Chapter One (Excerpt)
By Cathy Pegau
One of the three masked men raised his rifle and shot a short burst of energy pulses into the ceiling of the First Colonial Bank of Nevarro. Fft-fft-fft-fft-fft.
Plaster hit the wood floor in a staccato patter louder than the shots themselves. Ozone, dust, and cries of alarm filled the air.
The shooter swung the muzzle toward me. “I said, heads down, lady.”
Gut tight, I complied, imitating the others caught inside the bank when the black-clad men had entered just before closing time. It wasn’t often that I stared into the deadly, dark hole of a weapon. I don’t recommend it as a regular activity.
“Everyone stay down and stay quiet,” he ordered. “We’ll be outta here in two minutes and y’all can go home alive.”
One of the men in black escorted the teller and the manager to the back of the bank where the vault was kept. The guard, an elderly couple, and me and my partner, Calvin, lay on our bellies, hands on the backs of our heads and cheeks to the rough wood. The elderly couple had come in to check on their savings.
Cal and I had come in to rob the place ourselves.
Despite the pulse pistol nestled under my clothes, against the small of my back, and Cal’s gun tucked in a holster covered by his right pant leg, neither of us was inclined to play hero.
Cal turned his head away from the shooter to glare at me. “Only you, Liv,” he whispered fiercely, “would pick the exact same day to rob a bank as real criminals.”
Real criminals? I opened my mouth to loudly voice my indignation, but snapped it shut. I’d already drawn enough attention to myself. Instead, I returned his harsh whisper. “We are real criminals. This is just poor timing.”
Cal and I had been planning this job for a while. The Exeter Mining Company deposited its employees’ pay during an undisclosed period each month to avoid such actions as, say, robbery. Cal had finagled the schedule and amounts from a friend. Seventy-five thousand in cold, hard cash had been delivered to this bank in Milchner the day before. Many small-op, contract miners preferred hard money to electronic transfer-fewer slipped digits and short changings to worry about.
We chose this branch because it was the most remote, the least secure, and had the fewest personnel. Despite its lower take than a branch in one of the larger cities, like Pembroke, it was the perfect hit.
Apparently the competition thought so too.
“We should have done this sooner,” Cal grumbled.
“It’s not my fault my car died,” I said.
This had not been one of my luckier days, or months, or years, for that matter. The job was supposed to go down last month, but fast transportation was a must. Cal only had access to a slower model Airvan. A week before the original hit date, the lifters on my somewhat newer, sleeker, but more sensitive LAC-light air car-went off line. Part of this take was earmarked to pay that bill. Damn the void.
And while PubTrans was an efficient mode for us working class folks of Pembroke City, it was not the ideal get away system. Besides, PubTrans didn’t run to way-the-hell-out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere towns like Milchner.
Before Cal could remind me we’d had ample opportunity in prior months, the black barrel of the second gunman’s rifle tapped down on his temple. Cal’s eyes widened. The breath caught in my chest.
Text Copyright © 2011 by Cathy Pegau
Cover Art Copyright © 2011 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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