Chapter 1: October – Jacquelyn
There are two things that inevitably happen whenever you are picking someone up at the airport. First, you could be running late, and when you finally arrive, you find the person you’re meeting standing by the curb tapping their foot with impatience because their plane got in ten minutes early. Or, you might be extremely early just to find out that the plane is running way behind schedule. The latter would be today.
So here I find myself standing in the United Airways terminal at the Philadelphia International Airport looking up at the arrival screen and re-reading that my friend’s flight is still thirty minutes out. Freaking wonderful. Like I’ve got nothing better to do than to sit around and wait for Rebecca to get in.
Oh wait, I don’t have anything better to do. That’s right. I have no life other than my extremely busy career and hanging out with a few friends once in a while. I don’t have a family waiting at home for me or any pets that need attention. It’s just little ole me, Jacquelyn Liveon.
I glanced around and found a nice, solid white pillar to lean against where people couldn’t walk up behind me. I don’t like people where I can’t see them, especially ones I don’t know. As a police officer, it’s been ingrained in my brain that you always know what’s at your back. No matter where I am, I always prefer to be against a wall or facing the doorway so that I can see what’s coming my way. I don’t like surprises, ever.
I stood against the cold stone and scanned the area for a few minutes. If I have to be in a crowd, which I’m never really comfortable with, I like to people watch. People watching is another thing that police officers like to do, more out of habit than anything else. By watching closely, we can read what’s going on. We rely heavily on body actions to tell us when a person is being honest or about to become aggressive.
As I glanced around, I saw a guy trying to pick his right nostril without being seen; he wasn’t doing a very good job at it and I wrinkled up my nose and continued to observe the crowd. A woman in a tight white pencil skirt—totally inappropriate for flying, in my opinion, was trying to work a wedgie out of her butt crack by walking funny. She was getting quite a bit of attention and not just from me. Several tired looking male businesspersons rolled their briefcases or overnight bags watched her walking wiggle. At this time of night, they were probably just making it home after a long day of work. Sad to think, she was their entertainment.
It wasn’t all that busy here since it was nine o’clock at night. The rush over for the day, but there were still a good number of people wandering and waiting. I looked at my watch, another twenty minutes until Becca’s plane landed. I wish I’d grabbed a cup of coffee before I got here; I passed a popular coffee shop about ten minutes away from the airport, but I was worried I’d be late if I stopped. Being the good friend that I am, I had passed up on my need for caffeine. There weren’t any coffee stands on this side of the security gate either, so I had to wait until we left to get my much needed fix.
I pulled out the cell phone that I’d slipped into the side pocket of my cargo pants and browsed through some work emails that I hadn’t had a chance to answer. Occasionally, I lifted my head and glanced around, keeping my eye out for any trouble. It was a hazard of the job, never fully being able to relax, always waiting for something bad to happen, or for someone to yell for help.
I went back to my emails after watching a family drag four suitcases and two tired children past me. Maybe it was the energy that caught my attention next, or just the fact that there was a lot of movement to my right, but I turned to see an entourage of people coming in from the parking garage. They climbed onto the walking escalator; you know, that moving sidewalk that makes you feel like you’re walking three steps for every one you actually take.
I personally loved those things, but I hated when I got on and lazy people were blocking both lanes. There were signs above that explained how to use it in both words and pictures, but obviously, the entourage wasn’t paying any attention. They were the type who’d get under my skin because they stood in a large group and blocked the passing lane.
Everyone appeared happy and they were talking over one another. There were six people in the group, two men and four women, all dressed casually but expensively, and they appeared to be traveling light with only one small bag for each of them. I watched as they climbed off the walking platform and looked around, unsure of exactly where they were going.
I figured they were either going to step into the security line or step up to the ticket counter. They did neither. They continued to mill around and talk, blocking the exit off the moving platform.
I heard giggling to my left and turned my head to see two young girls, probably about eighteen, chortling to themselves and staring at the group. They took out their cell phones and started snapping pictures. When I looked back at the group again, I noticed that one of the men was smiling down into a woman’s face. She beamed brightly back up at him.
“Wait till everyone sees these pictures of Ryan Palmer!” I heard one of the girls giggle.
