Banking on Love
“So where’s lunch?” Gage asked his partner, glancing at her quickly before returning his gaze to the road.
She dug in her pocket for a moment. “Nowhere, if I don’t grab some cash.”
“I can lend you – “
“I don’t want your money,” she interrupted. “My bank’s right there. Can your stomach stand two more minutes?” she teased.
“Yeah, I guess.” He turned into the bank’s parking lot and shut off the engine.
“I’ll be right back,” she promised, slipping her gun out of her belt. Gage shot her a questioning look. “The owner doesn’t like it,” Syd explained.
“Wait… He can’t stop you from taking it in,” Gage protested.
“I know. But he pitches a fit about it anyway. It’s just not worth it. Besides, I’m not really fond of him, either.” She got out of the car and headed into the small building. The line was long, but moving quickly, so Syd stepped in behind the last person to wait.
The door to the bank opened again, sending shivers down her spine. Stop that, she thought. She had always thought her intuition was good, but lately Gage had been complaining about her hunches. Deciding that her gut was more influential than her partner, she glanced behind her.
The young man behind her couldn’t have been more than twenty. He was nicely dressed and clean-shaven, but there was something... odd… about him. She silently berated her sixth sense and turned back around.
The rush of people who had come at lunchtime began to filter out of the bank. That was the main reason she stayed with the bank – it was fast, and time was not a luxury her job afforded her. It still didn’t seem like a fair trade, though – speed in return for her gun and having to deal with a detestable owner.
Within minutes, the bank had almost completely emptied, and Syd was third in line.
“Okay... everybody down on the floor! Hands up!” the young man behind her yelled. She whirled around in time to see the guard raise his gun as the young man did. Syd started for him, but he had already stepped out of reach. She reached for her gun, but realized too late that she had left it with Gage.
The under-trained security guard took a wild shot at the boy and missed. He returned fire, striking the guard in the chest. The guard crumpled to the floor.
“I said, everybody get down!” he ordered, waving the gun at them.
Sydney immediately dropped to the floor with her feet toward him. While he couldn’t see, she unpinned her star and shoved it into her shirt pocket. Gage... He must have heard the shot. Oh, please, stay out there...
“I want the money,” the man demanded. The tellers didn’t move. “Now!” he ordered.
They jumped and started toward the desk, opening drawers. One pulled out a few moneybags from the back cabinets and handed them out.
“You,” he told her, “go get your boss and anybody back in that hallway. Now.”
She hurried out of the room. A few seconds later, a siren sounded.
The man hurriedly ran to a corner, out of sight of the windows. “You!”
Syd looked up to find him staring right at her. It was the first time since the robbery had started that she had taken a good look. He was pale and shaky – unstable. “You... shut the blinds. Now.”
“Okay,” she said gently, getting slowly to her feet as the owner of the bank and two other staff members came out from the back hallway. The owner caught her eye and gave her a hopeful look. She glowered at him and slowly twisted the first set of blinds closed. On the second set, she saw Gage right outside, but still blind to the robber.
“Are you okay?” he mouthed.
She nodded almost imperceptibly and moved on. He followed as units pulled up behind him.
She held up one finger, hidden in front of her, then snapped shut the final set of blinds. She was closer to the robber, but still not close enough.
“Okay, I... I want everybody out here. Over... there,” he stuttered, pointing to a corner counter.
The shaky hostages slowly moved to the corner and sat down. Syd took a quick head count – three tellers, the owner, two other employees, and two customers, not including herself – and the guard. Great. Nine innocent lives on my shoulders, she thought to herself. She slid to the floor.
The owner sat next to her as the robber paced across the bank. “What are you going to do?” he whispered.
She smiled sweetly at him. “Just what would you like me to do, Mr. Kanter?”
“I don’t know... shoot him?”
“With what? My bow and arrow?” she hissed, “or the gun you told me I couldn’t bring in here?”
His face fell. “You mean you don’t...”
“Shut up!” the robber yelled, swinging the gun toward Kanter. “Just... shut up!”
“Okay. It’s okay,” Syd soothed, holding up her hands. The robber went back to the windows.
“What’ll we do?” Kanter whispered.
“Give it time...”
“Gage, what’s going on?” Trivette asked the pacing ranger. “They said you were first on the scene.”
“Syd’s in there,” he said.
