Mission Critical

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Chapter 21 - Loose Ends and Detailed Plans

We’re at the homicide scene: an alley behind the 6000 block of Tuckerman Drive. Before I get into the gory details, let me dispel a myth for all the guys who are tuning in: do you know how you get in a situation where you’re so turned on that your balls are about to pop at any second and suddenly something happens and it’s a total no-go? Well, we women can’t just turn it off any more than you guys can! And believe me, when we come that close to heaven and we don’t get to grab the brass ring? It’s even worse for us than it is for you! Driving over to the station and sitting right next to the Sarge the whole time? I shit you not: I actually had to sit on my hands to keep myself from sticking my fingers in my twat and rubbing one out right next to him! And when I was in the locker room suiting up? You don’t want to know what I was thinking when I was looking at my nightstick hanging in the locker! If it weren’t for the fact that I know how many people I’ve whacked with that thing, there’s a better than average chance it would’ve gone right between my legs! That’s how hot I got from grinding on the Sarge! I was that close! That close to finally banging his brains out! And he was weakening! I could tell! I was so close to finally nailing him! He was ready to go for it! I know he was! Aaggghh! And now he’s going to be on guard whenever he comes over to my place! God totally hates my guts! There’s no other explanation for it!

So instead of a night of total anything-goes sex with the best guy I’ve ever known, I’m standing here in an alley that smells like a million bums took a piss in it and I’m looking at a dead body. On my time, no less! Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the late Calvin Steadlow. This is where they dumped his body. He obviously wasn’t killed here. There’s not enough blood on the ground. Two bullets to the back of the head, execution-style. One of our hardcases probably distracted him in conversation and the other one put two shots into the back of his skull. He never saw it coming. Stupid! He probably made more than I do working for RSS, but that wasn’t enough for him. No, he had to go selling information on cash shipments to assbags and this is what he got for his little side business! Don’t think for a minute that this was some sort of weird coincidence. No way, no day. This was a tactical elimination and we all know who did it: either Maritza or his unidentified buddy or the both of them. And if they killed this idiot, then there’s only one thing it could mean.

“They’re tying up loose ends, Sarge. Killing anyone who could ID them. They’re moving out. It’s the only reason why they’d kill the goose who laid the golden egg, right? After tomorrow’s hit, they’re gone. I don’t know where, but they’re gone.”

“To go buy a truckload of that crypto-crap?”

“I don’t know. That was probably DeWitt’s plan, but he’s obviously not calling the shots anymore. These other two? They probably aren’t willing to wait ten years to see if they become billionaires. They’ll take the two million plus the half-million they already stole and call it a day.”

“Two and a half million split three ways? That’s…what?”

I’m the math major, remember? Everybody asks me things like that.

“Eight hundred thirty-three thousand three hundred thirty-three dollars apiece. But that’s assuming the two hardcases don’t decide to do to DeWitt what they did to this guy. Then it’s one and a quarter million apiece.”

“Do you really think they’ll kill him?”

“Don’t you? I’m sure of it. He’s no hardcase. I’m surprised they kept him alive this long.”

Actually, we don’t even know if he is still alive. They might’ve whacked him after the last bank job. Either way, those two assbags think he’s a liability, plain and simple. He’s not a hardcase like they are. He’s a geek with a brain and a crazy get-rich-quick scheme. He’s the weak link. In other words, he’s a dead man. If he’s still alive, then he’s a walking dead man. And he’s running out of time, too. Either we take them down tomorrow afternoon or he’ll be dead by sundown. I’m sure of it.

“I wonder who else they’ve got on their list of people to kill. Sarge? That guy they got the information from? The ‘information broker?’ That dickhead Colfax didn’t give me his name, but if this guy is dead…”

“Then they got his name from the guy who sold them the information, so he’s probably dead, too. What the hell kind of people are these motherfuckers? Since when do bank robbers go on killing sprees?”

My thoughts exactly. Arizona’s gotten a little lean when it comes to executions, but we do still kill people for that crap. These guys? I don’t think they’re going to find any local sympathy. An Arizona jury won’t think twice about sentencing them to death. How do they not realize that? And what if they find themselves getting caught in Texas? Texas would execute them twice!

“These guys do. They’re idiots. I think it’s as simple as that.”

One thing you learn when you’re a cop: you run into a lot of idiots in this line of work. Unfortunately, the idiots tend to do a lot of damage before they wind up in state prison. Sometimes they don’t even mean to, but that never stops them.

“Allison! Varanasi!”

Detective Arredondo. God, he’s using a cane again! I guess his wounds are bothering him. Sometimes it’s a wonder he can even stand up!

“Sir? Are you running the lead on this one?”

“On the murder? Yes. But I’m told the guy who shot him was probably one of your bank crew. True story?”

“True story, sir. Your victim is Calvin Steadlow. He worked as an armored car dispatcher for RSS. We got information he was the leak feeding shipment details to the robbery crew through an ‘information broker.’ I think this was his reward.”

“A forty cal to the back of his head? Some reward. So what about this ‘information broker?’ The middleman? Is he at risk?”

“I’m betting he’s already dead. He’s probably the one who gave the shooter this guy’s name. I don’t see how else they might’ve gotten it.”

“So I’ve got another stiff somewhere, connected to this case? Don’t take this the wrong way Allison, but you’re a jinx. Before I met you, the worst thing I suffered was a sprained ankle. Then you came along and I wound up getting shot. Now I’m going around looking for dead bodies connected to your case. I’m seeing a pattern.”

You’re not the only one, pal. I think the Allison Rane curse is mutating into a radiating sphere of bad luck. There was this movie I saw where this guy got contaminated by this weird space-time energy field and everyone who got near him met some horrible death. With each new victim, the field got wider and wider and affected more people until…yes, I’m doing it again. I know. But it was a really cool movie. Unfortunately, the only way the guy could make it stop was to throw himself off the roof of a tall building. I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that for me. I’m not crazy about heights.

“So do you and Varanasi have any idea where I might find this other dead guy?”

“No, sir. We didn’t get his name. Just the fact that he exists. Or used to exist.”

“I hear you’ve got names for two of these guys in the crew. What about the third?”

“Zero. We checked Maritza’s prison record and got a list of his cellmates, but they’re all accounted for. Most of them are still locked up. It’s probably somebody he met in prison, but we don’t know who he is. I’m hoping we’ll find out tomorrow when we take these guys down.”

“You mean if you take them down. You’ve got two targets and one SWAT team. I know a couple of our Robbery detectives are going to sit on the other bank, but unless patrol can get over there in the event they hit the place, they’re going to get away. I don’t want four detectives going up against three homicidal maniacs.”

Neither do I. They couldn’t do it even if they wanted to. After our failed stakeout at the diner where Detective Arredondo got shot – and he wasn’t the only one – the department’s kept the detective squads on a short leash. Only Narcotics is still doing high-risk operations.

“We’re thinking they won’t go for the Vanguard. The Renaissance Bank is getting two hundred thousand dollars more than the Vanguard. There are more escape routes from the Renaissance, too.”

“You’ve become quite the tactical expert since you took up sniping. Be careful about that: you don’t want to become so intimidating that no guy would dare approach you.”

Sure, like I haven’t already thought about that one a million times! One crisis at a time, please.

“Do you think we made the right choice?”

“If I were a bank robber, I wouldn’t pass up an extra two hundred grand. Yeah, I’d say you made the right choice.”

I hope that’s conclusive proof that they’re going to hit the bank where we’ll be staked out.

“Is there any advantage to them hitting the Vanguard?”

“Sure, if they’re planning on taking hostages and asking for a plane to Brazil. Have you seen that place? It sits on a patch of ground the size of a football field and there’s nothing around it. The street out front is a two-lane to almost nowhere. The only thing that place is good for is being holed up in a defensive position. Why is a rinky-dink bank like that getting one point eight million dollars in cash, anyway?”

“According to our source, they’re both getting big money transfers for some real estate thing. One of them has to do with the new office park. I don’t know about the other one. They’re building a lot of stuff in this town.”

“Money makes the world go ’round. Look, I’m not going to be at either location tomorrow. I’ve got too much numbness in my leg to be of any use to anybody. I just want to say good luck. Don’t take any chances out there. These guys are maniacs. If you don’t believe me, just ask Mister Steadlow over there.”

“Don’t worry. We won’t. If everything goes according to plan, we’ll be on them before they ever get inside the bank. They won’t even have a chance to draw their weapons.”

“Let’s hope it goes down exactly like that. I think we’ve had enough shootouts in this town for one lifetime. We’re starting to give Tombstone a run for their money.”

That thought had occurred to me. And to just about everyone else around here. After the great biker war, the Sarge said we could expect a sympathy card from the good citizens of Tombstone. I’m not sure he was joking.

Home again. I’m wiped out, I’m stressed out, and I’m bummed out. I’m wiped out because it’s been a busy day and a long one to boot. I’m stressed out because I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow when those assbags try to hit the bank and I’m afraid somebody’s going to get killed. And I’m bummed out because my brain – and the more important parts of my body, if you know what I mean – got cheated out of what probably would’ve been the best bang-fest of my life. And now I’m back here: alone and frustrated in all the worst ways. The Allison Rane curse is alive and well, isn’t it? It just keeps rolling right along! I mean, son of a bitch! I had him! One more minute and I’d have been out of my clothes and the Sarge would’ve been deep into me! Now I have to start all over again! I’m telling you, I’ve got half a mind to slip him a mickey and bang his brains out while he’s unconscious! And when he wakes up, I’ll tell him it’s a done deal and we might as well take it from there and run with it! For those of you whose moms weren’t hopelessly stuck in the early sixties, a “mickey” means knock-out drops in his drink. Along with the great crooners, mom used to make me watch a bunch of movies with the great crooners trying to act. Most of them sucked, by the way. Ocean’s Eleven? The only things worse than that one were the remakes. Don’t bother. Roger Corman is where it’s at, baby! That’s sixties old crooner language for you, in case you didn’t know.

Time for a little spiritual guidance from the almighty Sphere of Destiny. I don’t care what the Sarge says; that thing has a direct connection to the wisdom of the great beyond. I’d be lost without it. Hey, do you want proof? The Magic 8-Ball has been in continuous production since nineteen fifty! Do you think it would’ve lasted that long if it didn’t work? Oh, and the guy who invented it? His mother was a real clairvoyant. True story. You can look it up. I’m telling you, if you want to know the future? It’s the best nine bucks you’ll ever spend.

“OK, Magic 8-Ball! This is some serious stuff! Are we going to catch the bad guys at the bank tomorrow?”

And the answer is…

“It is certain. Yes! It’s about time you gave me some good news! All right, next question: is anyone going to get hurt?”

And the answer is…

“It is certain. Fuck! All right, don’t panic. Maybe it means the bad guys are going to get hurt? I won’t be too broken up about that. Are the bad guys the ones who are going to get hurt?”

And the answer is…

“Reply hazy. Try again. Oh, come on! This is serious! I need to know if any of our people are going to get hurt! Are any of our people the ones who are going to get hurt?”

And the answer is…

“Better not tell you now. Screw that shit! I want to know and I want to know right this fucking minute! Have you got that? All right, let’s try this one: are any innocent bystanders going to get hurt?”

And the answer is…

“Outlook good. You fucking suck! Do you ever have any good news to give me? I mean good news without something terrible going along with it?”

I shouldn’t have asked that. It’s going to answer me. And the answer is…

“Don’t count on it. Fuck you! I’m done talking to you until this bullshit is over and done with, do you hear? Thanks to you, I’m probably going to be up all night thinking about what’s going to go wrong! You’re a total dickface, did you know that?”

What am I saying? It doesn’t even have a face! Let’s see what it has to say to that! And the answer is…

“Yes, definitely. Fuck! Not only are you a total dickface; you’re a smartass, too!”

I think all this yelling is starting to scare Beefy. I don’t want to do that. He doesn’t understand my ritual consultations with the mystic forces of the universe. They get a little heated sometimes, as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now.

“Beefy, I apologize. I get a little carried away sometimes. Maybe I need to find a new way to consult the mystic forces? What do you think?”

Easier said than done. I mean, what could I do? Ouija Board? Like I said, that thing takes at least two people to use. Astrology? No, I don’t go for astrology. That’s a product of my growing up in Las Vegas. I can’t tell you how many people I saw who said their horoscope said it was their lucky day and they ended up losing their shirt. You can’t spend a lot of time in Vegas and believe in astrology. You see too much evidence that it’s total bullshit. I think I’m stuck with the 8-Ball.

“Beefy, what do dogs do when they need deep spiritual guidance? And don’t say eat! That’s your answer to everything, isn’t it?”

It sure is! Look at him! He’s got his huge pit bull smile on his face because he thinks I’m going to shove a bunch of food down his gullet! Forget it, pal! I need to get some sleep. Time to get out of these clothes and crawl into bed. Yeah, and try not to think about what I could’ve been doing in that bed right now with the Sarge! Our bang-fest would’ve started on the couch, but then we’d have moved it into the main game room to give us space to spread out and really go for it. Now it’s just a lame mattress for me to sleep on. How depressing is that?

Off with the clothes and on with my sleeping shirt. Yes, I bought a couple of those Cydonia shirts. They’re like this poly-satin material and they feel really good against your skin. Kudos to LC for picking them over some lame cotton polo. They’re pretty hot-looking, too. At least, the women’s versions are. They come down almost to the bottom of my ass, so they look pretty damned sexy when it’s all I’m wearing. Not bad at all. Maybe one of them will become my new bang shirt? I’d ask the Magic 8-Ball, but we’re not on speaking terms right now.

“Seriously, Beefy! I mean, look at me! I’m not being stuck up or anything; I’m just stating the facts: I’m really hot! How could the Sarge pass up on this? I know he’s not gay, so what’s the problem? Does it look like any straight guy would turn down a shot at this? And once they find out the kinds of things I’m into doing, they usually jump at the chance! So what am I doing wrong?”

Nothing. I’m not doing anything wrong. He’s just being chivalrous. I know that’s not exactly trendy these days, but I happen to like a chivalrous guy. I’m an old-fashioned girl in that respect. But there’s a time for chivalry and a time to throw that shit out the window and ravage a girl like she wants to be ravaged! I thought I made that part clear to him? Oh, well. I always say how much I like a good challenge. I’ll just have to keep working on him. I almost had him tonight. I’ll get my chance again. I just need to remember to lock the door and take away his phone the next time. If only I’d done that earlier, huh?

“All right, big boy. Time for bed. And if you see me doing…you know…I expect you to be a gentleman and turn your head away. That’s mom’s little…private activity.”

That’s it! I’ve reached the absolute limit of pathetic! I’m scolding my poor dog so he won’t watch me masturbate! Is this really what I’ve come to? No, don’t answer that. I honestly don’t want to know.

Back at the station, bright and early. Six in the morning, to be exact. We all got here half an hour ago to be ready for the briefing. This is my first time as a real member of SRT. Something of a baptism of fire, I guess. The whole SRT team is here in the roll call room. You can tell I’m the new girl on the team: my tactical uniform isn’t as faded or broken-in as everyone else’s. Mine still has creases in it. I feel a little out of place here, to be honest with you. I’d hoped to have undergone some real training with them before I got sent on a callout, but that’s not how things turned out. At least I’m confident in my sniper abilities. I’m really hoping my services won’t be needed on this one. Praying is more like it. If I have to act, it means somebody is going to get killed. We all want to avoid that. The plan is detailed, but simple: two fast assault teams move in as soon as we ID the suspects. One team handles the takedown; the other team seals off any route into the bank or the surrounding businesses. I’m on overwatch in case precision fire is needed. Flash-bang grenades will be available in case we need to distract the hell out of them. A lightning display of overwhelming force and firepower to disorient and arrest the suspects without having to resort to violence: that’s the plan. It’s a good one. The SRT veterans all seem pretty confident. I’m going to take a cue from them and be confident, too.

Lieutenant Shears has a big diagram of the bank and the surrounding businesses on the board. It’s very detailed. Every entrance, window, and escape route is identified and marked. Every one of our positions is marked, too. I can see mine: a second-story rooftop right across from the front of the bank, about fifty-five yards out. I’ll have a clear field of fire for the whole front of the building. If one of our assbags turns and tries to start firing, I can take him out before he squeezes the trigger. I’m sure you’re fascinated by the technical details, so I’ll be using a Schmidt & Bender PM II/LP 5x25 power scope with a fifty-six millimeter objective. The parallax adjustment on it is from ten meters to infinity. It’s got a MIL reticle, but I’ve been practicing on those so there’s no problem compensating from a traditional MOA reticle. With the clarity of the glass, I’ll be able to count the whiskers on their chins with that thing. The rest of it will be my standard rig: my M40 with a GG&G XDS bipod. I won’t be going with a suppressor. The lack of one will enhance accuracy, and I might have to make a head shot so every little bit helps. The Sarge will be my spotter. He’ll have a top-of-the-line Leupold MK4 40X spotting scope and a laser rangefinder. I looked through that spotting scope and I’m telling you, you’d need a degree in engineering to figure out the grid chart on the reticle. The Sarge says he knows what it all means. I hope he’s right. The instruction manual for that thing? It might as well be written in Greek for all the good it was to me. Welcome to long-range precision tactical shooting. Fun, huh?

The rest of the team is packing some serious firepower: M-4s, MP-5s, an Arwen gas grenade launcher and a couple of Benelli autoloading shotguns. We’re hoping one look at that arsenal and three dickheads with handguns will see the futility in it and give up right away. The main goal right now? Keep them the hell out of the bank and the surrounding businesses. Keep them in the open without any cover. Make it hopeless for them. As long as they’re not suicidal, they’ll throw in the towel. They’ll have to. There’ll be nowhere for them to go. I’ve got this awful feeling that they’re going to realize that ahead of time and they’ll crash that big pickup truck of theirs right through the front of the bank. I know it’s crazy, but we don’t have a backup plan in case they do anything that incredibly stupid. You can’t cover every base. The Sarge taught me that when we first started training. I’m waiting for the day when it comes back to bite me right on the ass like a rattlesnake.

We know two of their names. We have pictures of Maritza and DeWitt. We don’t know anything about assbag number three except for the fact that he’s a male white and he’s about the same size as Maritza. We’ve got good description of the truck they’ve been using and a grainy security camera image of it, but Maritza was driving a car when we nearly had him so they may have ditched the truck. They’ve been seen with one handgun each, but Maritza was trying to buy a tactical combat rifle for this job so that may have changed, too. And for all we know, they recruited three other assbags to help out with this job since it’s the biggest hit yet. And since it looks like they’re killing everyone who could trace it back to them, why not? They’d just shoot the new hires the first chance they get. These guys really suck, don’t they? The not knowing is enough to make me start screaming. Don’t ask me how the SRT guys deal with it on a regular basis. I’m hoping it’s some secret training that they’ll tell me about pretty soon. If it is, then I really want to learn how to do it.

Our teams are going to be in two delivery trucks so no one will suspect anything. Team one will be the closest to the front of the bank and team two will be parked right across from the store directly northwest of it. When the signal is given, team one goes directly for the assbags and team two goes for the front entrance to cut them off and block the way to the other buildings. If they try to break east, then patrol pulls into the parking lot to push them back and if they try anything, that’s where I come in. They’d have to be crazy to head east. It’s got to be almost one hundred yards to the driveway and they’d be out in the open the whole time. We could pick them off one by one. Doug Surma is our other sniper and he’ll be off to my right, covering that potential escape route. He’s pretty good. Not as good as me, but pretty damned good. Two snipers against three assbags out in the open armed with handguns? Not exactly a fair fight, is it? But then, it’s not supposed to be. You know what they say about police: we don’t fight fair; we fight to win. Whatever else happens today, I want our side to win.

“Lieutenant? Have any of the detectives staked out on the banks seen the suspects casing the place?”

“Negative, Allison. Lieutenant Jutras has had detectives there around the clock since last night. So far, no one’s come by looking like they’re doing a recon on the banks. I have to assume that either they’re very sloppy or very well-prepared.”

If they’re still following that book at all, then I’d say they’re very well-prepared. Prentiss wrote that you should observe your target for at least a week in advance: get to know the routines, when the bank has the least number of customers, when the manager goes to lunch; all of the stuff we’d do if we were doing recon on the bad guys. Maybe they haven’t forgotten that chapter?

“Are the banks alerted?”

“Affirmative. We debated whether to tell them, but in the end we decided they needed to know. Now, I don’t know if anyone but the bank managers know what’s going on. We were afraid telling them might cause the employees to panic and they had the same fear, so they may have kept the information to themselves. Maybe they told a few people they thought they could trust to keep their cool, but we just don’t know. Neither bank was especially cooperative with our people. They were furious that we knew about the cash shipments and I think it soured our relations with them.”

“Tell them to take it up with Randall Schoen. Speaking of which, I take it no one told anyone over at RSS?”

“Not a chance. That’s where the leak came from. When this is over, I think the feds are going to put that company under a microscope. They can kiss their armored car license goodbye.”

Keep dreaming, Lieutenant. Randall Schoen’s too well-connected. Even if the FBI or whoever regulates the banks starts screaming about it, those dorks are going to come out smelling like a rose. They always do. Randall Schoen will make one phone call and it’ll all mysteriously disappear. He’s that powerful.

“Sir, I’ve got a question…I know this doesn’t relate to the tactical plan, but I was wondering…why would they ship that much cash in one truck? It’s not like they don’t have a bunch of trucks they could use, right?”

“Good question. We spoke to an armored car company in Flagstaff to get a sense of how these operations usually go down and they said the same thing. They said a really big shipment usually gets broken up so it’s not as tempting a target. They wouldn’t stuff that much cash in one truck unless it was some kind of special armored car, but that was as much as they were willing to tell us. I guess they’re protecting trade secrets.”

Trade secrets? It’s an armored car. They’ve been around forever. What’s so secret about them? The only difference I ever saw between them was the paint job. Big deal!

“What do we do if these dickheads try to hit the armored car in the parking lot? I don’t think they’re that stupid, but…”

“That’s where you and Doug come in. If they go for the truck and the guards start shooting, our guys aren’t going anywhere near that thing. The last thing we want is to get some of our people caught in a crossfire. You and Doug will engage the hostiles and neutralize them with precision fire. Understood?”

“Roger that, sir.”

That’s probably the best idea. A crossfire situation is a distinct possibility in close-quarters with those RSS guys. In case I never mentioned it, RSS guards for the armored cars wear fatigues that look a hell of a lot like the ones we’re wearing right now. They’re deliberately trying to look like the cops – even their regular guards’ uniforms look almost identical to our patrol officers’ uniforms. Their badge used to look almost exactly like ours until we got a city ordinance that forced them to change it. A lot of people can’t tell the difference between our cops and RSS guys at first sight. It drives the police force crazy, but there’s nothing we can do about it.

I see Doug Surma’s got a question. Good. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

“LT? What do we do if the hostiles get too close to the guards? I’m talking about hand-to-hand combat distance.”

In which case we’ll have a hell of a time zeroing them from a distance. That close? We’ll stand a good chance of hitting one of the guards. They’ll all be moving around so fast that as soon as we pull the trigger, the whole situation will change before the bullet gets there.

“Good question! I’d like to tell you to stand back and let them kill each other, but that’s not an option. We can’t have RSS spraying lead all over a crowded business district. They’re not too careful about where they aim, as we all know. You’re going to have to acquire your targets quickly and take them out without hitting any bystanders. If at all possible, our fast assault teams will engage the hostiles from a safe distance and from behind cover, but it’ll be up to you and Allison to do the heavy lifting. Be ready for it.”

“Roger that, LT.”

Fortunately, rapid target acquisition and shooting before they move again is something the Sarge drilled into me until I was ready to collapse. I hope I don’t need it, but if I do? I’m ready for it. It’ll be difficult if they get too close together, but I’m ready for it. Doug’s using a tricked-out AR-10. Semiautomatic. Twenty-round magazine. He’ll be able to shoot faster than I will with my bolt-action rifle. That will help.

“All right, everyone! We’ve been over the tactical plan six times this morning. You all know your positions and you all know your jobs. That bank opens in less than two hours, so I want to start bringing in officers so you can set up without causing a stir. Under no circumstances are any of you to tell any civilians what you’re doing there! If you do, word will spread like wildfire and our suspects could be tipped off. No matter how stupid they might be, they won’t show up if they think they’re walking into a trap – which is exactly what they’re doing. If you run into someone who’s dying to know why you’re there? Lie to them! Use your imagination! Just don’t compromise the operation!”

Yes, I expected that. When SRT shows up unexpectedly, people get pretty weird. Some of them take off running because they’re afraid they’re about to be caught in a shootout. Others whip out their cellphones and hope to catch something they can post on the internet. And some of our more colorful yahoos grab their deer rifles in the hope that they’ll be able to get in on the fun. We don’t want any of the above happening. This has to go according to the numbers. It’s the only way it’s going to work. As they say, failure is not an option.


The target area. We’re set up on the roof of the two-story building across the street from the bank. Doug’s at the far end and I’m at the near end. We had a hell of a time getting in here. We got stopped by the building security and they demanded to know why we wanted to go up on the roof. Doug hemmed and hawed and tried not to tell them what was up, but they weren’t buying it. Both of the desk security guys were about eighteen or nineteen years old. Some security, huh? I thought Doug was going to cave and tell them what we were really doing, in which case they’d both have been on their phones to tell all of their friends and our whole operation would be blown. So what did I do? Well, kind of what I do best. I took off my helmet and face mask and let my ponytail fall out so they could see I was a girl. Then I told those two dorks that we wanted to go up to the roof so that I could give Doug a blowjob. I really did. I said sex in a city vehicle would get us suspended, so we wanted to borrow the roof for an hour or two. Yes, I’m totally serious. And guess what? They said go right ahead! I guess we’re not the only ones who ever wanted to go up to the roof to have sex. Weird, huh? They let us in without any further questions. I’ll tell you this, though: you should’ve seen the way Doug was looking at me as we were going up the stairs. I think he thought I was certifiably insane. Hey, whatever works, right? Lieutenant Shears said to use my imagination and you know what my imagination is like. At least we didn’t compromise the operation. Mission accomplished.

We’ve been sitting up here for hours. The armored car finished the delivery about fifteen minutes ago. It was a sight to see, let me tell you. You know how in the movies some bad guy will have a nice, slim attaché case and he’ll open it up and it’ll be full of cash and he’ll say “Two million, just like we agreed?” Well, let me tell you something: you can’t fit two million dollars into an attaché case. Or a suitcase. Or a footlocker, for that matter. Those guys hauled in nine sacks about the size of a duffel bag and they were so heavy, they pushed them in on a hand truck. Even then, it took them a good ten minutes to get the stuff in there. I don’t know how the hell our assbags plan to get that cash out of the bank. They’d probably need a forklift. Did they consider that? I’ll be honest: I didn’t consider it. Remind me never to steal two million bucks unless I’ve got six or seven big guys to help me out. Or a forklift.