“Oh my God, he is so freaking hot,” the other one replied.
Ryan Palmer was a film star, I knew that much, but not much else. He’s probably in his late twenties, maybe early thirties, and from the few movies I’d seen of his, he was a pretty good actor. As I watched the group, I saw the man glare at the young girls and quickly look away, turning his back on them to shield his face. Huh, it really was him.
“Did you see that? He just looked at us!” I heard the giddy voices of the girls giggling as they spoke back and forth to each other. Man, to be young and silly again. Yeah, or not. I rolled my eyes.
Just then, an airport police officer walked up and told the girls if they didn’t get outside and move their car right this second, it would be towed. It was my turn to chuckle. I could only imagine how much that towing bill would cost. I watched as the girls followed the police officer, turning to look over their shoulders at Ryan one more time before he was out of their sight.
I glanced back at the group and saw that Ryan was now eyeballing me. I held his stare for a moment and then looked away. He was most likely wondering if I was trying to snap his picture, too. I shook my head. Not likely. I was not a groupie of any sort, and the thought of falling into the hoopla of some mega movie star was not my deal.
I put my cell phone away and crossed my arms over my chest. I looked over the crowd that had gathered in the area, many of them rubber necking to get a peek at the six people congregating as more and more people began to recognize him. I surveyed them as I waited. One man, about thirty, seemed a bit out of place. It was about seventy-five degrees outside—warm for a fall night—but he was wearing a heavy jacket. Immediately, my instincts were on alert.
I observed him as he peered nervously around; he shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his jacket. I could see a slight sheen of sweat on his face. The fine hair on the back of my neck rose rather quickly. I followed his train of sight and found that it led right to Ryan’s group. Ryan was inspecting me again, and I considered him for a moment. I could tell his eyes were a bright blue even from the distance between us. I wondered how much brighter they would look up close. I blinked and looked at the floor. Where did that even come from?
I turned my attention back to the suspicious guy, taking in every detail about him. From his thinning brown hair to his metal-framed eyeglasses, all the way down to his ratty Nike sneakers. Something was up, and it wasn’t going to be good. Figures. I left my off-duty weapon at home. I shook my head at my own stupidity; I never leave it at home. It’s always the one thing that you need when you don’t have it—right now being the perfect example.
The man continued to peer around nervously and always returned his sight to the group who had now moved over near a window. I continued to keep my eye on him, and I found myself standing up straight, no longer leaning against the pole. My arms came down to my sides and I scanned the large area quickly to see if there were any police officers in the area. Nope, none. Great…just great.
As the movie star entourage started to move toward the security line, the strange guy tensed, and I noticed that there was a bulge in his pocket that caused the material to droop. Based on its outline, he appeared to be concealing something heavy. If I took wild guess, I’d say that it was probably a gun. Little jolts of adrenaline started to spike through me. This could get really ugly, fast.
The man followed the group toward the security checkpoint. He had to walk quickly to catch up, his strides longer than what was reasonable for a man of his size. I kept pace right behind him, ready to move when I saw a chance. The group was so involved in itself; they didn’t notice anything happening around them. Normal behavior for most people.
One of the ladies in Ryan’s group dropped something on the ground, and two of the other women stopped to wait for her to pick it up. Ryan and the other two people in his traveling group continued on, oblivious to what was going on behind them. They were separated now, easier to pick them off. This was not good, I moved closer to the suspicious man.
When they were about forty feet from the security checkpoint line, the man began to pull out his hand, and in his palm was a semi-automatic pistol. My instincts had been dead on. I stepped into action without a second thought. Why I did what I did, I will never know; but it was just the start of things to come.
Instead of grabbing the guy or going for his gun, I stepped in front of him, blocking his view of Ryan, who apparently was his target. At the same time, I put my hand on Ryan’s arm to gain his attention and push him back. He turned to me but my focus was already on the man holding the gun, my back to Ryan. I felt him stiffen beneath my touch, or maybe that was the wave of fear that flew out of him and slammed against my back.
