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Book excerpt: No Place Like Home


‘No Place Like Home’ takes place during a one-day hostage crisis in a state prison. For more information about the book and its author, Keith Hellwig, check out Hellwig’s website here.

“Target in sight,” guard Meister said, peering through the sights of his scope. He was lying on the roof of the school building two hundred yards away from Unit sixteen, and had his crosshairs centered on a spot just below Leon’s upper lip. A tangle of emotions welled up in him, and he tried to press them down: the face of the Iraqi boy at the moment he was hit kept swimming to the surface of his consciousness, messing with his concentration. He had killed because it needed to be done, Meister told himself, just at it would probably need to be done today. If Leon was going to kill the captain, Leon needed to die. There was no wind, and Meister had his scope at the right setting. If the barrel of his Winchester 700 sniper rifle wavered even a quarter of an inch at this range, he’d miss Leon. He might even kill the captain … but he wouldn’t think about that. There was no wind, and he had his scope at the right setting. Leon was hurting his brother officer, and if he went any further, well, he was an eighth-inch trigger-pull away from death.

Down in the yard, the knife pressed harder on the captain’s throat, and he felt fear rising in him -- that he wouldn’t see his daughters grow, that he wouldn’t see them marry and have families, that he wouldn’t hold Maura again, that he wouldn’t be able to tell them all, one last time, how much he loved them.

“All right, you f***ers! Back off or we’ll kill the captain!” Leon yelled. “We got us a bunch of hostages, and we ain’t afraid to kill one to show you we mean bidness!”

A trickle of warm blood slid down the Captain’s throat.

“No matter what happens, mother****er, I’m killin’ you,” Leon whispered. “Aint nothin’ gonna save you.” Leon pressed the shank into the captain’s side, cutting into his ribs, and as the captain flinched, he dropped the cuff from his wrist. Leon moved the knife back to the captain’s throat.

Across the yard, on the roof of the maintenance building, Walters moved his scope a fraction from Q-Ball’s face and watched Leon pressing the knife into the flesh of the captain’s throat. “T-1, he’s drawing blood,” Walters radioed.

“Sh*t,” Hans said.

Walters moved his scope back to Q-Ball, who held the captain’s arm in one hand, a shank in the other. The other two teams would wait until Meister and Hans fired, then, within a millisecond, they’d send another bullet into the brain stems of Leon and Q-Ball.

“We see the blood,” another team called.

Meister said a short, silent prayer. “Please, Lord. Let me get the shot off before that mother****er kills my captain.”

“Team Leader to all shooters, do you have your targets in sight?” Capt. Schmidt radioed.

“Affirmative,” came the response from each team.

Thorson radioed, “Command post to all teams, you have a ‘Green Light.’”

Capt. Schmidt verified the call as a “fail-safe” and relayed, “Sniper Teams one, two, three and four, you have a green light” -- approval to kill. He thought back on his friend’s prank that morning with the Baby Ruth, when neither had any inkling that the day would end any differently than any other. He felt sick to his stomach.

Meister felt the air leave his body, as he waited to take his shot. He was seconds away from killing a man, and took no pleasure in it.