Here it is guys, and this chapter is maybe the coolest of them all.
The sun was starting to drop in the sky and Aidy was starting to wonder what on earth was taking so long. She had been lying in the shadows for awhile after a long float in the lake, and though she was happy she’d gotten half a day to work on her tan she still questioned. She really thought Sorrel would come straight to her, but after taking so long she had to guess she’d gone to the airstrip first. A disappointment, but not the end of the world. She wasn’t terribly upset about the damage done to their friendship.
She kicked her feet in the water idly. She only recently approached the shore, where she found it unfortunately as she remembered from the one time Feb had taken her to this lake a few years ago – stony and rough, with an occasional weed or prickly looking bush as the only signs of life around. They had picnicked only a few miles away, where Feb had gone starry-eyed trying to imagine a heist that involved scuba diving away from the police. Aidy had been so fascinated back then, but the thought left a bitter taste in her mouth; she and Celeste were left to watch the wallets and jewelry they’d collected on a paddle boat while everyone else donned wetsuits and made an overdramatic escape.
When she had washed up she had swam around awhile until she found a rocky outcrop to lie under, her body on the sand up to her knees. She thought it wouldn’t be the smartest to remain motionless with nowhere to go in that bright dress of hers, given how many people were looking for her. She didn’t want the police to find her too quickly and scare Sorrel off, and she had glimpsed a squad car drive down the road earlier, so she knew at least one or two cops were looking for her.
It would be hot in the sun, but she was well shaded and the water was cool, so she felt relaxed despite the silt that covered her body, made her hair gritty, and itched beneath her fingernails. Her head was only sore now, with a gentle buzz in her brain like a headache, and she was still tired, but all that time in the river allowed her a chance to rest. She felt determined and she felt ready, and when Sorrel came she knew she could face her.
It wasn’t long after that she heard the drone of a helicopter approaching and smiled to herself. She considered revealing herself for a moment, but decided with a wicked grin to just let Sorrel search around for a few miserable minutes. She heard her fly over and saw the shadow on the water and wondered if the police would try to shoot her down. Now that would be entertainment.
Sorrel must have been smart enough to only look around where the river deposited, because she was back twenty minutes later, and this time Aidy heard the chopper land a few hundred feet away. She wasn’t beneath the only outcrop in the area, so she guessed that Sorrel was going to look under them all and had to hold in a laugh. It would be so much more convenient for the poor thing if she called out to her, but no, let her sweat. She heard a splash as Sorrel waded in and snorted.
“Aidy?” She called out, and Aidy fought a groan. “Can you hear me? Are you out here?”
Well at least she hadn’t seen her yet, but she was close enough for it to make little difference at that point. Aidy made sure she wasn’t smiling and splashed the water a little, then heard Sorrel rush over as she made waves that sent cold water even higher up her legs. She saw her figure appear and crawled down from the sand back into the water, fully into view.
“Aidy!” Sorrel grabbed her by both arms and picked her up so fast she got dizzy. Her face was a combination of relief and apprehension, happy her friend was alive but still unsure of the damage.
Aidy had already planned for this meeting, and knew her course of action. If she made herself look weak and pathetic, she couldn’t possibly be a threat, which would take Sorrel even further off guard when the time came and would cause the other girl to underestimate her. That bit was crucial; Aidy was stronger than she looked, but she knew Sorrel had a slight advantage and wanted to level the playing field. She slipped in the sand as if unable to fully stand, and saw Sorrel’s eyes brim with concern.
“Let – help –” She managed, and clung to Sorrel’s arms to steady herself. There was a horror on her face as she let Aidy lean against her, then she pulled her close and slung an arm over her shoulder. Half walking, half dragging, she brought Aidy to the shore and helped her ease down to sit on the dirt as she stared at her, unnerved.
“Are you hurt?” Sorrel asked as she knelt down beside her and caught her first view of the left side of her head. She let out a sound caught between a little “Oh!” of surprise and a shriek of horror. Aidy couldn’t see the injury, but she assumed it was terrifying enough for that reaction to be warranted. Sorrel went roughly the shade of sour milk as she moved her hair aside to inspect it.
“Oh no. How responsive are you?” She asked, and when Aidy shrugged she seemed surprised she could do even that. She must have looked absolutely pitiful.
