Croonford Detective Case 24: To Paradise

 

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"Morning Lin," Reinhard greeted the taller teen detective and fellow school mate.

 

Although it was summer break throughout the UK, their school in Croonford requested all students from Year 8 onwards to return for classes to ensure the school's academic rating would remain stellar. Students of course complained but there was no clear opposition. Reinhard looked at Lin Ling and despite having seen her in her summer uniform many times, it now appeared to enhance her beauty. Her school blouse although wasn't tight against her torso, seemed to push out her C-Cup breasts. Her skirt conformed to school regulations but her bare legs were firm with the skin slightly shining.

 

"About the last time..." He began.

 

"Thanks again for freeing me last time. For once, I thought I would suffer from that gag and boiling room," She interrupted.

 

"Uh yes, I meant the dinner you cooked." "Want another round?" "Well, perhaps somewhere else," Reinhard could think where. He wasn't a great cook and his own home was messy compared to her majestic place. He admitted the first part to her, mentioned they could go to some German or Jamaican eatery but couldn't think of any.

 

"We'll find..." Lin's answer was interrupted when Michelle Summers appeared. "What were you two discussing?"

 

"Oh, nothing much," Lin quickly replied then as Mark, Chelle's boyfriend joined them, Chelle updated them on the last case. Those eco-terrorists were definitely also racists, affirming what Lin heard from one of them just after they left. They authorities were still trying to find other hideouts with other kidnapped victims and other technologies they group may own. "Racists," Lin remarked as the group reached the school gates.

 

"Hey, it's the same repair van again. I thought the lighting in the hall was already fixed. Spotting the school's longest serving security guard, she asked him. "Oh, yes, Miss Chan, they suddenly said want to check the wiring again."  Ted Wiggins was friendly to the East Asian student but was friendly still trying to figure out how to pronounce her name. While Lin partly accepted that answer, Chelle was wondering where the other girl detective, Jennifer Thompson was.

 

"Probably finding adventure like you," came one answer.

 

"She's in the ladies, probably a bad breakfast," came another.

 

That was partly true, Jenn had locked herself in a toilet cubicle. She didnít have any food poisoning or relieving herself there but again just reading the regional and national debating results. The morning bell interrupted her reading and sighing, she got out but just she was about to pull open the door, she heard what she was the sound of fireworks. That's strange, she thought as it was too early in the year. The crackling noise occurred again, then there were shouts and an explosion which almost caused her to fall down. After a sound like a small explosion was heard, Jenn slowly inched the door open and gasped. Students, teachers and staff were marched in lines with their hands over their heads. Men wearing uniforms that identified them as electricians were wearing balaclavas and armed with rifles shouting at students and staff in a foreign language also prodding random staff or students randomly with rifles she could not immediately identify.

 

She gently closed the door - but not before whipping out her mobile phone before snapping several pictures. Damn, damn, damn, Jenn thought. The school's been taken over by armed men but why? Jenn knew guesses would wait as she had to call the police fast. Retreating back in the same stall, Jenn was about to do so until she found she had no signal on her phone. Shaking it, she still found a dead signal.

Oh crap.

 

Meanwhile, the armed men separated the staff and students in different rooms. Staff were held in one corner of their own staff room while male students were held in the school hall while female students were kept in various classrooms with everyone still forced to keep their hands on their heads. Just after every one was separated the PA system crackled.

 

"Everyone, your attention. You should note the armed men surrounding all of you. Any silly heroes will be shot on sight. You may be freed only if we get what we want."

 

Jenn heard it and deduced it was either a North African or Middle Eastern accent. What do they want? Jenn was thinking extremely fast until she heard footsteps. She darted out of the stall, quickly closing the door and rushed into the cleaner's closet. There was no internal lock so she quickly pushed the nearby hoover against the door. The room naturally stank so she held her breath and waited. The sounds of someone opening and closing the toilet stalls was heard then the footsteps were much louder. Jenn tensed up, ready to be captured or...suddenly the footsteps retreated, then a sound indicating the main toilet door was open and closed made her heave a sigh of relief.

