“Shh,” Sophie whispered for at least the tenth time, “Everything is going to be alright.”
Though the wall she was leaning against had ceased its tremors, Alyssa’s body was still shaking to the point of convulsion. Sophie’s best efforts at calming her down just weren’t cutting it. “Everything is not going to be okay,” her voice was at least as shaky as the rest of her. “What the hell is going on out there?”
“I don’t know,” Sophie finally said something other than a bullshit assessment of the situation. “As soon as I heard the first gunshot, I ran right over here.”
“Where is Matt?” her tone began to gain strength. The muffled gunshots still sounded like corn rapidly popping in another room, but there hadn’t been any explosions for a few minutes.
Sophie sniffled and replied, “He’s safe. He’s with a friend of mine.”
Alyssa’s words poured out with a quick sigh, “We’re not safe Sophie. How can you say that he is?”
“I can’t really,” she admitted. “I’m trying to be nice.”
“You’re just as scared as I am,” Alyssa whispered as she pulled away from Sophie and sat up.
Sophie looked at the ground and shrugged, “I am.”
“Are you crying,” she asked. Before Sophie could answer, she added, “You don’t really know if Matty’s okay, do you?”
Sophie wiped a tear from her cheek and admitted, “I don’t.” Then she slipped something out of her pocket and placed it in Alyssa’s hand. Holding that hand in both of hers she added, “I don’t know much, Alyssa. I do know that I don’t like what my father is doing to you and your brother. I also know that I don’t want anything bad to happen to you,” she paused, “or your brother.”
“What is this?” Alyssa tried to pull her hand away.
“Wait,” Sophie shook her head. “I’m not finished. I’ll probably never have any children. It isn’t that I don’t want any. Your grandfather is just old fashioned, and he doesn’t approve of my lifestyle as he calls it.”
“Why don’t you just leave,” Alyssa’s tone was matter of fact.
A humorless chuckle fell from Sophie’s lip a moment before she replied, “He’d kill me. There is no place to hide from Mario Rosatti. I would spend the rest of my life running, and the rest of my life would be very short.”
She thought for a moment and then asked, “Is he going to kill me?”
“I don’t think so, but that man surprises me sometimes. I truly believe that he wants you to be part of his family. I can’t say the same thing for your brother,” Sophie’s gaze drifted to the floor as her voice trailed off. She sat there like that in silence for a few moments before starting like she had just woken from a dream and adding, “Anyway, I know you don’t like being here, but I like having you around. This may sound silly to you considering how completely tragic this situation is, but I’m your aunt, and I want to be that.”
Alyssa turned her head to the side and almost smiled, “That isn’t the craziest thing that I’ve heard today, but we both know that’s never going to happen. I can’t stay with that man no matter what he is to me.”
“I know,” another tear slipped quickly down Sophie’s cheek. “That is why I’m giving you this.” She released Alyssa’s hand and said, “Don’t push that button there on the side until you’re ready to spill blood. Once you’ve done it, you can never take it back. Anyway, when you push that button, the blade will pop straight out of the handle like a stab. It’s small, only about three inches, but that will do the trick. If he gives you the opportunity, stick it against his neck, push the button, and then slice it across his throat. It’s sharp on both sides, so it doesn’t matter which way you pull.”
Alyssa examined the knife in her hand. The handle was a smoky purple with chrome accents. As she watched the light glinting off of the chrome, she wondered if she could actually get herself to push that little, round button in the middle of it. Without looking up she asked, “Have you ever killed anyone?”
“Just one,” Sophie nodded. Then she shrugged and added, “I thought he was a friend. I was seventeen. We were drunk. He tried to…” her voice trailed off again. She bit her lip, looked up at the ceiling and changed course, “Even though he was planning on doing horrible things to me, I will never forget the way he looked when he died. I still have nightmares about it. Make sure you’re ready to do what you need to do before you do it. Given the chance to relive it, I’m not sure it would end the same way.”
Before Alyssa could say anything else, the door to the room slammed open. Her hand instinctively flew to her pocket depositing Sophie’s gift. Whether or not she could use the thing would remain a mystery for the moment. Blood had always made her kind of squeamish, and she didn’t like hurting things or people. In fact, seeing any kind of pain had bothered her for as long as she could remember. Just thinking about it reminded her of her earliest memory of seeing real pain. She couldn’t have been more than four years old. On a stroll through the neighborhood with her dad – that same one that Mario had tried to convince her had never been her dad at all – she saw a dog chasing a cat down the driveway of the house directly across the street from her. That dog seemed so vicious; snarling, growling, and barking. She wished that she were bigger so she could stop that dog. Ideas of what she would do to him were as clear to her at that moment as they were when she first witnessed that scene so many years ago. Equally clear, was the pain she felt for that poor dog when the frightened cat led him across the street in front of a big truck that was going much too fast. But the thing that stuck out most in her memory was the contrast of that frightening beast chasing that poor cat and the quivering, whimpering lump of bloody fur slowly dying in the middle of the road. That had been the end of her walk with Daddy. He had to carry her home as she sobbed a big puddle into the shoulder of his shirt. All of the bad thoughts she had about that poor thing were replaced by empathy and honest sorrow. If an opportunity presented itself, would she see that vicious, barking monster that would tear apart that poor kitty if it could, or would she see the frightened, bleeding lump completely scared and confused about what was happening to it? She truly didn’t know.
Before either of them could turn toward the door to see who had just entered, Mario’s voice filled the room, “What the hell are you girls doing on the floor? This place is solid.” He was winded, and his cadence was accelerated.
“The walls were shaking, Dad,” Sophie turned an icy glare toward him. “We were scared.”
“Broads,” Mario shook his head and then glanced over each shoulder at the two suits standing behind him. Then he looked back at Sophie and added, “Your brother would have grabbed his gun and raced upstairs to see what was going on.”
“Well, I’ve always been your little disappointment,” Sophie shrugged.
Mario’s eyes rolled toward the ceiling as he sighed, “We don’t have time for that right now. As I’m sure you’ve probably figured out, there is a bit of a war going on up there. We need to get the hell out.”
Sophie pulled Alyssa close and said, “You’re not walking her through a war zone.”
“You’re damn right I’m not,” Mario snapped. “I’m not walking any of us through that mess. I’m not exactly sure what we’re dealing with, and with all of the fireworks the cops should be here soon. That is, if they aren’t already. No. We’re slipping out the back. Wiggles should still be next door with the boy. We’ll grab them and then we’ll slip out the back.”
Sophie looked down at Alyssa and nodded.
The gesture didn’t escape Mario. “What the fuck was that?” he asked.
“She’s terrified dad,” Sophie’s voice raised as her hands did the same.
Mario’s expression softened as he said, “I can see that.” It hardened right back up as he added, “Okay, be scared then. But do it while we’re walking out of this place. Let’s go.”
Sophie and Alyssa rose together, huddling as if they were bracing against a chilly wind. Sophie’s eyes fell to the floor. Apparently, she had seen enough of her father for one day. Alyssa’s eyes went right to his throat, right to a spot about an inch to the left of his Adam’s apple. If she could bring herself to shove the knife Sophie had given her into that son of a bitch that is exactly where she would put it. Just then she still wasn’t sure if she could. She would have to cross that bridge when and if she came to it. For the time being, she would follow Sophie’s lead and hold onto hope that nobody else she loved had been killed.