We’re an hour early because I worked overnight and I have to go to bed now, but holy crap you guys, look! The second-to-last chapter of Bad Town: Las Vegas is finally here!
Neve gasped as Mica nearly hit the ground, but Riley took a giant step over and grabbed her by her limp arms. With the attention taken off her, Aidy took her chance to smile. That was even better than she’d anticipated. Sure, she’d expected some misery, but a full on faint from their bravest little soldier! It was just too good. And soon, she would be able to console her, tell her not to worry. She could assure her she’d see her wife very soon. All of them would.
“Mica?” Neve asked tentatively, and Mica squeezed her eyes shut as a sob forced its way out. “Are you okay?”
“My wife.” She choked. “My poor wife.”
Neve went silent, completely helpless, and Aidy fixed her grin in time for Riley to look up at her, her expression stricken. She frowned in return, forcefully enough that she thought her sarcasm might come through, but Riley didn’t see it and only stared blankly. Mica looked up to her too, her eyes barely open through the tears.
“Did they hurt her?” She struggled to ask as she clambered to her feet, but she still held tightly to Riley’s arm. She looked somewhat surprised to see that Riley was the one supporting her, and Aidy wondered what drama had unfolded before she’d shown up. She’d figured Ol’ Unreliable herself would be the first they’d point fingers to and now she could only assume she’d been correct in that notion.
“No.” She assured her quickly, but there was hardly any relief. Riley seemed to gain some sense as her stiff expression turned to something more studious, and she peered at Aidy with narrowed eyes. Whatever the other woman was thinking, Aidy couldn’t say, though she was usually the one who knew best.
“What am I supposed to do now?” Mica squeaked. “She’s all alone in there. They’re probably interrogating her right now.”
“She won’t talk.” Neve said, and Aidy knew that was true – none of them ever would, only her. She was always the only one who could have torn them apart like this.
“I’m not worried about saving our skin!” Mica spat. “My wife’s going to jail for who knows how long!”
Riley prodded her gently, and Mica got the message and stood straight on her own, at a clear loss in every sense of the word. Neve turned back to Aidy.
“What happened?” She asked, and Aidy shared her rehearsed story.
“The cops found us. There were just too many.” She looked off to the distance – it was starting to get dark without the sun visible from their position, and now that it was setting over the mountains in the west the day had properly gone to dusk. She looked back to Mica, her expression pleading. “They were bombarding us with questions, that’s how I learned the code. But then they took her down and had her in the back of a squad car before I could do a thing. When they came after me I escaped on a total fluke.”
“You left her?” Neve asked, her voice tight, and Aidy winced.
“I was already in the squad car I stole to get here. She was already in handcuffs.” She pleaded further, and Riley nodded. “I thought ‘if I can help whoever’s free, that’s what I should do. That’s what’s right.’”
Mica didn’t look any better, but she didn’t look murderous either, which had been Aidy’s prime concern. Playing to her morality probably kept the other woman from wrapping her hands around her neck. Neve’s jaw was clenched, but her upset seemed to be held at bay, too. All in all, everyone else seemed quite strained, which only weakened them and gave Aidy the advantage.
She hadn’t actually stolen a squad car and miraculously escaped so much as she’d gotten a ride from a nice officer who let her finish her apple and share a few fries from his dinner. She’d even ridden in the passenger seat instead of the back, relaxed, stretched her legs, and borrowed another man’s shoes, much to his dissatisfaction. When she’d told them she didn’t want to stay at the station long after this was all over and cited how badly she needed a hot shower, the officers just nodded carelessly. Funny how even that treatment was more kindly than her supposed family was wont to give.
They were all waiting for her outside the quarry, far enough from the rim and completely unseen from their position. She told them very specifically to allow anyone to go in, but not to let them escape. Hopefully, in the dark and at a distance they would be hard to spot for someone focusing their attention on slipping in through a chainlink fence, but she told them to have no mercy should they see any woman spot them and try to run for it. From all their hardened expressions and their very long day, she could tell none of them were in the mood to take chances. And now that she knew Feb still wasn’t there, she was especially hopeful that this time around the police wouldn’t let anyone slip through their fingers.
Their distance was also a disadvantage, given the fact that if things got hairy they’d be too far away to grant her immediate protection. At least Aidy still had her cover and her gun, plus the microphone she’d been given on the ride over for them to listen in. Don’t take a soul until I’ve got all of them and all the cash, she’d told them solemnly, and she knew that would hold them at bay long enough for her to do her business.
