The original crowd, p.60
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       The Original Crowd, p.60

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  that Jace would monitor that door closely. I pulled out the PRS-500 and coded in Geezer’s decoder. Thumbing through the various locales and buildings, I found the janitor’s door and the security code came up: six, two, three, four.

  Entering it on the keypad, the light switched to green and I slipped in.

  From a burglar’s point of view, it was somewhat of a let-down, but I still had plenty of doors to get through yet.

  I knew the camera surveillance had been upped since my last break-in, so the first vent I found, I hoisted myself up and through it. From there it was cake. Kind of, except for the fact that I ran into two small cameras placed in the venting shafts. What moron would want to watch fucking wind blow in a vent? That’s right, a psychopath who I used to care about and one time thought I had loved.

  Fuck him.

  Each camera I came across, I merely bent my head and moved past it. The venting shafts were completely black. I was dressed in black, so only the whites of my eyes could give me away. Problem solved—I didn’t look up and kept my nose to the metal as I inched forward.

  At one point, the venting shaft inclined so suddenly I had to pull out some grippers to help me crawl up. I hated applying those and the space wasn’t the most comfortable, but it was done with the minimal amount of movement. I tentatively moved forward, testing the first gripper to see if they still worked. When the suction cup caught and held, I pulled myself up.

  Remembering the blueprints from memory, I counted the distance I’d gone so far from the pedometer I’d slipped on my wrist and saw I should be just above the security room.

  This was the tricky part.

  We all knew there were security guards. And we all knew they were there twenty-four/seven, so the chances of getting in and out without them knowing would be impossible. So it was my job to handle these guards. Tray would take care of the ones from his end, but it was still unnerving.

  I had my taser, but we were hoping to do it a different way.

  I pressed the code in my walkie and a second later, the power was shut off.

  From below, I could hear the curses from each guard. That’s when I made my move and slipped through the vent. They didn’t know I was there, but the crackle of my taser was distinct.

  “What the fuck?” one guy asked, but I circled around him and then tasered him.

  The other two were already heading for the door.

  I chased after them and caught one at the door before I was backhanded off the fourth.

  Landing with a grunt on the floor, I twisted and aimed for his feet. I didn’t have time to get up and make another attempt. He was ready and in a defensive position, so I got him in the leg.

  The fucker jumped, but he landed hard.

  I quickly grabbed their walkies and taped the button down, neatly tying up their only other method for communication. I knew for damn sure that they hadn’t exchanged cell numbers so with the power out and the walkies down, they were alone and for the most part—vulnerable.

  Well, I was still invisible, but everyone was now on alert. That’d been expected and put into the plan. Plus, we were hoping the power outage would extend all the way to the river’s opening. It’d help Tray and that’s what I’d really been thinking of when I passed my vote for this part of the plan.

  Now we just needed to be on edge and see if Gentley would pass along his code. Hopefully not. We didn’t need any extra crew showing up.

  Instead of crawling through the vents, I full-out sprinted to the side door and yanked it open. From there, I ran down every flight of stairs that I found until I found myself approaching the last one. If the blueprints were right, the stairs that I was on should connect to the storage unit underneath.

  And in that second, I realized that my priorities had changed. Before, I would’ve been excited to see whatever was inside. I would’ve wanted to see other bracelets like the one Brian had stolen for me. I would’ve wanted to see the vast expanse of drugs, piled up and to the ceiling. But now, I just wanted Grayley, Tray and myself out, safely. That’s all I wanted.

  I’d lost the edge.

  And I didn’t even care.

  I heard footsteps from the opposite side, so I hoisted myself up and held myself taut against some of the railings above. Two guards exited just below me and climbed the stairs upwards.

  They weren’t panicked. They weren’t loud, but were calm and quiet.

  Good.

  If they knew they’d been invaded, they’d have been running and cursing.

  This was good news.

  I dropped back down and moved through the still open door. As I moved down the hallway, in complete darkness, I pressed a code on my walkie. I was asking Tray if he was alright, and he answered back a second later. And he’d added an expletive at the end. It brought a grin to my face.

  Some things didn’t change, no matter how dangerous and hair-raising the circumstances.