“It hurts less now.” She said, then cleared her throat. She hadn’t spoken since all of her screaming at the beginning of the day. “I’m just glad to be alive.”
Sorrel worried her lip and leaned closer to the wound. Her eyes flicked between examining her handiwork and studying Aidy’s face for a reaction; the pain and exhaustion on her features weren’t much of an act.
“It’s deeper than a typical graze, but the bullet passed by just fine.” Sorrel noted, then squinted. “What is – oh, that’s your skull.”
Her queasiness was obvious in her wavering voice, and after a moment she turned her head as though to fight back gagging. Aidy was a little offended at that.
“Alright, alright, it’s my bloody head.” She said crossly. “Don’t vomit when it’s your fault.”
Sorrel let go of her hair and sighed. When Aidy dared to turn her head, she noticed Sorrel’s eyes were red-rimmed, with deep shadows beneath that suggested she’d been crying earlier, too. Guilt radiated off her in leaps and bounds as Aidy did her best to hide her petty satisfaction.
“I’m so sorry.” She said solemnly. “It was horrible, I know, but you have to believe me when I say it was an honest accident. A terrible, tragic accident that almost cost me one of the most important people in my life, but an accident. I never, ever meant to hurt you.”
“I know.” Aidy gave her the softest of grins, one that fought through layers and layers of hurt, fatigue, and resentment. “I figured out what you were planning.”
“I’m so glad. The thought of you hating me, of thinking I was a murderer or even our traitor . . .” She looked away thoughtfully and shook her head. “I couldn’t bear it. If you had died it would have destroyed me.”
“Don’t let it trouble you.” She reached out her hand feebly and Sorrel was quick to grasp it. “It didn’t happen. We’re both alive and well.”
“You’re not well.” Sorrel’s eyes drifted back to the wound a moment. “I can’t take you to a hospital though, you’ll go to jail.”
“I’ve survived this long.” Aidy mused, but Sorrel still looked desolate. “You did the best you could, El. You saved me. Be proud of that.”
“We’re not out of the woods yet.” Sorrel said. “We should move as soon as you’re able, we’re too out in the open.”
She hid her alarm easily enough, but knew she had to stall. The police where nearby and given that Sorrel had just flown over the entire area she must have been aware. But it would be a lot easier for Aidy to take care of all this business when she knew her back-up was around.
“Tell me what’s happening first.” Aidy replied quickly, then let her expression go fearful. “Are we the only two left? Is everyone else in jail?”
“No.” Sorrel said with a relieved smile. “No one is, can you believe it?”
She tried her hardest to plaster a grin onto her face, but she was completely shocked. Somehow the police were even more incompetent than she thought. She released Sorrel’s hand as her own shook with fury and nodded pleasantly.
“That’s so great.” She spoke through her teeth. “And everyone’s safe?”
“I’m not sure.” Sorrel admitted with a frown. “The police found a body. Mica thinks it was Celeste.”
That wasn’t a surprise, but it was still a heart-wrenching disappointment. Aidy sighed. That death was on her head now.
“Who have you spoken to?” She asked by way of distraction.
“Well first I went to Neve, and she sent me to Mica.” Sorrel said as Aidy fought her brow from rising. Some friend, if she saw two other people before she flew down to the lake to help her. She couldn’t help being a bit hurt by that one, but she shouldn’t have been surprised – it was just Feb’s awful influence turning them against her.
“Is there a plan?” Aidy asked, and Sorrel laughed and clapped her on the back.
“That’s my girl.” She grinned. “Mica said she’ll take care of her business and come back to us, but there’s no way I’m sitting around while my crew tries to tear itself apart.”
“Mica’s the protective sort.” Aidy mused. “But she protects with balled fists and shouted threats. I’m sure she could be doing quite a bit of damage right about now.”
“Not if I can help it.” Sorrel beamed. “I always forget how intuitive you are, Aidy. That’s what’s going to help us get back to our family.”
She played at seeming bashful, though it burned her to do so. Of course no one remembered the best parts of her, that was exactly why she wasn’t at all sorry for what she was about to do.
“Now let’s to work together and find Mica. Let’s save the day!” Sorrel continued, then hesitated. “If you’re up to it, I mean.”
