Oh my gosh, this is it! The final chapter of Bad Town: Las Vegas is here. Thanks so much for coming on this journey with me and I so hope you all enjoy. Remember that Bad Town: New Orleans drops February tenth!
Beside Aidy, Neve was jolted to a halt by the words. Mica froze with the smallest look of confusion, and Riley’s face fell as her expression changed from fearful to heartbroken. Aidy still looked so frail and tired in her disheveled appearance, but it was appearance alone now – she stood straighter, pointed her gun with confidence, and cast an air of cool hatred.
“I know.” She repeated, more calmly now, but the anger still resided just beneath the surface and made every word forceful. “Do you understand what you’ve cost me?”
“Aidy.” Neve began, her voice smaller than intended. “Please tell me you – you just know who it is.”
“How did Feb die?” She ignored Neve and zeroed in on Riley, who shrunk beneath her withering gaze.
“I don’t know.” Riley answered, her tone somber.
“Liar!” Aidy snapped. “Tell me!”
“You’re not . . .” Mica cut in, then hesitated. “You can’t be.”
“Little preoccupied, Meek.” She said, her eyes still on Riley. “How did she die?”
“I’m telling you the truth! I don’t know!” She cried out, and Aidy screamed in wordless anger. Mica looked down to her shoes in misery, and Neve could only stand there in shock, at a complete loss for what to do.
“Of course not! Of course she’d just go out and die!” Aidy yelled, red-faced. “Even in death she spites me!”
“She never did anything to you.” Neve heard herself say, and Aidy rounded on her, the gun pointed square at her chest.
“She did everything! The way all you idiots treat me, it’s because of her!” She shouted. “She belittled me at every turn for the past five years!”
“No, no one’s ever –” Riley began softly, but Aidy interrupted.
“How did you get into this gang, Riley? Who found you?” She asked, then answered for her. “I did, I tracked you down after you drove that bulldozer through a shopping center. I caught Celeste throwing stones and rescued Mica halfway through a fight.”
Mica looked pained at the memory, one that could no longer be so fond, and Neve nearly winced as Aidy turned back to her.
“You and Feb were just petty thieves with big dreams before I showed up. You were nothing until I built us!” She boasted. “And how did she return the favor? It certainly wasn’t by crediting me or listening to me.”
“We all listen to each other.” Neve shook her head. “She’s just the boss, she gets authority.”
“She gets – got! She got leave to favor showmanship and performances over being serious thieves! Over professionalism!” Aidy yelled. “And the jokes. The snarky little remarks. Every little comment about how clumsy I am, bumbling little Aidy. Every stupid story she told was just ‘back when this crew was a duo’ as if there were only two founders!”
“Including me was generous.” Neve responded automatically. “She was the brains of the operation, she got us off the ground.”
Aidy groaned, and Neve realized that may have been the wrong thing to say.
“Sure she is. Feb’s such a great leader, Feb’s the uniter. God, I hate her. I’ve never hated someone more.” Riley looked beyond unsettled, and Neve felt the same. She was still so shocked, still caught up in mourning her dearest friend. Mica looked so bent and broken, with no light behind her distant eyes, and Aidy continued heedlessly.
“I could’ve been taken seriously, I could’ve had a real voice and a real career! But everyone’s so enchanted that they just let her bowl the lot of us over. I’ve had good ideas, Neve, you’ve heard them.”
She’d heard a great deal of ideas, tossed back and forth to and from all of them. Never in a million years would she have realized that Aidy felt hers were being unappreciated.
“I didn’t know you felt that way. You should’ve told us.” Neve started, and Aidy looked furious.
“Don’t tell me it’s just the way I felt! It’s the way it was, it’s fact! I should have more input than them.” She swept her arm in Riley and Mica’s direction. “I’m above them! You should have all known my place from the start!”
“Your place?” Neve asked hesitantly, and Aidy looked triumphant.
“The place I stand now, darling, right at the top. I should’ve been given a crown for bringing us together, a throne from the family I created.” She looked around expectantly. “From strangers to family to spouses, I’m the one who got us where we are today. You people owe everything to me, where’s my thanks?”
“Thanks.” Riley said bitterly, and Aidy grit her teeth and turned to her.
“You think now’s the time, Ry?” She asked, her voice low with aggravation. “I kinda had some beef with Feb, remember? That slight tiff? Only you took her away from me.”
