First chapter of the book I have written.
| Climbing out of a slightly battered, yet still in excellent condition truck, Jane Miller paused to check for dust on her well-worn clothing. The young woman looked towards the bank, then back at her attire. Perhaps she should have changed before coming to town, but she had worked later than she had planned and had to stop by the bank before stopping to surprise her aunt and uncle with a visit. Her uncle was due back in town after being gone all weekend. Besides, growing up bouncing back and forth between the orphanage and various foster homes had taught the former Jane Ward to be frugal, which meant she rarely changed out of her work clothes when she went to town. It was a waste of money to wear a second outfit that would need to be washed later. Many times during her childhood, she barely had enough clothes to last a week, and certainly no money to buy more. It was only once she settled at her last foster home, a horse breeding farm when she was fourteen, that she ever had money of her own. Her last foster parents gave allowances to any of their foster children who helped with the farm work. Her friendship with the daughter of a stockbroker had allowed her to learn about investing. With her foster parents’ permission, the astute investor had carefully attended to her portfolio until she turned eighteen and could control it herself. Now, after eleven years of investing and reinvesting combined with a substantial inheritance from the man who adopted her three years ago, the twenty-five year old horsewoman worked more for pleasure than need. Still, the farm was losing money and needed a new objective or her late adopted father’s efforts to find a new caretaker for it would be for naught. After months of consulting her housekeeper and two stable hands, hours of research, and lots of paperwork, the next step to her plan for Miller Farm’s future led her to the bank. Straightening her shoulders, she took a deep breath and walked towards the building.
Jane paused for a moment after stepping into the bank. Her gaze automatically turned towards the manager waiting nearby who held up his hand in a familiar signal that told her she had a moment. After giving him a smile, she turned her attention to the bank's other occupants. The young female teller with raven hair was one of her former students. She stopped riding to go to college with a major in finance. She handled the concerns of the elderly couple before her with a great deal of patience. The husband of said couple gave his wife a tender smile as he adjusted the oxygen hose on her face. She smiled back, putting her hand on the arm of his wheelchair as she turned back to the teller. At the next window, the only male teller, a young man who had only moved to town recently, assisted a red-haired woman who was also trying to corral two ginger haired toddlers. The energetic pair darted here and there, much to their mother’s dismay and the hidden amusement of the teller. The last teller was a good friend of her adopted aunt. The lady’s jet-black hair with its streaks of grey was the only proof that she was the oldest of the three. Her customer was a young blond woman carrying a large purse and an infant in a car seat carrier. The exhaustion in her eyes mingled with discomfort as she constantly shifted her load around, trying to relieve the pain in her shoulders. The only other customer was a lone man dressed in a business suit. He watched the tiny blur of movement as he patiently waited his turn. The pleasant scene reminded Jane of why she had fallen in love with this small Rocky Mountain town. After another look around, she turned back to the manager and smiled again as he approached her.
The bank manager invited her to join him at one of the desks off to the side. Her cowboy boots clicked loudly as she walked across the floor and her mousey brown ponytail swung back and forth. As they sat down at the desk, he asked, “What can I do for you today, Ms. Miller?” His eyes grew concerned as he noticed that Jane had become unusually tongue-tied. “Are you sure you don’t want to deal with this in my office?”
Jane reached into her purse to pull out a stack of papers, temporarily hiding her washed out blue eyes and her makeup free face. This man who had befriended her when she came to town three years ago, who cared for her financial affairs as carefully as he would his own, would be the first person not directly affected to learn of her plans for the farm her adopted father left her. She took a deep breath before she looked up, the papers still in her grasp. Handing them across the desk to the manager, she starts, “Well…”
Just then, the door burst open to admit two men wearing masks covering their entire heads so that only their eyes were visible. Each of them carried pistols and their confident demeanors showed that were comfortable with the weapons. As both swung their guns around looking for trouble, the taller man said, “Everyone keep calm and no one will get hurt. I need everyone to quietly move over towards the pair at the desks.”