 

Jenn suddenly knew she had to head to her locker where she kept the bulk of her gadgets. The two main gadgets she had was the identification device she sown onto her bra and the radio earrings. The main worry was that the girl's locker room was one long corridor away from this girl's loo she was in. Jenn waited for a minute and half, placing her left ear against the door. Hoping there was no hostage takers -- they had to be, she deduced -- she slowly pulled the door open and stepped out, grateful that no one was immediately in sight.

 

Jenn decided she would take an alternative route to the locker room which meant she travel one floor up, cross another shorter corridor, down another flight of stairs and across yet another corridor. Half tiptoeing and slowly walking she made it up the first flight of stairs then spotted a locked window that showed the outside street. I can signal someone if only...Jenn shook her head and reached the top only to quickly spot another armed masked man walking towards the stairwell. Quickly, she rushed back down, albeit halfway, pressing herself against the wall and waited for the dreadful grab. Once again, luck was with Jenn as the sound of footsteps faded. She confirmed this by peeking and noticing the guard heading the other way.

 

The first room on this new level was an empty Year 8 classroom. Jenn immediately spied and grabbed some permanent markers from the art table then headed back down to the window. Jenn tested a marker on the window and nothing much came out the suddenly a police officer in sight. Dropping the markers in her skirt pocket, she rapidly waved at the officer also tapping the glass. Initially, the officer did not look up and was about to move away then spotted Jenn. She wasn't proficient in Morse Code but recalling learning it from a camp, she used her hands to signal twice 'SCHOOL TAKEN OVER BY ARMED MEN, NEED URGENT HELP, JENNIFER THOMPSON.' The officer stood still as Jenn sent the signal then walked off away in sight.

 

Did he get my signal? Did he send for further help? Jenn could only guess but still aimed to reach her locker. Kneeling on a stair, she noticed the armed man still patrol that corridor. She waited until he turned around then rushed into the classroom, drawing the door almost closed and peering out. The armed man turned around again, following a pattern. Jenn seized the chance to head into the second classroom then following the pattern, she moved into the other classrooms when the guard always turned his back and finally she reached the other stairwell, rushed down and enter the girls' locker room.

 

While Jenn had successfully reached the locker room, the other teen detectives were trying to figure out how to harass the despite trio of armed guards guarding them and other students. Mark and Reinhard were thinking hard about that while Chelle and Lin glanced at each other to communicate silently with their eyes.

 

Jenn retrieve gadgets including the foundation kit which held a penknife, the pen torchlight - just in case the lights went out and exchanged her watch with the watch that had an in-built laser and finally the pen loaded with pepper spray. The other gadgets she had stashed back in the detective's headquarters but decided these were sufficient. She further changed to her PE shorts and shirt definitely more practical and comfortable in this situation. Jenn found there was still no mobile phone signal on her phone but activating the tracking app Lin invented. The signals from the other four detectives were active somewhere north east of her position but were all grouped together. A minute or so passed, and none of the signals moved with Jenn surmising it wasn't where the others were - their phones were likely taken away.

 

Jenn pressed her left ear and spoke. "Hey gang," she radioed in a soft voice and explained where she was for the past hour. "Don't reply. I managed to signal a police officer and help should be on the way." Jenn really wondered if that was true. Just as she decided to move, her shoe touched some object and she discovered it was a portable Wi-Fi router.

 

The police constable (PC) in fact did read Jenn's broken morse code and thought it was a joke at first. He was off duty yet still after seeing her he headed to the school's main gate attempting to enter. However, just as he was pressing the button for 'Guest Entryí, a  shot came from the school window striking him in his right chest.

 

"Officer 732, status zero, Croonford road, outside the school gates." He radioed.

 

That set off a huge chain of events. An Ambulance pulled up but as paramedics rushed up to him, more shot were fired, hitting a paramedic in his right arm. With cries of 'fall back' they all managed to move into the safety of the ambulance and the injured were in the local hospital in no time. Less than an hour, another police officer arrived, Detective Sergeant (DS) Bluebell Ransom. Ransom still had an open drug case but a shooting was even more serious. As she asked the injured officer to repeated the last part of the morse code, her eyes widened and turned to dial a number.

