Harm's Way

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

On what seemed like an ordinary morning, Carrie finds herself in the crossfire of a violent bank robbery. As the horrible scene plays out before her experienced eyes, she must find a way to survive the encounter, and save the day.

1

 

 

“Get on the floor. This is a fucking robbery,” the deep voice boomed across the Victorian high-ceiling bank, sending the customers and staff scattering to the tiles.

Screams echoed as they dropped, each cowering at the sight of a man in a black balaclava standing in front of the wide-open double doors, a sawn-off shotgun pointed toward the furthest of two lines. Open-mouthed, they looked on, stunned as more men with covered heads piled in.

Each of the gang carried a weapon, either a sawn-off or an old revolver. Fanning out across the room, their eyes and lips were the only part of their faces seen through the woollen face coverings.

After a couple of seconds, the shocked customers were down on their knees or flat on their bellies, peering up, their expressions full of alarm.

The first man to enter called out clipped commands, referring to each of the men by the colours of their shirts. His gun quickly turned to a young woman still standing. With long strawberry blonde hair, an athletic figure in a tight-fitting black top and jeans, he stared, tipping his head to the side. She seemed to be an island of calm in the chaos.

Only as he strode towards her did she raise her hands in the air, but no higher than her shoulders.

“I said get on the floor,” the guy spat, his volume growing as he jabbed the shotgun toward her whilst flicking the safety on the side.

Carrie Harris glanced away, noting that each of the men wore a different brightly coloured t-shirt and carried large black rucksacks sagging on their backs. 

A gunshot jolted the air, sending plaster raining down from the ceiling and she bent her knees, lowering to the tiled floor whilst watching his every move.

He looked away only as her stomach touched the floor, calling out to the tellers behind the bulletproof glass to open the security door.

The room fell silent, the electric atmosphere only broken by the agitated voice of another of the group rushing toward the protective glass. 

Carrie watched the man in jeans and a yellow t-shirt, the clothes matching the weather outside, even if the woollen face-covering didn’t. He tapped the end of his sawn-off against the armoured door to the side of the thick partition.

“Get up,” he yelled. “Every moment this door is closed, I’ll execute one of these cunts,” he screamed, glancing to those at his feet whilst sweeping the gun across each of them in turn. “Who are you going to kill first?” he shouted, glaring at the teller who stood behind the glass.

Carrie strained to look up, raising from the floor as much as she dared, but she could only see the wide-eyed black female holding her hands up as she shook her head.

Yellow Shirt opened his mouth and mimicked the sound of a gameshow buzzer. “Wrong fucking answer.” Then he bent down, grabbing the collar of the man on the floor, pulling the bald, overweight guy up by his casual shirt to his feet.

“One last chance,” he called out, but sighed and shook his head at the sight of the woman’s grey trousers darkening around the crotch. He turned to the bald man, pushing him away, watching him stagger back before raising the gun and pulling the trigger.

 

2

 

 

The heavy security door unlocked almost before the bald guy hit the tiles, blood rolling down the glass partition as fresh screams filled the cavernous space.

The ashen-faced teller stepped away, nearly collapsing back as Yellow Shirt pushed it open.

Carrie watched, transfixed, the echo of the shot still ringing in her ears, not able to understand how the situation had escalated so quickly. This wasn’t what she’d expected when the men had stormed in.

With more care than before, she looked around the room, peering in turn at each of the covered faces.

Two of the men, one with a purple shirt, the other blue, kept their aim on the customers whilst another pair stood by the windows, keeping watch. The last man, his red tight-fitting shirt showing off his muscles as he waited by the doors he’d locked behind him, looked at each of the customers prone on the floor, lingering on a man lying next to Carrie before squinting and turning away. 

Three others followed Yellow Shirt past the door the bald guy had paid the high price to open, one of them staying behind, rifling through the trays and bagging notes whilst the rest headed out the back, dragging a cashier with them.

Raised voices echoed from out of sight, the words dulling with every moment. Carrie knew nothing about the detailed workings of a high street bank, but wondered what security measures, time locks and other sophisticated controls were in place to stop them taking more than the small change from each of the two open stations.

