Aaron heard all of the phones in the bullpen ringing followed by his own. Something big had to have happened. As he picked up the phone, his cellphone went off as well with a text alert. He picked it up and read the text. His blood stopped cold.
“Hotchner,” Hotch said as he tried not to run out of the office. It was from New Haven. An alert went out to all parents when security measures were enacted and it wasn’t a drill. And it was an all points. The entire school was being evacuated, but no reason given. He stood up to look at his team which were all mobilizing.
“Aaron, New Haven Academy has been taken hostage. Currently we don’t know how many hostiles, but the DOJ wants your team to lead the negotiations. I know that Jack goes there, but you’ll have HRT and SWAT there as well.” Cruz sounded worried because it was a school full of kids. All eyes in the nation would be on them to resolve it peacefully.
“I just got the alert that security was activated. I’ll need as many agents as we can spare to keep the parents calm. As soon as I can get into SUVs we’ll be out.”
“I have two being taken to the front of the building now for your team. Hurry. More agents will arrive as we can get them going.”
Aaron threw his desk phone into the cradle and then moved to his door, grabbing nothing as he went. He already had his gun on his hip. His team was already in vests and ready to go. Dave had a vest for him in his hands.
“DOJ wants my team on point for hostage negotiation at New Haven. I need everyone else on parent wrangling. When the security measures are activated, a text goes out. The farthest parking lot on the west side of the grounds is where the parents are told to go. I need you all to make sure that they don’t go farther and to keep them updated and calm. I don’t need one of them freaking out.”
“DOJ is thinking terrorists aren’t they?” Dave asked as he stepped up to hand off the vest.
“I have no clue. My team wheels up now. Everyone else, get in a vehicle and get there. Anderson, direct everyone where they need to go. HRT and SWAT are on route now. Let’s go.” Aaron strapped on the vest and moved towards the door.
Aaron barely remembered driving to the school. His mind was totally focused on the fact that Jack was in danger. For anyone to have made it that far into the school, it meant that they were good, and that meant they weren’t going to be taken down that easy. His phone beeped and he handed it over to Dave.
“Three confirmed dead security guards. Their bodies were tossed out of the school. The Headmistress was shot in the stomach, and tossed outside as well. SWAT have retrieved her and she’s on the way to the hospital. The Deputy Headmaster is with HRT right now. Head count is a little wonky, but there is only a single teacher and one class not accounted for. Details are sketchy.”
“We will know more once we make it there,” Morgan said from the back.
Just as Aaron was pulling onto the grounds, his phone rang. He looked at Dave and nodded. SWAT already had blocks up to stop anyone from entering from that way. He could see another block at the west side, but he could see that they were allowing parents in. Dave made a motion with his hand and Aaron parked and took the phone.
“Hotchner,” Aaron said as his eyes looked at the school.
“We have terrorists that have set upon the city. I need at least Dave here on hand to help. He’s the best that we have. You handle the school and we’ll take care of Quantico.” Cruz knew as well as Aaron did that two attacks so close, there was something up. There had to be a connection.
“I’ll send Dave right now. Garrett’s team is out of the country aren’t they?”
“Yes. Belize. Keep me up to date.” The other line switched off and Aaron could tell how stressed Cruz was.
“I will.” Aaron hung up and turned back. “We have terrorists hitting the City of Quantico. Dave, Morgan, Lewis, JJ I want you to go. Callahan and I can handle this.
“Hotch, I want to stay here,” JJ said as she looked at him.
“I want you there. You can help with figuring them out as well as handling the media. With the school privatized, it won’t be general knowledge, but Quantico is a whole city. You can do more good there.” The fact that the city was being attacked meant that no eyes would be on the school.
JJ nodded, but she didn’t look happy. Her eyes went to the school, he knew that she was worried about Jack. So was he. He needed to have his son in his arms.
Morgan, JJ and Dave exited the SUV and moved to the one behind. Lewis jumped out of the driver’s seat and moved to the back as Morgan took her former seat. Dave got into the passenger seat and JJ the other back seat. Callahan moved closer to him, looking at the school.
“We have a teacher and one class still inside. I want you to start figuring out who is still inside.”
“Agent Hotchner?” A man asked as he came close. His eyes were on the retreating SUV. “I thought we were getting the full A team for the BAU?”
