[Note from Frolic: Looking to get into the holiday spirit? We’ve got the perfect romantic suspense novella for you! Come back every day this week for a new chapter!]
Mason had a firm grip on Violet’s arm and he pulled her down the hallway in front of Leo and Melissa.
“Leo, what are you doing?” demanded Melissa.
“I’m robbing a bank,” said Leo. “Duh.”
“You don’t think that maybe that’s like going from zero to sixty?” asked Violet, taking a drink of her hot chocolate. “I mean, don’t you think that maybe you should start with a Quik-E-Mart or something?”
“Shut up Violet!” snapped Leo.
“I’m just saying that it seems like maybe knocking over a lemonade stand might be more your speed.”
“Shut up Violet!” barked Leo again.
“Why? You’re stealing my idea, aren’t you? Aren’t you going to need me to tell you what to do?”
Mason shoved her hard and she skittered down the hallway, and let herself slam into the door. She knew that if she was fast, she could be out the door and down the alley before Mason could get to her, but she wasn’t about to leave Melissa. Instead, she grabbed the door handle and yanked the door open a fraction of an inch. Then she shoved her cup into the door and let the door fall shut, pinching it into the frame.
Mason stomped down the hallway and grabbed her again, pulling her back to Leo and Melissa.
“You keep your mouth shut!” yelled Leo, waving the gun in her face.
Violet opened her mouth to tell him her opinion of his gun handling skills. “Violet!” hissed Melissa and Violet reluctantly kept her mouth shut.
Mason shoved Violet up against the wall and Leo more gently positioned Melissa next to her. “Just stay put,” he said. The two men took sledge hammers out of their bags and Mason set to work on the wall between the bank and the coffee shop. Violet looked longingly toward the door. But Leo, and his wavering gun, was standing next to Melissa. She didn’t trust him not to do something stupid.
“Leo, you said you had big plans,” said Melissa. “This is what you were talking about?”
“Yeah,” said Leo. “We’re going to fucking rob this bank. We’re going to get lots of money and then it’s off to South America.”
Leo was pacing and watching Mason work. The wall, a cement block covered over with sheet rock, was starting to give way. Mason had stripped off his coat and had large sweat rings under each armpit. Violet was surprised that no one in the building had heard the resounding thuds and called the cops. But then, three days before Christmas, maybe there was no one else in the building.
“But Leo,” protested Melissa, “there are lots of better things you could be doing. We have a life here. What are we going to do in South America?”
“We? You’re not going,” said Leo.
The wall finally gave way and through the hole there was a little shriek of excitement. “Bunny! You did it!” Peering through the hole was a blonde girl, probably in her early twenties. “Mason, make the hole bigger,” she ordered. “I need to kiss my Bunny-bun!”
“Leo, it’s a good thing you’ve got a gun,” said Violet.
Mason swung again and moments later a girl sized hole was open in the wall.
“Hey Tandi,” said Leo as the girl crawled through the wall and attached herself to his face.
“Did you shut off the security system?” Mason asked, his voice rumbling.
“Yes!” chirped Tandi. “And I have the key to the vault!” She held up a single key on a large ring. Mason took it out of her hand.
“Let me guess? She’s a bank teller.” Violet wanted to facepalm herself. Why had she ever let herself ramble on about bank robbing at Melissa’s when he’d been over?
“Let’s go, you two,” said Mason, jerking his head at Melissa and Violet.
“Who are they, Bunny?” asked Tandi, looking at them.
“Nobody, baby,” said Leo. “Don’t worry about them. We just needed them to get back here.”
Melissa made a disbelieving gasp and took a little step forward. Mason’s gun came up and he took a step toward them. Violet grabbed Melissa’s hand and held her back. Mason might look like he was trying to dress like a music video pimp circa 1989, but he was massively big, and decidedly less friendly.
“Through the hole,” he said. “Melissa first.”
