Rather belatedly I recalled the gunshot we had heard outside the garage just a few minutes before. Rationale dictated that Sean, being the only other person to enter the garage since we had heard the gunshot, was likely the trigger man. Now the question was who or what had he been shooting at? And if he was willing to shoot someone over a shady dealing I still had no idea what it was, then there was a pretty good chance he was willing to shoot me too, especially when he was under the mistaken impression I knew what the hell was going on.
“Since you refuse to be reasonable about this, I guess I have to do things the exceptionally hard way,” he said calmly.
I swallowed the bile that was starting to rise in my throat. Exceptionally hard was not a good indication of how this was going to end, especially as it was becoming more and more clear that Sean was going off the deep end and I was at a loss of how to reel him back in, if that was even possible. Whatever the hell was going on, he was crazy scared or had just turned plain crazy.
“I’ll give you to the count of three,” he said in a tone that brokered no negotiation.
Having been on the receiving end of that judgmentally filled tone in the past, I knew that he meant exactly what he said, and Sean was nothing if not a man of his word. And as the realization quickly started to dawn that he really would be the one responsible for ending my life, that quiet little streak of rebellion that had become second nature suddenly turned into full blown defiance. The smug bastard was going to end my life over some problem he created and he thought he was going to stand there and watch me beg for my life? Nothing doing.
I crossed my arms defiantly as I rolled my eyes and snorted in laughter, pulling off the perfect attitude that said I wasn’t buying into his whole bad guy spiel. Hopefully he didn’t notice the fact I was actually on the verge of peeing my pants.
He said nothing, but tsked in disapproval so I rolled my eyes again.
“You can give up the whole bad guy act,” I said calmly. “A little too stereotypical for you, don’t you think?”
He let out a small laugh.
“And what exactly is a stereotypical bad guy like?” he asked with a smart ass smirk.
I laughed. “Well, maybe if you watched a movie or two, you would know exactly what I mean. Arrogant. Disconnected from reality. Thinks he’s about to get away with some evil master plan. But since you’re too high brow to actually watch a movie, I’ll be generous and save you the mild suspense of how it usually ends. The bad guy, in this case you, tends not to live long enough to get to the end of the count down.”
My comment must have hit a little too close to home. His highbrow smirk withered slightly as he tried to maintain an air of intimidation, but after a few seconds, he regained his composure and forced a smug smile.
“I have to admit Addison. I am going to miss these little moments. You could certainly amuse me in ways others couldn’t.”
I forced myself to give him a big saccharine smile.
“Glad I could bring some sunshine to your otherwise dark and twisted universe.”
He shook his head slowly, unappreciative of what I was now considering one of my best witty remarks.
“One!” he yelled as he glanced behind him, undoubtedly looking for Sam and hoping that his latest threat would finally bring her out of hiding.
Sadly, though I knew the countdown was coming, I jumped in surprise at the sudden furious eruption, giving him yet another moment of sickening satisfaction. The action had been unexpected considering Sean had never been much of a yeller. A disapproving look was all anyone needed to understand they were on his shit list.
Unfortunate for me, the countdown had begun and as much as I had been trying to make him second guess himself, clearly he wasn’t buying into my little act.
I swallowed my fear and met his glare. No way was he going to rattle me after all I had been through over the past couple of days. If this was to be my last moment on earth, I was going down in furious indignation.
Something about the look on my face must have told him that I wasn’t buying into his threats. Either that or I had “kiss my ass” posted on my forehead because his palpable look of determination and anger started to soften slightly, as if he was suddenly losing credibility in himself to pull the trigger.
Hmmm. So I had rattled him slightly when I didn’t break down into a quivering mess. Score one for Addison. Not that I was ever going to admit out loud that his sudden bout of crazy wasn’t freaking me out. That and the fact that as scary as it is to have a gun currently pointed at my head, it still wasn’t as scary as how calm, composed and unwavering Sean was as he was doing it.