Just why this all had to go down in this dark pit, Aidy couldn’t say. If it was Feb’s intention for them to root out the traitor together, she either meant it as some sort of peace conference or as an absolute bloodbath. They were all in too close quarters after too much for this to go very well, though she wasn’t certain Feb would realize that. More likely Feb had wanted them to meet just outside the quarry as a fake-out, lead the cops and the traitor in there somehow and run, but that was so feeble it barely made sense. If she wanted to do that then why didn’t everyone else know about it? True, Celeste wouldn’t have had the chance to tell anyone if she’d been killed, but wouldn’t Feb tell them? She was either caught up somewhere or outside already with a keen eye on all of them. Maybe this was all a test, and when Aidy showed up with the cops she’d confirmed her boss’ suspicions.
Her skin crawled as she turned her attention back to the group. Neve only nodded a little and looked down, and Riley gave her a look of annoyance.
“So we’re gonna forgive her for the whole abandonment thing?” She asked, brows raised, and Neve looked defensive.
“I didn’t want to, it was the hardest thing in the world.” Aidy pleaded again. “Mica, let’s bust her out when this is over or I’ll regret it the rest of my life.”
That was clearly the right card to play, because Mica perked up – maybe not hopefully, but not completely desolate now. She wiped her face and nodded sharply.
“That’s insane. We can’t break someone out of jail, that’s way above our pay-grade.” Neve said, but even then she looked doubtful.
“February can.” Mica said, and almost sounded alright despite how hoarse her voice was starting to get.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” Riley finally spoke up, her tone curt. Neve already looked cross as Riley pointed to Aidy’s head. “How did that happen?”
“Sorrel. She tried to save me on the mountain.” She said, and Mica nodded and gave the other two a very superior look. “Even though it didn’t work out as planned, I’ll be grateful the rest of my life.”
“Do you need to go to the hospital?” Neve asked, and Aidy shook her head. “It looks bad.”
“It doesn’t hurt so much now.” She said truthfully, but Riley looked appalled.
“Sorrel shot you.” She clarified, and Mica suddenly looked furious.
“Are you kidding me? Are you really accusing her right now?” She seethed. “She’s in jail!”
“Supposedly.” Riley snarled. “It could have been a fake-out. Aidy could be in on it.”
“My wife is not the traitor!” Mica yelled, and Neve stepped between them, though she looked rather unsure. Aidy just stepped back and enjoyed watching the scene unfold.
“Cut it out, Ry.” Neve said. “Sorrel’s in jail, Aidy has no motive. It’s over.”
“It’s not over with all of us still standing here.” She said, and looked over Neve’s shoulder to give Aidy a curious look. “Did she threaten you? Coerce you?”
Aidy shook her head, a little flattered at the concern though she was not as thrilled to get accused of being a pawn in her own scheme.
“Shut up! You’re just trying put Neve and Aidy off the trail!” Mica yelled. “You’re the traitor!”
Neve took a step back, and Aidy noticed Riley go a bit pale when she saw the look on her face. The uncertainty had contorted to malcontent on the highest level, and Aidy wasn’t sure if it was more anger or sadness that fueled her to return to Aidy’s side.
“You abandoned me twice.” She said, and Aidy very badly wanted to hear that story. When she turned to her with a sympathetic look, that was what she expected to say. “There’s something else you need to know.”
“No. Let me tell her.” Riley begged.
“You don’t deserve that.” Neve snapped, and turned back to Aidy. “I’m sorry, Aidy. Celeste is dead.”
An officer had begun to tell her about the body in front of the radio station, but Aidy had cut him off swiftly; she didn’t want to hear about her death. Casualties were certainly a risk in this plan, but all she’d wanted for Celeste was a life in jail. And if she had to die, on accident from a poorly placed bomb was not how it should have been. Aidy sighed and nodded.
“The cops were asking about a body.” She said softly, the pain genuine. “After that explosion, it’s not a surprise.”
“Riley murdered her.” Mica said coldly. “She left her to die.”
“I made the wrong choice. I did what she asked, but it wasn’t enough.” Riley said as tears formed in her eyes once again, and Aidy felt unprepared in her surprise. “Please, Aidy, please understand.”
“You don’t deserve her understanding. You don’t deserve our forgiveness.” Neve said before Aidy had a chance to think about it, and though her expression was cold her voice was wavering. “You deserve to die.”
“Agreed.” Mica pulled out her gun, and Riley held up her hands.
“No! Let me figure out who the traitor was! Let me try to fix this!” She shouted, and Mica pointed the gun square at her chest with a shaking hand.
