Write a short story where a character faces a difficult decision.

The cold wind bit ferociously into Bruce’s skin, as he made his way towards the black sedan. 

It was 9 a.m. and he didn’t want to be late picking his only daughter up from the airport. He had let her down so many times in the past, he knew what a terrible father he had been, but he couldn’t do what he did and be a good father, that much was plain to see.

The traffic on Broadway was starting to build and Bruce resisted the urge to use his siren and flashing lights.

A text message woke him from his thoughts, and he punched the steering wheel as he read the words he didn’t want to see. It was Emma and she was landed at JFK. It would take him another twenty minutes at least. He would have to phone her.

‘Hey dad, where are you? It’s freezing.’

‘I’ll be about twenty minutes honey, I promise I’ll get there as soon as I can.’

He heard the inevitable sigh, followed by, ‘always promises with you dad, promises that you never deliver. Just get here.’

And with that the line went dead. Man he knew how to rub her up the wrong way. She didn’t hate him, but he knew she wasn’t far away. 

As he made his way past Penn station, he saw the advertisement for the Knicks game tonight, he thought he might give Ed a call to see if he could hook him up with two tickets. Him and Emma taking in a game, just like old times, just like a normal family, if only for a day.

He was once again interrupted from his thoughts by his phone, it wasn’t Emma this time though, this time it was the office.

‘Jackson,’ he answered in a cool manner.

‘Hey man, we got a problem. Need you here ASAP.’

‘What’s up? I’m on my way to pick up Emma from JFK.’

‘NSA have picked up on internet chatter, I think we have a serious threat on our hands right here in Manhattan, if I were you, I’d be getting Emma the hell out of here,’ replied Bobby.

The last sentence sent a chill up Bruce’s spine and once again the steering wheel bore the brunt of his anger.

‘OK, I’m coming in, but this shit better be for real and not some lame ass internet geek, who lives at home with his mom,’ shouted Bruce furiously.

‘Bruce, we think it’s Asad’s people. We think they’ve been tipped off that we killed him.’

Bruce ended the call. There was no we in killing Asad, it was just him and he was assured that his tracks had been covered. ‘Another bloody mole,’ he roared, again hitting the steering wheel, as he thought about how another informer had managed to infiltrate ATU (Anti-Terrorism Unit)

He quickly formed a plan in his mind, before lifting the phone and calling Emma. As he did so, he hated himself. He brought so much pain and misery to his family, they didn’t deserve this shit. Emma’s only crime was having him as a father. If only her mother was still alive, thought Bruce.

‘Why the hell are you not here yet, Dad?’

‘Listen honey, we got a problem. I can’t tell you what or why, but you need to get out of New York now. Don’t get on a plane. Take the first subway from JFK and get as far from New York as you can. I’ll explain later.’

‘It’s always the same, always a crisis, I just wish I had a normal dad, not the super duper special agent, who never sees his family.’

‘Honey, when this is over we can talk, but right now I have to go. I promise you’ll be safer this way.’

‘Same old promises dad.’

And for the second time that morning, Emma hung up on him. It’s amazing how one man can achieve so much and be so respected by men as powerful as the President of the United States and still not have any respect from his daughter.

With the Emma situation sorted to some extent, he hit the gas, put on his flashing lights and siren and weaved through the New York traffic, just like they did in the movies. As he stormed through each set of traffic lights, his mind drifted back to the Middle-East and to Adi Asad. It was one of the cleanest operations he had ever carried out. Now that he thought about it, perhaps it was too easy.

Asad was yet another Muslim fanatic, trying to gain power in a relatively liberal region. The US didn’t need any more despots in the region, so the hit was sanctioned. He thought it had been a success but now it seemed that it offered a pretext for more extremists to attack America. Like they needed a reason, thought Bruce.

His phone hopped again, as he sped towards HQ. It was Bobby again, hopefully with better news.