The manager quickly slipped Jane’s paperwork into the desk as the pair remained seated, not wanting to move lest they get the attention of the men. Silently, they watched the other occupants of the bank slowly walk across the bank to join them. The three tellers had come out from behind the counter and each picked a customer to assist. The young man moved towards the elderly couple to push the man’s wheelchair so his wife could concentrate on moving her oxygen tank. The younger woman offered to carry the young mother’s purse so that she could focus on her infant and the older woman grabbed the hand of one of the now subdued toddlers. The male customer joined the crowd as they reach the desk where Jane sat.
When the entire group was together, the robbers motioned for Jane and the manager to stand. Calmly, the manager motioned to the young mother while slowly turning Jane’s chair around. The pair carefully placed the infant carrier across the arms of the chair, making sure it was completely stable. The taller man watched the pair settle the infant then stepped forward as if to speak. Suddenly, the shorter one walked up to the manager and ordered him to empty his pockets of anything valuable. Though the surprise on his face showed that this was obviously not part of their plan, the taller man caught on quickly and motioned for the captives to form a line. The shorter man then went down the line to take valuables from the rest.
When he reached Jane, she silently showed him that she didn’t have anything valuable enough to take. His meaty paw snatched her purse away so he could look for himself. Anger filled his eyes as his search confirmed that her purse was nearly empty and had no hidden pockets. With a menacing look on his face, he pulled his arm to the side and backhanded Jane across the face with his pistol. The force of the blow caused Jane to step backwards and the pistol made a deep cut in her cheek. The hateful look on his face increased as his blow failed to knock her to the floor. Rising his arm in the other direction, he prepared to hit her again on the other side. Seeing movement out of the corner of his eye, he paused to get a better look. The young male bank teller, not thinking about the consequences, had suddenly broken out of line and rushed towards the pair to help Jane. The tall robber, also seeing the movement, quickly turned his direction and fired off a hurried shot that hit the man in the leg below his knee. His shout of pain was instantly drowned out by the fearful screams of all the women except Jane. The injured woman kept a wary eye on the man beside her, watching his face as he surveyed the group. The rest of the women shook in fear, the elderly woman leaning heavily on her husband’s wheelchair. The bank manager and the unaccompanied man looked between the downed man and Jane, their bodies stiff as they restrained themselves from following the urge to check on the injured parties.
The taller robber angrily motioned for his partner to move away from Jane, his abhorrence of violence clear on his face. No one was supposed to get injured during this caper. After the shorter man moved on down the line, the leader looked at Jane. Noticing the blood running down her cheek, he tapped his own cheek, then motioned at a box of tissues on the desk. The young horsewoman nodded somberly, then slowly turned and grabbed a tissue to put on her bleeding cheek. Jane turned back to the bank robbers, as the shorter man finished robbing the rest of the people in the line.
Once his partner finished moving along the line, the taller man motioned him over and the two started up a whispered conversation. The words were not audible, but the furious tones floated across the distance easily. The pair stood side by side both focusing on the crowd, giving the captives a clear view of the leader’s fury. The shorter man also had a look of fury on his face, though his eyes were focused on Jane.
Soon, the familiar sound of a police siren grew noticeable. Jane’s heart sank as she realized that she and the others were now hostages. With children and the elderly couple in the mix, there were so many things that could go wrong. The children would grow restless quickly. The elderly couple could develop health problems brought on by the stress of the situation. The injured man would need medical attention as well or the bullet wound to his leg could become infected. The possibilities were endless.
She tried to read the taller man’s personality, a skill she had developed as a child who needed to knew who to trust, but couldn’t. The shorter one was not a pleasant man, though, if his eyes were to be trusted. His cold, uncaring expression told her that this man wouldn’t hesitate to kill anyone in the bank, including his partner if it became necessary. As the civilian leader of the Search and Rescue team, saving people was something she did quite often. And now she knew that she must work on a way to protect the other hostages, even if it meant risking her own life in the process.