tagRomanceYou're Worth Dying For Ch. 04

You're Worth Dying For Ch. 04

byEgmont Grigor©

SO FAR: Maggie marries to become Mrs de Lacey but the honeymoon is scarcely over before she and Ryan are split over a major business decision with Ryan taking the moral high ground; he goes off to sleep at a motel. Gradually Maggie through the support of her mom realizes she has put self before community. In fact she accepts she has little knowledge of what community is all about so take times off to learn and to reflect.

"Good morning Mrs de Lacey," greeted Ivan Cook the butcher brightly, his assistants eyeing the stunning blonde dress in black with her hair piled in a beehive, dark glasses hiding her blue eyes but highlighting the soft wide-mouth smile around the cherry-red lips.

"It's MM," said an older butcher's assistant, not bothering to lower his voice.

"You mean the candies?" queried a trainee.

"No you know-nothing idiot. Marilyn Monroe."

"Marilyn who?"

"Oh, go back to your Buffy the Vampire comics."

Maggie had been startled at being addressed by her name by Rex Cook.

"Call me Maggie, Rex. How is it that you know my name?"

"You saved our newspaper -- I'm a regular advertiser."

"Of course you are. But I'm also guilty of almost allowing it to fall into foreign hands. How are your parents?"

It was Rex's turn to look startled. "As well as expected, Maggie. They remain grateful that they still live in their own home."

"You deserve a medal, Rex. Look, I've been buying my meet from Prime Cuts in Auckland but would prefer to buy locally. Are you able to supply premium cuts -- I'm sorry to be a bother but as I only eat a small amount I do like quality; I'll happily pay a premium price."

"Of course Maggie; come through to the office and I'll introduce you to my wife Elaine. She'll assist identifying your requirements and you'll need only phone your order through two days before you need it. Six weeks ago I began buying in premium grade meats, mainly for women who have been caught up in this healthier living craze where eating right has become like possession of the Holy Grail, it seems to me."

They walked into the office. "Elaine, please meet Maggie de Lacey who wishes to become a premium grade customer. Maggie..."

"Hello Maggie -- I met you with your friend Beth yesterday. You're joining our Pilates class, aren't you? Run along Rex -- Maggie and I wish to chat."

Maggie left the butcher's shop feeling elated. She was on her way to the bank which would open in a few minutes. She ducked into a sports shop to purchase a Lycra body suit, with matching hair tie if she could get it.

"I'll serve Mrs de Lacey thank you Rebecca," said a plump unsporting looking woman who pushed forward.

"Do I know you?" Maggie asked.

"No, but I know who you are, You own the Echo and I own this shop and the Chic Hairdressing Salon and Bette's Bakery so advertise in the Echo and have do so since the first issue. I'm Bette Zimmerman."

"Greetings, how nice to meet you."

Unaware of the trauma that awaited her, Maggie inspected body suits and was disappointed that the one she really liked didn't come with a head scarf.

"Take a look at this brochure, Maggie" said Bette as by now they'd exchanged names. "The importers are in Auckland and deal direct with us. If you find what you'd like I'll order it now."

"This one please. Could you ask for overnight delivery, I'll pay the courier cost?"

"Fine, but we don't charge for courier delivery on urgent orders. My Susan told me you were joining her Pilate's class."

"The instructress Susan, she's your daughter? Oh obviously."

"Yes, she's my youngest. She's just been made redundant but won't work for me as she wants to further her career in marketing."

Maggie reached into her handbag. "Here's my business card. Please ask Susan to arrange to call my husband..."

"Oh Ryan. I know him quite well. Do you think there may be an opening for at the newspaper? We recently discussed the need to strengthening marketing resources as we're intending to go into events sponsorship."

"Oh glory -- that's an area she loves. I'll phone her now to make the appointment and collect your card from me."

The doors to the bank were just closing after the last of a small group who'd been waiting outside entered.

"Hold the door for me," called Maggie happily, darting forward and just made it. The door closed behind her and she heard a bolt being rammed home.

"On the floor lady," called a voice gruffly.

Maggie turned and saw a fat man wearing a Mickey Mouse mask holding a shotgun pointing to the floor.

"Do what I ask bitch or I'll whack you with this."

Maggie sank to her knees, not feeling unduly fearful, muttering "You bastard."

"No, not there -- join those other morons. Are you stupid or something?"

