Book Excerpt –
Code of Darkness
by Chris Lindberg
It happened on a Saturday morning, with no warning that it would change their lives forever.
Inside the Edgewater branch of Chicago Savings and Loan, the clock on the wall had just struck nine o’clock. The page-a-day calendar that hung next to it read March 12th. Early spring sunshine had set the bank lobby with a soft, warming glow.
Rage pushed through the front double-doors and entered the teller line. There was only one window open, and he was second in line behind an elderly couple. He’d glanced around to see a young woman had also just walked in, now behind him in line.
Somehow, the sight of this woman got him thinking about her again; how she had died quietly just days before, in her bed just before dawn, her hollow, sad, tired eyes closing for the final time, her soft, wrinkled hand going limp in his, the sun rising emptily on the windowsill.
A loud bang echoed through the room as the front doors burst open. Rage looked over to see the first man club the door security guard with the butt-end of a shotgun. The second man fired into the ceiling. Both were wearing black stockings over their heads. Everyone about him scattered to the floor. The first man shouted at the teller to keep her finger off the silent alarm. The second man fired the shotgun again, blowing to bits the teller window next to hers to make the first man’s point.
“Everyone on the floor!” the first one shouted, waving his gun. The second man barred the front double doors with a crowbar. “Get down I said!” he screamed, shoving one of the bankers to the floor.
Rage crouched down, his eyes moving to the elderly couple, huddled against each other on the floor, both terrified. He swiveled his head back toward the woman, whose eyes met his. Though her dangling auburn hair obscured part of her face, he could see she shared the couple’s frightened expression.
He closed his eyes and thought about his gift.
He had used it only once before, years ago. Since then he’d sworn to her he would never use it to harm another.
And this was a public place … with witnesses …
No. The thieves would take the money and leave.
It was that simple. It would be that simple.
The first robber, the smaller of the two, pushed a large burlap sack across to the teller. “Fill this,” he barked, pointing the gun at the terrified woman.
The second robber kept the shotgun pointed at the group, telling everyone to stay calm, stay where they were, and it would all be over in a matter of minutes.
Mira Givens huddled on the lobby’s tile floor, too frightened to move. She was starting a new job on Monday, and had only come in to put in a direct deposit slip for her first paycheck. Now she was face down on the floor, while above her men were pointing guns at her and the others around her.
From the floor she saw the black boot of the second robber pivot in her direction. She did not look up but imagined him looking down at her.
She then caught the eye of the man who’d been in front of her in line, and she was briefly struck from the moment. Aside from his rugged features and rumpled hair, his eyes were the blackest, coldest eyes she’d ever seen. Those black eyes locked with hers, then quickly looked away. But in that instant, in those eyes, she felt an odd calm, an inexplicable, momentary reprieve from the dire situation they were all in, as if somehow, everything would be all right.
Her thoughts were interrupted when the black boot tapped her ribcage. “You. Up,” the gruff voice came from above.
The usual Saturday morning buzz of Nick’s Diner on Chicago’s far north side was interrupted by the dispatcher’s voice crackling through the portable radio. Seated at the counter, Lawrence Parker took the call. A hostage situation at the Chicago Savings and Loan’s Edgewater branch. Negotiators were being called, but since he and his partner Gino were closest to the scene, they set down their forks, flipped a pair of ten-dollar bills on the counter, and headed out the front door toward their squad car.
Hopping into the passenger seat, Larry called in the response to dispatch, his heart hammering behind the Kevlar vest as it began to sink in. His ten years on the force had exposed him to more shootouts, robberies, and drug busts than he’d cared to count. But this was different. Janna had been lost in a hostage standoff four years ago. Two bastards, two guns. Two seven-year-old sons left without a mother, a husband without a wife.
As the cruiser sped eastbound, he felt his head begin to pound.
Gino Urrutia had been Larry’s partner since his rookie days. “Hey,” he said, glancing over at Larry from behind the wheel. “Gonna be fine. Standard procedure. Hold ‘em there ‘til the negotiators arrive. They’ll find out what these shitheads want, they free the hostages, we nail ‘em. You know the drill. Just follow my lead, okay?”
