The door was locked, but that didn't stop Astrid Green from trying to pry it open anyway. It wouldn't budge and sweat was pooling on her brow. She wished she hadn't worn her long-sleeved blouse and black pencil skirt today; they rendered her much too immobile for what she was trying to accomplish now. Alas, maintaining a neat and professional wardrobe was part and parcel of working at prestigious investment banking firm Eugene & Kelly.
The firm itself was relatively new, but the two partners, Francis M. Eugene and Matthew Kelly, came from money. Enough so to purchase one of the tallest and most illustrious buildings in the city for their dealings. Prestige was the name of the game, and Eugene & Kelly were dripping in it in their sixty story tower of a building replete with a grand entryway, marble staircases, glass elevators, and some of the best talent the world had to offer.
"Can I help you, miss?" a voice tore her from her failed attempts at the door.
"You certainly can!" she answered hotly. Astrid may have been merely an office assistant, a temp even, but she knew how to make demands. She'd been doing it all her life, and she always got what she wanted. She turned to see a lanky security guard in his early thirties with black rimmed glasses and a nose littered with freckles. "Someone has locked this door. I need it opened immediately," she demanded as she flipped her long blond hair behind her shoulder impatiently. The guard watched her for a long moment before speaking.
"You do understand that the entire building is under lockdown, ma'am?" he asked at last.
"So I've been told," she replied, none too amused at his lack of action. "But what I haven't been told," she continued, "is why."
"What is your name, miss?" the guard asked, pulling out a pad of paper from his breast pocket. She heaved in a deep, indignant breath. Just who did this fool think he was?
"Astrid Green. I work directly under Matthew Kelly," she informed as he jotted down the name, seemingly unperturbed by her rudeness.
"Right, the temp," he muttered as he flipped the pad closed, receiving a haughty glare for his efforts. "I'm Amos, Head of Security. It's nice to meet you, Ms. Green. As the situation stands, we aren't releasing that information. I'll have to ask you to return to the Eastside hallway in Corridor A with the others until such time that your safety can be guaranteed." His voice was a poor attempt to remain calm, but still soothing in a reassuring kind of way. Astrid, however, brushed his orders aside.
She remembered seeing Amos's name in the employee files in Kelly's office. Head of Security for a number of years, but with a long list of infractions and missteps attributed to his person. He was a joke really, and she would only take his word for the amount of value she deemed it worth: about zero. As far as she remembered, Amos's employment was to be terminated by the end of the week. She smiled victoriously at the idea of it, but then remembered exactly why she was so desperate to escape.
"Look, Amos," she snapped dismissively, "I've got a little sister out there so unless you can guarantee her safety, I'm not going anywhere. So what exactly are we dealing with here? A bomb? A gunman? Some sort of heist? An army of zombies? What?"
"I'm going to have to ask you to remain calm," Amos told her in what she deemed a condescending manner. "All of your questions will be answered in time. Now, if you would just come with me…"
"You don't even know, do you? You don't know anything!" she demanded of the timid man. She expected no more from such a failure of a man. And he looked every bit a failure in her eyes now with his messy auburn hair, twitchy demeanor, and too thin frame.
"This is a delicate situation, Ms. Green," he said, but she tapped her foot impatiently on the marble floor and glared daggers straight through to his soul until he felt uneasy and trapped. It was exactly the reaction she'd intended to elicit. "Fine," he stammered at last. "What I do know, is that there is at least one armed gunman in the vicinity. What his intentions are is not known at this time, but this building seems to be his primary target. He is said to be highly trained and capable. How many others are involved is not known. We suspect at least a getaway driver, though."
"But there could be others running around out there with guns?" she asked, expecting a straightforward and honest answer in return. He shuffled uncomfortably before her. Astrid had such cold, sharp eyes that he couldn't deny her the answers to her questions.
"Yes," he told her. "But I assure you, Ms. Green, that this building is sealed up good and tight. No one will be getting inside and it is only a matter of time before the police have the criminals in custody."
"That's not what I'm worried about!" she snapped shrilly at the buffoon of a guard before her. Was he so dense that he couldn't remember the simplest information? "My sister is out there! She was supposed to pick me up after work, but she always gets here early and waits for me in the park across the street."
