Chapter no 27 – 3:00 a.m.

Five Survive

Red couldn’t hold Oliver’s eyes for longer than two seconds. He won. She dropped her gaze.

“What?” Simon said, voice escaping before he’d even formed the end of the word.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Oliver,” Reyna said. “No one here is working with the shooter.”

“Why is it ridiculous?” he snapped, puppet strings back, spinning his head. “The sniper knows things he couldn’t possibly know. What we’re saying in here, what our plans are, that fucking note. And let’s not forget how we ended up here in the first place.” He paused, eyes flashing under the overhead lights as he cracked the bones in his neck. “This road wasn’t on our route. We got lost. So either the sniper somehow predicted exactly which wrong turns we’d take, or he was listening through a bug he’d planted and following us, or”—he swallowed—“someone in this RV led us right to him.”

He looked pointedly at Simon, Arthur and Red, one hand balling into a fist at his side. He stretched it out, fingers ropy and long, as he studied the three of them. Something tightened in Red’s gut, twisting uncomfortably as she watched Oliver’s hand bend and flex.

“Not this again,” Simon sighed. “We were lost. No signal. None of us directed the RV down this road on purpose.”

“I’m not sure that’s true anymore,” Oliver said. “It was you three, you three giving the directions at the end. I lost the map on Reyna’s phone, so we know it wasn’t me. Maddy didn’t say anything.”

“But Reyna was driving,” Simon said. “So by your logic, she could be a mole too, right? Because she’s the one who physically brought us down here. Or is it just us three that are under suspicion?”

“She only took the turns you were telling her to,” Oliver retorted, pointing a finger toward Simon’s chest. “And if I remember right, Simon, you were the one who was most insistent.”

“I was trying to be helpful,” Simon shouted back. “I was drunk!”

“Hm,” Oliver said, with a wicked smile. “You seem to only be drunk when it suits you, though, huh? Slipping in and out of it. I thought you were supposed to be the actor here.”

“Fuck off, Oliver,” Simon spat. “I don’t have anything to do with this.” “You’re a crook like your fucking uncle.”

“Stop, please!” Arthur shouted, stepping forward to place his body between Oliver and Simon, turning his head to look at both of them. “This is fucking stupid. We can’t turn on each other.”

“And what about you?” Oliver directed his voice at Arthur now. “You were the one giving those last directions, they came from your phone.”

Red shook her head. That wasn’t fair, Arthur was just the one who happened to lose signal last, on a different network from the others. She should say something. She should stand up for him.

“And I got it wrong, I’m sorry.” Arthur held up his hands. “I was just trying to follow the map.”

“Red.” Oliver’s eyes landed on her now. “I remember you were the one who told us to keep going. I wanted Reyna to turn around and you told her to keep going.”

She had, he wasn’t wrong. Her fault.

“Red didn’t do anything,” Arthur said, and that was how it felt—was it?— to have someone on your side, on your team. To stand up for you whether it

was right or wrong. Red breathed out, gripping the walkie-talkie too hard, like it was Arthur’s hand and they were back there standing in the doorway, about to watch two people die. Two people were dead, remember. Right outside. And that red dot was still out there, waiting.

“She was just trying to find the way to the campsite,” Arthur continued. “Like the rest of us.”

“And in doing so, one of you led us into this ambush, to a man waiting with a fucking rifle! That was no accident!”

Maddy wasn’t saying anything. Did that mean she agreed with Oliver, was she taking his side? How many sides were there? Us versus them. Simon, Arthur and Red against Oliver, Maddy and Reyna, splitting the RV in half, and half of thirty-one feet was fifteen point five.

“Oliver, stop!” Reyna grabbed his arm, pulled him back. No, not us versus them, Reyna wasn’t taking sides. Lavoy-adjacent, but not a Lavoy, and didn’t they both know it. Red certainly did now, gaze creeping to Maddy.

“It doesn’t mean one of us is involved,” Reyna continued. “If there’s no listening device, maybe he planted a GPS tracker somewhere outside the RV and that’s why we haven’t found it. Maybe that’s how he followed us to this road.”

“Occam’s razor, Reyna,” Oliver said, shaking his head. “The simplest solution is usually the correct one.”

“This isn’t helping,” Maddy spoke up. And what did that mean? What side did that come down on? “Please, we have to work together.”