“To see our crew again? I’m up for anything.” Aidy said, then attempted to stand. Her legs wobbled and she had to lean against Sorrel just to get upright, then gave her a little grimace. “Well, with a bit of help.”
“I’ve got you, Aidy.” Sorrel kept a tight hold. “Now, February sent out some kind of code. Mica went back to Neve to solve it and follow her orders, so now we’ve got to do the same.”
Aidy perked up slightly; now that was interesting.
“How did she send a code?” She asked, and Sorrel looked wistful in her admiration.
“She took over a radio station. Isn’t that cool?” She asked, and Aidy resisted rolling her eyes at all the dramatics.
“Yeah. Now what was the code?” She asked, and Sorrel’s grin faded as she shrugged.
“I didn’t hear it. I figure we’ll have to find a civilian and ‘borrow’ their laptop. Surely it was on the news or something.” Aidy nodded thoughtfully, but she couldn’t help but notice that Sorrel didn’t have any more information to give her. She’d just outlived her usefulness.
“I’d like to try to stand on my own, El. I think I can manage it.” She said with an air of determination, and Sorrel gently released her. She breathed hard as she swayed a bit, but managed to stay rooted, and Sorrel gave her an encouraging smile as she held out an arm for her to grasp just in case.
“Look at you! You’re stronger than you think.” Sorrel smiled, and Aidy grinned in return. It wasn’t the case at all – she was far stronger than Sorrel thought, which she would soon see. “Ready to get going?”
“In a moment. I’m just curious about one thing.” Aidy tilted her head and looked thoughtful. “Where’s the money?”
“Oh, Neve has it, it’s all safe.” Sorrel said with a wave of her hand. “I was wondering too, even though it’s obviously our last concern right now.”
“Yeah, totally, we’re on the same page.” Aidy nodded. “Except when it comes to one teeny-tiny detail.”
She swung her fist hard and had only a moment to be delighted by the genuine shock on Sorrel’s face before she connected with enough force to knock her over. Sorrel slammed to the ground and raised a hand to her jaw, and before she could do anything to defend herself Aidy kicked her swiftly in the stomach. She gasped in pain and curled into a ball.
“What are you doing?” She shrieked. “Aidy!”
She raised her foot to stomp on her and Sorrel rolled just out of the way. Instead she settled for another kick, this one to her shin, and she yelped and scooted back.
“No! I thought you believed me – I’m not the traitor!” Sorrel yelled. “I’m not the traitor Aidy, I swear!”
Aidy grinned, pushed her damp, dirty hair from her face and stomped down again, more successful this time as her heel landed on Sorrel’s hand. She screeched and scrambled to her feet. This time it was she who struggled to stand as she hobbled and winced from the blow Aidy had delivered.
“I shot you on accident, I never meant to hurt you!” Sorrel pleaded. “I’m not the traitor!”
“I know.” Aidy grinned wickedly, and Sorrel went pale and still. Just like that, she knew too.
“No.” She looked as though she could barely breathe as she stared at Aidy in shock. She wasn’t crying, but her eyes were large and filled with anguish. “Please tell me this is a joke.”
“For once, no one’s laughing.” She cracked her knuckles. “Because no one’s laughing at me.”
She lunged at Sorrel, and this time she was ready. She shoved hard against Aidy’s chest, but Aidy grabbed at her shirt and she stumbled a little as Aidy stepped back easily. Then she swung another fist and got her in the eye. When she stepped closer to hit her again, Sorrel slugged her in the gut, and she groaned until Sorrel wrapped a hand around her neck.
“You were our family.” Sorrel seethed with a fire in her eyes, but she was barely holding her and Aidy knew she wouldn’t have the nerve to squeeze. “We loved you.”
“I don’t care.” She answered devilishly, then raised her hand. Sorrel looked as though she expected a slap, but Aidy instead brought down her elbow sharply against Sorrel’s arm. She let go of her neck long enough for Aidy to grab her by the arm and hair, and she shrieked as Aidy pushed her firmly away. She stumbled into the water and was up to her knees when she turned around and stared Aidy down with a look of fury that would normally be reserved for her wife’s use.
“I’m not letting you hurt anyone else.” She growled. “Family or not.”
