Chapter Two: Hope

Fear. Pure, unadulterated fear.

"Everybody stay on the ground. If you move, you die!" The alpha thief ordered, brandishing his shotgun.

He was a large man, both tall and muscular. His biceps were well-defined and bulged underneath his tight-fitting, black, long sleeve t-shirt. He wore a bulletproof vest and black jeans, a balaclava covered his face and gloves hid his hands. The only thing distinguishable about him was his eyes, a steel blue colour, intense and menacing.

Everybody had been contained to the mezzanine level of the bank. Around fifty people lay flat on the polished wooden floor, none daring to move or speak. As they lay there, amidst the sound of quiet crying, the gang of criminals that had swarmed the bank walked around between them. They asserted their authority with violence, a kick here, a punch there. They laughed at those who'd already been injured, mocked everyone who was afraid.

What had been a peaceful albeit boring trip to the bank had flipped on its head, transformed into a living hell. Anna had been trained to deal with such a situation and with almost thirty years experience as a police officer she knew that she should be in control by now. She'd been trained to assess the situation, to help herself and others around her escape. But she had not. For this wasn't training. This was real. Too real. Blood pumped fiercely in her veins, her breathing rapid, her pulse pounding. Anna glanced around at the other hostages and saw they shared the same, haunted features she herself had. Fear had consumed them all and frustrated, she knew she had to regain her composure.

Come on Anna, she told herself internally, get a grip.

With her forehead pressed flat against the cold, hard floor, Anna breathed in deeply. After several, slow, deep breaths, she felt the adrenaline leave her body, replaced by a calmness that brought her clarity. She thought hard, back to her training, and let the fear drift away. Of course, the situation was still terrifying, still highly dangerous and not at all a scene she relished living, but she was there. She would be there for several hours, maybe more and if she was going to have any chance to survive she would need to think like the cop she was.

Assess the situation.

Anna curled into an almost fetal like position and observed the intruders. She avoided direct eye contact, knowing that if she so much as glared at them she'd probably earn herself another beating. Eye contact was a challenge; one she wasn't ready to put forward. Anna thought about what she already knew. She knew her location, and that there were approximately ten criminals, armed, dangerous, who had taken over the bank. They were quick, organized and in control. They hadn't made any demands but judging by the setting she'd assume money was the primary motive. The only other thing she could ascertain at that moment was that the man doing all the shouting about staying on the ground was definitely the man in charge. None of his men did anything unless he ordered it, which made her assume that perhaps he was the one who had ordered the raid on the bank. The planner. The instigator.

"What are you doing?" Suddenly the Alpha thief spun around towards the reception desk, "What did you do?"

A woman, mid thirties, blonde. Pale, terrified, she behind the counter where she had served customers just moments before. But her head was just visible above the desk and she clearly was not laid on her belly like the other hostages. She had been disobedient, something Anna knew was risky at best amongst men like this.

"N-nothing" She stammered.

Her mascara stained cheeks gave away her guilt.

"What did you do?" The man bellowed, and he charged behind the desk with his shotgun in hand.

Anna knew then, what was going to happen.

"I...N-nothing. Nothing I swear!"

A slap. With such force that the sound of it was heard by Anna who lay at least six feet away. She winced, imagining the impact on her own flesh.

"Liar!" He aimed his gun at her head, "Do not lie to me!"

"Please!"

Anna had seen people die before. She had seen it working on patrol, seen it during her homicide investigations and most recently, seen it when her brother-in-law Mark was shot in the head by the serial killer The Hunter. Still, her retinas were not dulled to it and each time death struck it still shocked her. The woman's head had exploded, at such short range there was nothing left except excessive blood and bits of bone and brain stuck to the nearby furnishings. One of her teeth had lodged in the desk. Anna felt nauseated with the sight and the fight or flight instinct had kicked in. Every fibre of her body wanted her to run, to just try her luck and head for the main doors. But she fought it. She needed to stay there, to remain calm, to help the others. It was her job.

"Boss?" A subserviant thief approached, "What was all that about?"

"We will soon be joined by the Police." The man replied, "She pressed the silent alarm. For fucks sake!" He kicked a hostage in frustration, "I don't need this shit."

"How long do we have?"

"I don't know. But we need to move. Grab a few for insurance, kill the rest. We need to get to the vault."

Anna's throat was dryer than ever. She turned away from the other hostages, and stared at the nearest wall. Blood curdling screams and people begging for mercy was all she could hear. One gunshot. Then another, and another. It was all random, like the toss of a coin. Heads you live, tails you die. An intense feeling of hopelessness came over Anna. Despite the fact that the girl who had bravely risked it all to set off the silent alarm had alerted the police to their situation, they would never get there in time to stop the senseless violence. Anna wondered if they would get there in time to save her. The footsteps grew closer. Her time was coming soon. She lost control of her bladder and felt a warmth in her trousers.

"Come on, up you get!" The masked man kicked her in the kidneys, "Come on, move it, move it!"

Anna was dragged to her feet, made to turn around and face the carnage that lay behind her. Blood and guts stained the carpets, the walls. At least thirty of the former hostages had been killed. In spite of all of her training, her past experiences with death, Anna vomited.

"Stupid bitch!" The man slapped her, "Almost got that on my shoes!"

Come on Anna. Keep it together. Keep your head on straight.

As they were lead forcefully into the back of the bank, presumably towards the vault, Anna's palm lightly brushed the pocket on her coat. Her phone. How could she have forgotten her phone? She kept walking, stepping over corpses as she went. In spite of falling apart that little cell phone meant she would be able to phone Jill, get through directly to the police station. She could relay details of her attackers, the situation, all from the inside. It gave her a chance to help, a chance to be able to do something other than cower in fear and let others die around her. It gave her a sense of power, a sense of control.

It gave her hope.

Thanks for reading.