  The time had come, I knew it in my bones. The door to the main room now stood before me, but it wasn’t the one where we guessed Grayley may be in. We really didn’t know what we’d find inside, the blueprints hadn’t included the bottom layer. But if they had Grayley, he’d be kept in a small room, off to the end. That meant at the far end of the action. Tray had explained why the significant percentage showed that this is where Grayley would be, but I hadn’t cared. I just wanted to know where he’d be and I listened for that location. The rest was just…it was information that Tray speculated on because he had the ability to get inside their heads.

  I just hoped he was right.

  I moved forward. I pushed back the old, dying, thirst that had once been inside of me for the forbidden discovery and I moved to the last door.

  It was bittersweet, but I didn’t have time to sit and think about it.

  I reached for the doorknob and opened it.

  What I saw inside almost made me weep.

  Grayley was inside, tied to a bed.

  I couldn’t speak, but I ran to his side and quickly cut through his bindings.

  “What?” he mumbled, sitting up and squinting at me.

  “It’s me,” I whispered.

  “Taryn?”

  “Yeah. Can you walk?”

  “What? What are you doing here?” He was so fucking groggy.

  “You gotta wake up and you gotta be okay to run. Not walk, but run. We have to get out of here.”

  “We can’t. I don’t know where we are.”

  “I do,” I snapped, the fucking drugs were working miracles on him. “What’d they give you?”

  “Nothing. I’m just…Taryn, what are you doing here?”

  Oh my God. I yanked him upwards and dragged him to the door.

  Grayley dropped to the ground.

  “Get up,” I snapped again, and this time I slapped him. The fucker needed to get up if he wanted to live.

  I could hear my heartbeat in my ears again. I hated that sound. It was so deafening.

  I had Grayley. He was alive. It was as if I’d been numb until that second. But now that I had him, I was near panic—Tray was out there.

  “We have to go. Now!” I insisted, trying for anything short of shouting.

  “Taryn, where are we? Where’s Brian?”

  He didn’t know. My heart stopped for a second. I didn’t want to be the one to tell him about Brian.

  “We’re going. Now!” I don’t know if it was the adrenalin, I don’t know if Brian was there with us, but suddenly Grayley stood and I had him on my back. I was almost carrying him out the door and down the hallway.

  Tray said to meet him halfway. He’d come in from his end and there was supposedly a tunnel that wound up, right underneath the football field. That was our exit. It was an old tunnel on the original blueprints, but the most recent blueprints hadn’t shown it. Gentley insisted it was there. There hadn’t been any changes around the football field, so it meant the tunnel was there and possibly ignored by Jace. That meant a safe exit for us.

  We were almost
to the meeting point, I was swiftly counting each step under my breath. Twenty more to go.

  Grayley stumbled a few times, but I always managed to lift him back up and keep him going.

  Again, I have no idea how it was even possible.

  The adrenalin was starting to wear off, but I needed enough to get to Tray. That’s all I was focused on right then and there.

  Pop!

  Gunshot. My heart stopped. Everything went silent. Grayley fell to the ground and I stood. Still.

  Pop! Pop!

  Two more gunshots. I heard running from up ahead and another burst of gunfire followed.

  You know the feeling when you know your fate is sealed. Like when you walk out of a lover’s apartment and you stop, mid-hallway, because you know right then and there that the relationship is over? You can’t explain it. You don’t even understand it, but you feel it. And you know in that split second that everything had changed somehow and you were helpless, but it already happened.

  That was how I was feeling. Right then and there that spread through my body. So all I could do was wait, wait for the fucking footsteps to closer to me. I needed to know who it was. And if it wasn’t Tray…I grabbed for the gun he’d made me take. I strapped it to my back, wanting to forget I even had it, but he made me take it.

  Tray. I let go of the gun and left it there. Still nestled in the small of my back, hidden underneath my clothing.

  It was Tray that was running towards me and the world slammed back at me. Everything: the wind, the tunnel, the darkness, and Grayley. He was still on the ground, moaning in pain.

  I bent and picked him back up and ran to meet Tray.

  “Tray!” I gasped, but I knew he couldn’t hear me.

  I could see him fumbling against the wall, measuring where the door should’ve been. And then he was ramming the butt of his gun against the wall, trying to get at our escape route.