"Everything will be fine," he assured her. "The park will have been evacuated. I haven't heard anything about any casualties or hostages, and I am in direct communication with the police." Yeah, she thought, sure you are.
"But you can't know for certain, can you?" She was yelling at him again.
"Like you said, I don't know anything," he answered, certain that he was only aggravating her further, fueling the fiery rage of her quick temper, but he no longer cared. She was just mean, he realized. Anyway, he had a job to do and she was distracting him from it. "I think it's time you joined the others. My walkie is down so I'll escort you myself," he commanded, finally stepping up to his job status and hoping she wouldn't notice the slight shaking in his voice.
Astrid looked furious, a seething serpent about to strike. He grabbed her arm and led her down the empty halls anyway. They were strange in their quietness, usually filled with the hustle and bustle of secretaries, receptionists, mail clerks, and errand boys. But now they were as silent as death, and that sensation was lost on neither of the hall's two occupants.
Amos pushed the feeling aside as he trudged on swiftly with the protesting girl still in his grasp. He warned her that he'd be perfectly willing to put her under arrest if the dire situation called for it, but it did little good to cease her struggling. He turned down the first corridor when the lights began to flicker.
"What's that?" she questioned, finally losing the edge to her voice.
"We're losing power. That can't be good," he explained. He was trying desperately to put on a stoic façade, a brave face that would keep Astrid calm, but he felt his efforts crumbling away from him, replaced with pure terror. Astrid noticed the abrupt change in his countenance and decided it was on her to take the lead. Amos was as useless as she'd expected.
"Then we have to get to the others like you said. They'll be panicking if the lights go out."
In actuality, despite the building's impressive size, there weren't many others inside this late in the day. The firm had already closed for the day, leaving behind a small cluster of employees, the many security guards, and the two partners themselves.
"We're looking at about 75 persons," Amos stammered factually. "That's not including security guards posted at each entrance and stairwell, and then there are the three in the corridor with the 75 employees. Then, we've got Eugene and Kelly with their security team probably already tucked safely away in their designated lockdown locations."
"That's right. And you were supposed to be watching the front door. If there are gunmen in here, then I think it's safe to assume that you are to blame," Astrid spat at the incompetent guard.
"No, ma'am. I think you would be," he said. He, too, could get angry. "But there are enough police officers stationed outside the front entrance that I doubt they got in that way." Astrid knew that of course, but she liked to make the squirrelly man squirm.
"Fine," she said, "then let's go to Corridor A while we still have power. You can tell the others whatever stupid excuse you are permitted to tell them. But let me warn you, Amos, if anything happens to my sister while I am trapped in here, I will take it out on you personally."
That's when the lights went out. The wide halls were hauntingly eerie in the dark, and the realization that armed goons could leap out from any darkened crevice did little to soothe the two occupant's fears. Amos still held firmly to Astrid's arms, although now it seemed more for his own comfort than for her safety. She rolled her eyes.
"You must have a flashlight. Give it to me. And may I suggest that you have your gun at the ready?" she said. Amos swallowed hard and did as he was told. His hands were shaky on the pistol. "Be careful with that thing!" she warned harshly. "Don't kill anyone who isn't a gunman. How did you ever become Head of Security?"
"Hard work and loyalty to the firm?" he offered uncertainly, following a step behind Astrid and the beam of the flashlight.
"More like incompetent leadership," she said as she cautiously made her way down the hall. "Do you hear that?" she asked suddenly. It was the sound of sobbing coming from the first floor women's bathroom. It was slightly muffled by the heavy closed door, but unmistakable nonetheless.
"Someone is in there," Amos confirmed with a nod.
"Just wait here," Astrid told him before creeping cautiously into the bathroom.
Once inside, she targeted the sound coming from the stall in the far corner. The stall door wasn't latched shut so it remained slightly ajar. Astrid peeked through the sliver of open space to make out the form of a young woman with dark brown hair huddled next to the toilet with her face in her hands as she cried openly.
"Cindy?" she asked, pushing the door open with the flashlight.