Melissa moved forward and Violet reluctantly let her go. Then Mason squeezed himself through, then Violet, and then Leo and Tandi, who had trouble making it over the edge due to making out.
“Did you do the money transfer already?” asked Mason, poking Tandi in the shoulder when everyone was through the hole.
“Not yet,” said Tandi, swiping at his hand. “I was going to wait until we got everything out of the vault.” Mason grunted and Tandi pouted. “Stop being grumpy, Mason! This is going great!”
“She’s right,” said Leo. “Come on.”
Tandi beckoned to them and led the way down a hall and then went left and opened a door. Inside a small ten-by-ten room was something that reminded Violet of an old west jail. Behind the barred vault area was basic Home Depot metal shelving units stacked with money. It was all so prosaic.
Mason unlocked the door and Tandi stepped forward to swing the door open. “Money!” she said turning around in a Vanna White pose.
Mason grabbed the key away from Tandi and then grabbed Violet by the arm and shoved her in the direction of the money. “Go.”
“Go what?” demanded Violet. He pushed the duffle bag into her hands.
“Go get the money.”
“This is your bank robbery. You go get it.”
He pointed the gun at Melissa. Angrily, Violet stomped into the vault area and began to scoop money off the shelf and into the duffle. When it was full, she tossed the bag back out.
“Mine next, Violet,” said Leo with a snicker and threw the bag in with her.
“You know her name?” asked Tandi.
“Sure,” said Violet. “He used to date my best friend and he stole this whole idea from me.”
“What?” asked Tandi, looking at Leo in confusion.
“Ignore her,” said Mason. “Tandi, go make the transfers.”
“And what happens to her when she’s done?” asked Violet. “Are you going to kill her too?”
“Kill me?” squeaked Tandi, looking from Leo to Mason.
“No!” snapped Leo. “Don’t listen to her. Nobody is getting killed.”
“Mason doesn’t look convinced,” said Melissa, picking her cuticles.
“The whole plan depends on the bank not realizing that you transferred funds. You can’t let Mel and me go because the first thing we’ll do is squeal to the cops.”
“I thought of that,” said Leo. “I have a plan.”
“A plan? Really? Mason, do you think Leo has good plans?” asked Melissa.
“No,” said Mason.
“Fuck you, Mason,” said Leo. “I have perfectly good plans. This is my idea. Violet just started the process. I added lots of stuff. This is all my idea. We just have to stick to the plan.”
“Is part of the plan letting Mason take the rap?” asked Violet, slowly and deliberately filling the bag with cash.
“What?” asked Mason.
“Well, when I first came up with the plan,” said Violet. “My idea was to make sure that someone was left in the country to take the rap, while I took the funds. Honestly, if I had Tandi in my pocket, pants, whatever, she would have already made the funds transfers. Now I’d just be stalling to make sure the cops get here in time.”
“What?” Mason rounded on Leo and Tandi. “Is that what you did?”
“No!” shrieked Tandi.
“Yes,” said Melissa. “You know they did Mason. Use your brain. That’s totally what they did.”
Mason hefted the bag of money in his hand.
“There’s at least ten grand in that bag,” said Violet. She had no idea how much was in the bag, she’d just been scooping.
“Mason, don’t be an idiot. Don’t let Violet get to you,” snapped Leo.
“Fuck you!” yelled Mason. “I’m out of here!”
Mason stormed out of the room and Tandi and Leo looked at each other. Violet zipped her bag closed and waited for her moment. “You know what?” asked Leo. “We don’t need him. It was just one more person to split the take with anyway.”
“Right!” said Tandi, looking doubtful.
“So, you’re just going to walk out of the bank with this bag of money?” asked Violet.
“Because you know he’s driving off in my car right now,” said Melissa.
“Your car?” asked Tandi with a frown.
“Oh, yeah, didn’t he mention he was stealing his ex-girlfriend’s car for the get-away vehicle.”
“Ex-girlfriend?” Tandi’s eyebrows puckered up.