  I dropped Grayley to the floor and took my own equipment. The end of the knife helped some, but it was our hands and feet that did most of the work.

  “Fuck,” I gasped, but Tray was quiet. The entire time, he was just focused and silent.

  I could see the training he’d undergone in that moment. He flipped the gun in his hand like a kid who’d been given a gun for their first birthday. He turned and aimed it towards the opening where he’d come from.

  “Keep working,” he commanded tensely, standing poised with the gun aimed, perfectly even.

  His hand was calm and steady.

  I had another burst of adrenalin because I hammered at that wall, knowing my knuckles and skin were getting cut. I didn’t care.

  Our livelihood was on the other side. Blood, skin, and pain would gladly be sacrificed to get there.

  They were coming, someone was coming. I knew it, but I kept trying. I wailed, I punched, and I kicked. I threw my entire body against the unyielding fucking wall and nothing happened.

  Nothing.

  Tray faced squarely whoever was coming. He had both guns out now, so I stopped and waited a second.

  He didn’t say anything.

  He didn’t order me to keep working, he didn’t tell me to stop. Nothing.

  And I knew it was over. We’d tried, but we’d failed.

  They were here.

  I reached behind me, where my gun was still secured, but just held it there. Waiting.

  Three guards came around the corner and each took position, their guns pointed right at us.

  It was over.

  Tray didn’t say anything, neither did they.

  Grayley spat out some blood.

  I waited.

  “You disappoint me, son.” Galverson stepped out, from the direction where Grayley and I had come. He looked irritatingly unperturbed, like he’d been waiting for this and was just ready at a moment’s notice.

  I hated him with all of my being in that moment.

  Tray said nothing.

  Galverson chuckled, a dry laugh, “I had high hopes for you. I thought you could go far in my business.”

  Tray cocked his gun.

  I held my breath.

  “Your father told me it was a useless hope that you to come work for me. He said you’d never consider my business proposition, but I needed to try anyway. You’re a genius, Tray, but this…this was foolish. You didn’t plan. This is why you failed against me.”

  While he’d been talking, Galverson had circled around us.

  “Back the fuck up,” Tray bit out, moving to match him step for step.

  I was distracted for a moment when Grayley let out a short moan, but I was aware that something was off. Tray was moving away from me. He was my safety net and he was moving away, making me vulnerable.

  Galverson moved in and quickly raised his gun and pointed it at me. Straight at my forehead. I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t disappear. I hated that.

  Tray instantly realized his mistake and cursed. Galverson had distracted him, talking about his father and got enough space where I wasn’t protected.

  “Drop the gun, Tray.” He was cold now. The act had been dropped. He was just a cold, murdering, businessman now. He sounded like he was drawing up a business plan.

  “You’re going to die,” Tray promised, the menace was evident and genuine in his tone. He didn’t drop the gun. “And you’re going to die soon. I promise.”

  Galverson laughed. “And you’ll be the one to do it? Trust me, kid, you don’t have the balls. Your father was right about that.”

  “Is my father here?”

  “No, kid. Your pops left a week ago, but he was here. He was here and he left. He’s been doing that for four years now.” He didn’t care, not one iota how his words were cutting Tray up. Tray didn’t show it, but I still saw what each word was doing to him.

  I hated the asshole even more in that moment.

  “I know this is where the bad guy is supposed to gloat and uncover all the nasty little secrets that went down, but,” Galverson sighed, “I was in the middle of a business-deal and you interrupted it.”

  Tray moved forward. Slightly.

  “Easy kid,” Galverson noted, “you might be surprised at who’s behind you.”

  Before Tray could counter his statement, Jace stepped out from behind and pointed a gun at Tray.

  Galverson smiled an ugly triumphant smile as he held his gun on me.

  I still had one hand on my gun, but was frozen in place.

  “Taryn,” Jace murmured, sadly, “I told you to stay out.”

  “Fuck you,” I snarled.

  Galverson laughed harder, but his hand was steady.

  Grayley moaned again from my feet; he’d moved to sit up against the wall.

  “She’s a spitfire, Jace. I see why you have the hots for her.”

  Jace just watched me.

  Tray was quiet. But not me. “I fucking hate you, Jace. I hate you so goddamn much.”

 

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