The knot in Red’s gut loosened a little. She hadn’t lost Maddy to the other side. Because they were best friends, almost sisters. Knew each other inside and out. It was in the blood, even, because their moms were best friends before them. College roommates to working side by side as prosecutor and police captain. Would Red and Maddy ever have jobs that went side by side? Probably not; Maddy was going to UPenn and Red was going nowhere. Red couldn’t stay Lavoy-adjacent forever, she wasn’t sure Maddy would even want her to. But, for now, it counted.

“Lift up your shirt, Red,” Oliver said, gesturing, an upward motion with his fingers. “You too, Arthur.”

“What are you talking about?” Maddy asked, shrinking back as Oliver returned her gaze.

“I need to check neither of them is wearing a wire,” he said.

“Oh, come on,” Simon interjected. “This is turning into Lord of the Fucking Flies. We’re going to end up killing each other, forget about the sniper.”

“I’m not wearing a wire,” Red said, tucking her arms over each other to protect her chest, walkie-talkie purring in her armpit.

“Great, prove it.” “Oliver!” Reyna hissed.

“She and Arthur came over when Maddy and I were talking about the note. You and Simon were by the door. So if there’s a listening device we still haven’t found, it’s on one of those two.”

“Or Maddy,” Simon said, hysterical to the point of almost smiling. “Or you. Does it not count if you’re a Lavoy?” He slapped his arms down to the side of his legs. Simon got it.

“You’re taking this too far,” Arthur said, shaking his head, taking a step in front of Red, almost like he was blocking her from Oliver. A barricade. “We all need to step back and take a breather. Everyone wants to get out of here, so let’s think about what the sniper has actually asked us to do.”

“Why won’t you do it, then?” Oliver glared. “If you have nothing to hide.” “Okay, fine, see.” Arthur grabbed the hem of his baseball shirt and pulled

it up over his chest, the muscles in his bare back heaving and bunching as he did. “See, nothing. This is getting out of hand.” He dropped his shirt.

“Now Red.”

“No.” There was a growl to Arthur’s voice now. “She does not have to.” “I’ll do it too. Look.” Oliver stepped forward, fingers moving quickly

down the buttons of his shirt. He reached the bottom and pulled it open, covering his arms like wings. There was nothing on his chest, nothing but the sharp lines of his abdomen. “See. I don’t have any secrets. I’m clean.” He dipped his head at Red, redoing his buttons. “Your turn.”

She didn’t want to. Of course she didn’t want to. But she also didn’t want the others to think she was hiding anything. That would be worse.

“Fine.” She gritted her teeth. Her shirt was loose enough that she didn’t have to undo it. She gripped the ends, walkie-talkie still in hand, and pulled her shirt up over her bra, flashing the pale skin of her chest and stomach to the rest of the group. She didn’t have any secrets either, not on her skin at least. Arthur didn’t look; Red saw that. He must not like her like that after all.

Red dropped her shirt, tucking the front tails into her jeans. “Are we done now?”

“I’m sorry, Red,” Reyna said quietly, like it was somehow her fault.

“No wires,” Simon said, a jagged edge to his voice as he smoothed down his own shirt. “No listening devices. Can we move on, now?”

“Not yet.” Oliver shook his head. “Just because there’s no wire, doesn’t mean someone here isn’t somehow communicating with him outside.”

“Oliver, come on,” Maddy pleaded. “No one here is working with the sniper. He would kill any of us. He killed that innocent couple.”

Oliver’s eyes were busy, working on some thought alone. Red dreaded to know what it was.

“Phones out,” Oliver said, striding to the kitchen and pulling out the bottom drawer, too hard, juddering against its hinges. He selected the biggest saucepan, with a matching glass lid, pulling it out as the other pans shifted and clattered around it. “Come on, I said phones out, everyone. We’re going to seal them all in here.” He raised the pan.

“There’s no signal,” Simon said. His phone was out, but his hand tightened around it, like he didn’t want to let it go. “How could any of us be communicating with the shooter without a signal?”

“I don’t know,” Oliver said, brandishing the pan. “Maybe there’s still a way to communicate, some kind of app. Or maybe one of them has been hacked and is listening to us. Either way, if you want me to trust any of you again”—his eyes flickered and it was obvious which half of the RV he was talking about—“we are shutting our phones away. All of us. It’s not a request.”