Maggie climbed to her feet and walked around the corner where she saw a large group of people on their knees on the floor, hands on their heads. Two of the three women closest to Maggie were sobbing; the third, an elderly woman, smiled at Maggie. The man, a typically looking father of three -- what an absurd thought mused Maggie -- had his eyes shut and his mouth moved as if he were praying.

There was a crash in a side office and a skinny man holding a pistol came running out. He looked ridiculous in his Pluto mask.

"The bastard in there phoned the cops; I heard him talking to them. I clubbed him."

"Good work. Take over from Donald Duck in the manager's office; make sure everyone there lies face down on the floor."

Maggie knelt down between the two sobbing younger women. "Don't cry and don't be afraid," she soothed. "Just do exactly what they ask and it's unlikely you'll be hurt."

"I'm a mother, my baby is not yet six months old," sobbed one of them.

"Crying won't get you home to your baby and it will make these robbers nervous. Be brave and calm; just don't look at them."

"Shut up bitch. I'm warning you Blondie -- open your mouth again and I'll whack you across that pretty face of yours."

"Why are we being held?" Maggie asked defiantly.

"Because the main safe is on a time lock that releases in another ten minutes, but didn't I tell you to shut up?"

"Yes sir."

Maggie placed her arms around the two women and felt their shaking begin to ease.

"Hands on your head, Blondie."

Maggie defied the order.

"Well fuck you, be a lesbian show off if you want, but I'm keeping my eye on you; you're trouble."

A powerful looking man wearing a Donald Duck mask emerged from the manager's office. Was Donald the boss? But Mickey Mouse called to him, "Bring the guy Ba...I mean the guy Pluto slugged in the accountants' office to where I can keep an eye on him; he's trouble."

Donald dragged the accountant out of the office, leaving a trail of blood from a head wound. He dumped him in front of the kneeling customers and Maggie felt the young women she was comforting began to shake again. "It's all right; he looks okay." She hadn't a clue, really."

"What's his condition -- is he dead?" asked Mickey Mouse.

"No, but he'll having a fucking great headache to remember this day at the office," laughed Donald Duck. "Have the cops arrived."

"Yes, but a bit slow aren't they. They are probably bringing in Special Services guys by chopper."

"This means we switch to Plan B, eh?"

"It does."

There was a long silence, both robbers looking repeatedly at the wall clock. Maggie realized she and all the others around her were also clock watching.

At last Donald Duck was ordered to haul out the manager and hold he might have to soften him up a bit.

Donald frog-marched the manager to the safe. "Do I have to soften you up Mr Reynolds?

Mr Reynolds shook his head and said it was bank policy to cooperate fully in emergencies of this nature.

"Okay then Rennie -- if you hesitate you'll get a bullet through your foot and the barrel of this pistol will be stuck down your throat; understand?"

Mr Reynolds moved forward at the appropriate moment and unlocked the safe. He pulled the door back and Donald Duck went inside. He returned quickly. "It's all in tin boxes with handles, Mickey."

"You're on security camera Donald, you should have done your hair. The cops will be watching this and following our every movement. We must perform Plan B with precision. We mustn't be greedy -- only bring out enough boxes we can carry comfortably."

Donald fetched out six of the metal boxes, taking two trips.

"Right bring Pluto here and tell those bastards in that office if they make any move it may be their last, that we're leaving the door open so we can see them."

Pluto arrived back with Donald and said gleefully, "Oh, goodie, goodie. Are we about to make major withdrawals from our accounts? Heh-heh-heh."

"Shut up, Pluto. We are ready to go and everything we do or say is being filmed on security cameras so no names and keep your mask on. We're operating on Plan B, understand.

"Yes Mr Mouse."

"Right -- we need a hostage. The police probably think bank staff are expendable so will take a customer. One of you volunteer."

There was no movement. "Come on guys, we don't bite but on the other hand we are in a bit of a hurry," Mickey Mouse said. "We are trying to be democratic, asking for a volunteer. Perhaps if Donald shoots someone's finger off that might persuade someone to step forward.

Maggie released the two young women and stood up.

"No" they both screamed, clutching her legs.

"Yes," Maggie said gently, freeing herself and walking forward.

"Ah, Blondie," Mickey Mouse grinned. "You were my choice -- no cop or Special Services marksman with a working dick is going to risk shooting at us, not with that lovely body of yours shielding us."

Mickey Mouse stood looking up at the camera aimed directly at the door of the safe. "Cops, listen and listen carefully -- big strong Donald Duck here will have his meaty arm around Blondie, gun behind the back of her ear hole. If any move is made to apprehend us or to shoot at anyone of us it's curtains for Blondie. Tell them Blondie.