“It’s... it’s her bank.” He continued pacing.
“Do you know if she’s okay?” Walker asked.
He nodded. “So far. But there were two gunshots. I... I don’t know what’s happened.”
Trivette took a deep breath. “She can handle herself.”
Gage shook his head, holding up Syd’s gun.
“Why on earth...”
“The owner... he wouldn’t let her...” He slumped against the car.
Walker put a hand on the younger Ranger’s shoulder for support. “Let’s go see if they’ve contacted him yet.”
Sydney rested her head against the cabinets. The sound of the ringing phone was driving her absolutely insane – and she wasn’t the only one. The other hostages had gotten restless. Kanter was fuming; Syd prayed he wouldn’t do something stupid. The robber paced nervously across the room.
The phone rang again.
Sydney took a deep breath. “Please answer that,” she said softly.
He whirled to face her, lowering the gun to her forehead. His eyes were wild, his hand unsteady. “What?”
“You should answer that,” she said evenly.
“Why? Why the hell should I do that?”
“Because they have no idea what’s going on in here.”
“That’s a good thing.”
“No, it’s not. They don’t know that you have hostages. For all they know, we’ve escaped. That phone is their only connection to you. If you don’t answer, they might figure you won’t give up and send half the force in here after you and kill us all.”
Some of the hostages whimpered, clinging to each other for support.
The robber thought for a minute, then glanced at the dead guard and wavered a bit. “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.”
“Tell them that,” she urged.
“What’s the difference?” he demanded. “Either they kill me, or...”
He shook his head. “I lose either way.”
“God, shut up!” he screamed, knocking one of the phones off the desk. A small, buzzing voice could be heard through the receiver. “Shut up!” He raised his gun and put two bullets through the extension.
That’s three, Syd thought.
The hostages all winced, pulling closer to the cabinets.
The surrounding officers all jumped at the sound of the shots. The man at the phone pulled off his headpiece and went to his supervisor. “I can’t get him, sir. He picked up, then the line went dead.”
“At or before the gunshots?” Walker asked.
“I... I don’t know.”
“You think he shot out the phone?” Trivette asked.
“There’s no way to know.”
“What about Syd?” Gage demanded. “Why two shots? Why not just one? What if she’s hurt?”
“We don’t know that she is,” Walker soothed, then turned to the phone operator. “Surely there’s more than one phone in there. Give Syd a little time. Then get him back.”
They waited nearly fifteen minutes in total silence. Syd stared at her watch, waiting for the phone to ring again. Surely they hadn’t given up, but could an impact like that have downed the whole phone system? Syd bit her lip as she pondered all the possibilities.
The other hostages were not dealing as well. The three tellers were huddled together in a small group. One of the customers was an old woman who had begun to sweat and turn pale. Every so often she would clutch at her chest and breathe a bit heavier than usual.
Syd was not surprised to see the different reactions the hostages were having. While four were very upset, the other half were almost stoic. The other customer, a young black man, attended to the old lady. The woman who had worked in the back hallway sat with a tiny rosary ring, praying it over and over again. The man from that hall simply sat, staring sightlessly at the blinds in front of him. Every few minutes he glanced back to his open wallet and flipped through a small collection of pictures. Kanter was boiling beneath his cold glare. Syd knew his temper would be their downfall if she wasn’t careful. She wondered how far he would go, knowing that he had a family as well.
The robber seemed to be doing worse than the hostages. His skin had turned sickly white and sweat poured from his face. He shook badly, and went to peer out the window every minute or so. After that, he would pace the store twice, give the hostages a quick once-over from the other side of the room to make sure they didn’t try anything, then head back to the window.
Five more minutes passed.
I can’t take this anymore. Syd slowly got to her feet, hands in the air. The robber quickly pointed the gun straight at her, panicked.
“If you won’t talk to them, will you talk to me?” she asked softly.
“Because we’re all in this together, whether we like it or not. We may all die together. I don’t want that to happen, but if it does, I want to at least know your reason.”
He relaxed a bit, but remained across the room. “Like what?”
“Well, for starters, can I check on him?” Syd nodded toward the guard sprawled on the floor – with his gun still lying beside him.
“Hang on.” The boy picked up the extra gun and shoved it in the back of his belt. “Okay.”
Disappointed, but still hopeful for the guard, she knelt beside the old man and checked for a pulse, then stood again. “What’s your name?”
