Chapter no 17 – 1:00 a.m

Five Survive

“Find him?” Arthur said, at the same time as Reyna, voices clashing, each leaning on a different word.‌

Finding a sniper in the pitch-black wide-open nothing. Something about needles and haystacks, Red thought, or a shot in the dark. Literally. She scrolled up through the channels on the walkie-talkie, the flickering of the static not quiet enough to be just background noise. Nothing. More nothing.

“Yes,” Oliver said, his eyes too wide and his voice too loud. “Don’t you see, if we work out exactly where he is, we can use the RV to cover us while we run the other way. He’ll never even know.”

Oliver turned his wide shoulders, head following a moment later. He looked up at the mattress covering the broken window as though imagining the bullet, bringing it back to life in his head.

“From the positioning of the shots through both windows, and the first tire he shot out, he was definitely on this side.” He gestured beyond the front door. “I guess at an angle, though, if he was able to shoot out the tires on the other side, most likely aiming underneath the RV. So he must have been somewhere over there, low to the ground, hiding in the long grass.”

Oliver held out his arm at a diagonal, pointing his finger between the right side and back end of the RV.

“Okay.” Reyna swallowed, letting her hand skim Oliver’s as she came to stand beside him. “That narrows it down.”

Oliver moved his hand away, shaking his head. “No, he was there. But then he came up to the RV to plant the walkie-talkie on the driver’s-side mirror. He could have moved position after that, knowing we’d think about this.” He sighed. “Realistically, he could now be anywhere, on either side.”

Arthur nodded, eyes darting to the corners of the RV, like it was starting to shrink around him. At least it had that extra foot, thirty-one feet instead of thirty. “So how would we find him now?” he asked.

Oliver scrunched his face, thinking. And if that wasn’t enough, he said: “I’m thinking.”

How to find a shooter in the dark? Red should make another joke to cheer Maddy up, talk about the night-vision goggles she’d packed in her suitcase.

“Is now a good time to mention I packed my thermal imaging goggles?” Simon said, rising from the sofa. Hey, that was her line. A bit better, actually. Simon could have it.

“Shh,” Oliver hissed, pressing his fingers to his temples to think even harder. “Red?” he said suddenly, turning his attention to her.

The static fizzed as she looked up.

“When someone shoots a rifle, is there something other than the noise?

Does it give off any light, a flash?”

Red shrugged. Why was he asking her that? Oh, right, because her mom was a police captain and she would have known the answer. Oliver seemed like he was waiting for more.

“I don’t—” she began.

“—Yeah, there’s a muzzle flash,” Simon said, his arm knocking into Red’s as he rejoined the group. Arthur was right; it was too small in here, and it was getting warm now too.

Everyone turned to look at Simon.

“It’s like that little explosion of light when you fire,” he said, finally looking up, noticing their eyes. “Why are youse all staring at me? What, you don’t watch movies? I mean the muzzle flash is not really there, it’s normally added in postproduction. But yeah: gun goes off, there’s a flash.”

Turned out Simon was useful too. Who would have thought, the two of them, Red and Simon? Certainly not Oliver, it seemed, judging by the stunned look in his eyes, pupils sitting too large among all that golden brown.

He stepped forward, clapping Simon hard on the back, twice. That must be the best well done you could get, beyond words.

“Right, okay,” Oliver said, talking it through with himself. “Gun goes off,

there’s a flash. That’s it, there’s our plan.”

“How?” Maddy asked, and to which part, Red wasn’t sure. Didn’t sound like a full plan, not one up to Catherine Lavoy’s standards at least.

“We position ourselves at every window in the RV. Someone watching the front, back, both sides. Every angle. We watch, and then we bait a shot from the sniper—”

“—Sounds safe,” Simon commented.

“—and one of us will see it, see the flash. Then we’ll know exactly where he is. And then”—Oliver’s eyes glinted—“we run, in the opposite direction, using the RV as cover. We’re going to get out of here.”

That sounded more like a full plan, except there was one part missing. “How do we bait a shot from him?” Arthur asked, spotting it too.

“Without one of us getting killed?”

Red cycled through channel one, then two, back to three. Empty static, all of them.


“—Hello?” The voice crackled into life in her hands. The sniper. “Hello.

Are we all still alive in there?” he asked.

Red sniffed, breath stalling, heart kicking up in her chest. She scanned the faces of the others quickly. What should she do?

Oliver was there before she could ask him. He grabbed the walkie-talkie out of her hand and pressed the button.

“We’re here,” he said, trying to disguise the tremor in his voice. “We’re working on that secret you want.”


“Good,” the voice answered. “Keep working. Time’s running out.” Static.

“Can we just ask him to take a shot?” Reyna suggested.

Oliver rounded on her. “Why would we ask him to take a shot, Reyna?

Come on, think. We can’t give away that we’re trying to escape.” He dropped the walkie-talkie back into Red’s hands.

“Sorry, I’m just trying to help.” Reyna shrank back, sliding into the booth at the dining table.

“Why has he taken shots before?” Oliver said, not really speaking to the others. “He shot at the tires and the gas tank to trap us here. Then at the window, maybe to scare us. Then—”

“The horn!” Maddy said, eyes lighting up. She pointed to the steering wheel. “He shot at us when I was beeping.”

Oliver snapped his fingers. “Bingo.”

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