"Go to Hell; I love you Ryan."

"Whack her Donald Duck."

"No!" screamed the two young women, scrambling to their feet.

Mickey Mouse pointed his shotgun to the ceiling and pulled one of the triggers. The blast send plastering and dust over the kneeling customers. "Okay, settle down everyone; we're off."

Two of them grabbed a box in each hand, Donald holding two in one hand, and placed the barrel of his pistol behind Maggie's right ear. "Mr Mouse, it's going to be tough going for me holding up these containers," he said as he wrapped that arm under Maggie's breasts."

"Come on Donald -- you're strong and it's only a short walk to our vehicle." Mickey Mouse unbolted the entry doors, picked up his two boxes and joined Pluto in tight formation behind Donald Duck.

They walked out on to the street.

* * *

Ryan was chewing the end of a pencil when Cathie burst into his office. "Mum's just called. Some guys are robbing one of the banks in town and she says Maggie's one of the hostages."

"Jesus!" Ryan said grabbing the TV remote. "What channel?"

"It's so dramatic all channels I'd think."

They watched a body being dragged out of an office by a big man in a mask.

"I'm going down there."

"Wait, I'll drive you in my car," Cathie yelled -- the police will have the streets cordoned off. I'll get you as far as I can and you can jump out and negotiate to get through. Here, take this photo of Maggie with you."

Ryan was raced through to the office in charge.

"Hi there, I understand your wife is one of the hostages."

"Yes, that's her Maggie -- with the blonde hair," Ryan cried.

"Good," keep calm young man. "Can you identify any of those others people. The guy with his eyes shut is a member of my gym, Noel Sampson and that young woman on Maggie's left is the daughter of our accountant, Lizzy Meiklejohn, who's a new mother."

"Where's the baby?"

"We don't know Ryan," said the police superintendent, looking at his list of names. "Lizzy's husband is a copper."

Superintendent Joll turned to a subordinate. Where's constable Meiklejohn?"

"Meiklejohn is in court today on training observation.

"Get him here, but don't allow him to be armed. He may be useful in negotiations if this bogs down in a long affair."

A senior-sergeant hurried in. "Super, the security firm is giving a feed of this live to TV; it's on at least three channels and is beaming overseas. Do we charge in and cut the feed?"

The superintendent paused for a moment.

"It could be good police PR," Ryan suggested, "and if you cut the feed we won't have it on screen here to follow every move."

"My thoughts exactly, Superintendent Joll grunted. "Bruce, go through the lines telling everyone they're on TV so to do everything by the book and look serious and professional. Anyone fouling up will have me to deal with."

"Right Gov."

"Bruce, I'll accept Super but never Gov. I've told you that before. Stop watching those British TV cop shows. Now get to work!"

A TV outside broadcasting van rumbled down the street.

"Who the hell let them in here," the Super shouted.

"We did," crackled a reply on radio. Your standing orders are to be co-operative to the news media at all times. Should I haul them out, sir?"

"No, but have Inspector Collins keep them safe -- firearms are involved here."

"Aye, aye sir. Over and out."

"Aye, aye? Are we in the Navy now?" the Superintendent muttered. He allowed a TV camera to be set-up behind his command post. "If shooting starts you people hit the deck, got that?"

"Yes Jack," acknowledged the 20-year-old with a clip-board, sun glasses perched in her hair and hemline almost up to her hips.

One of the superintendent's aids bristled. "Miss, the correct form of address is..."

"Leave it Polly, they're only civilians and she's not long out of nappies."

"There movement sir," yelled another aide.

Everyone packed around the superintendent watching events unfold.

"What denominations are in those boxes, Miss Mellows?"

The teenager who'd been collecting the bank's mail from the Post Shop and found herself locked out of the bank said, "They're smart cookies, sir. There're all green -- common twenty dollar notes. They've ignored the five dollar orange cases and the fifty dollar red cases."

"How would that know to do that, Miss Mellows?"

"The denominations are written on the cases, superintendent."

"How convenient for them; thank you Miss Mellows.

Onlookers jumped when the shotgun blast was heard.

"It's harmless Gov, fired at the ceiling," called Senior-Sergeant Bruce Henshaw. "At least that's woken up everyone; key personnel including the sharp-shooters are in position."

"Standby everyone," Superintendent Joll called into his lapel microphone.