 

Jenn had only seen her father once with a portable Wi-Fi router but she was smart enough to figure out how to operate the device she found. She smiled once her phone caught the Wi-Fi___33 signal and quickly sent a WhatsApp message to Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Nikki Heath, the teen detective's key police ally.

 

Nikki, armed men have taken over the school and held staff and students hostage. Please send help quickly.

 

Doubles ticks appeared then came the reply.

 

A PC saw a female student signalling this message in morse code signed off with your named and was shot at the school gates. Was that u who sent the signal?

 

Jenn typed 'yes'.

 

Are u safe? What about the others?

 

Don't know. Believe all their phones were taken. Think am safe. In the girl's locker room.

 

Don't try anything brave. Stay where you are. Help should arrive.

 

That last did not happen instantly. With the report of the shot police office and paramedic along with DCI Heath dubious report the decide came 11:50am to send it the region's Counter Terrorism Special Firearms (CTSFO) team.

 

The bulk of UK police officers, except those in Northern Ireland. don't carry firearms unlike most police forces globally so as not to act a threatening force to the community. Certain officers are trained and authorised to carry and discharge firearms ranging from pistols to sniper rifles. These fall generally under three classes: Authorised Firearms Officer, officers who carry firearms for escort duties, force protection and other related tasks. The next level is Specialist Firearms Officer, trained not just with firearms but building entry, hostage rescue and the like. The highest level is the Counter Terrorism Special Firearms Officer, naturally able to tackle terrorists.

 

The regional CTSFO team approached the school stealthily no sirens. Despites this, more shot rang out and several officers shouted into their personal radios. "Pull back!" The leader, Police Sergeant Anna Bulford ordered and checked on her team. After repeated replies 'No Harm', Bulford ordered her team to pull further back but still surround the school. "Julie, go find blueprints for this building fast." PC Julie Hawkins, Bulford's deputy and close friend - explaining the first name - acknowledged.

 

More police vehicles arrived and out of the first came a 180cm tall male officer, came to confer with Bulford. After hearing the update, Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Marcus Rayson, the head of the region's CTSFO command and Bulford's higher superior first remark was, "You've got a lot of girls here." Besides PS Bulford and PC Hawkins, there was Ellie Lindsay, a black PC born in the East Midlands, PC Grace Alexander and a former PS now PC Alison Mason who had left hen re-joined the police and trained as a CTSFO. There were a couple of other female PCs but and an almost equivalent of male CTSFO PCs.

 

"Is that problem sir?" Anna retorted.

 

"Oh, no," he quickly replied. ACC Rayson wasn't a misogynistic but still was of the kind that preferred male officers. Anna was an exception; he saw her as an excellent officer. Next to him was another black female PS, who introduced herself as the hostage and crisis negotiator. "Negotiator," ACC Rayson muttered under his breath indicating his dislike but didn't stop Jane Smyth from trying several of the school phone numbers but got engaged tones.

 

While the negotiator was trying to get contact, Jenn was still in the locker room, a little elated from Nikki's last words. She was about to rest against a locker when she heard the automatic doors open. Immediately, Jenn got flat down on the floor and as she started to squirm, she heard a voice call out in some unknown language and instead got on her knees and crawled as fast as she could to the end of row between the sets of lockers. With her heart beating fast and the dreaded thought of being caught, she still raised and turned her head. She spotted legs encased in black jumpsuit and boots and rapidly weighed her options. The automatic doors to the room were now at the far end. The various set of lockers created four different rows all leading to the doors. Jenn was on the third row - the sets of lockers were arranged by surname. To head to the doors meant traversing back down the row she crawled and giving herself up. Or... there was the soft sound of air rushing in. Jenn then realised in was the sole window in the locker room, usually closed but partly open due to the scorching weather. That particular window was at the back of the first row.

 

As the legs started moving towards her, Jenn quickly crawled through the narrow gap, reaching the fourth row. Not daring to look back, Jenn crawled again then spotted the thug in full, waking down the second row. As he turned walked back and headed to the third row, Jenn had managed to reach the front of the first and pressed herself against the metal locker. Suddenly, she tip-toed, and finally reached the window. It was only partially opened and Jenn quickly tugged at the handle. In other situation, she might have extracted her gadgets, but she was now frantic. Come on, come on, the gap finally widened and Jenn held the sill with her hands, trying to ignore the pain and lifted herself over. Ow, ow, her torso now ached but she was now in on a shaded path. Peering over the sill, she spotted the armed man turning to exit and she managed to snape a picture of him before he left.