She took a threatening step closer as the anger really started to show.
“I was going to murder her, I was going to watch the light leave her eyes!” She screeched, and Riley went pale and looked terrified as it was Neve’s turn to feel ill. “But now she’s gone and I don’t even know how! She never even knew it was me, never understood my resentment! There’s no end, I can never relish her death, I get no vindication! She’ll taunt me forever!”
They were all aghast, and for a moment Aidy just breathed heavily as she tried to manage her anger. Neve looked to Mica to figure out what to do, but she was just staring at the ground in utter defeat and wouldn’t catch her eye. She looked over to Riley, who was clearly just as startled and lost.
“Incompetent little Aidy, that’s all she wanted, and that’s all she let me be.” She shook with rage. “The town fool right to the end.”
“This is unreal.” Riley muttered to herself, and Aidy scowled.
“Shut up, you’re going to die.” She said, and Neve felt a bit of panic rise within her. She was torn; Riley abandoned her, let Celeste die, kept February’s death a secret, and Neve’s anger hadn’t subsided one bit. But this was the real traitor with a gun pointed right at her – on principle, she should help the teammate that was still loyal, though it pained her perhaps more than it should have.
“What for? She didn’t kill Feb.” Neve tried to stall her. By the way Aidy glared at Riley she knew her thoughts were still murderous.
“Not Feb, no. But I never meant to hurt Celeste.” She said darkly. “She could still be alive if it weren’t for you.”
“Are you joking?” Riley asked, shocked. “You’re the one who bombed her! You killed Celeste!”
Mica had been distant the entire time, but Neve noticed her stir at that. She looked suddenly horrified and turned to Aidy with tears in her eyes.
“You did. You murdered her.” She pulled out her own gun in a heartbeat, and Neve looked to the ground. She’d dropped it when Aidy had first arrived, and it was too dark now to see it.
“I didn’t mean to. The bomb was meant for Feb, it’s not my fault some idiot cop got the wrong SUV.” She said, but didn’t sound so convinced, the dirty look she gave Riley tinged with guilt. “You had a way bigger hand.”
“Yes, and I’m sorry for it.” Riley said, and started to look angry. “Unlike you, I’ll wager.”
“I think I’ll enter that betting pool.” Mica said and took a step forward, her gun aimed right at Aidy’s chest.
“What, if I shoot Riley, you’ll shoot me?” Aidy asked, unfazed. “She killed her too. You all want her dead, rat or not.”
“I’m not going to let the traitor kill her.” Mica replied evenly, though when she glanced quickly to Neve for aid her air of confidence dulled. “We’re taking you down.”
“You’re going to jail.” Aidy responded easily. “Where you, Mica, you can be with your darling wife.”
“You didn’t escape the police, you just had them lock her up.” Mica realized, then finally came back to reality and got properly angry. “What did you do to her?”
“First off, duh.” Aidy smirked. “Second, I was the winner of that scuffle, not a group of officers. I alone thoroughly beat Sorrel just for the fun of it. And everyone had such high hopes for her.”
“You’re an absolute demon.” Mica’s voice cracked. “Sorrel was out of the city; did you even have to hand her over? Couldn’t you have just let her run?”
“I didn’t have a choice, but I wouldn’t have let her slip even if I did.” Aidy answered. “The favorite child: a role I would have settled for readily. I’m happy to be rid of her.”
Neve felt rattled as Mica stared at her, torn between anger and disturbance. There was a heavy silence. She didn’t know what she’d expected when the big reveal came, but it certainly wasn’t this. Riley was bored, Sorrel was ambitious, something like that; this was just horrific, and it stemmed with all of them, a fault at the core of their friendship. She kicked herself for not seeing it sooner, and with a sharp twist in her gut wondered what would have changed if she had; maybe they would have talked it out, maybe they would have cast her away, maybe Feb and Celeste would still be alive and unharmed. “I’m so angry with you, ya know that?” She finally managed.
“Why, because I killed our friend and imprisoned your wife?” Aidy questioned, and Mica continued to stare daggers, nostrils flared. “Gee, and here I thought it was because I wore the dress better.”
“You tore apart our team and killed our friend because you felt high and mighty.” Riley said. “I know I’m not normally one to judge, but wow. Just wow, Aidy.”
