Loyalty was one thing, but it only went so far.

Getting yourself perforated just because you like a guy, or because you grew up on the same streets and fucked the same girls, sometimes alone, sometimes together, didn’t make it smart.

“If I’m gonna do this, it’s gonna be done right. No fucking around. It’s gonna be big enough to cash out, man.”

“Last job,” Black swore, cursing it.

But Pappy meant it; this was the end of the road, the last job. From tomorrow his life was all about making a fresh start. He was getting out before hanging around with Black meant he wound up in the ground. He had a plan. It wasn’t fully formed. He couldn’t risk thinking about it too much. Daydreaming. He needed to be on his game. Right now all he knew for sure was come the morning he’d light out for Detroit. Clean start, different city. No one knew him out there. Maybe he’d even get himself into some computer school or something, make a real life for himself.

Black wouldn’t give up this kind of life.

It was in his blood. Like poison.

Even if he decided to start again somewhere else, it wouldn’t be long before he fell into the same patterns of behavior. That was just who he was.

“Down! On the fuckin’ floor!” Black yelled as he pushed through the glass double doors into the bank.

He fired one shot after another into the ceiling, sending a shower of plaster drifting down like snow.

Hysterical shouts and cries filled the silence after the shots. Someone sobbed uncontrollably. Black ignored them all.

Pappy dumped a bag in front of one of the tellers. He looked along the counter to see another bag go down. The ski masks made them all look the same. He almost laughed at the thought. It wouldn’t be the first time a pretty white girl had been confused by color, after all.

Black stood in the middle of the floor, acting the big man, ready to explode: “I said stop your fuckin’ noise, bitch!” Pappy glanced toward him. Black held his gun—a huge Desert Eagle—an inch from the face of an old woman. She was barely keeping it together and the gun wasn’t helping.

“Hurry,” Pappy told the teller, willing her to read his mind. If they didn’t get out of here soon, things would go bad real fast.

He’d seen Black pumped up like this before.

There was no point trying to reason with him.

The best they could do was get out of there.

But fast was never going to be fast enough.

Someone was always going to try and be a fucking hero.

It was written in the stars.

In blood.

In that endless second between heartbeats it all went wrong.

A security guard, hyped on adrenaline and stupid Hollywood movies, made a grab for Black. He caught him around the neck, from behind, and pulled the mask from his head in the struggle.

Black lashed out violently, swinging the Desert Eagle like a club. The barrel hit the guard square in the temple with a sickening crunch. Something broke in there. Pappy heard it from where he stood. There was nothing good about that sound. He watched the man collapse.

Black scrambled for his mask, trying to cover his face again, but they all knew it was too late for that. Cameras had caught him now. There were dozens of them inside the bank; one would have captured a perfect picture of his face.

Black stood over the guard. He hawked and spat, then pulled the trigger. Once. Twice. Three times. The dead man’s body only twitched a single time.

The alarm broke the stunned silence. The atmosphere in the bank changed with those shots. The hysteria was as dead as the guard. Every last one of the customers and staff stared with disbelief at the Desert Eagle, at Black, at the dead man, and knew that but for the grace of whatever god, devil, or deity they chose to believe in, it could have been them down there. It had just become very fucking real.

Pappy breathed deeply. Someone needed to take control.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

The plan was in, grab the cash, and out again—no one gets hurt. No one winds up dead.

But there he was, blood spilling out across the marble floor.

Pappy felt sick.

Banks were insured; they could afford to lose the cash. That guy down there was someone’s son, someone’s husband, someone’s father. Or had been. Now he was just dead.

Pappy choked back the bile.

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