Chapter no 19

Five Survive

The dark shape of Oliver’s head, emerging from behind the closet door. “Why the fuck didn’t he take the shot?” he barked.

Red’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, built a home there in it.

“I don’t know,” Arthur said, breathless, pulling his hand back inside the RV and stopping the recording on his phone. A deflated double beep. Red did the same, hooking the window shade back down to the bottom.

More double-tone bleeps, from the others’ phones as they withdrew from the windows.

The ringing in Red’s ears faded, taken over by the ever-present static.

“I don’t understand,” Maddy said, frustrated, slumping down on the booth. “He did it last time.”

The walkie-talkie crackled on the table and Maddy flinched, jumping away from it.

“Was that for me?” The voice came through, a low hiss. “You know you already have my full attention.”

A new sound through the speaker, metal grating on metal, the sound of the rifle cocking. It cut out and the static took over again. Filled the room, filled Red’s head. But the cocking gun, it stayed somehow, working its way

down into her bones. She could feel it, in the turn of her elbow and the bend of her knee.

“Fuck.” The shape of Oliver stood up, resting his closet door against the driver’s seat. “That should have worked. It doesn’t…that should have worked.”

A sigh from Reyna, because Red knew Maddy’s sighs and that wasn’t it.

Reyna’s silhouette floated away from the windshield.

“He’s only going to shoot now if he sees one of us try to leave the RV, isn’t he?” she said, but Red couldn’t see her eyes and didn’t know who she was talking to.

“Again,” Simon said, his voice drawing closer in the darkness behind her. “I am not nominating myself for self-sacrificing duty.” He didn’t sound drunk anymore.

“Maybe you’re right,” Oliver replied, close enough now that Red could make out his face. Well, just the glint of his eyes and the glint of his teeth. “Maybe those first shots at the RV were just to scare us, but now that we know what this is about, what he wants, he’ll only shoot to stop one of us from getting away.”

The long-winded way of saying exactly what Reyna just had. Red wondered if he did that to her a lot.

“So, maybe…,” Maddy said, uncertainly, and Red could picture the look on her face, the exact pull in her eyes and the fold to her mouth. “Maybe we make it look like one of us is leaving the RV. That’s how we bait the shot.”

Oliver nodded his head. “Just what I was going to say. We make him think one of us is escaping out the door, enough to take the shot.”

“How, without actually getting shot?” Simon replied. “Are we going to build a fake human or something?”

“That’s exactly what we’re going to do, Simon.” The trace of a smile in Oliver’s voice now. Red bet he somehow thought it was all his idea, even though it was Reyna, Maddy and Simon who’d reasoned it out. “Red,” he said then, like he’d read her thoughts. “Can you hit the lights.”

She stepped toward the refrigerator and reached up to click the lights back on. Even on their lowest setting, the brightness of the dim overhead lights

made her eyes water, rebuilding the RV and the six of them from the darkness.

Maddy squinted at Red, a nod to ask if she was okay. Red nodded back. “And what are we going to build a fake human out of?” Reyna asked now,

not disguising the doubt in her voice.

“Well, we already have that closet door.” Oliver gestured back to his shield. “That could be the body, if we put one of my hoodies over it.”

“The mop!” Simon said, louder than he needed to. “We snap it in half and those could be arms, inside the sleeves.”

Oliver nodded, considering it.

“Oh,” Maddy interjected. “I have a beach ball in my suitcase. Not blown up yet, but that could be the head, right?”

“That could work,” Oliver said.

No, it couldn’t, what were they all talking about? Even on her worst day, Red didn’t look like a closet door with stick mop-arms and a giant beach ball head. The shooter would never believe it was one of them; he had a telescopic sight mounted to his rifle. But she didn’t say anything. How could she say anything? That was part of the plan. Red looked over at Arthur and Reyna. They were silent, like her.

Oliver clapped and, my god, he had to stop doing that.

“Right, Maddy, can you go grab one of my hoodies? The green one.

Reyna, grab that mop. Simon, bring the duct tape.”

“Red, come with me,” Maddy said, pulling on Red’s sleeve. She didn’t want to walk into the back bedroom on her own. And, sure, because even though this RV was thirty-one feet, Red had been in the same ten feet for far too long.

She followed Maddy, past the kitchen and the bunks, through the open door into the back bedroom. Maddy flicked on the light.

The black-and-white patterned sheets on the bed were crumpled under the weight of a blue suitcase.

“That must be Reyna’s,” Maddy said, walking past the foot of the bed to the large closet along the back right, as they faced it.

“This isn’t going to work,” Red said, now that it was just the two of them and Oliver couldn’t hear. “This plan. The shooter will never believe it’s a person.”

“He might,” Maddy said, reaching for the handle and pulling the closet open. There was a long mirror on the inside of the door. Red hadn’t known it was there. She flinched as it doubled the people in the room, catching eyes with herself over Maddy’s shoulder.

“Would you think closet-beach-ball-mop-man was real if you saw him out and about?” she asked, looking at Maddy’s reflection.

“I might, at a quick glance.”

“Why don’t you just ask him out while you’re at it? You’d have cute kids.” Red made a face at her in the mirror, eyes wide and nostrils flared, wrinkles disappearing the freckles on her nose. Mom used to pull that same face at her, in the mirror opposite their kitchen table, making Red laugh over sugarcoated cornflakes. Red pushed the memory away. It wasn’t Mom in the mirror, it was her and Maddy, and that didn’t help anybody. It never did. Put her away. Red needed to focus on tonight, on the people still here, not the

ones who were gone and never coming back.

Maddy bent low, back to her, blocking the view. But in the mirror, Red could see Maddy’s double, rifling through Oliver’s open suitcase on the floor of the closet.

Two Maddys, two Reds. Wait a second.

“The mirror,” Red said quietly, not sure yet, the idea still forming. “Can’t we use the mirror to make a double of one of us? A reflection.” She tried to imagine it in her head, placing the mirror at the door of the RV, re-creating the angles. She couldn’t quite get there on her own, not all the way. “At the door. Can’t we…” She trailed off, but Maddy’s reflection had straightened up now, staring her dead in the eye.

“That’s brilliant,” she said.

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