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Authors: Aimée Thurlo

Grave Consequences

BOOK: Grave Consequences
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Table of Contents

About the Authors

Copyright Page

 

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For Aimée, my wife, best friend, and writing partner.

You are with me every hour of every day.

 

Acknowledgments

I greatly appreciate the expertise, support, and encouragement that our sources, readers, friends, and family have given us over the years. Because of you, our stories will continue.

 

Chapter One

“Remember the drill, Jake. If anyone ever pulls a gun on you, don't make waves. Just avoid eye contact and hand him what's in the register,” Charlie reminded, keeping his voice low.

“And if you or Mr. Sweeney are around I have the option to hit the floor, grab the shotgun, and start yelling,” Jake added, his voice a low rumble. There was a retired couple searching for a replacement VCR one aisle over in the pawnshop, and neither he nor Charlie wanted to alarm anyone unnecessarily.

Nothing seemed to faze Jake Salazar, a still tough sixty-five-year-old ex-wrestler with cauliflower ears and a crooked nose. Jake was their most valuable employee and knew more about the business than Charlie or Gordon combined.

“One more thing, boss. I'm always willing to hand over the cash as long as it doesn't come out of my paycheck,” Jake added, winking as he looked around the shop, noting that the couple had made their selection and were walking toward the front counter where he and Charlie were standing.

“I've got this transaction, if you want to check back with Ruth and Gordon. In a half hour, we'll be locking up for the day,” Jake said, looking past his boss to address the customers. “Did you find what you were looking for, Mr. and Mrs. Goldman?”

Charlie nodded at the couple as Mr. Goldman placed the device on the counter. They were regulars and Jake would have them served and out the door within a few minutes. Charlie excused himself and headed toward the back.

A quick glance at the green light of the surveillance camera across the room came automatically by now, and the feel of the Beretta 92 at his waist beneath his jacket as natural, he supposed, as a person toward their glasses. All those years in the Army working Special Ops now made him feel naked without a firearm within reach.

At the back end of the pawnshop was their office, a short hallway, the alley door, and the entrance to their secure storeroom, which held the pawn—the jewelry, guns, and mostly electronics that provided the collateral for their loans. As Charlie approached the office, Gordon looked up from the desk through the Plexiglas window and stood.

“Really think the punk hoping to retrieve that squash blossom necklace might come back and get ugly? Uglier?” Gordon asked as Charlie came up to the doorway.

Charlie looked down at his old army buddy, who stood five foot five in boots, and shrugged. “He'll need to bring some backup or be packing. I outweigh him by fifty, at least. But my gut says we haven't heard the last of him. The kid gave me that ‘hey, we're both Navajos' crap first, then tried to get into my face after I turned down the three hundred cash. Hell, the loan was only for fifty.”

“A two-fifty profit would have been nice, but no claim ticket, no turquoise and silver,” Gordon replied. “You said it was a young Navajo woman who brought it in, right? Besides, we have to hold on to the piece until APD runs it against their hot sheet,” Gordon added. “Someone should have called back by now, I'd think.”

They both turned as the sweet scent of lavender swept across the hallway. It was Ruth, their other employee, who, like Jake, had a previous history with the shop. Ruth was either very attractive or extremely charismatic, Charlie could never decide which. His jaw had fallen open and his heart had almost stopped the first time he'd met Ruth. Before that moment, he'd always thought of himself as the person in control.

“Jake was the one who locked away that squash blossom,” Ruth explained in her soft, pleasant tone. “I got a good look at it and recognized the silversmith's mark. Unless it's a remarkable forgery, that piece was made by Cordell Buck, the prominent Navajo artist from your hometown of Shiprock, Charlie. Buck was killed last month and now that necklace is probably worth three times as much,” Ruth emphasized.

Gordon looked over at Charlie. “Interesting. Suppose there's a story attached to that particular necklace?”

Charlie shrugged. “Could be why the guy wanted it so badly. But until we know, everyone needs to stay alert. And Ruth, if anyone comes into the shop looking for trouble, duck into the storeroom, lock the door, hit the floor, and call APD.”

Gordon looked over at the monitor on the office wall, then reached out and picked up his handgun from the desk. “Looks like we've got company coming up the sidewalk.”

Charlie recognized the young Navajo troublemaker from earlier. “He's brought two of his pals with him, partner,” he observed, “both wearing gloves and stocking caps with that pull-down ski-mask look. One is wearing a long Windbreaker, but I think I caught a glimpse of an assault-style rifle beneath it.” He glanced over at Ruth. “Lock yourself in and call APD.”

