The smell of freshly brewed coffee pervaded the meeting room as people in business attire bustled to and fro behind the glass. “Good morning,” I smiled cheerfully, greeting the security guard while jerking the bag strap higher up my shoulder, before entering the FBI headquarters in Downtown New York.
I dumped my bag and grabbed the unusually heavy case file at my desk before half-running to the meeting room.
“Great, you’re here,” JJ announced as she directed everyone’s attention back to the screen at the front.
I used my fingers to smoothen my frizzy fringe as I headed to my seat at the meeting table and opened the case file. Harris slid a cup of piping hot coffee he got from the pantry at the back of the meeting room across the table. I whispered a soft, “Thank you” before turning to JJ as she jabbed her finger at the PVC screen.
“We have gotten ourselves a bank robbery. According to the surveillance footage, there are two people behind the robberies and they have robbed four banks so far, but there might be more we still do not know about. Elizabeth and Harris, you will check out the banks that were robbed. Lance and Amber, you will review the surveillance footage.”
I gulped down the last sip of coffee before closing the case file shut and left with the rest of them as they hurriedly filed out.
“Are you ready to go?” Harry asked as he slung his backpack lazily over his shoulder.
“Yeah, give me a second. I need to sort my things,” I told Harris.
I swept the pens sprawled all over my desk to one side, before putting all the pens back into the pen holder. Fishing my keys out from my pocket, I unlocked my drawer, got my gun and holster before attaching it to my belt.
“Let’s go,” I told Harris as I headed to the lift, leaving him in the small space next to my desk.
The lift was filled with many intellectual detectives, police and many other high ranking officers from New York. Fortunately, there was still room and I managed to squeeze in with Harris. When the elevator doors closed, there was barely any breathing space and Harris’s face was apparently just centimetres away from the doors. The elevator stopped at the lobby and everyone exited, leaving only us inside. I pressed the close button and the elevator took us to the basement.
Harris and I paced to my black, shiny and smooth SUV and turned on the engine. I tapped my fingers impatiently before stepping on the accelerator and drove to the bank as fast as I could.
“The bank looks elegant and lavish,” Harris complimented.
“No wonder it was a target,” I remarked, closing the car door.
We climbed up the short flight of stairs leading to the bank, walking in the opposite direction of the lunch crowd that was leaving for an early lunch.
Harris and I went up to the bank reception and asked for Chaya Kline, a bank teller who was the key witness to the bank robbery.
“I have already told the local police,” She looked at me worriedly.
“We just have to run through it again to make sure that all the facts are in check,” I replied, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“Two masked men walked into the building, waved their guns at us and asked us to get down. The security guard did not obey their instructions and was shot immediately. There was a moment of panic but the robbers came up to me and demanded me to let them into the bank vault. Reluctantly, I let them in but once I unlocked the vault, one of the robbers brought me outside while the other stayed in the vault.”
“Wait, so no one saw what the robbers did in the vault?” Harris cut the bank teller off.
“The robbers definitely did not want anyone to see what they are doing,” I commented, glancing up at Harris.
“Maybe it wasn’t the money they’re after.” I quipped.
“They were after documents, important documents.” He tipped his fedora in my direction. “You don’t know?”
I turned towards the shaken looking bank-teller, who was gripping the marble counter till her knuckles were white. Her unkempt hair was a mess, strands dropping out of a high bun perched on her head.
“I would like to ask, what else was there in the bank vault other than the money?”
“Some documents that we know nothing about, only the higher ups know. They disappeared after the robbery so we figured that the documents might not have existed. ”
Upon getting a potential new lead, Harris called our director, Harper Woolf, and she confirmed it. There were indeed documents stored in the vault.
I decided to ring Amber to give her a run-through of the new information we found. The phone kept ringing, before ending with the ‘Leave your voicemail after the beep’ in the creepy robotic voice.
“Damn it, Amber,” I said in frustration.
“She’s not picking up?” Harris asked.
I shook my head in disappointment.
“Maybe she’s busy with Lance, you never know,” Harris commented smugly.
I called Lance and he answered a few slurred vulgarities.
“Why didn’t Amber pick up? Never mind, Harris and I found out that the robbers were after some documents instead of the cash. Check out the documents that were stolen in the other three banks,” I quickly said.
“On it,” Lance replied.
“Don’t hang u-” before I could finish, Lance had already hung up.
I looked at Harris as he gave me a puffed-up look. I redialled Lance.
“Sorry about that,” Lance hurriedly said before I could tell him off.
“What have you found?” I said, trying to hold back my temper before I lashed out at him on the phone.
“Turns out the fourth bank stores their documents in the managers safe, which meant that the robber didn’t get what they wanted,” Lance said while typing.
