Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(17) by Jennifer Estep
“Well, then, that’s settled,” Finn chirped, either oblivious to or ignoring the tension between us. “Let me just take a quick lap around the room to say good-bye to some folks, and then we can head out—”
The noises were faint and muffled, no louder than glasses breaking against the floor, but I still recognized the sounds of gunfire. Owen, Finn, and Bria did too, and the four of us whirled around, turning toward the front of the lobby.
The doors slammed open, and several men ran inside, each clutching a gun.
The gunmen stormed into the lobby, firing their weapons into the air.
Bullets zinged skyward, punching into the chandeliers and shattering the crystals. The lights flickered, sharp shards rained down, and screams, shrieks, and shouts filled the air as people dived for cover under the tables and chairs scattered around the lobby. The bartenders ducked down behind the tellers’ counter, while the waiters hit the floor, dropping trays of food and drinks and causing even more loud crashes and bangs to ring out. In an instant, the elegant scene had disintegrated into complete chaos.
Finn grabbed Bria and forced her down to the floor, even though my sister was cursing and trying to yank her gun out of her purse the whole time. Owen did the same to me. Deirdre dropped to the floor beside me, with Tucker on her other side.
The gunfire seemed to go on forever, although it couldn’t have lasted more than thirty seconds. Finally, the crack-crack-cracks faded away. People stopped screaming, and a tense, heavy silence descended over the lobby.
“This is a robbery!” the lead gunman yelled. “Nobody moves and nobody dies!”
Everyone did as he demanded and stayed completely still as the other gunmen spread out through the lobby. There were six of them, all wearing black clothes and ski masks and all regular-sized men.
The lead gunman, however, was a giant, although his seven-foot frame was lean and lanky instead of thick and bulky like most giants. He swiveled to the side, turning toward me, and I realized that he had pushed up the sleeves of his black shirt, revealing a rune tattoo on his left forearm. I was huddled on my knees, so I raised my head and inched to my left, trying to get a better view. His tattoo looked like . . . a snake wrapped around and biting into . . . something. I squinted. Maybe a snake biting into a dollar sign? Classy.
Once the giant gunman was certain that he had control of the lobby, he glanced down at his watch. I was no watch connoisseur, not like Finn was, but it was obviously expensive, given the silverstone band and blue stones ringing the face. Sapphires, maybe, or blue diamonds. My eyes narrowed. What kind of bank robber wore a watch that flashy?
“Two minutes, gentlemen. Starting now.” The giant jerked his head at the others.
Three of the robbers stepped forward, reached into their pockets, and pulled out black garbage bags, which they snapped open. The other three robbers remained spread out through the lobby, their guns sweeping back and forth over the crowd, ready to cut down anyone who thought about playing hero.
“Now, be good little girls and boys, and hand over your jewelry, watches, phones, and wallets,” the giant growled, “and we’ll be out of here before your fancy snacks get too cold.”
He laughed, but it was a harsh, mocking sound. He paused, then raised his gun and fired off another few shots into the ceiling, just because he could. Almost everyone screamed and ducked down a little more, which made him laugh even louder. The giant might claim that he didn’t want any trouble, but he wouldn’t be upset by any either. We’d be lucky if he and his crew left without killing anyone.
The giant was only about ten feet away from me, so I could easily use my Stone magic to harden my skin, then leap to my feet, sprint forward, and tackle him. But he might get off a shot or two before I reached him, killing someone in the crowd, and the rest of the robbers were too far away for me to take down—yet.
I looked at Bria, who shook her head. Owen and Finn shook their heads too, all of us realizing that we’d have to bide our time. Or, at worst, let the robbers escape and go after them later.
The giant checked his watch again. “Sixty seconds, gentlemen!”
The three robbers moved through the lobby quickly and efficiently to collect the partygoers’ valuables. None of them so much as glanced at the three cash cages behind the tellers’ counter. The robbers must have realized that someone was sure to have seen them shoot the bank guards outside and storm in here, which meant that they didn’t have time to crack open the cages before the cops arrived. Trying would only get them caught.
“Thirty seconds, gentlemen!”
This was a well-trained, professional crew, not some smash-and-grabbers who’d gotten above their raisings, as Jo-Jo might say. They knew exactly what they were doing. Which made me all the more curious about why they would rob First Trust, especially on this particular night.
Sure, the jewelry, phones, and watches would be a nice haul but hard to unload. Besides, if you were planning a robbery, why not hit the bank during the day and grab as much cash as possible from the tellers and cages? Or why not sneak in at night, disable the security system, and take a crack at Big Bertha, the basement vault?
Cold, hard cash was much easier to spend than trash bags full of rings, watches, and necklaces. If they’d wanted maximum profit for minimum risk, the robbers should have come up with another plan—a better plan.
Finn often claimed that I was the most paranoid person ever. He might have been right about that, but I couldn’t help but think that the robbery had everything to do with Deirdre Shaw.
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