“Shut up Mel. Just get in the vault with Violet. Violet give me the money. You and Mel are going to spend the weekend here.”
He pushed Melissa toward the cage with Violet.
“I’m sorry, what?” Melissa’s sarcasm was marked. “You want me to spend Christmas in a bank vault with no toilet?”
Leo was two seconds away from getting bitch slapped.
“Calm down Melissa,” said Leo. “You’re overreacting. Someone will come along and let you out on Tuesday.”
“Leo,” said Tandi, “come on. Just leave her.”
“Leo,” said Violet, “I swear to God if you shut that door I will fucking shoot you.”
“Leo, why are we still here?” Tandi was going for arrogant, but ended up on petulant.
“Still here? Bitch…” Melissa lost her cool and dove straight at Tandi.
Tandi shrieked as Melissa took her down to the floor. Leo turned around and reached for the girls on the ground. Violet lifted the bag. Now was the moment she’d been waiting for.
Roman went around the back of the building to the alley where Melissa took the garbage. He was hoping to find a door that was open. He got to a plain brown metal door that didn’t have a door handle. It hinged outward and was generally designed to stop people coming in. But Roman looked at the door and laughed. Someone had wedged a crushed coffee cup in between the lock and the door frame, blocking the door from latching shut. He cautiously pried the door open and the cup dropped to the ground. In the light of the swaying lamp in the back alley, he saw a name in dark jagged computer printing on the order sticker.
He took out his gun and walked down the hall, trying to keep his footsteps quiet. The back of the Starbucks and the other shops on that side of the building exited into the hallway that led out to the alley. The hallway itself shared a wall with the bank next store. And there in the middle of the hall was a gaping hole in the wall.
Roman stopped, listening. He thought he heard voices coming from the other side of the wall. He couldn’t hear any distinct words, but one voice was male and angry. Roman checked his watch. Somewhere on the other side of that wall was Violet and Melissa and a potentially violent man who was robbing the bank. He didn’t think he could wait. Gingerly, he crouched down and went through the wall.
Roman slithered around the corner, gun first. He could hear arguing in front of him. There was a light coming from around the corner in the hallway. There was a loud bang, like metal clanking against a wall.
“Fuck you,” someone yelled. “I’m out of here!”
He heard the sound of running feet and waited. A large man rounded the corner, wearing a baseball cap and carrying a duffle bag.
“Don’t—” Roman didn’t get the rest of the sentence out before the man threw the duffle bag at him and then charged. The man was quick for someone of his size and he outweighed Roman by at least fifty pounds. He slammed into Roman, grabbing him and trying to tackle him down. Roman pivoted, and sprawled, shoving his hips and feet out, trying to keep upright. He cleared the bag out of his face and punched his attacker twice in the face with his gun. The man’s head reeled back, the baseball cap tumbling off, his grip around Roman weakening. Roman pressed his advantage, looping his arm around the bigger man’s neck and twisting. He heaved and felt the man lose control. Roman brought his opponent down in a hard body slam. The big man let out a woof of air and Roman hit him again with his gun, swiping it in a hard crack across his jaw. Roman stood up, preparing to go for round two and realized there was no round two coming. The big man was down and out. Roman picked up the duffle bag and looked inside—it was full of cash. He rolled the big guy over onto his stomach and got him restrained then headed slowly back around the corner.
“I’m sorry, what? You want me to spend Christmas in a bank vault with no toilet?”
He paused, recognizing Melissa’s voice. Her outrage was clear.
“Calm down Melissa,” said a nasal voice. “You’re overreacting. Someone will come along and let you out on Tuesday.”
“Leo,” said another woman, her tone whining, “come on. Just leave her.”
“Leo,” said Violet, “I swear to God if you shut that door I will fucking shoot you.”
“Leo,” said the complaining woman, “why are we still here?”
“Still here? Bitch…” Melissa had clearly reached her last nerve.
