A bleeding man. Fleeing customers. This isn’t what our heroines expected in Blue Harbor, Maine.
Screaming customers shoved past us, stepping over the bleeding man and rushing from the shop. Soon, the store was empty except for Jonathan, Eric, and us. Bella sat frozen on a stool, her hazel eyes round as saucers. Scarlett backed away until her back hit a pink booth. I shivered as I watched the blood spread around the body and across the white-tiled floor.
Jonathan jumped over the counter and raced to the young man dying on his floor. He yelled over his shoulder, “Call an ambulance.”
“I will.” Bella fumbled with her handbag. “What should I tell the police?”
“He’s bleeding to death,” Scarlett said, her face white from shock.
“They cut his throat.” Jonathan came to his feet, staring at his bloody hands. “It’s too late.”
“They?” I asked with a squeak.
“I called the police,” Bella said.
Jonathan withdrew a cloth from behind the counter and wiped his hands. With a grim expression, he turned to us. “You can leave; I’ll answer the police’s questions.” He looked at Eric, who stood beside the counter, his skinny body quivering. “You too.”
“The man said ‘they’re back.’” I faced Jonathan. “Who are they?”
Icy blue eyes glared into mine. “I don’t know.” Jonathan averted his face, rubbing at his red-stained hands with the blood-soaked cloth.
“Let’s go.” Bella grabbed my arm. “We’ll get in the way.”
I followed Bella and Scarlett from the shop. The sun had set, leaving behind dark and deserted streets. I didn’t hear any sounds until a stretcher and officers rushed past us. Then the wail of sirens and shouts of police bombarded my eardrums, a veil lifting to show the ugly truth.
“Move, lady,” an officer yelled in my ear.
Scarlett yanked my arm, pulling me across the street. Bella joined us as we watched the paramedics and police swarm into the pink parlor, a white van labeled The Coroner’s Office pulling in front. A man ran into the store with a black bag clutched in his hand. Once the sirens quieted, people emerged on the streets, but no one dared to approach Jonathan’s shop.
“Look.” Scarlett pointed at David, who rounded the corner and strode to the parlor. He opened the door and hurried into the shop. “What is he doing here?”
“He works with the police,” Bella replied.
“But he’s a lawyer.” I gaped at Bella.
She shrugged. “A smart lawyer who knows how to fight crime. As an ex-marine, he’s handy with a firearm.”
“Oh, no.” Scarlett touched my arm.
I followed her gaze to the tall man opening the shop’s hot-pink door. “Don’t tell me Logan also works for the police.” I frowned at Bella.
“Okay, I won’t tell you.”
“Spill it.” Scarlett grabbed Bella’s arm.
Bella shrugged Scarlett’s hand from her arm. “Logan owns an investment firm, but he helps the police on occasion.”
“No way.” Scarlett shook her head. “Is he an ex-marine like David?”
She averted her face. “Logan wasn’t a marine but a Navy Seal.”
Scarlett shot me a look, and we kept silent.
The pink door opened. Two police officers carried a stretcher, the body covered by a sheet, and loaded it into the coroner’s van. A heavy-set man, wearing a blue uniform, stepped from the doorway, scowling at the people crowding the sidewalks.
“The chief of police,” Bella said. “Ryan Lively.”
“He’s focusing his beady eyes on us.” Scarlett stepped back from the curb. “We should head home.”
“I agree.” Bella shivered. “He gives me the creeps.”
The police chief marched across the street.
“Too late,” Scarlett whispered.
The chief halted a few feet from us, his short, stocky body blocking our escape. “Hello, Bella Fox. We meet again.”
I turned to Bella, who stood frozen like a deer caught in headlights.
“And who are you?” Black eyes stared at us from a beefy face.
“I’m Elizabeth Reading.” I nodded at Scarlett. “This is Scarlett Harding.”
“I was told you were present at the scene.”
“We were ordering ice cream,” I replied.
“Is that so?” His thin lips curled.
I didn’t answer. Ryan Lively didn’t appear to be a friendly, small-town cop, and I wasn’t offering information unless asked.
“What do you want from us?” Bella yielded first. “We witnessed a man bleeding to death on the floor.”
His bushy eyebrows met in a straight line. “Don’t be difficult, Bella Fox.” He swiped a hand through his short gray hair. “Not as last time.”