“Okay, don’t get too critical, you let Celeste die, after all.” Mica replied. “I’m losing your number after this.”
“It’ll be hard to avoid your cellmate.” Aidy pulled a face, and Neve practically saw Mica’s blood boil.
“You are a pile of human garbage.” Mica said. “And all the love I had for you is gone.”
“Just like mine for you, only it left so long ago.” Aidy shot back. “Somewhere in all that bullying and derision, it faded away for all of you, one by one by one.”
“You monster.” Mica spat. “Don’t you care about any of our lives? We’re your friends! Do you regret doing this at all?”
“Honey, that bomb missing Feb is my only regret, but I’m not apologizing for a thing.” Aidy replied. “If Celeste died some other way in all this it would still be my fault and I’d only have the satisfaction that it wasn’t a sloppy accident.”
“I hate you.” Mica seethed. “Forget love, forget family, I hate you.”
“Same.” Riley added, and Neve nodded ostentatiously.
“You’re all so whiny today.” Aidy clasped her hands together beneath her chin, the gun dangerously pointed right at her neck as she looked upwards as though in prayer. “How could the traitor do this? We’re all so close! We all love each other so much! Let’s all hold hands and cry together!”
“Quit it.” Neve cut in. “You’re gonna make fun of us because we’re not on the same page? We thought we were family, that’s no reason to mock us.”
“Family.” She barked out, and pointed her gun back to Riley. “It’s not enough for me. You people weren’t enough for me.”
For whatever reason, that was Mica’s breaking point. She dropped her gun and rushed to Aidy so fast she had no time to react; Mica was on her in a heartbeat and tackled her into the dust in an instant. The gun went off and Neve shrieked as she dropped to the ground to frantically search the dirt for her own, and Riley cried out and grabbed her arm.
“Riley?” She called out in alarm, her stomach in her throat, and looked up just in time to see Mica punch Aidy square in the nose.
“It’s just a graze.” She called back, her face contorted in pain, but Neve could hardly feel relieved as Aidy kneed Mica in the gut and sent her rolling.
“Get down here, you morons!” She yelled to seemingly no one. “Get them!”
Neve inhaled sharply and looked all around the rim of the quarry, but she saw nothing in the darkness. Beside Aidy, Mica kicked at her lamely, and Aidy scrambled back and pointed the gun at her head. Neve felt her stomach lurch, and she gave up the search as she jumped to her feet so fast she stumbled. She flung herself down and grabbed at Aidy’s arm, and she wrenched it back and elbowed her in the chest. Mica threw herself on top of Aidy as Neve reeled, but Aidy slammed the butt of her gun against the top of her head, and she collapsed with a groan.
Neve hastily grabbed Mica to move her to at least a small place of safety and got a quick look at her downcast face and disoriented, likely concussed gaze before Aidy scrambled and kicked her off herself. Neve looked clinically to the damage Sorrel had left for just a moment, but Aidy caught the gaze and pressed the barrel of her gun against her forehead before she could make a move. Behind them, Mica stirred.
“After all this I at least thought our traitor would be sorry.” She moaned, half hysterical. “I thought she wouldn’t be so completely evil!”
“I’m just the right amount of evil, sweetheart.” She replied, a bit nasal. It was too dark to see anymore, but Neve guessed her nose had been broken. “Just tell me one of you morons understand my motives.”
“How could any of us understand what’s going on in your wack job head?” Riley asked, and from the corner of her eye Neve noticed that she was now sitting calmly on the ground, her gun still not drawn, and she felt a hint of bewilderment in her anger.
“Any of you?” Aidy asked, almost pleadingly. Neve thought she wasn’t so concerned with being absolved as she was having someone agree with her for once. She was looking for another member to proclaim Feb a tyrant or admit a lack of appreciation, but Neve knew Mica would never, though she couldn’t be certain of Riley, as usual.
“Understand and sympathize are two very different words.” Neve said bitterly, the gunmetal cool against her skin. “I understand why you think it had to be done, though I’m not quite sure how much of it was real.”
“Great, side with her.” From the hostility she put into the word, Neve knew exactly who she was referring to. “Not a shock, side-kick, I’d just hoped you’d established some form of independent thought after all these years. Riley?”
