Home > Staked (The Iron Druid Chronicles #8)

Staked (The Iron Druid Chronicles #8)
Author: Kevin Hearne

CHAPTER 1

I didn’t have time to pull off the heist with a proper sense of theatre. I didn’t even have a cool pair of shades. All I had was a soundtrack curated by Tarantino playing in my head, one of those songs with horns and a fat bass track and a guitar going waka-chaka-waka-chaka as I padded on asphalt with the uncomfortable feeling that someone was enjoying a voyeuristic close-up of my feet.

My plan wasn’t masterful either. I was just going to wing it with an iron elemental named Ferris who was ready to do anything I asked, because he knew I’d feed him magic for it down the road. A faery snack, perhaps, or an enchanted doodad of some kind. Ferris thought such things were sweet—magic might even give him something akin to a sugar rush. Before making my run, I contacted him through the earth in a park and filled him in on the plan. He’d have to filter through the dead foundations of Toronto to follow me until it was time for him to act, but this was easier for him than it would be for most elementals. Lots of concrete got reinforced with iron rebar these days, and he’s so strong at this point that he can afford to push through the lifeless underbelly of modern cities.

I dropped off Oberon and my shoes in a shaded alley and cast camouflage on myself before emerging into the busy intersection of Front and York Streets in Toronto, where cameras from many sources might otherwise track me, not only the ones from the Royal Bank of Canada. But into the bank I strode at opening time, ducking in the doors behind someone else. Ferris followed underneath the street; I felt him buzzing through the sole of my bare right foot.

Security dudes were present in the lobby but utterly unarmed. They were not there so much to stop people from committing a crime as to witness those crimes and provide polite but damning testimony later. The Canadians would rather track down and confront robbers when they were all alone than endanger citizens in a bank lobby. Some people might suggest you didn’t need security if they were just going to stand there, but that’s not the case. Cameras didn’t catch everything. In memories they sometimes didn’t work at all, because you were clever and had a snarky anarchist hacker in your crew with some kind of oral fixation on lollipops or whatever. But even if the cameras stayed on and recorded the whole crime, security guards would notice things the cameras might not—voices, eye color, details about clothing, and so on.

Off to the right of the teller windows, the vault door remained closed. No one had asked to visit the safety deposit boxes yet. I’d wait and sneak in with someone except that I could be waiting for far longer than my camouflage would hold out. And the clock was ticking on my target’s usefulness; the sooner I got hold of it, the more damage I’d be able to do. So I showed Ferris that vault door and asked him to take it apart. Let the alarms begin.

It’s magnificent, watching a vault door disintegrate and people lose their shit over it in real time. The soundtrack in my head kicked into high gear as I stepped over the melted slag to tackle the next obstacle: a locked glass door that showed me the safety deposit boxes beyond. It was bulletproof to small arms but lacked the thickness to stop heavy-caliber rounds. Ferris couldn’t help in taking apart the entire door like the vault, but that wasn’t necessary; the locking mechanism was metal and he could melt that quickly, and he did. I pushed open the door and began searching for Box 517, the number I’d been given. I found it on the left and near the floor. It was a wide, shallow, flat one, with one lock for the customer’s key and one lock for the bank’s. With another assist from Ferris, both locks were dispatched and I opened it, snatched out the slim three-ring binder inside, and shoved it into my camouflaged pack before anyone even stepped inside the vault. I kicked the box closed just as a couple of guards finally appeared at the melted vault door, peeking through and seeing the open glass door. One of them was a doughy dude, tall and pillowy, and the other was a hard, cut Latino.

“Hello?” the puffy one said. “Anyone in there?”

The fit guard assumed that someone was. “You’re on camera wherever you go in here. You can’t hide.”

Wrong.

“Why would he care about that?” Doughboy said. “Are you telling him to stop because he’s being surveilled?”

Hardbody scowled and hissed at his co-worker, “I’ve got to say something, don’t I? What would you say?”

“If you surrender to us now,” Doughboy called into the vault, “we won’t shoot you. Run away and they send the guys with guns.”

“You’re a twat, Gary,” Hardbody muttered.

Gary—a much better name than Doughboy—blinked. “I’m sorry, what was that?”

“I said you’re right, Gary. That’s what I should have said to the robber we can’t see.” Gary didn’t look convinced that he’d heard him incorrectly the first time, but the cut guard didn’t give him time to pursue it. He stepped past the threshold of the vault and said, “Maybe he’s in the private room in the back.”

I turned around to see what he was talking about and spotted another door in the rear of the vault. Normally when customers removed their safety deposit boxes, they would step into that private room and fondle their deposits in safety until they were ready to return it. Hardbody was heading for that door, and I pressed myself against the row of boxes to let him pass by. Gary followed only to the glass doorway. He stood there, blocking my exit, and frowned at the dissolved lock.

“Somebody’s got to be here,” he said. “This doesn’t just happen by itself.”

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