“Last time?” Scarlett asked before clamping her mouth shut at the chief’s scowl.
“There’s always trouble in Blue Harbor,” Bella replied.
“Keep your opinions to yourself.” Lively swung his back to Bella, turning his attention to us. “Join me at the scene.” He glanced over his shoulder at Bella. “You too.” The chief strode across the street, the crowd parting as we followed him into the ice cream parlor.
Stefan removed his glasses for a moment to clean them. He glanced across at his younger brother to make sure he had seen the agreed signal. Stefan’s heart raced as he smoothed his hair and then replaced his spectacles. With an air of confidence that belied his trembling body, he straightened the jacket of his pinstriped suit and walked over to the bank teller. At the vacant window, he pulled out the documents from his briefcase and laid them on the counter.
Anton recognised the pre-arranged sign and prepared for action. With a slight smirk to himself, he looked over at Stefan as he strode across the banking hall. Anton took the mobile phone out of his pocket and activated the app the two brothers had developed. He swiped his finger over the screen and the lights in the room flickered. The security guard turned to check what was wrong while others stared upwards. Within seconds they forgot the distraction and returned to what they were doing. Anton knew the app had worked and made his way to the front entrance.
At the counter, Stefan produced a small, silenced pistol from beneath the documents. While holding a finger to his lips, he pushed the gun through the gap in the screen so only the cashier could see it. Tired eyes widened with fear as the nozzle rested inches from the terrified employee. He read the note in front of him and as instructed passed bundles of banknotes across the counter. Stefan was aware the teller had activated the alarm, but knew it was not working. He stuffed the notes into his briefcase and sprayed a brief blast of gas at the unbelieving man, who slumped forward. With a casual turn, Stefan headed for the entrance.
Outside the bank, Anton monitored the security guard as he continued to greet customers at the front door. With a glance through the window, Anton saw the disturbance behind the counter as staff attended to their collapsed colleague. His older brother joined him, and they strolled over to two e-scooters chained to the railings. They unlocked them and sped off down an alley.
A minute later they skidded to a halt by the car they had acquired earlier. After opening the boot and stashing the e-scooters, they slipped into the front seats. Anton ripped off his latex face mask and let out a gasp of relief. He watched as his sibling took off his glasses and did the same. They roared with laughter as Stefan drove them away.
Two police cars raced by in the opposite direction, sirens blaring and lights flashing. The brothers exchanged an anxious look.
Stefan snapped, ‘You switched off your mobile, didn’t you?’
Anton flashed him a reassuring smile. ‘Don’t worry. I uninstalled the app and turned off the phone. There’s no way they can track us, even if they scanned my number in the bank.’
Traffic was slow as parents collected children from school. It took twenty minutes to clear the suburbs, but then Stefan picked up speed before arriving at a secluded parking spot on the outskirts of town. After transferring the briefcase with the cash to the boot of their sports car, they dumped the masks, gun, and gas spray into a deep well at the edge of the woods. It was only then that they removed their gloves and threw them in too.
As they roared away, the heavens opened. Torrential rain thrashed against the metal of the bodywork, and the speed of the wipers increased to clear the streaming water from the windscreen. There were loud screeches from the underside of the car as they drove through large puddles.
Amidst the gloom ahead, Anton spotted two figures in uniform at the side of the road with a device pointed in their direction.
‘Slow down bro,’ he screamed, ‘there’s a couple of cops over there. We don’t want to get caught speeding.’
Stefan eased his foot on the brake pedal. They passed the police officers, who peered at them with an accusing glare. One of them was shouting into his phone.
As the brothers started to relax, another man sprang out from the bushes and threw something across the road in front of them.
‘Watch out Stef, it’s a stinger.’
Stefan mounted the pavement to avoid the strap with its lethal metal spikes. It was too late. The tyres shredded and within seconds the car ground to a shuddering halt.
A swarm of uniformed officers, with guns raised, raced towards them.
‘How the hell did they know where to find us?’ croaked Anton.
Stefan buried his head in his hands. ‘No idea bro, you did turn your phone off, didn’t you?’
A sudden wave of realisation swept over Anton’s face. ‘What if the cashier sneaked a tracker into the cash?’
‘Sod it, we should have checked that. I thought we’d covered everything.’
Their shoulders fell and both brothers let out a shriek of exasperation as guns appeared at the side windows of the car.
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