Chapter no 12

Five Survive

Oliver went first, of course, placing down a small first aid kit—Red guessed Reyna had packed that—and a headlamp, with a couple of spare batteries. Maddy stepped up and added her scissors and Scotch tape to the collection.

Simon returned to the kitchen empty-handed, like Red. But he stopped there, pulling open one of the drawers.

“I knew there’d be one here somewhere,” he said, cutlery rattling and a scraping sound of metal on metal as he pulled his hand out, clutched around the black handle of a kitchen knife. It was sharp, with a serrated edge that caught the dim overhead lights.

“Chekhov’s knife,” Simon said with a dark smile as he added it to the items on the dining table.

“Huh?” said Oliver.

“Never mind, it’s a theater thing.”

A clatter and a grunt behind, as Arthur wrestled with the mattress from his bunk, pulling it down and tucking it under one arm, his glasses knocked askew on his face.

Red gave him a thumbs-up, and he returned it with his spare hand.

“Did someone open my tequila?” Oliver said, digging through his backpack on the counter.

“Another mystery to solve,” Simon said, by the refrigerator. “Right after we work out why there’s a sniper out there shooting at us. That reminds me.” He opened the fridge and pulled out a glass bottle of vodka, unopened, adding it to the pile on the dining table. Red questioned him with her eyes. “For disinfecting wounds,” he explained. “Or liquid courage.”

“Aha,” Oliver said, his hand reemerging from the bottom of his backpack clutched around a shiny silver Zippo lighter. Engraved too, bet that was expensive. Onto the pile it went.

“There’s a small toolbox in here,” Reyna said, voice muffled, her head buried in the closet right by the front door. “I guess we don’t need a tape measure, though.”

“Not unless we want to measure the length of the RV for fun while we’re trapped in here,” Simon said.

“It’s thirty-one feet,” said Red, “not just thirty.” Simon should know, he was the one who told her that, and now she couldn’t get the damn number out of her head.

Reyna backed up out of the closet, and in her hands were a small hammer, a screwdriver, and a roll of gray duct tape. “There’s a mop and a dustpan and brush in there too,” she said, adding those new items to the collection.

“Great.” Oliver’s eyes spooled around, skipping over Arthur, whose hands were full, and flicking between Simon and Red. “Simon,” he said. Unlucky. Probably because he was closest. And because everybody knew he drank the tequila. “Can you grab the dustpan and brush and sweep up the glass?”

“Really?” Simon hardened his gaze.

“We don’t want anyone cutting themselves,” Oliver said, leading him in the direction of the open closet, the movement disguised as a pat on the back. “It will take you two minutes, go on.”

Simon muttered something under his breath, but Red only caught the hardest of syllables. She didn’t imagine it was anything worth repeating. He picked up the dustpan and brush, struggling for a moment to separate the two, then bent low, sweeping piles of window glass into the pan, glittering as it moved.

“Excuse your feet,” he said, maneuvering around Maddy’s shoes and her still-open suitcase.

“Okay, this is good,” Oliver said, surveying the resources they had managed to gather. Red looked too: a pair of scissors, a lighter, a headlamp, a flashlight, spare batteries, a hammer, a screwdriver, duct tape, Scotch tape, vodka and a kitchen knife. Each item disappearing from her head as soon as she moved onto the next, like one of those memory games she always lost.

“Should I get this in place?” Arthur asked, hoisting the mattress up higher in his grip.

“Yeah, go ahead,” Oliver said. “Out of the way, everyone.”

Arthur walked through slowly, guiding the mattress past corners and people. The handle on the bathroom door tried to grab his shirt and pull him back. Reyna unhooked it for him and he nodded his thanks. He turned awkwardly to avoid Simon on the floor, but the back of the mattress bumped him on the head, and Simon muttered something else unheard.

“It should just slot in here, behind the back cushions,” Oliver said, taking the back end of the mattress and helping Arthur to guide it up and forward, in front of the broken window. They pushed it through, sliding it into the gap between the back of the sofa and the wall, wedged in under the overhead cupboards. “Hold on, it’s blocking the door,” Oliver said, shoving the mattress in farther, tucking the far end in beside the front passenger seat. “There we go,” he said, grabbing it and giving it a shake to check. “That’s wedged in there good.”

It might be wedged in there good, but would a mattress stop a bullet from a precision rifle? Red wasn’t sure it would, but at least they could now pretend they were safe in here, without the outside breathing in through that window. Pretending was half the game, and she should know. Her life depended on it.

“Right, that’s one window done.” Oliver stood back. “We still need to cover the one by the driver’s seat. Red?” He turned to her. “Did you find anything we can use?”

