“Pick up, damn you!” Sam yelled into the phone. He’d been calling Alexi and Evan for the past 30 minutes, ever since his wife found him weeping on the floor of their living room. He hadn’t noticed them leaving, but he knew all too well where they had gone.
“Sam…calm down.” Dana said. “We don’t know that they…”
“That what? They went after Hunter? Of course they did. Alexi’s already gone running after Hunter once and Evan’s shown he’ll follow.”
“But they couldn’t possibly know where Hunter is.”
“That’s one of my main concerns. Who knows what kind of shit they might get into trying to figure it out? You heard Evan. He…takes care of things. Ever wonder how he gets answers to questions that trouble him?” Dana remained silent. “Best case scenario, we have a pair of lunatic teenagers torturing people. Worst case…” he trailed off. “Fuck, they’re still not answering!”
“But have you tried Vince again? Maybe it’s just…a misunderstanding.”
“A bloody misunderstanding, if Evan gets involved.”
Sam was startled as his phone started ringing. He collected himself and looked at the screen, hoping to see one of his sons’ names on it. Instead, he found himself staring at an unfamiliar number.
“Are you gonna answer the damn thing?” Dana asked, bringing him back to reality.
“Sam, this is Vince.” This was peculiar. Despite their long-standing relationship, Vince rarely addressed Sam by any other form than “sir”. Something was wrong, Sam was convinced.
“What’s going on, Vince? Where’s Hunter?”
“Hanson has ‘im. Us, I suppose. He wants to negotiate…”
“Where and when?”
“The abandoned industrial compound outside of town. One hour. Go through the main gate, drive straight for a mile. There’s an empty lot there, with just a warehouse to the side. He said bring 4 men. Just one car. And Sam?”
“Make sure you can trust them…”
The line went dead and Sam was lost in thought.
“Don’t tell me he bought that shit.” Eric said, as soon as Vince finished the call.
“Why not? He trusts me completely. You have no idea how much I wanted to end him and his whole fucking family for the last few years, but I knew I needed support from outside if I were to succeed. He has a way about him. His demeanor, I suppose. It’s just a fucking act, but he seems so friendly. He has a way to demand respect. Like you know he’s better than you, but he doesn’t act as if he’s superior. That’s why his closest lieutenants are so loyal to him.”
“Ah, hence the 4 men he can trust…”
“Exactly. Take them all out at once. The man likes to meet the people who work for him. That’s why I couldn’t get more than these 3.” Vince said, gesturing to 3 young men standing at the foot of the stairs leading to the warehouse office, smoking and chatting softly among each other. “They’re the only ones I personally brought in and who are loyal to me. Everyone in-between me and Samuels will follow once the dust settles and the higher-ups are…well, not so high anymore.” He finished with an evil grin.
Eric stood in front of the window, his hands clasped behind his back. “You know, this isn’t going to be easy.” He said. “Henson did have a point. Negotiating and getting Samuels to back out and actually place you in charge could avoid a lot of hassle. Once this whole thing is done, we’ll both have to clean house and you know there’ll be ruffled feathers. We won’t have complete and immediate control. It would be good if at least one of us had a solid power base…”
“You’re not getting cold feet, are you?” Vince spat angrily. “We both agreed this is the way to go. It’s too late now, anyway. Samuels knows Henson took the boy. What, we just let him go and cut a deal with him? Don’t you think he’ll see right through us? He might just go to Henson directly and then we’re both fucked. No, this ends today.”
“If we go through with it, it’ll just start today.”
“Then so be it.” Vince glanced at his watch. ”I’ll get my men in position. You stay here with Hicks and wait for Henson to arrive. Once he’s taken care of, send Hicks and the other one my way. We’ll need ‘em.”
“What about the kid?”
Vince peered through the window, eyeing Hunter slumped in his chair, his head covered by the dirty sack, alone in the empty warehouse. “He’ll keep for now. We need to make sure daddy dearest is out of the picture first. He’s still a valuable commodity until then.”
