“Mr. Yates, you have to turn on the news,” Daniel, my assistant, practically yelled after he burst into my office.
There was panic written all over his face. His eyebrows were pulled together, his nostrils flaring, and his narrow shoulders were tense. Even his thick black-framed glasses were slightly skewed, like he’d bumped them and hadn’t bothered to straighten them again.
He also hadn’t knocked before coming in, which wasn’t something he did. Ever.
Without looking at me, Daniel rushed to my private conference table and grabbed a remote lying on the polished surface. It was almost like he didn’t even see me there, sitting behind my desk minding my own business with a Dictaphone in one hand and a stack of spreadsheets in the other.
Frowning, I set both items down on the desk and tipped my head back to stare at the squares of tiles on the ceiling. Moving the company’s headquarters to a more modern building was something I’d have to start considering, but not today. Apparently, I had yet another crisis to deal with first.
“Why? What’s happened now?”
I blew out a heavy sigh through my nose. It had already been a week from hell. And it’s only Tuesday.
From the expression on Daniel’s face, it was about to get even worse. He pointed the remote toward the bank of flat-screen TVs on my wall, hitting the power button while twisting to face me. “There’s been another robbery in Tampa.”
“Fuck, that situation is getting out of hand.” Pushing to my feet, I crossed the expanse of my office and stopped right in front of the largest screen of them all. Daniel hadn’t turned the volume up, but he didn’t need to.
I saw my worst nightmare playing out live in front of my very eyes, being broadcast for the entire country to see; the world even. The news crawler rolled across the bottom of the screen, giving me all the confirmation I needed about what was happening without needing to hear any words.
Fighting the urge to drop my jaw, I folded my arms tight across my chest and dug deep to keep my voice void of any emotion. “We were the ones that were hit this time?”
“Yes, sir.” Daniel’s face had drained of the little color it still had in it when he came rushing in here. His posture was the same as mine: tense as fuck and radiating the urge to break someone’s fucking skull.
Although he was standing right next to me, I hardly heard him when he confirmed the reason for this being my worst nightmare. “The shipment had just arrived a few hours before the robbery, sir.”
A bank getting hit was part of the business. Some might even say it was inevitable. Insurance covered it and everything, but this … this was fucked up.
The reputational damage alone was astronomical. The thieves getting away with the money would mean people would never fully trust us again. Regardless of how many other banks had been hit in the area, this left us looking vulnerable. “All of it?”
“All of it.” Daniel swallowed, his gaze rising to meet mine for the first time since he hurtled into my office.
I understood why he’d come rushing in now, though. Why his pupils were dilated and his brow dotted with sweat, only the thinnest rim of pale-green irises visible around the black. “It had all been offloaded, but they were still in the process of counting it.”
I forced my arms to uncross themselves, shoving my hands into the pockets of my slacks and moving to stand in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows that made up the back wall of my office. My father’s former office. “My father ran this company for how many years, Daniel?”
Boston was rainy today. The mottled gray clouds hovering above the city where I lived were misleading, making it look cold and miserable when it was hot and uncomfortably humid outside. I wondered if I would remember that about this day when I looked back at it years from now because I would look back at it.
It would forever be the day that Yates Finance was hit for the first time. Six years after my father passed and I took over the company he had spent his life building, and it had just been hit on the day that we received the biggest shipment of cash we’d ever taken—under my rule or my father’s.
It’s definitely going to go down in Yates family history. I cursed under my breath, closing my eyes as I listened to Daniel’s rambling answer to my question.
“Yates Finance was founded in nineteen eighty. It has since acquired the Standard Reserve Bank, among many others. Your father ran it for more than three decades.” He walked over to join me next to the window, but he didn’t look at me. Instead, he kept his gaze firmly on the raindrops sliding down the glass. “And in all that time, nothing like this ever happened. The Standard Reserve Bank is the first of the company’s branches ever to take a hit.”
“Fantastic.” I screwed my eyes shut for just a second, hoping that when I opened them and looked back at the TV, there wouldn’t be a robbery in progress. Didn’t work. “The board is going to eat my ass for breakfast after this.”
Daniel had turned while my eyes were shut and was watching the screens again, his head tilted to the side. “Maybe not. It looks like your added measures at the branch might have yielded some results.”
Pivoting on my heel, I marched to the remote and increased the volume on the TV when I saw what Daniel was referring to. A female journalist was practically vibrating with excitement when she spotted the same thing we had: the police dragging two men out of the building.
With the volume up, the commotion around the building housing the bank could be heard. Emergency services were there, onlookers, possible family members of some of the customers running up to the barricades the police must have put up.
