I made it. I’m finally at the show. It’s my first day of work in the CNU. That’s Crisis Negotiation Unit for the uninitiated. The day began like it does for anyone new, I suppose. More paperwork than you can imagine, getting my badge, equipment, etc. Finally in the early afternoon I had a few minutes from a break. I walked over the bulletin board and started reading.
A half-sheet of printed paper catches my eye. The station shrink’s name is Dr. Roslyn.There’s a picture of her and next to it it says we should talk to her when stress starts piling up. Her office is 3C. I have a few questions so I head up to her office, but she’s out to lunch. That figures.
The next few weeks are all training. Routine patrols. Hostage Negotiation protocol and classes. I’m a classroom as much as I’m in a car. It’s a good mix though. I feel ready for duty, at least I do until a call goes out while I’m on patrol. I’m needed at the hospital. A man is holding hostages and I’m at bat. We’re about to see how ready I am.
I get to the hospital and I’m handed a phone. I start talking to a man named Edward Quinn. I want to quickly establish rapport. I need him to trust me if we’re going to get everyone out alive. It only took a few minutes into the conversation to learn what brought us to this place. His son is dying and he doesn’t have medical insurance. Without treatment his son dies. Early in the conversation he tells me doesn’t want to hurt anyone, he just wants to get his son treatment. I can work with this.
I start making moves to this end. I just need to keep him talking while we work out the details. I ask a few questions and then tell Edward to need to drop the call for a few minutes to secure cooperation with the hospital and doctors that can provide treatment. My conversation with Edward has me feeling confident, but I’m still worried I might botch something. I do what I can to make sure that I get another chance at a bad call. I play over in my head our conversation and put some cards in my back pocket to play, if needed.
The second conversation is a very quick one. I noticed right away he was getting angry. I got the feeling someone else might have killed a hostage right then and there. I needed a minute to gather myself together. It was our third conversation that I knew I had everything in line. I knew we were talking the same language. One card fell after another, after another, after another, I couldn’t leave this to chance. I had to hope I had banked enough goodwill with him. We talked and talked and talked. And finally, I told him what he’d been hoping to hear all along. We were conceding his demand. The hospital and doctors came through and Edward’s son would get the treatment he so desperately needed.
One of the officers on the scene shook his head. ‘Beginners luck, kid. They won’t all be that easy.’ I know he’s right. But having this be the result of my first negotiation felt pretty good. It shouldn’t come to this. A parent shouldn’t have to choose between their child’s life and bankruptcy or something more desperate. That said, we’re still a country of laws and Edward did this all wrong. He’s going away for a time. But my hope is the jury will be lenient. I hope the Chief will let me speak on his behalf at trial.
Heading back to the station, my head is full of what ifs. I know I’m going to have to let those go. It’s one thing when things turn out okay, it’s another thing entirely when someone dies. Or so I have to believe. I hope I never find out for sure.
But the realist in me knows I’ll know too soon for my own liking.
PS: I got a new phone and had to start my Hostage Negotiating career again, but so far I'm off to a good start.