 

Jane Smyth was about to try one of the school numbers again when her phone - they had commandeered a shophouse - rang. "Hello," Jane introduced herself as other officers listened in on deadlines. There was immediate silence on the other end, then a snigger and a dark voice spoke not in English.

 

"What's that?" PS Bulford asked with Smyth holding up her hand and answering in the same language. The answer came back in the same harsh voice replied then the line closed.

 

With a no emotion on her face, Jane explained. "They want Palestinian prisoners in UK custody freed by 3:00pm this afternoon. If they arenít, they'll blow the whole school." She then added she took a course in Farsi, a language from the Middle East.

 

Jenn re-entered the school then ensuring there wasnít any armed thugs in the vicinity, she sent another message to DCI Heath.

 

You did what?! Nikki nearly typed back both shocked and admiring the teen's escape. After seeing the images,

 

Jenn, stay where you are now, Nikki typed then rushed to her car.

 

"Hey, mister, hey I need to use the toilet," Harriet Coy, one of Chelle and Lin's classmates called. The trio of thugs didn't respond.

 

"Hey, I need to go to the toilet. Toilet? Do you understand? Toilet?" Hattie called again. One turned at her then turn back.

 

"Hey, my friend needs go to escape. After the toilet, " Lin added waving her hands.

 

Suddenly one of the thugs growled and his hand gestures indicated all should keep their hands on their heads. Lin's response was to glare at him which cause him to step over the other girls and yank the East Asian teen out. Lin's struggle and Chelle's attempt to assist was futile as a shot was fired, making all girls fall silent. Lin was march out hand gagged with a pistol trained at her back while another thug gestured for Hattie to get up.

 

"Shots fired, short fired inside," one of the PCs radioed.

 

Shit, Anna Bulford swore. "Someone get me the fibre-optic robot now; I need eyes inside now!"

 

Jenn also heard the gunfire which jolted her. Did they just kill someone?! Staff or student? She knew the outline of the school extremely well and the shot came from just around the corner. She knew Nikki told her to stay put but curiosity got the better of her and headed off. Suddenly, she heard pretty loud footsteps and quickly shrunk back. Peering over, she spotted Lin hand gagged, held at gunpoint and being marched away while another terrorist was leading a rather distraught Hattie back down the corridor.

 

Jane Smyth was the calmest of the officers in response to the shot. She immediately tried the line again while the CTSO team was busy preparing their robot. As she found the line engaged again, the robot already reached one corner but before it could fully extend its arms, a couple of shots were fired at it instantly destroying it. Before the chorus of curses started, the phone rang.

 

"Salām," she greeted but the response, despite the sharp accent was clear: You will pay!

 

Suddenly, a bruised Ted Wiggins walked out of the entrance and again just before he reached bullet strike his right leg.

 

Nothing, no one approaches us anymore! Get my people free! The voice screamed and the call stopped.

 

"We've got no eyes no ears inside, I'm not sending in my team blind," PS Bulford whined, tapping the blueprint of the school. Just as she was about to repeat her rant, DCI Heath rushed in, declaring, "I've got something."

 

"Hmm, ShAK-12," PC Hawkins point at the first picture.

 

"AK-100," Hawkins nodded at the second which was the terrorist checking out the girl's locker room. "These won't stop our armour and our MCXs and my team," Bulford meant the SIG MCX carbine, which her team just acquired. She had also augmented her team with additional CTSFO officers. "It doesn't tell me where the whole lot of terrorists are."

 

"Well, these came from the only person who's free inside," Nikki added then wishing she didn't say that.

 

"You mean asking a kid to help us get an idea of who's inside?! I've heard about how close you are with those detective girls," ACC Rayson remarked. The offices' debated and finally PS Bulford activated the policeís WhatsApp signal.

 

Jennifer, my name's Sergeant Anna Bulford. Are you still there?