Larry looked out the window at the streets moving by in a blur. “Everything’s cool,” he said under his breath.
As the frantic teller pulled the stacks of bills from the drawers and dropped them in the smaller man’s burlap sack, the large man kept one eye on Rage and the others.
The teller’s drawers empty, the small man took the sack from the counter and moved toward his accomplice. At this, the large man grabbed the young woman’s arm and pulled her up to him. “Gimme your purse. Now,” he said to her, then addressed everyone else. “That goes for all o’you. Take ‘em out, put ‘em on the floor. Do it now.”
Face to face with the large robber, her right wrist being held tightly, Mira handed her handbag to the man, who tossed it into the burlap sack. The small one picked up the wallets, purses, and handbags the others had laid on the floor.
The large man eyed Mira, a smile coming to his face. “Lucky for you we ain’t got room for ya in the bag,” he sneered.
The small man folded up the sack and took it under his arm, still pointing the shotgun, and nodded to his partner. As the two men made their way toward the front doors, a screech of tires came from the front parking lot.
“Son of a bitch, the cops!” the small man roared.
Outside, Larry and Gino took up positions behind the squad car. Through tinted bank windows and glaring morning sun, he made out about nine or ten figures inside. Larry radioed in for backup, ordering units to every possible exit. The hostage negotiators would be arriving any second.
Inside the lobby, the small robber barked to his partner, “We gotta get outta here before they surround us. We need leverage. Take the broad and head for the back.”
Cocking the shotgun, the large robber pulled Mira tight. “Looks like you’ll be comin’ with us, after all.”
At this Rage stood up and grabbed the large man’s forearm. “If you’re gonna take someone, take me.”
BANG. The shotgun went off. Startled by Rage’s sudden move, the large man had fired it inadvertently, right into Rage’s stomach. The lobby seemed to freeze in time. Rage fell backward. The teller screamed. The elderly woman fainted.
“Shit!” yelled the small man. “Head for the back, now!”
The large man pulled Mira, squeezing her under her right arm, overpowering her struggles. They made their way toward the rear exit as more sirens approached outside.
Outside, Larry heard the gunfire erupt inside the bank. Signaling to Gino, he rushed toward the back entrance, taking cover at the alley’s edge.
The emergency exit door boomed open, and two men with black stockings over their heads emerged, the second much taller than the first. Both were armed. Larry pivoted into the alley entrance, his revolver pointed directly at them.
“Freeze!” he screamed at the two men.
Larry saw the young woman being held under the large man’s arm.
“Drop your guns, and let the woman go,” he ordered them.
Without warning the small man pointed the gun at Larry and fired. From out of nowhere a third man appeared between Larry and the robber, taking the shotgun blast in his right shoulder. In one blinding motion, the newcomer ripped the gun from the small man’s hand then spun into a kick that connected with the large man’s jaw. Larry could hear the sickening crunch as the jawbone shattered. Completing his full spin, he rounded up on the small man and punched him square in the chest, sending him flying into a brick wall. As the large man fell, he turned back to pull the woman free while kicking the shotgun from the robber’s limp hand.
Larry stood there, thunderstruck. His gun was still pointed at the spot where the two bank robbers once stood, both now lying unconscious on the worn pavement. The intervener set the stunned woman down near the alley wall.
The man, maybe mid-twenties, was wearing a black t-shirt and torn jeans. Both his right shoulder and lower abdomen were bleeding, as if he’d been shot moments before also. He wore a shocked expression, but showed not even the slightest sign of pain. He was maybe five-foot-six, with matted black hair. He looked down at the two unconscious bank robbers, then over to Larry, as if analyzing whether Larry would become a threat himself. He took up the burlap sack and pulled out what looked to be a wallet, then tossed the sack in Larry’s direction. Then, before Larry could utter a word, the man leapt all the way up onto the adjacent building’s roof, and was gone.
Chris Lindberg’s first novel, Code of Darkness, was released in August 2011. You can find out more by visiting www.codeofdarkness.com, or visiting Facebook and searching on “code of darkness.”
To purchase Code of Darkness in paperback or e-book edition, please search “code of darkness” on Amazon, iTunes, or BN.com.
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