CHAPTER 1 SCAM
Ethan jumped. It’d been a long night. “Okay.”
The waitress wasn’t even listening, the coffee pot dipping toward Ethan’s cup. Which was fine. The coffee was crap and he was already wired, but it gave him an excuse to keep sitting there.
He’d spent the last two hours hunched in a back booth of the Moonstruck Diner, staring out the window at the Cambria Central Bank. It was right across the street, and it opened at eight.
“Want anything else?” the waitress asked.
“I’m good. Thanks.”
He drank some more coffee. Still crap.
At least the bitter java gave him a reason to seem jumpy.
Nobody would look at him and say, “Hey, that kid is real jumpy. Must have something to do with the army-green duffel bag under his feet.”
Nope. Nobody would blame the bag.
He glanced around the diner. Everyone was wrapped up in their own six a.m. thoughts. Nobody was even looking at him. Okay, one girl was looking at him. But she glanced away like she’d been caught staring. So apart from that one cute girl at the front of the diner, nobody was looking at him.
Besides, this was the middle of Main Street. Nobody would come rolling in to seize Ethan and his bag and haul them both out into the dawn. Nothing bad ever happened here in Cambria, California, population half a million during a college term.
The diner was filling up with delivery guys on breaks, respectable citizens in suits, and the occasional group of clubbers winding down. All Ethan had to do was watch the bank and wait for the doors to open.
Easy. As long as the waiting didn’t kill him.
“Seriously, it’s been five minutes. Can you stop with the coffee?”
The waitress looked stung.
“Sorry,” Ethan said. But she was already gone.
He pulled the duffel bag up and wedged it into a corner of the booth like a makeshift pillow. Which was pretty funny,
given what was in the bag. It was the stuff in the bag that was keeping him awake. That, and the people looking for it.
He’d always known the voice would do this one day—get him into serious trouble. The voice didn’t care about consequences. The voice didn’t weigh up the pros and cons and then say, “Hey, Ethan, this is how you can get what you want.” The voice wasn’t sentient like that; it wasn’t smart. It didn’t negotiate. The voice just went for it. It lied and lied, and most of the time Ethan didn’t even know where the lies came from when they poured out of his mouth. How did the voice know half that stuff?
But Ethan had always known that one day he’d pay for all those lies.
Right now he was hoping today was not that day.