I looked the guy in the eye, but he didn’t see me; his gaze was trained over my head at Ryan. Although his attention was on the man behind me, he pointed the gun directly at my chest. A fierce stab of adrenaline surged through my veins at the sight of the muzzle. I heard a woman scream, but I didn’t look to see where it came from. It sounded like it came from a distance, but my tunnel vision had kicked in and the outside world faded as I concentrated on the subject in front of me.
“Whoa! What’s going on?” I asked him quietly.
The man’s gaze flicked to me quickly and then moved back to Ryan. “Move!” he yelled.
“Sorry, but I can’t. Why are you pointing a gun at me?” I asked him, purposely keeping my voice low. Rule number one for any hostage negotiator was to always remain calm and talk softly, to try to get the person to stop and listen.
He regarded me again, glanced at his gun, and then looked back up at Ryan. “I’m pointing it at him, not you. Move!” he said loudly, although not quite shouting this time.
“Wait a minute, why do you want to point a gun at this guy?” I pointed to Ryan over my shoulder. I still stood directly in front of him and his fear continued to roll over me like a stormy night on the beach. Thank God, I didn’t normally get sea sick.
The gunman directed his attention back to me, this time keeping eye contact as he spoke. “Because I’m going to kill him. Now move, or I’ll shoot you, too!” His voice rose with each word.
“Why would you want to kill this guy?” I turned to glance quickly behind me and saw Ryan staring over my head at the man with the gun.
“Because my wife is in love with him!” he shouted. I almost found this funny. Almost. Half of the world’s population of women was probably in love with the Ryan. He was smoking hot, but you wouldn’t hear me say that out loud to anyone.
I heard a small grunt behind me, and I wanted to turn around and slug Ryan; instead, I turned myself sideways, and inspected him closely, taking him all the way in. Yeah, he was drop dead gorgeous, but I was able to control my drooling. I learned a long time ago that if someone thought they were good looking, they wouldn’t get a bit of attention from me. It only made them more conceited, and I didn’t feel the need to contribute to that.
Ryan was peering down at me as I looked him over. Our eyes met for a moment, and when I saw the light blue flecks in his dark blue irises, my heart skipped a beat. I forced myself to turn and face my opponent before I could notice anything else about Ryan.
“Your wife is having an affair with that?” I made it sound like Ryan was a total loser, but I was purposefully playing on the guy’s feelings.
I felt Ryan’s body heat against my back as he stepped closer to me—why I didn’t know—but I was torn between wanting to lean back into him and turning around to push him away. I did neither as I observed the profusely sweating man holding the gun in his shaky hand.
As the guy gawked at me in surprise, he glanced at Ryan. I broke my tunnel vision enough to glance around and saw that there were quite a few armed officers in the area now, but unfortunately, they were not well placed. If one of them tried to fire a shot and missed, it would sail past us and strike someone on the other side. We were at a T intersection of the terminal and there was a growing crowd of onlookers. I had to get this guy to calm down quickly before it escalated.
“No! She’s not having an affair with him; she’s just in love with him. Everything is about him!” The gun in his hand wobbled up and down with his words. “She has pictures of him everywhere in our house and she is constantly watching his damn movies and telling me I need to look more like him.” He said the last part bitterly; and, if it was because he was being honest with himself, there was no chance in hell he’d ever come anywhere close to looking like Ryan.
“So you want to kill him, why?” I asked quietly, as I drug out the last word, trying to keep him calm so that I could continue to talk to him.
He furrowed his forehead, and anger passed over his features. He pointed the shaky gun out further toward us. “If he’s dead, then she can’t love him anymore,” he said sternly. I didn’t think his reasoning was very sound, but, hey, whatever; they were his thoughts, not mine.
“I don’t think killing him is the answer.” I took a slow deep breath and hoped that what I was about to say would get his attention long enough so that I could get the gun away from him. “If you kill him, you will go to jail, and then you won’t have your wife at all.” I took a very small step toward the man, more of a foot shuffle then a step. “Is that what you want?”
The man scrutinized me, tilting his head to the side, and then glanced over my head at Ryan. He was thinking about what I said. I could almost see the hamster wheel turning in his mind. I took another small shuffle in his direction.
He glanced down at the floor, and for a second, I thought maybe he noticed my foot shuffle. I took the opportunity to make eye contact with one of the armed officers. I put my hand out to the side as if I was pushing something away. He seemed to understand and he murmured into his lapel mic. I watched as he and two others started to move slowly backward, just a few feet.