‘Bruce, you’re not going to believe this. The chatter was a decoy. They’re ready to strike the city within the hour. The FBI busted two extremists a few minutes ago. From what they can make out, these guys have a canister of nerve gas on the subway.’

Bruce closed his eyes, he knew this day was only going to get worse. Not only had he put Emma on the subway, but he had seen nerve gas deployed in Iraq and knew the devastation it would cause. If it became airborne, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers would be killed. The fact that it was on the subway made it even worse, it would travel freely through the city, killing indiscriminately.

Bruce knew what had to be done. He told Bobby that he was heading for Penn Station, he would board the subway and try to intercept the canister. Although there were there millions of people relying on him right now, his only thoughts were that of his only child, Emma.

He hit speeds of 90 MPH as weaved through traffic with the precision of a formula one driver. He knew what was at stake, he knew what he had to do. Forty yards from Penn Station, he swerved the car to a halt, jumped out, unholstered his .45 magnum and ran towards the subway. Sprinting at top speed, he flashed his badge at the stunned cop, and told him to get out of the way.

There were hundreds of people queuing to get on the train, totally unaware of how much danger they were in. Bruce pushed through the crowd, trying not to make a scene. He knew that whoever had that canister would be either on that train or about to board. He scanned the area, he knew what to look for. He had spotted many suicide bombers in the Middle-East, there were always tell-tale signs. He knew that whoever had the canister was willing to die because there was no way to escape.

He couldn’t fathom that sort of loyalty, despite the fact that he had put his life on the line for his own country many times. 

The difference he told himself was that he was willing to die to save others, they were willing to die to murder others. 

He was certain that no one boarding looked like they were about to die. He entered at the back of the subway and made his way through the first carriage, sweeping the area as he went. As he entered the third carriage, he spotted a young middle-eastern man, sitting alone with a package. There were beads of sweat forming below his thick black fringe. His face looked innocent, he didn’t look like he wanted to die.

Bruce’s initial swing took him by surprise, as he knocked him off the seat. There were yells from the other passengers. 

‘Federal Agent, stand back,’ he shouted, flashing his badge.

His victim attempted to get back up, but Bruce struck him with an elbow across the back of the head, knocking him unconscious temporarily.

Bruce took the bag and looked inside. There were growing fears among the passengers, as he lifted the silver canister from the bag. 

‘It’s a bomb!’ shouted one of the men, as the crowd in the carriage dispersed, knocking each other over as they clambered to get to another carriage.

Bruce handled the canister carefully, he knew that it would be tamper proof. He picked up his phone and rang Bobby.

‘I’ve acquired the canister, any chance of shutting it down?’

‘Pull back the small latch at the bottom of the canister and tell me what you see,’ Bobby replied.

Bruce slowly pulled back the metal latch and saw a timer in red digits. It was exactly as he feared. It read 1.56. As he stared at it, the seconds continued to drop.

Panicking, Bruce shouted down the phone, ‘this things going to go at any minute man. I have to stop it. What can I do?’ 

‘There’s no way to stop it, but there is a way to isolate the canister. Every train in New York has a sealed compartment for the driver, because they keep getting hijacked. Take the canister to the front of the train and put it in there. But there’s still one problem.’

‘What’s that?’ asked Bruce, as he ran towards the front of the train.

‘The compartment can only be sealed from the inside, so someone has to stay in the room.

Bruce’s heart sank. He knew that he had to die. He knew that the lives of millions of people and more importantly, Emma, depended on him. He raced through the carriages, with Bobby still talking through the ear piece.

‘Bruce you there, come in man.’

‘Yeah I’m here. I know what I gotta do. Bobby when this is over, I want you to make sure Emma is OK and I want you to tell her that I’ll never break another promise,’ sighed Bruce, as he stepped inside the compartment.

‘Bruce, you are the bravest man I’ve ever met, the people of New York will never forget you.’

Bruce cut him off, before saying to himself, ‘yeah they will, but I just hope that Emma never does.’

And with that, the canister activated, but not before the bullet passed through the brain of Agent Bruce Jackson.

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