What I really needed to do right now was not focus on the gun or the crazy ex-boyfriend standing on the other end. What I needed to do was buy time. Time for Sam to get away. Time for Ghost and Kade to swoop in and save the day. Hell, I was willing to take the goon squad if it meant that Sean would at least be going down with me. The very idea of him winning after all of this was really starting to chap my ass.
“If you’re going to shoot me,” I said, trying to keep his focus on me and not Sam, “you can at least have the balls to tell me why. In the movies, all the bad guys bask in the glory that is their evil plan at least once before trying to off the hero.”
He said nothing, but watched me silently.
His smug smile had all but disappeared as I could see the hamster wheel start turning. Clearly he wasn’t stupid enough to fall for my line of BS, even if he was currently in the midst of being homicidally crazy.
“Two!” he yelled and I cringed inwardly.
He looked behind him again and waited.
After a few seconds of nothingness, he shook his head and made a sad tsking noise. Clearly he was finding some sickening humor in the fact that Sam wasn’t willing to make an appearance to save my butt. Little did he know, or fully appreciate, that’s precisely what I wanted her to do.
“Guess you two aren’t as close as you thought,” he said smugly.
I replied with a casual shrug. “Or maybe we’re closer than you think and she’s doing exactly what she’s supposed to do.”
The smugness disappeared as he silently started running through a thousand scenarios as to why it would be a good thing that she wouldn’t come to my rescue.
Although he was hell bent on shooting me, or at least he was while he was currently stuck on crazy, the fact I wasn’t a sobbing mess was really starting to crack his over confident façade. I mean, let’s be honest. Cool, calm and collected I am not on the best of occasions. Tie that in with the fact that I had a gun pointed in my face and wasn’t a sobbing heap on the floor, while at the same time Sam refused to come out of hiding even if it meant saving my life, he was slowly starting to realize he didn’t hold as much of the upper hand as he had assumed. And that’s exactly what I wanted him to believe.
An assumed realization seemed to hit as the proverbial light bulb went on over his head and he quickly looked over his shoulder toward the SUV he had abandoned moments before.
“What did you do?” he asked, turning his attention back to me as he took on a sickly pale hue.
I had not a clue what he was going on about, but whatever random assumption he was making was scaring the hell out of him and I wasn’t foolish enough to not take advantage of that.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied with a casual shrug as I tried to over sell the innocence of my response.
The tightening of his jaw told me I was striking a nerve.
“Don’t bullshit with me Addison,” he said, taking a menacing step forward and shoving the barrel of the gun into my cheek. “You really don’t want to play games with me right now.”
I tilted my head away, alleviating some of the pressure of the barrel as I watched him carefully.
“Who’s playing games?” I asked a calm voice. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Sean wasn’t buying it. The small sheen of sweat that suddenly broke out on his forehead told me that much. He was starting to believe I knew more than I was letting on, which was his first mistake because reality was I really never had a clue what was really going on.
“How long were you in here?” he asked through gritted teeth.
I shrugged casually.
“Hard to say. A half hour. Maybe more. Maybe less. Time has pretty much stopped moving since I made the mistake of darkening your doorstep earlier.”
He chewed his lip nervously as he retreated a few steps. The gun he held was thankfully pointed to the ground so the odds of me not being accidentally shot were working more toward my favor.
I could tell what he was thinking, which was a first for me. Normally he was virtually impossible to read since it was rare to ever see his mask slip. But right now it was starting to crumble.
Clearly the costume jewelry in the truck was important since he had risked life and limb to get out here to retrieve all of it, but what was so important about it? And now that he knew that Sam and I had been hiding out, he figured out we had found the closet and in turn, the junk in the box. The real question was why did that seem to give him so much anxiety?
Sean was suddenly very nervous since he was unsure of what I had done that I wasn’t willing to tell.