“You’re the traitor! You’re a liar and a lunatic, you always have been!” Mica yelled back.
“Then let me serve penance if you believe it so much!” Riley beseeched her. “That’s all I want, penance! But for Celeste’s life, not the destruction of our family!”
“They’re one and the same!” Mica shouted. “And now I want you dead for it.”
“No, please!” Riley begged, then looked to the pair who’d stood aside. “Aidy, please!”
Aidy considered the situation. The officers listening in would probably let her condemn the woman to death given how little they cared about taking them in alive. So long as they finished the job and ended all the public embarrassment, it didn’t matter if Riley lived. She claimed to have murdered Celeste, after all, and even though Aidy had been blaming herself it seemed there was another responsible.
“Did you really kill her?” She asked, and was surprised again by the tightness in her throat. Riley grew somber.
“I let her die for us. She knew that bomb was meant for Feb, but she said it was a ‘fine price to pay.’” Riley said. “And I was an idiot to agree.”
They all turned to look at Aidy, and she suddenly knew the decision was in her hands. And for Celeste, she wanted to do it. But Mica’s hand still shook, Neve still looked uncertain, Feb was still in the wind: she wasn’t sure they’d actually kill her with all those variables.
“You may not be a murderer, maybe you’re not even the rat, but Celeste is dead because of you.” Aidy finally said, and Riley looked ill. “I want you punished, but I just – I don’t want to be the one to condemn you.”
“Don’t worry, Aidy.” Mica said stiffly, then turned back to Riley. “I’m the one with the gun, after all. I can do the condemning.”
She steadied her hand, and Neve’s eyes went wide, but still she said nothing to defend her old friend. Riley looked terrified, and her thoughts seemed to scramble as she looked around for one last-ditch effort before she settled on Neve.
“What about Neve? I told her I was going to hold you hostage when Sorrel got here and she kept it a secret!” She said, and Aidy gasped aloud as Neve looked peeved and Mica appalled.
“You what?” Mica asked, and Aidy was gleeful to be around whilst all the cards were being laid on the table.
“Mica, I’m sorry.” Neve said immediately. “I wasn’t going to help her, I just wasn’t sure about Sorrel.”
“So you would’ve let her hold a gun to my head? After all she did to you?” She asked angrily, then shook her head. “It doesn’t matter, she’s just stalling.”
“Oh, you’re really gonna shoot me when someone else here meant you harm?” Riley asked bravely. “How can you be sure I’m the traitor when you can’t trust Neve, either?”
Mica paused, then winced for doing so, clearly annoyed that Riley had caught her up like that. Riley looked desperate, her breath hitched, while Aidy could see the cogs turning in Neve’s head. Mica looked up at her and they shared a mutual look of anxiety, though her own was only to hide a smile. Then Mica sighed and slipped her gun into her coat pocket.
“Let’s wait for Feb to get here.” Mica said in defeat, much to Aidy’s surprise, and Riley’s jaw went slack.
“Mica, do you really not trust me that much?” Neve asked, hurt. “You claimed you could only trust yourself and your wife. I don’t have a wife, I’m on my own here: I’m doing exactly what you’re doing.”
“I’m not plotting.” Mica said simply. “I’m not being nefarious. I’m just the executioner.”
“Mica, if you’re not going to shoot me, do so because you won’t harm your friend, not because you’re waiting for our boss.” Riley said, though Aidy wasn’t sure why – maybe because she worried Feb would have her killed. “I’m begging you.”
“Absolutely not.” Mica said, but Riley only pushed further.
“You love us. Even during this, when we’re all attacking each other, that love can’t just disappear.” Riley said. “Come on, Mica. Don’t forget that.”
“Would you have forgotten that if my wife made it here?” She asked. “If you took me hostage?”
“I never would have hurt you. I’m just scared.” Riley admitted. “We’re all scared, aren’t we?”
“You have a really messed up fight or flight response.” Mica replied sharply. “No, we’re waiting for Feb.”
“We can’t wait forever.” Neve pointed out, then glanced up at the deep cerulean sky. “It’s nightfall, the stars are nearly out. I told you I would be out of here by now.”
“You’re not leaving.” Mica warned, but Aidy relished the thought of it. If Neve tried to escape, she’d be arrested immediately.
“You can’t really keep us here, Meek.” Aidy pointed out, but not unkindly. Mica sighed, and Riley looked ready to cry.
“Just stay until Feb shows.” Mica asked of Neve, who still looked uncertain. “I know you want to stay loyal to her above all else.”
