It seemed like forever had gone by and then I was having someone yelling my name in my ear. I jerked awake and felt my neck pop and slowly all kinds of aches and pains became apparent to me. I was still in the chair from the night before but the boss guy was no longer oozing evil at me. I looked toward the source of the noise and saw the walking wall and his expression was still severe. He waited for me to collect myself a bit and get moving but started talking when I just sat there instead. “Diamond did good last night.”
“So am I off the hook?”
“Not so fast Sunshine. She did good considering you goofed her up for part of the night. She came in about 230, about 70 less than a Sunshine free evening.”
I realized Sunshine was my new name, I’d heard it before. A name like Ray can cause some folks to get creative. I was excited though because 70 didn’t sound so bad. “I think I have 80 in my pocket!” I said triumphantly. The Wall just laughed at me. I wasn’t in on the joke but my stomach rolled and I knew when he explained I wouldn’t like the answer.
“Add the word thousand to the end of those words.” I was officially screwed and Wall sat there chuckling about it.
“Wait! Seventy thousand! You only borrowed fifteen thousand! How did you pay the rest!?”
“Listen Oompah, I am telling you the details right now so how about you shut up and let me do it.” Jimmy’s face flashed anger, and Emily’s flashed 'Really Ray?', and then Jimmy lunged at me. I crashed the cup of sand into his face. He crumpled but I wasn’t done I started wailing on him with both hands and feet. That was when Ava came in and tried to kick me but I was ready and I yanked her leg up and she fell on her butt in front of Emily. I bolted out the door and locked it behind me.
“We have the key Ray!” Emily called from inside.
“I know Emily.” And I ran out another door locking it as I went. I ran through several parts of the house, slowly going up, while closing and locking doors that were meant to keep people below trapped. I found myself back at the ground floor and I ran toward the door and flung it open and then doubled back and went upstairs, grabbing a phone I saw on the way. I hid in a bathroom that faced out toward the road coming in and I punched in the number that I hated calling. His voice, gravelly in my ear, came leaking through the speaker. I began shivering again and then, shakily, I told him what I saw outside the window. “I know the place, Ray. Keep them all there and try not to die. Or do I don’t really care just keep them there.” He disconnected and I continued to shake.
I heard a commotion from downstairs and a growl of rage that I assumed was Ava. “You go look outside Ava. I need to stop Jimmy’s bleeding.” I was right about the growl. I felt bad suddenly knowing what I had just brought down on them. I felt bad about Jimmy, I hadn’t wanted him all bloody but of course Ava had given me glass and not plastic. For some reason I had always envisioned this going along with plastic disposable glasses. I mean who gives a captive guy actual glass? Ava does, probably because Ava wanted me to fight. She will get her fight: I was sure of that.
“Ray! You took my phone!” Emily yelled. “I can find you by simply calling myself with Jimmy’s phone. If you aren’t here I can use Ava’s to get a GPS on you.”
I smiled at her warning. I looked outside and saw Ava outside looking at all the cars, when she started running up the road I opened the window and looked outside. I looked up and cold see the roof was within reach. So I climbed out and up and lay down on the back side of the slope. I then silenced Emily’s phone. I was amazed she had not set a passkey on this device. I sat there and began playing angry birds when she finally called. “Damn it Ray” was how she started the call. “What did you do that for?”
“I’m sorry Emily. I really am but Jimmy had a point; I never borrowed that much from you guys. I did actually spend the money on a business like I said originally. I have a little cart ready to find a new home and for me to start cooking.”
“Then why did you tell this stupid story about an evil guy? Why didn’t you tell your actual business story?” Was the first story the truth?”
“No, Emily it wasn’t. The second story is only halfway done. The rest of it is going to make you kill me.”
“Tell me the rest Ray.”
“After I found out how much I owed I was returned to my hotel room. The Wall had taken all my information down and had instructed me to call them even if I simply changed jobs within the same company. I owed them a big favor. I told my friends some stupid story about having to pay for Diamond’s time and about being at a strip club with Wall until the morning. They were glad I was alive and they decided to believe me. Even though I reeked of sweat and couldn’t stop shaking. When I got back home my life was pretty normal except for the occasional call or visit from Wall. He wasn’t too bad of a guy. I even started going out with him when he came around but we always knew why he was there. I owed that favor but the boss never seemed to be ready to collect. I started daydreaming about cooking around this time and Wall encouraged me. As did all those friends who I mentioned before. I began making plans and saving money, people did invest in my cart idea. Not a lot but enough money to get the cart and that was when I got a call from the boss.”
“Ray, who is the boss? Doesn’t he have a name?” I could hear a sound of trepidation in the question.
“Of course he has a name. Who doesn’t have a name but I did not know it at the time. Can I continue?”
“Ray tell me his name.”
