Editor’s note: This column is part of a fictional weekly serial.
Cecilia stared down at the gun in the planter. On the one hand, the man at her side, allegedly her grandfather (though at this point who knew?), had once been a dangerous criminal mastermind who now seemed to be a confused and harmless older man, but the possibility remained that that was all a ruse. On the other hand, her mother, the city planner-turned-realtor watching them from the kitchen window, had somehow smuggled a gun through at least two international security checkpoints. If the gun was truly Alicia’s and not some trick of Edgar’s to sow mistrust and confusion. Come to think of it, what had he been doing looking through Alicia’s handbag in the first place?
“This is SO not my responsibility,” she muttered to herself.
She looked at the gun for a long moment. Earlier this week she had been phone-banking by day and going on failed dates by night. This sudden collision with a very different, much darker sliver of the world was going to take some getting used to.
“What do you think we should do about it?” she finally asked, looking up at her grandfather.
He squinted at her. “What are you asking me for? She’s your bloody mother.”
He was letting her take the lead. Could be a trap, or — oh, this was ridiculous.
“Okay,” she said softly. Then, “Okay,” more resolutely, looking up at her grandfather. “I’m glad you showed this to me, but I think for now we should just…leave it here. Not do anything.”
Without waiting for his response, she made a beeline back to the house, leaving him to push the gun gingerly back into the dirt.
Cecilia could barely look at her mother when she entered the kitchen. “I have to call some people about work,” she said vaguely, already halfway up the stairs.
“What did your grandfather say?” Alicia called.
“Back in a sec!” Cecilia shouted.
She shut the door of the bedroom they were sharing behind her and pressed a hand to her mouth, thinking, staving off panic with all the discipline she could muster. After a second, she pulled her phone out of her back pocket. She had a plan, or she thought she did, and there was just one thing she needed. Why she was calling Ian, whom she barely knew and with whom she had until now been studiously avoiding contact, she didn’t know, but it was on his name she tapped without hesitation.
“Pick up, pick up, pick up,” she breathed. It would be the middle of the workday in the U.S., but maybe he was on his lunchbreak or…
From the front of the house, an engine started and tires screeched. Cecilia ran to the window to see the rental car speeding away; she could tell that both front seats were filled. Gripped with a terrifying certainty, she crashed her way down the stairs and into the backyard, hurtled through the garden, dug at the dirt with both hands. The gun was gone. But who had taken it — and who had left against their will?