Don’t kill him!” Jason said immediately, his voice calm but loud as it cut through the hissing smoke. “Whatever you want, don’t kill the kid. If you’re here for me, just take me and go.”
The guard was down on his belly now with his shotgun out. But he had lost the advantage. The smart thing would be to drop the gun and put his hands on his head, hoping the men didn’t want to leave behind dead cops.
The guard fired.
The shotgun blast went into the chest of the first man, knocking him back but not taking him out. He was thrust into the windshield of the bus, cracking it as he landed.
He stood. Several of the BBs had grazed his neck and face, cutting into the fabric of the mask, but he appeared to be fine because he had taken the brunt of it in his chest.
Across from Jason, Smith hid his face in his hands and curled up in a ball on the floor.
The guard had waited too long—probably because it was the first time he’d ever shot anybody—and both men sent a hail of lead into him. He too wore an armored vest, but it did not matter. The masked men weren’t shooting BBs.
The guard no longer moved when the shooting stopped.
Jason’s jaw clenched, but he remained silent. It was a shame about the kid. Even if Jason had convinced the kid to act sooner, he probably still would have gone down.
Jason would have aimed for the head if he had been in the guard’s situation, but that would’ve been instinct more than intentional thought.
The kid had followed his training, and it had gotten him killed.
The first masked man cursed as he ran his hands down his chest, freeing BBs from his clothing. There was no blood except for a little on his neck.
“The pig shot me. He almost killed me.”
“Are you dead?” asked the other in a condescending tone. “This is why you have an armored vest.”
The first didn’t respond.
The second man’s voice seemed familiar to Jason, but he was unable to place it.
He knew it. He’d spoken with the man.
The face just wasn’t coming.
This is about me.
The inmate across from Jason was in tears, trying his best to keep from making noise. Despite his earlier treatment of his fellow inmate, Jason now felt bad for Smith.
If they only want me…
“Get his keys,” said the second man.
“That’s gonna leave a bruise.”
“Would you rather it was a gaping hole? Get those keys.”
The first man muttered something but still didn’t move until the second thrust the butt of his rifle into his gut.
It came back to Jason.
The name of the man. He hadn’t spoken with the man in years.
He worked for Phil Taft.
For a sudden moment, Jason was no longer on the bus, but he was back in a warehouse with the two men. Phil had laughed. Ron had joined in. Jason had laughed too but felt no mirth.
Both were hard. Both were men Jason had spent months hunting. Once he had located them, it had been almost a year before he had finally infiltrated their criminal organization.
Last Jason had heard, Phil Taft was dead, but the circumstances were fishy enough he’d assumed it was a setup made to give Taft a clean break after his near brush with the FBI.
If Nansen was here, Jason expected Taft was not far away. Taft would not be here on site, Jason was certain of that. He usually made his people do the risky things.
The man was untouchable.
This was why Jason had gotten close and had tried to bring him down, hoping it would propel his career forward in the Bureau.
The first man finally moved, dropping his hand from his bruised chest and kneeling to search the guard for the keys. When he found them, he opened the door to the hold.