“Brandon. Brandon Thomas.”
“Okay, Brandon. This man is still alive, but he may not be for long. You need to get him out of here.”
“You don’t want him to die in here.”
He shook his head.
“Question number two – why are you doing this?”
“That’s question three.”
“Alright, question three.”
“Because... I have to.”
“Why? Do you need the money, Brandon? There’s not that much money here, Brandon. But if you need money this badly, there are always places you can go to get help. If that’s the case, we can tell them that and end this right now.”
“No, I don’t need the money.”
“Does someone else?”
She sighed. “Okay, Brandon, maybe I don’t know your reason, but I do know there’s hope for you if you give up now. This is an attempted robbery, okay? But the guard is still alive. If he dies, you’re a murderer. And she’s not looking too good, either,” Syd coaxed, pointing to the older woman.
The phone rang.
Oh, thank God.
Both of their eyes went directly to the other phone extensions. After the second ring, he motioned toward the desks. “Pick it up.”
“Okay.” She moved slowly to one of the phones and picked it up. “Hello? Yes, this is... Hang on.” She put a hand over the receiver. “Can I tell them your name?”
He shook his head.
“Okay... Can I tell them how many hostages there are?”
“There are ten of us,” she relayed.
Gage picked up a spare outside extension. “Syd?”
“Can you talk?”
“Does he know who you are?”
“Is he experienced, do you think?” the operator asked. “Prior offenses?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Is he a kid?” Gage interrupted.
“Is he stable?”
Brandon was quickly becoming uneasy with the one-word answers and shot her a warning look. Syd tried her best to act the frightened hostage. “Just please... don’t kill us,” she begged into the phone before hanging up.
“What did they say?”
“They want to know your demands,” she lied. “I told them I didn’t know what they were. So they said they’d give you time to figure them out, okay? And they’ve got control of the line somehow, so we just have to pick up the phone anytime we want to talk.”
“You still haven’t told me why.”
He cast a wary glance at her. “You seem to know everything. Figure it out.”
She leaned back against the desk, staying near the phone. “I know it didn’t turn out like you planned. In fact, you didn’t have a plan, did you?”
He didn’t answer.
“Or if there was a plan, someone else made it up. Is that it? Someone else is involved?”
Avoiding her eyes, he began pacing again.
“So that’s it. What did they do? Did they tell you it would be easy? That you’d never get caught? Did they swear they’d already planned it? Staked everything out? ‘Oh, no, Brandon, of course there’s no guard. It’ll take the cops forever to get there. You’ll be in and out, no problem.’ Is that it? Because if it is... you got screwed over big time. They played you for a fool, and you fell for it.”
“Shut up!” he screamed, swinging the gun back toward her. “You shut up!”
“Who did it?” Kanter demanded, getting to his feet. “Who put you up to this?”
“Sit down!” Brandon yelled.
“Shut up, Kanter,” Syd ordered softly. She was trying to push him to the edge, not over it. Kanter’s gonna kill us all...
“No. I want to know who’s behind this. This is my bank, you little punk and I won’t let you just barge in here and take over!” He stepped menacingly toward the younger man.
Brandon took a wild shot at the owner. The bullet caught him in the ear and embedded itself in the wall behind the hostages as they shrieked in terror. Clutching at his ear, Kanter dropped to the floor as Brandon leveled the gun at him again.
That’s four. Sydney rushed to Kanter, putting herself between the two men. “Stop!”
Brandon’s hand shook badly as he held the gun on the two of them. It was obvious that he wasn’t far from the brink of insanity. Syd had known that Kanter’s temper would get him into trouble eventually. The situation was quickly escalating out of control, and the last thing Syd wanted was an eleven-person massacre – herself included.
“Get out of my way,” Brandon hissed through clenched teeth.
“Whoa, hang on, Brandon,” she pleaded.
“Move!” he ordered, aiming the gun at her forehead.
“Brandon... Brandon, please, listen to me. Just take a deep breath and listen to me for just one minute, okay?” Please God... the longer I keep him from shooting someone, the less his odds of going insane... “Please – he’s got a family... children. They need their father.” She turned to Kanter. “Tell him.”
“I... I have a wife and two daughters,” he stuttered. “Kerrie is twelve and Jennifer is eight. My wife... she’s pregnant with twins. She can’t handle it alone.”
