It Happened One Wedding Page 83

Unless they planned to kill him and make off with both the guns and the money.

Surrounding the area was Vaughn’s backup squad and the eight guys on the special operations team, all of whom were listening in and watching this unfold. Like Vaughn, those twelve men had just identified the Mahoney brothers and Howard as potential problems—problems who were armed, no less. Which meant they all were on high alert right then.

When Vaughn had nearly reached the van, Mike Mahoney stepped forward, blocking the duffle bag. He folded his beefy arms over his chest. “Before you take that bag, Sullivan, I think we need to talk.”

Staying in character, Vaughn dismissed this without consideration. “No, we don’t. I don’t even know you.” He stepped forward to grab the bag.

Whether out of anger, bravado, or sheer stupidity, Mahoney reached for his gun.

Fuck. Instinct kicked in and Vaughn immediately grabbed for his own pistol. He had the Kimber out and trained directly on Mike before the cop got his gun out of its holster.

“Easy there, Mahoney,” Vaughn said calmly.

Unfortunately, not everyone else stayed quite so calm. The other cops instantly drew their weapons, reacting to the sight of a shady gun buyer pointing a pistol at one of their own.

In the blink of an eye, Vaughn found himself staring down the barrels of five loaded guns.

“Don’t f**king move, Sullivan,” James Mahoney warned in a low voice.

As Vaughn stood in that dark, sketchy alley surrounded by a group of dirty cops holding him at gunpoint, he knew that trouble no longer loomed on the horizon.

It had arrived.

Thirty-two

VAUGHN’S HEART THUDDED in his chest.

He had mere moments to diffuse the situation before all hell broke loose. First, there was the not-so-small problem of the five guns pointed at his head. But he had another problem to contend with: the FBI backup unit and special operations team who had the area surrounded, unbeknownst to everyone else.

He knew exactly what was happening at that moment. Backup, including Huxley, had seen the cops draw their guns on him and had moved into position to intervene. The SOG snipers were already glassing the six targets, and they had their fingers on the triggers, ready to fire.

As was standard protocol in all undercover operations, Vaughn had a code phrase—in this case, “I don’t need this shit today”—that served as a signal to the other agents that he believed he couldn’t control the situation and thus needed the cops to be taken down.

He didn’t say it. Not yet.

“I’d think carefully about your next move, Pritchett,” Vaughn said, purposely addressing the leader of the group.

Mike Mahoney answered instead, his arrogant tone an indication that he believed he had Vaughn right where he wanted him. “Looks like we’re going to have that talk after all, Sullivan. My brother says you’re only paying fifteen thousand per run.” His eyes fell on Vaughn’s Rolex. “I think you can afford more.”

“That’s your big plan? To shake me down tonight for more money?” Vaughn asked.

“Yep, that about sums it up.”

“You might want to think of a new plan,” Vaughn advised.

“Why’s that?” Mahoney sneered.

“Because I only brought fifteen grand with me, shithead.”

That wiped the smile off Mahoney’s face right quick.

Having neutralized the idea that the cops could gain from this course of action, Vaughn went back to addressing the leader of the group. “We have a good thing going here, Pritchett. You make nearly four thousand apiece for one night’s work. Don’t screw it up by listening to this ass**le.”

“He’s bluffing,” Mike Mahoney interjected.

Vaughn’s tone remained steady. “My seller knows who all of you are. If I go missing tonight—and these guns with me—the people I work with will know that you stole from them. I guarantee you don’t want that.” He paused to let this sink in. “So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to take my duffle bag, and then I’m going to walk backward until I get to my car. Once I’m inside, I’ll drop the cash on the ground and drive away.” He surveyed the group. “Anybody have any problems with that plan?”

The cops were all silent. Pritchett finally answered, looking directly at Mike Mahoney. “No.”

“Good.” Keeping his gun pointed at the younger Mahoney brother, Vaughn grabbed the handles of the duffle bag with his left hand and hoisted it over his shoulder. His body was tense and coiled, ready to act if anyone made a move.

He began backing up, away from the van, as all the cops kept their guns trained on him. Mike Mahoney’s jaw twitched, but other than that, everyone remained still. When Vaughn got to the Hummer, he dropped the duffle bag in the back and shut the trunk with his left hand. As soon as he climbed into the car, he started the engine and reached into the glove compartment.

He opened his window and unceremoniously dropped the envelope of money in the dust of his SUV.

He exhaled as he pulled away, knowing that was the moment the FBI snipers finally eased off the triggers of their rifles.

 • • •

WHEN VAUGHN GOT to the rendezvous spot, a parking lot a few miles away from the warehouse where he’d met Pritchett’s crew, Huxley and the rest of the backup squad were already waiting for him.

Huxley walked over to the Hummer, watching as Vaughn got out.

“So, I think we’ve established that the new guy is going to be a problem,” Vaughn said.

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