A Fair and Just Sentence
Both detectives held a gun, but neither of them could shoot at Richards. The gunman was hiding closely behind his hostage and exposing little of his body to them.
Smith knew he couldn't risk a shot. There were too many people in the tavern, and most of them were behind Richards. He might hit one of them if he missed the gunman. And he probably would miss. The target being offered to him was much too small.
Smith glanced at his partner, Mary Scott. She was a very good shot. She was capable of hitting a small target at this range. She was the department's pistol champion, and she could consistently hit a quarter at thirty feet with the gun she carried.
But she was in an awkward position at the moment. There were several people between her and Richards. She needed time to get around them. But she was slowly weaving her way through the crowd and moving closer to the ex-con who was holding a gun to the old man's head. If she could get into a better position, and if Richards gave her even the smallest target, she would put him down. Smith realized that he had to buy her some time. He had to keep Richards occupied until she was in the clear. He spoke soothingly to the gunman. "Richards, you've killed one man already tonight. Don't make it worse by doing it again."
"That wiseguy had it coming," Richards responded. "If he hadn't made me mad, I wouldn't have killed him."
"Maybe we can make a deal," Smith said. "If you surrender now, I'll tell the judge that you said you did it only because you were angry."
"No," Richards shouted. "No deals. If I have any business with you, it'll be to blow you away."
Smith glanced at his partner again. She needed only a few more seconds. "Richards, we don't want to shoot you, we only want to help you. Tell me how we can do that."
"Just let me take a shot at you. If you'll let me do that without shooting back, I'll be satisfied."
When Mary Scott reached the pool table, she looked at Richards. She was now within ten feet of him, and no one stood between them except the hostage. She assessed her chances of hitting Richards at that range. It would be easy if only a little more of his head was showing. But he wasn't exposing his head to her, and that's where she had to place the shot. If she hit him anywhere else, he might pull the trigger before he died. If he did that, the old man would also die.
There was a terrible stillness as Richards shifted his eyes between Mike Smith and Mary Scott. He did it slowly. He sensed that if he moved too quickly, or did the wrong thing, one of these cops would risk taking a shot at him. He started to back toward the door, dragging his hostage with him.
Smith looked at Richards over the sights of his gun and said, "Don't do it, Richards. It's a fool's move. If you'll just drop the gun, no one will be hurt. I promise you that."
Richards grinned. "Drop dead."
The old man was terrified. He didn't say a word as the ex-con pulled him toward...