Evan drove through the main gate and immediately took one of the small alleys snaking through the large abandoned industrial complex. It had house all types of companies and workers through the years. It started as a small mining operation in the mid-1800’s. When that was closed up, clothing manufacturers settled in. Later during the 20th century, heavy metallurgy. Now, it was all abandoned, except for the warehouses that were occasionally used for…less that legal activities. The police knew that they were used as storage for stolen goods at the very least – drug and arms shipments were actually more common – but the informants and tight connections that Henson had built within every tier of law-enforcement meant that there was little fear of discovery. Unless it was an election year, in which case a token capture was made, along with a few insignificant arrests, to keep Joe Public happy. It proved that their taxes were well used and assured a new term for the elected officials deep within Henson’s pockets. He was more than happy to make such a small sacrifice once in a while. The lost revenue was more than covered by the fact that he didn’t constantly have to look over his shoulder. It helped Myke Henson sleep well at night.
Of course, Henson’s sleeping habits didn’t normally worry Evan too much. Still, he was his father and what Radnick had said worried him. If the man had been truthful – and Evan had enough experience to know when he was being lied to – then his father was also in danger. Eric and someone in Samuels’ organization had big plans for that day. Evan’s mind was a whirlwind. He had no love for his father, but whether he wanted to admit it or not, the man had ingrained a sense of loyalty to his family into him. And his family consisted of just the two of them. Evan glanced at Alexi, sitting next to him, staring intently out the front window, biting his lower lip, either in concentration or in fear. ‘Maybe it isn’t just the two of us anymore.’ Evan thought.
No, the feelings he had towards his father had nothing in common with anything a normal father-son relationship would present. Still, he owed him his life. As screwed up as it had become, it was still his life. At least recently. He had exerted his independence and his father let him go, if reluctantly. Had Henson not taken him in when he was younger, would Evan be in jail? Would he even be alive? He certainly wouldn’t be next to Alexi. If nothing else, his messed up life could now be summed up in one word – Alexi. He owed his father for that, at the very least. He would fight for him. He would save him. But first he would keep his promise to the boy he loved and save Hunter.
Finally, the truck pulled to a stop behind a dumpster, next to a dilapidated 4-storey building. The cold, dirty grey concrete and broken widows made for a sorry sight, but it was good cover. 500 yards away, across an empty plot, where a building had been demolished decades ago, stood their target. The warehouse wasn’t large, but it was ominous, with its blacked-out windows and rusty metal walls. The front door rolled aside and a black SUV drove out. With the entrance temporarily open, the two boys strained their eyes to peer inside, but could not discern anything through the darkness hidden between those walls, especially at that distance. Alexi suddenly realized that the open entrance resembled the maw of a very large, very dangerous creature. He gulped loudly, as someone inside the building rolled the door shut.
Evan didn’t turn his head to look at Alexi, but he decided the tension was too thick. He was never one for levity before such situations. He liked to concentrate, be focused on his task. But he knew that Alexi was close to falling apart. “So, four gay guys walk into a bar…” he started.
Alexi turned to face Evan, but the young man was still facing straight ahead. Alexi blinked rapidly a few times and shook his head in puzzlement. “Are…are you insane?” he asked.
Finally, Evan met his eyes. “Nope. Just thought I should lighten the mood.”
“With a gay joke?”
“Well, if the shoe fits…”
“You ARE insane!”
“Oh, come on, you’ll like it. It’s marvelously nasty.”
Alexi sighed. “What have I gotten myself into?”
Evan ignored his comment and plowed ahead. “So, four gay guys walk into a bar and there’s only just one four-legged stool left. How do they sit?”
“They turn it upside down.” Alexi answered, groaning and rolling his eyes.
“Oh…” Evan replied lamely.
“It’s an old joke, dude.”
“Fine. Then you’re responsible for the humor in this relationship from now on.”
“Deal. But what do you bring to the table?” Alexi asked, raising an eyebrow and smiling in what he hoped was an alluring manner.