There was a thump and then a shriek and the sound of an altercation.
Roman risked a look around the corner and into what appeared to be the bank money storage area. It was a room, about ten-by-ten, with a cage area of metal bars, shelves of money inside, with a small desk and counting machine off to one side. Outside the cage, Melissa had tackled a blonde woman and they were rolling on the ground. Inside the cage, Violet and the man, who Roman assumed was Leo, stared in shock at Melissa’s sudden aggressive move.
The man reached to help the blonde, but as Roman watched, Violet picked up a black bag similar to the one the other man had been carrying and swung it at Leo’s head. Leo bounced off the bars, staggered, and the gun in his hand went flying. Violet went for the gun and Leo ran for the door, swinging the cage door shut behind him.
“Leo, fucking stay right where you are!” warned Violet, standing up, the gun in one hand.
“Go to hell,” said Leo, reaching for Melissa and the blonde girl.
“Leo, you prick, I warned you.”
Violet’s hand looked steady as she brought up her free hand to cup the gun butt, took a nice, professional-looking Weaver stance, and fired off one round through the bars. She was incredibly bad ass. The gun shot echoed and everyone but Leo froze.
Leo fell on the ground, his mouth gaping silently like a fish on a hook and clutching his ass.
“Oh, holy shit,” said Violet, looking somewhat surprised and then she frowned. “This is may not be my best Christmas ever.”
“Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit,” gasped Melissa. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Violet! What did you do?”
Melissa, without releasing her death hold on the blonde, was starting to lose her shit.
“I shot him,” said Violet.
“I can fucking see that!” Melissa dropped the blonde girl and threw her hands up in the air in exasperation. The blonde made a squeak and sprawled on the floor like she was trying to get a red card from the ref.
“You’re freaking out, Mel.”
“I am not freaking out! You’re freaking out! This is not OK! Not OK! So not OK!”
Melissa was full on freaking out.
“I don’t know,” said Roman, stepping into the room. “I thought it was cool.”
They all stared at him.
“This is not what it looks like,” said Violet. He wanted to ask her what she thought it looked like, because at the moment it looked like she’d just shot Melissa’s skeeze-ball ex in the ass.
“Owwwwwwww!” Leo howled and clutched his butt cheek. “You Goddamn bitch. I will kill you!”
“Hey,” said Roman, nudging Leo with his toe. “Keep that shit up and I’ll shoot you too.”
Leo blinked at him. “She fucking shot me!”
“You’re robbing a bank. So, you know, fuck you. Stop whining and wait for the ambulance,” said Roman.
“It really hurts!” whined Leo.
“Stupidity should hurt!” snapped Violet.
“She has a point,” agreed Roman. He looked at Violet behind bars in the vault area. She was wearing a skirt. She looked really cute. She smiled at him. Melissa stumbled over to the cage and grabbed for Violet’s hand.
There was yelling from behind him. Roman stepped back out to the hall, holstering his weapon. “Down here!”
The police came stomping in, surprisingly lead by Captain Bernard Cowlson.
The Captain, a medium height man with a head full of white hair, a handlebar moustache, and a pair of bi-focals permanently perched on his nose, took in the scene: Violet in the cage with the gun, Melissa holding her hand through the bars, Leo and the blonde girl on the floor, and finally Roman.
Roman sensed that he was about to have a lot of explaining to do.
About the Author:
Bethany Maines is a native of Tacoma WA, who is actually very much like her fictional heroines: she travels to exotic lands and has the ability to kick some serious butt with her fourth degree black belt in karate. And while her travels may not necessarily include fighting super agents of evil so much as eating spicy foods and hiking to the tops of mountains (okay, really big hills), her black belt skills are mainly employed in teaching karate to a classroom full of kids (although there was that one time in Paris), and her day job is something she actually enjoys (graphic design is fun!), she’s pretty much a secret agent in her own right. Find her here: https://bethanymaines.com/