“We get the detectives, Mario, and Arthur in the room together.”
“Shouldn’t we get the feds in on this?”
“It’s too risky. We wouldn’t know who to trust. Arthur and Mario both have agents, judges, and officers in their pockets.”
“How do we know we can trust those two?”
I asked myself the same question repeatedly, but always came to the same answer. “Because Lake trusts them.”
“And that’s good enough for you?” Diana sneered.
“It’s good enough for me,” Quentin barked, cutting his eye at Diana.
“Me, too,” Dash answered.
“Now that we are all on board here’s what we’re going to do.”
* * *
After everyone was in position, I put the plan in motion by calling Mario. He’d moved out of the hotel a couple of months ago and kept his hideout a secret even from me so I would need to draw him out.
I dialed his number and rehearsed in my head while the phone rang.
“What’s up, kid?”
“I need your help. It’s bad.”
The change in his tone was immediate. “What’s going on?”
“My father showed up. It ended badly. How soon can you get here?”
“I can send someone.”
“No. It needs to be you. I can’t have anyone else knowing about this.”
“How messy is it? I’ll at least need to bring a cleanup crew. You know I can’t move without my men.”
“Fine. Just get here quickly.”
I gave him the school’s address and told him to meet me in the gym. A public place would be their better choice. It would make him think I was blindsided by my father, and I could avoid the suspicion that a secluded setting would bring.
Once the call disconnected, I dialed Arthur. This part of the plan would need to be executed perfectly. He would catch on to the smallest slip-up.
“This is a surprise. May I ask the reason for your call?”
“Christmas is coming early this year. I have what you want. Meet me at the high school gymnasium. I’m sure you know where it is. We don’t have much time, so you need to come now.”
“Son, the last time I spoke to you about this, you were adamant about waiting until you graduated.”
“I’m still unavailable, but Mario in a body bag is up for grabs.”
“Why the sudden rush?”
“He slept with my woman. I’ll even throw her in the mix, so you coming or not?” I hung up the phone before he could respond or have the chance to question me further. Mario’s history with sleeping with married women provided the perfect cover. A man like Arthur was always suspicious, and it was suspicion that made me sure he would fall into my trap. If he thought he was being set up, he would want to deal with it. His status afforded him the confidence he couldn’t be defeated.
I checked all the doors of the gym, ensuring there was only one way in or out. The last thing I needed was the wrong person walking in at the wrong time.
A quick text from Quentin and Dash let me know they were each in position, and it was clear for me to make the last call.
I waited for the line to connect.
“The school gymnasium. Now.” Dressed in my basketball gear with my gun strapped to my thigh, I had about twenty minutes to work up a sweat, I grabbed the ball I had brought with me and played harder than I ever had before.
When the door behind me opened, I continued to play, seemingly unfazed by the intrusion. After all… I was only here to practice.
“Hey, kid. This is hardly the time for recreational fun. Where’s the body?” I turned to face Mario, who stood confused with two men behind him.
“Is this all the men you brought?”
“I have one more waiting guard outside.”
“Can I trust you?”
He let out a nervous chuckle and subtly looked around. “What’s with the questions?”
“I need to know if I made a mistake trusting you.” I knew he picked up on my meaning when he straightened and flexed his jaw muscles.
“Are you challenging me, kid?” The two men behind him went on alert.
“I’m asking a friend a question.”
“Why the sudden doubt?”
“The last time I trusted you, two people ended up dead, and I was being blamed for it. You’ve yet to give me an answer.”
His face reddened with anger. “He framed you, and the girl was a whore in the making, so does it really matter? You can trust me!”
“Like you trusted me?
“What are you talking about?”
“You killed Trevor Reynolds and Anya Risdell because you were afraid I rolled on you when I disappeared after my brother was shot—so you killed them to frame me, isn’t that right?”
“Your daughter didn’t seem to think so.”
“The worthless bitch is only good for one thing and thinking isn’t one of them.” Anger flared to rage hearing him talk of his daughter that way. It confirmed everything I needed to know.
“I want you to leave Six Forks and never return. You can catch Arthur on your own.” I turned to leave, putting the icing on the cake.
“Fine!” he roared at my back. “I killed them. You should be grateful. I did you a favor.”
“Having me set up for murder was a favor?”