“She can’t.” Riley cut in softly. “We can’t. Feb’s dead.”
Aidy stared at her in disbelief, uncertain she’d heard that clearly. It felt like she was underwater for a moment, all her senses muted and her hearing blanketed and distorted. She was barely breathing as Riley gave them all a shameful look. Neve went stock still beside her, as though she too couldn’t comprehend the words. Mica blinked rapidly, then broke the silence.
“What?” She asked, her voice low and hoarse. The word hit Aidy like a wave and sent her crashing back into reality with animosity burning in her gut. It better have been a lie, it better have been Riley trying to save her skin, so help them all.
“Celeste saw her die. She used her last words to tell me.” Riley struggled to say, her words shaking as she wrung her hands. “And to – to tell me to keep it a secret. Or else we’d be thrown into chaos.”
It made too much sense. The reason Feb wasn’t standing there with them, the reason they were in the pit instead of outside – Celeste hadn’t trusted Riley enough to tell her more than what was necessary. The plan would fall apart now not because of Aidy’s sabotage or the crew’s bickering, but because Feb would never arrive to save them, never restore order, never reunite their family.
“You’re lying.” Mica said harshly. “You’re just trying to save yourself.”
“I have been lying, but I’m telling the truth now.” Riley said sadly. “I can’t keep up this charade when my death is at the end of waiting for a woman who’ll never show.”
Beside her, Neve looked to be in frantic disbelief as her eyes went red and she looked between her friends as though February would pop out from behind one of them. Mica seemed doubtful as well, but with a sour expression that told Aidy there was a bad feeling niggling at her gut. Aidy just couldn’t let it be real, but not for their reasons; she didn’t have their mourning in her. A sudden thought sprang to mind.
“The body at the radio station that the police told me about. I thought that was Celeste.” Aidy said, and Neve’s eyes grew wide.
“Is that where Feb is?” Riley asked meekly. “Neve and I put Celeste somewhere safe.”
Aidy and Mica glanced to Neve, who gave a horrified nod of confirmation. Mica let out a little noise like a groan and a whine as she seemed to come to her own conclusion.
“I knew there was a body at the radio station.” She said with a look of utter terror on her face. “I just assumed . . .”
And suddenly, it seemed so undeniable. The great February Cheng was dead. Riley’s long secret was finally revealed. For a moment, Aidy felt the shock of it absorb and dissipate, and she was left with the realization of exactly what it meant. She’d never been angrier, she’s never hated that woman more – and she couldn’t even take it out on her! Her vision practically went red as they all stared at each other and tried to think of what to say, what to do. But she couldn’t take her eyes off Riley, all tired and teary, and she couldn’t feel anything but the urge to snap her neck.
She rushed over in one massive step and tackled her, and Riley was so surprised that she collapsed to the ground and took Aidy with her. Aidy hit her hard in the jaw and thought of Sorrel a moment before Riley groaned in pain. She punched her again and Riley tried to push her off – she heard Mica gasp and Neve let out a strangled, alarmed little shriek. Aidy ignored them as she raised both hands intertwined and slammed them down on her chest to take the wind out of her. Riley choked and looked a bit distant as she grabbed her arm sharply and dug her fingers in just to try and get the other girl off her.
Suddenly, Neve and Mica were both pulling Aidy off the other woman, as though it only took the first sign of risk on Aidy’s end to break up the fight. Aidy was absolutely livid, out of her mind with rage, but she could only stare at Riley with murder in her eyes as she was hauled away without argument. Neve and Mica both looked down at her with fire in their eyes as she lay weak and defenseless on the ground.
“We’re going to kill you!” Mica shouted as she released Aidy. She was clouded in rage and could only vehemently agree with her screaming friend, thoughtless to all else but Riley’s impending death. “Traitor! Murderer!”
“I’m not the traitor!” Riley yelled in return as she raised her hands in surrender, and though she looked fearful she seemed to sense that they wouldn’t heed her.
“You killed Celeste! You took Feb away from us!” Neve yelled. It was all going so fast and Aidy’s head was practically spinning. Wild, thoughtless Riley and pompous, unfair February, she’d never loathed the pair more.
“You ruined everything!” Aidy screeched as she pulled out her gun. She pointed it down at her, and Mica looked enthralled as Neve clenched her fists in sheer longing for the woman’s demise.
“I’m not the traitor!” Riley yelled for the umpteenth time, and Aidy felt so angry, so thwarted, and just a little bit sick. She’d finally had enough.
“I know!” She shouted back, and they all fell to silence.