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Not again! But wiser to play ball, Blair thought as he obeyed the gunman's orders to lie on the floor of the bank. Do I have a sign on my back saying 'Follow me, I'm on my way to somewhere that'll be worth robbing'? Though he supposed a bank was a more likely target than some of the shops he frequented.
Not for the first time he was grateful for the long hair that fell over his face, hiding the fact that he was studying the three bank robbers very carefully, committing their faces to memory. These guys are certainly not playing with a full deck, he thought, for unless they planned on killing everyone in the place - which was possible, though in that case why had the twenty or so customers been told to lie down, rather than just being shot down? - they should each have worn some sort of mask.
Each of the three had gone to one of the windows, and was threatening the hapless bank staff with a gun; Blair could only hope that one of them had managed to trigger an alarm before starting to put money into bags.
Though as he watched, Blair realized that one of the three looked vaguely familiar - Blair was sure he'd seen the man somewhere, more than once and not so very long ago either. And he seemed to be delaying ever so slightly, almost as if he were playing for time.
Suddenly the sound of police sirens sounded just outside the bank. Must have come in silent and switched on the sirens now as some sort of distraction, he thought. Are they trying to play on these guys' nerves?
It was possible.
After the first startled jump - and the one Blair thought he recognized hadn't jumped, almost as if he'd expected the sudden noise - two of the three grabbed someone off the floor to use as a hostage/possible shield. Blair was almost surprised that he wasn't one of them. Then the third one stepped past some of the other people on the floor and stopped beside Blair, bent and caught his arm, pulling him onto his feet - surprisingly gently. The man leaned forward to whisper in Blair's ear.
Expecting to hear a warning to do what he was told, Blair was startled to hear, instead, a soft, "Play along, Sandburg, and we'll get these bastards."
And that was when he finally recognized Tom Morrow, from Robbery.
He allowed Morrow to 'push' him over to join the two thieves and their hostages, reaching them just as a voice came from outside. "Cascade PD. Come out with your hands up!"
"They've got to say that," Morrow breathed in Blair's ear. "It never works."
Blair's lip's twitched slightly.
"You take Harris - on the left. I'll grab Powers on the right."
Blair nodded once, having already registered that the one on the left - who was probably still in his mid teens - was holding his gun more loosely than the one on the right. Morrow was - of course - giving him the easier target, and for the briefest of moments he wondered what the man would have done if he hadn't been there.
"Ready? Now!" Amazing how forceful such a soft whisper could be.
Blair and Morrow both jumped forward, Blair instantly losing touch with what the undercover cop was doing as he concentrated on taking down his target. He wrapped his left arm around Harris's neck and yanked him backwards, depending on surprise to pull him back, leaving his hostage unharmed. With his right hand he caught Harris's right wrist and forced his hand down. Feeling herself suddenly free, the hostage ran from them, although she must have known she risked being shot. Blair twisted, pushing Harris down and landing on top of him.
He heard a shot from his right and glanced over. Morrow was grappling with Powers, but the gun was pointing at the floor, and the bullet had clearly not gone anywhere near anyone.
The second hostage had pulled away as well but, unlike the first one, had headed for the door. As the man wrenched the door open, all Blair could do was yell, "Hostage coming out!" as loudly as he could. There probably wasn't anyone trigger happy out there, but it wasn't totally unknown for a rookie to accidentally shoot someone escaping from a situation like this one.
Moments later it was over; several cops rushed in, and faced with overwhelming numbers Powers surrendered. Harris, with Blair sitting on his back, had already given up.
Blair grinned at Patrol Officer Tomkins "Hi, Pete."
"I thought you were with Major Crime?"
"I thought so too. No, I was in here to get some money when all this blew up, and Tom asked me to play along, give him a bit of backup. Made the odds one on one." He turned to where Morrow was reading Powers his rights. "Hey, Tom, you realize I'll have to come back in tomorrow to get the cash I won't be getting today. Please - don't run another sting here tomorrow!"
Morrow chuckled. "I won't, though I don't guarantee what anyone else is planning." Then, more seriously, "Thanks for your help."
As Blair entered the loft, Jim said, "You're late. I thought you just had to stop by the bank on your way home."
"I did, but then I had to go to the station, give a statement."
"You - what?"
"There was a bit of bother at the bank," Blair said, "and I'll need to go back tomorrow to get my money."
"Does the name Fred Powers mean anything to you?"
Jim frowned. "He's wanted for robbery with violence. He's killed at least once. He shot a bank clerk a month or so ago - last I heard, the doctors still weren't sure she'd make it. Blair, tell me you didn't... "
"No, I didn't, Tom Morrow did. He'd got in with Powers, undercover. Powers decided to rob the bank I was in, Tom recognized me and got me to take out Powers' pal while he took out Powers. And before you go ballistic, the other guy was a wannabe rather than a hardened criminal. Playing at being a hard guy. God, why do some of those teenagers want to impress the genuinely bad guys?"
"Good question," Jim muttered. "You're sure you're all right, Chief?"
"All I had to do was sit on Harris until the cops came in. Tom had maybe a minute grappling with Powers - it was over that fast. Nobody was hurt, so relax."
Jim took a deep breath. "Okay. Now, what's for dinner? It was your turn to cook, and I'm only a couple of minutes home myself - Dad wanted to see me; wants me to join him at the weekend to play a round of golf - so I haven't had a chance to make a start and leave you to do the cooking tomorrow instead."
Blair thought for a moment. "If you want anything other than macaroni cheese, you'll have to pay for a take away - I've only got six dollars and a few cents. I was meaning to stop and get some groceries after I'd been to the bank, but my plans got changed... "
"I can do that. Chinese?" He was already reaching for the phone.
"Yeah. You know what I want."
"One day you'll ask for something completely different and Mrs Li will collapse from shock."
"Nah. I'll wait till she's on holiday."
"Does Mrs Li ever take a holiday?" Jim asked.
"I don't think so," Blair said, grinning, and headed for the bathroom as Jim began to punch in the number of their favorite Chinese take out