“I can’t Emily, not yet. I can stop talking and you will never learn or you can let me continue." I waited for her acknowledgement and after a few seconds of silence I continued. "He called me on the phone and I started to shake and even whimper as I heard his gravelly voice. He knew what I could do to get my business going. He gave me Jimmy’s number and told me how to get the money. Then he reminded me that I still owed him a favor. I sat there for a long time shivering and laying in the fetal position. The thing about it is he had never done a damn thing to make me react that way. He hadn’t beaten me, he hadn’t really given me a spelled out threat and his thugs were nothing but courteous to me when we interacted. Except there I was nearly crying on the floor of my apartment. When I finally stopped shaking I made the call and I met up with Jimmy. A few days later I had your money in hand. I called the Wall and he said “Do the cart thing with it.” So I did, I was happily working away and doing it well within the time frame we had discussed I was about a week away from opening when I got another call that ended with me curled on the floor but this time I was crying. I was crying because I believed this time I would die. I was going back to Vegas. I cancelled the move to the cart spot I had rented and I got on a plane. I was greeted at an airport by Wall who took me to a giant patch of land outside of Vegas. We drove for a while along the dirt road of that land until we crested a small hill. On the other side of that land was a giant compound. It looked like a comfy compound with swimming pools and satellite dishes but those walls were made to keep people out and some people in. When we approached guards opened a metal white gate and then closed and locked it when we got through. Wall looked at me and said “Game face, Sunshine” and we got out of the car. I kept stride with him as my mind wandered through several scenarios and suddenly we were at the pool where a few beautiful women were swimming. Wall led me to a table and had me sit before he left. I stared at the girls swimming in the pool and felt confusion settle over me. That was when I felt it. A shiver ran up my spine and I looked around but until I looked up at the balcony I did not see him. When my eyes found his he motioned for me to come up and I did as I was told. He pointed at a chair and I sat down.
“Ray, good to see you again.” His gravelly voice flowed through my head and I shivered again.
“Thank you sir.” I said.
“Ah, yes. I never gave you my name did I Ray. Since you are about to make good on that favor it seems only fitting to reveal it to you. You can call me Lupo.”
I heard Emily suck in a breath as I said his name and I felt tears come to my eyes.I knew that she finally knew what was coming and how badly I had betrayed he
“Damn it Ray! Lupo!?” She cursed for a bit then yelled at Jimmy to get out the guns, get Ava back and call for backup. “What did he want Ray!? Finish you damn story!”
“I’m sorry Emily. I am but what he wanted was you and your sister.”
“I figured that part out Ray! Did you tell him where I lived?!”
“No but I gave him a description of the area.”
“Shit!” That was the first time Emily had cussed in my presence and its rarity hit me hard.“He told me to become delinquent and not pay until you had to send people for me. He then told me to escape every time I was caught so that you had them bring me here. That when I got there I had to make one call and my slate was clean. I had never met you before and until I did I figured you were like him and I rationalized it.”
“You have a survival instinct Ray and I understand that but you should get off the damn roof and come down here and load up because he will kill you too.”
“Not surprised by me knowing where you are?” I heard the sounds of clips sliding into guns in the background.
“No. You’re a smart woman. I’m coming down but listen to the rest as I do. Maybe if you hear the rest you won’t put a bullet in me when I come downstairs. Lupo had his guys train me for a month while Jimmy kept trying to track me down. I ignored his calls as I was instructed and made stupid sad little texts in reply. I ran, did pushups, fought, and practiced shooting all day every day for a month. I came back ready to do my part. Letting myself believe that eventually my cart would open for business and I would be cooking for happy customers. Even though I had rose colored glasses on I took some precautions when I got back. I learned a lot about them. I learned what they did in siege situations and while I was on the roof talking to you I scoped your land. I have a suggestion…” Cold steel at my temple stopped my words.
“Continue talking Ray.” Emily said
“Uh….. I always imagined Ava being the one with a gun to my head. Alas it could only be you. I suggest we, or you, go to the tree line, where the little shed is, at the back of the property. Then we, or you, dig in there and wait. There is only one way to get there and you will see them coming. You can take them down as they come. I am a decent shot and I could take the roof.” She cocks the gun. “If you recall, it was you who made the point that I will be killed by Lupo as well. I could have stayed upstairs on the roof letting you feel like you had me trapped. I could still be telling you the story and killing time. So either shoot me or give me a gun because we don’t have time for this crap!”
She pulled the gun away and uncocked it. I turned and saw the revolver in her hand and let the breath out I had held involuntarily. She opened a door I had not seen before and led me into the room where 20 people were loading up and prepping for battle. Jimmy’s bandaged face scowled at me and Ava somehow looked even madder. She stomped toward me and thrust a rifle and a pistol in my hand; then slapped me hard across the face. I nodded then walked out heading to the spot I described before, while simultaneously checking the safety and the magazines on the gun. Emily grabbed my shoulder, “Hold it, the spot you describe can be reached by going back down stairs and you need to carry more weapons then that. Lupo is definitely coming prepared. I stepped back in and she shut the door and then slapped all the locks in place. A buzzer went off and the security screen I had failed to notice among the screens showed a few big vans at the gate. I looked at more screens and saw the rooftop and envisioned myself sitting there chatting while she watched me. “Yeah, you were actually better hidden before you climbed onto the roof.”
I noticed that her people were carrying weapons through a door in the back and I grabbed some and followed along. As we walked I saw little hideout rooms where people sat waiting for the oncoming attack. I walked further to where a giant stockpile of weapons was being set up and handed my weapons over except for the rifle and pistol. I walked back upstairs and watched as people stopped everything when the phone rang. Emily picked up the phone, listened and then handed it to me. It was Wall “You told them didn’t you. Lupo knew you would. I was hoping he was wrong. It was nice knowing you. We are coming in now.” and the power went out. I dropped the phone and started to freak when the emergency lights went on. The room erupted in chaos and soon I found myself pushed along with people running down the stairs. We heard small explosions. “The gate is down!” someone yelled.I threw the rifle sling over my shoulder and grabbed another gun from the table I found myself standing at. It was a 45 and had a nice heft to it. Suddenly I found myself flung around by Ava. “We are going with your plan. Let’s get moving.” She ran off and I fell in behind her. As I ran I imagined Lupo beating us there. I shook nearly uncontrollably the entire way.