 

Yes.

 

We need a clearer picture of the hostage takers inside. Can you move freely?

 

Jenn's affirmative answer took time to arrive.

 

We're not asking you to risk your life but your help would be much appreciated. Anna then typed a general summary what she required.

 

While Jenn now knew the risk for her had trembled, Lin was practically tight spot. She was thrown into a cleanerís closet, electrical tape wrapped around her jaw many times, taped to the chairís arms, and her legs similarly taped to the chair's legs and spread out. One of the terrorists muttered to his colleague and Lin was left alone with the other. "Mmmph! Mmmph!" She cried through her gag as the terrorist started stroking her bare legs.

 

Find where the terrorists are patrolling, Jenn read the message over and over again. That's harder than those games when you can't solve the mysteries. Taking a sip from the nearby water cooler, she walked as silently as she could and down the stairs, she spotted two more terrorists. Quickly retreating, she updated the police. Jenn moved up another stairwell, finding another terrorist who walked away, back facing her and disappearing. This level was where another smaller hall was and Jenn surmised that guy had entered that hall. Muffled chatter arose and Jenn approached and knowing the hall outline extremely well, she eased open a side door. Inside four men were huddled over a device with wires sticking out. There was a fifth man huddled in one corner staring at some paper mounted on an easel. No, it a map, Jenn thought. Pulling out out her phone, took one picture of the four terrorists then tried to angle her phone to snap another picture. As she was typing....

 

Four men huddling over a device, one in a corner looking...

 

Jennifer, Jenn, you there? Anna typed then a only a single grey tick appeared.

 

"We've lost her," she remarked after a second try. "Sorry," she said to DCI Heath who only blinked hoping the teen wasn't injured or worse, killed.

 

"Device," PC Hawkins pointed. "It must be where the device is located. Can you trace where the last signal came from?" The track expert did and the team finalised their plans to assault the school.

 

Damn, damn, damn, Jenn shook her head as she saw her phone battery fall flat. I guess that the end of my spying for the police. As she tried to move, the front of her shoe was stuck to the door sill. She tugged wildly and it came free with the door slamming shut. Oh drats...

 

The perverted terrorist was still caressing Lin's leg and was about to part her skirt and expose her knickers when another masked colleague called for his help in Farsi. Lin thought she it was a chance to struggle free but instead another but shorter thug facing her.

 

Jenn darted down another flight of stairs only to spot two more terrorists charging up at her and she heard shouts behind her. Making a wild choice, she raced down the stairs and slammed through both men, then rush as far as she could finding herself into the drama room. Now this my territory, she thought. Heading to the stage, she fixed the curtain and waited. The same duo she struck entered and just as they approached the stage, Jenn pulled a rope, causing the wooden pole and curtain to strike them. Two down, she thought spraying the pepper spray on one but as she wished to hide back stage, one of them stirred and Jenn was dragged off like a captured animal.

 

"The Home Secretary said no deals. Assault green light, critical shot authorised." PS Bulford acknowledged the order. Critical shot meant the CTSFO officers would shoot at the head to ensure the targets would be killed. They only item that was prohibited was tear gas as it would cause adverse effects on both terrorists and hostage alike. After studying the blueprints and examining the whole building, they spotted a likely blind spot. One group would use grappling hooks and scale the wall, reaching the roof and enter via the skylight. Another would break down the wall - it had a weak structure - and enter simultaneously. Interference would be previously by activating the fire alarm for a short while - the CTSFOs decided so as they need to disorientate but needed clear communications. The fire sprinkler sprinklers would be also activated.

 

Negotiator Jane Smyth didn't like her part in the plan. Just as the interference started, the call came shouting over the alarm and spray of water. Jane lied she knew nothing about that and the demands were trying to be met. Immediately, the grappling extended with Anna Bulford leading the climb. Simultaneously, Julie Hawkins and other CTSFOs used enhanced sledgehammers to break down the wall.

 

The first shots from the rooftop section struck a pair of terrorists near the Year 13 classroom while the lower team moved and killed two more near the art rooms. Methodically, the CTSFOs together shot four more before the lower team first reached the staff room, first using a portable fibre-optic camera to determine if there were any hostage takers inside being entering.