The mood in the main room changed seconds later when the first sirens called.

The man Carrie had picked out as the leader, the one who seemed to like the sound of his own voice, shouted for a report from Orange Shirt. The response was immediate.

“Two cop cars in from the west.” The voice remained calm, his old black revolver pointing toward the floor.

“Shit,” the leader huffed. “Defensive positions. Purple and Blue, split these up,” he said, sweeping the gun across the floor. “Orange, get those windows covered.”

Each man leapt into action as their code name was called. The guy in the orange shirt shrugged off his rucksack and, after unzipping, pulled out a roll of what looked like black clingfilm. 

Before Carrie could see what he would do with it, a pair of legs in jeans filled her view, a boot slapping at the side of her head.

“Get the fuck up,” he screamed, before moving to the next person to her right, a woman in her forties and doing the same to her, his voice rising in volume as he went along the line. 

With the room darkening with every moment, and the stubby barrel of a shotgun jabbing in her side, Carrie rushed past the bloodied door, following an outstretched arm and leading the others out the back into a corridor that smelt of stale coffee.

Arriving at a closed door on their right, the voice boomed for her to stop; then a man pushed past her, pushing it open. After a cursory search, he backed out, grabbing Carrie by the arm and shoving her inside and down to the carpet, the others following behind.

“Stay the fuck down and throw your phones over here,” he screamed, spit spraying from his mouth as he pointed to the corner of the room.

To the sound of a dulled shot, Carrie, on all fours, rushed to a space, then turned with her back to cardboard boxes lining the walls and tossed her iPhone as instructed.

 

 

 

3

 

 

Now barely able to hear the sirens, Carrie watched Blue Shirt upend a small box, leaflets spilling out across the floor, before throwing the phones in. At the sound of a scuffle somewhere at his back, he scowled at each of the people in the room, then slammed the door behind him as he left.

With the boxes against the walls, the space left was barely the size of a lift, with no windows and a single bright strip light hanging from the ceiling.

Carrie glanced to her side at a young woman dressed in a white blouse and skirt who’d stood a few places ahead of her in the queue. Her whole body shook, her face red as tears smudged dark mascara down her cheeks.

“It’ll be okay,” Carrie said, reaching out to touch the woman’s upper arm; but instead of taking comfort, the woman glared back.

“Really? That’s not how it looks to me,” she said, spit flying from her mouth as she burst into tears before pushing her balled fists to her eyes.

Carrie pulled her hand back and glanced to the others.

There were five of them in total, each squeezed in along the wall opposite the door. To the left, a man in a three-piece suit and a blue lanyard draped around his neck, squinted back as if trying to size her up.

An older man sat between the suit and Carrie, his hair mostly grey with the occasional streak of white. He wore a tweed jacket, green corduroy trousers and highly polished shoes. His wrinkled eyelids were half closed as he stared at the wall.

To the far right was an older woman shaking her head. “She’s right. You can’t know that,” she said, her tone sharp.

“I can,” Carrie replied. 

Each of them turned her way, glaring wide-eyed as if with a sudden hope. 

“The police will get control. They’ll promise them everything they want. Money. Transport. They’ll say what they need to give their specialist teams time for a rescue. That’s of course if they can’t negotiate for them to give up.”

A volley of questions came from each side and Carrie pushed her hands out, but it was the old man’s voice that continued when the others quietened. “But they’ve already killed.”

Carrie nodded. “Sure, but I think that was just a mistake.”

“A mistake?” the woman at Carrie’s side shouted.

Carrie pushed her index finger to her mouth, then spoke quietly.

“I mean it might have been just a bad apple jacked up on adrenaline. The rest seem disciplined. Ex-military perhaps. Anyway, the cops won’t know about the dead guy yet.”

The old man nodded, for the first time turning towards her.

“The guy in charge seems to keep a level head,” Carrie added. “He’ll know the moment they start popping off shots…” The young woman gasped. “…I mean, if the police see them losing control they’ll react sooner, and no one wants that.”

