she approached him.
"Cute kid," the man sneered. "Give it to me." He extended his free hand towards her.
"No." Her voice wavered with suppressed tears.
"You're forgetting the rules," he chided her in a frighteningly gentle voice. "Now I can pry that baby out of your arms dead or alive. I really don't care, but I'm guessing you do. Give it to me."
"Please," she begged, crying openly. With both arms wrapped around her baby, the tears slid down her cheeks unchecked. "Please don't do this."
"Hey," Carter broke in. "You don't have to - " He found himself staring up at the gun barrel, and stopped speaking.
"Who's in charge here?" the man asked, in a mockingly pleasant voice. He didn't wait for a reply. "Right, so shut the fuck up." He looked around at all his hostages, keeping the gun to Carter's forehead. "Next person who talks ends up like my friend there. Am I clear?" He kicked the policeman's body.
The body moaned. The gunman jumped slightly at the sound, obviously startled. "Shit," he muttered, taking aim at the wounded man's head.
"Wait!" Carter was standing before his common sense could order him to stay seated and silent. Finding the gun aimed at him again, he held both hands up in front of him in a supplicating manner. "You don't want to do that."
"You're not very smart, are you?" The gunman studied Carter with a mix of anger and confusion.
"If you kill him, there's no way they're going to let you off this train alive. You know how cops are." Carter spoke quickly, hoping to make the gunman see reason before he got more trigger-happy. "If he's alive, they'll deal with you. They'll have to."
The gunman glared at him for a long moment. Carter breathed a little more quickly than normal, half-expecting the man to shoot him simply as an example to the others, but he met the man's dark gaze steadily. Then the man turned away. "Anyone here a doctor?" he asked loudly.
"I am," Carter quietly informed the gunman's back.
The dark brown eyes returned to him and there was another lengthy pause. Then the man shook his head, a mirthless smile on his face. "Fine. Take care of him. You," he beckoned to the mother with his gun, "give me that kid right now." She looked at Carter helplessly. Understanding her unspoken plea, the gunman shoved Carter down on his knees beside the policeman. "Him, you can help. Try anything else and you'll just be the body lying next to his, okay, Doc? And you," his eyes flickered back to the woman, "I've run out of patience with."
He strode towards her purposefully. Carter half-rose from the floor, wondering how everyone else could sit back and let this happen.
"Doc, you better be kneeling by the time I turn around or I'm gonna kill this nice lady," the gunman warned him, glancing over his shoulder.
Carter sank down again. He cast his eyes around the carriage, wishing futilely that one of the other hostages would do something. None of them would look at him, or at each other. He watched mutely as the man forced his left hand between the mother and baby. It wasn't until the man placed the muzzle of the weapon against the back of the baby's head that she relinquished her hold.
Knowing he was unable to help her, Carter concentrated his attention on the wounded policeman, and tried to block out the sound of her weeping. The policeman's condition was better than Carter had anticipated: he had a pulse and he was breathing. He was also incredibly unlucky. The second Carter touched the body, he knew Williams was wearing a Kevlar vest. The bullet had somehow found a way around it, entering high on the right side of the Williams' chest, directly beneath his collarbone near the neck. Lifting him slightly, cautiously, Carter searched for an exit wound along the policeman's upper back. A first cursory look revealed nothing, but it was impossible to be certain without being more thorough. Carter shifted his hold on the unconscious man: he had to turn him, but the bullet could have ended up anywhere. He really needed another set of hands for this. He glanced up at the businessman who had been sitting next to Williams; the grey-haired man stared fixedly at his briefcase.
Carter was about to force the man to acknowledge him, when the gunman's voice suddenly spoke in his ear. "Well? Is he gonna live?"
"He needs to get to a hospital," Carter answered flatly, easing Williams back to the ground.
"How did I know you were going to say that? Too bad. No one's going anywhere at the moment," the gunman said, bouncing the baby a little on his hip. Carter looked at the baby, level with his eyes, and decided not to antagonize the shooter.
The gunman raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Really?"
"No. But if you say so, then fine. For now. But I'm going to need medical supplies."
The man looked at Carter for a full minute as though noticing him for the first time. When he spoke, he no longer sounded derogatory. "All right." Carter let out a breath he had been unaware of holding. He was about to specify what he would require when the gunman straightened, staring out the end door of the carriage. "And here they come," he said softly.
Carter looked in the same direction. SWAT men were closing in on the carriage door at one end. Turning his head, he could see they were also converging on the other side. The neighboring carriages were empty; evidently the rest of the passengers on the train had been evacuated. His jaw dropped slightly as he realized more than half an hour had passed since the shooting first took place. The sun was low in the sky, casting a red glow over everything, glinting off the businessman's glasses.
All the hostages were sitting up, their impassivity discarded at the sign of rescue. The gunman seemed to be undisturbed by this development, though Carter could see his knuckles were gripped white around his weapon.
"Stay here," the man ordered, dragging Carter on his knees by the shoulder of his shirt to the center of the aisle. "You stand behind me, that way," he told the mother, positioning her to face the door opposite Carter. She made no sound or protest, tears still falling silently. "Either of you moves, I'll kill this kid. That goes for all of you," he added. There was no audible response from the other hostages. They waited in silence for the SWAT teams to arrive.