"Astrid?" The girl looked up with a tearstained face and clutched desperately at the blonde's black skirt. "Astrid!" she sobbed.
"Cindy, what are you doing here by yourself?"
"They're inside, Astrid! I saw them," she cried. "It's not safe out there. I hid in here, and they didn't come after me."
"They certainly will if you keep carrying on like this," Astrid warned with a harsh whisper. "I bet they hear you wailing from the roof, Cindy. Come on! I'm with the security guard, Amos, and he can take us to the others. We'll be safer there."
"Amos?" Cindy asked before breaking out into uncontrollable laughter. "Good Ole Amos to the rescue! Well, that's just the best thing I've heard all day!" Astrid wanted to argue, but she had to admit that Cindy made a pretty compelling point. Amos hadn't exactly proved to be top notch security, after all.
"Well, he's better than nothing, isn't he?" the frustrated temp chastised the giggling girl. "And at least he isn't having a mental breakdown in a bathroom." Cindy, however, was much too crazed at the moment to be hurt by the insult.
"Amos won't be saving anyone today, Astrid. Not you, not me, not anyone. We are all doomed!" Clearly Cindy was losing her grip on reality, but she had always been a sensitive sort of woman and never acted well under pressure. Astrid couldn't say she was surprised to find the girl a mess.
"Just wait here for a minute," Astrid told her as she patted Cindy gently on the arm and rushed out of the dark bathroom.
Amos was waiting just outside the door, trembling in the dark until Astrid returned. He seemed utterly relieved to see her, or maybe just to see the light again. He looked at her curiously.
"It's Cindy," she stated. "Mr. Eugene's secretary. The brunette he's cheating on his wife with."
"Yes, I know Cindy," he said. Even he was privy to the office gossip every now and then. "She's in there alone?"
"That's what I said! Anyway, I think she's having some sort of fit of hysteria. She's not very coherent at the moment, but she says she saw the gunmen. We have to bring her with us, but I don't know. She's so loud that she'll lead them straight to us," Astrid informed the security guard with a contemplative expression overtaking her features. She wasn't so cold that she'd abandon the girl, but she was tempted to do just that if everyone else's safety was in question.
"Did she say anything else?" Amos interrupted her thoughts.
"Nothing that made any sense."
"Okay. Take me to her. I'll see what I can do," he offered. And Astrid did just that.
Amos crouched down low in front of the sobbing secretary. He reached out slowly as if he were reaching for a frightened animal ready to run, and maybe that difference was negligible since Cindy certainly did flinch away at once. She was trembling violently and the tears ran down her cheeks in thick tracks that irritated her skin and made her eyes appear red and puffy.
"Cindy?" Amos asked quietly, willing the distraught woman not to be startled.
"Good Ole Amos!" she bellowed, almost manic in her delirium. "Good Ole Amos! Done it again, of course! It would have to be, though, wouldn't it?" Amos looked almost affronted at her unintelligible stammers.
"This really isn't my fault," he directed at Astrid. "I know I've made some mistakes in the past, but no one came through the front door."
"It always comes down to Amos," the brunette wailed. "And to think, he used to be so good at his job. But not for years now. And look what has happened! We're done for!"
Astrid couldn't help the condescending look she was shooting both of them. Now was hardly the time to point fingers. The reality of the situation was that the gunmen were inside and they had managed to cut the power. Now was a time for action, not squabbling.
"Would you two just shut up?" Astrid gritted out between clenched teeth when she could take it no longer. "I don't care whose fault it is. Now, we can play the blame game or we can join the others. Stragglers are much more likely to be seen as a threat and shot down."
"She's right," Amos agreed, though he almost hated to give credit to the arrogant woman. "Cindy? What do you say?"
But Cindy was lost to reason, lost to sense, lost to reality as she giggled and swayed where she sat. Cindy, Astrid realized, had finally snapped. Yet, Astrid was loath to just abandon the girl here in the darkness.
"Stop this, Cindy," she ordered straightly, much too calm for what she was feeling. "Get it together and come with us while you still have a chance."
Cindy sat up on her heels and pulled the blonde closer to her so that she could whisper in her ear. A fiendish smile rested on her usually pretty face.