Two tense moments passed. Ryan shouted "What's she doing," watching Maggie stand up and two women pulling her back until she brushed them off.

"I'd say she's volunteered to be the getaway hostage," Senior-Sergeant Henshaw said calmly. "Everyone hold your fire; they've taken a blonde civilian as the getaway hostage. Unit three, you're directly in line with the doors -- you are authorized to fire if and when necessary. All other units fire only if the gang splits and citizens are in danger. Fire only at clean targets. Acknowledge."

"Unit one acknowledging; hold fire."

"Unit two acknowledging; hold fire."

"Unit three acknowledging: fire if and when necessary."

"Unit four acknowledging: they're bound to come our way -- do we shoot out the tires?"

"No, Dixon; if we disable the vehicle that endangers the life of their hostage. It's back to training school for you."

"Understand Senior -- clean headshots if they start shooting at the public. What about if they fire at us?"

"Yes Janet, if they start shooting at us shoot right back -- but body mass shots, not head shots, and don't shoot the hostage."

"Understood Senior. Over and out."

"Inspector Manu -- get down there and supervise Janet and her team. This is her first big event and she sounds a little trigger happy but she's right, they're probably will go over the river bridge and into forest land and then in any of three directions. They'll know on the motorway we'll block traffic, catch them on a desolate strip and call on them to surrender."

The inspector hurried off.

Ryan was appalled. "What happens to Maggie in a surrender ultimatum?

The crusty superintendent smiled weakly and said, "Young man, don't even think about it."

Dread filled Ryan's mind.

"There's on their way Guv," said Senior-Sergeant Henshaw, listening through a surveillance device pointed at the bank doors. The bolts are sliding open."

"Standby everyone," called Superintendent Joll.

The bank doors opened and Maggie emerged in her pretty short white dress with gatherings under the bust line, now half hidden by a meaty arm.

"Shoot at us and Blondie here dies," Mickey Mouse repeated his earlier call made from inside the bank only moments earlier.

Ryan lurched out on to the roadway and advanced towards Maggie and the guy in the stupid mask threatening her life. He held his hands above his head calling out that he wasn't armed; he just wanted his wife back.

"Fuck off dopey or you'll get a shot up your ass," Pluto called.

Maggie eyed Ryan in terror as he continued his advance, loping.

"Shoot dopey," called Donald Duck.

The echo of the gunfire between the two rows of shops was enormous.

Blood spurted from Ryan's chest onto Maggie as he fell; she screamed and leaned over the arm cruelly gripping her. Donald Duck's action -- obviously a reflex action -- was to aim the pistol at her head again. A single rifle shot rang out and blood spurted from the masked forehead of Donald Duck, on to Maggie. Donald Duck's lifeless body fell, his pistol clattering to the ground.

Pluto dropped his pistol and two cases of banks notes, raising his hands skywards. At the same time Mickey Mouse dropped his money cases and swung his shotgun towards the back of Maggie's head. Two shots rang out and Mickey Mouse was flung backwards as bullets smashed into both shoulders, the shotgun spinning away along the roadway.

Almost simultaneously Superintendent Joll raced to Maggie as she was climbing to her feet and holding her blood-stained body against his chest told her not to touch her husband. That image, his peaked cap askew and the anguished look on Maggie's face staring at the body on her husband within minutes would be on its way around the world to international news agencies. Meanwhile it was showing live on television in both New Zealand and parts of Australia.

While this was happening an ambulance that had been parked at the front of the blockade, sped forward. Two hospital doctors - one a surgeon jumped out -- ambulance men lifted Ryan on to a cream groundsheet, an oxygen mask was attached and surgery was performed on the roadway to clamp a severed artery.

Climbing to his feet, the surgeon wiping his brow before ripping off his surgical gloves. As he turned to Maggie she uttered just two words, "Is he?"

"She's his wife," said Superintendent Joll.

"I know, was watching TV. "Ma'am, he should be OK. Luckily it was a small caliber bullet. It went through two ribs, missing the heart and I think it's probably lodged against his ribs on the way out. Must go -- surgeons are on standby at the hospital. Jump in and come with us."

"Me too."

"Okay, superintendent."

It was an hour's anxious wait at the hospital. A policeman arrived with a replacement jacket and white shirt for the superintendent; Maggie was already dressed in a white nurse's uniform, the superintendent sending away her blood-stained dress with the woman constable who'd brought his replacement uniform.

"Those poor terrified people in the bank -- what happened to then?"

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