Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sample Todd's New Novel: A Shot After Midnight

Here's a short sample of my new novel A Shot After Midnight.  I hope you enjoy it. ~TEC


Moon & Son Publishing (2012)
PROLOGUE

May 25, 1971
                “60 . . . 80 . . . and 100,” Linda Darby said as she finished counting the money out to the customer at her teller window.  As Lucille Garvey counted the money back to her, Linda winked at the little boy sitting on the counter beside his grandmother.  Grinning broadly,  he looked at Linda expectantly with his huge blue eyes. She knew what he wanted, but Lucille had raised him to be polite.
                When Lucille finished counting, she said,  “Thank you, Linda.”
                “Would somebody like a cherry sucker?” Linda asked the little boy.
                His face fell slightly.
                “Or would you rather have a grape one?”
                He beamed.  Linda knew his favorite was grape.
                “Yes, please!” he said.
                She handed him sucker, which he quickly unwrapped and stuck into his mouth.
                “I’m gonna be three tomorrow!” he announced around the sucker.
                “No, you’re going to be four tomorrow,” his grandmother said with a laugh. 
                “Will you come to my party, Miss Darby?”
                “That sounds like fun, but I have to work tomorrow.”
                As  Lucille turned to leave, Linda glanced at a group of men who’d just entered the bank.  When she looked at them again, she couldn’t believe what she saw. 
                It took the shrill scream of a woman in the lobby to give it reality.  Three men, wearing ski masks, were spreading out across the lobby and coming towards the teller windows.  One had a shotgun and a canvas bag slung over his shoulder.  Lucille Garvey backed up to the window and held the little boy tightly as the masked men quickly approached.
                The one with the shotgun walked towards Linda’s end of the counter, but he didn’t seem to be paying particular attention to her.  Linda froze before remembering the silent alarm button under the edge of the cashier’s station.  In the fifteen years she’d been working as the head cashier at the First National Bank of Calloway, nobody had every robbed it.  She’d always known it could happen, but after so many years, she’d come to believe it wouldn’t.
                “Hands up!  This is a robbery!  Stay calm, and nobody gets hurt!” the man with the shotgun bellowed.
                There were a few more screams, but the chaos quickly subsided as everyone in the bank realized there was no way to escape.
                When Linda slowly moved her hand towards the silent alarm switch, the man with the shotgun jumped right in front of her—the barrel of the shotgun hovering in her face. 
                “I said hands up!” he shouted again right at her. 
                She looked down the barrel of the shotgun, her hand frozen just inches from the silent alarm.  A tremendous explosion boomed through the bank as he fired the shotgun into the air, bringing down plaster and other debris from the ceiling.  Linda’s heart leaped into her throat.  Suddenly finding the ability to move, she raised her hands and stepped back from the counter. 
                “Everyone, take a step back from the drawers and don’t trip the alarms,” Linda ordered her cashiers.  She looked at the man and said firmly, “We’re going to cooperate with you fully.  I promise you that.  Take what you want, then leave.”
                “Very good,” the man with the shotgun said through his mask. 
                He pumped the empty shell out of the shotgun, took another from his pocket, and pushed it into the receiver. He was obviously the leader of the group since neither of the other two men had spoken. 
                “We don’t mean anybody any harm, but it would be a mistake to trigger a silent alarm,” he said.
                Linda shook her head.  “We won’t do that.”
                Once all the people in the bank had their hands up and the cashiers had stepped back from their stations, the leader handed the shotgun to another robber, who covered the cashiers and the customers in the lobby as the third robber jumped over the far end of the teller’s counter.  He began cleaning out the drawers, stuffing the cash into a pillowcase. 