I nodded as I saw the movement in the corner of my eye stop. These guys were good, I had to give them that.
“No. Of course I don’t want to go to jail. I would rather be dead!” He glared at me, squinting his hazel eyes behind his wire-framed glasses.
He surveyed the onlookers who gathered, and I took the opportunity to take another small step toward him. I was only a couple of feet from him now.
“You don’t really want to die. Imagine the pain that would cause your wife.” My voice was soft to keep the conversation between us and away from all of the noisy people who were gathering.
“Yeah, I do.” He glared hard at me now and a bead of sweat ran down the side of his face.
I maintained eye contact with him, keeping my hands low and in front of me with my palms out to show him I was not a threat. I heard some commotion off to my right, and when I heard the voice, I almost laughed.
“Really, Jack!” a female’s voice called out just loudly enough for me to hear. I fought back the laughter when I realized that Becca’s plane must have landed, and she was now standing there being held back behind security until we got this issue resolved. If she was able to, she would’ve walked right into the scene with me.
“I don’t think you really do.” I cocked my head to the side as I continued to study the man. “Why don’t you give me the gun before someone gets hurt?”
He tensed as I spoke, glancing over his shoulders again at the police officers who were surrounding all of us. Two had rifles trained on him, they could easily take him out at their distance, but there was a chance that the bullet would pierce his body and travel through to strike someone on the opposite side.
“No,” he said and stepped back, pointing the gun at my head as he raised it. Okay…not a good feeling. My heart sped in my chest as the adrenaline pumped harder. I heard Ryan shift behind me, but I didn’t move. I saw the officers on both sides of us tense. I pushed my hands down toward the ground, hoping that the officers might catch it and calm down a moment before they tried to neutralize the threat.
“I know you don’t really want to hurt him. If you do that, it will only hurt your wife and your family, and then you’ll spend the rest of your life in jail.” My voice belied my racing heart and remained calm. I should get an Oscar for my performance here; maybe Ryan could nominate me. That is, if we lived through it.
“But what am I supposed to do?” he asked, and I realized that I had just hit a crucial point. He was responding to me.
“Hand me the gun, and we can figure it out.” I took a step closer to him and started to raise my left hand toward the gun, keeping my palm open and low.
I heard gasps and murmurs all around us. I could see flashes going off, bouncing off the glass of the terminal walls, and I knew people had cell phones and cameras out and were snapping away at the dramatic scene in front of them.
I locked my eyes on his. He glanced around nervously and then back at me. He now had the gun pointed at my chest again.
“Please,” I said, and took one very slow step toward him.
He stared at me for a long moment, and then contemplated his gun. He nodded once, and everything around us got quiet. Like really quiet, like dead silent. Maybe it was just my tunnel vision kicking back in that blocked everything else out, but I think every person watching stopped breathing at the very moment that I took my next step. I was so focused on what I was about to do, that I neither paid attention, nor cared, what anyone else did. It only mattered what happened in the next few seconds.
I slowly reached out with my left hand to take the gun from him. It was still pointed at my chest, but he was lowering it. I searched his face for any adjustments that might mean he was changing his mind. Just as my hand came in contact with the barrel of the gun, everything moved in slow motion.
I stepped forward with my left foot and planted it solidly on the ground. As my hand wrapped over the top of the gun covering the slide, I pulled up on the gun, and his hand released its grip. I twisted slightly to the left, bringing my right leg up to hip level and extending it directly into his midsection. It must have been the extra adrenaline that rushed through me, because he flew about eight feet back and slammed into the thick glass observation wall.
I immediately grabbed the gun with my other hand, pushed the button on the grip to release the magazine and slid back the top slide. I heard the magazine clank to the ground and watched as the chambered bullet flew out and rolled away. I locked the slide back and flipped the gun upside down to hang on my finger with my arms above my head. I was not a threat, and I wanted everyone to know that.
Four officers jumped on the guy as soon as he landed on the ground. The gunman was too surprised to fight and laid there considering me with hurt in his eyes. I turned away to look at an officer who was coming toward me. He reached to grab the gun from me, and I pulled it back.