 

"School staff found unharmed," Hawkins radioed.

 

"Received. Get to that hall!" Bulford replied. Her group faced more resistance around the science labs. Throwing several stun grenades, she surprised two more and before they could get up, two shots each ensured they were dead. Hawkins found team found the male students by throwing smoke grenades inside before killing the terrorists with pin point accuracy. Two terrorists suddenly appeared shooting PC Alison Mason, but her Kevlar vest prevent any severe injury and PC Alexander shot them in response with her Glock 17. Turning the corner, the team freed the female students also using smoke grenades first before killing the guards.

 

Anna Bulford's team only just reached that smaller hall when a masked terrorist stepped out, an arm locked around Jenn's neck. He screamed in an unintelligible language and the threat was clear. "Weapons down," Bulford ordered, but a second later two shots were fired and the terrorist dropped dead.

 

"Sorry I was late," Julie Hawkins remarked, holstering her Glock. "The others are evacuating everyone now."

 

It was mayhem with younger female students crying as they were escorted out and staff double-checked in case terrorists were masquerading as them. "Where's Lin?!"

Chelle cried amongst the shouting. Reinhard immediately heard that and rushed back inside, ignoring the cries of policeman. Judging from where he was held, he ran there, calling out his fellow detective's name. Thankfully, he found the closet with the East Asian teen lying on the ground, struggling against the tape and her uniform soaked. With no knife or gadget, it took a while before he got her bonds free,

 

"tha...nks!" she coughed, removing the gag.

 

The whole assault took twelve minutes following which a lone officer in a bomb suit entered. "I don't it's the actual device," Jenn remarked. She was in a debrief with the CSFO officers and Jane Smyth. A screen showed the last pictures she took before her phone battery died. "The guy holding me captive was chatting on the phone and pointing at that map," she pointed at the screen. In response, the officers didn't think much about it and were about to dismiss her when Helen Barkson, the 'Expo' or Explosives Officer walked in.

 

"It's a phony, I've seen worse fake IEDs in the toy stores," Helen remarked. "Hey that's the London Victoria Line," she traced her finger across a faded line on the map.

 

Jane suddenly stood up. "And that says, in Farsi, 'To Paradise'.

 

"I'll warn SCO19," Anna added.

 

The call came just in time. A SCO19 - Special Firearms Unit - of London's team was patrolling Euston tube station where they spotted a hooded figure standing near one of the exits motionless. Just as officer called 'armed..' the figure turned around evident with explosives wrapped under his jacket, two shots were fired, killing him.

 

Epilogue:

 

The students and some staff were offered medical assistance and counselling from the whole ordeal. Ted Wiggins was hospitalised for many days but was making a recovery fast for his age. The real electricians were found murdered in a nearby rubbish heap and scores of counter-terrorism police were investigating how this unknown gang acquired their weapons and why Croonford school was chosen.

 

Reinhard made good on his offer, taking Lin to Jamaya, a Jamaican place in Birmingham's City Centre. "Oh, this is sure therapy from being bound and gagged for hours," she declared, eating a piece jerk chicken. Meanwhile, Jenn was awarded a police commendation plague, the citation reading, "for utmost bravery in a hostage situation and assisting the police selflessly'.

 

"Congratulations young lady," the Deputy Chief Constable said. All I did was taking photographs and running like a hyena, she thought. And facing armed men. I don't think I'll dare it ever again.

 

 

 

"The doors open, come in," Anna Bulford called and Julie Hawkins slowly entered.

 

"Gosh, it took me whole afternoon to avoid detection and find your place," Julie said.

 

"Oh, it's nothing to fuss about. Come here," She brought her deputy into her bedroom.

 

"You sure about this? We could be separated on different teams or kicked out of the force."

 

"Oh Julie, that would mean firing many others. Come on."

 

"But...my boyfriend...."

 

"Forget him. Get out of your clothes." Minutes later, with both officers down to their underwear and cuddling each other, Julie did.

 

Michelle, Lin Ling, Jennifer, Mark and Reinhard will return in 'Racist Rabbles'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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