“City of Quantico has been set upon by terrorists.”
“Agent Simmons, head of HRT. Keillor of SWAT is at our base which we have set up over this way. The Deputy Headmaster has figured out the class. It’s the last class of the day so the security team was preparing for the departure of the students. The classes were locked down. Security inside the school was taken out and then the classroom doors were opened. The teachers know that means to get the kids out, that the threat had been neutralized. They started towards the west parking lot and that’s when they realized they were a class short.”
“How?” It had to have been chaos. How were they able to tell that quick?
“Doctor Reid is the teacher that is stuck in the school. He walks with a cane and so it wasn’t hard to realize he wasn’t there according to the Deputy. That also means that it was an inside job. They had control of the security systems and that class was kept back for a reason. His classroom is closest to an exit so keeping him back wasn’t easier. It was harder. That class was targeted.”
Aaron looked at Simmons and closed his eyes for a few seconds. Doctor Reid, cane. The words were echoing in his mind. Doctor Cane not Doctor Caine. “What is the full name of the teacher?”
“Um.” Simmons pulled out a piece of paper. He shrugged.
“Doctor Spencer Reid,” a man said as he stepped up. “Agent Hotchner, he holds one of the best range scores for the teachers. And he is very calm under stress. Edward Justins, Deputy Headmaster.”
“Do the kids call him Doctor Cane?” Aaron wondered for a few seconds how he had missed it. There was a good bit of information that screamed Reid in what Jack talked about in class. Reid knew it was his Jack, but had kept quiet.
“Yes. Your Jack is very taken with him and yes Jack is in that classroom with him right now. We were cut off from the outside feeds for security, but I think that someone can hack in if they are good enough.”
Aaron texted Garcia and asked her to hack into the security feeds for the school. There was no way that he’d be able to keep it quiet that Reid was the teacher in that room, and he didn’t need that now. He looked at Callahan and was very happy that he’d kept her with him. There was no history there, and given the look on her face, she hadn’t recognized him. He just hoped that on the feed, Garcia didn’t see that it was Reid.
JJ had to have known. There was no way that she didn’t know that he was in the area. That was why she had wanted to stay. He remembered that morning when he’d told the team that Jack was going there. He’d thought she was texting Will but she hadn’t been. She’d probably been warning Reid, not knowing that Reid had known since the moment that Jack had entered his classroom. He respected that Reid had kept it from Jack who he was. He’d been so close for so long, and now he was in that school with hostage takers who were part of a group who was trying to take Quantico.
The only bright side was that other than himself, Reid was the best person that Aaron would want in there with Jack at the moment.
By the time that Aaron and Callahan made it to the makeshift command center, SWAT had a head count on how many were seen entering the grounds. Thankfully, the cameras on the gate were on a different set of protocols, and had an on camera back up that the Deputy was able to give HRT access to. Ten men had entered in two cars that were as of yet unaccounted for. There were still three guards unaccounted for as well, and Aaron was counting them as hostile. So that was thirteen men. His phone rang. He looked at it, it was Garcia.
“Tell me you have good news,” Aaron said in lieu of a greeting.
“I have access. I just need a laptop to give access to.”
Aaron looked at Simmons. “I need a laptop that has Internet and can run the feed from the security cameras. My analyst has hacked them.”
Simmons looked at the Deputy. The man handed over a laptop. “The Deputy’s computer has the software installed to check things from home, so it’ll be the best one to run the feeds on. It’ll give us better access to the program.”
Aaron relayed the information back that Garcia needed and in seconds after booting up, the feeds popped up. “Good Garcia. If I need you I’ll call. You focus on Rossi and the others.”
The Deputy typed in something and the feed from a classroom popped up on the screen. It was from behind but they could tell that things were so far okay. It wasn’t hard to recognize Reid’s form, even after years of not seeing him. The younger man was sitting in a chair with the kids all behind him. He held himself in the same way, and his hair was styled different than Aaron had ever seen it. Aaron scanned the kids next and then watched as one shifted at Reid’s back, turning his face a little. It was Jack. Reid had Jack behind him. He wanted to cry out in happiness, but he didn’t.
Reid turned his head towards the windows at the side and Aaron saw that he had a cut on his cheek. It looked like he’d been pistol whipped. Aaron felt his gut clench. Reid was alone. He thought he was alone.