I racked my brain trying to put all the pieces together, but I didn’t have enough of the picture to make anything out of the details I had.
I quickly started scrolling through the facts I did know.
Sean was nervous about the costume jewelry we had found, which made no sense whatsoever, but through assassination attempts and a car literally being blown sky high, he risked his life to get out here and collect boxes full of it.
He was working with unsavory characters hell bent on ending my life because they thought I had something that they wanted back, but I didn’t know what it was.
Through whatever sinister plan Sean was a part of, he had made the goon squad a ton of money and wasn’t too worried they were going to kill him since he was still useful to them.
Kade knew way more about Sean then he had been letting on and Sean knew who Kade was, though I apparently was still in the dark in both cases.
There was something else screaming for my attention in the back of my brain but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I felt like I was having a moment out of a bad Looney Tunes episode because in my mind I could see cartoon signs with lights flashing and pointing to something, but I couldn’t figure out what.
My train of thought was permanently derailed by the sudden snap of a twig off to my right. The garage door was standing wide open and during Sean’s split personality tirade, I had completely forgotten all about it. The crunch of boots stepping along the driveway rang out loudly in the otherwise quiet night. Clearly we had a visitor, or visitors, approaching. Whether they were friend or foe was a whole other issue entirely.
Sean must have heard the sound too because his head snapped around quickly toward the open door, his arm swinging round as he pointed the gun toward the sound.
The footsteps continued for what felt like an eternity before a shadow appeared in the moonlight. Whoever it was wanted us to know they were there, but they didn’t want us to know who they were. Any hope that Kade had shown up to save the day were quickly dwindling since I figured he wasn’t really the type to make his presence known this obviously.
The moment was filled with intense silence. No one was breathing out of fear of being discovered by the other.
My heart was beating triple time, my hands were shaking in fear, and my nervous bladder issue was starting to build at ever embarrassing levels. The very idea of the goon squad showing up was more terrifying then I had been willing to admit and though I was adamant about Sean not walking away unscathed, the reality of making that happen still didn’t bode well for me.
The quietness seemed thick and was actually strangling, but then again I’ve never been one to enjoy the quiet. Add the fact that someone was pointing a gun at me and we were both now being stalked by another unknown shadow…well that didn’t help. Neither did the soft whistling I was suddenly imagining.
At first I thought I was on the verge of a panic attack and was simply hearing things, but based on the way Sean stiffened he had obviously heard it too. It could be the wind whistling through the trees, but I quickly ruled that out when I realized the whistling I heard was a song, and damn if it didn’t sound familiar. I quickly ran through my limited mental rolodex of songs. I knew the song, but considering the circumstances, I was having a hard time putting a name to it. And then out of nowhere, it hit me.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
Weird. If this were the movies, this would be that pivotal moment when you know it’s all over for the unsuspecting campers because dark and foreboding music would be the warning precursor that they were on a death march or that Jason was standing behind them and about to imbed a ten inch knife into the center of their always turned back.
Considering my current circumstances, I would say that would have been appropriate right now.
What I wasn’t expecting was the Lollipop Guild.
I glanced quickly over to Sean. He had taken on a deathly pale color that was noticeable in even the dark. He licked his lips nervously as his once steady aim started shaking uncontrollably. My chances of walking away without being shot were diminishing by the second. If I was lucky to avoid the goon squad, I was likely to get shot in the ass by a stray bullet thanks to Nervous Nancy here. But if it meant getting out of this alive, a bullet in the ass was the least of my worries.
Based on Sean’s reaction, he knew our mystery guest. I mean, I know not everyone is a fan of the Wizard of Oz, but I’ve never seen it instill as much fear as it was giving Sean right at this moment.
And based on the fact our mystery guest continued to whistle softly just outside of our peripherals, he had to know Sean was inside and purposefully instilling that level of fear.
Clearly it wasn’t Dorothy standing outside, which meant only one thing.
The goon squad found us.