She pulled out her gun, and Aidy was on her in an instant. She practically jumped into her arms, and Sorrel fell over and back into the water with Aidy sat on top of her. Sorrel reached up and slapped the side of her head, and Aidy felt sick as pain radiated through her. She squeezed her eyes shut a moment and Sorrel shoved her aside and brought her hands down into the water. At some point, the gun had fallen to the wayside, and there was so much silt dispersed that the lake around them had gone cloudy and brown.
Aidy opened her eyes just in time to see Sorrel’s face light up in recognition, and she waded over as Sorrel pulled the gun from the water. At a disadvantage, she splashed Sorrel in the face, who was blinded just for a moment, and grabbed at the gun. They wrestled over it for a tense moment before a shot fired into the water.
“Freeze!” Someone yelled, and the pair paused as Aidy felt a smarmy grin sneak onto her lips. Sorrel looked up in shock and unending dismay to see ten officers with their guns pointed straight at her. She met Aidy’s eyes, unnerved, then let her take the gun as she raised her arms in surrender. She knew she had been defeated.
“Thanks, boys.” Aidy grinned and stepped back as two officers approached Sorrel slowly, handcuffs in hand. “If you can finish that up for me that would be great.”
“I was supposed to prove myself.” Sorrel mumbled, expression vacant. When a cuff closed around one wrist, she seemed to regain her wits and grew furious once more. “You ruined us!”
Aidy turned and walked away easily, and behind her Sorrel’s hands were put behind her back as one of the men restrained her.
“Good timing.” She commended one officer and elbowed him playfully. “Well I’m worn out. Anyone got a protein bar? Some Gatorade?”
“My wife.” Sorrel called out urgently. “Aidy, leave Mica out of this! You’ve done enough, let the rest of them be!”
Aidy paused and turned to her; Sorrel was as soaked through as she was, breathing hard with reddened cheeks and a slight tilt from the way she favored one leg. Her face was ashen and near defeat, but with the thought of her family in danger she could not give up. An inner strength had to be mustered just to hope for their safety, and Aidy decided nothing would be more lovely than to destroy it.
“I’m going to do what I set out to do, Sorrel. You can’t stop me.” Sorrel stared at her abysmally. “You, Feb, your wife. You’re all going to jail, and I’ll be free.
“Now, officer, I believe there was a message sent out over the radio.” She looked to the nearest man and tuned out the sounds of Sorrel being dragged away kicking and screaming.
“Yeah, we had no idea what it meant. We were hoping you’d be alive to figure that out for us, hence all this searching.” Another officer gave her a rag for her head, an apple and a bottle of water, and Aidy nodded her thanks. They weren’t hoping she was alive just for that code – they needed her to get out of this embarrassing fiasco.
“Always nice to be cared for.” She said with a honey-sweet smile. “Do you have the code?”
“Sure thing.” He pulled out a small notebook and flipped through. “Good morning Las Vegas, this is your favorite guest DJ serving up the world’s worst music and sending a message out there to all you lucky sweepstakes winners.”
“World’s worst music?” Aidy repeated, and he nodded. That was definitely Celeste’s work.
“Yessir, to the lucky winners of this morning’s casino raffle, you’re welcome to come claim your prize.” He continued. “We’ve arranged a little meeting in a big bowl, so grit your teeth and–”
“Stop.” Aidy cut in. “I’ve heard enough.”
The quarry. Of course that’s where February had scheduled a meet-up, she’d wanted to do something there for years. Aidy had talked her out of it every time; there was no cover, no vantage points, Celeste would be useless as a sniper and in too much danger at the bottom of the basin. Feb would try to goad her with talk of dynamite and priceless diamonds, and Aidy would shut her down constantly by pointing out that quarry had been mined for decorative gravel.
Truly, it spoke volumes to why Aidy was doing all of this in the first place, why she hated her friend turned boss so much and why she now hated her even further. It was all destined to end there. She was destined to murder Feb there and she could not wait to tell her exactly why in painstaking detail. She could not wait to see the betrayal and the shame in her eyes as she realized was she created, realized that all of this was because of her.
“We’re headed to the quarry.” She announced to the surrounded officers. “Where all my lovely friends will be waiting.”