Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(68) by Jennifer Estep
I stared out over the blood, bodies, and destruction, turning things over and over in my mind. The longer I studied the scene, the more cold worry pooled in the pit of my stomach. Deirdre wasn’t done yet. She hadn’t gone to all this trouble for an unsuccessful heist. And why worm her way back into Finn’s life if she’d been planning to hit the museum all along? He didn’t have any real connection to the museum. From what I could tell, Finn hadn’t been anywhere near Briartop when the robbery attempt had gone down. Bria would have told me if he’d been here.
While I was waiting for Bria and Xavier to finish their conversation with the other cop, I took off my black gloves, pulled out my phone, and called Finn again, but he still didn’t answer. Another brick of worry piled onto the growing stack in my stomach.
Something was wrong.
Bria left Xavier and the other cop and walked back over to me.
“Sorry that took so long,” she said. “Debbie was telling us that the security company has transported the jewelry to the secondary location.”
“Secondary location? Why didn’t you guys just leave it here and stick it in the museum’s vault?”
Bria shrugged. “Since Clementine Barker managed to crack the museum vault back during the summer, the company insuring the exhibit insisted on it. That in case of a robbery attempt, all the jewelry would immediately be taken to a more secure location for safekeeping. At least until everything could be reassessed and the museum and exhibit reopened. They briefed Xavier, me, and all the detectives on it several times and even did a couple of dry runs.”
And just like that, everything made sense.
Deirdre coming back to Ashland, cozying up to Finn, putting the jewelry exhibit together. Part of me marveled at her plan. It was far more clever, devious, and intricate than I’d expected. Fletcher had been right all along. Deirdre Shaw was definitely one of the most dangerous people I’d ever met. Even worse, she’d been absolutely right when she’d mocked me about not seeing the big picture until it was too late.
An icy fist of dread clenched tightly around my heart. “Where’s the secondary location? Where did they take the jewelry?” I already knew the answer, but I needed her to confirm it.
“First Trust bank. It’s one of the most secure facilities in Ashland.” She frowned. “Why do you care so much about where the jewelry went—”
Bria’s eyes widened, and her face paled.
“That’s Finn’s bank.”
“That’s Finn’s bank,” Bria whispered again, her mind stuck on that one terrible, horrifying fact.
I nodded, my mouth set into a grim slash. This had been Deirdre’s master plan all along. Santos must have told her that there was no way to heist the jewelry from Briartop, that there were too many guards and too many cops at the museum. So the two of them had sent those men in to die, all with the ulterior motive of getting the jewelry moved somewhere else—somewhere better.
Fletcher had a saying: Why steal one million when you could steal two? In this case, why just rob the museum when First Trust was a veritable treasure trove of jewelry, cash, and other valuables? But Deirdre had needed an inside man at the bank to make her plan work. Someone high up on the food chain. Someone above suspicion. Someone to squire her around and give her tours and let her into the basement vault so that she could memorize the security setups and pass all that info on to Santos.
Finn was that inside man. He just didn’t realize it.
Bria stared at me, putting Deirdre’s plan together the same way I had. With one thought, we both bolted out of the rotunda.
Xavier had left to check on something elsewhere in the museum, and I didn’t see him among the throngs of cops and guards Bria and I darted past. There was no time to track down the giant and tell him what was going on. Every minute, every second, counted now.
Even though Finn might already be dead.
That icy fist squeezed my heart again, but I forced myself to push the thought away. Finn wasn’t dead. He couldn’t be.
He just couldn’t be.
Right before Bria and I reached the front doors of the museum, I grabbed her arm and forced her to slow down to a fast walk.
“Easy,” I murmured. “We don’t want to attract any unwanted attention. We need to get out of here as quietly as possible.”
Bria didn’t like it, but she nodded and matched her pace to mine. We skirted around more clusters of cops, and she stabbed her finger to the right toward the parking lots.
“This way,” she said. “My car’s this way.”
“Right behind you.”
Still keeping to our fast walk, both of us weaved around the other cops and then ducked under the yellow crime-scene tape that had been strung up around the museum perimeter.
Bria broke free of the crowd, her strides getting shorter and quicker until she was almost running again. She couldn’t help herself, and neither could I. The two of us darted around patrol cars with flashing lights and raced over to her sedan. We jumped in, and she cranked the engine and zoomed out of the parking lot. I grabbed my phone and tried Finn again.
“How long ago did the security company arrive at the bank with the jewelry?” I asked.
“The armored truck had just pulled up to the bank when I told you,” Bria said, glancing at the dashboard clock. “Ten twenty-three now. So maybe five minutes ago?”
I cursed. Santos and his crew had probably already taken down the armored-truck guards, along with those at the bank. The heist was in full swing now.
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