Chapter no 15

Five Survive

The air was too thick in here, syrupy with the smell of gasoline, with the quickening of their breaths. It plugged Red’s nose and her ears until she could close her eyes and pretend she wasn’t here at all, forcing herself to think of that pattern in the curtains. You cant see me but I can see you, and Red could see nothing here at all with her eyes shut.

“He’ll shoot us if we leave the RV,” Oliver said, like they hadn’t all been listening, like they hadn’t all just heard that together.

Red opened her eyes, twisting her hand out of Maddy’s grip. She watched as Oliver dropped the walkie-talkie down on the table, a heavier thud than it should have made. It stood end up, the green LCD display watching them.

“We are never getting out of this RV.” Simon sniffed, running his hand down his face, pulling the skin out of shape, revealing the red underneath his eyes. “If we’re going to die here, fuck it, I’m having more tequila.”

“No, Simon,” Red croaked, her voice raw and unused.

“Fuck it!” he barked, strolling over to the kitchen counter. “Come on, everyone, let’s do shots in the dark.”

Reyna sidestepped, blocking his way to the counter and Oliver’s open backpack.

“No,” she said sternly. “We need to stay rational.”

“What are you, the tequila guardian?” He pointed at her. “Right, because I’m Mexican?”

“No, because you’re standing in the way.” He hiccupped. “If I want to die drunk, then I’ll die drunk, thank you and good night.”

“We’re not going to die,” Arthur said, stepping forward to pull Simon back, hand on his shoulder. “We just need to give him what he wants. What’s the secret he’s talking about?”

“And who?” Maddy added quickly, picking at her fingernails.

Red looked straight ahead, blinked slowly, clearing her eyes like someone who had no secrets. Someone who wasn’t thinking of them right now. Everyone had secrets, though, didn’t they? Somebody else here had to. Were hers any worse, any bigger? Most likely, at least the one she was keeping now. The plan. But no one could ever know about that, that was the point. Oh, and there was the fact that her mom was dead and it was probably her fault, all her f—could it be Bart Simpson, the pattern in the curtain?

“It’s not me,” Simon said, giving up on the tequila. He pushed past Red and Maddy to drop back on the sofa, head resting against the mattress wedged there. “My only secret is that I haven’t told my parents I want to be an actor, not work in finance. Don’t think someone’s threatening to kill me over being a secret theater kid. Apart from my dad, that is,” he said, adding in an exaggerated stage whisper: “He’s Korean.”

“I can’t think of anything,” Arthur said, pausing to scratch his eye. “Nothing big enough for this.”

“Me either,” Maddy said, almost too fast. Red noticed. And the way she wouldn’t look up or hold anyone’s gaze.

Oliver stepped forward, cleared his throat. “I know who it is. I know what this is about.”

Red looked at him. Maddy looked at him. Arthur and Simon looked at him. Reyna didn’t.

“It’s me and Maddy,” he said.

Maddy stiffened. “I don’t—” she began.

“—It’s obvious, isn’t it?” Oliver cut across her. “This is about our mom.” Now Reyna was looking at him. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“This must be about her case. The Frank Gotti case.” “What’s that?” Arthur said.

“Our mom is assistant DA, and she’s the lead prosecutor on an upcoming homicide case.”

“In the Mafia,” Simon said, gesturing with his beer bottle. Wait, where did he get a beer from?

“Yeah, exactly.” Oliver snapped his fingers at him. “This whole thing seems exactly like something they’d pull.”

“Why? What’s the case?” Arthur made the mistake of asking him.

Could Red really stand to listen to this one more time? Oliver glanced at her and she kept her face straight.

“So, about a year ago,” he began, leaning back on the table, “the boss of the organized crime group—”

“The Mafia,” Simon offered.

“Yes, the Mafia.” Oliver’s jaw tightened, clearly irritated at the interruption. “The boss of the family, a man called John D’Amico, died of throat cancer in the hospital last year. He left behind a bit of a power vacuum, with three members of the family vying for the top job to replace him.”

Yep, Red thought, first up was—

“Tommy D’Amico,” Oliver said, holding up one finger. “John’s oldest son.”

