Authors: Jason Dean
Copyright © 2013 Jason Dean
The right of Jason Dean to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
First published as an Ebook by HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP in 2013
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library
eISBN 978 0 7553 8310 8
HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP
An Hachette UK Company
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
Table of Contents
About the Book
Sometimes a man must take a step back to move forwards . . .
In a small, sleepy Pennsylvania town, the staff of a loan store find themselves at the mercy of a gunman who demands they hand over the store’s entire cash reserves. But when the sound of police sirens shatters the silence sooner than expected, the robber is forced to take a young female customer hostage in order to make his escape.
Former Marine James Bishop is no stranger to being on the wrong side of the law. Finally a free man, with his name cleared, he has the chance to get his life back on track. But as he flees the scene of the hold-up with his terrified hostage, he once again finds himself a wanted man . . .
Prison can change some people. But has it changed James Bishop?
About the Author
Jason Dean was born in South London in 1966. He spent many years as a graphic designer before turning his talent to writing and deciding to write the kind of American thrillers he’d always loved to read. He lives in Thailand with his wife and is currently working on his third James Bishop novel.
By Jason Dean and available from Headline
The Wrong Man
To my wife, Nok – for all the reasons in the world.
James Bishop put on his sunglasses and got out of the silver Toyota Camry. He didn’t say anything to the driver. There was no need. He shut the door, adjusted his leather jacket and checked his watch. 09.12. Then he turned and headed north along Main Street at a steady stroll. Neither fast nor slow. As though he had some specific destination in mind, but wasn’t in any rush to get there.
Which was true enough to a point.
It was a warm Tuesday. Warm for early May, anyway. The sun was out, but there was also a cool breeze to take the edge off. Good spring weather. Even better when you were experiencing it outside a prison cell. Almost nine months since Bishop had gotten out and the novelty of walking around in fresh, pristine air still hadn’t entirely worn off.
Parked vehicles already lined both sides of the street, but Bishop saw little actual traffic. Scratching his beard, he looked around as he walked and counted six other pedestrians. The town of Louisford, here in eastern Pennsylvania, was still in the process of waking up. Most of the stores were either still closed or just opening. That was one of the things Bishop liked about small towns. That casual indifference towards scheduled hours.
But there were also plenty of places that opened on time, day in, day out. Banks. Post offices. Franchise stores. Especially the franchise stores. They took customer care a little more seriously. Like the small Starbucks over there. Bishop could already see a small queue of people inside, waiting at the cash register for their morning caffeine fix.
But it was a franchise of a different kind that Bishop was heading towards. The one situated at the end of the street about two hundred yards away.
Bishop saw an elderly local coming his way, led by a black Labrador on a leash. The guy nodded a ‘good morning’ to Bishop, who smiled and nodded back. Once they’d passed each other, Bishop immediately lost the smile and carried on walking until he reached his destination seventy-two seconds later.
The cheque-cashing store was one of hundreds operating under the Standard Star umbrella. Most offered cash advances, too, but Bishop knew Pennsylvania was one of fifteen states that had either outlawed payday loans or capped the excessive interest rates to such an extent that there was no profit in it. Which probably made the banks happy, at least.
Bishop stood looking through the windows for two seconds before turning back to the street. Long enough for the interior to be imprinted on his mind in every detail.
It was still the same.
This branch had a row of four partitioned counters behind bullet-resistant glass and an ATM near the entrance. Closed circuit cameras in the ceiling covered each counter. A pair of customers – a bald, middle-aged guy and a young blonde woman – were being served at two of the counters. Following a rash of cheque-cashing store robberies over the past six months, the owners had obviously felt the need for a uniformed security guard, too. He’d been standing next to the ATM. Bishop figured late fifties. Overweight with a prominent pot belly. Probably a retired cop. Holstering an old service Walther 9mm and clearly bored beyond belief.
Bishop used a hand to brush the dark hair away from his eyes and checked the street. Empty of traffic now. He looked at his watch again. 09.14. Time to go to work.
He removed his sunglasses before pulling a pair of thin leather gloves from his pocket and slipping them on. As he reflected on how it had come down to this, he recalled a lesson that had been drilled into him more than once in the Marine Corps: that anybody’s life can turn on a single event. It was true. He’d experienced one of those events already, and wondered if he was about to again. If he did, he’d have nobody to blame but himself.
Well, too late to worry about it now
, he thought.
Besides, I’ve got no other choice
Then he walked over to the entrance, pulled the door open and stepped inside.
Bishop paused just inside the door. The guard watched him and gave a welcoming nod.
Public relations at work. You can wear a gun, but be nice to potential customers or you’re gone
Bishop walked over. He put a frown on his face as though he wanted to ask a question, but wasn’t sure whom to ask. The guard watched him approach. Once he’d closed the distance, Bishop turned so the cashiers couldn’t see, leaned in and pulled the .357 Smith & Wesson from his waistband. Jamming the five-inch barrel into the guard’s ample midsection, he said, ‘You know what this is, so don’t do anything dumb. They don’t pay you enough.’ At the same time, he used his right hand to unlatch the guard’s holster and pull out the Walther.
‘Hey,’ the guard said, wheezing. ‘Are you crazy? You can’t do this.’
‘I am doing it,’ Bishop said, sliding the magazine out one-handed and stuffing it in his pants pocket. He also ejected the chambered round and saw it land on the floor. ‘Relax and keep your voice down. A couple of minutes from now, this’ll all be over.’ After checking to make sure the guard carried no extra ammo, he placed the Walther back in the guy’s holster and said, ‘What’s your name?’
‘Yeah, your first name. What is it?’
The guard looked at him like he’d lost his mind, but Bishop noticed he’d stopped wheezing. ‘Randolph,’ he said.
‘Is that Randolph or Randy?’
‘It’s Randy to my friends. To jerks like you, it’s Randolph.’
Bishop smiled. ‘Okay, Randolph. Now I figure you’re the one holds the keys to the front door, right?’ Bishop already knew this was so, but wanted Randolph to get in the habit of answering his questions. Simple psychology, but it made things easier in the long run.
‘Yeah,’ Randolph said.
‘Good. What say we go over and lock it so nobody else walks in. Right now.’
Still keeping his back to the cashiers, Bishop walked slowly with Randolph to the entrance and watched him pull a key chain from his utility belt. The guard picked a key, inserted it into the lock and turned it a hundred and eighty degrees clockwise. ‘It’s locked,’ he said.
‘Not that I don’t believe you,’ Bishop said, ‘but try pushing the door for me.’
Randolph pressed a hand against the frame. The door didn’t move.
‘Good,’ Bishop said. He took the keys from the guard’s hand while he studied the street outside. Still empty except for the occasional vehicle passing by. ‘Okay, Randolph. Let’s go over to the counters now.’
Randolph turned and Bishop stayed at his back as they walked towards the rear of the store. Bishop quickly stooped down to pick up the extra round he’d dropped as he passed. He didn’t want Randolph getting any ideas. When they were a couple of feet away from the counters, Bishop said, ‘Walk over to the first counter and just stand there.’