“I think she’s right. It makes sense,” the old man said.

The woman’s sobs died back. 

Carrie was about to speak when a frantic voice came from the corridor.

“There’s no fucking money. We can’t get into the vault.” It sounded as if they were the other side of the door. “We’re fucked.” 

They each strained to hear what a second voice was saying, then flinched back as the words become clear with the door flying open. It was Yellow Shirt.

“Let’s make a fucking statement.”

The woman at Carrie’s side screamed, pushing her hands out as the guy who’d already killed locked eyes with her, clamping his hands around her wrists and pulling her up before throwing her over his shoulder.

“This one will do.”

As the door slammed shut, the remaining four stared at the space she’d left, each open-mouthed and stunned to silence, forced to listen to the sobs and high-pitched calls from the corridor getting quieter, until a loud boom vibrated through the walls.

 

 

4

 

 

“We’re fucked,” the older woman said as the boom died back.

No one replied, the four of them staring forward as if trying to listen to what was happening in the corridor.

“Perhaps not,” Carrie said after a moment. They each turned her way, their brows raised. “I have skills.”

The suit spoke. “How, might I ask, are your skills going to help?”

Carrie smiled. “I know karate,” she said, flashing her eyebrows. Their shoulders slumped. “No. Hear me out,” she quickly added. “I’ll stand behind the door and overpower the next one to come through, then take the gun. I used to live on a farm, so I know how to handle firearms.”

They each shook their heads as the old man and the woman looked away.

The suit opened his mouth as if to speak, but stopped when another shot vibrated through the walls.

When he eventually spoke, his voice was very quiet. “You’re just going to get us killed. There’s nothing of you,” he said, looking her up and down.

Carrie raised her right brow, but let her expression relax when she saw the man nervously shaking his foot.

“What do you suggest?” she said, nodding his way.

He held her gaze, his eyes narrowing as he lifted his head.

“We wait and let the police handle it.”

“That’s a great plan,” Carrie replied, nodding. “Unless you’re next in line.” She turned, glancing over her shoulder to the space where the sobbing woman had been sitting.

He shook his head as she turned to him, then she settled herself with her back to the boxes and stared at the door.

It was a long moment before the old guy spoke. “It’s the silence that gets me.”

Carrie nodded, speaking quietly. “What do you do?” she said, looking at the older him. 

He turned her way, staring at her with a blank expression. 

“I mean for work,” Carrie added. “You said you didn’t like the silence, so I’m talking.”

He looked away but spoke in a soft voice. “British Army. Major when I retired two years ago.”

“What branch?” the man in the suit said. 

“Royal Artillery,” he replied. “Have you served?”

The suit shook his head. “I work for a defence contractor and we’re linked with several active units.”

“What kind of projects do you work on?” the major said, twisting around to better face him.

The suited man glanced to Carrie before looking to the major. “Most of our work is with the special forces so I can’t talk about it.” He raised his brow as if with an apology.

The major shrugged, nodding as he twisted around to Carrie. “And you?” 

Carrie thought about the question, not speaking before the major did. 

“You sounded like you know a little about what’s going on here.” 

Carrie smiled. “I’m an emergency call handler for the Met Police.”

The guy squinted just a little, then relaxed as he turned to the woman who blurted out: 

“I’m a fucking admin assistant if it makes any difference.” She turned away, looking toward the boxes to her right.

Another boom ran through them like an electric shock.

Carrie looked at her watch, then spoke softly. “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I think they’re killing someone every five minutes.”

 

 

 

 

5

 

 

The door opened again, the four minutes of silence timed by Carrie, and the bloodshot eyes behind the balaclava scanned each of them in turn. The woman to the right buried her head in her hands and sobbed. The major raised his head, looking the guy in the eye whilst the suit stared everywhere but the splash of blood across the yellow shirt.

Carrie peered at the man in the suit, watching the realisation when Yellow Shirt stepped towards him. 

His eyes shooting wide, Suit pushed his hands out in front of his face. “No. No. No.”