Number two:

“Joseph Mannino, who had been John’s underboss, which is a second-in-command-type thing.”

And finally:

“Francesco Gotti, who had been John’s consigliere, which is like the top adviser role.”

Oliver tucked away his three upheld fingers, and Frank Gotti was the one who flashed into Red’s mind, that photo of his face she’d seen and seen again, one dark curl of hair falling down to cover his left eye.

“The three of them split the family into factions, as it were,” Oliver continued, glancing around to make sure they were all listening. “There was fighting but no one got seriously hurt. Not until last August, when Frank Gotti

killed Joseph Mannino himself. Shot twice in the back of the head. And my mom—our mom—is the one who’s prosecuting Frank. The trial is in a few weeks and she’s going to get a guilty conviction. We know it. They clearly know it.”

Arthur looked down, eyes flickering back and forth like he was sifting through everything Oliver just said.

“So you think this”—he gestured around at the RV, at the wide-open nothing outside the blocked-up windows—“us being here, that sniper out there, is about that murder case?”

“Yes, that’s clearly what’s going on,” Oliver replied, his eyes unfaltering. “This is all about my mom. They’re trying to get to her. And they are using me and Maddy to do it.”

“You mean, like, holding us for ransom?” Maddy said, uncertain.

“In a way.” Oliver nodded. “They’ve probably already contacted her, told her they are holding us hostage somewhere.”

“But why?” Reyna chimed in now. “What would they want from her?”

“If they go to trial, Mom is going to put Frank in prison for the rest of his life. They can’t let that happen; he’s their leader. Well, to some of them. They are probably demanding she find a way to drop the charges to stop the case going to trial. Or…” He trailed off.

“Or they’ll k-kill us,” Maddy finished it, stumbling over the word.

Oliver didn’t say anything, but his silence was answer enough, the static from the walkie-talkie filling in for him. “And, now that I’m thinking it through, maybe this secret he’s talking about, the secret he wants…maybe it’s the identity of the eyewitness. The one the whole case rests on. And they want Mom to give it to them.”

“So they can kill the witness and stop the trial?” Reyna asked, eyes narrowing, a knot of lines forming across her forehead. Red looked to Oliver, waiting for the answer.

“Yeah,” he replied. “Wouldn’t be the first time a witness for the prosecution was killed right before trial with these kinds of people. That’s why Mom tried so hard this time to protect the witness’s anonymity. This whole thing has organized crime written all over it.”

“And will she give it up?” Red asked then, trying to catch up with the others, to see the whole picture and their place within it. “Will she give them the witness?”

Oliver looked across at her. He blinked.

“If it’s a choice between me and Maddy and the witness, Mom will give them the name,” he said. “Life or death. She’ll have to.”

Red nodded. Something tightened in her chest, uncomfortable and warm, as Oliver’s words became real. Fuck. Either way it went, someone was going to die here. If Oliver was right, that was. And, it seemed, he usually was.

“That’s why we can’t let that happen,” Oliver continued, hardening his gaze, sharing it with the others. “We have to stop them. We have to escape. We can’t let my mom give up that name. This trial is too important. It would be the end of her career.”

“And someone would die,” Maddy reminded him. “She would be killing the witness, giving them up.”

“Right. I already said that,” Oliver snapped, missing the point. Red caught it, though, glad that Maddy was here to offset her brother. Between saving a life and his mom’s career, it was clear which was most important to Oliver. And probably, by extension, his own career. Red bit her lip so she didn’t say anything, not that it would probably change his mind at all.

“Are you sure that’s what this is about?” Reyna asked Oliver, looking up at him, something in her eyes, a glint that Red couldn’t read. A silent conversation in half a second.

Oliver brushed her off. “Yes, it has to be about that. I mean, if you just think logically, Maddy and I are the most high-value targets here. It has to be about us.”

Red couldn’t disagree.

“Any reason anyone else here would be held hostage by a sniper?” he asked the room.

The others shook their heads, Red too.

“Nobody loves me,” she said with a sniff, not like Catherine loved Maddy and Oliver. That hurt, thinking about it, a twist in her gut and a hole in her heart.

“Right, okay. We’re all agreed?” he said, not looking for an answer. “So now we have to work out how to escape.”

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