“I will. You two be careful,” she whispered, reaching out and touching Charlie's arm briefly.

Charlie nodded, following Gordon out into the display area.

“Bad company coming, Jake,” Gordon said, taking a flanking position across the room from the counter in the front corner, behind a heavy oak display case. His position would allow him to cover the entrance in such a way that no one coming inside could use the door as a shield.

“I always liked that song,” Jake responded, then nodded as he glanced down below the counter, which stood out from the wall to Charlie's left. On either side of the cash register, which was centered along that wall, was a row of glass display shelves that paralleled the rest of the room's shelves. Charlie knew the counter below the cash register held five filled sandbags, emergency holdovers from days of monsoon rains when it was necessary to prevent seepage entering beneath the front door from sudden downpours. Today, however, they might just stop a bullet. Atop the sandbags and near Jake's hands was a short-barreled semiauto shotgun for a different kind of storm. Charlie had left the choice of using it up to his employees.

“Nobody inside but us,” Jake added, checking the security mirrors.

“Good to know,” Charlie responded from his current position at the end of the first row of shelves. That section blocked him from view by anyone entering the shop, but one step forward would give him a clear line of sight toward the entrance twenty feet away. The shelves of stacked merchandise offered him cover and some protection as well. It was also one of the few nearly blind spots in the mirror coverage.

*   *   *

The front door itself was concrete-laden steel with a small window, and when it opened a bell sounded. The first person to enter was the same young Navajo man who'd come by a few hours ago. He was about five nine, shorter than Charlie by five-plus inches, and barely twenty-one years old. This time he was wearing thin leather gloves, dark glasses, and a black baseball cap low over his face.

The two thugs following him in had pulled down their ski masks at the door, covering every feature except their eyes and mouths. Charlie leaned out, his Beretta already up, safety off, and placed his sights on the dude pulling out the AR-15 clone rifle.

Jake ducked, and Gordon yelled, “Police! Put down your weapons and raise your hands!”

One of the guys in the caps jumped half out of his skin, but the warning didn't seem to make any impression on the guy with the heavy firepower. He whirled around to his left, bringing up his weapon, and was already squeezing the trigger when his head exploded from two intersecting 9 mm hollow points striking his skull at virtually the same second.

Gordon ducked back as the errant .223 rounds dug into the floor and lower shelves close to where he'd been, but Charlie barely noticed, stepping back behind the row as pistol rounds from the other two punks flew past him.

“Get that big mother,” one of them yelled. Charlie took a quick look, but was already back when one of the shooters snapped off three quick rounds.

Charlie lunged out into the aisle in a crouch, relying on his straight out-of-the-manual point-shoot training and firing twice at one of the moving figures. He heard a grunt. “I'm hit!” the guy yelled, then slipped out of view at the end of the aisle.

Charlie stepped back and jumped to his feet, spotting Gordon, who'd circled toward the rear and was now two rows closer to the center of the room, beside the fishing gear. Charlie gave him a nod toward the front, signaling that he'd cover Gordo's advance.

Suddenly a spray of bullets ricocheted around the shop and they were forced to flatten. One of the remaining shooters had grabbed the fallen semiauto rifle.

The shots stopped for a second and Charlie heard the bell of the front door. Their attackers were making a run for it.

“Cover me!” Charlie shouted, leaning out to take a look. The door was half closed already. He advanced down the aisle toward the door, hugging the shelves in case it was a trap.

As he reached the door, Jake popped up over the counter, leading with the shotgun barrel, and looked toward the entrance. “They took off. The one on the floor isn't moving.”

Gordon came up the aisle to the front, stepping around the body and spreading pool of blood, then slipped on a shell casing and nearly fell. “Damn. It's a mess up here,” he said. “Let's get the other bastards,” he added, reaching for the door handle.

Gordon pushed it open and poked his head out. “They grabbed a woman hostage,” he said. “Jake, let APD know.”

Charlie joined him at the door. “Careful, pal. Let's not get anyone shot who doesn't deserve it.”

They stepped out onto the sidewalk. A few feet away lay a torn grocery bag, a squashed loaf of bread, fresh peaches, and various vegetables strewn along the curb. A hundred feet down the sidewalk a slender Asian woman was screaming, trying to pull away from the man with the ball cap. He was holding her with one hand while trying to aim his pistol with the other. Several vehicles were parked along the curb, but the men with the hostage didn't attempt to move toward any of them.

BOOK: Grave Consequences
8.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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