Home > What I've Done (Morgan Dane #4)(7)

What I've Done (Morgan Dane #4)(7)
Author: Melinda Leigh

A robbery.

Sharp’s heart kicked into gear. He glanced at the curved mirror mounted in the corner of the ceiling. In the distorted reflection, the customers in line at the register held their hands over their heads. At the head of the line, a man in an army-green jacket pointed a revolver at the clerk. Under dirty black hair, his face shone with sweat, his eyes were wild, and his chest heaved.

The robber had angled his body sideways to have a view of the clerk, the five customers in line, and the front door. Agitated, he shifted his weight as his gaze darted back and forth.

Sharp registered the nightmare scenario: innocent people and an armed meth head.

The robber did not know two cops were in the store. If he’d approached from the front, he wouldn’t have seen their patrol cars hidden behind the dumpsters.

Sharp looked for Ted but didn’t have a view of the sandwich counter on the other side of the store. He set the drinks on the floor without making any noise and silenced his radio. Then he drew his weapon. Quieting his breath, he eased to the end of the aisle, put his back to a display of Hostess Cakes, and peered around it.

“Empty the register.” The robber jerked the barrel of his gun toward the clerk.

With shaking hands, the clerk pressed a button on the register. The drawer opened with a clang. He scooped the cash into a bag and handed it to the armed man.

The robber glanced in the bag. His angry gaze cut to the clerk. “It’s not enough.”

“That’s all I have.” The clerk’s voice trembled.

The robber raised the gun until it was aimed directly at the clerk’s face. The barrel shook as if it had a vibrate setting. “Open the other register.”

The clerk turned toward the second register on the other end of the counter. He opened it and removed a wad of bills.

“That’s all that’s here,” the clerk cried, tears streaming down his face as he handed the cash across the counter.

Where is Ted?

Sharp couldn’t use his radio. The robber would hear it, and the meth head was already unstable. If he saw two cops, he’d surely lose his shit.

The robber shook the gun harder. His face reddened, and his chest heaved with rapid breaths. “It’s still not enough! I am not leaving here with a lousy hundred bucks.”

Sharp didn’t have a clear shot. There were too many customers in the way. He eased back and crept along the aisle. A man huddled on the floor, shaking. He raised a frightened gaze. Sharp motioned toward the floor, telling the man to stay down.

At the opposite end of the aisle, Sharp looked through a display of candy bars. Two customers were still in Sharp’s line of fire. The small store was too crowded for a clean shot. The robber’s body language and tone felt desperate. Sharp used another ceiling-mounted mirror to scan the distorted, bird’s-eye view of the store. If he could work his way over one more aisle, he should have an unobstructed shot.

The robber shifted his aim from the clerk to the line of customers. He arced the gun back and forth. “I need more money or somebody dies.”

Sharp crept around a revolving magazine rack. A shadow caught his attention. Twenty feet away, Ted crouched behind the ice machine, gun in hand. He pointed at Sharp and made a circular motion with his hand, indicating he wanted Sharp to circle around to the front of the store. Then he tapped his own chest and pointed down the aisle between them.

Sharp shook his head. There was no way he was letting Ted confront the robber while Sharp batted cleanup. Ted had a family.

Sharp pointed to his own chest and motioned down the next aisle. Without waiting for Ted to agree, he crouched lower and started down the aisle. In his peripheral vision, he saw Ted turn around and head toward the end of the aisle.

Sharp checked the overhead mirror and waited until Ted was in position. Their rough plan should work. Sharp would shout out, and the robber would turn toward him—and turn the gun away from the civilians. The robber would be flanked by Sharp and Ted, with the civilians out of the line of fire.

His heartbeat slammed through his chest. His pulse echoed in his ears. His vision tunneled down to the robber and the few feet around him.

With a quick breath, Sharp stood and pointed his weapon over an ice cream chest at the robber. As he shouted, “Police,” a crack sounded from Ted’s direction. A can of dog food rolled across the floor.

The robber spun away from Sharp and toward Ted, whose navy-blue uniform was just visible through the potato chip display. The revolver fired. Sharp pulled his trigger. Ted’s gun went off. Someone screamed. The robber’s legs folded. He slumped to the floor on his side. His fingers opened. Sharp shuffled forward, his gun still aimed at the robber’s center mass. He kicked the gun away, holstered his own weapon, then handcuffed the robber. Blood seeped onto the floor from multiple gunshots in his torso, arm, and shoulder. He and Ted must have both hit their target.

With the threat neutralized, Sharp stood, chest heaving. Ten feet away, Ted collapsed onto his ass. He threw a hand out to brace himself. Blood poured down his shoulder from a wound in the side of his neck.

No.

Horrified, Sharp rushed forward and caught his friend around the shoulders, easing him to the floor.

“Officer down!” Sharp shouted into his radio mic to call for backup and an ambulance. He pressed both hands to the wound, trying to slow the bleeding. Panic roiled in his belly as blood welled between his fingers.

“Here.” A woman handed a towel over Sharp’s shoulder.

He used it to staunch the flow of blood, but the puddle on the linoleum was spreading no matter what he did. It soaked through the knees of his uniform trousers. The bullet must have severed Ted’s carotid artery.

Red lights flashed outside the glass door as two more patrol cars turned into the parking lot.

Another patrol officer rushed in and sized up the situation. “Ambulance ETA is nine minutes.”

Grief and anguish welled into Sharp’s chest and throat. The pressure built until it felt as if it would crack him open. His vision blurred as a river of red continued to flow from Ted’s neck.

Ted needed help now. He wouldn’t make it another nine minutes. He might not make it ninety seconds.

There was nothing Sharp could do. Nothing. Helplessness flooded him.

Ted’s hand moved to touch Sharp’s wrist. His mouth moved, but no words came out, just a hiss of pink froth. A thin line of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. His lips moved. Sharp leaned close to hear the words over the gurgle of blood in Ted’s throat.

“Take care of Eliza and Haley,” Ted rasped.

Sharp wanted to protest, to tell his friend that he’d be caring for his own wife and baby. But that wasn’t what Ted needed. He wanted to know his family would be cared for.

They both knew Ted wasn’t going to make it. It just wasn’t possible. He might have a chance if there were an operating room and bags of blood right here, right now. But there weren’t.

So, instead of making empty promises, Sharp said the words that would ease his friend’s anxiety. “I will.”

Tears filled Ted’s eyes. His lips moved again. “Tell her I love her,” he mouthed.

Unable to speak, his throat clogged with shock and sorrow, Sharp nodded.

Ted’s grip on his wrist weakened and fell away. His breath rattled in his throat. Air bubbles welled in the blood coming from the bullet hole. His chest expanded in one more ragged, wet gasp, then settled, still and silent. His gaze left Sharp’s and stared blankly at the ceiling.

Footsteps sounded behind Sharp. Someone pulled him away. Medics rushed in. One compressed the wound. The other started CPR. But the silence in the small store told the truth.

Ted was gone. He hadn’t had a chance. The wound had been too grievous. The bullet had hit too many vital structures.

Hands gripped Sharp’s shoulders. “Are you hit?”

He shook his head, his gaze still on his friend.

Reality overwhelmed him. Ted was dead. His wife and baby were alone.

Who would tell Eliza?

Chapter Six

The ER was quiet when they arrived. Two hours later, Morgan was diagnosed with a mild concussion and released. Her head throbbed with its own pulse as she and Lance exited the building. He had pulled the Jeep up to the door. Holding an ice pack given to her in the ER, she climbed into the passenger seat, and he drove out of the parking lot.

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