The way she asked was nearly hopeful, and she looked over to her friend expectantly only to find her ignoring the conversation.
“I should have known.” Riley grumbled to herself. “With your attitude, I should have seen this coming. And yet I didn’t even glance in your direction.”
“I should’ve too.” Neve mumbled thoughtfully. What she hated most about this whole thing was that it was so thought out, so targeted – if it had been just for freedom or the fun of it, that would have hurt far less. But Aidy had her reasoning and she had people to hate, and it didn’t spring from nothing, it wasn’t as meaningless as Neve would have wanted.
“Fine.” She said after a moment. She stood, but she looked a bit wobbly now from the energy she’d exerted in the fight, and leaned slightly from the pain of kicking Mica so hard. Nevertheless, Neve’s gun was gone, Mica’s on the ground, and Riley had never even drawn her own. One was grazed by a bullet and all three were a little injured – by all accounts, this looked like a victory on Aidy’s part, no matter how slim.
She kept the gun pointed at Neve as she backed away, and though she was grateful not to feel it against her forehead she was still flushed with panic. Somehow despite who she was this greedy, malicious child had beaten them all.
“I don’t need any of your validation anyway.” She said snidely. “All I need now is – oof!”
She tripped and fell to the ground right at Riley’s feet. Neve perked up immediately.
“Riley! Her gun!” She shouted, and Riley took it from her hand as she groaned meekly. She only inspected it a moment before she hurled it, hard, and it sailed across the quarry until they heard it clatter to the ground in the distance. Then she pulled out her own and pointed it down at Aidy. Neve watched with baited breath, finally hopeful for a moment, and Mica still looked a bit fuzzy but did the same.
“The police are all here, aren’t they?” Riley asked with a frown. “You were calling them before to help you.”
She nodded stiffly, and Riley sighed.
“There’s no way out for us, is there.” She said quietly, but she clearly already knew the answer. Aidy shook her head.
“Shoot her!” Mica called from the ground. She blinked as she tried to get her head on straight. “Even if we can’t escape, we can still kill her!”
Riley looked unexpectedly hesitant as she glanced down to Aidy, defenseless and unarmed on the ground. Then she hurled her own weapon the same as Aidy’s, and they heard it fall to the other end of that miserable pit. Neve gaped as her heart sank.
“Riley, you of all people!” She began, but Riley didn’t meet her eyes. She looked over to Mica and they shared a look of horrible despair.
“It’s too late. We’re going to jail, where I belong.” Riley said in a quiet tone of defeat. “For penance.”
“But you could have killed her! You could have avenged Celeste!” Mica yelled, and Riley shook her head.
“There’s no point; another murder won’t fix my mistake. Too many of us have died, I’m not adding another.” She answered, and though Neve was still furious with her, she couldn’t help but hold a sliver of begrudging respect for it. It was the act of a good person, something Riley was anything but, and Neve saw the way that mercy humbled Aidy as she stood slowly and rubbed the back of her neck.
“Yes.” Aidy said after a moment, her tone unsure. “Yes, you’re going to jail.”
“Where are the police, anyway?” Riley asked, brow furrowed. “What are they waiting on?”
“This.” Aidy looked down at what she’d tripped over, the long-forgotten duffel bag. She pulled something from the front of her dress and held it up to her mouth. “I’m confirming it, boys. I have the cash.”
Suddenly, at the top of the quarry, there was a great burst of light. Headlights and red and blue flashers illuminated the barb-wire fence and the edge of the quarry, and the intensity of it made Neve shield her eyes. Figured moved in the distance, and she knew those were the officers coming for them.
When she looked over to her family, she saw Riley awash with guilt, a little blood on her arm from the graze. She held it patiently and glanced over at Neve, then gave her a little nod; she had no ill intent, even after all of that. Before her, Aidy dusted herself off and wiped away the blood on her upper-lip, her nose all red and swollen as she tried to regain her previous confidence. A few feet away, Mica was still on the ground rubbing her temples, and Neve knew she couldn’t stand even if she wanted to. She would see her wife soon enough.
And Celeste and February, her poor dear friends, they weren’t there. The one place they both thought they were destined for, and they would never show. It was such an awful, painful fact, but it wasn’t the one Neve was thinking of. Nor was she thinking of her broken friends, of the one waiting for her wife from behind bars, of the one who betrayed them all. She only had one thought in mind.