“Either put gloves on or give me an evidence bag. You don’t want your prints on this.” He looked surprised, but nodded and pulled out some nitrile gloves from his belt pouch.
Another officer approached, and I glanced over my shoulder to where Ryan and his group were all huddled around each other. The woman he had been talking to earlier had her arms wrapped tightly around him. His back was to me, which I told myself I was grateful for.
“You might want to get them someplace secure.” I smiled at the new officer and tipped my head toward the group.
He spun around to talk to someone and then looked back at me just as Becca walked up. “Jack, I can’t take you anywhere can I?” She laughed.
“It’s your fault. Your plane was late.” I joined in with her laughter. My adrenaline still ran high and laughing was the easiest way to deal with it. I would crash later and wonder what the hell had possessed me to do what I’d done.
“I assume you’re a badge?” A new officer with the Sergeant stripes on his arm asked as he watched the banter between Rebecca and me.
I nodded. “Where do you want me to write my statement?” I raised my eyebrows in question as I slipped my shaking hands into the pockets of my cargo pants.
He laughed and started to walk away as he led us to an unmarked doorway. He put a piece of plastic up to the panel, and the lock released. As I went to step through the frame, I turned one last time and found Ryan watching me with an intense look on his face. It was a look I didn’t want to acknowledge, so I stepped through the doorway instead.
“Can you make sure I’m kept separate from that group back there?” I asked the Sergeant who was leading us.
He glanced at me, and I smiled shyly and shrugged. “Sure,” he said while he led us into a group of offices. Several officers were milling around, and I saw a television hanging in the corner above everyone’s heads. Seeing the TV reminded me that during the incident, there were numerous flashes. I wondered how bad the fallout was going to be and where my photos would show up. I physically cringed at that thought. I hated attention.
The Sergeant walked me back to a sparse interview room and I sat down to fill out the paperwork that the prosecutor would need from me as a witness. I waited while the Sergeant read it over and we both signed the form. He asked me a couple more questions and then told me I was free to go.
As we got up to move out of the room, I heard Becca laughing in the hallway. I rounded the corner and saw her staring up at the television. “It’s all over the news!” She laughed.
Great! I turned back to the Sergeant. “Do you think you could get me out a back way? I really don’t want to deal with that circus,” I said as I pointed at the television. They were already interviewing witnesses.
“What? You don’t want your moment in the spotlight? You just saved that guy’s life!” I wasn’t sure if he meant Ryan or the man who held the gun, but either way, a life had been saved—maybe two or three if you counted mine.
“Not my idea of a spotlight.” I laughed softly. “I would appreciate a bit of professional courtesy. Could you possibly not tell them who I am? The Palmer group that is?”
He considered my words for a moment. “Wow, you really don’t like the spotlight, do you?” He grinned. “Sure, if that’s what you want.”
Becca and I followed him down another hallway. A few minutes later, we were out of the maze of halls and in the parking lot. With no press around, we quickly made it to my truck without seeing anyone.
It wasn’t until we climbed into my Jeep that Becca spoke. “You do realize that you just saved the hottest man on the planet, don’t you?”
“If I were you, I would have been all over that! How come you didn’t want him to know who you were?” I turned to her as I backed out of the parking space.
“Why would I? The last thing I need, or want, is some crazy thank you. They would turn this into a huge publicity stunt.” She laughed as I put the vehicle into drive.
“I can’t figure you out. You just saved a man’s life—not to mention the hottest freaking actor alive—and you don’t even want him to know your name. You never know, maybe he might want to give you a personal thank you gift.” She nudged my arm with her hand, and when I peered at her, she winked.
“Oh, give me a break, Rebecca. He’s not my type,” I muttered as I pulled up to the window and paid for my parking.
“Jacquelyn Liveon, you are the strangest person I know. Anyone else would be begging for that guy’s attention. You could have it and yet you turn and run away.” She was shaking her head at me.
“I’m not running away. I just don’t need the attention, Rebecca. Can we just drop this? How was your training?” I pulled away from the tollbooth and we headed for the highway.
If you’re ready to read more about Jacquelyn and Ryan – You can find Liveon here: