Taking Trust Into Account

Chapter 19

“What?!” exclaimed Elizabeth. She whipped her head back toward the burning mess of a building. “You said they were both what?"

“In—In there,” said Mozzie hesitantly. His face was white. Ghost white.

“Mozzie!” Elizabeth grasped him by the shoulders, shaking him. It took him a moment to turn his gaze back to her.

“They’re ash by now,” said Allen, laughing through his pain. Elizabeth turned her eyes onto him, venom in her glare. Allen was grasping his leg, blood streaming through his fingers.

Suddenly, sirens rang in the air. Police cars were speeding down Forest in front of the bank. Mozzie and Elizabeth stumbled to their feet. The FBI had arrived.

They watched as more cars pulled up and teams of agents rushed out of the vehicles. Dozens and dozens of agents, tilting their heads back, watching the smoke billow into the sky.

And none of them noticed the three people in the alley.

“Mozzie,” breathed Elizabeth. “Moz, the FBI!” She took a step closer. “We’re here! Over here!” she yelled, but they were too far away and her voice couldn’t carry over the sound of the crackling flames. She turned to Mozzie. “What now?”

“Feds?” exclaimed Allen. He crawled backward, but Elizabeth raised the gun again.

“Don’t even think about it!” she growled.

Mozzie looked at her. “I like this side of you.”

“Moz,” sighed Elizabeth. “What do we do?”

“I’ll go tell them.” said Mozzie. He started to back away, when he turned around. “Elizabeth…” He hesitated, glancing at Allen. “I don’t want to leave you alone with him-”

“Moz, I’ll be fine.” said Elizabeth, tightening her grip on the gun. “If he moves, I’ll shoot him again.” The gun shook slightly in her grip, and she hoped neither of the men noticed. She didn’t want to shoot the man again. She didn’t even want to hold onto the gun.

“I dare you, sweetheart,” hissed Allen, and Elizabeth’s hand became a fraction steadier.

“…Okay,” said Mozzie. “I’ll run. I’ll be right back.” Mozzie turned and ran, heading back down the alley. Elizabeth kept a tight grip on the gun, staring at Allen, not letting him leave her sight. There was no way he was getting away. He tried to kill Mozzie. Hell, he just tried to kill Neal and Peter.

Or he succeeded.

Stop it, they’re going to be fine, Elizabeth firmly told herself.

“So,” said Allen, “who are you, my dear?”

Elizabeth said nothing. She wasn’t going to speak to this man.

“Friend of Caffrey’s?” asked Allen slowly.

“Shut up.” growled Elizabeth. She adjusted her grip on the gun How long was Mozzie going to take?

Suddenly, Elizabeth heard a pounding. Her head whipped to the side, following the noise. It was coming from the side exit to the bank. It was faint, barely audible over the burning building. Elizabeth realized what she was hearing; someone was pounding on it from the inside.

Someone like Neal or Peter.

Forgetting about everything except that one shred of hope that they were alive, Elizabeth dropped the gun and raced to the door. She pulled it open, and watched as someone fell backward out of the doorway.

Elizabeth gasped, looking down at the broken man who was struggling to his knees.

"Neal!” gasped Elizabeth. Neal slowly pulled himself up, looking disoriented and startled, and even in the pale moonlight, Elizabeth could see the intense cut on his forehead. Dried and fresh blood stained the left side of his face, and he was nearly covered in soot and ash. His shirt was torn and almost entirely black. He was breathing harsh and fast, coughing incessantly. Failing his attempt to stand, Neal stumbled, groaning as he fell back to the ground.

He slowly lifted his head, his eyes unfocused. He looked at Elizabeth. Neal squinted, seeming to try to remember who she was. Elizabeth’s heart hammered in her chest, and she took a step toward him. Neal coughed again, and opened his mouth to speak, when suddenly he was grabbed around the neck.

Allen had stumbled to his feet and retrieved the gun Elizabeth had dropped. He pinned Neal to him with one arm, lifting him to his feet. Neal cried out in pain, a horrible, gut twisting sound, making Elizabeth flinch. The gun was suddenly to Neal’s head, and Neal gasped for air.

"Neal!” screamed Elizabeth. “Stop it! Let him go!” Elizabeth took a step forward.

“Don’t do it!” yelled Allen. “If you take one step closer, I will put a bullet in his brain! Do you understand me?” He pressed the gun harder against Neal’s head, making him cringe. His breathing doubled as the arm around his neck tightened.

Allen took a step backward, stumbling a bit over his injured leg, and he dragged Neal backward with him. Neal sagged against the man. Elizabeth watched the conman’s eyes shut for a moment, then weakly open again. Allen continued walking backward.

"FBI!”

Elizabeth turned as FBI agents stormed down the alley, black silhouettes in the night. Their footsteps thundered, competing with the roaring fire beside them. Half a dozen agents were now standing beside her. Elizabeth stumbled backward a step.

"Neal!” exclaimed Diana, gun raised high, now to the right of Elizabeth. Relief was plain in her voice. The constricted feeling in her chest lessened a bit.

“We have you surrounded, Allen!” yelled Jones, to the left of Elizabeth. All agents had guns raised and aimed at Allen. But the only one Elizabeth was warily watching was the one that pressed even harder into Neal’s temple.

Allen took another step backward, dragging Neal with him. All agents’ tightened their grips on their weapons. “Allen!” shouted Diana, taking a step forward. The moment she did, Allen hit Neal with the muzzle of the gun, and it dug into his temple. Neal groaned, nearly falling from Allen’s grip.

“If you take one more step,” warned Allen, “he dies.”

“Allen,” said Diana firmly, “if you pull that trigger, you know what will happen.”

Allen’s gripped the weapon, his knuckles white. Neal’s eyes closed, and he tried to stay upright, tried to stay awake. Allen pressed the gun harder into his head. Elizabeth heard Allen cock the weapon. His finger curled around the trigger.

And the gunshot rang out, echoing in the still, night air.

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