Do you love gripping and hard-boiled crime thrillers? Then try GB Williams' unmissable Locked In.
Ariadne Teddington is having a bad day. Then she finds herself staring down the barrel of a gun.
Stuck in a bank robbery turned hostage situation, Ariadne keeps her head down and her mouth shut; because if there is one thing criminals hate more than the police it’s prison guards.
Trapped with a child, a policeman, and a robber on the edge, Ariadne desperately searches for a way out for them.
Can they all escape unharmed?
And when everyone is locked in, will anyone get out alive?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The door banged open. Everyone inside jumped and turned towards the loud intrusion.
Ariadne Teddington looked round, heat washing out then back into her face. Well aware that she'd been stomping along the street, that her temper was foul, she still hadn't meant to use quite that much force on the door. She certainly hadn't wanted to draw the attention of everyone in the bank. She wasn't keen on being centre stage.
If it could go wrong today, it had. At least the banking was the last thing on her to-do list; after this she could go home, stick on a film or three, put her feet up and drink the Viognier she had chilling in the fridge. Until her mother started nagging about wanting to watch the soaps. She rubbed the ball of her hand as she joined the end of the queue. Given the number of people ahead of her, this wasn't going to be the quick pop-in-and-out she'd hoped for on a dull Tuesday afternoon. Another day she might just walk out, leave it for a different time, but she had to get the accounts sorted, just in case the stealing wasn't over. One thing working with criminals had taught her was that there were more ways than she'd ever dreamed of to scam someone. Besides, she was on shift for the rest of the week and the last thing she wanted to do after eight hours with a bunch of convicts was deal with idiotic bureaucracy.
Adjust thinking to 'a film or two'.
There were four people in the line before her: a female customer at one of the two cashier positions, both of which were staffed, and another female sitting to the side in the waiting area. Given the quality of the long red coat and the sleek blonde hair, Teddington suspected she might be waiting for the older man currently at the head of the queue. He looked well-established, his overcoat of heavy quality and only a little worn. His shoes she shifted to check yep, they were highly polished. Behind him was a mother and fidgeting daughter. For a moment, Teddington wondered why the girl wasn't in school, then the mother's murmur explained it.
'The dentist said it would be uncomfortable for a while, sweetie, but just think, soon you'll have lovely straight teeth.'
'Not zthoon enough,' the girl grumbled, her breath whistling through her new braces. Her hand went to her face.
'Lucy, don't do that.'
Lucy snapped her hand down and folded her arms in a huff.
Five years ago, Teddington had returned to the area and reestablished her account here. Regular visits ensured she recognised both cashiers. Zanti was serving, her smile over-bright, slightly forced as she dealt with the customer at the window. Teddington was less sure about Samuel, who might have been serving, but for the fact that no one stood before him and that those in the queue weren't moving. Samuel shifted and looked towards her; his habitual smile wavered when he met her burning, accusatory glare. He turned his head away and looked more closely at whatever he was doing.
Feeling guilty for making him uncomfortable, Teddington sighed and tried to push away the tension in her shoulders and head. It didn't work. She rubbed harder on the swollen redness of her hand. The pressure hurt. She half expected to see a blister there, but it was only a compression injury, minor, and it really should have gone down by now. She placed her hand on the metal of the fixed rail separating the waiting customers from those doing business. The coldness eased the throb.
Maybe she should have got a locksmith in, as her mother suggested. That might have saved her the physical pain, but financially it would have cost her more than she had right now. Besides, the pain would subside and she and her mother could breathe easy again knowing that only they had keys to the house, not some scumbag ex-lodger who'd already tried to rob them blind. So much for a female lodger being less trouble than a man.
Teddington was surprised to see the manager's office door opening. The branch manager, Mallory Presswick, was a big man dressed like he thought he was a bigger man. In status, at least. The double-breasted blue pinstripe suit did nothing to hide his protuberant belly, the result of his fat cat lifestyle. Teddington was sure he pulled the belly in as he looked at the seated blonde in the red coat.
He greeted the woman with the kind of smile that screamed 'smarm'. Teddington shuddered to watch it; she dreaded to think how the woman felt as she stood and took the hand offered to her. Teddington suppressed another judder, remembering how sweaty that palm had been when she'd had to shake it. The clasp was completed by Presswick putting his hand on Miss Arden's upper arm.
'Do come through.'
Teddington watched as he led her through to his office, never at any point removing his hand from the client's arm. She frowned at the action. Aren't there laws against such things these days? His attitudes were as out of date as the bank's decor.