“They need him, Brandon… Please.”
The gun wavered between Kanter and Sydney for a moment, then stopped at Kanter’s chest. “Not a word. Not one more word from you,” the young man ordered, then went back to pacing. The phones rang again.
“Can I answer that?” Syd asked.
He nodded gruffly.
“Don’t you move. Don’t you dare say a word,” she ordered Kanter under her breath, then hurried to the desk. “Hello?”
“Are you okay? What happened?” It was Gage’s voice.
“Yes – all of us that were before, anyway. It’s okay.”
“Do you have a list of demands?” the operator asked.
“Can we speak with him? I have Captain Banks of the hostage negotiation team here with me.”
“You won’t do any better than Syd,” she heard Gage mutter.
“Hang on.” She put her hand over the receiver and turned to Brandon. “They want to talk to you.”
“No. You talk.”
“He wants me to talk to you instead,” she relayed.
“Please hold and I’ll put Captain Banks on the line,” the operator quipped.
“I need you to find out what he wants in exchange for the hostages. And keep him talking.”
“I will. Time,” she said simply, and hung up.
“What did they say?” Brandon asked.
“They still want to know what you want. They wanted to know what the gunshot was.”
He nodded and turned back to the windows.
“What do you want?”
“Let me guess: It’s got something to do with whoever put you up to this.”
“If I don’t give them the money, they’ll kill me,” he muttered.
He turned back. “You don’t need to know that.”
“All right. That aside, how do you intend to get the money to them?”
“I don’t know. I’ve gotta get out of here.”
“I understand. But you’ve got ten lives to trade here.”
“Okay... a car, then. An armored car. A truck. That’s it, an armored truck!”
She raised an eyebrow. “Would something close to that be acceptable? I don’t know if they can get that, exactly.”
“Whatever. And... free passage out of here.”
“Full gas tank, I take it?”
“Is that all? You want lunch?”
He raised the gun again. “Don’t you mock me.”
“Oh, I wasn’t.”
“Good. Then that’s all.”
“They’ll want something in return.”
Syd pointed at the hostages.
“Fine. Call them.”
She nodded and picked up the phone, relaying his demands. “They want a sign of goodwill,” she said.
Brandon surveyed the hostages. “How many?”
“Four. I would recommend the guard – that is, if he’s still alive.”
“Yeah, him. But how?”
“I would say the three men should carry him.” After all, he’s less likely to shoot Kanter – or us – if he’s outside...
Kanter started to get to his feet.
“No. You sit! The other two can carry him,” Brandon said angrily.
Darn it. “That’s three; who else?”
“Who do you think?” he asked.
Sydney pointed to the old woman. “Let them out of here.”
He motioned to the door. “Go.”
The black man helped the old lady to her feet and to the door, then he and the bank employee hauled the guard out of the building.
Syd put the receiver back to her ear and listened for a moment, then hung up. “Twenty minutes.”
Syd sat in an office chair, waiting for the phone to ring. Brandon was almost completely undone. She wasn’t sure whether it would be wiser to try and get his gun or just to let it all unfold. It wouldn’t be long now, anyway.
The phones rang again, exactly nineteen minutes after the previous conversation. At least they’re prompt.
Syd picked it up. “Yes?”
“It’s ready,” Gage said.
“All of it?”
“Yes. Is it safe?”
“There’s a tracker, Syd. We’re gonna catch this guy.”
Syd turned to Brandon. “It’s ready.”
He peeked out the window and nodded.
“They want the rest of the hostages.”
Deep in thought, he turned back to her. “I keep one. Otherwise, they’ll kill me.”
“He’ll let all but one go,” she relayed.
“Get out of there, Syd. You’ve been hero enough for one day. You’ve got to convince him to let you all-“
“I know. He’ll send them out in a minute.” She hung up and turned back to Brandon. “All but one?”
“All of you can go,” he announced. Relieved, the hostages wearily got to their feet. “Except you,” he added, leveling the gun at Kanter. “You get to stay with me... because I just don’t like you.”
Kanter began to panic. “But... you can’t. No, I won’t!”
Brandon shook the gun at him. “You have two choices. Leave here with me or leave in an ambulance.”
“But I... I’m just a bank employee.” He pointed at Syd. “Take her – she’s a Texas Ranger!”