Evan bent down towards him, placed his right hand on the seat’s head rest and stretched his left arm behind Alexi. He fumbled inside the glove box and pulled out a gun. “Oh, I have certain talents…”
Christian knocked gently on the door to Henson’s office. An immediate “Come in” sounded through the thick doors. The young man took a few seconds to compose himself. He had his best suit on that day. He was still far from an Armani, but the dark, perfectly-tailored suit fit him nicely and gave him a lot of much-needed confidence, as well as an air of authority. If Eric kept his word, he would soon have enough authority to merit that suit, as well as many more like it. It may not have been his mother’s dream, but he was certainly aiming for the stars. His parents wanted him to be in pre-law when he was 20, but a car accident when he was still a sophomore in high-school ended that dream. Still, he certainly was on an accelerated career path. At his young age, he could be one of the boss’ right-hand men.
He dabbed at the sweat on his forehead with a piece of tissue. The NEXT boss, that is. He liked Myke Henson well enough, he supposed. Well, maybe “like” is too strong a word. Not many people working for him truly liked the man, but he commanded respect and not a small amount of fear. That alone made Christian feel weak in the knees. He couldn’t believe he was actually doing it. Actually going through with the crazy plan. When Eric first told him about it, he thought the man was joking. Then he started worrying about his mental state. After all, he reasoned, being essentially in exile, looking after the boss’ lunatic son might drive anyone insane. When he saw Eric was actually serious, he considered going straight to Henson with the information. Surely he would be handsomely rewarded, he thought. He already had a decent enough job. He was rarely in the streets, but mostly in the house, close by Henson. The old man seemed to have taken a liking to him. That thought also made Christian uncomfortable. Betrayal was bad enough, but Henson really wasn’t that bad. If he didn’t like him already, he was on the road to doing so. Maybe Henson had plans for him. Evan, his son, didn’t seem all that interested in taking over the family business. Maybe Henson had a bright future in store for him.
But Christian quickly shook that thought off. If that were true, surely Henson wouldn’t have kept him in the dark. No, the more likely reason was that Henson himself was physically attracted to him. Christian immediately latched onto that thought as reassurance for his actions. He hated fags, and the thought of an old man perving on him was enough to make him sick.
And on top of it all, the simple fact was that Eric confided in him. Trusted him enough to bring him into the operation. People like Eric, old-timers, people who knew what they were doing, rarely trusted someone so young. That made Christian feel special. On the one hand, the boss was a creep who probably wanted to molest him. On the other, Eric, if he took over, had already placed a lot of trust in Christian. He told him the plan and gave him a big role to play in it. Certainly, that meant that he would have a position of high importance in the organization when things settled. Yes, in the end, Christian was sure that he had made the right decision. He adjusted his tie and nodded to himself, then entered the study.
“What is it, Christian? I’m quite busy. We have a shipment coming in tomorrow. Things will be a bit crazy.” Yes, that was one of the reasons Eric picked that moment to move. Most people will be too busy with their pre-assigned roles during that time to pay attention to what was supposed to be a silent coup.
“Sir, Eric has the boy.”
“What?” Henson jumped to his feet and moved from behind his massive desk. “Why did he move without telling me?”
“I have no idea, sir. But he has him. He thought you would be pleased.”
“Did he now?” Henson rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I don’t normally like surprises…” He looked Christian up and down, appraising him. “But, I suppose a little initiative is to be encouraged, as long as it produces results.” Henson walked past Christian and out the door. “Harris!” he hollered.
A tall, thin, balding man, with half-glasses resting on his crooked nose materialized within a few seconds from upstairs. “Sir?”
“I have to be somewhere. Where the hell are Hicks and Radnick?”
“I believe Eric required their assistance.”
“Hmm…Well, get Jamison and Rodriquez…” Christian tensed. This was not good. Henson needed to be alone.
“Sir, both Radnick and Hicks are awaiting at the warehouse, with Eric. I thought I would drive you.” Christian cut in.
