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Mark whirled through the entry. He was halfway to the foot of the stairs when the explosion behind him caused him to stagger. The banister where Mark had grabbed for a final lunge to the landing exploded into splinters. Rounds followed him as he dove to the upper floor, then rolled to his right into the cover of the hallway, crashing into the library table.
He lunged up. Run! You don't go against an Uzi with a pistol, fool. Do it!
But he couldn't. Eva, braced flat against the wall, was watching him with terror-filled eyes from the opposite side of the landing.
Feet pounded up the stairs . . .
"Got a lock," Bucky said confidently.
"It's never so," the tall motionless figure snapped back. The hands gripping the Uzi were slippery with sweat. He wiped a palm on his pants. It wasn't much help.
The coarse blond hair casually pulled together into a ponytail lay heavily upon his neck and the small of his back. In sharp contrast, the full beard was neatly trimmed. He shook his head as if to lighten the burden. It was a futile effort, but he'd known it would be.
It was one of those sweltering Miami nights, the air made heavy by approaching Hurricane Daniel. He squared heavy blocky shoulders. Then focused on obtaining oxygen from air in which it seemed oddly lacking.
The service area behind the mall was dark; yanking the main circuit breaker had assured that. The only illumination came from the half-moon; it faded in and out as storm clouds scuttled beneath it. Even in the near shadowless night, shifting patterns of lesser darkness raced across the asphalt, jumping parked cars and trucks, adding to the illusion that all was in motion. The gusting winds slapped his pants against his legs at odd moments.
He wasn't expecting trouble, despite Tony DiAngelo's suspicions of it being a setup. But it was his job to be ready. Besides, any time five million bucks was being swapped for white powder, there could be trouble of the worst kind.
He and the kid were positioned at opposite ends of the eighteen-wheeler. He'd suggested they'd both be better off at the rear, with the cover of eight heavy tires. The kid had opted for the front, claiming there was a better field of fire.
He'd placed three other men in the cover of the warehouse to the North; they were responsible for all to their front. Between him and them, hidden from view, was the limo. Behind the wheel, Tony DiAngelo. Another two men were close by.
All knew the priorities. First Tony D. Then the bucks. It would be unwise to survive if the bucks were lost, unless Tony D was lost as well. The possibility of the latter event occurring was extremely small. The man was sitting in a comfortable cocoon that was more a tank than a car.
Blinding light slammed into him as the black Caddy rounded the corner at the back of the mall, its high-beams slashing through the night. "Look away, kid" he cautioned.
"The name's Bucky, not kid."
"Just do it." His own eyes were still fixed on the corner of the bank to his left. He'd checked earlier. Could someone have gotten around that corner into the cover of the dumpster? Without being seen?
To his right, Tony started the engine in the limo. The head- lights flicked on, then off. He tensed. They were targets now, if those approaching had brought guns instead of bucks. As the Caddy closed, he eased up toward the back of the trailer, letting it block the moving headlights, but not his view of the bank.
Tires screamed. The Caddy's lights suddenly swept to the North. He dashed for the trailer. The night erupted with a different light, a different storm. Rounds slapped at the asphalt beyond where he'd been standing. They'd been launched from beside the dumpster, sixty feet to his left.
Next to Tony's limo, Carlos grabbed his gut, then tumbled out of sight. As he dove for cover behind the trailer's wheels, the kid went down. Had it been by choice? He couldn't say. "God damn it!" he screamed.