No, she was the only one who had failed on that front, staring down at her useless suitcase, its edges fraying as the threads unpicked themselves, like

they wanted to break. And, hey, that gave her an idea, if they wanted it so bad.

“Yes,” she said, surprising herself most of all. “My suitcase. We can flatten it out and use it to board up that window. It’s breaking anyway.”

“Good idea,” Reyna said, ahead of Oliver. “And we can use the duct tape to keep it there.”

Oliver hadn’t said it was a good idea, Red was waiting, but he grabbed the knife from the table and held it out to her, handle first.

“You do the honors,” he said as she took it. “But also, let’s put your stuff somewhere. We don’t want all your crap in the way.”

“We can put it in my case,” Maddy sighed. “I’m sure it will fit, she doesn’t have much.”

Maddy grabbed Red’s suitcase and flipped it over, the upturned contents falling on top of her neatly packed possessions. She sighed again to see it, removing the leaking shampoo bottle and then pressing it all down so the lid would zip shut.

Red hoped Arthur hadn’t looked at her balled-up underwear. She knew one pair she’d packed had unicorns on it; Santa had gotten them for her that final Christmas. Red hadn’t believed in him since she was eight, of course, but it was tradition that Santa got the Kennys ugly socks and underwear for Christmas. Only, Santa must have died when her mom did.

“Oli, can you help me get my bag back up there and out of the way?” Maddy asked.

Only his little sister was allowed to call him Oli. Believe her, Red had learned the hard way.

“Yep, sure.” He grunted as he lifted the double-packed case, Arthur opening the overhead cupboard for him as he drew close, helping him squeeze the stuffed bag inside.

Simon was just finishing up, brushing the last few shards and crumbs of broken glass from the sofa, backing away as he finished. The floor was all clear now. He carried the full pan into the kitchen—Red sucked in a breath as he stumbled, tripping over nothing—but his hand was somehow steady. He

opened the cupboard with the trash can and dumped the glass out, tapping the pan against the edge to get the last of the glittering dust.

“Go on, Red.” Oliver had returned, standing over her as she crouched by the empty shell of her suitcase. “Let’s get this done.”

Red tightened her grip on the knife, holding it out to the corner nearest her. She tried not to look at the luggage tag hanging from the top, but her eyes betrayed her. Come on, it didn’t matter. Mom wasn’t in that luggage tag, Mom was dead. And they needed something to block the window; Red had to be useful, like everyone else was. She pressed the knife against the corner, sawing down with the serrated edge, cutting through the zipper, and the fabric, and the cardboard underneath. The knife chewed up the material with its teeth, splitting the corner apart. Red shifted to get the next one, the handle of the knife growing warm in her hands. Why did she find the word resources funny anyway? What she really should be thinking about instead was that red dot out there, and the person in charge of it. Watching. Waiting?

“Good job on the glass, Simon,” Oliver said, a delayed well done, but a well done all the same. A good leader motivates his team. Delegation. Motivation. Would Oliver say good job to her when she finished butchering her mom’s old suitcase?

“There,” she said, sitting back, the final corner cut through, the sides of the suitcase lying prone against the floor.

“All right, get it in place, then.”

That was all the well done she got. Oliver Lavoy wasn’t as liberal with his approval as Maddy or Catherine. They gave Red well dones all the time, if she’d earned them.

“I’ll help,” Arthur said, stepping forward to grab the duct tape and scissors from the table. Three resources used already, oh come on, would she stop it with the resources. Just think of another word, then. Stu. Thingamabobs. Jawn.

Red stood, picking up the remains of her suitcase, carrying it to the front of the RV, a few steps behind Arthur. He drew the edge of the curtain out a couple of inches and leaned closer to take a quick look.

“Just one of the panes shattered,” he said. “This side.” He gestured to the one at the front. “Do you want to hold it up and I’ll tape it?”

“That’s what she said!”

“Simon, come on, really,” Maddy snapped. “Now is not the time or place.

If that’s the last thing I hear before I die, then I swear to God…” She left the threat empty and dangling.

There was a flush in Arthur’s face again, a warm pink. He swiped at his cheeks like he could wipe the blush away, hide it from her. Well, that was fine if he was embarrassed; he’d probably seen her old unicorn underwear anyway. Arthur busied himself pulling a length of duct tape free and cutting it loose with Maddy’s scissors, and Red positioned the unfolded suitcase in front of the curtain, over the gaping hole into the wide-open nothing out there. In

the dark, where the red dot lived.

Arthur rested one knee on the driver’s seat and pressed the tape along the top edge of the suitcase, cutting off more to secure it.

“Are you okay?” he asked her, moving on to the next side, his hand accidentally brushing past hers.