Gage watched anxiously as the remaining hostages poured out of the building. Syd wasn’t among them. “She’s still in there,” he gasped, starting toward the bank.
“Easy, Gage, there’s nothing you can do now,” Trivette soothed as he took a firm hold of Gage’s arm.
“How could you?” one of the tellers demanded of Kanter. “She stood up for you – she saved your life!”
“Whoa, what’s going on here?” Walker inquired, stepping between the woman and her boss.
“That woman – the Texas Ranger, if that’s really what she is – she stopped that man from shooting him,” she began, pointing at Kanter. “She saved him. But when it came down to it, he... he turned her in for a cop!” She turned to Kanter. “If he kills her, it’s all your fault, you... you... coward!”
“What?” Gage exclaimed.
“Shut up before I fire you, girl,” he snarled.
She gave him her best fake smile. “Sorry. I quit.”
“Me, too,” another teller said, then stalked away with her coworker.
“You blew her cover?” Gage demanded angrily.
“It was her or me!”
“And who made you God to decide who lives and dies?” he growled.
“I have a family! I own a business!”
“That’s your defense? She’s my partner!” Gage roared. He started for the other man, but Walker and Jimmy pulled him back.
“Easy, Gage, easy.”
Gage swore and stormed to the car.
“A Texas Ranger? A cop? You lied to me!” Brandon screamed.
“I didn’t lie. Easy, Brandon, just take a breath. I never told you I wasn’t a Ranger.” Syd backed slowly away from the gun, hands in the air. “Brandon, please.”
“What, were you just waiting for me to screw up so you could shoot me? Is that it? Where’s your gun?” he demanded, slowly advancing on her.
“I don’t have it. You can search me if you want; I don’t have it.” She countered, backing up until she hit the wall.
“Oh, so you would have shot me if you’d had it. You were waiting for a chance.”
“No. I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“You’re all over the map, aren’t you? And here I thought you wanted to help me.”
“I wanted to get us all out alive. I still do.” She watched carefully as he approached, the gun leveled at her forehead. He drew closer, until the gun was nearly touching her face.
“Oh, do you?”
She shrugged. “Have it your way.” She swung one hand across her face, knocking the gun away before he could react. His finger hit the trigger, and a bullet flew past her temple and lodged itself in the wall. She kneed him quickly in the stomach, then slipped out of his grasp as he doubled over.
“You little...” he tried to swing the gun back toward her, but she knocked it from his grasp with one swift kick.
“I still don’t want to hurt you,” she warned.
“Right.” He swung wildly at her.
“Okay, fine.” She slammed a foot into his stomach, knocking him to the ground, then started for the gun on the floor. As she reached for it, a shot rang out and pain exploded through her arm. She was knocked off her feet by the impact and thrown ungracefully onto the floor.
“You forget,” he scolded, advancing on her with the guard’s gun.
She mentally kicked herself. How could I be so stupid?
“I should kill you,” he seethed, “But first I have to get out of here.” He pulled her to her feet by her injured arm, eliciting a cry of pain through clenched teeth.
“Freeze!” Gage kicked in the door and aimed the gun straight at Brandon, who quickly pulled Sydney in front of him, holding the gun on her.
Brandon laughed. “There’s got to be a hundred cops out there, and they send you?”
“Let her go.”
“And why do you care so much, huh?” He squeezed Syd’s shoulder, and she moaned. “Or maybe you can tell me. Why does he care so much?”
“He’s... my partner,” she whispered, clutching her arm.
“Oh, I see. Well, you tell your partner to get out of my way before I kill you.”
Syd shook her head. “Gage, no...”
Gage hesitated a moment, staring at her bleeding shoulder, then stepped aside.
“Good. Pick up those bags,” he ordered.
“Pick them up!” He slammed a fist against her shoulder.
Syd reached behind her with her good arm and grabbed two of the bags. Brandon took another and looped the strap over his arm, then took a firm grip of her good arm.
“Let’s go,” he ordered, pushing her to the door.
Gage was standing outside in the half-circle of rangers and police officers. “Let her go, son,” the chief hostage negotiator coaxed. “If you give up now, we can help you. We just don’t want anybody else to get hurt.”
“Funny... She said the same thing right before she tried to bash my face in. Let me through or she dies.”