To prove the point, Oliver pulled his phone out of his back pocket and dropped it inside the saucepan with a dull thud.

“Reyna?” He held the pan out to her. She nodded, not returning his gaze, but she pulled out her phone and placed it inside the pan, on top of his.

Maddy stepped up, dropping hers inside next. “Simon.”

Not a request.

“This is fucking stupid,” Simon said, taking two angry steps toward Oliver, letting go of his phone, the device sliding against the others to find its own space.

Oliver didn’t need to tell Arthur; he was already leaning forward, phone in hand, placing it vertically in a gap inside the pan, standing guard over the others.

“Red.” Oliver held the pan out, everyone’s eyes turning to her. She could feel them, every single one of them, like heat on her skin, too long and she might burn. Were they looking at her harder than anyone else? That wasn’t good. She reached behind her, hand dipping into the loose back pocket of her jeans, fingers alighting around the cool edges of her phone. She pulled it out and held it in front of her eyes, phone in one hand, walkie-talkie in the other. The home screen lit up. No service. 38% battery now. 3:13 a.m. Strange, how she didn’t feel tired at all.

“Red.” Oliver prompted again. Not a request, remember? He was the leader and he was leading. Where to, Red didn’t want to think about. She hesitated and then slid her phone in on top of the pile.

“No one has a secret second phone, do they?” Everyone shook their heads and Oliver nodded his.

The phones slid and shifted as he carried them away, putting the pan down on the dining table and then slotting the glass lid over the pan. But that wasn’t enough, was it? Next he grabbed the half-used roll of duct tape and pulled a long strip free, cutting it into smaller sections with Maddy’s hair scissors. He pressed the pieces of duct tape down from lid to pan, sealing their phones inside.

Then the pan was up in his hands again and he was walking toward the kitchen, opening the oven and sliding the pan inside. He closed the oven door with a slam that ricocheted around the RV.

He turned back and Red stiffened, catching his eyes for a second before she could blink them away. A shiver passed through her, hiding there just beneath the surface of her skin, even though it was warm in here. Too warm. Was she scared of Oliver, or just scared? Scared of this night and the man outside with a gun. It must be the second thing. She’d known Oliver all her life. A leader had to make hard decisions. He was just trying to make sure they survived. That was all, right?

“Now what?” Simon straightened up, clutching his bony hands in front of his chest, like he was protecting the parts inside. “Are you going to make us strip off our clothes, bend over and cough?”

“Simon, I’ve almost had it with you!” Oliver exploded. “I’m the only one being smart here. I am trying to make sure we survive. That’s all.”

“Really?” Simon bit back, tightening his hands. “Because it seems to me you keep avoiding the one thing that we know will get us out of here alive. The reason we’re here at all. The secret that the sniper wants.”

“Not all of us,” Maddy said, shifting uncomfortably, a shadow across her eyes. “Not all of us will get out of here alive. He said that if we give him the secret, he will let the rest of us live. Which means…”

She didn’t need to finish. Red understood. That secret, the one the sniper wanted, was a death sentence. That was what this was. But it wasn’t Red’s, it couldn’t be, that was the whole point. So, whose was it?

“Well, why don’t we concentrate on giving him what he wants, and deal with the consequences after,” Simon said, looking at Maddy, because Oliver had started to pace behind them. “He might be bluffing about that part.”

“No,” Oliver said darkly. “We’re not doing that, not playing his game. I’m not letting him kill one of us. Any of us.”

The two sides of the RV whole again. Or Oliver didn’t want to give up his secret, the one that Reyna knew too. How bad could it be?

Red watched Reyna, her eyes playing across the floor, mouth flickering at one edge, cracking her face. Reyna’s hand was fiddling with her top, pulling it into a tight knot at her chest. Tighter, tighter. She took a breath and released her hand, the bunched material staying in place like her heart had burst free

of her ribs, trapped there inside the shirt. She shook her head and pressed her lips together, looking up.

“Oliver, we have to—” she began.

“No, Reyna, you keep your mouth shut,” he barked, stopping dead still.

There was a warning in his eyes. Blink and flash.

“Oliver, we have to,” Reyna replied, hardening her voice, a warning in there too. “We have to. This could be about us. About what we did.”

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