“Great. You and Amber check out the fourth bank, there might be a slight chance that they will try again. I will meet you there later,” I said.
Lance and Amber piled into their car and headed to the fourth bank. Amber stepped onto the asphalt road and she noticed something was amiss. The bank was eerily quiet with no guards present. Lance approached the bank door with suspicion and suddenly, the bank doors opened swiftly. A lady wearing a black cap pulled over her face opened the door for them. Her sleeve slipped, revealing an intricate skull tattoo. Amber immediately recognised the tattoo from the bank’s surveillance footage and reached for her gun but was interrupted by gunfire outside the bank.
There were five masked men outside the bank firing in haphazard directions, sending civilians screaming in terror and running around, some stumbling over each other. Lance and Amber instinctively ducked behind the pillars of the bank and drew their guns. They watched as two suspects walked out of their sight and zoomed off in a Cadillac, leaving the five masked man to cover them as they escaped.
A repetitive buzzing notified Amber of her dropped phone, which lay about 5 feet away from her, vibrating crazily on the floor.
“Cover me,” she whispered in urgency, before ducking low to grab her phone and turn-tailing back to the shot-ridden pillar.
Amber immediately answered the call and was met with a string of expletives and phrases of how she should be more responsive.
“Bad timing, we are under fire,” Amber shouted into the phone, amidst the gunfire.
“What! What happened? Are you alright?” I exclaimed with absolute concern.
“We’re okay but there are five masked gunmen and our two suspects just fled. Our suspect list just got bigger,” Amber growled.
“Amber, stay safe. Harris and I are on the way right now.” I said trying to remain calm.
I hung up and found Harris and the bank teller staring at me.
“Lance and Amber are under attack. They need backup. We need to go. NOW.”
Harris shook hands with the bank teller, thanking her for the new lead before running down the stairs and hopped into the car. Harris switched the siren on and slammed on the accelerator before we zoomed off.
We weaved in and out of traffic and in no time, we were a block away from the bank. Harris and I slipped on our protective gears and put on our bulletproof vests, before opening the door and stepping out of the car cautiously. Two of the gunmen spotted us and immediately turned to fire at us. We ducked in time as the car’s windows exploded in a flurry of glass shards.
The gunshots died down shortly after. Harris shot one of the gunmen squarely in the shoulder while I carefully aimed my sniper rifle at one of the gunmen’s knee, and fired. He immediately dropped onto the floor, clutching his leg in pain. The other two gunmen were stunned but took cover while continuing to fire at us.
Soon, they ran out of ammo. They looked around helplessly as Lance and Harris cornered them. Not long after, they finally surrendered. Harris grabbed his handcuffs from his belt and handcuffed them.
The place was a huge mess, glass shards were everywhere and there were bullet holes in nearby cars and buildings. A few cars’ alarm can be heard from a distant.
Harris, Lance and I rushed to the bank while Amber stayed out to call the crime scene investigators and ambulance. Lance opened the bank doors for us only to see bodies sprawled on the floor, not moving.
“The bank robbers wanted to cover their tracks, thus leaving no witnesses of the failed robbery,” I predicted.
I entered the manager’s office only to see papers flying and the safe opened and emptied. This was a messy cover-up.
The crime scene investigators came and swept the place down for visible fingerprints, while the morticians covered the dead bodies sprawled over the marble floors with black body bags, before bringing them to the morgue.
We were back in the FBI headquarters reviewing the crime scene photographs of the fourth bank. The five gunmen had been identified as a previous group of bank robbers but the trail of the other two suspects went cold. There was a possibility that the two other suspects were new but the reason behind why the five gunmen would protect them was unclear.
“Elizabeth, Kellan Guthrie is in interrogation room 2. Harris, Mathias O’Brien is in interrogation room 3,” JJ informed us.
Harris and I walked to our respective interrogation rooms. Kellan Guthrie had a sling over his shoulders. I placed the case file on the cold, hard metallic table and sat down in front of him. I took a deep breath before starting.
“You should know the reason as to why you are here,” I said calmly.
“FBI can’t do their job and need me to help them and give up my boss? Impossible.” He said arrogantly, raising his eyebrows.
“Here’s the thing, you and your brothers will serve 6-7 years in jail, but if you assist us, your jail term will be much shorter,” I reasoned.
“I am not going to rat out my boss,” He told me straight in the face.
I slammed my case file close before going to interrogation room 3 to see Harris’s progress. Harris walked back and forth inside the room questioning the suspect when suddenly, he flared up and kicked the suspect’s injured leg.
I rushed into the room to prevent Harris from injuring him further and pulled him away. Interrogating the suspects did not bring us any closer to catching the robbers.
In the end, I returned to my cubicle and went over the crime scene photos again in case I missed anything.
