The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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107

The silence was nauseating. Jase and Sam sat in the living room, clock watching. It was coming up to nine. A thick haze of smoke floated between them.

“Does Madison know she’s going with Mitch tonight?” Sam asked. Jase nodded, taking a long drag on his third cigarette in the past hour.

“I told her to pack some clothes.”

“Are you okay?” Jase looked at him through his lashes. Part of him wanted to clock him straight round the side of his head for such a stupid question. But then, he wasn’t in the best mood with Sam after overhearing what Ramon had instructed him to do.

“Remember when we first got involved in all this stuff and Benny was going to have you bumped off because of how you were with Janine and I stepped in and vouched for you?” he asked. Sam nodded.

“Of course. I remember, I thought he was going to go for you next.” Jase stared at Sam, his right-hand man in the business for six years and best friend for ten. He trusted Sam with his life. The discomfort inside of him settled. He didn’t need to say anything else. Sam shuffled around.

“What made you think of that?” Jase just shrugged, shaking his head.

“You’re probably the only one that knows how not okay I am,” he sighed, “but it wasn’t going to last forever. We all need to know when it’s time to throw in the towel.” Sam just nodded; his palms were sticky with sweat at the thought of all the possible outcomes of the evening. Jase pulled the tin box out from underneath the armchair, setting it on the coffee table.

“You’ve got your glock, haven’t you?” he asked, Sam nodded, shuffling in the chair and feeling the hard tool pressing into his back. Jase unlocked the box, taking out the gun.

“Where’s the other one?” Sam asked.

“In my car,” Jase replied, loading his and pulling the slider back, tucking it into his waistband.

“Do you think it’ll come to that?” Sam asked. Jase shrugged.

“Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” The minutes ticked past and the tension remained high. It was suffocating. Doing any kind of deal had never drawn out these feelings of anxiety in either of them before.

At twenty-five past, there was a knock on the door. Jase and Sam looked at each other before Jase stood up to answer it. Adam lifted his head, smiling.

“I didn’t think you would let her get the better of you for too long. Shame the damage has already been done,” he grinned. Jase didn’t blink. He’d seen this coming, instead, he just stepped to the side, letting Adam and Mitch walk in. Sam glared at Adam, not keeping the same poker face Jase held and letting his feelings be known through his expression. Not that Adam was phased, he felt untouchable with Mitch by his side because Jase had already given in. Adam had chosen the winning team.

“Be quiet, Adam. I’m sure Jase feels humiliated enough without you rubbing salt in the wound,” Mitch chortled.

In everyone else’s eyes, Jase had lost. Mitch was top dog now and there would be no stopping him. Jase followed them into the living room, taking his seat. Mitch sat on the sofa opposite and Adam lowered himself at the table, to Jase’s left.

“I have to say,” Mitch started, “I’m rather surprised that a little girl has been your downfall. Of everything I heard about the terrifying Jase Davies, the last thing I expected from you was to fall in love with one of the house girls.” He was trying to get a reaction out of him but Jase refused to give him the further satisfaction. “Imagine not being able to control someone as small as Madison. Mind, I can’t say I’m really all that surprised. She always was a little firecracker. My boys will love that about her for a while, until they get bored and we’ve got all of the use out of her that we can. Then we’ll toss her to the side like the worthless piece of meat that she is.” Jase let him carry on as he lit another cigarette.

“If you think you can do a better job at controlling her than I can, then you’ll have every opportunity to try,” he said. Now that they were here, his nerves managed to settle. Especially considering he’d only brought Adam with him.

“I’ll do a much better job than you. I don’t swing that way so the tits and arse aren’t going to be such a distraction.” Jase just twitched his brows up slightly. He was almost amused by Mitch’s self-assured cocky demeanour. He couldn’t know Madison that well if he thought it was her appearance that made everything so difficult. It was never her appearance that captured him, not that he didn’t think she was attractive, it was how her mind worked. It was always how her mind worked.

Sam watched Jase carefully. He knew that if Jase reacted to anything Mitch was saying, it was unlikely he’d go through with it all. Being taunted was just another shot at Jase’s pride but he remained calm, running his tongue across his upper teeth, nodding slowly.

“Fair enough,” he sighed, almost bored. His eyes fell on Sam. “Go get her, I want this over and done with.” Sam stood up, making his way upstairs and unlocking Madison’s door. She was sat on the corner of the bed in Jase’s black hoodie, a backpack on her shoulders and the white Air Force and dark jeans she had been wearing the night they took her.

He had expected her to be crying but she wasn’t, her expression was unreadable. Just a blank canvas. It was almost unnerving considering the circumstances. Sam didn’t say anything as she got up, stopping beside him in the doorway.

“Tell Janine I said goodbye,” she said, before proceeding downstairs. She stood barely inside the living room and Sam returned to his seat by the table. Madison’s eyes went from Jase to Mitch. Cool as a cucumber. Sam had to give it to her, she held her head up to the very end.

“Long time no see,” Mitch smiled. Madison nodded.

“I’d have preferred to have kept it that way.” Mitch was unimpressed by the lack of fear in her words, he got to his feet.

“Don’t worry, we won’t have to see much of each other.”

“Silver lining,” Madison replied sarcastically, she wouldn’t break eye contact. Mitch grumbled.

“I don’t know why you’ve got a bag packed either, it’s not like you’ll need a change of clothes at the bottom of the Thames.” Jase watched as a smirk curved across Madison’s face. He took a slow drag on his cigarette, observing the exchange.

" You’re a fucking cardboard gangster, Mitch.” Mitch clenched his fists as Madison continued, “you pussied out of the meeting when Dylan got shot and even if you did have the minerals to kill me, you really think you can take on my dad-?” Jase gritted his teeth as Mitch backhanded her straight across the face, causing the still sore slit in her lip to split again. Madison ran her tongue over it, tasting the warm iron that was spilling out. The cut opened up more as her smile widened and she shook her hair out of her face. “Still can’t control your temper I see.”

“You little bitch. I can’t wait for you to see what I have in store for you-” Madison rolled her eyes, cutting off his seething words.

“All you men are the same. Just throwing women around left, right and centre like objects. You think everything belongs to you, just take and take, thinking there won’t be a consequence but there is always a consequence, Mitch. Just like there was for Dylan and my dad and just like there will be for you. My dad taught me a lot growing up. One thing was not to get too big for my boots, something everyone in this room has done at some point.” She looked at each of the men in turn, Jase last before closing her eyes and taking a breath. “You all made the same mistake.” She clasped her hands behind her back. Jase stubbed his cigarette out, sitting forward in the armchair.

“And please, seeing as you’re so fucking sure of yourself, tell me what that is?” Mitch urged, humouring her as his curiosity got the better of him. Madison tilted her head, her eyes narrowed and adrenalin rushing through her as her fingers curled around the cold metal tucked into her waist band.

“You underestimated me. It isn’t you, or Jase, or even my dad that people should worry about. It’s me.” She pulled the gun. Jase, Sam and Adam flew to their feet, weapons drawn. Madison didn’t break eye contact with Mitch as he stared down his nose at her, his jaw muscles jutting out. He’d been had.

*

It takes more strength than you’d imagine, pulling a trigger. Both mental and physical. You have to consciously be aware of the motion of pulling the metal peg back. It takes conviction to hold your hand steady and end a life. And yet, it happens in seconds.

Time stopped.

Three gunshots echoed throughout the room.

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