“They were waiting for you to get the cash.” She said, and narrowed her eyes when Aidy looked over to her. “That was the deal you made. All of us and all the dough.”
“All of your locations, and given that two of you are dead, I have those plus the casino’s cash and chips.” Aidy nodded, though she looked suspicious. Neve was so exhausted at this point, so close to losing her wits that she could only laugh.
The trio stared at her as though she was completely insane, but she still laughed, and Aidy caught on with a look of absolute rage and revulsion. She dropped to her knees and unzipped the bag as she pushed it over, and out slid its contents – every phone book Neve had placed in there. She went startlingly pale as she stared at the ground in horror, and behind her Riley’s eyes went wide. Mica could only grin as she beamed to Neve and chuckled along with her.
“No!” Aidy screamed, panic seeping into her features as she breathed sharply. She looked up to Neve with a wild desperation. “Where is it? Where?”
“You needed it to make your deal. If you don’t give it to the cops, you’ll wind up in jail with the people you just sold out.” Neve smiled instead of answering. “Won’t that be fun?”
“Neve.” Riley said softly, her face full of wonder but her voice full of distrust. Whatever she had wanted to say, it seemed she couldn’t work up the courage. A parade of men in blue descended down the path, their faces hard as they stared down the criminals who’d caused them so much trouble.
“Wait, just wait. Guys?” Aidy looked around. “We can fight them, can’t we? We can take them on, they’re just officers!”
Riley snorted and rolled her eyes, and Mica looked a bit disgusted.
“I’ll go to jail peacefully before I fight alongside a traitor, thanks very much.” Mica said proudly, and managed to sit up and puff out her chest. She took a measured breath. “I’m coming, honey.”
“Neve, come on, we can take the cash and run! Just run away together!” Aidy pleaded, but Neve shook her head. The men hit the bottom of the quarry and came their way, and Riley and Mica lifted their hands in surrender. Aidy only looked petrified. “No! Neve, tell me your plan, tell me how we’ll get out of this.”
“We? I’m the one who knows where the cash is. I’m the one who can strike up a pretty sweet plea deal.” Neve smiled, and turned to the police. “Hear that, boys? I can give you the cash!”
“Of course.” Riley muttered, and Mica suddenly looked worried.
“Neve? What about us?” She asked, and seemed to be reluctantly aware of the answer.
“You left me.” Neve answered simply, then turned to Riley. “You did it twice, and you helped kill my friend and lied about Feb’s death. So I’m going free, and you’re going to prison.”
“You’re as bad as Aidy is.” She said quietly, and an officer walked right past Neve and over to Mica. He pulled her off the ground and she stared at Neve in disbelief.
“You hold a grudge real well, I’ll give you that.” She said, and Neve heard the click of handcuffs around her wrists. The officer gave her a small shove, as if to lead her away, but she paused and gave Aidy a dark look, who shrank beneath the gaze. “See you in prison, traitor.”
An officer approached Aidy and pulled out a pair of cuffs, and she looked ready to cry.
“No, please! I can’t go to jail with them, they’ll kill me!” She begged, and the officer grabbed her wrist.
“Oh, you won’t go to jail with them. You’re an undocumented immigrant, remember?” He asked, and her expression faltered. “You’re getting deported.”
“No!” She cried out as she finally seemed to realize what exactly she’d lost, and he cuffed her and began to drag her away. “No, I was supposed to triumph! I wanted them to suffer – I wanted to be free! Wait, please, I hate England, it’s always raining! No! Neve!”
Two more officers stepped forward warily as her screams began to fade in the distance, They were clearly aware of Riley’s reputation, but she held her hands out easily to let them cuff her. They hoisted her to her feet and she gave Neve a sad little look as they restrained her.
“After all this, was what I did even close to the worst of it?” She asked. “Was it worth becoming the villain?”
Neve hesitated. She felt justified in her rage and her revenge, but something in her gut stopped her from protesting the title. Two of her friends were dead, one a spiteful liar, and the other three injured and imprisoned, so no, Riley leaving her hadn’t been the worst, but it was the worst targeted at her. She lifted her chin and hoped her answer came out stronger than she felt.
“I’m not the villain, Ry.” She said. “I’m the winner.”
And with one final look of disenchantment, her old friend was taken away.