Despite his protests, his flailing arms were no match for the powerful hands of Yellow Shirt, who raised him off his feet as Suit squealed incoherent words. Only as they neared the door could they make out what he was saying. 

“I’ve got lots of money, more than you’d get from this bank.”

The man holding him stopped and turned his head, his eyes narrowing as he contemplated if he’d heard right.

“What are you talking about?” Yellow Shirt’s voice was slow and deep.

“I’m rich. I can give you the money you need if you don’t kill me. Take one of them instead.”

The major blustered and the woman tried pushing herself back with her feet as if willing herself to disappear into the wall of boxes. Carrie remained calm, watching the eyes through the woollen head covering.

“Bullshit,” she said, her voice even.

“Don’t listen to her,” the suited man replied. “She was going to take you on.” 

The man in the mask turned to her, his lips curling and then turned back just as Carrie spoke.

“He’s a contractor. He’s lying to save himself. He can’t have that much money.”

“No. No. No. I have…” he said, gulping for air. “That’s not my only job,” he added, his face going purple from the strain.

“Prove it,” Carrie said, the guy behind the mask turning back to her, his eyes still narrowed. “Why not give him back his phone so he can log into his bank and show you. He must be making it up.”

“Shut up,” Yellow Shirt said, glaring at Carrie, but he pushed the guy back to the floor; he landed on the carpet with a great huff of air. The door closed behind him.

“Fucking coward,” the old woman screamed out. 

Carrie kept quiet.

A moment later, the door opened again; it was Yellow Shirt with the leader of the gang at his back,carrying the cardboard box of phones which he tipped at the suit’s feet.

“Which one is yours?” he said, pushing the shotgun right into the suit’s face.

The suit rocked forward on all fours and swept his hand across the pile, scattering Nokias and Motorolas to the side, then jabbing at each of the home buttons of the remaining iPhones. As the fourth phone lit up with a bright red Ferrari on the screen, the suit pulled it up, with Carrie watching intently as he tapped at the screen, not bothering to hide the digits of the pin.

All in the room watched as he swiped the screen to the right, then to the left twice before tapping an icon at the top. An app Carrie didn’t recognise loaded onto the screen before prompting for a username and password.

The suit looked up as if suddenly feeling self-conscious, but as Yellow Shirt pushed the sawn-off back to his head, Suit hurriedly tapped at the keyboard on the screen. 

Carrie’s eyes widened as she saw the long line of numbers, then she leapt forward, grabbing the phone from his hands. 

Yellow Shirt flinched at her speed, but instead of hitting her with the butt of the gun, he stood up straight.

“Got ya,” Carrie said as she clutched the phone, a smile lighting up her face.

 

 

6

 

 

The suit’s eyes shot wide as his gaze followed the phone, then blinking furiously with Carrie’s words. He watched, dumbstruck, as the major stood, the other woman wiping away the tears from her cheeks as she got to her feet. His gaze followed them as without a word, they stepped to the doorway, the gang leader moving out of the way to let them pass.

Suit shook his head from side to side, his brow furrowing as he glanced down to the pile of phones and then back to Carrie, then to the two men as they pulled up the woollen face covers from their chins, revealing sweating, weathered faces.

The leader spoke, looking at Carrie. “The balaclavas were a bad call. I should have gone for the Thatcher masks,” he said, shaking his head.

Carrie snorted. “I owe your team a drink next time I’m in Hereford, Sergeant.” She didn’t take her gaze from the phone’s screen, tapping away as she spoke, only looking up to the sound of the tie-wraps tightening around the suit’s clasped hands.

“How long have you known?” he said, his voice quivering. 

Carrie raised her brow. “How long you’ve been selling national secrets? How long have we known you’ve put our guys on the ground in harm’s way?” she replied, but didn’t wait for him to nod. “We’ve known for a while, Mr Brookes. And just so we’re clear, the last few batches of data were straight from our team’s imaginations.”

“Then why the charade?” Brookes asked, his eyes narrowed as his voice settled.

“We didn’t know where the money went,” Carrie said, nodding toward the door, following as the sergeant pulled him up by his wrists, dragging him along the corridor and not slowing for his pained complaints. 