“If only there was a way to identify the two suspects,” Amber mumbled to herself.
“Wait, there is. Didn’t you mention that the lady had a tattoo on her wrist?” I exclaimed, turning around to look at Amber.
“Yeah, why?” Amber looked at me confused.
“If the lady had been put into to prison before, there will be a way to trace her identity. Prisons always keep a record of inmates’ tattoos so if she had been to prison, the tattoo will be registered inside the system,” I explained.
“Okay okay, I will sketch out the tattoo right now,” Amber replied.
Amber ran to her desk to get a paper and pencil and the tattoo sketch was out in no time. I scanned the image into my computer and ran it through prison records. There was indeed a match and it belonged to Kourtney McCullough.
She was the leader of a drug ring and had no known accomplices which suggested that the man she was with was someone she had met during or after her prison sentence.
“Elizabeth, have you eaten your dinner?” Harris nagged.
“Not yet, why?”
“It’s close to 9pm. You’re going to get gastritis if you don’t eat.”
“I’m so close to identifying our two suspects.”
“Work comes first again. I am going down to get a quick bite. Salad?” Harris asked as he rolled his eyes.
I nodded while dialling the number of the prison warden who was in charge of Kourtney to know more about her. It was late but amazingly the prison warden picked up.
“She was very quiet and did not have many friends except maybe a month before her release, she met a man who I think was in for a robbery charge. They were quite close from what I know,” The prison warden told me
“Where can I find this man?” I asked.
“He was released two weeks ago, Pedro Lowe.” He replied almost immediately.
“Thank you so much for your time and help,” I politely said.
After I hung up, I thought to myself: The robberies started just around two weeks ago.
Harris came back up with a salad in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.
“Harris, I think we just identified our two suspects,” I told him as he placed the salad in front of me.
I was wolfing down my salad when my phone rang. It was the mortician, he wanted me in the morgue. After I hung up, I thanked Harris for the dinner, grabbed my bag and sprinted to the lift.
“So what did you find?” I asked curiously.
“I was extracting the bullets from your bank manager when I discovered this.” He said as he pointed to the tray beside the victim.
It was a crumpled piece of paper. He straightened it out onto the metal tray and it contained a location that fitted the torn paper perfectly. It’s like the manager tore the paper exactly to show that location.
I went back up to the office to check on JJ.
“JJ, have you found anything in common in all the stolen documents from the four banks?”
“Not yet,” she replied while flipping through a stack of papers.
“Could you check if Beacon city, Dutchess County, NY appeared in any of the documents?” I asked politely.
“How did you get this address? It is in all four banks stolen document record.” JJ questioned.
“The manager swallowed it,” I said almost immediately.
“The address is an abandoned warehouse that was once a drug ring,” JJ replied with a disgusted look on her face.
“I will check it out with Harris,” I told her.
“Elizabeth, be careful,” JJ said. The word ‘concern’ was written all over her face.
I skedaddled out of the meeting room and went to get Harris while calling for police backup. I walked past Harris’s desk and tapped him on his shoulders.
“Let’s go,” I whispered.
Harris got up from his desk and fixed his tie before following me down to the car park. I took the wheel and drove to the warehouse.
I parked the car outside the warehouse and waited for backup. I stifled a yawn as I checked my watch. It was 3am. The warehouse was a wreck. It was rain-rotted. The doors were rusty and they creaked as the cold wind blew. All of the windows around the warehouse were shattered, rats could be seen scrambling in and out of the cracks in the walls. The roof sagged and the door seemed to hang to its hinges at a weird angle. It was definitely a nasty sight.
I grew impatient and got out of the car. Harris followed suit. The silent night was broken by noises coming from the warehouse.
I looked at Harris and we decided to act now. The doors gave way when Harris kicked it open. We drew our guns and held our torches before entering. As we entered the warehouse cautiously, an oppressive odour met us. I shone my torch around the warehouse when suddenly I spotted two dark silhouettes running and we instinctively gave chase.
When we were nearing them, the two split ways. Harris followed the woman while I followed the man. I followed him and we went out the back of the warehouse which led to an alley. I could see that the sky was brightening. That was when I came face to face Harris. I saw the man coming out from behind the dustbin right behind Harris. I raised my gun and pointed it at the man, expecting Harris to figure out when suddenly Harris did the same. I was confused but I trusted my gut by shooting the man behind Harris.
Two gunshots sounded and there were cries of pain. Both of us were stunned as we instantly turned around. The two suspects were behind each of us lying on the floor in pain.
It took us a moment to realise what had happened and the police sirens jerked me back into reality.
Police arrested them and brought them back to the headquarters while Harris and I went to explore the warehouse. Inside, there were boxes of stolen documents and we brought them back as evidence for the trial.