"Uh uh, Astrid Green," she spoke in a sing-song sort of voice. "The truth will set you free, Astrid, and I know the truth; the truth is I wouldn't be you for all the world. Who are you, Astrid Green? Who are you?"
Astrid shoved the dark-haired secretary away from her harshly before backing out of the stall and storming out of the bathroom altogether. Cindy was left alone in the dark with her manic laughing still echoing out into the foreboding hallway. Amos, however, followed Astrid from the dark room at once and now stood before her looking concerned.
"What was that about? What did she say to you?" he wondered at her uneasy expression.
"It was nothing," the blonde mumbled, sounding unsettled for the first time since he'd met her trying to break that door down. "Look, she's obviously off her rocker. We'll all be dead if we try to bring her with us. I'm sure she'll be fine in there."
"Don't you think we have a duty?" Amos asked, but he didn't particularly want to go back for Cindy either. Her madness and hysteria were disquieting to him.
"We have a duty to the others and she would give away their location," Astrid said before continuing down the hallway once more. Amos needed to jog slightly to keep up with her pace, but she showed no signs of slowing down for his sake.
Suddenly, Amos started beeping. Loudly. Astrid stopped short and spun around.
"What is that noise?"
"Um…my cell. I'm in direct contact with the police," he explained as if he was particularly proud of that fact.
"And you didn't think it might be wise to put that thing on vibrate?" Astrid snapped. Amos just blushed, his pale cheeks suddenly matching his freckles. He simply nodded before flipping open his cell phone and taking the call.
Astrid watched the security guard intently, but it was difficult to grasp much information from Amos's mumblings and one-word responses. Half the time he seemed to respond with a nod or a shake of the head, as if he couldn't comprehend that he was on a phone call and the other party couldn't see him. After a couple of minutes he finally flipped the phone shut and pocketed it again. He said absolutely nothing when his eyes finally met hers.
"Well?" she asked impatiently.
"They've confirmed that the gunmen are inside. They want to start evacuating the building. Since we've already got the majority of people in Corridor A, they want to start there. The plan is to get them down the back stairwell and out the emergency exit which the police have secured. The problem is the two partners, Eugene and Kelly. No one knows where they've holed up and there has been no response from their security teams."
"That sounds promising," Astrid muttered, but she could not get past the hesitant look Amos was suddenly shooting her. It was as if he didn't trust her. As if he knew something that he shouldn't know. "There's something else, though, isn't there?"
"I…Astrid," he stammered suspiciously, dropping all formalities at last. "They think the gunmen are targeting the partners. Some sort of personal vendetta maybe."
"Okay…" she stated flatly.
"It's just…not many people would have access to the lockdown safety locations. His personal assistant would, though, wouldn't she?" he interrogated.
"Are you accusing me of something?" she snapped, ill impressed by his words. What did he take her for, after all?
"You're just a temp, aren't you, Astrid?" he continued. "How long have you been working here? A couple of weeks? Rather convenient timing, don't you think so?"
"No, I don't think so!" the blonde shrieked, forgetting her surroundings and the dire need to remain calm and quiet. "This is the worst thing that's ever happened to me! This is the worst possible timing imaginable! And before you go accusing me of something, Amos, let me just tell you that they ran extensive background checks before hiring me for the position. If anyone is suspicious, it's you! Cindy certainly lost it when I mentioned your name!"
"Cindy was suffering a mental breakdown and you know it!" Amos shouted back, running his free hand through his already disheveled auburn hair. "Look, Astrid, I'm going to have to take you into custody. As least for the time being."
"You've got to be kidding me!" Astrid cried out in frustration, but Amos would not be deterred. The look on his face was serious as he edged closer to her. She backed up defiantly, though, prepared to put up a fight.
"This will be easier if you cooperate," Amos assured her as he made a grab for her arm, but she was furious and not to be messed with.
Astrid Green was a woman who knew how to defend herself. She sidestepped the bungling guard easily and using her elbow shoved him head first into the wall. He didn't hit hard enough to knock himself out, but his vision did blur for just a second. Still, he lunged for the girl anyway and grabbed her around the waist and lifted her from the cold, marble ground. She screamed out in rage as she dropped the flashlight and beat her fists against his scrawny back. She could take him!