The Sarge is on the floor directly beneath me. The window glass is tinted so he’s got a better view down there. He doesn’t have to worry about the sun getting in his eyes. We’re in radio contact so he can direct me if I have to engage the x-rays. I think we’re all getting a little edgy. There’s no sign of the assbags and we’ve been here since before the bank opened. What time is it now? Almost twelve o’clock. That armored car made the delivery earlier than expected. I wonder if that screwed up the bad guys’ plan? I was expecting them to be here before the bank opened. I thought they’d wait for the armored car to make the delivery and hit the bank once it was out of the parking lot. If they wait much longer, the bank manager’s going to have her employees haul that stuff down to the main vault and she’ll lock it up and that’ll be all she wrote: time lock engaged; no way to open it again until tomorrow at least. Stupid! What the hell are these dorks doing? They’ve never screwed up this badly before!

“Echo One to Echo Two, Sarge? Do you see anything?”

“Negative, Echo One.”

“Any news from the other spotters?”

“Negative. All’s quiet. I’m getting a bad feeling about this.”

Getting a bad feeling? I’ve had one almost since we got here!

“All units, this is Four Henry Alpha. Stay sharp. We’ve got a Nissan King Cab pickup truck pulling into the parking lot from the south entrance. Multiple occupants. This could be it.”

It’s about time! There’s the truck! Is that the same truck they’ve been using? God, I wish we’d gotten a good look at it before this! All right, they’re moving toward the bank. Nice and slow. They’re probably checking out the scene; looking for the cops. They’ll look for a spot close to the front door and leave the engine running. Come on, guys! Make your move! We’ve got you cold! Your crime spree is over!

There! They’re pulling into a spot right near the front! Good Lord! They’re pulling into a handicapped parking spot! Am I really seeing this? How stupid can they be? People will start screaming at them as soon as they get out of the truck! Talk about attracting unwanted attention to yourselves! Get ready! This is it! Don’t let them get inside the bank! If they try to run for the doors…oh, I don’t fucking believe it! It’s three old people! Three old geezers! They’re not our bank crew!

“Echo One to Echo Two…”

“I see it, Rane! All units! Stand down! Stand down! It’s not our suspects! It’s Ma and Pa Kettle! Jesus Christ!”

More like two Mas and a Pa! Those geezers look like they’re all ninety years old at least! What the hell are they doing in a truck like that? Shit! Well, they’re not our bank robbery crew! So where are they? Did they get cold feet? Good Lord, what if they tracked down that Colfax guy and he told them about me? They’d probably figure out I was no journalist and think they were busted! Is that what happened? Did they call the whole thing off?

“Echo One, standing down! Where the hell are these guys, Sarge? In another couple of minutes, that cash is going to be locked up in a twenty-ton steel vault!”

“Beats me, Rane. I’m beginning to think these guys chickened out.”

I don’t know about that. These guys aren’t chicken. Assbags who shoot people in the face at point-blank range may be total psychos, but they’re not chicken.

“I’m starting to think that ‘information broker’ I talked to told them we were on to them.”

“How would they find him? He’s not the one who sold them the information.”

Good point. The guy who did sell it to them? We don’t even know who he is.

“Four Henry Alpha to all units! Withdraw! I say again: withdraw! Back to the cars! We picked the wrong bank! Our suspects are over at the Vanguard! Shots fired! Multiple shots fired! Multiple 911 calls! Withdraw and redeploy to the Vanguard Bank immediately!”

I don’t fucking believe it! They went for the bank with less money! And now it sounds like there’s been a shootout over there! God damn it! Move! Run! We’ve got to get the hell over there right fucking now!

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