                It was obvious to Linda they knew what they were doing, and as long as everyone cooperated, the men would be gone in minutes.  When she heard the young cashier next to her sobbing, she whispered, without looking at her, “Don’t worry, Helen.  They aren’t going to hurt you.  They just want the money.  They’ll be gone in a minute.” 
                The lead robber heard Linda’s advice.  “That’s right, darling.  We’re just after the cash.  Be a good girl, and you’ll have a great story to tell your grandkids one day.”   
                He quickly climbed over the half-door that divided the lobby from the cashier stations and disappeared inside the vault.  Hearing loud banging coming from inside the vault, Linda wondered what the leader was doing in there. 
                Linda had never dreamed she’d ever need the robbery training the bank required all employees to take periodically.  The employees were doing everything they were supposed to do—cooperating.  But another part of the training taught them to notice anything about the robbers that might aid the police later.  There was little to tell from the leader or the man now covering everyone with the shotgun.  They were both wearing nondescript clothes and shoes as well as gloves. 
                The leader’s voice wasn’t familiar to Linda, but there was something odd about it.  She wondered if he was trying to disguise it.  Linda also made a mental note of the military-style canvas bag he had over his shoulder.  That detail might be useful to the police.
                Linda looked at the third robber who was cleaning out the drawers behind the tellers’ stations.  Judging from the way he’d leaped over the counter, he was younger than the other two.  He also appeared to be less experienced.  The other two were calm, but his hands were shaking as he cleaned out the cashiers’ drawers, and he was the only one not wearing gloves.  On his right hand was a ring with a purple stone and a stylized comet on the side.  She tried not to gasp as she thought, My God! He’s a local!
                Years ago, she’d worn a ring just like it, with the shank wrapped tightly with angora yarn—back when she’d gone steady with a boy from nearby Twin Rivers High School, back when she was at student at Calloway High.  Generations of Twin Rivers High School boys had worn that very same distinctive ring.  She tried to see the other side where the year of his graduation would be deeply engraved, but she couldn’t see it from her position.  She could only hope that one of the other cashiers would note that small detail.
                Only minutes later, the lead robber returned, the canvas bag slung over his shoulder again.  Under his arm, he carried a single safety deposit box, which he handed to the man covering the lobby as he took the shotgun back. 
                The robber cleaning out the drawers hadn’t yet made it to Linda’s station at the end when the leader yelled at him, “That’s enough!  It’s time to go!”    
                The young robber quickly leaped over the counter with the pillowcase, landing in front of Lucille Garvey, who was still clutching the $100 she’d just withdrawn from her account.  Her grandson was looking at him from her hip with wide blue eyes.  As he reached for the money, he glanced towards the other two who were near the front door.  When he saw that they weren’t looking his way, he shook his head and ran after them, leaving Lucille Garvey with her money.
                As he left, Lucille glanced at Linda, who understood exactly what that look said.  Lucille had come to the same conclusion.  At least one of the robbers was a local boy, probably somebody they both knew. 
                The second the men left, Linda triggered the silent alarm.  She watched the robbers through the glass doors, running towards the edge of the street where a dark green Impala suddenly rolled to a stop in front of the bank.
                The  little boy began crying, still clutching his purple sucker. 
                “It’s okay,” Lucille said as she held him, rocking him in her arms.  “They’re gone, Levi.  Everything’s fine.  Bad guys can’t hurt a brave boy, and you were a very brave boy.”                 

