They know how to make an entrance, these bad boys. They strut into the King Soopers on Smoky Hill Road on a Friday evening in May like it's fight night in Vegas and they've got ringside seats, their every move radiating heat and menace.
They have an Explorer outside that they jacked in Cherry Creek, the driver now a duct-taped hostage in the cargo area. They have enough ammo to take out the dairy section and enough adrenaline to jump-start a whale. Before anybody can think about being a hero, they light the place up, firing shots in the air and shouting, "Get down!"
Some do as they're told. Others run, frightened by the gunfire and the masks. And that's when the shoppers notice the fifth member of the crew, rushing to her assigned station at the store entrance. She's a mere wisp of a girl, sixteen years old and five-two, maybe a hundred pounds, awkwardly clutching a .22 semi-auto with a 72-round clip, the muzzle pointed straight in the air.
Tara Perry is late to the robbery. While the others piled out of the Explorer, she was left in the back, fumbling with the door lock; she finally had to climb over the front seat to get out. She stands just inside the store, tugging at the nylon stocking over her head, which is sticking to her long eyelashes and making it hard to see.
The air is thick with gunsmoke. Squinting, Tara can catch a glimpse of Randy Miller, her boyfriend, shooting at the locked door of an office where the cash is kept. Ateba Bailey cradles a mini-14 and stands very still. The other two men — kids, really, not much older than her — are bouncing around. One clubs a sacker with his pistol. She doesn't even know their names, these two; Ateba brought them, and she just met them a few minutes ago. They're rushing around to no purpose, and time seems to have stopped.