The light between the shades had dulled to a smoky evening glow through the storm, and Nicole was still sitting there on the plywood floor beneath the narrow attic rafters, her chin on her knees, listening for more gunshots. She wasn’t sure how many hours had passed since she’d found her way up through the ceiling of the janitor’s closet. Rain pattered and pounded against the roof, muffled through the ceiling. Nicole thought she could hear people screaming from somewhere far below. It could have been the wind.
The gun felt cold and heavy in her hands, but she clutched it close, watching the trapdoor at the far end of the room. Someone was moving around down there, beneath the boards that she had nailed across the opening. She could hear cupboards knocking open and shelves splintering. Shouting.
They were looking for her. They knew who she was, and they weren’t going to let her get away.
She crept across the floor to the window and peered out. The hotel parking lot lay murky and wet far below, flooded with puddles and debris. The car bomb had knocked out most of the east wing. Nicole had seen it—seen them do it.
Five of them had pulled it off. They’d walked in, pulled a gun on the receptionist, and made their demands. The demands weren’t met, they blew the Cadillac that flattened half the hotel, then demanded again. They forced everyone at gunpoint into the banquet hall, making it a hostage situation, just before the swat team arrived. That had started the first round of gunshots.
But the police hadn’t been able to get into the building. And now Nicole was hiding.
Jason had told her that she was the best shot with a deer rifle he’d ever seen. It was true. She’d grown up around guns, learned to shoot at a young age, done target practice every week through high school. But that had been several years ago. It was different for her now.
She leaned against the wall, breathing hard. Something like footfalls thumped across the roof. Just the rain, she told herself. But she wanted to scream; she wanted to cry. God, I’m so sorry.
She had spent the night at the hotel, in one of the more expensive rooms. Jason had been with her. He had been planning the next day’s work while she sat on the single bed and listened. Her gaze fell on a book that sat beneath the table lamp. It was a plain-bound Bible, a simple New Testament. She picked it up and leafed through it, bored and killing time, but somehow interested as well. Jason came to bed a few minutes later, and she had to set the book aside for a while, but after he was asleep she read it some more in the light that came in the window from the street. She stayed up reading all night, and the next morning she told Jason. He yelled at her, then took the Bible and threw it into the trashcan.
Now she sat in the darkness, holding the gun, listening and wondering if she had done the right thing.
The shouting below the trapdoor had grown louder. Nicole recognized the voice. It was Jason. “I’ll kill her when I find her!” He swore. “Where is she?”
Nicole tensed. Footfalls on the roof again—
The window exploded inward, shattering wet glass into the dust and cobwebs. Nicole spun around. Someone leapt into the room, gun cocked and aimed straight at her. “Drop the weapon!”
Nicole complied. She set the rifle down quietly, her eyes not leaving the face of the cop who stood less than two feet away. He was dressed in a black armored vest, boots, and a metal helmet, all soaked with rain. Two similar officers climbed in the window behind him.
Another swat team.
As soon as the gun was down, the first cop grabbed Nicole’s shirt and shoved her to the floor. She winced and tasted blood as her face hit the plywood. She felt her arms wrenched backwards, and the cold snap of handcuffs reached her ears. God, I’m so sorry—
The man was holding her down, gun still in hand. “She matches the description. Tell Lyman we got the sniper.” He glared at Nicole. “This’ll get you locked up for a long time.”
One of the other cops spoke. “HQ said there were five perpetrators—”
Nicole nodded. “I can tell you where the other four are.”
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