The JobBy: Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg
FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare slouched back in her tan leather executive office chair, looked across her desk, and surveyed the lobby of the Tarzana branch of California Metro Bank. The desk actually belonged to the assistant manager. Kate was occupying it because she was waiting for the bank to get robbed. She’d been waiting four days, and she was wishing it would happen soon, because she was going gonzo with boredom.
The boredom vanished and her posture improved when two businessmen wearing impeccably tailored suits walked through the bank’s double glass doors. One of the men wore Ray-Bans and had a Louis Vuitton backpack slung over his shoulder. The other man was stylishly unshaven and had a raincoat draped casually over his right arm. It hadn’t rained in L.A. in two months, and no rain was expected, so Kate figured these might be the guys she’d been waiting to arrest, and that one of them wasn’t all that good at hiding a weapon.
The man wearing the Ray-Bans went directly into the manager’s glass-walled office. The man with the raincoat approached Kate’s desk and sat down across from her. His gaze immediately went to her chest, which was entirely understandable, as she was wearing a push-up bra under her Ann Taylor pantsuit that made her breasts burst out of her open blouse like Poppin’ Fresh dough. This wasn’t a favored look for Kate, but she was the job, and if it took cleavage to capture some slime-ball, then she was all about it.
“May I help you, sir?” Kate asked.
“Call me Slick,” the man said.
“Slick?” she said. “Really?”
He shrugged and adjusted the raincoat so that she could see the Sig Sauer 9mm semiautomatic underneath it. “Keep smiling and relax. I’m simply a businessman talking to you about opening a new account.”
Kate glanced toward the office of the manager. FBI Special Agent Seth Ryerson was behind the manager’s desk, and the real manager was working as one of the bank’s four tellers. The Ray-Bans guy was giving Ryerson instructions. Ryerson turned to look at Kate, and she could see that sweat was already beading on his balding head. As soon as any action started, Ryerson always broke out in a sweat. In five minutes, he’d be soaked. It was never pretty.
Kate and Ryerson had been working undercover, following a tip, hoping the men would show up. The bank fit the profile of the six other San Fernando Valley banks the Businessman Bandits had held up over the last two months. The Tarzana bank was a stand-alone building in a largely residential area and was within a block of a freeway on-ramp and a major interchange.
Kate knew there was a third “businessman” in a car idling in the parking lot. She also knew that an FBI strike team was parked around the corner waiting to move in.
“What do you want me to do?” Kate asked Slick.
“Sit there and be pretty. Here’s how it’s going to work, sweetie. My associate is telling your manager to take the backpack to the vault and bring it back filled with cash or I will put a bullet in your chest. My associate will then leave the bank, but I will stick around for a minute flirting with you. If any dye packs explode, or any alarms go off, I will shoot you. If nothing goes wrong, I’ll simply get up and walk out the door, no harm done. All you have to do is stay calm, and this will all be over soon.”
It was the same speech he’d given to the women at the other banks the Businessman Bandits had held up. Slick always picked a young woman with cleavage to threaten with his gun, which was why Kate had worn the push-up bra. She’d wanted to be his target.
Kate looked past Slick to the lobby and the bank tellers. There were seven customers in the bank, four at the counter and three in line. No one seemed to notice that anything unusual was happening. Ryerson left the Ray-Bans guy in his office and took the Vuitton backpack to the vault.
Kate’s iPhone vibrated on her desk. JAMES BOND showed up on the caller ID.
“Ignore it,” Slick said. “Look at me instead.”
Kate shifted her gaze back to Slick’s carefully unshaven face, his stubble a shadow on his thin cheeks and sharp chin. The phone went still. After fifteen seconds it began to vibrate again. James Bond wasn’t a man who gave up easily.
“That’s annoying,” Slick said. “Do you always take personal phone calls during work hours?”
“If they’re important.”
The phone continued to vibrate.
“Shut it off,” Slick said. “Now.”
Kate shut the phone down. A moment later her desk phone rang.
“I don’t like this,” Slick said. “On your feet. We’re walking out of here.”
“It’s just a phone call,” Kate said. “It’s probably my mother.”