“SWAT has shots on the two men in the room through windows. They are staying away but they keep checking,” Simmons said.
“No,” the Deputy said. “That glass is bullet resistant. It would take too many shots to bust through. They could kill all the kids in that time, even with Glocks, especially if Reid didn’t get to his gun.”
“No, we are going to wait. We don’t know their demands and we’ve had no contact with them as of yet.” Aaron looked at the feed again and saw there on the corner of Spencer’s desk was his cell phone. He grabbed his own cell phone and dialed it. The screen lit up and Aaron was very happy that Spencer hadn’t changed his number.
“Who is it?” one of the hostage takers asked as he moved over and grabbed the phone. Reid looked at the screen and closed his eyes.
“My former boss,” Reid answered.
“Then you can call him back later,” the hostage taker said before he threw the phone into the wall.
Reid turned his head to look at the camera from the corner of his eye. Reid knew that he was there. Knew that he had eyes in the room. Reid knew that he wasn’t alone. Even with time and distance, they knew each other’s working minds well.
“They don’t want to talk,” Aaron said.
“They wouldn’t have destroyed the phone if they wanted to talk. Even if it was someone else calling. We have to trust that Doctor Reid can get everyone out.”
“Why do you trust this man so much?” Simmons asked, turning to look at Aaron like he had grown a second head. Aaron had forgot that Simmons hadn’t been around for the cock up that was the Foyet case in DC.
“Doctor Reid has talked down paranoid schizophrenics and serial killers and shot a sniper with a gun that wasn’t his own in the head, hands tied together. If I was in that room, Reid is the only one that I would want there with me.” Aaron spared a glance at Callahan and saw that she finally realized who it was that was in that room.
“The genius,” Callahan whispered.
“Yes. I just tried to call him, and he didn’t give my name to the hostage takers, that means something, I just have to figure out what. Also he looked at the camera. He knows that I am out here, and he knows that I know he is in there.”
“You trust him that much?” one of the other agents asked.
“My son is in that room. If I couldn’t be there, I’d want him to protect my son. We don’t move until I give the word, the DOJ wanted me in charge and they knew that my son was in the school. I am also sure that they knew that Reid was teaching here.”
“How do you know him so well?” Simmons asked.
“He was on my BAU team for five years until he was shot in the line of duty. That’s why he uses a cane. He’ll get those kids out alive and unharmed if he can, and no one else could do better.” Aaron turned up the audio as one of the hostage takers stepped up to Reid again. He tuned out Simmons and someone from SWAT as they talked about how the only way to get the kids out at the moment was through one of the windows. Aaron agreed as the location of the hostage takers was known to them, all thirteen and none had shots along that side of the building.
“I’ll ask again and this time I won’t just hit your pretty little face, teach. Which one of these kids is Jack Hotchner?”
“Hotch?” Callahan asked.
“I want full backgrounds on the guards that are unaccounted for. I want Garcia to figure out what their first meal was on their first day of kindergarten. Something was missed on their background checks and we have to find it.” Aaron didn’t look away from the camera as he issued his order. Reid’s hands were fidgeting and Aaron wanted to know why. He had to rely on what Reid could get him. He now knew why Reid hadn’t named him, but what did the screen say? Then he remembered that a lot of his numbers in his phone were just that. Numbers. He had an eidetic memory and didn’t feel the need to have names. The team had been named before, but given that he ignored their texts and calls previously, they were all probably relegated to just humbers now. But that also meant that them not knowing who is former boss was meant that they didn’t know who he was. How did the three guards who had turned on the school not know who Jack was? They had gone into that school without a picture of Jack. It screamed sloppy but there was a two pronged attack going on.
“Agent Hotchner. I’m doing a headcount in that room and well…two of the kids are unaccounted for. I can’t get exacts on who it is as most of the kids are hiding their faces, but I think that it’s Deanna and Eliana, they were both in classes today.”
Aaron kept his eyes on Reid. There was something with his fidgeting hands, but Aaron couldn’t place it. He watched for several minutes before he made a sign that Aaron knew.
“Deputy, are any of the students in Reid’s classroom deaf?”
“Yes. Eliana is deaf and Deanna knows sign language as well. They have been attached at the hip since starting school together in Kindergarten. All of our teachers know enough sign language to teach Eliana. We had an aide in with her, but Deanna has taken up enough of the slack that Eliana had her parents not hire the aide back this year. Why?”
“Reid is signing something. You said you were two kids short. Those two are in sight of Reid. He’s talking to them, but his hands are at an angle that it’d be hard to see what he is signing.”
“Reid started to learn sign language as soon as he accepted the position.” Justins moved closer as he spoke. Aaron let him, but after a minute agreed that he couldn’t figure out what Reid was saying to the girls. The hostage takers were idiots if they hadn’t realized that he wasn’t just nervous. They were crap body language readers. Movement at the edge of the screen told Aaron where the girls were. They were under Reid’s desk. If he knew Reid well enough, and he thought that he did, he’d have physics magic things in a desk drawer to be able to shock kids with. He always had carried some around in his bag for helping to settle child victims.
Before Aaron could even extrapolate, the sound of one of Spencer’s film canister rockets went off, and the two hostage takers focused on the desk, but before they could move, two things were tossed in the space between the men and the kids.
“SWAT! Be prepared for the kids to run!” Aaron yelled. He stayed at the laptop watching. The hostage takers were getting harder to see with the smoke pouring out of whatever the hell those two girls had made at Reid’s instructions. As soon as the canister had went off, Reid had moved. His hand had gone behind his back, and with his other hand he shifted the grip on his cane. As the first hostage taker made it out of the smoke, Reid brought the cane up and cracked him across the head with it. The two girls and Jack ran away, towards the windows.
The man on the floor wasn’t moving. Reid had either killed him or knocked him out. Aaron watched as Jack fiddled with something, and one of the windows fell to the ground outside the room. As soon as Reid stood up and made a motion with his hand, the rest of the kids were running towards the window. Jack though, didn’t dart out the window, he ran towards the hostage taker. He watched his son pick the gun up and pop the clip. He’d always kept Jack up on proper handling of a gun given that he had several inside of his house. The guns were in safes, but he’d rather Jack know what not to do, than to hurt himself out of curiosity. Jack clicked the safety on next. The sound of a gun going off had everyone reacting. Aaron looked to see Reid with his gun up and in the smoke he could see a body falling. Aaron wondered if it was a head shot. With the black mask and light clothing, it was the best place for a shot given the smoke. Reid scooped up the gun from Jack’s hands, pushing him towards the window before going to the other man and taking his gun. Both were thrown out the window as far as Reid could throw them. Jack was out the window next with Reid following him.
Aaron was up like lightning. He grabbed a secondary vest from a pile and then was running. SWAT was pulling the kids to safety, but before an agent could get to Reid, Aaron was there. He was slower with the cane, unable to run. Aaron threw the vest over him, tightening it enough to where it wasn’t going to fly away before he scooped up Jack and tucked him into his body.
The sound of a second shot had Aaron wanting to turn but he couldn’t. He couldn’t risk Jack like that. He looked at Reid as they moved as fast as they could. The sound of a sniper rifle firing told Aaron that SWAT had taken out someone.
“We are clear to take them out!” Aaron yelled at Simmons who was only ten feet away. Simmons nodded and said something into his radio. SWAT was going to take the rest of the hostage takers out. As soon as they were behind the vehicles, Aaron tried to direct Reid to the ambulance that was waiting. Climbing out the window, and then having to hustle away couldn’t have been good on his knee. Aaron set Jack down when Reid started to fight him. “REID!”
“I have to check on my kids.” Reid was fighting him even harder. Callahan stepped closer and Aaron motioned for her to stay back. He didn’t think that Reid realized that he was there. Aaron pulled Reid’s gun from his holster at his back and he didn’t react at all. His eyes were roving over the area where SWAT had taken the kids. Trying to count.
“Doctor Reid, I have thirteen kids with SWAT being checked over by a medic. Jack here makes fourteen,” Callahan said calmly. Reid looked at her and her FBI vest and he seemed to deflate.
“You are sure, Agent?”
“Kate Callahan. I am sure. I have the Deputy Headmaster’s number count and with Jack here it’s everyone. Everyone in the school has been accounted for. Staff and students alike.”
Reid slumped and if Aaron hadn’t been holding onto him, he would have fallen. As if he’d just realized that someone was touching him, Reid looked up at him and his entire face turned into shock. He looked at Aaron like he hadn’t even known he was there. “Oh!”