The door behind her banged open again and she realised that it hadn't just been her excessive force at work earlier; the hinges had been oiled so that the door's weight moved more freely than people were used to. Turning, she saw a man she assumed to be youngish. He was of average height, lean, and there was a small wisp of sandy hair visible, though his face was largely covered by the peak of his baseball cap and the hoodie he wore over the top of it. Instinctively, she tensed again; it was a terrible stereotype, but stereotypes came about for a reason. The hoodie moved directly to the internet banking station, the Invicta Bank logo of a rearing Unicorn filled the screen. The installation had happened before she'd reopened her account, but the rest of the place hadn't been decorated in a lot longer. It was worn and just ever so slightly grubby. Teddington found it rather odd that any customer would come into the branch to do internet banking. That seemed to defy logic, but apparently people did it. The terminal the man went to was surrounded by pastel-pink happy bunnies with golden eggs; and smiles Teddington was in the mood to rip off. She hated the forced jollity of it all. An early Easter might be approaching, but it felt like someone had forgotten to tell Mother Nature it was time to let the sun come out to play. The weather continued to be murky and overcast, cold beyond anything a March day should be.
'What do you mean my driver's licence is "not valid"?'
Teddington shifted her attention back to the woman at the counter. Behind the glass, Zanti was looking lost. She glanced at Samuel, but whatever he was doing, he was doing it to ensure that he didn't have to deal with the problem customer.
'Next!' he called and the older man from the front of the queue stepped up to the counter.
An icy blast shot along Teddington's back, making her glad of the thick padded coat she wore. The bang was sharper, a retort; another followed in quick succession. Teddington's hackles rose as she turned to the noise. Screams from customers and the entry of armed men were lost in the distance as Teddington's world focused on the small black hole that loomed within arched blackness like a giant tunnel in her vision. The hole was steadier than she felt as she found herself staring down the barrel of agun.
* * *
Teddington struggled to process it. As far as she knew, the only trouble that had ever happened at this bank was about twenty years ago when some graffiti was sprayed on the window, and to this day she was still ashamed of her part in that. This wasn't even an obvious target for a bank robbery. Yes, it was popular with lots of locals, but its practices were old-fashioned, the floor space limited, the staff small and there were six other banks within five minutes' walk, any of which would offer richer pickings. Come to think of it, they probably all had better security arrangements too, which would explain why this gang was here.
There was a gun mere inches from her forehead. The fact that she'd been shot before and survived should give her hope. It didn't: it meant she'd beaten the odds once, but it also meant she knew exactly how painful a bullet wound was. She'd been shot in the shoulder and had a bad scar to prove it. A scar that throbbed like it was radioactive in this frozen moment, even though she knew it was just the memory of pain. That was then. This was now, now was different. This gun was different. For a start, she could see it; this guy wasn't some anonymous sniper looking to floor her from a distance, he was up close and personal. And he was aiming for her brain. No surviving a bullet to the brain. Well, she might survive it, but she'd be a vegetable at best. A lead lobotomy.
She didn't know what kind of gun it was, just mostly squared, rounded top, black and loaded. Her shoulder throbbed. What had she done to deserve this in life?
She shifted her gaze from the all-absorbing black to the man with the steady hand.
She noticed very dark hair in need of a cut over a heavy, Neanderthal forehead and a monobrow. His brown eyes met hers and for a second she registered his surprise. She guessed he hadn't expected to have to be this close to any of the bank's customers. His skin was swarthy. He was tallsignificantly taller than her and a little barrel-chested. As bulky as the thick sweater was, probably picked a couple of sizes too big so he could conceal the weapon, she was sure the man himself was bulky too. Fit. Strong. She didn't want to be hit by the man or a bullet. She could defend herself her job as a prison officer had ensured that but in the middle of what was already a hostage situation, that wasn't necessarily the best move to make. Stay calm, observe and remember what youcan.
The cries and sobs of others permeated her brain. People were scared and upset. One man held a gun to her head, but she was aware of others. Leading two other men, a skinhead in a blue suit stomped straight past her towards the cashiers, his two guns pointed at both Zanti and Samuel through the gaps in the glass. The screams intensified.
Another shot rang out, and one of the gunmen this one in a black suit, white shirt and black tie glared around the bank. 'Quiet!'
Teddington didn't dare look away from the Neanderthal, but couldn't help feeling the power coming from the man in the black suit. Even standing just on the edge of her vision, he had the look of a man of business. He was the Leader. The screams had died down, but the sounds of sobs and whimpers bounced off the walls.
Every muscle tightened at the command from the Leader. Teddington felt her eyes slip in his direction, though she couldn't get a good look.
'Do as you're told and you won't get hurt.'
That wasn't as reassuring as it should have been.
'Over there with the rest,' the Neanderthal ordered her.
Teddington's focus snapped back to him. There was something about his voice that bothered her.
Even as she carefully stepped back, reaching her hand behind as a guide since she knew there were chairs somewhere back there, she was too focused on the gun to look where she was going. When she saw the little girl's feet, scuffed Mary Jane's, stuck out from her mother's lap as the two occupied the nearest of the customer seats, only then did Teddington stop moving and sink to the ground.