“We haven’t received word from the authorities yet, but it looks like the police have caught the robbers. We can only hope they’re from the same crew that has been terrorizing the banks in the area for months.” The journalist kept speaking, but I tuned her out after hearing that.
There was obviously no information yet about the identities of the criminals or how much they had taken, if the rest of their crew had gotten out with anything at all. Surely there couldn’t only have been two men involved with this latest slew of incidents in Florida.
Daniel and I watched the screens closely for the next few minutes, but the cruisers carrying the two men had driven off and no one else wearing handcuffs was being brought out of the building. Something about that didn’t sit right with me.
As the chief executive officer of a company that owned banks and financial institutions across the country, I had been watching the developments in Florida closely. Anyone in my position would have, knowing the risks of having such a brazen, active crew running around the city.
What anyone else might not have done was to alert the local police of the shipment I had coming in. They had cooperated, sending undercover officers to the branch for the delivery. I figured having the extra security couldn’t hurt, but it also gave the police the chance to get out ahead of this crew for the first time.
Regardless of how careful you are, there was always the possibility that word would get out about a shipment that big. Millions of dollars in cash, all arriving at once, was big news to keep completely quiet. So I hedged my bets and got the police involved on the off chance that a robbery would take place, which apparently had paid off.
So why was there still this feeling in my gut? Something was off, I just didn’t know what. Taking a few steps closer to the screen, I watched the replays of the arrests more closely than I had while it had been happening live.
One of the criminals was a big, burly guy with hair that was almost black. He wore a thunderous scowl, but his eyes kept darting back to the building. While he walked, he was tossing looks over his shoulder in between arguing with the officer and shooting glares at the gathered cameras.
Something was definitely up. There was no way in hell all the money was still there. This crew was better than that. I knew it after having watched the aftermath of the robberies for so long.
It didn’t matter if it were ten dollars that had gone missing or ten million. My insurance would cover both instances.
What wasn’t acceptable was that someone had stolen from me, on the day of receiving my largest shipment ever, they had taken something that customers had been entrusting to my family to keep safe for almost half a decade. So even if it were only ten dollars missing, I’d get it back if it was the last fucking thing I did.
“Daniel, get me—” I was cut off by the sharp ring of my office line. Daniel’s head swung toward it and he pursed his lips, shooting me a sympathetic glance before going to answer it.
“Fulton Yates’s office, how may I help you?” His jaw tightened while he listened, his eyes snapping to mine as he jerked his head. “Yes, sir. Of course. Yes. Please hold for one second.”
Covering the receiver with his palm, Daniel held the phone up to me. “It’s Mark Adams. He’s demanding to speak to you right away.”
“Of course he is.” I breathed in deeply and walked over to him, snapping my fingers for the phone. Before I took it, I gave Daniel a pointed look. “I told you the board was going to eat my ass for breakfast.”
The corners of Daniel’s mouth curled into a grim smile. “Let them try. You’ve proven to them all that you’re perfectly capable of doing this job, no matter what your background might be.”
“And yet I can assure you that they’re still going to try and use this to sway the next vote in their favor. They’ll never accept someone with a degree in fine arts as their CEO, even if he is the one who inherited the company.”
Daniel shrugged his thin shoulders, arching a brow as he picked an imaginary piece of lint off my shoulder. He was one of the few people who was close enough to me to do shit like that.
We had started at the company around the same time, and when I became CEO, he became my assistant and had been ever since. He lifted his chin, his voice firm. “Like you said, you inherited the company.”
“Exactly.” My lips inched their way up. “Fuck them, I just don’t really have time to deal with their shit right now.”
He rolled his eyes, nodding as he walked to the door. “I’ll give him five minutes, then I’ll be back to announce your next meeting.”
“You know me too well.” I cleared my throat, my eyes sliding back to the TV. “You know what I need you to do in those five minutes, right?”
“Consider it done.” Daniel left my office, closing the door behind him.
Turning back to face the window, I pressed the received to my ear. “Mark, what I can do for you today?”
“Are you watching this?” the man snapped, sounding like he was seconds away from pulling his hair out. “Have you seen the news?”
“I am watching, and I have seen it.” Of course I’d seen it, was what I wanted to say. But I didn’t, because contrary to what the board believed, I had been raised for this position and I knew how to deal with them. “It’s nothing to be concerned over, Mark. Everything is under control. The police have it handled.”
“What are you going to do about it, Fulton? Or are you just going to sit back and let the police handle everything?”
I clenched my teeth, but I didn’t react outwardly. My voice sounded the same, totally even. “No, my flight has already been booked to Florida. I’m going to be on the next plane headed there.”
And when I got there, I was going to make fucking sure that no one ever thought they could take Yates Finance for a ride ever again.