“You did?” Henson studied the young man again, this time staring into his eyes for a few seconds. Christian wanted to avert his gaze. He felt himself breaking into a nervous sweat, but he knew he had to control himself, or he would be lost. It was too late. Even if he came clean, he’d still get mutilated at the very least for his role in the whole thing. No, he needed to keep himself together and get through it. So he maintained eye contact, until Henson finally muttered his consent. “Initiative again? I suppose you want a raise, then?”
Christian chuckled. ‘Oh, you have no idea!’ he thought. “I wouldn’t mind.” He admitted aloud.
Henson turned to Harris once more. “Nevermind. But it looks like I will be occupied for the time being. But I expect we’ll have a meeting tonight or tomorrow at the latest. Something tells me some big changes are coming…”
Evan and Alexi circled around until they were behind the warehouse. On account of Alexi’s leg, it took them much longer that Evan would have liked, especially when they were out in the open, even if all the windows facing them were blacked out.
“Why didn’t we come in the car, again?” Alexi asked in a whisper, once they leaned against the side of the building.
“I told you. There’s no way to drive a car close enough without being spotted or at least heard. That alley is the only place within sensible distance where we could safely stop. But don’t worry. If everything goes well, then we’ll be walking out the front door and the truck will be relatively close by.”
“You’re fairly confident.”
“Well, Radnick said that Eric has maybe 3 guys. Considering his intellect, I wouldn’t be surprised if he included himself in that equation. Now, he didn’t know about the other guy, but I think he was right. He couldn’t have too many, otherwise he would have taken Samuels down by himself, from the inside. I’m guessing he only has the backing of a few people. That SUV that drove out had four guys in. I couldn’t make out their faces, but I’m sure there were four. I think that’s all they have.”
“Gut instinct, mainly. I think they were on their way to meeting your dad. Or, more likely, springing a trap.”
“What?!” Alexi dug into his pockets, fishing for his cell.
“No use. No signal out here. I know there’s a satellite phone in the warehouse office, but there’s no other way to contact someone from out here. Anyway, I think those 4 guys were all they had to spare. If they had more…well, it stands to reason that they’d send them out, make sure the job is done.”
“Killing your foster dad, most likely.” Evan said softly, trying not to upset Alexi, but knowing that the truth was the only way to go. The stakes were too big. Alexi needed to know what he was getting into if they were to survive. Evan could see that Alexi was getting more agitated by the second. He was almost drawing blood from biting on his lower lip. Evan grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. “Hey, get a grip! You can’t lose it now. Hunter’s in there. We get him out, then we get both our dads. But in order to do that, we need to keep our heads, got it? This isn’t a game.”
“I don’t know if I can do this.”
“You have to. I wouldn’t normally get you involved, but I have to. We know there’s at least one more guy in the building. He closed the door. Now, if I know Eric, he wasn’t in that car. He’s a coward at heart. He wouldn’t walk into a firefight, even if it’s relatively risk-free, such as an ambush on your dad. My guess is he and a bodyguard are in there. Probably Hicks. And if I know Eric, which I do, the lazy fuck is probably up in that office, watching TV or some such shit. I have no idea where Hunter is, but the office is fairly small. It barely has enough room for a small table and two chairs. There’s a connecting bathroom, but I doubt they have him in there. My guess is he’s being held in the warehouse proper, with a guard, while Eric is upstairs, waiting for his plan to come together. So, I’ll need you to get Hunter the hell out of here as soon as I take out the guard, while I go after Eric.”
“How…how can you possibly know all that?”
Evan grimaced. “I’ve…used this place before.”
“How do you mean?”
“You saw what I did back at the house. We’d sometimes have someone here in the warehouse, for…a talk. That’s how things usually went. Eric was upstairs, watching some damn soap, while a guard supervised my…work.” Evan closed his eyes, trying to push away the memories. Alexi grabbed his hand and squeezed tightly.
“It’s okay. After today, it’ll be over. Now, lead the way.”
Evan nodded and, still holding on to Alexi, moved slowly towards a small door, secured by a large lock. Alexi looked at it and shook his head. “Now what?” he asked glumly.
