Todd was next to me the instant I stepped out of the car. He looked exhausted – being related to me does that, I suppose, especially when I am the one connection to Taylor that matters. Or, at least, mattered at that moment.
“Lily, thanks for coming,” he said. He didn’t mean it, but he didn’t really know what else to say. Like I said, we were never close. Not many people would willingly ostracize themselves for my sake, not even my own family.
I decided to cut the shit, because I just couldn’t deal with it that day. “No, you’re not, Todd, because me being here isn’t exactly how you all wanted this to go, is it? How the hell did you convince your partners of this? You and I both know this isn’t protocol.”
No, what we were about to do wasn’t protocol. And I knew damn well how he’d convinced them, but I wanted to hear it. I wanted to hear if he’d give me an honest answer or if he’d lie to me.
“There wasn’t any other option. She’s demanding it. She’s got kids hostage. Lily, some of them are only seven or eight! Besides, we… we are going to take every possible precaution.”
I listened as the lies spilled out of his lips like he’d rehearsed them and then realized that, probably, he had. I wanted to scream at him, no, you guys don’t give a shit if she kills me, it would probably be a godsend if I were to die in this fucked up situation, too. You’re sending me in because you want to punish me for having known her. Because you want someone else to deal with the mess that you unknowingly created. Because you can’t take responsibility, you goddamn cowards.
Instead, I asked, “Why didn’t you just send someone in to shoot her? You have men trained to do just that.”
I didn’t expect Todd’s answer, I’ll admit, and it froze me for just a moment. Of course, Taylor would know how to get my attention. “She’s… she’s holding one of them. Sitting in the front of the room with the kid on her lap, a gun pressed to his head. We couldn’t risk it.”
I had never actually seen Todd so shook up. He is usually the epitome of calm and collected – which helps a lot when you’re a cop – but he looked absolutely terrified in that moment. And in his eyes, I did see a flash of guilt for sending me in to deal with the situation. But wait, the guilt was something more, there was something he wasn’t telling me…
“You’re sending me in without a gun,” I said.
He didn’t try to dodge the question this time, he just nodded. “You’ll have a bulletproof vest on, make no mistake, but she demanded that you come unarmed. If she thinks that you have a gun, we’re afraid that she’ll shoot the child.”
I nodded. “I think it’s for the best,” was my truthful answer. The details of that night so long ago seeped into my head and I thought to myself, no, I don’t want to die, but maybe I do deserve it. Maybe I helped them create this monster and now I have to go down with it.
The thought hurt, but it was true, and so I couldn’t deny it. Not anymore.
I wondered if my parents would ever forgive me for what I was about to do. I wondered if they even KNEW what was happening. Based on the fact that they weren’t here trying to stop me, I’d say the town had gone to great pains to keep my involvement a secret.
So I did what I had to.