"And what do we have here?" a silky voice drawled.
Amos dropped the blonde at once and the two turned in the direction from which the voice had come. Following the beam of a flashlight to its source, they were brought face to face with three men dressed head to toe in tight-fitting black, each with a drawn pistol in hand. One man, the leader they presumed, leaned against the wall with one foot crossed over the other. When Astrid and Amos looked in his direction, he pushed away from the wall casually and strolled towards them.
"A security guard and who's this? Some secretary? My, my…What a compromising position," the man said silkily with a wicked glint in his eyes. The gunmen behind him snickered in amusement. "We could use a couple of hostages, don't you think, boys?" The thugs nodded their agreement enthusiastically, still pointing their weapons at the two now hostages.
"The building is surrounded," Amos warned the intruders, but his voice was powerless and without bite. The men looked amused.
"Don't think we don' have an out. Now, listen up! Drop your weapons and communication devices on the floor and pass them over with your feet. Do it now!" the man demanded forcefully. Amos gulped deeply, and very slowly pulled out his phone and walkie. He did as he was told.
"What about your gun?" the man sneered knowingly, his icy blue eyes threatening the guard to challenge him if he dared.
"I-I-I dropped it in the scuffle," Amos stammered, his hands raised in the air as he ran them through his messy hair and left them to rest at the back of his head.
"What's that?" the gunman spat.
"I-I said I dropped it in the scuffle."
"Search him!" The goons did as their leader commanded.
"He's clean, Stan," one of them stated when the search was completed. By now the leader looked so murderous even his own men seemed frightened.
"No names!" he shouted angrily, pointing his gun at the man who had just spoken.
"And what about you, lady? You have a cell phone?"
"The battery is dead," Astrid informed him but took it out and passed it over anyway. The leader glared at her for a moment, obviously displeased with the stability in her voice. She wasn't afraid of him, or at least put on quite the convincing show. Well, she would be soon enough.
Stan led his hostages away from Corridor A and back in the direction from which they'd come. Finding the Corridor B stairwell, he ordered one of the goons to open the door and motioned Amos and Astrid inside. The gunmen followed close behind as Astrid took up the front of the line, allowed to carry one of the flashlights.
"Where are we going?" she demanded to know. Stan really didn't like her attitude.
"You tell me, honey," he stated venomously. "Where do you have Mr. Kelly stashed? That's where we want to be."
"What makes you think I know anything?" she asked, her voice hard and defiant.
"You or him, honey," Stan drawled as he indicated Amos with his weapon. "One of you knows and you're going to take me there."
"No one would give that kind of information to Amos!" she groaned, but Stan and the goons were not amused.
"Then maybe we don't need him," he warned as he took aim dead center at Amos's chest.
"D-don't listen to her!" the redhead remarked nervously. "I'm Head of Security. It's my job to know. I c-can take you there."
"Then do it!"
Astrid rolled her eyes as she let Amos take the lead. She knew he was lying. Amos was a buffoon; those files were confidential even for him, Head of Security and all. The partners had their own separate security teams and body guards, men they could trust. It was only a matter of time before the gunmen realized that, too. Yet, she knew it wouldn't be wise to blow his cover so she followed him begrudgingly up the stairwell. All the while, though, she was formulating a plan of her own.
As soon as they reached the top of the next stairway, she bolted for the door, shoving Amos through it first and forcing it shut behind her. She leaned hard against it, but she wouldn't be able to match the strength of three men. She could hear them shouting and bounding up the few remaining steps.
"Keys!" she screamed at the now useless Amos, shining the light on him. The man was so stunned by the sudden change of events that he was hardly moving. "You're a security guard! Can't you lock this door?"
Yes! Yes, he could! And he did after fumbling with the keys for a split second. He was just in time as the men pounded on the door and shouted threats.
"Let's get out of here!" Astrid yelled over the men. She grabbed Amos's hand and dragged him along behind her. "We have to get to Corridor A on the first floor."