Evan merely grinned and pulled out a key. “It’s my dad’s warehouse, remember?”
As the lock clicked open, Alexi’s mind wandered a bit and he almost burst out laughing. “Now who’s the insane one?” Evan asked, looking at Alexi with concern in his eyes.
“Sorry, it’s just…Dude, do you realize what’s happening here?”
“I thought we were rescuing your brother.”
“Yeah, but…Look at the larger picture. Which one of us is Juliet?”
“Dude, your dad, Sam…The Montagues and the Capulets. It’s friggin Romeo and Juliet!” Both Evan and Alexi choked back their laughter. It certainly wouldn’t have been very stealth-like. Once they finally regained their composure, Evan pulled the door open only enough for him to peer inside. He signaled for Alexi to follow him and went in silently.
Once inside, Alexi needed a few moments for his eyes to get accustomed to the darkness, but he finally realized they were in a long hallway, illuminated every 10 feet or so by a pale overhead light.
“This corridor runs along the side of the building, for its entire length, about 70 yards. There’s a door here at the back, one at the front and one to the side, leading into the warehouse itself, by the stairs leading up to the office. My dad had the thing built. The doors were already there, but he thought that it would be a good idea to disguise the potential escape route at the back via this corridor, so he had it walled-up.” Evan shrugged. “I never did understand the man’s logic. But it works in our favor. It’ll bring us close enough to the office stairs. If my hunch is right, Hunter will be close by. Now, once we get there, you stay out of sight. I’ll see what’s what, take the guard out silently if I can, then signal you to come and take Hunter. Understand?” Alexi nodded. “Good. Then you two run. I don’t care if you’ll look like you’re in a three-legged race, you two get the hell out of here and head for the truck as fast as you can. You don’t stop until you’re inside and the engine is running. You know how to drive, right?”
“I don’t have my license, but yeah, I do.”
“Okay. Once there, you wait for 5 minutes. That’s it. 5 minutes, no longer. I’ll be going after Eric, so if I’m not out by then, you get the hell out of here. You drive out the way I showed you on the map. I don’t want you to run into the car we saw drive away. Do you think you can do that?”
“Sure.” Evan had shown Alexi the secondary entrance to the complex, on the opposite side of the main one, connecting to the main road via a dirt one, about 5 miles long. “But I’m not going anywhere without you. Why do you need to go after Eric anyway?”
“Firstly, because he might shoot us in the ass as we’re running away. Secondly, because I have to. It’s the only way this ends. Now you have to promise me that if I’m not out in 5 minutes, you and Hunter drive away. I’m doing all this for you, Alexi, because I love you. I’m not planning on doing it all in vain. I need to at least be sure you’ll be okay. That’s the main objective here. If you can’t promise me, we leave right now. And if you do promise, I expect you to keep your word. No more secrets and lies between us, got it? Your word, Alexi, please…”
Alexi struggled with his thoughts and feelings for a few seconds and finally nodded, not trusting his voice to speak.
Every step was an eternity. Alexi wondered how no one in the warehouse was able to hear his heartbeat. It sounded like a drummer’s recital to him. He didn’t even realize he was holding his breath until he felt his face heat up. He gasped loudly and Evan scowled at him, motioning him to be silent. They were there. The door was on their right and it was half-open. Someone was moving on the other side. Large, exaggerated steps, like those of a man losing his patience. Evan faced Alexi and mouthed the word “stay”. He didn’t need telling twice. Evan dropped silently to the floor and lay completely still. The movement outside stopped and Alexi could hear the sound of a lighter. Whoever was outside was a smoker. Bad habit. It could kill him. Evan was peering outside through the one inch space between the floor and the door. It was enough to see the man’s shoes to realize that he had his back to the door. Now was the time. Evan sprang to his feet and slowly pushed the door open, praying it wouldn’t squeak. It didn’t and Evan moved like a cat. Alexi held his breath again. In the perfect stillness, he thought he heard a snap. Then nothing again. It was an eternity. Why wasn’t Evan coming back? He felt his face heat up again. This was ridiculous. Couldn’t he even hold his breath for half a minute? Unless…it had been more than that. ‘Oh, god, what if he’s dead? What if I’m next? What if…’ Alexi slapped himself, trying to regain control, as Evan came back in and gave him a curious look.