Yellow Shirt called out. “Stand down. Operation concluded,” just as they entered the main room of the bank.

“Of course, there were a few loose ends we needed to deal with,” Carrie said, watching as the men around the room removed their head coverings.

“What loose ends?” Brookes asked, his gaze intent on the bald guy who was standing and stretching his arms out from side to side, still wearing the blood-stained shirt.

“Good job everyone,” Carrie said in a raised voice, then watched as the operator in the red shirt still held his shotgun across his chest, the balaclava over his head. 

The sergeant turned her way, holding Brookes’ wrist but alternated his look between her and the guy still with the face-covering.

“No matter how hard we looked, we couldn’t quite figure out who the middleman was," Carrie said. “All we knew was it was someone who had dealings with you and had the contacts. Someone in the SF community unfortunately. We got it down to a particular troop.” She stared at the man still in the mask.

“Corporal. Take off your fucking balaclava,” the sergeant called out to Red Shirt, then looked to Carrie through narrowed eyes. “What exactly are you saying, Agent Harris?” he said in a slow voice.

She didn’t reply, instead raised her brow as she looked at the man in the red shirt staring back. Eventually he nodded, moving his free hand and pulling up the mask to reveal a square-jawed face.

Carrie saw the Browning pistol appear in his hand, after snatching it from the small of his back, but before his shotgun clattered to the tiles, she shoved Brookes by his shoulder, knocking him into the sergeant as Red Shirt fired two shots.

 

 

 

7

 

 

The double bang was so much louder than the shotgun blanks fired whilst they were in the small room, the sound adding to her pain as her shoulder hit the tiled floor. Still, she managed to keep her eyes open, watching the corporal running toward the back of the bank.

Scrambling to her feet, she glanced at the two men on the floor, Brookes with his hands still bound and a bloody hole in his shirt at the shoulder. He floundered on top of the sergeant, who reached out through the tangle with a Browning in his hand. 

Carrie grabbed it and ran past the security partition.

Retracing the corridor, the corporal was already out of sight, giving her a chance to pull back the pistol’s slid, tilting the gun to the side and glancing down to check the chambered round. With a flick of the safety, she felt the sudden rush of fresh air, quickly followed by the fire escape alarm.

The call of the klaxon spurred her on and she was soon along the corridor and into the dingy alley behind the bank. With the corporal nowhere to be seen, she pushed away her surprise at the lack of police cordon, reminding herself that although it had all felt so real, the whole event was a facade.

She peered to the right and there he was, running so quickly and not bothering to glance over his shoulder for fear of losing speed. He was too fast and would get away, but Carrie knew these streets, having poured over the maps in her own preparation after she told the troop commander not to give her any details of the setup so she could act as naturally as possible. Her only input was the location and which men to include on the operation.

Her planning told her that when he came out onto the high street, his only choice would be a left turn; on the right was only a dead end with an empty unit.

Pulling open an ajar loading door a few shops along, she barely slowed as she ran through the unlit storeroom, past stacked boxes and crates and was soon out into the brightly lit stationary shop, holding the gun under her arm to hide it from those who didn’t need to get involved.

Soon bursting out onto the main street, there he was on her right, his eyes wide as he realised she had him trapped, having failed to put in the level of preparation his regiment were famed for.

Screams called out in the thinly populated pedestrian street between the shops as the corporal raised the gun, but Carrie never gave him a chance, her weapon already aimed at the centre mass of his red shirt, the single bullet heading at supersonic speed before his gun could even level out.

Holding her weapon and his, she stood over the unmoving body and looked into the man’s eyes, the lids fixed open. His life had gone, that was clear, the screams echoing around the parade of shops replaced with the sound of heavy footsteps behind her.

“Are you okay, Agent Harris?” the sergeant’s deep voice came from her side. 

Carrie looked at her arm, seeing for the first time the blood which had already slowed its drip along her skin. 

She looked back down to the body and nodded.

“Of course. Mission accomplished.”

 

 


Submitted: April 27, 2022

© Copyright 2022 GJ Stevens. All rights reserved.

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