"The other guards will be evacuating everyone by now if they aren't finished already," he assured her. "Notice the guards aren't posted at the stairwell doorways anymore? They were in communication, too. It was just my walkie that was down. I…um…stepped on it."
"That figures," Astrid said.
"I think we need to warn Mr. Eugene and Mr. Kelly. Those men are after them."
"They'll be fine. There's an escape hatch on the roof. As soon as their security team deems the halls and adjoining stairwell safe, they'll escort the partners there to be helicoptered out," the blonde assured the frantic guard. His eyes lit up at the news.
"Would there be room for you on it?" he questioned. "You know, since you sort of missed your evacuation?"
"There might be, but it's too late anyway. Do you know how many floors up we'd have to go? And the elevators are down with the electricity," Astrid told him. He squeezed her hand in comfort.
"Look, Astrid. I'm sorry for accusing you back there. You may have noticed… I'm not the best at this security thing. The least I can do is get you to safety, and I will," he informed her with a sincere smile. She almost felt bad for all of the harsh things she had said and thought about the man.
"Well, you're not so bad at it," she wanted him to know.
Suddenly, the lights flickered back on and the empty hallway was lit up.
"The evacuation is complete and the police must be entering the building. The emergency power is running," Amos said.
"That's good then. We're safe."
"Well, it's a big building,' he dismissed easily. "We don't know that the partners have been secured. Come on. It's a long way to the top."
"But the elevators might not be secured, and we don't need to…"
"The gunmen are still down there. I don't want to risk losing you, Astrid," he interrupted before grabbing her firmly and kissing her hard on the mouth. "I promised to protect you."
And who could argue with that? Amos certainly was determined to get her to that helicopter, even as she could hear the officers rushing through the floors beneath her.
"Okay," she said, and he took her by the hand and ran to the elevator at the end of the hall.
The ride was quiet and awkward, and even the outspoken Astrid didn't know what to say. It took several minutes to reach the top, but when they did Amos became particularly cautious as he led her towards the landing. Security guards rushed past on all sides, shouting orders into their walkies as they ran. They didn't pay the new arrivals any attention, and they certainly didn't check in with Amos for further orders – all the more proof that Amos's title was nothing but. Mr. Eugene was in the corridor as well, shouting for service and brandy; both requests were ignored. Astrid expected Amos to stop, but he continued to pull her out to the roof where the helicopter had yet to arrive.
Mr. Kelly was standing in the center of the rooftop flanked by two guards. He turned suddenly when he heard the heavy door shoved open so abruptly. The wind was playing in his hair and pushing at the reluctant collar of his suit, but otherwise he looked no worse for wear, clean and well-kept as always.
"Astrid? Amos?" he questioned when he saw them. "What are you doing up here?"
"So, you're all right, then?" Amos wondered. "The gunmen…they said they were after you."
"Just fine, of course," Mr. Kelly boasted. "The culprits have already been taken into custody, and had they not been, my escape plan would have sufficed. That is, my confidential escape plan, Ms. Green." Astrid had the decency to blush at the remark.
"Yes. But he is the Head of Security, sir. Surely, he of all people should be informed," she argued. Mr. Kelly took in a long sigh as he considered her.
"Head of Security, yes. But only because he is my little brother and my father demanded it before I could receive my inheritance," the wealthy man confided. "And Amos did well enough at first, but over the past few years he's been…shall we say…flakey?"
"Your little brother?" Astrid gaped and turned to Amos. "Yes, I remember that from your file. Funny you never brought it up."
"It wasn't worth mentioning. It's kind of embarrassing really. Matt's such a big shot and I'm just security. My father demanded I be a part of the company. But Matt is a sly one. It was the perfect loophole really. I'm surprised he didn't just put me in the mailroom with the rats!" Amos spat, and Astrid couldn't help but take a step away from him. His anger seemed to come out of nowhere. She had never imagined he could be so frightening. But in his rage and jealousy, he was almost out of control.
Astrid didn't know what to expect, but what she most certainly did not expect was for Amos to pull out a gun and shoot down the two security guards. She screamed, but the heavy door had slammed shut and she doubted anyone would hear her above all the racket inside the building.
"And then he decides to fire me!" the fuming redhead shrieked with spit flying from his mouth.
