She continued to babble on the phone to me and I took a deep breath.
“Shut the fuck up and listen to me Ruby or you’re going to die.”
That stopped her for a second. “Die? I don’t want to die.” She sounded panicked. “I have a painting to finish. I need to find that cat… I… I have a frat party to go to tomorrow.” Then she stopped talking.
“OK good, listen carefully to my instructions.” I told her. “I want you to tell me exactly where you are in the bank.”
There was an intake of breath on the line and then she let it out slowly. “Ground floor, back of the lobby, second set of bathrooms. There seems to be some kind of ceiling exit here but I’m in no condition to climb anywhere out of here.”
“OK, give me 15 minutes and somehow I want you to get back into that bathroom and call again. I’m going to try something.”
“Get back in the..? Are you fucking loco white boy? Do you know how hard it was to get…”
“They think you’re pregnant right? Pregnant women puke. I don’t care how you do it chica, but fucking do it.”
She seemed shocked at my use of Spanish and her tone became a little more humbled. “Ok ok, but if you don’t hear from me in 15 minutes then you better pay for my fucking funeral hombre.”
“Done.” I needed to figure out as much as I could about this woman before I trusted her with even my baby teeth.
“OK, I will call you in 15.” She hung up and I immediately turned to the computer tech.
“Ruby Rodriguez. Pull her up.” I ordered as I began to strap on a bulletproof vest.
“20 year old Latina, she’s in college, had an appointment today in the bank for a student loan. Her record is clean sir….well, apart from several college party related arrests.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
He seemed a little flustered as he read the chart to himself. “Well em….”
“Spit it out.”
“She eh…right, um, indecent exposure, DUI, disturbing the peace, spitting in the mayor’s face, and em…. Urinating on a police officer.”
I grinned. ‘I like this girl already.’ I thought to myself. She seemed to have some kind of idiotic courage. Well it will either save them all, or get her killed. I shuddered. No, not losing another civilian to these bastards. I can’t.
The phone rang again after 15 minutes and I answered it immediately. “Ruby?”
“Ethan, is that you?” her voice sounded a little rough and I felt concern fill me.
“Yes, are you ok? Did they hurt you? What’s happening?”
“They haven’t hurt me but I’m really hung over so I was able to get sick, they sent me to the bathroom to puke more. I can’t deal with this shit, my stomach is raw.”
I smiled, ah the college life. I looked at her picture on the screen in front of me. Her green eyes seemed to be staring right back at me from the photograph, her mouth slowly curving upwards in a smirk. She was really beautiful, I worried a little at that, these guys weren’t professionals and this could get ugly. They were used to taking what they wanted….anything they wanted.
“OK listen Ruby. When you go back outside to them, I am going to place a call to the bank. I need you to lie on the floor at this point. You have to pretend to be so sick that they need outside medical attention for you. They’re not pro’s and they will agree to my suggestions. I need you to be almost catatonic. Can you do that?”
“I am a college student dumbass, I spend most of my life catatonic. Piece of cake.”
“Ok chica, I’m gonna get you out of there alive, I promise.”
The click of the phone signalled her departure and I began to lay out my plan.
“Right, get me on the phone to these guys inside the bank. NOW!”
I held the phone back to my ear and watched on the screens as we finally patched into the security system in the bank.
“Who the fuck is this?” the voice answered after several rings and it took all I had not to growl down the phone at him.
“Ethan Hawk. I have you on screen in front of me, I can see that there are seven of you. We hope to come to some kind of agreement.”
I saw Ruby suddenly start to shake and fall to her knees.
“If that bitch is gonna puke again drag her sorry ass to the bathroom.” The guy on the other end of the phone shouted at two others while I watched on screen.
“I see you have an ill woman on your hands.” I said calmly, even though my insides had flipped over. Ruby was doing a very good job of being ill.
“She’s fine, she’s just pregnant.” Was the response.
“If she’s pregnant then she could be going into shock.” I responded. “She needs to be treated immediately.”
“No fucking way, she’s our main bargaining chip here and we know it.” He shouted down the phone as he flipped the camera off with his free hand.
“Ok, look, will you at least let me send someone in to check that she’s ok?” I tried to make my voice sound pleading and just as he was about to respond I saw one of the others waving to him and heard a distant voice on the line.
“Boss, boss she’s not breathing, well, she is but not much. Her whole body is shaking, what do we do?”
‘My god this girl was good.’ I thought admiringly.
“OK.” The voice on the line seemed a little worried now. “You can come in. Nobody else, just you.”
“Fine, I’m coming now.”
I hung up the phone and slipped the earpiece into my pocket as I grabbed a medibag from the shelf.
“Ethan what are you?” one of the agents tried to stop me and I held up my hand. “Just don’t. This is currently the only chance we have to get on the inside.”
I rushed up the steps of the bank with my hands out and slowly they opened the door and let me inside, patting me down until they were satisfied that I wasn’t packing any heat.
“She’s over here.” One of them led me to where Ruby lay, completely pale and unmoving. I swallowed hard. She was even prettier in person.
Kneeling down beside her I looked up at them. “Can you back off and give us some air please?”
They stood back, keeping their weapons trained on my head. ‘Great, I hope nobody has an itchy trigger finger.’ I gently tapped on Ruby’s face. “Ma’am?” I had to pretend not to know her name.
She opened her eyes and looked up at me with a slightly unfocused stare. “Ruby.” She muttered.
“What?” I leant closer, checking her vitals.
“My name is Ruby.” Her stare seemed more focused now and she looked directly into my eyes. I held her gaze for a long moment before replying. “Ethan. Ethan Hawk.” Her eyes widened slightly and I blinked a warning at her. She seemed to understand and she moaned loudly. “My baby, I feel so sick. What is this? Help me. Dios mio. Am I going to die?”
“No you’re not, I looked around and motioned to one of the bank robbers. “Clear off that counter, I need to put her somewhere.”
He nodded and shoved everything off the countertop as I slowly snaked my hand behind Ruby’s neck and under her knees. “I’m gonna lift you now baby girl.” I murmered. “Relax.” I stood up in one fluid movement and held her tiny body close against my giant frame. She must have been about 5’3” or 4”, miniscule next to my towering 6’2”.
Gently laying her down on the table I motioned for my bag and one of the guys threw it to me. “Thanks man.” I turned back to Ruby and gently turned her head to one side, making it as if I was checking her pulse. In reality I was turning her head into my palm to fit the earpiece into her ear without them noticing.
“Her breath is shallow.” I said loudly as I bent down close to her face. I made it seem like I was counting her breaths but in reality I was whispering instructions softly. “It’s an earpiece, I’ll activate it once I’m back outside. They can’t see it, but you can hear me and I can hear you and them. Stay calm, remember to recover slowly.”
I straightened up and looked around at them. “She’s going to be ok, she’s just severely dehydrated. You need to keep her drinking water.”
They nodded slowly and I made to turn back to her when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Time to leave now.” The voice was the one from the phone. I turned slowly and stared into the eyes of the man who led the group I so despised. “OK, but don’t let her fall asleep.” I growled.
I looked back at her one last time and her stare caught me again. “You’ll be out of here in no time Rue.” I smiled before I was roughly led away and shoved out the door.
Back inside the trailer I started to set up the systems and clipped my own earpiece in.
“Live in 5, 4, 3….”
I took a deep breath and suddenly sound filled my ears. Sounds from the inside of the bank.
“Rue, it’s Ethan, can you hear me? Cough twice if you can.”
Two weak coughs sounded over the comms system and I punched the air. ‘Yesss!’
“Ok baby girl, time to outsmart some bank robbers.”