* * *

                Enjoying his day off, Deputy Jim Mathis had just finished lunch at Pete’s Diner in Calloway.
                “You want another cup of coffee, Jim?” Lynette asked as she passed his table with the coffee pot.
                “No, I’m ready for the ticket,” he replied, digging his wallet out of his pocket.
                Lynette set the pot on his table and flipped through her ticket book. “Two dollars, Jim,” she said, laying the ticket down. 
                He laid three dollars on the table.  “Let’s call it even,” he said as slid out of his booth.
                “Thanks,” she said, smiling broadly.  Jim was always a good tipper.  “Shouldn’t you be fishing today?  You always fish on your day off.”
                “My fishing partner called in sick this morning.  I wasn’t too happy about it, but it’s probably for the best.  I don’t want to get too far from home.  Marian could have that baby just about any time now, so I guess I’ll go home and mow the yard.  It needs it.”
                “You make sure you let us know when that baby comes,” Lynette said.
                “In this town?  You’ll probably know before we even get to the hospital,” he said with a grin.
                “True,” she said, picking up the coffee pot.  “I’ll see you later, Jim.”
                He’d just stepped out onto the sidewalk when he saw the three masked men running out of the bank towards the street. 
                “Holy crap,” he muttered under his breath.
                A green Impala rolled to a stop in front of the bank, and the three men ran towards it.  The driver was also wearing a mask, but he was wearing short sleeves.  Jim recognized the skull and crossbones tattoo on his arm.  It was Bruce Franklin.  Him had had his share of run-ins with Franklin, who was a dangerous man to tangle with.
                Jim pulled his revolver out of a shoulder holster and ran towards them, closing the distance as the robbers began piling into the car.
                One slid into the front passenger seat and one into the backseat on the driver’s side.  The robber with the shotgun had lingered behind to cover their retreat.  Since he was looking for pursuers from the bank, he still hadn’t seen Deputy Mathis approaching.   Once everyone else was in the car, he lowered the shotgun, crossed behind the car, and began to climb into the back seat on the street side.
                Jim Mathis had closed to about forty feet.
                “Stop!  Police!”  he shouted as people on the sidewalk took cover as best they could. 
                Bruce Franklin’s arm, holding a revolver, suddenly appeared out of the window of the getaway car.  He fired twice, missing both times, but the second round stopped Mathis’ advance when it broke out a shop window behind him.
                Deputy Mathis dropped to one knee and fired two rounds.  The first shot missed, hitting the solid door of the Impala, but second bullet found its mark through the driver’s window.  It hit Franklin in the chest.  He slumped over as his revolver clattered onto the curb beside the car.
                Mathis began running towards the getaway car again, thinking he’d stopped it.  The robber with the shotgun climbed out of the back seat and rounded the trunk of the car in a defensive crouch.  Mathis couldn’t see him.  Suddenly, the robber jumped from behind the car, dropped to one knee, and shot Mathis twice in the chest at close range.  With a grunt, Mathis fell backwards to the ground as the robber with the shotgun turned to flee.  Though badly wounded, Mathis was able to level his revolver and fire again.  The round hit the robber in the back of his thigh.  His leg folded, and he fell to his knees, dropping the shotgun, but he was able to get  up and limp back to the car.
                “Go!  Bruce!  Go!” he shouted as he pulled the back door closed behind him.
                “I’m hit,” Bruce said weakly, leaning over the steering wheel.
                “So am I!  Put your foot down, and let’s get the hell out of here,” he yelled. 
                Two more rounds slammed into the car as Deputy Mathis continued to fire, trying to hit a tire.
                “Go!” the leader yelled again.
                The Impala lurched forward, banging first into a parked car and then into another car as it squealed around a corner.
                “Help him steer, Joe!  He’s going to kill us all,” the leader snapped as he peeled off his ski mask and used it to the staunch the blood flowing from his thigh. 
                “Oh my God . . .  oh my God . . . oh my God . . .” the third bank robber repeated, holding his head in his hands as he rocked back and forth with the pillowcase full of cash in his lap.  “You said nobody was going to get hurt.”
                “Shut up, Andy,” Joe hissed from the front seat as he tried to help Bruce steer.
                “I knew it was a mistake to bring this moron on this job,” the leader said as he held the ski mask tightly to his leg with a shaking hand.  “Didn’t I tell you it was a mistake, Bruce?  And what the hell was Jim Mathis doing in town?  He always fishes on his day off.  Just my luck.”
                 Then looking at Andy, he said, “Where the hell are your gloves?”
                Andy looked down at his hands, his face going pale.  “I don’t know,” he said, reaching into the pockets of his jacket and coming up empty.
                “You dumb son-of-a-bitch, you probably left your fingerprints all over those drawers at the bank,” he said as he grabbed Andy around the neck with a blood streaked hand and banged his head against the window.  “If I still had that shotgun, I’d shoot you right this minute.  Do you have any idea who you’re working for?”
                Andy had a look of terror on his face.  The furious leader slapped him, leaving a bloody handprint on his face.
                “Let’s focus on getting the hell out of here.  We got what we came for,” Joe shouted as he tried to keep the car on the road as Bruce Franklin slowly bled out behind the wheel with his foot down on the accelerator.
                The car suddenly lurched towards the edge of the road and snapped a stop sign off its post.  The sign crashed into the windshield, spider-webbing it, as Joe pulled it back on the road.  Bruce moaned. 
                “We got to pull over for a minute.  Bruce is going to pass out,” Joe yelled.
                “Keep going!  We stop now, and we’re caught,” the leader snapped from the backseat.  “Head to the River Junction Road.  We’ll go to the cabin as planned and get everyone patched up.  Then we’ll decide what to do with Andy here.”
                “What do you mean?” Andy said, his eyes wide, as he rubbed the side of his face where he’d been slapped.
                “You know exactly what I mean.”
                “You’re going to kill me,” he sobbed.
                “You can bet on it.”
                “Oh, crap,” Joe shouted from the front seat as Bruce went limp and slumped over the steer wheel.  The Impala veered toward the edge of the road.  When Joe tried to crank the wheel, the car began to skid toward the iron frame of the Calloway River Bridge.  They barely had a chance to brace themselves before the Impala slammed into the concrete skirt of the bridge head-on at high speed. 
                Steam hissed from around the edges of the crumpled hood as the blaring of the horn pierced the quiet of the woods surrounding the bridge.  There was nobody moving in the car.  In the distance, police sirens wailed.

~TEC

Like it?  One Last Shot is available at major online booksellers like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble or download it today for your Nook or Kindle 

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