"Amos?" Mr. Kelly looked utterly confused and downright terrified. "What are you doing?"
"Where did you get the gun, Amos?" Astrid asked when she found her voice. "The gunmen searched you. You dropped the gun when we fought."
"It's called revenge, Matthew. And the gun, Astrid, I dropped in the scuffle. But I picked it up again when you and that barbaric Stan were staring each other down," he informed them with a wicked grin. "You see, my plan was perfect really. Stan and the gang are being arrested as we speak, and do you know what they'll say?"
Astrid and Mr. Kelly shook their heads in answer, too dumbfounded to speak.
"They'll say they were hit men hired to do a job. But what they don't know is that they weren't hired to kill Matthew Kelly. Oh no! This is my revenge! They were my unwitting distraction! It's so beautiful because they don't even know who hired them!
"But take a guess who they probably think hired them! Huh, Astrid? The way you were so calm and unaffected. And then when you made a run for it in the stairwell, they didn't even shoot you in the back. But surely they know not to bite the hand that feeds them – or in this case the hand that pays them!
"I needed a scapegoat all along, you see. I didn't have to be too picky, either, since just about everyone has a motive against my brother. He has so many skeletons in the closet that any do-gooder would want to take him out. And when poor Cindy saw those thugs come in from the front door that I was supposed to lock, I knew she suspected me. If she wasn't so crazy, she would have been perfect! So I locked the door and chased her into the bathroom, and then I heard you, Astrid! Banging on that very same door – so angry and suspicious. A temp hired only two weeks prior with knowledge of Mr. Kelly's files. The hired thugs could take care of Cindy, and by the lack of her incessant screaming when we were fighting in the hallway, I'd say they did just that.
"You see, I may be the Head of Security by title, but by title alone. I'm just the front doorman, really. The bumbling idiot kept out of the way until I can be terminated. I don't have any real knowledge of anything that goes on here. I needed you to guide me to my brother, Astrid, and I need you to take the credit for killing him now. I, of course, being so slow and pathetic, was unable to get my gun loose in time to save him or the two security guards. That should be easy enough to believe around this gossip mill. But fortunately, I was able to kill his assassin before she could kill me. Isn't it perfect?"
Mr. Kelly was barely breathing, clutching at his chest as if he was about to have a heart attack. Astrid, who was usually calm under any circumstance, wanted to join him.
"You?" she couldn't help but ask. "You, Amos? You're the killer?" And then she was laughing.
"It's not funny, Astrid! I have the gun now! And you're going to die. But first…goodbye, brother."
Mr. Kelly had his eyes closed when Amos pulled the trigger. The silence was deafening, but it was silence nonetheless. There was no bang, no thud of a body hitting the rooftop, nothing. Amos pulled the trigger again.
"I'm out of bullets," he grumbled. That's when he heard the sound of another pistol being cocked.
"Yeah, but I'm not."
Amos turned his head to see Astrid beside him with a slender black gun pointed right at him. The look on her face was serious and determined. She meant business.
"Where did you get that?"
"It was in my skirt. Your hit men didn't even think to search the lowly temp. Astrid Green, FBI," she informed as she flipped out her identification. "There's been enough questionable activity around this so-called firm to warrant an undercover agent. I took you for a fool, so I didn't tell you who I really was in case you would blow my cover in front of the gunmen. Now I am certainly glad that I did. Feel like framing me now, Amos?" Amos was too stunned to answer. "Drop the gun and put your hands behind your head. Amos Kelly, you are under arrest."
She had him cuffed within seconds and the elder Mr. Kelly was singing her praises as he thanked her profusely. She turned her cold eyes on him instantly, a wild beast sizing up its prey.
"Don't thank me yet, Mr. Kelly," she warned. "Have you forgotten that I've had access to your files for two weeks? That's including the ones under lock and key in your office. I'm resourceful. There's enough illegal activity in there to put you away for years with little brother, here. Matthew Kelly, you are under arrest as well." Then she tucked her blond hair behind her ear, revealing a tiny, sleek earpiece. "Big Sister to Little Sister. You get all that, boys? We're on the roof. This thing is over."