The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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Madison barely slept. Her arms hurt, the bruises on her face were prominent now. She carefully pulled her hair up into a ponytail. Everything ached, including her soul.

She would have told Jase, if she knew, she would have told him.

Her bedroom door was unlocked and she could hear Jase and Sam downstairs when she opened it. They were sat at the kitchen table. Jase had the picture in his hands, his eyes flickered up from it, settling on her. She pulled the sleeves of his hoodie over her hands, taking a seat next to Sam, opposite Jase. He slid the picture over.

“It’s obvious that you know Mitch but how do you know him and who’s the other boy in the picture?” She looked down at the photo, recalling the day. Her mum had gathered them, trying her best to ingrain Madison into the boys’ friendship. She lifted her finger,

“That’s my brother, Dylan,” she said weakly. The boys looked at each other, sitting up properly.

“I’m going to ask you this once and only once, are you friends with Mitch?” Jase questioned; she shook her head absently.

“No. He was Dylan’s best friend.”

“What can you tell us about him?” Sam asked gently. She sighed.

“He knows I’m here, doesn’t he?” Jase nodded, his eyes flitting to Sam then back.

“Why does that matter?” he asked. Madison licked the cut on her lip, trying to calm all of the anxiety that was drowning her.

“Because you won’t be the direct target anymore,” she said quietly.

“Madison, what’s going on?” Jase pushed. “What would he want to do with you? Surely if your brother is his best friend, he’ll be more worried about us using you against him?” She scoffed and looked at him.

“You don’t get it. He was my brother’s best friend. My brother’s dead.” Silence fell over them.

“What does he want?” Jase finally asked, cutting to the chase.

“Besides my head on a stick? He wants to get to my dad. That’s more than likely what this whole thing is about.” She looked down at the picture, she felt nothing towards the boy in the middle. Her darling brother. Just the thought of him repulsed her. “He’s been planning this. He’s had six years to plan this, I dare say he’s been gathering information on all of you seeing as you’ve been doing this for so long. You’re the big guys he needs to take out, right? The ones stopping him from getting to the top of this whole thing?” Jase shrugged.

“I guess. We thought he was after the reputation, that’s why he didn’t accept the job from Ramon, it was never about money...” Madison nodded,

“Yeah, because this never had anything to do with you. It would have led back to me eventually. You were just pawns on a chessboard.”

“So, what’s actually going on?” Sam asked. Madison looked at him. She rolled her shoulders.

“You could hand me over-”

“Not happening,” Jase interrupted, sitting back and folding his arms. Mitch wasn’t going to win that easily.

“Or this could get worse,” she finished.

“What do you mean worse?” Sam asked hesitantly. “And why is he out to get at your dad?”

“My dad killed my brother- well, sort of. He’s the indirect reason Dylan was killed. But my dad got busted for things like drug dealing and owning a gun without a licence, stuff like that. He doesn’t come out for another two years which is more than enough time for Mitch to plot. He knows my dad will still have people around so he needed to build a bigger force for himself otherwise he’s as good as dead. And my dad would go after him, he testified against him in court.”

“But why go after you?” She looked at Sam, shrugging. They both stared and her and she sighed.

“They got into trouble with… people like you. Mitch and Dylan had planned to hand me over as some form of payment. My dad caught wind of the plan, had my brother shot. Allegedly. Mitch was supposed to get shot as well but for some reason, he never arrived to the meeting.”

“Your dad had his own son shot?” Sam’s eyes widened and Madison shook her head.

“Dylan wasn’t his.”

“He’s going after you as revenge,” Jase mumbled.

“Madison,” Sam looked at her curiously, “who is your dad?”

“Alan Chapman.” The boys looked at each other, shaking their heads.

“Never heard of him,” Sam said.

Because he doesn’t exist, Madison thought. The less people that knew the truth, the better.

She pushed the picture away, exhausted just from looking at it. Everything still hurt.

“He’s out for blood and he won’t stop. Not until he’s either killed me or everyone here if you don’t join him.”

“Well none of that is going to happen so we’ll just have to figure out how to get rid of him,” Jase said. Madison nodded, standing up and making her way to the kitchen door.

“And if I were you,” she stopped, looking over her shoulder, “I’d make sure everyone cuts ties with Adam.”

“Why?” Sam asked.

“He got that picture from somewhere, and I’m pretty sure my dear brother and Mitch were more than just friends,” she answered, leaving them.

Jase let Madison sleep for the rest of the day whilst him and Sam sat in the kitchen, scheming.

“Do you reckon she could help?” Sam asked. Jase chewed his lip in thought before shaking his head.

“Not right now. Adam really did a number on her. I don’t think she’ll be capable of thinking sharply and I don’t want to put her under any pressure, people make mistakes when they’re not thinking straight. Maybe in a week or so but I’m not sure we can afford to wait that long. We need to act and we need to act soon.” Everything Madison had relayed to him had been running through his head continuously, trying to pick things out.

“Well at least we know he’s not out to protect her but that makes us collateral damage if he tries to get at her,” Sam said. Jase nodded. For once, he was glad Madison was in the house because if she was on the outside, she could be dead. At least there she was relatively safe.

“I’m guessing he’s waiting for some sort of reaction from us finding out that he knows Madison,” Jase said.

“If what Madison says about Adam is true then he’ll have already fed back that you won’t let her get hurt. He knows you’re protecting her.” Jase considered Sam’s words. It was a lot of information to process. It was as if he was only just finding out who Madison really was and suddenly, everything about her made sense. Why she was how she was, how she got through everything she’d been through. This wasn’t her first rodeo. She had the survival instincts of a hardened criminal.

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