The freight elevator came to a stop in the sub-basement. As the doors opened upon a quiet and cluttered storage space, Agent Cohen swept his gun back and forth in a defensive, searching motion. Nothing moved. Nothing made a sound. He stepped forward and entered the maze of equipment wrapped in blue tarps and clear plastic-wrap. He picked his way through it with ease.
Nearing the recessed area of the sub-basement, Agent Cohen heard two voices: a man’s and a young woman’s. He’d bet good money it was the terrorist and his hostage because the odds that it wasn’t were pretty thin. Coincidences often meant that you hadn’t planned things out thoughtfully enough. This heist had been meticulously planned, expertly so. Still, as Agent Cohen stepped into a clearing of light cast down from a solitary overhead lamp just in front of a large crate housing a piece of industrial equipment, he kept his gun raised. Richard Malanan turned to meet him.
“Ah, speak of the devil,” he said, conversationally. “I was just telling our young friend about you. I was wondering when you’d show up.”
Agent Cohen lowered his gun. He grinned, a rare sight indeed. “Richard. How goes it?” Cohen looked to the dumbstruck hostage whom he had spoken to on the phone and wondered how she could have caused so much trouble for them all. “Everything shipshape?”
Malanan nodded. He still had his gun trained on Kacie, but his attention was divided between the hostage and the newcomer, one of his other silent partners. “Shipment’s all present and accounted for,” Malanan said, standing in his sterile, blue surgical scrubs and mask next to the stacked boxes of crystal meth. He patted one of the boxes gently with his injured hand. “Unfortunately you’ll have some clean-up to do on your end. Strong’s a goner and Stan’s sticking to the story we gave him, but this one…” he turned his attention back to Kacie briefly, “She stashed Michael somewhere. Who knows if anyone’s gotten to him yet.”
“And your connection? He’s still on schedule for pick-up?” Cohen asked.
Malanan nodded. “She. And yes, she should be here shortly. Then I’m in the wind.” He regarded Kacie again, casually. “As for what to do about her, that’s up to you.”
Cohen never took his eyes off of Malanan. Kacie noticed that the DEA agent still hadn’t holstered his gun.
“It might surprise you to learn that Strong is still alive. He might even survive the night, though I doubt it. Michael will be taken care of. Stan, too.”
Malanan was sharp, but he was no killer. It was that slight hesitation that gave Agent Cohen the edge.
“Sorry, Richard.” In one fluid movement, Agent Cohen brought his gun level and fired once. The bullet punched a hole clean through Malanan’s eye and burst out the back of his head. His scrubs remained pristine, but the wall of the freight elevator behind him now dripped with his blood and brains. Malanan hit the floor, lifeless. His gun fell from his hand. Agent Cohen was quick to cut Kacie off before she could even twitch forward in its direction. Instead, she circled around the cart and put the drugs between her and the armed agent as he approached.
“No hard feelings, you understand,” he said. Cohen knelt down next to Malanan and picked up the thief’s gun in a gloved hand. “It’s just that, in my line of work, I prefer to keep these things as clean as possible. My bosses prefer it that way, too.” He leveled the dead thief’s gun at Kacie’s head. There would be no escaping this time. She was out of delay tactics, out of decoys, and out of options. Kacie Lin was out of luck.
“It’s just business,” Agent Cohen said as he began to squeeze the trigger.