'Heads bowed,' the Neanderthal demanded. 'No looking at us.'
Sinking to sit cross-legged on the floor, Teddington supposed that was standard practice. She turned, putting her back more to the wall, now at ninety degrees from him, more part of the hostage group. Her head bowed, she wished her brain would kick into gear.
No looking at us.
Of course they didn't want the hostages looking at them; they didn't want them to be able to give good descriptions. It wasn't like any of them were covering their faces and it would be a long time before she forgot that overhanging brow. Though her head was bowed, she had good peripheral vision; she could see enough to know where everyone was.
A girly squeal came from Presswick's office. Instinctively, everyone looked in that direction. Teddington wasn't completely convinced that the scream had been female. The door opened and the blonde in red stumbled into the room. The gunman behind her, a man with a boxer's nose and a tan leather jacket above his jeans, pushed her towards the knot of other customers. The hoodie doing the internet banking had come up the counter side of the barrier. He had to catch Miss Arden as she tripped forward and helped her sit with him on the floor, since there were no chairs left for the two ofthem.
So, Hoodie isn't a part of this.
Boxer Nose had to reach back to grab Presswick, who gave another girly squeak as he was pushed towards the security-controlled door to the staff-only area at the back of the building and told to open it.
'You only need one finger to press out the code,' Boxer Nose said. 'Open the door or start losing the other nine.'
Presswick's swallow was cartoon-loud. Teddington had always considered him puffed up with his own pomposity. Now she had proof he was just a marshmallow man. His hands were obviously shaking as he pressed in the key code; it took two attempts. Then the door was opened and Boxer Nose and another of the robbers, this one a Pretty Boy carrying several bags, walked through behind the bank manager.
Two distinctly different clicks drew Teddington's attention back to the front door. The Neanderthal had switched off the lights at the front of the building and flicked the lock on the door. The guy turned, saw her looking up at him. As his pistol raised she looked down.
Her heart was thumping, but her curiosity was strong. She needed to know who the players were and what they were up to. Carefully, she lifted her head a little, glancing up like a teacher peering over her glasses at a classroom.
The Neanderthal was still near the front door, his pistol by his side but all too ready for use. The man in the black suit, the Leader, was next. Just behind the Leader, Two Guns stood in the ill-fitting blue suit, two guns still pointing at the two cashiers. Pretty Boy was behind the counter now, threatening Zanti as she stuffed money into a bag. She guessed Boxer Nose was in the safe room with Presswick.
Bringing her line of sight further down, Teddington found herself at the bottom tip of a crescent of customers. Mother and daughter were on the end of the run of three customer chairs. The smartly-dressed man was next, then the woman from the counter, who Zanti had been serving. Miss Arden was the first on the floor, then the hoodie at the other tip of the crescent, furthest from Teddington.
All of them had their heads down and their mouths shut. Good. If they kept this up they might just make it through. Though even Teddington had to admit she was getting a little bit sick of braces-girl crying. Every sob grated on her nerves.
She closed her eyes, internalised.
She monitored her own breathing. Smooth, regular, normal. In control without being controlled. Her heart rate was down; if not exactly to her normal resting heart rate, definitely within a few beats of it. She opened her eyes, saw the crushed pile of the hard-wearing commercial grey and blue carpet. It hadn't been cleaned in a while. She could see deep-grained stains, muddy footprints. It hadn't even been vacuumed recently there was a small thread of white cotton two feet in front of her, perhaps from someone's shirt, the kind of loose thread that falls off at first wear.
Why are you thinking about cotton threads?
Because there are men with guns in the room and you need to ensure that you stay as calm as possible. Though that crying kid isn't doing much tohelp.
Taking a deep breath, she carefully extended her view. The guy in the blue suit was shifting from foot to foot. She could hear another woman sobbing gently, and looked slightly up. Zanti. She was crying, trying to control it, but her breathing stuttered as she transferred the cash from the tills into whatever bag she'd been given. Samuel was still in his elevated seat. He wasn't the tallest man ever. His hands were up near his shoulders, but slowly lowering.
Don't do it, Samuel, don't.
Pretty Boy looked like a boy band member in his sharp grey, though Teddington wasn't sure that she'd seen many boy bands wear suits this last decade. He did a double-check towards Samuel.
'Hands in the air,' he growled.
Samuel reached for the ceiling, his face grey. Pretty Boy concentrated on Zanti, telling her to move across to empty Samuel's till. There wasn't much room back there, and as Zanti reached for the furthest stash of cash, she pushed Sam, whose feet didn't touch the floor when he was sitting. He flailed, yelped, grabbed for the desk, and as he started to fall, Teddington hoped to God he didn't hit the silent alarm.
Excerpted from "Locked In"
Copyright © 2018 GB Williams.
Excerpted by permission of Bloodhound Books.
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