“Umm…I didn’t realize you were into S&M…”
“Stuff it! God, I was so worried! What took you so long? I was going nuts!”
“It’s been less than a minute. Come on, there’s no sign of Eric.” Evan moved back out and Alexi followed him. He stopped in his tracks and looked at the body at his feet.
“Didn’t you kill this guy already?”
“What? Oh, no, this is Hicks. Yeah, he and Radnick did look remarkably alike. Thick neck as well, the bastard.”
Alexi’s eyes quickly shifted to the chair placed less than six feet away. And, more exactly, the figure sitting in the chair. Hunter was motionless and Alexi feared the worst for a second, but then he saw the boy stirring and let out the breath he had been holding…again.
“No sign of Eric.” Evan whispered. “Like I suspected. He’s probably upstairs.” They moved quietly to Hunter. He didn’t want to take any chances by surprising Hunter into making noise, so he placed his hand over the boy’s mouth, the rough fabric of the sack between them. Hunter jumped. Or, at least, he tried, his restraints holding him in place. “Relax, Hunter, it’s me, Evan.”
“Me too.” Alexi murmured.
“I’m gonna let go. Don’t make a sound, okay?” Hunter nodded and Evan pulled back his hand, then took off the sack. Hunter blinked rapidly and squinted until he could focus on the two boys in front of him.
“How?” he croaked.
“It doesn’t matter. You and Alexi need to go. Fast. Alexi knows what to do.” Evan supplied, as he worked the knots to release Hunter from the chair. Finally succeeding, he stopped for a minute to look at Hunter. He placed his hands on the boy’s tear-streaked face and then rubbed his thumbs affectionately over his cheeks. “It’s good to see you, little brother.” He smiled softly and was rewarded with a weak grin from Hunter. He let go of him and turned to Alexi and kissed him swiftly. “Now go!”
Evan turned his back to the two retreating forms and moved towards the stairs. Now was the time to deal with Eric.
Christian pulled in next to the warehouse. He let the engine run for a while. He was distracted by movement in the mirror. He thought he saw two boys running awkwardly behind a building. He shook his head and focused on the task at hand. He turned his head to Henson. He didn’t know what to do. Quick and easy, he thought, but he wanted to say something. He opened his mouth, then closed it.
“I had big plans for you, Christian.” Henson said sadly.
Christian pulled his gun quickly.
As soon as they turned the corner and were out of the direct line of sight from the warehouse, Hunter and Alexi collapsed to the ground, Alexi clutching his leg in pain. It had taken all he had to hobble across those 500 yards at a pace which resembled a slow run. The boys tried to catch their breath when a shot echoed behind them. They risked a peek towards the warehouse. There was a car parked there now. They thought they had heard one approaching as they ran, but dared not look. A man got out of the car and moved towards the warehouse. Hunter had seen enough. He got to his feet and, grabbing Alexi by the shirt, pulled him up as well. “Get into the car. NOW!” he barked.
Evan moved ever so slowly up the stairs, trying not to make a sound. When he reached the top of the stairs, he remained crouched for a second, trying to listen in. No sound came from behind the closed door. He straightened himself up and peered inside. No one. Cautiously, he turned the door knob and stepped inside. He pulled out the gun he had hidden in his jeans waist. He took in his surroundings. The table was occupied with a small black & white TV, a lamp, the satellite phone and a dirty plate and cutlery. There was a file cabinet and an empty coat rack. The only other piece of furniture, an uncomfortable looking plastic chair, sat unoccupied.
The sound of a toilet flushing came from behind the door opposite him. It was the bathroom where Evan had often thrown up and cleaned the blood off himself after entire nights of “talking” to someone. The door swung open and Eric froze in his tracks, their eyes meeting.
“How very…Pulp Fiction of us.” Eric said, his face neutral.