A tiny firework in her head. What a stupid little fucking firework. Maddy should tell it that now was not the time or place.

“Everything will be okay,” Red said, staring forward, losing her eyes to the minute details of the suitcase fabric, crossing over and under, so she didn’t think about how close Arthur’s face was to hers right now, both leaning across the driver’s seat.

“That’s not what I asked.”

“I don’t know,” she answered, honestly for once. “Are you supposed to be okay when someone’s trying to kill you?”

“I don’t think you are.” And, somehow, Arthur’s voice did away with the hard syllables, smoothing them over, gliding one to the next. Someone else might call it mumbling, but Red wasn’t someone else. Arthur pressed a long piece of tape down across the width of the suitcase and onto the part of the window that had survived, withdrawing his hand quickly from the curtain and back into the safety of the RV.

A sound interrupted them. The flushing of a toilet. Red checked over her shoulder to see Oliver closing the bathroom door behind him.

“Right, everyone, over here,” he called, another loud clap. Red flinched.

Someone should tell him to stop doing that.

“Go on,” Arthur said to her. Had he noticed the flinch? As long as he hadn’t noticed the firework. “I can finish up here.” He splayed his hand against the suitcase, taking its remaining weight from her, ready with the last few pieces of tape.

“Thanks.” She stepped back, grabbing the scissors and the roll of duct tape, taking them with her back to the dining table. Someone else had already replaced the knife.

Maddy was leaning against the refrigerator, and Red went to lean against her.

“Looks like Arthur is just finishing up with that window,” Oliver said, right as Arthur was done, wiping his hands off down the front of his jeans and walking over. The six of them, gathered in and around that tiny kitchen.

“Okay, now that we’ve secured the RV,” Oliver continued, though who could say how secure it really was, against that rifle. They couldn’t see outside anymore, the RV was their own little world, but a bullet could come in anywhere, through the wall and anyone in the way, out the other side before they even had a chance to scream. That didn’t feel very safe, not as Red understood the word.

“Next, we need to work out what our plan is.” “Plan?” Maddy asked.

“Yeah, so that we all get out of here. Alive,” he added, and with that one word, the air grew thick, a strange buzzing in Red’s ears as she did that thing where she tried to imagine what it would be like to be un-alive.

Reyna cleared her throat, and Red was grateful for the distraction. “Well, listen.” She glanced down at the time on her phone. “It’s been like twenty-five minutes now since he last shot at the RV. Maybe he’s…I don’t know, maybe he’s gone?” Her voice went up at the end, turning it into a question.

“What, you think he got bored and went home to jack off?” Simon said. “Maybe.”

“Unless he’s waiting,” Maddy said. “Waiting for what?” Reyna asked her.

“For us to think he’s gone, and to walk out the door right into his crosshairs,” she said, darkly.

“It is a fair point,” Oliver said, and Red wasn’t sure who he was siding with, until he drew closer to Reyna. “How do we know if he’s even still out there?”

He wasn’t going to make one of them go outside and check, was he? And what were the chances it would be either Red, Arthur or Simon he gave those instructions to? The expendables.

“I’m not volunteering to go see,” Simon said. He must have had a similar thought, still annoyed about the glass-sweeping.

There was that fizzing in Red’s ears again. Could anyone else hear it? “Well, put it this way,” Oliver said. “The RV is not going anywhere. We

can’t call for help. So, the only way we’re getting out of here is by leaving the RV. And Reyna has a point; it’s been a while since his last shot. Maybe he’s gone.”

“Why would he shoot out all the tires and the gas tank to trap us here if he was just gonna leave right after?” Maddy said.

It seemed no one knew how to answer that. No one said anything for a moment, eyes shifting around the group, Red fiddling in her pocket, Simon staring up at the ceiling. Until a voice dared to break the silence.


Red looked up, at Simon, then at Arthur. Had one of them spoken? The voice had sounded strange: metallic and muted. But, no, it couldn’t have been them because they too were looking around, searching for the speaker. Arthur caught her eye and Red shook her head. It wasn’t her.

“Did someone just—” Reyna began. Oliver shushed her, holding up his finger. “But I—” Simon now.

“Shut up!” Oliver shouted him down, holding up both hands to control the silence.

But it wasn’t silent; there was that empty, fizzing sound again.

It clicked off and—

“—Hello,” the voice spoke again, deep and disembodied.

Maddy gasped, and Oliver tapped her on the arm to keep her quiet, brandishing his finger at the rest of them.


A voice, but no one to claim it. Red scanned over her shoulder. The voice was coming from the front of the RV, and so was that fizzing sound she hadn’t imagined.

“Hello,” it said. “Come here.”

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