“That’s not much of a threat. If you kill her, you’ll die here, too.”
“So let me to the truck.”
Walker nodded, and part of the circle dispersed. Brandon stayed under the overhang of the bank and dragged Syd to the truck, carefully keeping her between him and the police. When he reached the truck, he quickly shoved Sydney inside and climbed in after her. He threw the truck into gear and squealed past Gage out of the parking lot.
“It’s okay,” Gage mouthed. “It’s gonna be okay.”
Syd silently put a red-stained hand up against the glass as the distance between them spread. Soon Brandon took a sharp turn, and Gage disappeared altogether. She sighed and crumpled into her seat.
“Wake up. We’re here,” Brandon ordered gruffly, as he pulled the truck to a stop on a small path in a thickly wooded area. There were several other cars around, and people began to slowly climb out of them as the truck arrived.
Sydney forced her eyes open. Her hand was numb, but her shoulder throbbed. She felt woozy, and just the attempt to center herself in the seat exhausted her. “How long...?”
“We’re about two hours from Dallas.” He took the bags of money and climbed out of the truck.
“Brandon!” one of the men greeted him. “We heard you got into a little trouble, but then they said you were on your way here. Did you get it?”
Brandon dropped the moneybags at his feet. “It’s probably not as much as you wanted, but it was all I could do, Chris.”
“Well, considering I didn’t think you’d make it here at all... Who’s this?” Chris swung open the truck’s passenger door, taking away Syd’s support. She fell into a heap on the ground. “And what exactly happened back there that you brought a bleeding woman with you? I thought I’d heard it all... but I guess not.”
“There was a guard. You said there wouldn’t be a guard.”
Chris didn’t look fazed. “Mistakes happen.”
“I had to shoot him. And a cop outside must have heard it and called it in.”
“She’s a cop? You brought a cop here?”
“I didn’t know she was at the time. But she was in the bank. I had to shoot them both.”
Syd began to laugh softly. Brandon pulled out his gun again. “Shut up!”
“Don’t you get it? He didn’t know there was a guard because he never looked,” she said softly, trying to pull herself up. “Did he tell you it was all planned? ‘'Cause the only plan he had was that he didn’t want to get caught – so he didn’t do it himself. He got you to do it for him. I can’t believe you risked your life for this.”
“Shut up,” Brandon hissed.
“You just must not get it. They won’t let me out of here anyway. Consider yourself lucky if they don’t kill you, too. I just wouldn’t want you to be wondering why as you face the barrel... maybe of the same gun you used.”
“Well, you’re right on one count,” Chris growled. “You’re not getting out of here.”
“I won’t kill her,” Brandon defended. “I’m in deep enough.”
“Fine. I will.” Chris took the gun from Brandon and leveled it at Syd.
“No, you won’t,” a voice called from the surrounding woods. Syd looked around to see a swarm of cops entering the clearing. Walker and Trivette stepped out from behind the truck, completing the circle. “Drop it,” Gage ordered.
“Right,” Chris laughed. He was the only cocky one in the group – Brandon and the others quickly froze.
“My partner is already hurt. I am not in a good mood. Drop it now – before I shoot you,” Gage growled.
“You wouldn’t shoot me.”
“Really?” Gage cocked his gun in unison with many of the other Rangers. Chris stared at him for a moment in disbelief, then tossed the gun to the ground. Gage hurried to his partner as the officers moved in on the group. “I thought I told you not to play hero,” he said softly, kneeling beside her.
“I didn’t try to,” she murmured. “But if I ever find Kanter… I’m gonna kill him.”
Gage pulled her closer to him, supporting her as her arms began to give out. “It’s okay.”
“It was my fault. The other gun... I should have known…”
“It’s okay. Let’s get you taken care of, then we can talk about what happened, okay?” He gently picked her up and carried her to where the arriving ambulance would have to stop.
“How did you...?”
“The tracker, remember? I told you we put one on the truck.”
“Oh, yeah...” She touched his hand as he set her down on the stretcher. “Does that offer still stand?”
He laughed. “Of course.”
“Good. I haven’t eaten all day. I’m hungry.”
He shot her an incredulous look. “No, you’re weird.” He waited for the medics to load the stretcher into the ambulance, then climbed in after her. “But I like you anyway.”
She grinned. “Yeah, I’m kind of fond of you, too.”