“Oh, I think a gun isn’t personal enough for this.” Evan replied. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. Man to man, right? Let’s see what the fag can do, shall we?” he placed his gun on the table next to him. A shot rang from outside and Evan was distracted for just a fraction of a second. It was enough. Eric moved as fast as a cat and he pulled his gun.
“Bad move, kid.” Eric growled, as Evan stared down the barrel of a gun. He didn’t see it. He only felt the piercing pain as he dropped to one knee. He stared at Eric again, disbelieving. How could he have been so stupid? ‘Just shoot and kill, you fucking moron! Stupid macho bravado! Always gets someone killed!’ But at least Alexi was safe. He knew that.
“I’m going to find that little boyfriend of yours and skin him alive, you cocksucker.” Eric laughed as the sound of footsteps came up the stairs. “Christian, move your ass to the front gate. Vince needs you.” Eric continued, then he refocused on Evan. He squeezed the trigger once more and pain erupted through Evan’s body.
Darkness was crowding in around him. He didn’t want to let go, but it was too hard to keep fighting through the pain. There were more shots. He heard them, but he didn’t feel anymore. The darkness was coming and he was ready to embrace it.
Hunter ended up driving. He tore down the dirt road, as Alexi sobbed in the seat next to him. They both knew what it meant. But they couldn’t go back. They had promised. They might even have time to stop Sam. Now was not the time to grieve. Now was the time to survive. Foot planted firmly on the gas, Hunter said a silent prayer for Evan, as he swerved onto the main road. He kept cursing for several minutes, until, at the edge of town, he managed to get a signal on Alexi’s phone. He dialed the number and waited, silently praying. “Mom!” he shouted when Dana finally picked up.
The black Escalade rolled through the main entrance slowly. Sam was in the back seat, sandwiched between two of his most trusted men, who were peering nervously out the windows. The car kept moving until it reached the remains of a building. Thunder suddenly erupted all around them. Bullets started piercing the car and the men surrounding him barely had time to react. He felt a sharp sting in his arm, but he ignored it. He had one thing to do. He had lost everything, but he would save his wife. Blood trickled down his chest. He numbly pressed the buttons on his satellite phone.
“Sam!” Dana shouted into the phone. “Sam, are you okay?” She knew it was a stupid question as soon as she spoke it. She could hear the gunshots through the phone. Silent tears were running down her face.
“Dana…”Sam groaned. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. It’s all my fault. Our boys…”
“Sam! Hunter and Alexi are okay. They’re on their way home!”
“Evan, Sam. Evan, he…”
“Dana, get out. Take the kids and run. It’s Vince…”
The loudest shot rang then and Sam was quiet. A shiver ran through Dana and she knew he was gone. “Oh, Sam…” she moaned, as she dropped the phone. She permitted herself a few minutes of crying, until she heard Evan’s truck come to a screeching halt in the driveway. Hunter came running in and met his mother’s eyes. No words were exchanged. It wasn’t necessary.
As the car moved ever forward through the darkness and rain, Dana remained silent, trying to contain the pain and hide the tears. She needed to be strong for her boys. She glanced in the rearview mirror, where two silent forms sat huddled together.
Alexi had finally stopped crying. Through the past weeks, he had cried over and over. With Sam, with Dana, with Hunter and with Evan. Now he cried for all of them. For all he had gained and then lost. For all that had been stolen from him. Finally, he was dry and exhausted. The pain numbed him and he remained quiet. For 10 hours, as Dana drove ever forward, he cried, slept, cried and then remained silent. He had no more tears to shed, but neither did he have words. Nothing appropriate for the sorrow he felt. He was broken and he only wanted the end to come.
Hunter pulled him closer and kissed him on the top of his head, then whispered softly into his ears. “I don’t have the words to express it, Alexi, but I feel your pain. We’ve both lost so much. But we have each other. I have a brother. And for what it’s worth, you have me and I won’t let go. We have each other to lean on when the pain is too great.” They rested their heads together and closed their eyes as they moved ever forward into rain and darkness.